Open Thread

Open Thread 23

The last Open Thread is feeling a tad dated, so time for a new one…

The Open Thread is a general discussion forum, where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing ‘off topic’ here — within reason. So get up on your soap box! The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the general content of this blog.

The sort of things that belong on this thread include general enquiries, soapbox philosophy, meandering trains of argument that move dynamically from one point of contention to another, and so on — as long as the comments adhere to the broad BNC themes of sustainable energy, climate change mitigation and policy, energy security, climate impacts, etc.


By Barry Brook

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

1,181 replies on “Open Thread 23”

@Tony Carden

you build the first wind farms in the in the best place for performance both economic and electricity generating capacity. Then you build them in the next best place etc etc.

Yet somehow the capacity factors for the newer wind farms usually manage to beat those of the older wind farms and the price keeps reducing. This has to do with the continuing improvement in wind turbine technology – larger rotors, higher hub heights, lighter materials for rotors, better and cheaper methods of shipping and construction.

In South East Queensland Rooftop Solar has simply delayed the peak. It used to be between 4pm and 6pm. It is now between 6pm and 8pm. Luckily pumped hydro exists here.

Not true. The peak electricity demand is probably at the same time as it always was. It is just that a significant proportion of it is now satisfied by distributed rooftop solar PV generation, meaning that not all that demand hits the backbone electricity grid. And that probably means average electricity prices are now be lower because the prices between 4 and 6 pm are lower, while there’s no reason why prices between 6 and 8 pm will be any higher than they used to be before distributed rooftop solar became popular.

So don’t discount the benefits of removing a peak.

And there always will be a peak of demand on the backbone electricity grid at some time of the day. If electricity demand varies throughout the day simple maths will tell you that at some time demand will be higher than average!


@Peter Davies

I beg your pardon. How do you know my statement is not true. what is your source? I know my source is straight from the horses mouth. So unless you have a contradictory reference please do not use the words not true. The rest of your statement re rooftop solar uses probably too many times.


Hi Peter,
that’s amazing! Any sources for that 84 TWh? Also, what speed can they access that stored energy at? Would the Nordic and European grid be able to handle trying to back the whole European grid from that one dam?


Tom Murphy says you have to store enough energy for a week. Tom Murphy was talking about the US.

PETER DAVIES: Your numbers look off by 5 or 6 or more orders of magnitude. Europe should be roughly the size of the US. It is not reasonable that Norway would be able to store enough energy for all of Europe. For the US, Tom Murphy says we would have to lift Lake Erie ½ kilometer into the sky.

Does that sound like Norway? No.

Rely on DBB for that. And also rely on DBB for whether or not Norway could connect that much power to the rest of Europe.

PETER DAVIES doesn’t get the scale of the problem. The problem is truly immense.


Hi all, now that Tesla has said the Model 3 is going to sell for $35k USD and cover 320km…

Is it possible we could run society on mostly nukes, but have a smart-charging app in our cars that skim off the top when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining extra power to requirements? To basically use the car fleet as a smoothing device? NREL says overnight charging would only cover about half the American fleet (letting us run our nukes at full capacity overnight), and that leaves extra charging required during the day.

I want to be down on renewables as a replacement for nuclear, but I don’t want to be down on renewables completely.


Don’t get too excited just yet.
You should remember that Elon Musk is a battery salesman. He may well be the world’s most successful battery salesman and good on him.
But like all salesmen I know they are prone to exaggeration.
Let us wait and see what it’s range is running around Brisbane in January with the Air Con cranked up to full blast.

Queensland has for at least the last forty years had a special off peak tariff that supplied power between the hours of 11pm and 6am. It was originally designed specifically for hot water heating.

People who are aware of the tariff also use it to run their pool pumps.

It would be ideal for recharging electric vehicles, provided the vehicle had the range to operate from 6am to 11pm.


While we are talking about electric cars, NREL have calculated that their grid already has enough spare capacity to charge over 80% of American family cars, without a single new power station or upgrade.

“For the United States as a whole, 84% of US cars, pickup trucks and SUVs could be supported by the existing infrastructure, ”

How? Because about 43% of them are charged at night! (Page 10 of the NREL PHEV_Feasibility_Analysis_Part1).

Click to access phev_feasibility_analysis_part1.pdf

Once we stop burning oil and start moving to electric cars we’ll have a reason to run all power stations at maximum capacity all the time, and the Amory Lovins claim that “we just don’t need baseload generators at night because there’s no demand at night” will sound as absurd to the average citizen as it already does to the experts that disagree with him.


@Peter Davies.
It is difficult to balance the need for clarity within a short message with the need for accuracy on a systems basis.

This is something which seemingly is entirely lost on some commenters.

Norway’s peak energy production ever was achieved in January 2013 and is 23 GW. Maximum annual production was 140 TWh, in 2014. These came from Staatsnet, the national corporation which operates the Norwegian system – Norway is extremely lucky in that they have not yet sold their essets to foreigners and thus they have retained the ability to manage their own affairs – which is seen as being of no value to Australian politicians, who seemingly prefer to sell of anything which can be converted to cash, then to spend like drunken sailors while claiming to have economic credentials. But I digress.Here is the link:

So, using Peter Davies’ unsupported figure of 84 TWh hydro storage and assuming a fallacy which is that all of Norway’s generation of electricity can be exported vis non-existent grids then taking a guess about other parameters (which Peter is pretty good at), I arrive at the following tentative conclusions:
1. Norway’s hydro capacity represents a little over 6 month’s Norwegian max annual electricity sent out – which seems reasonable, given that there is only one winter/summer cycle annually.
2. Norway’s average monthly energy interchange is in the range +_2TWh/month. In order for Norway to provide 8TWh for one day’s European consumption, this would represents more than 4 month’s current interconnector performance. Further, it would take more months to re-charge, if this is possible, using reverse flows – another couple of months, just for a single day’s electricity supply.
3. Norway already wrestles with stochastis and structural imbalances which lead to excessive frequency excursions. THis is especially when the SC interconnectors are heavily loaded (Pp12-14 of the referenced report).
4. Current plans are to increase interconnector DC capacity by about 2000 MW, to about 3MW practical achievable capacity overall.

The cited Norwegian plan contains more than sufficient data to blow out of thw water any asusmptions that any substantial proportion of Norway’s “84 TWh” will be able to be brought to meet Europe’s 8TWh per day load.

There is a message for those who base a proposed solution on one or two facts. It is that very large and complex international systems require large and detailed models in order for practical decision-making.

The Norwegian reference I cited is a good starting point for those who wish to start to understand Norway’s role in Europe’s grid: It is not as huge as some imagine and it has many problems, hence limitations, of its own.


I think you may have understated the size and complexity of the machines we are talking about.

The North American, Chinese and European Grids, with all of their interconnected power stations through to their connections to consumers, are the three biggest machines in the world. I do not know which is currently the biggest but it is not really relevant.

The biggest machine in Australia is the NEM.

Generally speaking the biggest machine in any country is its Grid.


Correction to typo:
4. Current plans are to increase interconnector DC capacity by about 2000 MW, to about 3000 MW practical achievable capacity overall.


For comparison with Norway’s export capability, the Pacific DC Intertie from the Pacific Northwest to Southern California, Path 65, is rated at 3100 MW. There are also 2 or 3 AC interties from the Pacific Northwest to California.

As far as I know there are no plans to build more for power originating in the Pacific Northwest other than the long delayed Boardman OR to Hemingway ID AC transmission line.


BPA is upgrading the Pacific DC Intertie as far as the Nevada-Oregon border to 3220 MW, according to a BPA press release.

Ownership ends there and one supposes the California owners are doing the same for the southern portion.


From a Northwest Power and Conservation Council document, the AC Interties carry up to 4800 MW to California. So the current maximum, combining both interties, is 7900 MW, vastly larger than Norway’s export capability.


DBB, the figures I quoted for Norway are incorrect. They came from P6 of the document. Apples to apples comparison might suggest a more equal comparison, but would ignore the fact that most of the time the interconnectors are running at less than capacity and that they are able to either import or export.

There is a graphic further down that indicates two links to Denmark (E&W) with combined capacity both ways of 2400MW, plus planned additions to Great Britain and Denmark by 2020 of 1400 + 1400 + 1700. See Sheet 32.

Apples to apples capacities: 6900MW Norway, Vs 7900MW in your example.

The fact remains, that Europe cannot be driven from Norway, regardless of the time period – minutes, hours or days. FYI, the most recent figures I could find for Europe as a whole are for 1990 – 2013. See

Total electrical output for Europe for 2014 was 2.53*10E6 GWh, ie approaching 300GW averaged 24/7/365. C.f. Norway interconnector approaching 7 GW capacity. Norway’s interconnectors, when flat out, can supply about 2% of European average load. They have no chance of supporting even existing European wind. Somebody other than the Norwegians are doing the lion’s share of that.

To understand system capacity and limits we must avoid magical thinking and rely instead on modelling, even ridiculously crude attempts such as I have played with in today’s posts.


Singletonengineer — Thank you. Indeed, the Pacific Interties rarely are used to capacity, but close in the spring and a bit less in the summer. Of course either direction is possible, but always the Pacific Northwest has the excess and California the deficit.

More to the point for the comparison to Norway, these interties are just for California with a rather smaller population than that of Europe.


I thought the idea of providing baseload for any large scale grid with renewables + storage had been pretty well quashed by Leo Smith’s “Limitations of ‘Renewable’ Energy” paper

Click to access Renewable%20Energy%20Limitations.pdf

And that paper deliberately did not take into account the interconnections required (as described by singletonengineer and David B Benson) for transfer to and from the mythical storage.

And the experience of El Hierro, documented in amazing detail by Roger Andrews on Euan Mearns “Energy Matters” site suggests that controlling a grid with very high renewable generation is problematic, even when there is sufficient renewable power available to supply 100% of demand
The reasons why the diesel farm remains in almost constant use is not available but the contracted rate for supplying renewable energy would make it highly profitable to reduce the diesel generation if it were practical.

If EVs were to become affordable and widespread, the same capability of flexible off peak power demand could also do wonders for increasing the capacity factor of nuclear power plants (as would affordable home storage batteries acting in the mode of the much hyped but very expensive Tesla Powerwall).


@ Greg Khan.

I explained on another site that the el Hierro experience can be justified if one adopts a different viewpoint than lowest cost of energy, minimising CO2 emissions, or even minimum overall system operating cost. Energy costs aren’t necessarily part of the equation.

Islands are notoriously water-starved.

The last thing that an island bureaucracy would knowingly do is to run out of water. Diesel can always be imported and an excuse prepared to justify its need. Fresh water is a different thing, especially if water has occasionally been observed to spill from the lower pondage to the ocean. So, there is maximum pressure to keep the upper and much larger storage pond full, even if that means that surplus energy is wasted by pumping water up to the top of the hill and then releasing it to flow down again – which is akin to the Grand Old Duke of York’s soldiers in the very old song.

Since, as Euan Mearnes’ article affuirms, Spain charges consumers for electricity the same tarrifs regardless of where they are, there is no economic driver acting to align electricity availability with demand or to reflect the true cost of supply.

Hence, El Hierro is a golden goose with no eggs.

Even if the lower pond was 20 times as large it would not be operated to maximise energy production. Its primary goal is and will remain to conserve water, ie to keep the irrigation dam full, unless and until the government’s electricity pricing policy changes.

Any model that is based on “What might I do?” without considering the roles and objectives of the individual management people concerned is doomed to fail to match outcomes with reality.

El Hierro is now and always was a system designed to supply water for irrigation,plus a bit more for townships. I imagine that the largely wasted wind power now supports that goal.


What you say about the primary purpose of the El Hierro system still does not explain why so much of the surplus energy (when the wind is blowing strongly) is wasted. Figure 5 in the article below is instructive
In the 36 hour period from midday of the 28th to the beginning of the 30th, there is a huge amount of curtailed wind generation yet diesel generation was increased from just over 2MW to just over 3MW during this period to keep the wind generation percentage from exceeding 70%.

Even with the primary concern being maintaining the water level of the upper reservoir, there would have been little danger of this being depleted if diesel generation was reduced (or merely kept at the lower 2MW output) and the pumped storage was used to stabilize the grid whenever wind intermittency reduced the wind output below that of the current demand. Since the pump stations are separate from the hydro generators, the average excess of wind generated electricity would replenish the intermittent water requirements during fluctuations of low wind. If the wind did drop out suddenly, then the excess diesel generation capacity could be used for a short period to restore the upper reservoir levels (since the peak demand is around 8MW and there is 11.36MW of installed diesel generation)

Finally, what purpose does the lower storage reservoir actually serve in terms of water supply? As additional catchment area? The seaside siting does not appear suitable for this purpose. Or even if it serves as an output for the desal plants then why bother with the hydro generators at all?

It makes sense that the water supply is a major concern for El Hierro but prior to installation of the wind generators, neither reservoir existed, either, so it’s not as if they were piggybacking the wind generation on top of pre-existing water supply infrastructure. The whole system was built together and all online sources that I have been able to find state that the primary purpose of the installation (wind and hydro components) was the reduce (or eliminate) diesel electricity generation – which the system has not managed to do to any great degree.

Here is a technical article that outlines the installation and the intentions quite explicitly.


Hi, Greg Kaan.

Thanks for the link to the Hydroworld article.

I still haven’t changed my mind, though. Here is the original operating philosophy.

“The production strategy for the hydro-wind plant is based on the following principles:
— Maximize wind generation capacity to supply electricity demand, thus minimizing primary energy losses;
— If the wind resource is higher than the expected demand, the excess will be used for pumping;
— If the wind resource is lower than the expected demand, the difference will be covered by hydraulic production;
— Under high reservoir scenarios, the combined plant will cover up to 100% of electricity demand; and
— Under low reservoir scenarios, the combined plant will cover part of the electricity demand.

The discussion threads, especially the portions contributed by Flocard and by Roger Andrews in Ewan Mearns’ site explain pretty much how and why it is probable that the project is being operated to maximise return on contract, rather than to achieve published environmental goals.

In particular,
1. Wind generation has not been maximised. Large blocks of diesel have been given preference. Diesel is generally not load-following as anticipated.
2. The annual contribution of wind is a fraction of the prediction, so it is reasonable to assume that wind has been curtailed in favour of diesel.
3. Annual hydro generation is way below expectation, which indicates that diesel has been preferenced over hydro. Could contract payments be driving a decision to park hydro and wind?
4. Objective 4 was gobbledy-gook from Day 1. The 8MW peaks can be covered via a mix drawn from 13.8 MW diesel, 11MW hydro and 11MW wind power. An overall availability factor of 20% would suffice.

Since this project is massively overengineered it makes no sense to look for engineering answers to questions about underperformance of renewables. The answer must be operational. It is evident from the discussion string on Euan Mearns’s site that the root cause of underperformance is commercially driven, via a contract that favours gaming by the supplier.

As for the water desal plant, it appears that it has not been constructed, due to shortage of capital. This would help to explain the apparent preference to keep the top water storage full, ie not to use the hydro.

Rodger Andrews has promised to repeat the analysis of (under-)performance of renewables on several other island installations. That will be interesting.


Reference “SPP WITF Wind Integration Study” Prepared By:
Charles River Associates [CRA], 200 Clarendon Street T-33 Boston, Massachusetts 02116
Date: January 4, 2010 CRA Project No. D14422

Click to access CRA_SPP_WITF_Wind_Integration_Study_Final_Report.pdf

Wind power is so intermittent that even in the US, adding wind to the grid causes overloads that destroy transformers, power lines and other expensive things. You can’t blame the electric company for not wanting to destroy its infrastructure and equipment by using wind power. The replacement infrastructure has to be a lot bigger and stronger than the original to withstand what wind power does. Things like big transformers are generally not immediately available. They are built on order. If the designers did not know all of this in the first place, they underdesigned the system. Trying to use wind and solar power on a grid is foolish. If you don’t want to use fossil fuels, the only option is nuclear.

There is rarely enough energy storage to make wind and solar work.

They could use wind power to do nothing but pump water and the diesels to pump extra water as required, then get all of the electricity for the grid from hydro. That would be wasteful because pumping water involves friction, and a lot of water would just go around in circles. But they could pretend to be using more wind power. Renewable energy entails a lot of silly stuff.


@Eclipse Now

Peter, that’s amazing! Any sources for that 84 TWh [of Norwegian hydro capacity]?

Click to access Design_of_Future_Pumped_Storage_CEDREN_Killingtveit.pdf

Slide 7/23. Singletonengineer’s estimate that 84TWh was 60% of Norway’s annual generation capacity was pretty close to the quoted figure of 70%. Norway is around 96% hydro generation.

Also, what speed can they access that stored energy at?

Slide 7/23. 23.4 GW from reservoirs, and 29.6 GW from hydro in total.

Would the Nordic and European grid be able to handle trying to back the whole European grid from that one dam?

Slide 8/23. Just think of Norway as just consisting of a large number of hydro schemes and nothing else and then back off from it a bit. Lake Blåsjø does have 7.8 TWh of capacity all on its own.

29.6 GWs is sufficient to power Norway and a significant fraction of Denmark but clearly nowhere near enough to support northern Europe backup at present. Norway and Denmark are twinned. When the wind blows Denmark exports wind power to Norway, which curtails hydro generation. When the wind stops Norway generates enough hydro power for itself and some fraction for Denmark. The Nordic countries have a synchoronous (i.e. AC) grid and can be treated as a single electricity market.

The proposal is to twin pairs of low and high lakes and would involve creating many new tunnels and pumps/generators, all without having to build any more dams. More interesting detail in the slides.

The really big question is who pays, and the answer to start with is probably Germany, because they will hit the problem first.

Norway has around 50% of the pumped hydro storage potential of Europe and Iceland has another 10%.

Cost estimate is 500-1,000 USD/kW for providing pumped hydro storage for northern Europe.

And a question from me. How do you get “in reply to XXX” at the bottom of your post from the original post without going back to the notification email? Is there some hidden link?


Quote from Tony Carden.

You should remember that Elon Musk is a battery salesman. He may well be the world’s most successful battery salesman and good on him.

But like all salesmen I know they are prone to exaggeration.

Elon Musk is more a visionary engineer than a salesman – he spends a lot of his time on design.

After success at PalPal he wants to go to Mars, so he starts his own space ship company. It now supplies the ISS. He wants to make space travel cheap, and starts by designing a first stage rocket that can be landed on rocket power after use – the sort of thing that the Gerry Anderson rockets could all do. No-one believes it can be done, but he has just done it successfully with the first stage of a commercial launch.

He has turned the electric car from a clown car into an object of desire so that the Tesla model S was rated in one magazine as the best car ever.

I’m not saying he is going to do absolutely everything he says he will. But he has a superb track record so far and you discount him at your peril.


I take it Peter Davies is not a chemist. Batteries have intrinsic problems:

Batteries rely on chemistry. ANY battery is still limited to valence electrons. Batteries can’t get to the inner electrons that could give you 100s electron volts per atom. Nor can a battery get to the nucleus. Each cell of a battery is limited to a few volts, like 1 to 3 volts per cell. That puts a limit on batteries that cannot be overcome by more research on batteries. Other energy storage devices have been researched ad nauseum, to no avail.
Batteries carry both the fuel and the oxidizer. A gasoline or diesel engine car carries only the fuel. The oxidizer is “free” from the air and the exhaust is not retained. That puts batteries at a weight disadvantage that cannot be overcome.
Batteries are recharged. Recharging is a slow process. Even if you exchange batteries at the fuel stop, that is still a more difficult process than pouring a single liquid into a tank. If you use liquid flow batteries, recharging requires pumping one liquid out of the exhaust tank while pumping fuel and oxidizer into 2 separate tanks. That is 3 tanks and 3 pumps.
If recharging could be a fast process, there would be a heat transfer problem. Something would get hot or cold. I’m unclear as to what. I think a battery should get hot while discharging and cold while charging, except that electrical resistance wile charging would cause heat. The high speed pumps that pump diesel fuel into big trucks pump diesel fuel at a rate equivalent to 25 megawatts. The diesel fuel stays cold. If that transfer is by electricity, batteries charge slowly enough so that we don’t notice a heat problem.
Question: Would the batteries get hot or cold?


@Edward Greisch

PETER DAVIES: Your numbers look off by 5 or 6 or more orders of magnitude. Europe should be roughly the size of the US. It is not reasonable that Norway would be able to store enough energy for all of Europe. For the US, Tom Murphy says we would have to lift Lake Erie ½ kilometer into the sky.

Does that sound like Norway? No.

Lake Erie is 480 cubic km. Norway’s lakes total 1,200 cubic km, mostly created by glaciation, and thus a lot are high-level lakes. Lifting lake Eerie half a km into the air (which is only 500m which makes it sound much lower) is a similar order of magnitude to what could be done in Norway, though the locals may wish to have the final say in how far it goes.

You should go to Norway. It’s a great place. Best to go in August because some of it is pretty far North and daylight hours in winter are short. In summer some of it becomes “the land of the midnight sun” because the sun does not set.

And best to go soon before all the glaciers get melted by climate change.


That’s interesting, but just how high level are those lakes in Norway? And how far are they from lower ground? We need the whole story.
I would like Norway except for the language problem.


Edward Greisch — Everyone speaks excellent English. Just plan on spending lots of money as everything is expensive.



If you want the information on average lake height in Norway you’ll have to research it yourself. But if the lakes were at sea level and open to the sea they would be called fjords, not lakes.

The volume of Norway’s lakes is three times that of Lake Erie so you would only need an average height of 500m / 3. Or twice that if they were all to be paired up for pumped hydro storage.

Norway is only part of the pumped storage hydro potential in Europe :

Click to access jrc_20130503_assessment_european_phs_potential.pdf

(Assessment of the European potential for pumped hydropower energy storage – A GIS-based assessment of pumped hydropower storage potential)

This document says on page 13 :

ECRINS is not a complete database, some countries such as Lithuania are missing, and some others are not complete. The most outstanding case is probably Norway: according to the
Norwegian Directorate for Water and Energy (NVE), Norway has 905 existing reservoirs, 886 of them with a reservoir volume of >100 000 m3, which have to be compared with the 129 ECRINS reservoirs usable for this study.

In other words the document says its estimate for Norwegian pumped storage hydro is known to be incomplete so you need to add in a significant capacity for Norway to the figures in the document.

There is not going to be sufficient pumped storage hydro to meet all Europe’s storage needs for a long-term, all-renewables solution. However, there are a variety of technologies suitable for short term storage (< 24 hours) such as Isentropic, which can eliminate a considerable fraction of the renewables gap. Pumped storage hydro may cover half of the long-duration (>24 hours) gaps. Power to gas (via hydrogen electrolysis) to power (via hydrogen-compatible CCGT) storage will have to cover the rest.

Backup CCGT is not expensive provided it is rarely used. The expense is in the end to end inefficiency (45%) and, medium-term only, the expense of electrolysers for the renewable hydrogen (or methane if necessary). These latter two costs depend on the fraction of the time that generation has to come from this backstop. If it can be kept below 10% then 2050 all-renewable solutions, may well be significantly cheaper than other alternatives.



I take it Peter Davies is not a chemist. Batteries have intrinsic problems:

I’m a physicist, or rather a mature physics PhD student after a career in IT. And I have sat through a number of research presentations on batteries (lithium ion and other technologies) at the two most recent UK Energy Storage conferences.

Even if lithium-ion battery technology does not improve much, it is still suitable for ground transportation apart from the cost. The range and success of the Tesla model S has shown this – over 200 miles.

Most recharging would be done at home overnight. Tesla model S can supercharge on the free charge points on motorway / freeway networks at 5 miles per minute, and you would only bother if your journey is more than 200 miles – .

The Phinergy technology described in could also be used alongside lithium-ion to achieve a 2000 km range with no recharging, after which you would replace the Phinergy unit with another as it is not rechargeable. This technology looks great if most of your journeys are short with just the occasional long one.

The accepted wisdom is that electric vehicles will become the vehicle of choice for most consumers when the price of batteries comes down to $150/kWh.

Tesla was around $300/kWh, and say their Gigafactory above will reduce this by 30% – . This takes them to $210/kWh around 2020. (Rapidly falling costs of battery packs for electric vehicles)

Then you expect 6-9% learning per year, which should take lithium-ion down to $150/kWh by 2025 at which point the disruptive switch from fossil-fuelled transport will get into full swing if it hasn’t already.


Peter Davies: Thanks for that information. Tesla supercharger takes “approximately 30 minutes” to recharge. That is too long for having to stop every 200 miles. Tesla superchargers are in Europe, where driving distances are short. People here want to go as far as a thousand miles in a day. That is pushing their luck, but some Americans do it.

Aluminum-air batteries are interesting, but how would you handle them? They aren’t something a little old lady could pick up in one hand.

The “6-9% learning per year” for batteries is really too slow for grid storage since we need something like a factor of a million overall improvement. For cars, synthetic liquid fuel of some sort would be better if it could be done at a reasonable price, safety, etcetera. Hydrazine would not be acceptable as fuel because it is a monopropellant explosive.

I didn’t catch what you meant by “freeway networks at 5 miles per minute.” For recharging on the interstate, I was thinking more in terms of an overhead “third rail” or some sort of inductive “transformer” thing buried in the road. But would the transformer put a braking force on the car? The third rail would allow recharging while moving at highway speed. The third rail is a wire above the road. Originally, it meant the extra rail for subway trains to get electricity.


Hi Edward, while I love the free market, I’m not against government regulation around battery shapes and sizes and standards if it faciliates a universal battery-swap system down most highways. It’s actully more convenient than fuel, because you can swap out 2 batteries in the time it takes to refuel a conventional petroleum car! 95% of driving is well within modern electric vehicle ranges, and the rest can use this…


“renewable hydrogen from electrolysis”

As long as you remember:

Hydrogen leaks out of any container

Any material is a sponge rather than a wall for hydrogen

hydrogen causes steel to become brittle

hydrogen flame is invisible

the fuel tank would have to be enormous

To keep hydrogen a liquid requires expenditure of a lot of energy to run the refrigerator

There are so many practical difficulties that hydrogen is really not a good way to store energy.


First, do you grant that the video shows it is technically viable?
Second, if technically viable and if legislated as the way forward for highway driving, can you imagine some markets developing plans where you buy the car, but the company retains ownership and responsibility for the battery?


So you would be guaranteed to get so many watt hours out of a full battery? Do they have a system in case you run out of electricity?What If I can’t afford their best car?



Peter Davies: Thanks for that information. Tesla supercharger takes “approximately 30 minutes” to recharge. That is too long for having to stop every 200 miles. Tesla superchargers are in Europe, where driving distances are short. People here want to go as far as a thousand miles in a day. That is pushing their luck, but some Americans do it.

Tesla’s aim is to set up a free (at least to their top-end customers) supercharger network in all the countries they sell model S cars in.

The USA and Western European Tesla charging networks already provide sufficient coverage for long journeys.

The Tesla Australia network is still under development. Someone who lives there might like to comment on the whether it covers virtually all the driving you are likely to do.

I you are the sort of guy who does not think a 30 minute break every 3 hours is sensible then stick to an internal combustion engine (ICE) car, and preferably don’t drive on the same highway as I do! ICE cars are also going to be best for the Australian outback or the Sahara, though I suppose you could take a large folding solar PV array with you even then.


Or there’s that approach as well! :-)

“I you are the sort of guy who does not think a 30 minute break every 3 hours is sensible then stick to an internal combustion engine (ICE) car, and preferably don’t drive on the same highway as I do!”
Agreed. Just because EV’s will do 95% of our city driving, there’s no reason we can’t hire a car for that road trip, or if our business needs regular long trips, own a ICE driving on synfuel or boron or whatever. We have compressed gas, petrol, and diesel now. What fuel mix will we have in the future? Fast charger stations with a McDonald’s next door alongside a boron or synfuel station?


Only 66 miles per hour? When the speed limit is 70? Everybody will be going 75. That is the way we drive here.



The point about electric vehicles is that you can usually limp home just by going slower. Wind resistance is proportional to speed squared and uses the majority of the power at higher speeds.

If you have plenty of battery capacity for your journey and know you can make it to the next charge point then go at 130 mph if you want (on the German autobahns).

Unless you have plenty of money, you would not be able to afford even Tesla’s cheapest car right now (~$60,000). Just wait a year or two until the $35,000 model comes out.

I didn’t catch what you meant by “freeway networks at 5 miles per minute.”

That’s because you didn’t take into account the full quote which was :

Tesla model S can supercharge on the free charge points on motorway / freeway networks at 5 miles per minute

As you now know from the Tesla maps, Tesla has a comprehensive network of charge points covering most of the long journeys that you would want to make in USA and Europe. The fast charging capability of the Tesla is called “supercharging” and is available at their free charge points (but only for long journey – you are not allowed to use it as a replacement for hom charging for your normal daily commute). If you supercharge at the Tesla charge points on the motorways / freeways / autobahns then you can add 5 miles of range for each minute you charge (actually nearer 6 miles).

These are static chargers (i.e. the car is stationary).

Moving on to being a little fanciful, if you were going for Tesla charging on the move then you would equip roads with inductive (contactless) charging. At supercharge rates (say 6 miles per minute during which you would drive one mile at 60 mph) that would be inordinately expensive (requiring 16% of the road length to have charging plates to keep you moving ) unless you could do it at a much higher rate than the Tesla supercharge capability. The battery would not be able to take such a higher rate, so you would have a supercapacitor bank in the car as well. You might end up with 2% of the road length equipped with inductive charging plates capable of something like 1.5MW charging which might do the trick without costing the earth. What do you think?


Re: inductive (contactless) charging: if they did just up to 30 metres back from the traffic lights on a highway, surely that would give drivers a bit more charge? A minute at the lights gives you 5 more miles. But I understand inductive charging is extremely wasteful. Half an hour every 3 hours sounds reasonable to me.


Don’t the bullit trains work on inductive coupling. They could make short pieces of track suitable for cars – and you take yor chances.

Has anyone anywhere just think, let alone work out just how expenses all this wonderful technology is going to be. Do not come back with the BS that costs will reduce dramatically once the system is set up!



There are electric buses in China that have a tram-like whip on the top. It connects up with chargers at each bus stop. I think it’s running on a super-cap. Each bus stop gives the bus about a km just in the time it takes to load and unload passengers.


Fortunately, I no longer have to drive that much. And I never tried to drive 1000 miles in one day. You are not clear until you say: “you can add 5 miles of range for each minute you charge.”


The really cool thing about the impending transition to electric vehicles is that by 2050 in the UK we could have the current 30m vehicles, but now each with a battery capacity of 50 kWh, for a total of 1.5 TWh of battery storage capacity. They would require charging at an average of 200-300 GWh / day, but most of this could be flexibly deferred for a couple of days if the wind wasn’t blowing or the sun shining much.

And all paid for by car owners rather then electricity utilities, who may start to believe it is Christmas every day of the year!! The required battery price performance is going to happen by 2030, let alone 2050. All it needs is a tweak to the technology so that the batteries are not significantly degraded by vehicle to grid storage as well as the normal once a week charging for actual travel.

Since the UK peak power consumption is currently around 1 TWh / day you can see that storage for less than 24 hours to support variable renewables is unlikely to be a major issue here, nor in most developed countries.

That still requires pumped storage hydro and renewable hydrogen to fill the multi-day gaps though.


“Why the Renewables Revolution is Now Unstoppable” by Joe Romm, 2016 Feb 01, Think Progress Climate, has been picked by Paul Krugman, Nobelist in economics and New York Times columnist for this Monday’s opinion piece.

I find it rather naive, disappointing in its failure to understand difficulties. An oversell, perhaps, of demand response.

But decide for yourself; I am interested in varied opinions.


Google “intellectually dishonest debating tactics” and you will find dozens of examples. At the head of most lists is “Red herring” or various types of diversion.

Any claim made today that in 20 years’s time batteries, either stationary or vehicular, will be able to achieve something that cannot be achieved today is just that, in the context of a discussion about the practical linitations faced by wind and solar power today, using materials and grids and technologies which are available, proven and safe today.

Not 20 years’ time.

I have assumed that we are indeed discussing today, because it is today that solutions to climate change need to be agreed and starts made.

Instead, we have read contributions to the effect that if only we must dive headlong into “renewables” of solar and wind, despite there being many criteria by which they are currently inadequate as a solution to the problem of a warming globe.

I am not confident that tomorrow’s technologies, tomorrow’s prices. tomorrow’s infrastructure, tomorrow’s resource limitations and tomorrow’s commercial options for battery exchange and recycling will be globally adequate electricity sources. Don’t wave me away with optimistic promises. Especially do not let optimism over-ride pragmatism, which demands that enormously important decisions must be made on enormously strong evidence. Not hopes and wishes, but evidence.

When it comes to nuclear power options, the evidence has been there for 50 plus years and it is accumulating rapidly. Nuclear power can do much of the heavy lifting required to achieve large, stable, reliable and safe energy systems and can be constructed on brownfield sites to replace carbon-based energy supplies, using existing grids.


@Edward Greisch,
I think you’re greatly overestimating the problem of hydrogen leaking and embrittlement. The latter doesn’t affect copper, nor even austenitic stainless steel. And back in the days when Britain made gas from coal, they stored it in gas holders (many of which are still around due to being heritage listed). Couldn’t something similar be used to store hydrogen today?

Third rail is insufficient for rubber tyred vehicles; fourth rail is required. Or if you’re using overhead wires, you need two separate ones, which effectively rules out the use of a conventional pantograph.

Many trains use induction motors and some have induction trackbrackes to enable them to stop quickly in an emergency. But AFAIK no trains that run on rails use induction to achieve a contactless main power source, though maglev trains do.

I’d regard it as more dishonest to assume no technological improvements. Everything does take time and we will not be able to put an immediate end to fossil fuel use no matter how much nuclear power capacity we build. But many people on this site assume limitations on the use of renewables due to technical problems that will be solved before our use of renewables reaches that level.


Rubber tired busses use overhead “third rail” that has 2 wires overhead. Nothing conventional about pantograph. They have what looks like 2 fishing poles with little pulleys at the ends.

The army used to use tritium lamps as calibration lights for the sight systems for cannons. The tritium lights would be mounted at the muzzle end for the sight system to aim at. A tritium lamp is a glass capsule filled with heavy hydrogen, tritium. Sometimes the capsule breaks and must be replaced. A person at one of our repair facilities had a bucket full of broken tritium lamps beside his desk. Panic ensued when the NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] found out about it because the tritium was not gone.

Glass is a sponge, not a container, for hydrogen. The person near the bucket of broken tritium lamps absorbed tritium. We had to design an alternative sighting lamp very quickly. TACOM’s license to own tritium was revoked.

When you make producer gas, you may not care about hydrogen leakage. You can still burn the carbon monoxide. Coal is gross in the first place. Now you are talking about hydrogen from electrolysis of water, and you are talking about storing pure hydrogen over a long time, like a year, with hopefully less loss. Since you are presumably planning on doing this for a long time with energy that is more expensive than coal in the old days, efficiency matters more. Hydrogen loss means renewable energy is even more impractical.


The strong bipartisan support is good to see.

If USA comes presents a strong, confident nuclear powered vision it will go somewhere towards re-igniting the industry.

Maybe there is a feeling that USA needs to get a move on if they are not to be overtaken by France, China, Russia and South Korea.


As best as I can determine, the stumbling block for fast reactors is the cleansing of the reaction substances; often called pyroproccessing but it is a form of electrochemistry. There is an international effort to improve this step. However, over a decade of effort seems to have yielded insubstantial progress.

So in 2016 and the forseeable future, just LWR designs hold the cost advantage. Possibly fast reactors with once-through actinide consumption might prove a bit less expensive.

I would be pleased to learn I am wrong.


Hi Edward,
I like this video of Argonne labs researching new methods of pyroprocessing.

But my favourite was Tom Blees description in the free “Prescription for the Planet”. It helped me, as a lay person, understand why pyroprocessing won’t lead to weaponisation of plutonium.


The ABC Catalyst program tonight (Feb 2) is really worth watching. A totally positive, unabashed, no-holds-barred romantic exposé of the golden all-renewable energy future that’s just around the corner.

The most telling part of the story is that there was no other side to the story. Not a word. This informs me of one of two things. One, is that it’s all going to come true – all intermittency problems resolved, peak loading solved, utilities happy to decentralise, all good citizens able to be part of the energy production cycle.

Secondly… it informs me that the advocates and industry groups engaged in this grand story have got their PR sorted out way, way ahead of anybody else and have well and truly captured the public imagination. It almost doesn’t matter whether or not the story turns out to come true, it is a captivating tale that the public really and truly wants to believe in.

It’s worth checking out as a case study in communication, no matter what side of the fence you may sit on.


South Australia will make a very interesting test case since The Catalyst program also indicated that their government is trying get distributed home storage to stabilise their grid against the intermittency from the wind generation. Good luck to them but I’m glad I’m in another state.

Hi singletonengineer

Back to El Hierro, they had 3 desal plant before the wind/hydro system was installed
I don’t see why these would have been removed when the hybrid renewable system was installed. Maybe the cancelled desal plant referred to a proposed additional desal plant.

Hubert Flocal’s description of the contract for the El Hierro system does seem to allow for rampant profiteering by the operator. It does serve the dual purpose of allowing renewable proponents to grumble about opportunities lost to business vested interests while also letting renewables sceptics scoff at the lack of results. Too bad the Spanish taxpayers had to pay so much for the privelege


@Edward Greisch,
Firstly, overhead wires are not rails.
Secondly, in the very rare instances (in tunnels with limited clearance) where a rail rather than a wire is used for overhead line electrification, it’s still OHLE and therefore not regarded as third rail.
Thirdly, systems such as the London Underground, where there are two live rails, are regarded as fourth rail rather than third rail.

Sand may easily get caught up in a sponge, but none (or at most, very little) gets through it. Is your paranoia about hydrogen leakage based on anything more substantial than your tritium lamp anecdote?

When gas is money, of course you care if a significant amount of your hydrogen leaks away!

Looking at Wikipedia pages such as and I get the distinct impression that you’re treating minor technical problems (that many others satisfactorily deal with) as insurmountable obstacles. Do you have any evidence to the contrary?

BTW I don’t know what you think I’m proposing, but I was considering storing hydrogen for weeks rather than years, and sourcing it mainly from thermochemical processes. I’m not ruling out producing any by electrolysis, but I’m certainly ruling out using expensive energy to do so. It would use cheap energy, from when the supply from renewables exceeds the demand.


A lot of London’s buses are hybrid now (joint diesel / battery operation). This makes them more efficient.

The proposal is to use inductive charging to top up the batteries at the terminals at either end of the route. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t charge at all bus stops in between too, but maybe they are not stationary for long enough to make it worthwhile. By this means it is hoped that the buses will use very little diesel and will be operating mainly on electricity from the inductive charging.

Oh, and we have six all-electric buses here too, incidentally.

Buses are pretty slow things generally though, particularly in London. They keep stopping too, for some reason, and would have to have pretty efficient regenerative braking systems to stand much chance of getting from one end to another. On the other hand, the large weight and slow speed of buses makes them ideal for carrying big batteries.


The fact that you live in London explains a lot. Geography has a lot to do with whether or not wind and solar will work for you. London is near Norway, so Norway’s geography might influence you too.

Where I live the land is pretty much flat for a thousand miles in any direction. Millions of years ago, a shallow ocean extended from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. The eastern border was the Appalachian Mountains and the western border was the Rocky Mountains. That means pumped hydro storage doesn’t exist here.

But the Great Planes aren’t perfectly flat. I live on the low plains at 600 feet above sea level. The high plains are a mile farther from sea level.


Yes, the trolleybusses pictured are almost exactly as I remember them from half a century ago. I don’t remember where I was at the time.


Edward, re Catalyst, I didn’t fall for it I just commented on it with some surprise. My personal opinion is that for a controversial subject, and being on the ABC, and being a science program, the subject should not have been dealt with as a hard sell. There are plenty of people out there who would have liked to explain difficulties. Instead, viewer were left with a clear impression that this is their future.

One reason I object to these rose tinted, all-problems-solved stories is that they induce complacency and a sense that the public just needs to sit and wait, then they can have their cake and eat it too. Sorry to say, the future won’t be quite like that.



Where I live the land is pretty much flat for a thousand miles in any direction. Millions of years ago, a shallow ocean extended from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. The eastern border was the Appalachian Mountains and the western border was the Rocky Mountains. That means pumped hydro storage doesn’t exist here.

But the Great Plains aren’t perfectly flat. I live on the low plains at 600 feet above sea level. The high plains are a mile farther from sea level.

So you live in the area of the USA which has huge wind potential then. A lot of the US interior states have such good wind that wind farms have signed PPA’s (power purchase agreements) for around 2.2 US cents / kWh. To that you should add 2.3 cents for the PTC subsidy to give wind power for less than 5 cents unsubsidised.

Exactly which state is it, because it is difficult to find any of the Great Plains states which are 1000 miles from any mountains (where pumped hydro schemes might be considered). Most of the Great Plains seems to be no more than 500 miles from the Rockies.



It is NOT about the maximum output of renewable energy. It is the minimum output they produce. This needs +95% of backup. If coal then coal generators have to burn whilst waiting for backup. If gas (CCCG) then these generators have to be built. Total cost?



That is much more like the outcome that the installation should be providing. I wonder if the “readiness” clause in the contract was altered to allow for more realistic operations?

Further updates will be very interesting to see if they can sustain the larger/total proportion of wind and hydro generation.


Re hydrogen storage: Bottle storage at 12 MPa is quite practical, however the maintenance requirements are exacting. Routine pressure testing, careful management of valves and hoses, etc are absolutely necessary.

The energy costs due to filling and drawing off can be minimised by management of bottle filling sequences, etc – my experience has been that the operators tend to just open everything and then complain when all bottles are at 10%.

However, I agree that storage is achievable in practice, with negligible losses.

But, as stated previously, current economics don’t favour electrolysis, even when electrical power is available virtually for free. It’s simpler to swap pallets of storage cylinders, in sets of four @490 litres, than it is to maintain the H2 generation equipment, compressors and rack storage, which in my case totalled a couple of hundred cylinders. I guess that as CCGT fuel, we are talking in terms of thousands of road transportable cylinders or much larger pressure vessels at reduced pressures.

My hope would be that less dangerous liquids or gases could be used. Safety is a major impediment to its use. Autoignition, wide explosive limits and even wider flammability limits are unavoidable.


Tom Blees presented boron as viable as an oil replacement and emergency backup power source for a household (during, say, a freaky snow storm), but the economics probably don’t add up for grid scale storage.


When I did my engineering studies back in the mid-80’s, Mercedes Benz and my university (and others, no doubt) were investigating the use of hydrogen to power internal combustion engines for cars, buses etc. Back then, the US regulations did not allow pressurised storage of hydrogen in vehicles due to the fire risk so tanks containing metal hydrides were used – the invisible flame was seen as being one of the biggest dangers. I don’t know what political pressure was applied for this requirement to be dropped since then.

One of the key issues was that the absorption and release of the hydrogen to and from the hydrides are exothermic and endothermic, respectively, and for absorption, increased temperature slowed down the rate. This meant that heat exchangers needed to be embedded in the tanks so that heat could be extracted during refuelling and added when running the engine. The Mercedes Benz tank design allowed the car to be refuelled in about 4 minutes (I forget what the amount of hydrogen was transferred in this period) while our university’s design took 10 minutes for the same amount but the Mercedes Benz tank required complete disassembly to exchange the hydrides (in event of poisoning) while our university’s tank was modular so that the hydrides could be exchanged quite easily. Both required an external supply of cool water as part of the refuelling process while exhaust or atmospheric heat (free airconditioning) supplied the heat to release the hydrogen (if the conditions were cool, electric preheating was use for the initial release before running).

The other issues were the weight of the tanks and the supply of hydrogen (there were issues getting the engines to run properly with hydrogen but they were solved and your could condense the exhaust vapour and drink it).

Many things are possible. Far fewer are practical and economic.


@ Graeme,
I’m not entirely sure what Graeme’s point is, regarding output. The fourth sentence doesn’t quite make sense to me either. Who is discussing coal?

My main message was in response to Edward Greisch’s comment about H2 storage. H2 is able to be stored safely but that it comes with very significant safety risks, some of which are difficult to manage in a real world environment. If the system is described as 100% renewable, then H2 as feedstock for CCGT implies electolytic production and all that this entails.

My experience has been with hydrogen for generator cooling and to reduce windage losses, for which there is no ready alternative.

When hydrogen can be engineered out of a system, it probably should be.


@Chris Harries
Did you notice in the program that the South Australian government appears to be trying get distributed home storage to stabilise their grid against the intermittency from the wind and solar generation (via subsidies to home owners with storage battery systems that can sell back to the grid)?

I also found the presentation extremely annoying.



El Hierra’s renewables have been run for 16 hours without diesel support.

Interestingly, the first six hours were 100% wind – I wonder how they managed frequency control.

It’s frustrating that we were on La Gomera last year which is only 10 or 20 miles away, but there were no trips available! That’s where I found out about it.

Could it be that frequency control is not as critical in a small self-contained grid. The hydro pumps presumably can respond swiftly enough to add or shed load to keep the frequency somewhere near 50 Hz (European as it is part of Spain).

If you have large synchronous grids with transmission lines over long distances and thus with time delays it is presumably critical to keep frequencies in synch, which means pretty stable, otherwise some nasty things can happen. Any deviations have to be small enough that the whole grid everywhere can respond to change the transmission line power flow appropriately.

But with wind turbines all on one site any turbine that gets ahead in phase will try to generate more power which will slow it down. And any that get behind will start to be driven as motors. So they all self-synchronise.

Synchronous electric motors themselves have inertia and can stabilise frequencies short term. If you put a large mass with no resistance other than inertia on it then it will do a pretty good job of short-term frequency control. Can the hydro pumps/generators be run in a mode where they are all running to provide inertia (especially when pumping water with the inertia of a water flow) but the load is varied by controlling the water flows so some pumps/generators might sometimes run empty, providing no load but simply short-term frequency control?

The only consideration then is the load. A lot of electronic equipment can cope with either 50 or 60 Hz, so presumably are not very fussy. Presumably the exact speed is not critical for most motors within a few percent. Does anyone run synchronous mains clocks still, and how much do you care if they are a minute or two out?

In short the frequency control requirements on El Hierro may not be as stringent as normal and with the equipment they have it might be straightforward to provide the looser frequency control required from a small self-contained grid.



When hydrogen can be engineered out of a system, it probably should be.

If you have CO2 available (e.g. stored from methane-based CCGT generation) then you can produce CH4 methane from hydrogen.

However, the maximum efficiency you can get out of the round trip energy storage is then reduced from 44% to 38%. If you are using the heat as well your efficiency goes up to 62% and 54% respectively.

Is it worth the reduction in round trip efficiency and the bother of having to capture and store CO2 from the backup CCGT generation just to avoid having to handle hydrogen? It doesn’t seem worth it, but the capability is there if it is really needed.


@ Peter Davies, re hydrogen to CH4.

What percentage of the carbon in CH4 is able to be recovered from the flue gases of the CCGT? All that is lost ends up in the atmosphere.

That will void any claim of 100% renewables, leaving the field to hydro and nuclear, plus fractions of PV, Solar thermal and wind – the last three supported by the first two. A lucky few countries can add geothermal to the list or, if environmental considerations are waived, tidal.

Of all the above, only nuclear power ticks all the boxes.



Don’t forget the electrolysis of water. If you want it you have pure oxygen coming off, as well as pure hydrogen. So you could burn the CH4 in a pure oxygen atmosphere, let the exhaust cool down and just drain off the liquid water to get pure CO2. No need for any complex venting to the atmosphere.

This is just my design suggestion, by the way, but I’ve seen something similar suggested with coal burning somewhere.



Actually my suggestion above won’t work as it stands because there isn’t quite enough oxygen. But you lose some hydrogen in the formation of methane as follows so the oxygen sums do work in the end

CO2 + 4H2 = CH4 + 2H2O

Let me just try something :

CO2 + 4H2 = CH4 + 2H2O


As a concept, that balances. Minor imbalances can be accommodated by venting the surplus hydrogen or oxygen.

Of course, if OCGT was used instead of CCGT, there is no steam side to heat up and the mechanical system is much simpler. The main penalty is reduced thermal efficiency. Whatever way is chosen, it is a lot of work for limited return.


The climatological relationships between wind and solar energy supply in Britain – Bett & Thornton (UK Met Office)

This is a fascinating read and shows the daily and monthly co-variability (anti-correlation) of wind and solar power in the UK by season and region. They take no view of the shape of demand, but just explore the generation side.

This shows clearly that wind and solar PV power complement each other (anti-correlate) in the UK on a monthly basis. Solar is much higher in summer, while wind power does better in winter.

Similarly cloudy days tend to be windier and vice versa, so wind and solar PV power complement each other (anti-correlate) in the UK on a daily basis too.

The conclusion for the UK is that provision of both wind and solar PV power enables an overall supply that is smoother than can be achieved with either. So it is worth installing both, even though there will be times when total generation exceeds demand (and also times when both together cannot meet demand).


If you look at the El Hierro grid generation breakup for the 31st of January 2016, you can see that from 5:40am through to 11:50am, the hydro output was negative. This suggests that there was enough excess wind power that stabilisation by adding demand (pumping) was enough to regulate the grid.

How they balanced the inductive load changes as the pumping was altered would be a challenge. Perhaps they kept the pumps running at a constant high rate and then varied hydro output to balance the demand (if the pumping load was greater than the power generated by the hydro turbines, then the net hydro generation would still be negative leaving wind to be the only net generation). Or else they could have juggled things the other way – constant low hydro output and varying pumping.

The recent comments about the very low water levels of the reservoirs is puzzling. Why would they run this trial when water levels are so low and what has happened to the desalination plants?


Peter, those anti-correlations shown by Bett & Thornton are tendencies. The UK would still need to cover those periods where the wind and solar did correlate in behaviour (eg calm nights, sunny and windy days) and by not showing the frequency and duration of these periods, you cannot even begin to estimate the storage (and transmission) requirements needed in order to remove the need for fossil fuel or nuclear generation.


When hydrogen can be engineered out of a system, it probably should be.

If we remove oxygen from water, we get this fuel (hydrogen) that is hard to store. If instead we remove oxygen from something else that results in a liquid, we would achieve a more storable fuel for later power, perhaps in fuel cells.

A low energy density would not matter if the “later” useage was to be on site. It would make sense to find the producer, storage tanks and fuel cells, all at a power station.


Economic/Business Case for the Pyroprocessing of Spent Nuclear Fuel
attempts to make the case that pyroprocessing can be a sound business. In the intervening 5 years the Korean lab working on pyroprocessing has conducted experiments on a laboratory scale to determine the best they could do was, approximately, 3% of the transuranics lost to the waste stream. That seems to have been good enough because they have gone on to construct an engineering-scale pyroprocessing building, ca. 1 tonne per year. I can find nothing indicating any progress or outcomes, but the joint work with Argonne National Laboratories isn’t scheduled to report until 2020 or 2021.

In the meantime, the US/Korea treaty limiting South Korea’s nuclear power ambitions has been revised. In particular it makes possible to handling of Korea’s once-through actinide pins in a third country, relieving Korea’s overcrowded storage problems. I gather South Australia would very much like to take on the “waste management” for Korea (and by extension, also Japan). So mayhap the first commercial pyroprocessing facility might possibly be in Australia. Looks to be a promising business despite the fact that the actual waste stream might have to be kept isolated from the environment for a very long time because of the transuranic leakages.

Finally, the existing pyroprocessing experiments have involved uranium and plutonium oxides, although it is clear how to process metals; conversion to metals are a first step in the process. What isn’t clear, and for which I have been unable to locate anything on the web, is started from the molten salts proposed by new fast reactor designs such as that of Transatomic. I suppose there is some way to do it, but I am certainly no chemist.


Hi DBB, I’m quite sad to hear about the 3% transuranics. I’ve been raving all over the internet that we have solved the nuclear waste problem, and only have to store fp’s for 500 years. That’s the way Tom Blees presented it. Are we not to trust “Prescription for the Planet”?



Peter, those anti-correlations shown by Bett & Thornton are tendencies. The UK would still need to cover those periods where the wind and solar did correlate in behaviour (eg calm nights, sunny and windy days) and by not showing the frequency and duration of these periods, you cannot even begin to estimate the storage (and transmission) requirements needed in order to remove the need for fossil fuel or nuclear generation.

UK ultimately requires some nuclear because it has a high population density, while for Australia and US it is optional. UK needs a high energy density technology leading up to the post-2050 period when greenhouse-emission free electricity generation technologies must supply most of the energy demands, including ground transportation, space and water heating and cooling, and industrial. We just do not have enough onshore space to meet all UK’s primary energy needs with renewables, though offshore wind farm space is less limited and less subject to NIMBYism (Not [a wind farm] In My Back Yard) than onshore renewables.

This research paper shows the clear and typical anti-correlation you get between solar and wind. During the first phase of greenhouse gas reductions (say up to 2030) it is that anti-correlation which enables wind and solar to provide economic generation up to a total fraction close to the capacity factor of both added together. During this phase renewables can be backed up by intermittent use of CCGT fossil fuel generation to fill the gaps, and there is probably room for all the renewables we need. It does not particularly matter during this phase how long the gaps are or how frequent, though the paper gives some idea of the total fraction of such gaps and therefore whether we will hit our carbon targets for 2030. We just fire up fast-start fossil-fueled CCGT (and it has to be fast start) as appropriate to fill the gaps.

As current primary energy loads are electrified (say between 2030 and 2050) the demand for electricity increases hugely, and it is here that nuclear becomes essential if the whole of the UK is not to become just a glorified wind and solar farm. As the last 20-30% of emissions from electricity generation have to be squeezed out storage of energy generated by wind and solar is required. It is only in this phase that detailed information on gaps and duration becomes crucial in planning the generation capacity and duration capacity of the storage needed to fill the gaps in renewable generation. So no desperate hurry just yet, and the answer is likely to be very clear before 2030 with seriously increasing use of wind and solar generation and a much better understanding of the locations where they will end up being installed.


@ Peter Davies.
Quote: “We just fire up fast-start fossil-fueled CCGT (and it has to be fast start) as appropriate to fill the gaps.”

How many times does it have to be demonstrated that Unreliables are actually proxies for a transition to GT’s?

Besides which, what exactly is a “Fast start CCGT”? The CC… part indicates Combined Cycle – a mixture of OCGT plus steam boiler.

Boilers are never fast start – they and their steam mains and turbines need time to heat through, unless the proposal is that the CCGT’s would be operating continuously in anticipation of a need to ramp up steeply to catch load which has been dropped due to the intermittent nature of Wind+Solar.

Peter, it is past time for you to define some terms, quantify a few things. Such as:
Cold start times for your fast start CCGT’s to first energy sent out.
Ramp rates for these same FSCCGT’s through their range.
Ramp rates to be up and down.
Cooling parameters for pressure parts – how quickly can the FSCCGT’s be withdrawn from service when the sun emerges from behind the cloud, without shortening the working life of the pressure parts?

Without that information, some silly people might start to think that you are primarily advocating a CCGT (or even OCGT) base plus as much Wind+Solar as you can sell, regardless of price. The chicken and the egg, with the GT always coming before the Unreliables.

How that translates into a carbon-free energy future is beyond comprehension.


For the technically minded, here is a link to a pretty good explanation of what FSCCGT’s are and are not.

Bottom line: The best performance from start to first load to full load of FSCCGT is about 20 minutes and 30 minutes, but as stated in the text, only the best performers can aspire to such short starts. Non-“fast start” CCGT’s are about double that of their faster cousins.

The above times are on the basis of a “Hot Start”, which loosely means that the CCGT was running the previous day and thus is still hot. Not warm: hot. Once a boiler has cooled for about 5 days, it is then “cold”. I am aware privately of techniques that may result in faster cooling, but not to quicker starts. Readers will notice that these things all take time.

Besides which, most owners prefer to treat their expensive, complex plant much kinder than to put it through racing starts regularly.

During startup, the efficiency is far below the best achievable during steady running. This is primarily for many reasons, one of which is that the GT part of the CCGT is operating in simple mode initially, thus efficiencies will be much lower than can be achieved with the boiler and turbine in service.

My experience has been with OCGT’s. I would appreciate input from those who are familiar with CCGT’s.


Peter, singletonengineer has covered the limitations of CCGT from the technical side better than I can.

As to the economics, this article from the IER describes the reality of what is being used by your country to stabilize your grid – diesel generators.
The high cost of gas along with the low utilisation and reduced efficiency (forced by the first preference given to renewable generation when conditions allow them to operate) makes CCGT unprofitable to operate let alone allow for investment in new plants.

And it isn’t only the UK facing this issue. Germany’s commitment to renewables forced the closure of its newest and most efficient CCGT plant last April.
The most ridiculous statement made by the author of this piece is “Cogeneration, not so much CCGT, is what the Energiewende needs”. Not only would you end up with small OCGT plants all over he country, needing gas pipes and transmission lines capable of handling their requirements but then the consumers of the waste heat would need their systems totally overhauled so that they could utilize the heat from the OCGT exhaust as well as from sources when the OCGT plants aren’t running.



CCGT being uneconomic is a result of the current way of paying just for CCGT operation. CCGT load factors are going down with higher renewables penetration and thus there needs to be capacity payments for backup generation such as CCGT (to cover capital costs and fixed costs), as well as payments for CCGT power generated (for fuel and variable costs). Capacity payments are not as bad as you might think because CCGT has a lower capital cost than anything else right now (but wait until solar really gets going) – most of the LCOE (at 85% capacity factor) comes from the fuel cost. See .

UK tried to move this way with the first capacity payment auction but screwed up by letting them all go to diesel generation, which was not supposed to be the way it went. Hopefully it won’t get it wrong the second time onwards!!

By 2030 the fast start capability of the latest 2016 CCGT is going to be good enough. The grid will be well on the way to becoming a computerised smart grid (meaning the operators do not have to run it by the seat of their pants). And the following will help :

The smart grid will control demand response.
~20% of the load could be electric vehicle charging, virtually all of which is highly flexible within an hour or so, giving CCGT fast start the time it needs
By 2030 building space and water heating will have started the transition to electric heat pumps starting to build a huge flexible load. With a little heat storage in converted buildings, again there is plenty of short-term flexibility as to when the electricity has to be supplied.

Wind power, while highly variable, is also highly predictable with the help of the latest purpose-built wind forecasts. Only very rarely does Germany get surprised by 24-hour ahead wind generation forecasts being out by more than 10% of the wind capacity. Solar likewise – you can see the clouds coming in a computer from plenty of time off.
The UK’s limited pumped hydro generation is still there, and will doubtless be expanded somewhat at some point.
The spinning reserve concept may still be with us in 2030, and currently copes with variations in load which are not that much proportionately smaller than the combined variations in load + wind + solar will be by 2030. These variations add up on an RMS (root mean square) basis, so if each of the three had the same individual variability then the combined variability would be 1.732 times as much. With such large flexible loads as EV charging and heat pumps it is debatable whether real CCGT turbines need to spin in reserve, but if they need to then they can.

In other words, there is not going to be technical problem with CCGT boiler start times from cold because the grid will know when that has to happen to provide the necessary reserve and has more levers than at present.

With the increase in flexible load it may well be the case that CCGT has an easier ride of it than at present because some of the short-duration surges may well be handled by demand response alone.

And if and when fast starts and high ramp rates are needed then perhaps additional payments should cover this too.


Just in case anyone thought the UK was not serious about offshore wind :

DONG energy is a Danish company, despite the name. Hornsey Project One is a 1.2GW offshore wind farm which will use 7MW Siemens wind turbines which are 190m tall, with a rotor diameter of 154m.

Construction will be completed in 2020.

Payment will be via a 15 year Contract for Differences, so DONG will receive a fixed prices per kWh during that time, after which they receive market price. I can’t find the actual price – it may be confidential. It is definitely going to be higher than the 9.2 p / kWh agreed for Hinkley point C nuclear station, but that is for 35 years and has inflation increases built in, which the normal UK CfD prices would not.

Offshore wind prices are coming down, and the (world-beating) volume installations in UK are playing a large part in making that happen. Cheapest offshore wind price so far is Horns rev 3 (off Denmark) which came in at around 11 US cents / kWh, guarantee for 12 or 13 years.

North Sea offshore wind capacity factors for the latest installations tend to exceed 50% because of the large hub height and huge size of the turbines.


@ Peter Davies
Can you please explain this article which seems to be saying that the UK government is not going to invest in any more wind especially offshore.

Further if you are going to talk about the future and what is going to be happening by 2030, read this article,

If we are going to start talking about the state of technologies available in 2030 then let us throw Thorium MSR’s on the table.
We can then go round and round in circles talking about what might happen in the future.


Anyone got time to go answer this guy? I’ve been fighting pretty much on my own for a while now, and am running out of steam. Here is the link to his comment. Here’s a whole bunch of radiation paranoia and wild accusations against the nuclear industry concentrated into one post, but I’m just had bad hair day at work, 5 days in a row!
Link to his post:

His post below:



You can’t tell me the Sv from a single Pu239 sphere embedded in flesh, you are not qualified to talk about radiation and cancer.

LNT has been proven, how many studies does it take for you?

Of course you don’t care about the facts.

Read up.… 1-2% of cancer that nuclear industry workers get are from radiation, proving LNT.… 200k

Look at this photo of a single 1 micron particle of plutonium in animal lung tissue, and then understand that the official lie is that dose, those tracks should be be divided by the whole lung or even the whole body to give the risk of cancer. Cancers start small, not in whole organ, but in small clusters of cells, individual cells.… photo of alpha from plutonium particle.… Fukushima emitted particulate sources.… 100,000 times as carcinogenic.

That is clustered damage from radiation is much worse than distributed.

Hot particles

1-2% of cancers are from commercial power plant radiation releases.

Just what LNT predicts.

“Ninety per cent of workers received cumulative doses < 50 mSv

All radiation increases your cancer risks.

“Results support the hypothesis that radiation doses are related to increased cancer incidence around TMI.

“These data provide direct evidence that a single a particle traversing a nucleus will have a high probability of resulting in a mutation and highlight the need for radiation protection at low doses.”

together about .5 to 1% alphas cause mutation.


Eclipse Now — Recycling a standard once-through uranium pin results in about 95% uranium, 4% waste and 1% transuranics. At 3% loss of transuranics going into the waste stream the volume is quite small. Just using more ceramics in the so-called glass logs which immobilize the wastes ought to be enough.

However, I still advocate sequestration of the glass logs deep in salt domes. That should make everybody happy for little additional cost.


Peter’s ability to arm wave, clutching at factoids and even no facts at all, then skipping from point to point is amazing.

Somehow, despite not knowing the cfd rates offered for offshore wind and assuming that these will not be subject to indexation (Sure about that?), we are asked to agree that the result will start dearer but end up cheaper than Hinkley. What if it isn’t? Where are the whole of project costings that are necessary before that conclusion can be reached?

I particularly enjoyed the mental gymnastics that are needed to twist the real world closure of Germany’s most efficient CCGT, as referred to by Greg, into some kind of future victory for wind power because by 2030 the grid will be smart enough to be able to turn off 20% of load and thus current standard CCGT’s will be OK after all! Why not consider the current situation, which is that diesels have been contracted in UK for grid security not because they are “right” or “wrong”, but because they won the contracts. Price is not irrelevant.

Can Peter provide a reference that shows how and when the wind and solar industries will design, fund and construct the smart grid that he is confident will overcome wind’s inherent unreliability?

Why is it that all of these good things seem to be 15 years in the future? I recall hearing a researcher into malaria vaccines explain that if you hear a researcher say that his work will produce a breakthrough in 5 years, that really means “don’t know”, because 5 years is beyond the planning and funding horizons.

Well, 15 years is beyond the planning horizon for energy. We are, again, well into “Don’t know.” territory.



You don’t seem to appreciate my attempts to show you the breadth of what is coming, and how it changes thinking. Yet these are the expectations that are driving planning right now in the UK.

Click to access CfD_Agreement__Generic__with_footnotes_-_26_October_2015.pdf

Good job you made me check, because the latest Contract for Differences (CfD) does include inflation updates to the fixed payments.

The standard term of the CfD contract is 15 years from the time the power starts to be delivered or from the time it was estimated to be delivered – whichever is the earlier. These are not necessarily the same contracts signed for Hornsea Project One.

Closure of CCGT in Germany has nothing to do with UK. UK would like to install more CCGT, but the payments to generators would have to be amended to make it commercially viable as the wholesale electricity price is currently too low. Germany has a problem with its system of payments for generation, caused by wind and solar power lowering wholesale rates and impacting the profitability of the thermal generation (which Germany will still need for some time). They may sort it out at some point. In the meantime the German grid is still highly stable, as is the rest of the European grid around them.

I agree with you as to why diesels were actually selected for capacity payments.

As for 15 years being beyond the planning horizon, the UK has climate legislation which has targets up to 2050, so that represents one planning horizon. If Hinkley C nuclear is ever funded it will start generation no earlier than 2023, and the CfD is for 35 years which takes us to 2058 (42 years hence), which is around the same period as the longevity of a lot of grid infrastructure. So I hope someone is worrying about what will happen by then.

The wind and solar industries will not be funding the smart grid in the UK. Why should they? They are only contractors to the grid, not the grid owners or operators.

Parts of the smart grid rollout are expected to happen very soon. 2020 is the target date for completion of smart meter installation (both for electricity and natural gas) for all houses and flats that want one, though it is not compulsory. That gives the two-way data gateway into the house which is needed for domestic demand response applications. However, fridges and washing machines don’t really represent a significant load for demand response to manage. The advantages come later with electric vehicle charging and electrical heat pumps.

So the smart grid gateway is supposed to be with us this decade, not in 15 years time, although there are some arguments about how the implementation should be managed.

We are not into “don’t know”. We are into “this is what we intend to make happen over the next 15 years” territory. Starting some time ago.


Singletonengineer — As I wrote previously on this open thread the Northwest Power and Conservation Council sets a 20 year plan for the Bonneville Power Administration once each 5 years. For some aspects of hydropower the planning horizon is longer than that as replacing turbines and generators is a major undertaking.


… so is the renewables industry paying for the smart meters? If not, why not; they are the root cause of the need.

I may appear to be impatient with some contributors’ optimism. This is due to my BS alarm triggering every time I see supposed solutions to today’s problems phrased in terms of “In 15 years, others will have found a way to accommodate the shortcomings which are part and parcel of the way that I choose to do business. Inside 15 years taxpayers and customers will have paid for the system to be modified.”

When we see the wind industry offer to pay promptly for the additional GT’s/Diesels/Batteries/Hydro and for the smart meters we will know that the wind industry is honorable, but an essential ingredient is missing. It is “User pays”, otherwise crudely known as YFI-YFI. “You … It – You fix it.”

I don’t want to receive a bill for a smart meter that I didn’t ask for and whose primary purpose is to enable flexible, computer-driven load shedding by another name in response to unfortunate features which are part of an already more expensive, subsidised fleet of wind turbines,each of which is more frequently idle than functioning.

Wind or solar are not truly fit for purpose. I am perfectly happy for others to construct and operate them, but I am not happy at the thought of my money being wasted either as subsidy or for ancillary services which are a consequence of others’ folly.

In the Australian context, I see the non-hydro renewables industry demanding that the entire electricity generation, distribution and retailing industry be redesigned around the aspirations of those who, in 2015, supplied about 6% of the energy but who dream of 100% market share. (Reference: Coolibah Comment, Feb 2016)

Dream on.


@ singletonengineer.
I agree with you.

I live in Queensland which has minimal wind resources but seemingly abundant solar.
In relation to rooftop solar PV there was an initial large penetration when generous subsidies were offered by the State government. Those subsidies were not paid for by the government but by everyone who did not have solar PV.

I live in a multi story unit development in inner Brisbane where solar PV is just impractical. There are many other instances of householders and businesses that are unable to install Solar PV.

Further, due to the high penetration of Solar PV the grid experienced stability problems which required significant expenditures to regain stability. These expenses again will be borne by those without Solar PV.

These issues are in the main caused by political interference from people taking idealistic positions who are not qualified in power generation or distribution.

The current political fashion is home storage of power via the system espoused by Elon,The Mighty, Musk. All kneel before Musk.

I anticipate to have more information about this system and its costs in the near future.


Thanks, DBB:
As a civil engineer, I understand century-long project plans, eg for major structures and dams, but beyond a certain horizon all plans, especially financial plans, are completely unreliable. The examples provided relate primarily to expected life of existing plant ant equipment.

The wind industry has adopted a different stance – they assume that others will design, fund and install equipment and processes, right to the top of the electricity market and down the line to every small domestic meter, that this will be done not because it is economic or best practice or even achievable – it is assumed on the basis of the wind industry’s desire for it to be so.

In the past day or two, the Australian federal government has forced the virtual closure of the climate-related arms of Australia’s leading scientific research organisation, CSIRO. This and related actions, none of which was able to be predicted 15 years ago, will greatly affect outcomes. How can the proponents of one industry, wind, confidently expect (demand?) that other sectors, including CCGT designers and proprietors, network operators, transmission system authorities, the whole metering industry, government environmental departments will/must follow the development and investment path preferred by the wind industry?

Where does the planning stop and the hype start?



You have it the wrong way around. Wind turbine manufacturers and solar panel producers have not forced their product on national grids. What has happened is that national governments have said, as part of a 50 year project, “we are going to need low-carbon generation. We are going to back a number of horses and see which ones can deliver.” The list includes nuclear, wind (onshore and offshore), solar PV, solar thermal, tidal, hydro, geothermal, biomass and various others that have fallen by the wayside.

A few of these technologies have been outstanding successes and governments now wish to install them to reduce CO2 emissions.

The industries making these things have been hugely encouraged by governments with subsidies to get the technology off the ground and more subsidies to get into mass manufacturing where the price starts to become competitive. The industries are responding to governments wishes, not the other way around.

And let us see what might happen if the wind and solar industries were indeed responsible for the design of the grid. We would get a grid which was entirely suitable for wind and solar, but maybe not for nuclear (because it has to be sited near a source of water), so why should wind and solar pay for those particular transmission lines – they don’t help get wind power to market and nuclear might be seen as a competitor.

Solar would probably be limited to rooftop solar because the profit margins on this are better – less negotiating power. Onshore wind would end up filling 25% of UK’s land because it is cheapest. When building connectors to offshore wind farms short-termism would reign rampant, and no thought would be given in UK to anything other than a direct connection to the nearest onshore point. The idea of routing the connectors to Norway to provide hydro or pumped hydro around 2030 would be discarded – why spend more money now for a benefit to someone else later. Other interconnectors would not be built – better to install more onshore wind around the UK rather than spread wind because the wind companies make more money that way.

In short, grid planning by wind and solar companies would end up with a grid in a huge mess. And that’s why governments always tightly regulate who manages and controls the grid – so it is done with regard to a 40 or 50 year planning horizon.

Similarly with the nuclear manufacturers. They only exist by the grace and favour of governments. Let a bunch of them try to build a nuclear waste repository or a nuclear reprocessing plant using the normal planning processes. No way would that be allowed! Too dangerous, and too high a risk to the public. Also local planning authorities know that no-one wants a reactor close to them – though they are often happy to have someone a few hundred miles away have it. Instead governments have chosen to spend money on nuclear inspectorates to ensure safety is maintained. Even then you should try to guess what the next letter or letters will be in this sequence – TMI, C, F…..

So just as installing new nuclear is a long-term infrastructure government decision for the UK, so is installing wind and solar. The relevant government planning (DECC) and execution agencies (National Grid) need to be in control and are, not some bunch of wind, solar or nuclear manufacturers.

And lastly, the time to start asking the wind and solar companies for money is a little while after subsidies stop – which is already for onshore wind in UK, soon for solar PV, and later for offshore wind. Otherwise you are subsidising them to pay money back to the grid, which is not only pointless but economically inefficient too.


Nuclear does not have to be sited near a source of water.Nuclear and coal power plants are not necessarily cooled with water. It is just that water cooling is easy and cheap. Air could be used as the heat sink, but air cooling would be less efficient. Air cooling with water evaporation is an intermediate form of cooling.


France already recycles spent nuclear fuel. In the 1960s, we in the US recycled spent nuclear fuel.  We don’t recycle nuclear fuel now for two reasons:

It is valuable and people steal it. The place it went that it wasn’t supposed to go to was Israel. This happened in a small town near Pittsburgh, PA circa 1970. A company called Numec was in the business of reprocessing nuclear fuel. [I almost took a job there in 1968, designing a nuclear battery for a heart pacemaker.]
Virgin uranium is so cheap that it is cheaper than recycling. This will change eventually, which is why we keep the spent fuel where we can reach it. The US possesses a lot of MOX fuel made from the plutonium removed from bombs. MOX is essentially free fuel since it was paid for by the process of un-making bombs.

Please read this Book: “Plentiful Energy, The Story of the Integral Fast Reactor” by Charles E. Till and Yoon Il Chang, 2011. You can download this book free from: Charles E. Till and Yoon Il Chang, are former directors of the nuclear power research lab at Fermi Lab, which is the national laboratory near Chicago. It used to be called Argonne National Lab. Get another free book from:

Per Till & Chang: The Integral Fast Reactor [IFR] uses “nuclear waste” as fuel and gets 100 times as much energy out of a pound of uranium as the Generation 2 reactors we are using now. The IFR is safer than the Generation 2 reactors, which are safer by far than coal. The IFR is commercially available from

Peter Davis: How much stock in renewable energy companies do you own? Are you getting a commission for selling wind turbines or solar panels?

Here is my own disclaimer:
I have no interest, financial or otherwise, in the nuclear power industry. My only interest is in stopping Global Warming. My only income is from the US civil service retirement system.

I have no interest, financial or otherwise, in the electric utility industry, except that I buy electricity from the local utility. I have never worked for the nuclear power industry.

Can you do likewise? Come clean, Peter Davis. Why are so bigoted against nuclear and so single track favoring unsafe unreliable short lived wind and solar?


Thank you for those references Edward.
I do not understand the opposition to Nuclear and the zealotry for Variable Renewables. I have no particular dislike for either wind or solar nor do I think that Nuclear is always the best answer nor do I think that we will ever get to a stage where we will stop burning fossil fuels.

In these discussions Brazil gets very little mention. It’s economy is ranked eight or nine in the world and 88% of its electricity comes from hydro. In 2001-2002 Brazil had an acute energy crisis due to drought.

It also appears to have substantial wind resources.

Click to access Wind-Resource-Map-Brazil-11×17.pdf

But as of Feb 2014 it only had 2.2 GW nameplate capacity of wind. It also had 2 GW of Nuclear. See

Now I would think that Brazil with its massive Hydro resources would be an ideal candidate for Variable Renewables.


Edward Greisch — Argonne National Laboratory still exists with that name. Current research includes pyroproccessing.

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory is completely distinct and does only fundamental physics.


@ Peter Davies:

In very severe climates, such as 100mm annual precipitation regions of Mongolia, dry cooling towers have been designed to avoid evaporative losses. Water is used to transfer heat to cooling fins but not permitted to evaporate.

Prercisely the same techniques are readily adaptable to any situation where excess heat must be gotten rid of. You already have one in your automobile – it is called the radiator.

To claim that nuclear power stations or indeed any thermal power station must be constructed near water is to demonstrate a lack of basic knowledge.

It also demonstrates the type of irrelevant non-argument that can be thrown into an otherwise rational debate by those who lack knowledge of the basics or who are playing with a losing hand. This is how progress toward France-style progress towards decarbonisation has been stymied in a world that is desperately in need of decarbonised energy, and lots of it.

I note the lack of response to a reminder that the Australian electrical energy market, despite a couple of decades of trials, roll-outs, subsidies and preferential market access constraints, is still only 6% Wind+Solar. From a national total energy perspective which includes transpot, industry, etc, that fraction shrinks to about 2%.

Two piddling percent! But seemingly 98% of the noise, some of it cluttering up this site.

There are several pre-requisites for a civilised climate and energy debate.
1. Anthropogenic climate change and the associated environmental degradation are here and now. Those with contrary opinion are best ignored.
2. Not all energy is created equal. This is especially true with electricity – reliability, scaleability, safety and all of the system services such as black start capacity, frequency response, inertia, environmental impact, requirements for use of scarce and strategic resources (rare earths is an example) are all relevant and should be assessed against the same parameters. That is what this site has been trying to achieve for the 6 years I have been a visitor.
3. Issues, once raised, must be dealt with openly and ethically. This implies sticking with the subject and not using dishonest debating tactics, for which a list of 60+ varieties is at

I certainly do not “have it the wrong way around” regarding the tactics used by proponents of unreliable renewables. More than a handful of unsavoury debating tactics were used skilfully in order to steer politicians and others to adopt positions that they would not otherwise have supported. These were a necessary prerequisite to decisions to subsidise, protect and otherwise preference low quality outcomes against higher quality energy alternatives.

How else could the continually rising national carbon emissions of Germany and UK be explained? (Apologies re the foregoing sentence for my use of techniques number 2, 3b, 24, 25, 38, 44, plus diversion away from the topic. This stuff is contagious.)



I’m a physicist (well, a physics PhD student at the moment, with a degree in electrical sciences though that was a long time ago), so I understand the laws of thermodynamics. They say the efficiency of generating electricity thermally depends on the temperature difference between the source (e.g. coolant from nuclear reactor) and the final energy sink. The lower the energy sink temperature the more efficient the generation. That’s why most nuclear reactors are sited near water to act as coolant, and why their efficiency is higher in winter when the water is cooler. You can air cool them, but the efficiency suffers.

Wind and solar may be only 6% of Australian power generation. Zero energy comes from nuclear in Australia. So on a pro-rata basis to installed Australian capacity, if that is what you are suggesting the rule should be, there should be zero discussion of nuclear on this thread. But feel free to post on nuclear – there is no such rule. My main interest is to correct misunderstandings about renewables, particular wind and solar.

There is a place for significant nuclear in the climate plans of many countries, including my native UK, China and India. It’s because the population density and therefore the required energy density may be too high to allow meeting all primary and electrical energy demands with just renewables without any nuclear. But in Australia and the USA there is plenty of room and nuclear is thus optional, not mandatory.

Let’s take China. China has no axe to grind either way on nuclear and wind, and is installing both as fast as it can to stop the Chinese from suffocating under the weight of coal dust. Which will win the battle to provide the most electrical energy in China? Who knows. But wind power is currently matching the output of nuclear in China, and is expected to continue to do so

How else could the continually rising national carbon emissions of Germany and UK be explained?

Are the these the official DECC figures for the continually rising carbon emissions of UK that you are referring to?

Incidentally, only half the huge drop in UK emissions in 2014 was due to government climate actions. The rest was due to a mild winter.

Either way German CO2 emissions at the end of 2014 are pretty close to the all-time low of 2009.



Peter Davies: How much stock in renewable energy companies do you own?

I have no direct investments in renewable energy companies, but have some index linked stocks including one based on a global technology index. These must includes some investments in renewable energy, as well as nuclear and perhaps fossil fuel technology, but I do not know how much.

Are you getting a commission for selling wind turbines or solar panels?

Not at present. But is you are are offering…..


I mean you are too mercenary. Starting a company because you invented something is not the same as being a salesman and stock trader. You need to make a choice. Science requires too much honesty to do sales on the side.

I am certainly not offering. A scientist would never let his judgement be clouded with money.

“But is you are are offering…..” That is what I thought of you. You are selling out rather than offering honest advice. What you are selling out is humanity. Your bad advice and the bad advice of other salespeople is what is causing civilization to collapse, as in Syria and other places.

Humans may go extinct this century. You are contributing to the collapse.


Peter Davies — It is extraordinarily difficult to secure right of way for transmission lines here in the USA. The list of examples not being built goes on and on. Earlier in this thread I commented about the Pacific Intertie. The best that can be done is a merely 120 MW upgrade as no additional right of way is required.

So there are significant obstacles to wheeling power from the windy places to the populated parts. In that sense the two coasts are more like Europe.

Hence some nuclear, the interest in that in the USA I reported on in earlier comments on this thread.


@Edward, Eclipse Now

Ah maybe we are not prescient after all! Maybe Oliver Letwin, the UK government policy advisor suggesting UK is going to adopt electric cars a lot faster than anyone thought, reads this blog.


Meanwhile, in the real world, Mr Letwin said to the House of Commons “electric cars could be recharged by an induction system under the road network as they drive along… In practice, it could be done today.” Really? Exactly where is that currently practical?

Further: Mr Letwin stated “the car inhabitants might not be in good shape” due to the effect of the charging process. What a surprise! Maybe electric vehicles pose a greater radiation threat than nuclear power stations, but never mind, that cause of injury or death is only a “technical issue”.

Spot the similarities with wind power as a good coporate citizen in our communities:
1. Are the owners of the electrical cars willing to pay for the charging systems and the energy consumed? (External services)
2. Will the cost of the charging systems include compensation for other under-road and in-road service maintainers for the additional cost of working, especially of safe working, around the charging system infrastructure? (Externalised costs)
3. Will the proponents ignore undesirable outcomes, for example, that I and my pacemaker might not survive exposure to the induction process when listing the features of this “in practice… today” induction system? (Unfortunate external event)
4. What are the names of the manufacturer and model and the on-road price of these “in practice… today” electric vehicles?
Are cradle to grave evaluations publicly available?
5. Do the proponents demand up-front subsidies of capital costs plus ongoing regulated market prices for their operations? (Socialise the costs, private the profits)
6. Will the proponents reject responsibility for the costs of integration into existing transport infrastructure? (External costs)

Don’t get me wrong – I am in principle in favour of shared, automated electricly powered vehicles, but there is nothing especially prescient about Mr Letwin’s internally inconsistent statement or Mr Davies’ support of it.

When it comes to discussions about options for a global low-carbon, energy-rich future, there are plenty of comments from those who overemphasise perceived problems of nuclear power while avoiding dealing with major shortcomings in proposals which they favour.

See also debating techniques 2, 5, 7 and 29 of John T Reed’s article cited above.


The Pareto Principle (80 – 20 rule) also informs us that whilst commuter vehicular traffic may account for 80% of the vehicles on the road it is the other 20% that are doing all the emitting.

Hence little 4 seater electric cars whilst quite a good idea they are never going to solve the problem of GHG emissions.

Similarly whilst there are a lot of households using electricity generally they only account for about 20% of electricity consumption the remainder is consumed by commerce and industry particularly steel and aluminium refineries.

Hence again whilst rooftop PV’s are quite a good idea especially in remote areas (Australian Outback) they in turn are never going to solve the problem of GHG emissions.

Further to make a serious reduction in GHG emissions from electricity production a technology is needed which can provide, not tens of GW’s, nor hundreds of GW’s, but tens of thousands of GW’s of generating capacity.


Actually, unless the problem of asymptotic growth is dealt with we would need all of it and more. Everyone’s favourite energy supply thrown into the mix. That nicely takes way some of the tribal competition too. Not sure about the end point though.


I agree entirely.
Australia has a no Nukes policy.
Australia has 3.75 GW of installed Wind Capacity
generating 1GW.
Australia is still burning brown coal. Loy Yang in Victoria etc
When are we going to retire our brown coal generators and our other dirty black coal for that matter.
The installation of 1 GW of Nuclear would allow the retirement of 1 GW of brown coal generation.


Idaho Falls in Idaho is only less than 300 km from the most windy part of Wyoming and possibly the best location for wind farms in the USA. Idaho Falls is far and far from the Pacific coast. Other than Idaho National Laboratory there are only irrigated farms for potatoes and other crops.

The area is served by a Utah utility, Idaho Power area ending further to the west. A group called Utah Associated Utilities, which includes the Idaho Falls utility, uses quite a bit of coal to generate and the coal burners are approaching end of life.

Are the utilities going to replace the coal burners with wind power? Not even partially, as far as I can determine. They are planning for some number of Nuscale SMRs, I think a dozen. They will place these near to Idaho Falls so that Idaho National Laboratory can help look after the installation.

The plan for the Wyoming wind is wheeling to Southern California via Delta, Utah, with a CAES there. I assume this means 2 HVDC transmission lines.

Despite the sizable cost and considerable planning required this project is one of the very few transmission line projects making actual progress in the USA.

The difference between the two projects is the scale of the load. The Idaho Falls area needs relatively little; the dozen Nuscale modules will supply a reliable 540 MW. The Wyoming wind will be welcome in Southern California, but however much power that provides it will be a small addition to help meet Southern California demand.


Tony Carden — Find the distance from Rock Springs, Wyoming, to Delta, Utah, and from there to Las Vegas, Nevada. Add 10%. That will be the approximate length of the HVDC transmission line. It is almost as long as the Pacific DC Intertie.

I have been unable to find the planned scale of the wind farms, but to make this project pay it is likely to be on the order of more than 1 GW nameplate rating.

My main point is that the more nearby utilities don’t want any part of it.


David Benson,
I understood the point you were making. I was just trying to estimate the size of the project.

It is approx 600 road miles or 1000 klms, which is the equivalent of Brisbane to Sydney.

They will lose 3.5% approx of generated power in transmission.

It would be good to get some actual performance data after the project is completed.

It will also be able to provide some benchmark data on costs of wind vs nuclear.
As they will obviously be installing state of the art wind turbines they could expect to achieve capacity factors of 50% that Peter Davies has told us about.
We could end up with 500 MW of wind actual ( 50% of 1GW) vs 500 MW of Nuclear.
It is interesting to note though that the local farming type community of Wyoming, which may already have some experience of wind power from pumping water, is opting for the more reliable Nuclear.


Yup, farmers have experience with wind pumping water. All bad, mostly bitter. About a century ago, farmers bought windmills to pump water all over the US midwest, including Wyoming. The problem is that the wind never blows during the drought. Remember the dust bowl and how many farmers lost their farms at that time? That memory lasts for many generations.
The REA [Rural Electrification Administration] came along in the 1930s to bring electricity to farms. The farmers eagerly replaced wind power with electric motors because electricity from burning coal does not quit during a drought.

My mother’s parents and relatives were farmers in New York state and Pennsylvania.


The Wyoming to Las Vegas, Nevada, transmission line project is called TransWest Express. Searching on that phrase will give specifics, which do not appear to include the CAES at this time. It seems to be proposed as a 3 GW line, about the same as the Pacific DC Intertie.


Thanks for the reference.
The website says:
730 mile route, 1200klms (Brisbane to Bowen),
Would this make Transmission losses close to 4%?

$3B for cost. It does not appear to include any costs for the Wind Turbines nor as you say the CAES.

I wonder how much Nuclear you can get for $3B plus?


Tony Carden — The Nuscale units are projected to be US$5/W. Maybe less after the first few. So US$3 billion provides about 600 MW of dispatchable power. Maybe somewhat more for the later units.


David Benson,
Finally found some information on the wind farm.

3000 MW (it sounds better than 3GW) Name Plate Capacity for $5B.

Interesting the Transwest project will take approx 13 years from date of first application until completion. If I added another 2 years for preliminary cogitation it would make 15 years from initial conception to initial transmission if the wind farm is running by then.

Time frames for Nuclear development are not that long after all.


Oh, The $5B should pay for another 1000MW of Nuclear making a total of 1600MW of Nuclear vs 3000MW of nameplate capacity wind.
For some people that would be a difficult choice, I am not one of them.


Calculations of the LCOEs for the Wyoming Wind Project and Nuscale are :

Sources of information were :

Click to access nuscale-value-proposition.pdf

The 6.5% cost of capital used came from the Nuscale document but is used for both projects.

The LCOE’s use only the standard DoE LCOE figures for grid connection, nothing as far as California from Wyoming.

The Wyoming site is supposed to be the best in the country, so the wind project capacity factor may well approach 60%. The project would be built to supply California with renewable energy, and a transmission line needs to be built too.. Thus the “near future” wind turbine technology will have plenty of time to bed down before this project gets under way.

The transmission line to California has not been explicitly costed but the standard DoE LCOE transmission figure has been used for each technology.

Using the US DoE figures for nuclear the calculation gives $71 / MWh. Nuscale quotes $90 / MWh for its NOAK LCOE. Perhaps the Nuscale operational overheads are higher than the standard figures the DoE use.

At between $42.9 (CF 0.6) and $48.3 / MWh (CF 0.5) for the wind project power there is clearly something to think about compared to Nuscale at $90 / MWh or even maybe to Nuscale at $71.4 / MWh.


Your numbers show your prejudice very clearly and very obviously. The reactor will last 60 to 100 years. The wind turbines will last about 15 years. Can you draw us a map showing the location of the wind farm?


And further Peter Davies, Wind will ALWAYS have periods it does not generate anything so needs to be fully backed up. Why cannot supposedly sane people see through the con of renewable energy.



Edward Greisch,
Your numbers show your prejudice very clearly and very obviously. No nuclear power station has lasted anywhere near 60 years, yet plenty of wind turbines have lasted for longer than 15.

I’m very skeptical of your claim that in the US midwest the wind never blows in the drought. Droughts, being associated with high pressure, are less windy than wet conditions, but there’s nearly always some wind, and it doesn’t take much wind to pump water. Wind pumps are very common on Australian farms, and are designed with many blades so as to still work well in low wind conditions.


“The wind never blows during a drought” is an “old farmers’ tale.” Just like the traffic light is always red when you are in a hurry. It isn’t true in the literal sense. It is true often enough for farmers to get emotional about it while his farm is being foreclosed on. It only has to be a little less windy than during a snow storm during the drought for the saying to get started. It is more of a cautionary tale, as in “don’t depend on wind power when you need it most.” A farmer can loose a lot of cattle or a lot of crops if he can’t get water at critical times.

“Some” wind is not necessarily going to pump water at all. During a drought, you need as much water as you can get because cows and crops without water can die quickly. Cows and crops are money. If you read up on the Dust Bowl, you will get the idea. Water was more precious than gold because if you had water you could keep your farm. You could still die of your lungs being filled up with dust.

“The wind never blows during a drought” is true enough for the present generation, having heard the dustbowl stories from great grandparents, to be leery of wind power. If wind power had worked out, farmers would still be using them, and so would everybody else.

Having spent money on wind mills, the farmers also cursed having wasted the money. Nothing has changed. Wind turbines are greatly improved, but they are still at the mercy of the wind. So city people, not having heard what the farmers have to say, are spending money on wind turbines. It will take a few years to find out once again that they don’t work. Or that utopia doesn’t come with the wind turbines.


Peter Davies did the LCOE calculations quite nicely. The use of the 30 year life for the nuclear power plant is correct, as that is the loan lifetime and the length of the NRC license. A difficulty is underestimating the transmission costs to California which will up the LCOE as delivered to Southern California. I don’t know how much to add, but surely less than $10/MWh.

What we see are the differing requirements of the two regions. Southern California has plenty of natgas generators with more coming as the coal burners near Delta, Utah, at the end of the other HVDC transmission line ending in Southern California, is converted to natgas. Further, the California legislators require the California utilities to have a high proportion of so-called renewable generators.

Not so in Idaho where the problem this century in the Snake River plain is a shortage of dispatchable generators. As far as I know there is but one CCGT there, belonging to Idaho Power. So as one or two coal burners are to be turned off it is the reliable thing to do to replace with a dispatchable generator. Utah Associated Utilities has chosen Nuscale units even though Nuscale estimates just over $100/MWh. The reliability is worth that much.


The loan lifetime is not a good indication of the reactor lifetime. The loan lifetime is driven by the life expectancy of human investors, not by the design life of the reactor. Did they really succeed in designing a reactor with a life expectancy of only 30 years? They could have, but Gen 2 reactors’ licenses have been extended to 60 years and some may be extended to 100 years. A design life of 30 years would mean lowering NRC standards a lot. It might have happened to make the reactor factory buildable and to make modules transportable. But you can’t use loan lifetime as reactor lifetime. You need better data.

Wind turbine lifetime is limited by external events such as lightning strikes and wind storms; things which are not within the engineers’ control.


David Benson
Here is my calculation for the capital recovery cost of the Transwest HVDC line.

Capital cost $3B
Capital Recovery Factor @ 6.5% interest over 20 years = .09
Capital Recovery per annum = $270 million.
MW hrs per year @ 50% Capacity Factor = 13,140,000
Capital Recovery per MWh = 270,000,000/13,140,000
= $20.55 / MW hr
Say $20 / MWh for Capital Recovery
@ 60% Capacity Factor, Capital Recovery Cost is $17 / MWh

Firstly have I stuffed up?

Secondly, I think you may have a better idea than I do of the operating costs of a HVDC.

Edward Greisch,
In my limited experience with Net Present Value calculations the first 25 yrs of a project normally carry the most weight in the calculations. There are exceptions to this of course.
For example if we knew that in 30 years time we could sell our nuclear facility for $1M per MW that would certainly improve Nuscale’s position.
But I doubt that or rather I hope that decisions of this magnitude are not based on a very simplistic spreadsheet calculation like Peter Davies’s. There are many subjective issues to be considered as well.


Graeme — The Southern California utilities will know well in advance how much of this wind power is coming their way so ample time to change the settings on the banks and banks of CCGTs at their disposal.

Given Southern California wholesale power rates these look to be an ok deal, and anyway the utilities have little choice but to accept this.

Of course, carbon dioxide emissions are still free in California…


David Benson,

The NEM (Australia) – National Energy Market noted South Australia lost 294MW some 28% of their wind capacity in one 5 minute period (AR 2013 or 2014). How many CCGT’s do you need for each power grid? How much capital cost? Do you include this cost in your wind assessment? Who man’s or woman’s these stations on standby? What happens if you fire them up and are not needed – who calculates the CO2 produced?And what if you calculate you need 50% CCGT’s back up. I gather this Blog site is all for CO2 removal and the only way to do this (at present) is to go Nuclear. In 2060 we MAY have new technologies but we all wait and hope.



There is little need for standby operators at GT’s. Maintenance crews are as usual – performing routines and generally keeping things shipshape and fuelled.

The physical operator can be anywhere on Planet Earth, connected to the plant (or many plants) via a data acquisition and control system that allows full function supervision and control.

NB, unless operated very recently and still either warm or hot, there is still a start-up time of half a minute to several minutes to first generation, up to many minutes for warm-through of the steam paths and full load output. Push button start is not the same as instant start.


You really are not listening. When the wind stops it needs backup. CCTG can raise power in approximately 30 minutes very well and good. But you do not seem to understand that when the wind works at 7% or lower you need 100% backup. Now the question is why build two generating sets when one will do. (ie) Nuclear. Intermittent and unreliable generating sets have to fully backed up.



DBB means the CCGTs are already spinning.

Nuclear and California: Musicians Peter Paul & Mary convinced Californians to be afraid of nuclear. Why anybody would believe musicians on science is a mystery.


The $101/MWh estimate by Nuscale is based on the recovery period being 30 years. Beyond those initial 30 years the LCOE falls dramatically since the capital costs have been fully recovered.

Meanwhile, the wind turbines will have to be replaced and the replacements will have reached their end of life. And then there are the maintenance costs of the HVDC line.

Does anyone have an example of the annual maintenance costs of a large HVDC link? I have not been able to find one – only statements that they are lower than for a comparable AC link.


@ Greg K:
Re 30 year life for Nuscale: DBB explained the reason upthread. I agree that there is still engineering life left after 30 yewars, but there are risks and costs regarding life extension beyond the maximum approvable licence period.

Second, any assumed life span for Nuscale needs to be confirmed by experience, which of course has not yet been obtained. Is it appropriate to base expectations on older, substantially different designs? It seems reasonable to be cautious.

Presumably, the practical truth lies between the two.

On this one, I’d side with DBB’s approach until the smoke clears.


Edward Greisch —- The Gen 2 nuclear power plants were designed for 30 years with extreme conservatism. Turns out that radiation damage is vastly less than that conservative design. As this is now known maybe even the NRC will license less conservative designs. So it might just be that the Nuscale modules are indeed designed for 30 years of safe operation. Indeed, at one point Nuscale had the idea of sending an old module back to the factory for refurbishment rather than a renewal on site. Power planners need to be conservative.

As for wind turbines, those are all so new that actual lifetimes are largely unknown. I assume that the planning figures are quite conservative. We shall see.


@DBB “at one point Nuscale had the idea of sending an old module back to the factory for refurbishment”

I realise that NuScale would have had in mind a refuelling and overhaul, but could that robustness extend to being transported between sites mid-life of its fuel charge? Temporary consumers such as minesites might welcome the idea that a SMR module could be used, cooled, transported, and used again with the same charge of fuel.


Roger Clifton: I think the answer is yes because Gen4 Energy is planning to have the reactor shipped back to the factory full of the spent fuel so that all of the fuel handling happens at the factory. At least their advertising reads that way. But you need to ask the factory.



If you had looked at the Nuscale graphic in the post properly you would see that Nuscale themselves used a discount rate of 6.5% over a period of 30 years, so that is what should go into the LCOE calculation.

The Nuscale reactors may well last more than 30 years, and after the loan is repayed the power may well be much cheaper. But that does not change how much the power will cost for the first 30 years.

Even if Nuscale were allowed to discount the capital cost to infinity, the discounted years in the spreadsheet would not get much above
16 years, compared with just under 14 years for the 30 year cost recovery. So after 30 years it makes very little difference to today’s price how long the period is.

Or to put it another way, of the $46.3 / MWh “capital LCOE” figure, if the loan allowed that the capital never be repayed, but interest still had to be paid on the full sum each year, the “interest LCOE” at 6.5% would still come to $41.8 / MWh – only $4.5 / MWh less. That is the lower limit of the “capital LCOE” cost. Then assume the loan was just written off when the Nuscale was decommissioned.

For the wind repower after 20 years the replacement wind LCOE is going to be a lot lower – the site is prepared, the transmission lines are there, the permissions will be very straightforward. And the 2040 price could well be within spitting distance of the nuclear fixed and variable costs which total $24 / MWh. Given more than 1/3 of the capital costs of Nuscale would still be outstanding after 20 years, even if you refinanced then for an additional 30 years you would have to add more than $16 / MWh “capital LCOE” to this, so the Nuscale would still cost you $40 / MWh (for another 30 years), and the wind repower is definitely going to be cheaper than this by 2040.

The backup requirement needs to be added in, and I hope I have time soon.


You forgot that the permission to build wind turbines will be revoked when a wind storm carries the machine ⅓ mile and it crushes a loaded school bus.


@Singleton Engineer

“The wind industry has adopted a different stance – they assume that others will design, fund and install equipment and processes, right to the top of the electricity market and down the line to every small domestic meter, that this will be done not because it is economic or best practice or even achievable – it is assumed on the basis of the wind industry’s desire for it to be so.”

I do not think it works quite like that.

Wind power has to enter into PPA contracts that are significantly below grid parity in US in order to gain access to the market.

As per 2014 the average wind PPA has been below the cost of purchasing and transporting coal to a coal power plant to produce an equal amount of energy.

Wind power is forced to get cheaper still because it is right now only half as expensive as solar that delivers electricity synchronous with sunshine, which coincides better with the grid demand.

Over the next ten years solar PPA contracts is expected to drop 50% (17% drop was realized between 2013 and 2014) while the wind industry only expects 40% PPA drop in the same period (6% drop was realized between 2013 and 2014).

Solar is by nature applicable from tiny distributed solar cells to massive utility scale power plants with the same efficiency whereas modern wind power is grid scale only because size matters for cost and capacity factor.

The reason owners of grids and utilities will do everything they can to encompass wind as best they can is that they are under pressure from solar/battery grid deflection. If they want to keep their customer base they need the cheapest possible electricity that can meet grid demand, which currently in USA is a combination between Fracking gas plants and wind power.

US coal companies are zombie companies and are only still here because of lavish subsidies. When their 39% market share of the US grid is passed on to competitive electricity generation wind and solar will be the most market ready.

Instead of contemplating about allegedly unfair renewable market methods you should must rather think about how to make nuclear competitive.


Jens Stubbe: How much stock do you own in the wind energy business? Or is it how much commission do you make on each wind turbine you sell?


@Peter Lang
“Apart from not agreeing with your figures, Europe has spent about EUR 1 trillion on renewable energy. Most of that is subsidised. That is not sustainable. (please read this and the referenced posts: )”

Interesting numbers. Up until 2000 half the worlds wind power was build in Denmark. Then Lomborg struck luck with the new right wing government so now a days the market share is smaller even though two of the three largest wind turbine makers outside China are still incorporated in Denmark.

The Danes spend approximately 0.02% of GDP on renewable subsidies.

We also subsidize fossil fuels to a much heavier cost and so does all other European countries including Germany.

Denmark is part of Nordpool, which is the worlds largest and cheapest electricity market and more than 50% of last years domestic electricity generation was from wind turbines.

90% of all offshore turbines are designed and built in Denmark and the cost of new offshore in Denmark (Hornsrev3) is now on an unsubsidized basis approximately $0.06/kWh, which is roughly 50% more expensive than Danish onshore wind.

The North Sea has sufficient accessible wind resources to power all European grids and also electrify the entire European transport sector.

Even if your EUR 1 trillion (EUR1850 per European) had any merit then it is definitively well spent money since the world now has a source of electricity generation that is cheaper than any other known source of electricity generation.

I did read the link you supplied and was not impressed. It is feasible to build a 100% renewable grid on a massive scale anywhere on earth. What you have to do is to connect over large distances and over provision while using the excess power for Synfuels and other technologies that can consume large amounts of energy with no guarantee of supply.

Battery storage is mainly for BEV and grid deflectors and I fully expect the current hype about grid scale batteries to end soon.


Denmark is part of Nordpool, and Norway gets 98% of its electricity from hydro. Norway also has the best geography for hydro storage.

Let’s Build a Global Power Grid

“100% renewable grid on a massive scale” That’s right. It takes a global scale grid.

The bad news is the required grid to make wind that useful is a lot bigger than your wishful thinking.

The RETAIL cost of electricity in Denmark is the highest in Europe. The lowest is in France.

Did you tell us a URL that you didn’t intend? Or did you not read your own reference?


Leave a Reply (Markdown is enabled)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s