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Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-10, 11:44 PM
I've looked back at what I've written and I see I've made two points with regards to solar power:

1. Point of use solar (rooftop solar) is the cheapest source of electricity available to most Australians.

2. At German installation costs point of use solar is cheaper than new nuclear in England.

Does anyone disagree with me that point of use solar is the cheapest source of electricity available to most Australians or that at German installation costs points of use solar is cheaper than new nuclear in England?

neilzero
2013-Feb-11, 12:39 AM
I agree with 1 if you assign a reasonable enviornmental damage cost to coal/ I agree with 2 assuming the probable play out of new nuclear in England, and that few solar instalations will be done in unfavorable German locations such as shaded most of the day. Neil

TooMany
2013-Feb-11, 12:46 AM
I've looked back at what I've written and I see I've made two points with regards to solar power:

1. Point of use solar (rooftop solar) is the cheapest source of electricity available to most Australians.

2. At German installation costs point of use solar is cheaper than new nuclear in England.

Does anyone disagree with me that point of use solar is the cheapest source of electricity available to most Australians or that at German installation costs points of use solar is cheaper than new nuclear in England?

It may be cheap, although I'm somewhat surprised, because then it ought to be cheaper where I live too. Here it is only cheaper if you use large amounts of electricity (not sure why). Do you have solar subsidies or perhaps penalties on fossil fuels?

The problem is that although it may be cheap, it doesn't work at night or on cloudy days when you need power. It cannot be a substitute for other sources. It can only reduce the load on other sources when available. This requires the capital expense of building and maintaining both sources. So the point is that it may not be cheaper overall than nuclear or coal because you must build the nuclear or coal plant as backup anyway and amortize that expense.

Cheap solar may increase the cost of base load generation because the investment in generating plants is not fully utilized, with one important exception. During the summer the peak loads occur when air conditioning is in use. The solar radiation is available at that time, so roof top solar may help to reduce the required size of base load plants somewhat.

Solar is beneficial in reducing the consumption of carbon fuels, thereby reducing fuel costs and CO2 and other emissions. But with nuclear plants the benefit of solar is not so much. Power lines to your home must exist anyway. Nuclear fuel is cheap, so the use solar to lighten the nuclear load doesn't make sense. Solar may be cheaper if capital costs of nuclear are high and you are charged only for the electricity you use. So an individual may think he is better off using as much solar as possible, but actually he must also pay for a nuclear plant that may be underutilized to no overall economic benefit.

In a situation like that with sufficient nuclear power, to be fair you must be charged for the availability of the nuclear electric power (a base monthly charge) and not just for the amount of nuclear electricity you use. I can just see that making people think that solar is better, but economically overall it may just be redundant and a loss due to the extra investment in the solar panels and their maintenance.

neilzero
2013-Feb-11, 01:50 AM
Sane leadership of world culture seems to be decreasing (anything can happen) so cheap PV = photovoltaic may happen = it is mostly made from sand. The next generation of nuclear may be more dangerous than Chernoble if insane people make the decisions. We cannot predict the future, so it makes sense to persue 100 alternative energy sources and implement a dozen of them medium scale. That way we can hope for a few human survivors here and there.
Yes, vehicle fuel from algae in transparent pipes may prove even more costly than hydrogen from PV and wind turbines. Not important if economics is mostly fantasy. Read the black monday thread in off topic babbling if you think economics is reality. Let's do thorium nuclear and geothermal at Yellowstone National Park. Large scale it may delay the eruption of the super volcano. Neil

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-11, 10:13 AM
At German installation costs, in cloudy England, without subsidy, point of use PV produces electricity at a lower cost than new nuclear, unless perhaps there has been some breakthough in negotiations of which I am unaware.
I see the estimated cost for Hinkley Point C is now 14bn. It is a 1600 MW station. Even at this rather disappointingly high cost for the station, nearly twice what I expected, I would say it is far from self evident that PV is cheaper in cloudy England.

Putting aside the PV storage issue, (which is a very generous assumption), and assuming cloudly England gives us only 10% load factor on PV (as I saw that estimate somewhere) in comparison to Germany's 13%, then you'd need 12,000MW of PV to produce the same quantity of electricity as a 1,600MW nuclear station (at 75% load factor). That needs about 70 km2 of PV panels (at 175W/m2). For that quantity of PV panels, you are not going to get installation locations for free on people's roofs, nor the electrical distribution via people's home wires, rather there will be substantial land costs and wire distribution costs on top, which I'm pretty sure are not in that $2000/kW.

I make it the nuclear station is still rather better value for money, but the comparison is a bit closer than I expected because the nuclear station has got rather more expensive than I expected. Hopefully nuclear costs will come down if there is a series of stations.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-11, 01:31 PM
It may be cheap, although I'm somewhat surprised, because then it ought to be cheaper where I live too.

Look around and you might find you can get an installation that will save you money. The Australian cost of installation averages about $2.50 a watt without including subsidy or tax.

As for paying a nuclear plant merely for being there, that sounds a bit odd to me. In the developed world a market mechanism is generally used and generators are paid to meet demand, not just to be there. There are grids where they pay for capacity, but that's generally capacity for critical peaks and not something nuclear power could be used for. Here in my state in Australia we have one coal plant, but now it only operates for six months of the year. So would you think we should pay money to that coal plant when it's shut down for the winter and not producing electricity? Here electricity generation is a business and it's run like a business. If a generator can't get people to buy their power then they are bidding too high a price for their power. If they lose money selling electricity at the market price then it's unfortunate for them, but they are being outcompeted by those who can produce electricity at a lower cost. Perhaps a kinder, gentler society wouldn't expose corporations to market forces, but in Australia we are a savage lot. For example, those of use who grow our own vegetables wouldn't take kindly to a suggestion that we should pay our local supermarket a fee merely for being there.

Antice
2013-Feb-11, 01:37 PM
I see the estimated cost for Hinkley Point C is now 14bn. It is a 1600 MW station. Even at this rather disappointingly high cost for the station, nearly twice what I expected, I would say it is far from self evident that PV is cheaper in cloudy England.

Putting aside the PV storage issue, (which is a very generous assumption), and assuming cloudly England gives us only 10% load factor on PV (as I saw that estimate somewhere) in comparison to Germany's 13%, then you'd need 12,000MW of PV to produce the same quantity of electricity as a 1,600MW nuclear station (at 75% load factor). That needs about 70 km2 of PV panels (at 175W/m2). For that quantity of PV panels, you are not going to get installation locations for free on people's roofs, nor the electrical distribution via people's home wires, rather there will be substantial land costs and wire distribution costs on top, which I'm pretty sure are not in that $2000/kW.

I make it the nuclear station is still rather better value for money, but the comparison is a bit closer than I expected because the nuclear station has got rather more expensive than I expected. Hopefully nuclear costs will come down if there is a series of stations.

Jepp. that is where we are at when we compare an overrun nuclear project that has had to pay for the extra costs of all the political baggage that comes with it with just how much overbuild you have to do with solar to make it work, but you know what? despite this solar overbuild, you have still not got enough backup/storage. a storage facility capable of storing 1,6GWDays (yes. a GWDay is 24 GWHours. :D ) is easily going to cost as much if not more than the original cost estimate of the nuclear powerplant. Storage is expensive, even if you use the cheapest option. namely pumped hydro. those storage ponds don't make themselves.
24 hours ain't going to be enough for weather worn britan methinks. you need more like a month worth of power storage to tide you over those nasty cloudy cold spells that happen more or less annually. the wind ain't blowing during those spells either... We get them here too.(even more regularly) and they are no fun at all. Electricity prices spike like nobody's busniess each time. Consumers are litterally hostages of the power companies when ever this happens.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-11, 02:01 PM
I see the estimated cost for Hinkley Point C is now 14bn. It is a 1600 MW station. Even at this rather disappointingly high cost for the station, nearly twice what I expected, I would say it is far from self evident that PV is cheaper in cloudy England.

Hinkley Point C gives me a cost greater than rooftop solar. If you look at the wholesale price it might seem cheaper, but point of use solar competes with the retail cost of electricity.

Antice
2013-Feb-11, 02:03 PM
Look around and you might find you can get an installation that will save you money. The Australian cost of installation averages about $2.50 a watt without including subsidy or tax.

As for paying a nuclear plant merely for being there, that sounds a bit odd to me. In the developed world a market mechanism is generally used and generators are paid to meet demand, not just to be there. There are grids where they pay for capacity, but that's generally capacity for critical peaks and not something nuclear power could be used for. Here in my state in Australia we have one coal plant, but now it only operates for six months of the year. So would you think we should pay money to that coal plant when it's shut down for the winter and not producing electricity? Here electricity generation is a business and it's run like a business. If a generator can't get people to buy their power then they are bidding too high a price for their power. If they lose money selling electricity at the market price then it's unfortunate for them, but they are being outcompeted by those who can produce electricity at a lower cost. Perhaps a kinder, gentler society wouldn't expose corporations to market forces, but in Australia we are a savage lot. For example, those of use who grow our own vegetables wouldn't take kindly to a suggestion that we should pay our local supermarket a fee merely for being there.

that you don't buy from them don't make a difference. you carry the cost of growing them yourself. that put's you entirely off grid as far as vegetable purchases are concerned. you are therefore not a customer anymore. good for you, but your rooftop solar folks still have to buy a large fraction of their power from the utility. they are not off grid so to say.
It does not matter if the coal plant goes bancrupt for you maybe, but it does for the utility that needs to keep it alive as a backup plant. they will push the cost over to consumers one way or another.

The cost of the supermarket infrastructure is factored into the needed profit margin of the supermarket for it to turn a profit. That means that ALL the items for sale has had a small amount added to it that is going to be used to pay for the building and all it's running costs. the amount is fairly small, because a supermarket can easily have more than a million or more units of merchandise. this is business economics 101. You even pay for all the items that are lost during the chain from raw material to finished retail goods as well. there is a special item in the costs calculus that adds that to all the cost prices. this is done before adding the profit margin even.
Normally for food items they expect around 15% breakage, for fresh produce it's more like 50%. When you buy, say a carrot from the supermarket you pay up to 10 times the amount the farmer got for the same vegetable. a lot of that price increase is for covering expected breakage during transport, processing and finally disposal of all the stuff that weren't sold before it no longer was fresh enough for sale.
Any supermarket that fail to take these losses into their calculus would simply go bankrupt due to lack of any profit at all. A free market does not mean that you arent paying the full cost from start to finish. it's actually guaranteeing that you do, since bancruptcy is quickly going to remove anyone who thinks differently from the market.
The same is equally true of utilities. they need those generators, so They HAVE to pay the farmers (read powerplants) of the capacity they need regardless of what their customers do.

Now think again. do you still think that your energy provider is going to give your rooftop solar any free ride? He* might spread the excess costs over all his customers regardless of wither they have solar or not, thus creating a hidden subsidy where those who either don't own a roof, or can't afford such an installation is subsidizing the ones that do.

power utilities live by a few rules.
rule 1: The energy production must balance demand at all times. (also known as: Grid stability must be maintained no matter the cost)
rule 2: Outages and shortages are 100% unacceptable. Demand must be met 100% of the time.
rule 3: all costs have to be covered somehow. economic losses are not acceptable at all. bankruptcy is never more than a major power outage away at best.
rule 4: see rule 1

This is the reality of electricity production. it's the ultimate fresh produce. it has to be consumed practically the instant it is produced, and maintaining this balance is very very hard. failing to maintain it will lead to property damages and loss of life. We generally forgive utilities for failing to maintain power during extreeme weather events, but allowing the resultant voltage spike to burn out hospital equipment leads to criminal charges against those responsible at the time it happens. and those spikes will happen if the reflexes of those on duty are too slow to respond to a major outage due to weather.
Adding unreliable sources to the grid makes this job all the more difficult, and thus also by extension more expensive. Smartgrids costs quite a lot more than a normal "dumb" grid. a cost that also has to be carried on to the consumer one way or another.


*I call power companies He out of old habit. it's of course an IT, but attributing human interaction events an IT entity feels very very wrong for some reason.


Eta: Some editing to make this readable for humans. had a bad grammar day like nobody's business.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-11, 02:19 PM
... but you know what? despite this solar overbuild, you have still not got enough backup/storage. a storage facility capable of storing 1,6GWDays (yes. a GWDay is 24 GWHours. :D ) is easily going to cost as much if not more than the original cost estimate of the nuclear powerplant. Storage is expensive, ....
That is why I was being exceedingly generous in ignoring the storage issue, but I found the nuclear station was cheaper even ignoring it.

The total quantity of PV panels in Germany is about 30GW. One very clear day last May it instantaneously generated 22GW, 50% of the electricity requirement of Germany at that moment. Yet over the year it provided only about 5% of their electricity requirements.

Unfortunately the price of solar energy is rigged, so we can't see what price the market puts to this incredible variability of supply. It would be interesting to see what premium one would obtain for a contract with a nuclear supplier in comparison to a PV supplier over a year, this is a contract ahead of time. At the moment, the electricty system in Germany just about copes with the supply variability, only occasionally has wind supply had to be shed because it couldn't use it. But with substantial increases supply shedding of renewables is going to become more significant, as the system will increasingly not be able to cope with the swings in supply. At that point, the premium for reliability is going to go up.

TooMany
2013-Feb-11, 06:02 PM
Hinkley Point C gives me a cost greater than rooftop solar. If you look at the wholesale price it might seem cheaper, but point of use solar competes with the retail cost of electricity.

You have missed my point. Perhaps after carefully reading Antice's and Ivan's posts you will understand the economic problems.

The economics would be quite different if it were possible store solar and wind energy for as many days as the worst possible period of under-supply. This would require storage (with low leakage) of vast amounts of energy. For example, suppose the average power use in some area is 1 GW. If the worst possible under-producing period is 10 days at only 1/2 full power from renewable, then you need to store 120 million kWhr of energy. We simply do not have an economical way to do that.

There is no solution to this storage problem on the horizon. Therefore the only actual benefits of solar and wind are to reduce fossil fuel consumption and emissions from backing power plants that are nearly large enough to handle the entire load without solar or wind. The only direct savings are fuel costs. Indirect savings in health and global warming are significant, but they cannot approach 100%. Capital cost are high because both the renewable installations and the power plants must be paid for.

With nuclear there is very little cost associated with fuel, so in that case there is really not much expense that solar and wind can offset. You might say, "I can buy solar panels and get my electricity cheaper than from the utility", but the utility has to remain available to you, so the utility is forced to charge you for just having the power available and for the amount consumed on top of that. When you see those actually economics, you may decide that "it isn't worth purchasing and maintaining the solar, because the savings do not justify it".

Your low price for solar electricity is only justified economically if the fuel savings and indirect savings warrant it. Once a lot of solar is installed, utilities must raise their base rates that are independent of consumption.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-11, 06:38 PM
I've looked back at what I've written and I see I've made two points with regards to solar power:

1. Point of use solar (rooftop solar) is the cheapest source of electricity available to most Australians.

2. At German installation costs point of use solar is cheaper than new nuclear in England.

Does anyone disagree with me that point of use solar is the cheapest source of electricity available to most Australians or that at German installation costs points of use solar is cheaper than new nuclear in England?

You're focusing on one narrow area of energy use, it's desirable to lower overall consumption of energy produced by fossil fuels. Rooftop solar panels aren't going to cut emissions from vehicles, commercial or industrial sources. Also the internet is a rapidly growing source of energy consumption, you may be sitting in your off-grid home and be accessing a site halfway around the world that runs on servers powered by coal. Cities are lit up at night like never before and we still need significant amounts of steel, concrete, plastics and many other materials not to mention the huge amounts of food produced by intensive agriculture. All require massive amounts of energy constantly.

From an overall view solar is only going to fill a limited niche in replacing coal and other fossil fuels, by moving to a largely electric economy based on nuclear power we can fill the gap between what's offered by alternative source of energy like solar and wind and what we currently produce will fossil fuels. Something like Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors that can be produced in smaller modular designs that can be combined into larger generating stations, that need less heavy confinement and have a much more efficient fuel cycle while producing valuable materials currently in limited supply open up an entirely new niche in the energy/economic sector.

headrush
2013-Feb-11, 06:49 PM
Hinkley Point C gives me a cost greater than rooftop solar. If you look at the wholesale price it might seem cheaper, but point of use solar competes with the retail cost of electricity.
I don't know of very many "point of use" solar installations in the UK.
Pretty much all the solar installations in the UK at present have been constructed to take advantage of the subsidy offered by the government, which was withdrawn, reinstated and is still uncertain. As such, most installations do not provide point of use power, they simply feed the grid, and the companies who own the panels pay a fee to the householder/land-owner in return for their installation space. The house holder / land owner gets all their electricity from the grid.
It will be interesting to see which of these solar leasing companies becomes the new energy behemoth as greater percentages of available installation space are acquired.

ETA
I find it amusing sometimes when I drive past a sign where the local community are protesting a proposed nearby wind farm. "No turbines at crinkley bottom !" always transmutes in my head into "we don't wan' your steenking electricity!"
NIMBYism

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-11, 06:54 PM
Would it be possible to have the discussion on solar power that's replaced LFTRs here moved to it's own thread?

headrush
2013-Feb-11, 07:11 PM
Would it be possible to have the discussion on solar power that's replaced LFTRs here moved to it's own thread?Is the discussion still going on regarding LFTRs ?
Most pro-nuclear posters agree that there are advantages to LFTRs, and the rest of the posters are arguing price in comparison to other power generating technologies. Solar and wind generation are other power generating technologies, but do not provide base load generation. But they appear superficially cheaper to set up. Should we not refute that point ? Or is this a LFTR plus point only discussion ?

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-12, 03:40 PM
Hinkley Point C gives me a cost greater than rooftop solar.
I'm happy to agree that is likely true in Australia, so long as you don't mind sitting in the dark at night, that solar energy per kWh is likely cheaper than new nuclear. But in England solar isn't cheaper than new nuclear per kWh, even if you don't mind sitting in the dark at night. Let me go through that calculation for you.

You say that the cost per GW installed for solar PV in Germany is $2bn. (Somehow I expect that this excludes things like supports and frames and distribution wires in the case of PV panels installed other than on mains-connected building roofs, such as on highways central reservations, but I'll ignore that.) If you are saying that that makes 14bn for just 1.6 GW look very expensive, then that is a very silly and irrelevant point to make, so I will not assume you are not making that very silly point, because the nuclear station obviously provides its 1.6GW for a much greater period of time in the year than the PV. (Also the nuclear station probably runs for 60 years whereas PV panels may have lifes of only 10 years or so, but I'll ignore that too, after all the nuclear stations have some additional running costs.)

The nuclear station likely has 75% load factor, so the 1.6GW is, load factor adjusted, 14bn for 1.2GW, adjusted to the level of energy deliverable.
The PV panels in England likely have about a 10% load factor, so the 1GW (for $2bn) is really 0.1GW, adjusted for level of energy deliverable.

Thus we see that the PV is $20bn per GW of deliverable energy, whereas Hinckley C is 1.17bn per GW of deliverable energy, which at present exchange rate is 10% cheaper. And that is cheaper before adjusting for the huge storage issue, and other costs of PV I expect have been elided.

As I mentioned earlier, Mr Do-The-Math has a PV installation at his house in southern California. So that he doesn't usually have to rely on the mains as a back-up, he has a huge bank of lead golf-cart batteries in an outhouse. He is lucky that in southern California he doesn't usually have to store energy longer than about a week. In Britain we'd probably have to be able to store energy, or else rely on alternative energy sources, for a month or longer. This adds to the cost of using PV energy. We can see the very true cost to Mr Do The Math in terms of the physical batteries he has to buy, maintain and house. Usually this is not advised as such a large bank of lead-acid batteries is a fire risk.

In the case of an Australian putting PV on their roofs, then probably you connect to the mains so you don't have to sit in the dark at night. It may even be possible that there is a feed-in tariff for taking your surplus energy off you which you don't need during the day that is, for political reasons, higher than the true value of the energy, which helps make it look like good value. Also this isn't quite as mad in Australia as it is in UK, because there is a high A/C demand in Aus during the bright hours, whereas we don't use much A/C in UK and heavy demand tends to be around breakfast time and in the evening, when the sun is at best low in the sky. It is also likely that, as a domestic retail customer, they charge you a small fixed charge and thus higher unit charges than is the true price of those units, to recover their fixed charges, which makes your own-generation of any description more economic than is truly the case.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-12, 04:29 PM
Ivan, Germany is installing for about $2 a watt. That's for the whole installation. You can look it up if you have doubts. I'm afraid that your comparing the cost of new nuclear and solar leaves out too much. But we can do a levelized cost of energy calculation together if you like. Just let me know what figures you use for discount rate, fuel and maintenance per kilowatt-hour, waste disposal per kilowatt-hour, decomissioning costs per kilowatt-hour, insurance per kilowatt-hour, and anything else that might apply. And, this is important, what is the the average wholesale and retail price per kilowatt-hour in England since we are comparing grid nuclear to point of use solar. And is a 75% capacity rate for nuclear correct? I thought it would have been higher.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-13, 08:50 AM
Ivan, Germany is installing for about $2 a watt.
And that is the value I took in doing my back of the envelope calculation. I didn't add in any extra assumptions, beyond the load factors, because as I am sure you agree it is a very silly calculation unless you adjust for load factors. I am grateful for you in suggesting I didn't help myself in giving nuclear a lower load factor than I might have done. And when we do a back-of-the-envelope it becomes far from obvious that PV is cheaper than nuclear in the case of England, before making all the detailed adjustments. But, it is equally clear, as I admitted, that at the kind of load-factors you might get for PV in Australia, then at that simple level of calculation there appears to be a clear advantage for PV.

I feel justified in that approach, in the case of England, because by far the biggest omitted cost is the cost of dealing with PV's very variable output. So if I show that the capital costs, which are the main financial costs, for PV and (new) nuclear are similar, then it becomes apparent to me that in fact nuclear must be cheaper. In the Australian case it is much less obvious, because PV's loadfactor will be much better, that its cost advantage is large at that level and needs to be compared with the ncertain size of that large omitted cost for PV.

That's for the whole installation. You can look it up if you have doubts.
I did indeed check some quotes, and found that quotes had ranges and that amounts similar to $2/kW was the lowest end of the range, and that only for installations of large enough size. Thus I felt justified in asserting that this was an aggressive cost, likely only to be higher in real-world installations.

I'm afraid that your comparing the cost of new nuclear and solar leaves out too much. But we can do a levelized cost of energy calculation together if you like. Just let me know what figures you use for discount rate, fuel and maintenance per kilowatt-hour, waste disposal per kilowatt-hour, decomissioning costs per kilowatt-hour, insurance per kilowatt-hour, and anything else that might apply.
Of course it is only a back of the envelope calculation. That's as far as I'm going without being paid, since doing that sort of thing is my job, and doing a proper job is a labour of months. I explained why I was comfortable with the back-of-the envelope results for England above.

But even doing a careful discounted cash flow calculation, then we won't get a very definitive answer, especially in the Australian case, because the biggest extra cost to add in is the cost of dealing with PV's very variable output. It is hard to know how to value this properly, since even the most esteemed professors scratch their heads over it. It is likely very context dependent: the PV energy will be more valuable where there is a large A/C load (or other large hot-weather daytime load) than where there isn't.

And also we need to remember that the reason that the new nuclear stations are costing so much than the previous generation is because the governments have insisted upon a whole load of new safety specifications for them, and the cost of achieving those is both large and, because it is not yet routine, uncertain, and likely to suffer from the additional costs of working out how to do it. As New Scientist says, even something as well known as an aeroplane can have large cost overruns and unreliabilities when you shove in a load of new untested features. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729036.700-grounded-where-the-boeing-dreamliner-went-wrong.html

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-13, 09:47 AM
Ivan, if you do this sort of thing for a living you should be able to give me rough estimates for the cost of operation and maintenance, waste disposal, decomissioning, insurance, the difference between wholesale and retail electricity prices and so on off the top of your head. Then I'll spend a couple of minutes doing a very basic levelized cost of energy calculation using software and I'll do the same for point of use solar.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-13, 10:17 AM
Ivan, if you do this sort of thing for a living you should be able to give me rough estimates for the cost of operation and maintenance, waste disposal, decomissioning, insurance, the difference between wholesale and retail electricity prices and so on off the top of your head. Then I'll spend a couple of minutes doing a very basic levelized cost of energy calculation using software and I'll do the same for point of use solar.
I do "that kind of thing" but I have never done a costing for a nuclear power station so I do not have ball-park costs off the top of my head, and if I had done it professionally I would be forced to refer you to published documents.

I made points in relation to prices of electricity mainly to say that it would be wrong to use such prices, rather that they would tend to distort decisions, and correct comparisons should be with costs. I have looked at electricity costs for DCFs in the relatively recent past, but they keep changing a lot, and I haven't done it since last summer. So I would advise going to published statistics again. I believe stats on electricity prices I used came from DECC, but those were for some very specific customer categories. Further stats are available from National Statistics and Eurostat, though the publication lag tends to be longer with Eurostat.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-13, 10:31 AM
I do "that kind of thing" but I have never done a costing for a nuclear power station so I do not have ball-park costs off the top of my head, and if I had done it professionally I would be forced to refer you to published documents.

Okay, so would it be correct to say that it is your guess or your gut feeling that new nuclear is cheaper than English point of use solar, but you don't actually know?

cjl
2013-Feb-13, 12:35 PM
Okay, so would it be correct to say that it is your guess or your gut feeling that new nuclear is cheaper than English point of use solar, but you don't actually know?

Based on the numbers above, it would certainly appear that saying new nuclear is cheaper than English point of use solar is a fairly safe bet. There are a lot of associated costs of the solar which are not factored into the back of the envelope calculation above, yet new nuclear still comes out fairly easily ahead.

Swift
2013-Feb-13, 01:31 PM
This discussion has been split off the LFTR thread (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php/141724-All-the-energy-we-ll-need)

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-13, 01:45 PM
Okay, so would it be correct to say that it is your guess or your gut feeling that new nuclear is cheaper than English point of use solar, but you don't actually know?
That is what is called a leading question.

I feel that the assertion it is one in which we can have high level of confidence despite the crudity of the calculation, given the data that
- capital costs are fairly similar
- capital costs dominate operating costs
- nuclear decommissioning costs will be discounted by 60 years, which will send them to small when seen from now, even if they are large in when they arise
- the costs of dealing with supply variability of PV in large quantity are plainly very large, albeit very difficult to set out a methodology for quantifying that

However if I were doing it for Australia, I would not have confidence from this crude calculation which way the balance would lean from that limited dataset, because now PV would have a capital cost advantage, and it woul dnot be clear whether that was larger or smaller than the 4th line. Whereas the 4th line plainly tips the balance towards nuclear in the UK case.

Sometimes we can have a very good idea which of two numbers is larger from partial calculations. Other times, you can't.

Jean Tate
2013-Feb-13, 02:58 PM
At the moment, the electricty system in Germany just about copes with the supply variability, only occasionally has wind supply had to be shed because it couldn't use it. But with substantial increases supply shedding of renewables is going to become more significant, as the system will increasingly not be able to cope with the swings in supply. At that point, the premium for reliability is going to go up.

Maybe the load that needs to be shed could be sent to idle server farms, which are pre-loaded with Einstein@Home (and other BOINC-based apps)? Think of the amount of heavy-duty, serious scientific computation that could be done! :D

More seriously: as I understand it, the estimated cost of nuclear, as a function of time, is monotonic ... upwards; and that of solar is likewise monotonic ... downwards. To what extent have (do) cost estimates build in the likely change in costs, between initial plans and 'go live' (and 'end of life')?

The same question is surely also relevant re energy storage; there are not many alternatives today (e.g. pumped hydro), and they're not all that cheap, or convenient. However, what are the economics likely to be like when serious load shedding/energy storage is needed, in a decade or so's time?

neilzero
2013-Feb-13, 05:21 PM
Here in my state in Australia we have one coal plant, but now it only operates for six months of the year. So would you think we should pay money to that coal plant when it's shut down for the winter and not producing electricity? Here electricity generation is a business and it's run like a business. If a generator can't get people to buy their power then they are bidding too high a price for their power. If they lose money selling electricity at the market price then it's unfortunate for them, but they are being outcompeted by those who can produce electricity at a lower cost. Perhaps a kinder, gentler society wouldn't expose corporations to market forces, but in Australia we are a savage lot. For example, those of use who grow our own vegetables wouldn't take kindly to a suggestion that we should pay our local supermarket a fee merely for being there.
If your one coal fired plant decides to close for good, so all you have is PV then you have no electricity at night, and not much on June 22.
To provide for the electricity short fall, it is least costly to pay the coal plant owners a million dollars per year not to close permanently. Energy storage would cost lots more than a million dollars and so would a new HVDC power line to another state that often has surplus electricity at night and around June 22. Some other alternatives to keeping that coal fired plant is a petrol powered generator at the point of use for those who want electricity about half of the hours in the year. Geo thermal, hydro, space based solar power= not even close at present or wind turbines if the wind blows mostly at night and near June 22. None of those look attractive, so you should subsidise the coal plant to keep it running half a year until you instal an alternative, if there is a viable alternative. Neil

neilzero
2013-Feb-13, 07:29 PM
the solar, wind, biofuel, and sewer gas have been over-promoted, misleading the public to think that they are long term solutions. Unfortunately this is exactly where much of our "energy research" national funding is going. It would be much better spent researching better nuclear plants. Above quote from Too Many
I agree, none of these look very viable with present technology, but if we persist one or more of them can likely fill a valuable nich. Point of use is very valuable if World society collapses. Diversity reduces the probability of a massive collapse. Actually less than 1% of the federal budget is for so called green source energy research. Let's not take that pitance away and give it to the internationalists to develop new fision. Is USA LFTR possible, or has USA become hopelessly entangled with foreign interests? Neil

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-13, 08:55 PM
Both nuclear and solar power have their advantages and disadvantages that I think make them a good match.

Obviously solar power is only available when the sun is shining and is also more efficient closer to the Equator where the bulk of insolation is. Higher latitude regions are going to need backup energy sources to reflect seasonal differences in solar radiation.

Also solar power has a larger physical footprint with the mining needed to produce the PV cells and other arrays and the large areas needed to produce the required energy. Moving from residential to commercial and industrial energy supply is going to require very large solar power plants with their own ecological impacts.

Nuclear power requires less extensive deployment and with something like thorium fuel cycle MSRs it should be possible to reduce the scale of current nuclear power plants. Modular design could also mean being able to set up much smaller portable reactors at remote locations, or combine several smaller reactors to produce a larger generating station, for instance four 300 MWe reactors combined to produce 1200 MWe. Nuclear power is also available on demand, it's not an intermittent source of power.

Thorium used in MSRs also produces elements and isotopes rarely or totally unavailable from other energy sources. While you're producing power from an LFTR, you're also constantly producing valuable isotopes used in nuclear medicine.

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

One of the byproducts of LFTRs is also noble metals like gold, which currently is valued at over $1,600 an once.

Due to its occurrence with rare earths, thorium has also been mined for decades and there's large stockpiles of it around the world, enough in the US for years of energy production, and as rare earths are being mined for other applications such as electronics, powerful magnets, lasers, aerospace materials and more, there will be a constant supply of thorium.

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

In terms of energy density there's nothing that compares to nuclear power now, with it's greatly reduced waste stream, thorium MSRs also reduce one of the most significant issues around nuclear power in the last half century, what to do with all the long term spent fuel. An LFTR doesn't produce spent fuel, it produces fission products most of which rapidly decay to a stable state so that within 10 years only 17% of the original waste is still hot.

I think working together solar power and nuclear power could completely replace reliance on fossil fuels by the middle of this century, having a varied energy base also creates competition which would help to keep costs down and drive further innovation to stay competitive.

So I don't think it's a question of either solar or nuclear power, it's a question of what's the best mix in combination with all the other alternative sources so we can build a new modern energy base and stop using fuels that belong to the last two centuries.

Antice
2013-Feb-13, 09:03 PM
For those interested in some comparisons there is always this site to peruse: http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.html
I havent read trough the latest projections tho, but they tend to be very reasonable on the face of it. do note that the numbers for solar PV are for OECD nations. those tend to be on the somewhat high side due to including nations where the sun just don't shine more than a few days per annum. feel free to make your own calculus for sunny Australia. Just remember that you have to include the cost of either sufficient storage or backup power and it's attendant costs.

Solon
2013-Feb-14, 12:40 AM
@starcanuck64

I think working together solar power and nuclear power could completely replace reliance on fossil fuels by the middle of this century,

I guess in Oilberta you have your energy needs covered eh, oil, wind, AND uranium! Sun too as a backup, just in case. With solar though, I think the biggie will be artificial photosynthesis, large areas of low cost, though only 1 or 2% conversion. But, if you consider firewood to be from solar energy, then I read that Canada could produce all its electricity generating needs sustainably, just from firewood powered thermal plants. I'd thought about moving over there, but all those fracking gas wells just put me off!(but yes, we have them in BC too now)


and with something like thorium fuel cycle MSRs it should be possible to reduce the scale of current nuclear power plants

It is quite possible to have smaller uranium fission units. The Russians are working on a train, and most US submarines have been nuclear for a long time. 40 foot containers should easily be able to hold a unit for distributed production, rather than the present centralised production that must rely on large, solar storm susceptible (so NASA tells us) power grids. And the waste is really not waste, it has even been valued at more than the primary material if used properly. Decommissioning is not the problem it seems to be, if radiation dangers are no where near as bad as we are told. It also seems that 1 megawatt, trash can size units using uranium nitride should be quite possible, for neighborhood units. Or maybe the Ford Nucleon still has a chance at production?

And the crux of the issue of course is just how dangerous radiation really is. There isn't much available for long term studies of exposure, but natural background radiation can be at Chernobyl levels in some areas, and no detrimental effects have been found on long term studies of the residents of those areas, and it has even been noted that the average life span of people living in some of those areas is significantly better than in areas of lower background.

Search 'High natural radiation levels in Ramsar, Iran' for the report.

Anyway, I'm willing to go conspiracy, as from just a quick examination, it does seem like nuclear has been unfairly demonised, mainly by the oil, gas and coal industries, and that we should all have access to cheap, clean and plentiful energy just from nuclear. Anyone interested?

P.S.
@cjl(from the other thread)

Your insinuation that those on this board are scientific charlatans is, quite frankly, both unjustifiable and insulting.

Nothing personal, and it is not the members so much as the sites themselves, who seem to believe that all science is settled, and that the standard models of many sciences is beyond reproach, and that any questioning of those 'facts' is sacrilegious. That Peters Creek could call the man who actually inspected the 3 Mile Island site a liar without offering any evidence at all also rattled me, and I am still expecting to see that evidence, perhaps in a Conspiracy thread.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-14, 12:59 AM
...Sometimes we can have a very good idea which of two numbers is larger from partial calculations. Other times, you can't.

I didn't do a partial calculation. My basic levelized cost of energy calculation was very much back of the envelope, but was a lot more comprehensive than eyeballing the capital costs. So I'll trust my result over your conclusion.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-14, 01:08 AM
Based on the numbers above, it would certainly appear that saying new nuclear is cheaper than English point of use solar is a fairly safe bet. There are a lot of associated costs of the solar which are not factored into the back of the envelope calculation above, yet new nuclear still comes out fairly easily ahead.

Well no, the trouble is the capital costs and capacity of a source of electricity with minimal on going costs is being compared to a source of electricity with significant on going costs.
This leaves out a lot. But if you are willing to provide your own estimates of costs per kilowatt-hour for operations and maintenance, waste disposal, decomissioning, insurance, and the difference between wholesale and retail electricity prices in England I will use them to do a basic levelized cost of energy calculation for you.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-14, 01:13 AM
If your one coal fired plant decides to close for good, so all you have is PV then you have no electricity at night, and not much on June 22.
The one operating coal plant was closed before summer last year as electricity prices weren't high enough for it to make a profit. A variety of methods were used to generate electricity.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-14, 08:26 AM
I mentioned that at German installation costs point of use solar was cheaper than new nuclear in England. Well I have a figure for UK solar installation costs and using that figure I found that point of use solar is currently cheaper than new nuclear in England. So there's no need to wait for the cost of solar to drop to German levels.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-14, 09:32 AM
I didn't do a partial calculation. My basic levelized cost of energy calculation was very much back of the envelope, but was a lot more comprehensive than eyeballing the capital costs. So I'll trust my result over your conclusion.
How did you estimate the storage/variability aspect?

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-14, 01:20 PM
How did you estimate the storage/variability aspect?

The same way we do it in Australia. My state gets about a third of its electricity from wind and solar and we don't store any of it. The cost of dealing with the intermittency of wind is a fraction of a cent per kilowatt-hour while rooftop solar helps reduce variability in demand. The cost of dealing with the variability of wind it is much less that the reduction in wholesale electricity prices that our wind and solar capacity is responsible for. The net benefit or cost from the variability of solar will not be high and I while I assume that it would be of net benefit as even the English tend to use more electricity during the day, but either way it certainly doesn't seem large enough to try to take account of it for a simple calculation.

If the intermittency of solar is a big cost I expect that would show up in the wholesale electricity prices of places like Germany and Italy. Have their wholesale electricity prices been going up with their increasing solar capacity?

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-14, 02:01 PM
If the intermittency of solar is a big cost I expect that would show up in the wholesale electricity prices of places like Germany and Italy. Have their wholesale electricity prices been going up with their increasing solar capacity?
The price of solar electricity is rigged so we don't know its market value. The price of electricity in Germany is very high, and it is high precisely because very large subsidies are paid to renewables, which are funded by increasing the price to everyone. The price of electricity in Italy is also very high, but being Italy it is rather harder to say why - Italy is a major net importer of electricity.

http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/product_details/dataset?p_product_code=TEN00117

To suggest that PV forms such a natural part of a balanced electricity supply portfolio it suffers no discount on the value of the electricity it produces seems to me to be profoundly mistaken. Whilst it is certainly the case that demand for electricity is lowest in the middle of the night, demand for electricity is highest, at least at the latitude where I live, in the evening and early morning when there is practically no sunshine (except in high summer, when overall demand for electricity is lower). The most significant fact is that PV can deliver 50% of Germany's electricity demand on a sunny day during May-Aug, but only delivers 5% over the year. The dominating factor is likely to be that PV is failing to contribute much to electricity supply in the winter which is precisely when the demand is higher. This level of variability is also indicating that the PV isn't doing very much more than avoiding fuel costs in the very short term, and only has a very limited impact on the quantity of other generating capacity you need to install (and storage is a substitute for generating capacity in that sense). Whereas nuclear capacity really does reduce the quantity of other capacity you need to build.

I will grant that PV does forms a more balanced part of an Australian portfolio because of the A/C demand, and indeed it would be a much more balanced part of a European portfolio if the cells could be placed in the north African desert, but unfortunately that remains an unlikely possibility just now.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-14, 02:59 PM
The price of solar electricity is rigged so we don't know its market value...

No, no it's not. You may not have noticed, but I have been writing the words 'point of use solar' over and over again. And I can tell you exactly how much a kilowatt-hour of point of use solar is worth here in Adelaide. Just let me get my electricity bill. It is currently worth 33 cents a kilowatt-hour.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-14, 06:20 PM
No, no it's not. You may not have noticed, but I have been writing the words 'point of use solar' over and over again. And I can tell you exactly how much a kilowatt-hour of point of use solar is worth here in Adelaide. Just let me get my electricity bill. It is currently worth 33 cents a kilowatt-hour.
When you buy electricity from the electricity company, because it is dark, do you pay more than 33c/kWh, or less than 33c/kWh?

If you pay more than 33c/kWh, then I will believe you that 33c/kWh is the market-determined price for PV electricity in south Australia. And I will comment that electricity in Australia is most remarkably expensive. But if you pay less than 33c/kWh, then I would suggest to you that 33c/kWh is not the market-determined price for PV that the utility is paying of its own free will for your PV, rather it would be more likely that the government has rigged the price for PV in order to subsidise people who put up PV installations.

Antice
2013-Feb-14, 07:03 PM
A quick google search netted me some number on South Australian feed in tarrifs. your mileage may vary depending on what Aussie state you live in. (or not at all as might be more likely)
All numbers in aussie dollars unless otherwise stated:

If you install solar PV on your roof today, the government mandated tariff is 16cents per KWh for 2 years, but if you installed it before 29th of january 2012, then you get a whooping 44 cents/Kwh until 30. June 2028

source (http://www.sa.gov.au/subject/Water,+energy+and+environment/Energy/Energy+rebates,+concessions+and+incentives/Solar+electricity+rebates+and+incentives/Solar+feed-in+scheme)

These tariffs are in addition to the minimum retailer payment, so effective payout to Rooftop solar owners is slightly above the tariff.

Finding out what the average Aussie pays for his power was a bit harder, and most of the stuff i found was adverts... some as high as 25c/kWh.. something i think might have been during a particularly hot time of year.. either that or Aussies are gouged way worse than we are....

My current price is 0,44NKR/kWh + line rent and admin fees. (line rent is around 55NKR/kWh) bringin it to around 1NKR/kWh. or just under 18c/kWh. this is during the worst time of year for us as far as electricity prices goes. it's cold as Niflheim here right now.
Norwegian price includes almost everything except billing fees. transport and production since those prices are separated to allow direct supplier competition (the power line owning companies are monopolies regardless). I dunno if that 25c/kWh is for just the power or if it includes getting it delivered (line rental)

Ronald should be able to fill us in on what Aussie power really costs when you include all the fees. My data is probably way misleading. but from what i can see the ones who went for solar early are making a killing on subsidies alone in the SA area.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-15, 12:58 AM
Hmm, let me see... No, can't see 'government rigged price of PV' anywhere on my electricity bill. Must have been the price of electricity that I gave you. Good news is what I pay has been reduced since the first of January, but you'll have to wait for my next bill to see that. You got the cost of electricity in England there?

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-15, 01:11 AM
Antice, thanks for letting me know what you pay for electricity in Norway. In case you were But wondering, at German installation costs it's not worthwile for you to install point of use solar. (But feel free to install some in Victoria, Australia if you like. Lots of nasty brown coal power there.) Of course, if you were to get your power from Hinkley Point C things would change.

Australians pay an average of about 27.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for grid electricity. (The Australian and US dollar are almost equal.) And ice cream cones are $7.50.

TooMany
2013-Feb-15, 01:52 AM
Antice, thanks for letting me know what you pay for electricity in Norway. In case you were But wondering, at German installation costs it's not worthwile for you to install point of use solar. (But feel free to install some in Victoria, Australia if you like. Lots of nasty brown coal power there.) Of course, if you were to get your power from Hinkley Point C things would change.

Australians pay an average of about 27.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for grid electricity. (The Australian and US dollar are almost equal.) And ice cream cones are $7.50.

No wonder you think solar is cheap. I pay 15 cents per kWhr in southern California. You have your own coal reserves, correct? Could it be that you are paying such a high price to subsidize solar and wind? I have nothing against this approach to reduce the amount of coal burned, but I'm quite skeptical about 33%, but I don't know what's in your state. Do you have a link that shows these figures? Thanks.

Antice
2013-Feb-15, 08:54 AM
Antice, thanks for letting me know what you pay for electricity in Norway. In case you were But wondering, at German installation costs it's not worthwile for you to install point of use solar. (But feel free to install some in Victoria, Australia if you like. Lots of nasty brown coal power there.) Of course, if you were to get your power from Hinkley Point C things would change.

Australians pay an average of about 27.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for grid electricity. (The Australian and US dollar are almost equal.) And ice cream cones are $7.50.

compared to the rest of the world you are being seriously gouged as far as prices go... I thought Norway was a high cost nation to live in. (we are ranked in the top 5, not far behind japan i believe). but it seems you guys even got japan beat as far as prices go. 7,50 for icecream.... hmm... that better be a BIG cone of icecream mate... i can get a 2 liter box of icecream for that.
Don't have to look at the cost per W-capacity installed to know that solar is pointless here. those panels would not be producing power for more than a few days per annum. I live in the middle of the planetary rainbelt. where else do you think all that juicy hydro power comes from? we have more or less continuous cloud cover for more than a week at a time, in addition to having a day that is shortened to as little as 1 hour during winter solstice. cap factor for a solar installation here would be far less than 5%
Winter is when the demand is at the very highest too... we do get continuous clear weather during cold snaps, but that happens in the dark part of the year. so lots of stars to look at, but hardly any sun. and when the sun do shine, it's sitting rather low in the sky.
It comes with the territory of living close to the arctic circle.

As for installing some in australia. yeah. i could actually earn money doing that if i had done so before jan 2012. that feed in tariff was juicy man. even at your retail prices it would pay to abuse that.
That is a majorly large subsidy, one that is clearly distorting the market a lot.

In case you wonder. My power does not all come from hydro. some of it comes from nuclear power-plants sited just over the border in sweeden. (government hypocrisy at it's best, considering that Norway has a de facto ban on nuclear power)

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-15, 10:26 AM
Hmm, let me see... No, can't see 'government rigged price of PV' anywhere on my electricity bill. Must have been the price of electricity that I gave you. Good news is what I pay has been reduced since the first of January, but you'll have to wait for my next bill to see that. You got the cost of electricity in England there?
No, it won't admit it on the bill, but that's what it is. And, as Antice notes, they have now realised that the subsidy they are giving to people at that price is huge, and thus they have reduced the price they will offer to new installations to a level which makes the economics for furture people putting in PV quite different. And it still isn't the market price, it is still a subsidy.

I'm not sure we know what the market price is because I am not aware of a market where PV generators bid in their electricity in a competitive market. But there are other competitive markets with power exchanges, and if we had the data to match the PV outputs to the exchange prices we could work out how much PV would earn over the year. It would look very, very sick, because it is mostly generating at times of relatively low prices.

I'm afraid you are living in a bit of a wonderland in which you have persuaded yourself that you are given your 33c because that's what its worth. No, they gave you that 33c because they wanted to look a bit green and encourage people to put PV panels up even though it didn't make financial sense to do so, as things stood.

Suppose you lived in the outback without a connection to the electricity supply. First thing you'd do is put in a diesel generator, isn't it. Now you've put in the diesel generator, is it worth adding PV array? If it was just a PV array without storage, I think you'd not really find it worthwhile, or mMaybe you'd have a small one because a few times it would avoid having to start up the diesel generator. Really what is going to happen is that you are going to live a very different life from urban people, and not have the lecky on all the time. You could consider having storage as well as the PV array, but now this is starting to look seriously expensive in comparison to the diesel generator.

I visited the Falklands once, which is one seriously windy place. The reality of living on the remote farms with diesel generators was that they had the lecky on in the evening only. I visited one farm which had a wind turbine, with a bid of storage too. This meant that they had electricity for longer hours than places with diesel generators. When I was there they still had to turn the lecky off because there were some problems and tehy needed the lecky for the shearing. They still had a diesel as back-up. Ultimately they recognised that the turbine was a luxury, not an economic solution.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-15, 02:49 PM
No wonder you think solar is cheap. I pay 15 cents per kWhr in southern California. You have your own coal reserves, correct? Could it be that you are paying such a high price to subsidize solar and wind? I have nothing against this approach to reduce the amount of coal burned, but I'm quite skeptical about 33%, but I don't know what's in your state. Do you have a link that shows these figures? Thanks.

No. We're not paying a high price to subsidize solar and wind.

Here's a link to an article, it's a year old, but it does go into one or two things things you might be interested in:

http://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au/mediaevents/media-releases/March-2012/220312-South-Australia-leads-renewable-energy-push.html

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-15, 03:05 PM
Ivan, do you understand that if I want electricity from the grid I have to pay 33 cents per kilowatt-hour? Do electricity bills work differently where you are?

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-15, 03:11 PM
Antice, actually I made a mistake. It should be possible to save money with point of use solar in Norway at German installation costs. But it is marginal and I'll need better information on insolation levels and summer retail electricity prices to be sure.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-15, 07:21 PM
Solar power is a fine alternative where it's available in quantity, it's a little insulting for someone sitting in sunny Australia to be telling us we need to convert to solar power when it will leave many of us in the cold and dark when we need it most. Come on up to Edmonton on a cold January day when there's little to no sun and the thermometer is hovering around -40 C and tell us about the wonders of just relying on solar power.

And even places like California would only be able to meet a fraction of its current energy demands by relying on sunlight due to intermittence and lack of adequate storage. Australia, due to it's geography and resulting climate, may be suitable for solar power reliance, but it's a poor model for many of the developed nations of the world which lie far to the north of the equator.

Nuclear power in conjunction with clean alternative energy sources like solar will give the stable base that most people are going to demand before we begin converting off of fossil fuels. Holding out for some ideal energy model in the current situation is probably going to do a whole lot more long term damage in terms of climate change and fossil fuel generated pollution than switching to nuclear power would. Coal already produces far more radioactive exposure than nuclear power by two orders of magnitude.

Antice
2013-Feb-15, 08:11 PM
Antice, actually I made a mistake. It should be possible to save money with point of use solar in Norway at German installation costs. But it is marginal and I'll need better information on insolation levels and summer retail electricity prices to be sure.

what you need to know is that my summer consumption is less than 10% my winter consumption. Prices are about half (spot prices, but sensible folks buy into a spot+insurance type of deal where they pay a bit more than spot price, in exchange for a price roof that insures that you won't have to pay any insane price rises due to market forces when the big chill sets in during the winter, (they started with this after the cold snap of 2011. many have bought into this scheme now to avoid price shocks)

The fixed per kWh rate for "transport" remains the same. the transport part also contains the transaction tax, environment tax and so on. these are fixed costs that are only changed once per year in accordance with changes in taxes and inflation. This part is more than half the bill in most cases. Hydro is really dirt cheap, and the only reason we pay as much as we do is due to the insane fixed rate environment taxes that get's added.

An easy price estimate is that the summer price is about 2/3rds off the winter cost in a normal year. in an extra cold one all bets are off. especially when the Danes come knocking to buy all our power when the wind stops blowing in a bad coldspell. like the one in 2011...man that one was a stinker. prices were 150% above normal. Solar wouldn't have helped then. it was dark and cold. I really wish you could come visit during one of those. It would open your eyes a lot to just how important for life maintenance reliable affordable energy is for many people around the world. there is a reason why i get more than nine tenths of my heating energy from burning biomass. (My wife planted that biomass 15 years ago. we replant as we go to keep the forest healthy).

TooMany
2013-Feb-15, 11:55 PM
No. We're not paying a high price to subsidize solar and wind.

Here's a link to an article, it's a year old, but it does go into one or two things things you might be interested in:

http://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au/mediaevents/media-releases/March-2012/220312-South-Australia-leads-renewable-energy-push.html

Thanks for the link. That article refers to wind power as providing 26% of energy consumed in South Australia. It also explains the high electric bills this way:


South Australia has a relatively small number of electricity users spread over a large geographical area. The cost of maintaining such a large network means that state power prices are higher than other parts of the country.


So in such a situation is not at all surprising that you can beat the electric prices with solar. But as frequently pointed out, you cannot live completely off the grid so the power stations and network have to be maintained.

There are places in northern Europe where wind power is plentiful and can offset a lot of coal burning. But it's also cloudy in these areas, so solar really cannot be fully effective. That is, if you say a 1 GW is installed in an area like that, you can't really call it 1 GW.

TooMany
2013-Feb-16, 12:01 AM
An easy price estimate is that the summer price is about 2/3rds off the winter cost in a normal year. in an extra cold one all bets are off. especially when the Danes come knocking to buy all our power when the wind stops blowing in a bad coldspell. like the one in 2011...man that one was a stinker. prices were 150% above normal. Solar wouldn't have helped then. it was dark and cold. I really wish you could come visit during one of those. It would open your eyes a lot to just how important for life maintenance reliable affordable energy is for many people around the world. there is a reason why i get more than nine tenths of my heating energy from burning biomass. (My wife planted that biomass 15 years ago. we replant as we go to keep the forest healthy).

So you are actually starting to see the problems with unreliable supply. Raising rates in the face of limited wind is just a way to ration power. Not a very nice solution. Who wants to worry about what their power bill will be from month to month?

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-16, 01:09 AM
An easy price estimate is that the summer price is about 2/3rds off the winter cost in a normal year...

Ah, then point of use solar is unlikely to save any money. And apparently there is this stuff called snow in Norway that can cover roofs and block a fair bit of light. Maybe at a steep enough angle snow will slide off a panel, but I don't know. You might have to wait for years for point of use solar to become cheap enough to save money. Not that it matters. Three cheers for the lack of greenhouse gas emissions from Norway's electricity sector, I say.

CaptainToonces
2013-Feb-16, 07:16 AM
The economics would be quite different if it were possible store solar and wind energy for as many days as the worst possible period of under-supply. This would require storage (with low leakage) of vast amounts of energy. For example, suppose the average power use in some area is 1 GW. If the worst possible under-producing period is 10 days at only 1/2 full power from renewable, then you need to store 120 million kWhr of energy. We simply do not have an economical way to do that.

In your scenario, you are meeting a 1 GW need. That should cover what, about 1 million people? So then you would only need 120 kWhr per person in battery storage capacity. Does that sound more reasonable? Also, are you saying that battery technology is not adequate for this type of storage?

Did a little research and it looks like 120 kWhr is indeed a large battery requirement. Still would like to hear your thoughts.

Antice
2013-Feb-16, 10:13 AM
So you are actually starting to see the problems with unreliable supply. Raising rates in the face of limited wind is just a way to ration power. Not a very nice solution. Who wants to worry about what their power bill will be from month to month?

Rationing fails when getting said energy is a matter of life and death tho. It does not matter if i can't pay my bill. I'l still use what energy i have to use to keep me and my family alive. the bill comes after, and will have to be paid somehow, luckily our power companies have an understanding of this, allowing people to spread a cumbersome bill out over time if needs be.
more recently the utility has offered people a price guarantee, so that we may avoid those price shocks we are unable to do anything about. the utility does not really loose money on this. they only loose a bit from the insane margin they get when prices spike to a multiple of the production cost of said energy.


Ah, then point of use solar is unlikely to save any money. And apparently there is this stuff called snow in Norway that can cover roofs and block a fair bit of light. Maybe at a steep enough angle snow will slide off a panel, but I don't know. You might have to wait for years for point of use solar to become cheap enough to save money. Not that it matters. Three cheers for the lack of greenhouse gas emissions from Norway's electricity sector, I say.

It's guaranteed to not save money. even the maintenance cost related to having solar panels installed in a hostile environment guarantees it.
The main issue tho, is the total lack of any energy contribution from solar during the time of year where energy is actually not just needed, but an absolute requirement for maintaining life.
I think you lack proper appreciation of just how deadly the winter in Norway is, and by all means. there are many places that are far more so than exactly where i live. I live on the coast, where temps are regulated by the presence of the sea. go further inland towards sweeden and finland and the deep cold really starts to set in. temps can go as low as 30 deg C below freezing for months at a time.
That is not survivable without a reliable source of energy for heating homes. people have backup heaters for their backup heaters around here. that is the premium we put on reliable heat.
The biggest money saver by far today is a heat pump. those don't work in the coldest times, but they do shave some off the bill by being very efficient in the spring and autumn parts of the year.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-16, 12:09 PM
So Antice, do you agree with me then that point of use solar is cheaper than new nuclear in England?

Antice
2013-Feb-16, 04:04 PM
So Antice, do you agree with me then that point of use solar is cheaper than new nuclear in England?

absolutely not when you factor in the unreliable nature of solar. England might not be as cold as where i live, but they have the same prevailing weather patterns.
The main issue is that nuclear costs are hyper inflated compared to the real cost. this inflation is rooted in purely human political activity.
When the Chinese wants to buy an AP1000, they do so at the full unsubsidized price. it still costs them half as much as what the English end up paying for the exact same facility.
This is solely due to the expenses incurred due to misguided political activism. When someone holds up your construction by chain suing your company, as well as more direct sabotage trough "civil disobedience" and the like, the delays can easily end up costing in the billions.

This holds true regardless of what kind of large scale construction you want to undertake. once you get into the big money, the money tends to just pour out like a river whenever something causes a delay. engineering a significant delay is not hard if you know how to whip up a mob properly.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-16, 04:22 PM
absolutely not when you factor in the unreliable nature of solar. England might not be as cold as where i live, but they have the same prevailing weather patterns.

If a point of use solar PV system cost one pound and produced an average of one kilowatt-hour a day for 40 years would that be cheaper than new nuclear?

Antice
2013-Feb-16, 05:12 PM
If a point of use solar PV system cost one pound and produced an average of one kilowatt-hour a day for 40 years would that be cheaper than new nuclear?

Firstly. there is no such panel in existence. The climate of England tends to eat anything made out of metal within a couple of years without a lot of cleaning and painting. you get 10 years max out of a panel mounted like that before the supports holding it in place are weakened to the point where they are no longer holding the panel into place. probably less if you keep to the no money for maintenance scheme. (that is actually a longer timeframe than what we budget road signs to last here in Norway before the sign has to be replaced due to corrosion, so 10 years without maintenance is very very optimistic for something like a solar panel).

Secondly, you can't compare a small scale government subsidized roof sized facility to a huge 1,6GW nuclear plant that is rated with a cap factor above 75%, and that lasts at least 60 years if the maintenance schedule is maintained. That would be a grape to melons comparison. yes they are both fruits (powerplants), but the similarities end there.

point of use solar is a niche application. suitable for areas where large scale power infrastructure becomes nonviable due to low population density. it might work in the Australian outback, where everyone has plenty of acreage to set aside for power production, and where the backup is in the form of a diesel generator or other biomass burning type source.

In densely populated areas. (where most people actually live) this is not viable at all. everyone just can't have their own "powerfarm" with backup then. energy production has to be centralized to specialized areas set aside for it. the same areas that are desirable for food production and other industries to boot. this is where nuclear really shines with it's totally overpowering energy density. when discounting the exclusion zone, (wild animals are really grateful for these you know) a nuclear power-plant has the smallest footprint per kW capacity there is.

If you are going to compare solar to nuclear apples to apples, then you need to look into the costs of building and running a facility at a similar scale. and you need to look at more than just how much the panels cost. you also have to include the appropriation costs of the land to build it on, the infrastructure costs of getting the power out and onto the grid, as well as a whole host of other minor and major cost drivers that prop up whenever you try to upscale small scale tech into the big boys league.

The comparisons become far less rosy when you do it in the honest apples to apples way with a level playing field. you got to attempt to remove all the political humbuggery that goes on in relation to subsidies and penalties as well. while solar is clearly being subsidized at the costs you quote, the Nuclear options quoted has clearly been penalized as well. Sweeden introduced special windfall taxes on all their nuclear facilities, because they were making such an obsolescence large profit due to rising electricity prices despite nuclear running costs not increasing much at all. (this tax was added in addition to the fact that sweedish nuclear has to pay a special decommissioning fee on every kW/h produced, by the time the plant is ready for green-fielding, the costs of doing so has been paid several times over.

For those who don't know what green-fielding is, well. it is what it appears to be. the site has to be restored to as close to pristine conditions as humanly possible. no costs spared. (I.E. a green field) Nothing is allowed to remain behind once the procedure has been done.

for a fair comparison, then we should expect nothing less from the solar power plant. they should also have to set aside money for greenfielding everything. safe disposal is not only an issue for nuclear power. (by far the biggest subsidy given to coal is the lack of demanding proper disposal of wastes)

TooMany
2013-Feb-17, 12:55 AM
In your scenario, you are meeting a 1 GW need. That should cover what, about 1 million people? So then you would only need 120 kWhr per person in battery storage capacity. Does that sound more reasonable? Also, are you saying that battery technology is not adequate for this type of storage?

Did a little research and it looks like 120 kWhr is indeed a large battery requirement. Still would like to hear your thoughts.

(GW are units of power and kWhr are units of energy.) Myself and wife are frugal consumers of electricity. The very lowest is about 12 kWhr per day. During the hot months it averages about 24 kWhr per day. Most neighbors use more electricity that I do, particularly those with swimming pool pumps. So let's call it 24 kWhr/day, or 2kW of power for 12 hours. I live in Southern Cal where perhaps the very longest stretch of cloudy days might be 10. So I agree. That would indicate need for a battery to hold 120 kWhr (in a relatively sunny climate) and a solar peak capacity of perhaps 6 kW in order to harvest 24 kWhr/day.

OK, based on the Volt lithium battery costing $6,000 for 16 kWhr, a lithium battery would cost $45,000. It's not clear how long it would last but 10 years might be a safe assumption.

In the US, solar panels installed cost about $5 per watt, or $30,000 for the 6 kW panels. Don't know how long they last. Maybe 20 years? So your looking at $75,000 ignoring maintenance over time. I use about 6,000 kWhr per year at a cost of $0.15 per kWhr. So my total electric bill is about $900/year. To pay for the panels and battery in electricity bill savings would take 84 years.

Hmmm, I don't think we are at a point where this is practical. That's why we should all be interested in nuclear energy and get the facts, not the anti-nuke propaganda.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-17, 01:29 AM
Secondly, you can't compare a small scale government subsidized roof sized facility to a huge 1,6GW nuclear plant that is rated with a cap factor above 75%, and that lasts at least 60 years if the maintenance schedule is maintained...

Actually one can and I did. My conclusion is based on a calculation. What is your conclusion based on? If you haven't done a calculation why don't you do one and tell me the results? If you like you can just give me the figures you have based your conclusion on and I'll do the calculation myself.

CaptainToonces
2013-Feb-17, 02:02 AM
$0.15 per kWhr. So my total electric bill is about $900/year. To pay for the panels and battery in electricity bill savings would take 84 years.
I'm paying about $0.08 per KWhr here in Texas. I use almost as much energy per month driving as I do in my home, and I don't drive much at all. The average American probably uses twice the power driving than they do at home. So if your vehicle is also powered by these sources, you can assume more like $2,700/year for your energy expense, so you might be able to get it down to 25 years or so this way. Still, the storage issue is considerable, so you would probably need a secondary source of energy like a gasoline generator instead of 100+ kWhrs of storage because today's battery technology is not cheap enough for solar to be your only power source.

neilzero
2013-Feb-17, 06:27 AM
A 120 kilowatt hour battery is huge in lead acid batteries =almost two hundred car size batteries at about $100 USA each = $20,000 and 4000 kilograms. If you use 30 kilowatt hours per day, you can go almost 4 sunless days before you damage your new batteries, likely less than 3 days with one year old batteries. Much smaller and lighter with lithium ion batteries, but that is about $40,000 for first quality fully protected. I'm guessing. Neil

TooMany
2013-Feb-18, 01:18 AM
A 120 kilowatt hour battery is huge in lead acid batteries =almost two hundred car size batteries at about $100 USA each = $20,000 and 4000 kilograms. If you use 30 kilowatt hours per day, you can go almost 4 sunless days before you damage your new batteries, likely less than 3 days with one year old batteries. Much smaller and lighter with lithium ion batteries, but that is about $40,000 for first quality fully protected. I'm guessing. Neil

The investment is large and they aren't going to last forever either. Every ten years for lithium. Not sure how long lead/acid lasts.

TooMany
2013-Feb-18, 01:20 AM
I'm paying about $0.08 per KWhr here in Texas. I use almost as much energy per month driving as I do in my home, and I don't drive much at all. The average American probably uses twice the power driving than they do at home. So if your vehicle is also powered by these sources, you can assume more like $2,700/year for your energy expense, so you might be able to get it down to 25 years or so this way. Still, the storage issue is considerable, so you would probably need a secondary source of energy like a gasoline generator instead of 100+ kWhrs of storage because today's battery technology is not cheap enough for solar to be your only power source.

Well, if we go with electric cars, at least you can store some solar energy in your car battery. I won't be a large amount, but it will make the panels more cost-effective.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-18, 11:44 AM
Ivan, do you understand that if I want electricity from the grid I have to pay 33 cents per kilowatt-hour? Do electricity bills work differently where you are?
OK I understand it now, and have almost fallen off my chair, because that is very expensive electricity.

Yes, electricity bills do work differently here. The reason that you are paying such an unbelievably high price for your electricity is that they have a large and lightly used network. But they are covering the cost of that from unit charges, rather than monthly standing charges. Here it is more normal to pay a monthly standing charge, which is quite a significant part of the bill, which aims to cover the cost of the transmission and distribution systems, and have a much lower unit charge. The unit charge covers mainly the generation costs. That's an over-simplification because domestic tariffs mainly just have one charge for units, whereas the wholesale price varies every quarter of an hour or something over quite a wide range, so there is a degree of averaging, and things won't match perfectly. Also you often have a choice of higher unit charge and lower unit charge tariffs with different standing charges.

Another difference we have is that most places in Europe they give you a (much) higher price for your PV feed-in than they charge you for electricity you take. 33c is about the size of that much higher price.

It remains my belief that 33c does not represent the generation cost of the generation you are displacing with your PV feed in, but is much higher than that. The utility will not save 33c by taking that kWh off you. Actual generation costs of non-renewable energy is much lower than that, except in very brief peaks.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-19, 03:33 AM
Ivan, electricity from rooftop solar is worth 33 cents to households where I am because each kilowatt-hour of electricity they use from rooftop solar saves them having to buy a kilowatt-hour of grid electricity for 33 cents.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-19, 09:49 AM
Ivan, electricity from rooftop solar is worth 33 cents to households where I am because each kilowatt-hour of electricity they use from rooftop solar saves them having to buy a kilowatt-hour of grid electricity for 33 cents.
Clearly that. However in the rest of the world usually the rooftop solar is connected to the mains and the utility buys your excess production off you at some price when you aren't using it. If you are having to shed load, ie, not use all the power you are generating from your solar, because you are out during the day and there is nothing much to use up the PV generated beyond the fridge and a few gadgets you leave on, then you are shedding a lot of electricity. And that would give your PV array a very poor load factor.

But this goes back to a point I made much earlier. By charging you a high unit charge for your electricity, that is a lot more than the additional generating cost of the electricity they are providing you with, they distort your decisions, in particular encouraging you to invest in things which, seen from a broader perspective of society, rather than your household economy, are not economic.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-20, 04:13 AM
Ivan, are you saying that if a person reduces their electricity use it has a negative externality on society?

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-20, 04:31 AM
For example, say I'd been living in an old house for years and suddenly discovered there had been a light burning in the roof crawl space all that time. Are you saying that if I turned that light off and reduced my electricity use it would benefit me, but would cost society?

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-20, 10:32 AM
Ivan, are you saying that if a person reduces their electricity use it has a negative externality on society?
No, I'm saying that such a person made an investment that consumed more resources than was justified by the output it produced. They were induced to do that by a distorted electricity tariff that gave them a financial incentive to do that inefficient thing.

It would be interesting to know if the grid takes your excess electricity production, ie when your panel is producing but you aren't using it. If they don't take your electricity, it is a truly bad situation. And they really ought to pay you something for it too.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-20, 11:35 AM
But this goes back to a point I made much earlier. By charging you a high unit charge for your electricity, that is a lot more than the additional generating cost of the electricity they are providing you with, they distort your decisions, in particular encouraging you to invest in things which, seen from a broader perspective of society, rather than your household economy, are not economic.

So here are you saying that saving money by installing solar is bad for society?

korjik
2013-Feb-20, 01:57 PM
So here are you saying that saving money by installing solar is bad for society?

He is saying that for most people the savings are imaginary. The savings that an individual user sees is only actually a savings because of the subsidy. Society as a whole pays more than if the panels arent used.

At least that is what is seems he is saying.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-20, 03:03 PM
So here are you saying that saving money by installing solar is bad for society?
You used the word "externality" above, so I would hope perhaps that you may know enough of economics to understand that having the wrong prices for things results in the misallocation of resources. It is bad for society in the sense that it results in the misallocation of resources.

For example, suppose the electricity company charged you so much money for your electricity that you could save money by using a diesel generator some of the time. It is clearly bad for society as a whole that lots of people generate electricity with inefficient diesel generators (to say nothing of the noise and pollution) when obviously the electricity could be much more efficiently generated in a large-scale power-station, and the distribution system already exists. This is a misallocation of resources. It would be better to have the large scale efficient power station rather than lots of little diesel generators to mains-connected houses, but the wrong prices can result in this misallocation.

Indeed it is one of the tragedies of many poorly developed countries that lots of people have diesel generators when it would be so much better if they were large scale power stations instead. This problem arises not from overcharging, but from undercharging. Typically when the electricity company undercharges for electricity, so that it can't make a profit from a new power station, so there is a shortage of power. Indeed in Nigeria they flare off gas from the oil production platforms because they can't even build a powerstation even with the fuel close by, because they undercharge for electricity by such a lot. Also there are probably people expecting their palms to be greased handsomely, which is difficult when it isn't even profitable because of these undercharges.

But I asked you the question - does your excess production of electricty get put into public supply, and are you paid for this, and if so at what price? This can be concealed on your bill. In some places, the electricity meter just goes backwards when you are generating more than you use; other places they meter it separately.

danscope
2013-Feb-20, 09:31 PM
Mostly I see some people grumbling about solar because they deride and hate the fact that they get any subsidy whatsoever. Society encourages solar because it is and remains a very good thing indeed, in every aspect.
And we are reminded to use only what we need and be waste conscious in our lives. These are good things and well praised in a modern world. That is a value structure we can all live with.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-20, 10:20 PM
looking at the fine detail can miss the overall picture, is solar going to be a viable replacement for fossil fuels?

In some places, like Australia it's going to make up a sizable portion of the energy supply, for many other places the situation is more challenging. Most people are not going to support something that will severely effect their standard of living, which means there needs to be another source of power that's more dependable and energy dense than solar. Nuclear power offers that.

danscope
2013-Feb-20, 11:09 PM
You are right there. Certainly, there is not just one blanket answer to energy. It will be a composite of what can be made, and what can be made practical. No question.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-21, 01:22 AM
He is saying that for most people the savings are imaginary. The savings that an individual user sees is only actually a savings because of the subsidy. Society as a whole pays more than if the panels arent used.

At least that is what is seems he is saying.

I'm having a hard time understanding what he is saying. Maybe it's subsidies that are clouding the issue.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-21, 01:59 AM
Ivan, if I installed rooftop solar and I didn't accept any subsidy (you can do that here) and I refused to receive any feed-in tariff at all, and it produced electricity for me at a lower cost than grid electricity, would you agree with me that the cost of electricity from rooftop solar was cheaper than grid electricity?

korjik
2013-Feb-21, 06:23 AM
Ivan, if I installed rooftop solar and I didn't accept any subsidy (you can do that here) and I refused to receive any feed-in tariff at all, and it produced electricity for me at a lower cost than grid electricity, would you agree with me that the cost of electricity from rooftop solar was cheaper than grid electricity?

You do realize that you just asked 'Would you agree that if solar electricity is cheaper than grid, that solar electricity is cheaper than grid'?

Solar isnt cheaper than grid except in very specific circumstances. The only reason people dont know that is that for most of the users of solar, the subsidies change the economics to that the user dosent bear the true cost of the solar power.

Would you agree that in areas where other sources of generation exist in plentiful supply, and in areas that arent very sunny, that solar is a poor choice for power generation?

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-21, 11:35 AM
You do realize that you just asked 'Would you agree that if solar electricity is cheaper than grid, that solar electricity is cheaper than grid'?

Yes I do. That's why I'm having trouble understanding Ivan. I don't know what his answer to this question is.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-21, 11:58 AM
Ivan, if I installed rooftop solar and I didn't accept any subsidy (you can do that here) and I refused to receive any feed-in tariff at all, and it produced electricity for me at a lower cost than grid electricity, would you agree with me that the cost of electricity from rooftop solar was cheaper than grid electricity?
We have a semantic problem here. As technical people do, I distinguish between "price" - what someone charges you for something - and "cost", what it cost them to produce it. Colloquially of course people say "the electricity costs this much to buy it", but in technical vocabulary, that is its price, not its cost. Given your willingness to carryout DCF calculations, I assumed an understanding of economic/accounting concepts to a certain level.

I'm surprised you can make rooftop solar pay, ie, cover the investment costs, merely by using it to avoid buying electricity. If that is the case, maybe you have a heavy air-conditioning load or something.

But if that is true, then I agree with you that your home-produced electricity's cost is less than the price of buying it from the grid. And of course you would be a fool not to do that. What the (production) cost of grid electricity is, is quite another matter, and that is what matters when assessing something from a social perspective.

Are you sure your excess electricity production does not go into the grid and save you some more money that way? You still haven't explicitly answered this question. You appear merely to have suggested it as a hypothetical possibility. If you can put your electricty into the grid and save money that way, you would be mad to refuse it, and the grid would be mad not to make it easy for you to do it. The only detail at issue is the price of the transaction.

korjik
2013-Feb-21, 02:07 PM
Yes I do. That's why I'm having trouble understanding Ivan. I don't know what his answer to this question is.

Now that Ivan has answered you, can you answer the question I asked you in the post you only partially quoted?

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-21, 07:05 PM
A lot of the discussion here is about "trees" ignoring the "forest" in my opinion.

It doesn't matter what the cost comparison between nuclear power delivered to your home versus solar provided there or elsewhere if solar or even nuclear on it own(if we just rely on uranium) isn't capable to meeting energy demands that have evolved over two centuries to be met by fossil fuels. We're currently in the opening stages of crisis management as a result of a whole host of human activities largely resulting from our consumer based economies. There's most likely not going to be a smooth and calm transition period where we can totally revamp our economies and societies to accommodate the very different characteristics of solar and other renewable energy sources. In the midst of growing crisis management around water, food and basic housing security it's highly likely that we will need energy sources that are similar to what our global culture has evolved with for the last 200 or so years. Solar power isn't going to be available to provide the amount of energy we require with the consistency, nuclear power is.

If this was the 1970s then we could be contemplating a drastic shift in how we produce and consume energy that relies largely on things like solar and wind power, but I think that time is long past.

BioSci
2013-Feb-21, 08:04 PM
But if that is true, then I agree with you that your home-produced electricity's cost is less than the price of buying it from the grid. And of course you would be a fool not to do that. What the (production) cost of grid electricity is, is quite another matter, and that is what matters when assessing something from a social perspective.

Are you sure your excess electricity production does not go into the grid and save you some more money that way? You still haven't explicitly answered this question. You appear merely to have suggested it as a hypothetical possibility. If you can put your electricty into the grid and save money that way, you would be mad to refuse it, and the grid would be mad not to make it easy for you to do it. The only detail at issue is the price of the transaction.

Here are some simple numbers for electricity in California (PG&E as major utility supplier):

Simple residential rate plans based on "tier" pricing related to average residential use in defined territories where base tier (1) is ~ 50 to 60% of average: ~Prices per tier:
(1) (<100% of "base") $0.132/kwh
(2) (100-130% of base) $0.15/kwh
(3) (130-200% of base) $0.30/kwh
(4) (>200% of base) $0.34/kwh

If one then calculates the expected savings as the time to bay back the investment in solar and use the estimated annual production at my location of ~1.4 kwh per installed watt of solar panel we see that depending on which tier price is used, and an installed price of $2.5 per watt (this is with no subsidies - based on current price of solar and installation - this is a possible price, the current average price is higher), the payback time (years) is:

Tier 1($.132/kwh): 12.9yr
Tier 2($.15/kwh): 11.4yr
Tier 3($.30/kwh): 5.7yr
Tier 4($.34/kwh): 5.0 yr

If one then computes at $2/ installed watt (doable if one does the installation oneself) the payback time is reduced to 10.4, 9.1, 4.6, and 4.0 yrs.

If one produces excess electricity for the year, then PG&E will pay for the excess production at the "wholesale" rate for electricity - currently at ~ $.04/kwh.
At this "wholesale" electric price, a home solar installation would pay back in 43 or 34 yr.

The question regarding societal verses individual benefits of such solar installations is complex. As long as the installed solar capacity is only a "small" fraction of the total electric supply, society benefits by not having to invest in additional power plants. But at some point, too much solar could distort the economic market for electrical generation such that the remaining consumers (non-solar suppliers) pay an increasing share of the cost to produce and supply electricity to solar users during the low production periods for which they use the grid supply but pay very little.

TooMany
2013-Feb-22, 12:05 AM
A lot of the discussion here is about "trees" ignoring the "forest" in my opinion.

It doesn't matter what the cost comparison between nuclear power delivered to your home versus solar provided there or elsewhere if solar or even nuclear on it own(if we just rely on uranium) isn't capable to meeting energy demands that have evolved over two centuries to be met by fossil fuels. We're currently in the opening stages of crisis management as a result of a whole host of human activities largely resulting from our consumer based economies. There's most likely not going to be a smooth and calm transition period where we can totally revamp our economies and societies to accommodate the very different characteristics of solar and other renewable energy sources. In the midst of growing crisis management around water, food and basic housing security it's highly likely that we will need energy sources that are similar to what our global culture has evolved with for the last 200 or so years. Solar power isn't going to be available to provide the amount of energy we require with the consistency, nuclear power is.

If this was the 1970s then we could be contemplating a drastic shift in how we produce and consume energy that relies largely on things like solar and wind power, but I think that time is long past.

That is the main point that people are missing. Solar and wind cannot be true substitutes for fossil fuel, only partial substitutes. They have large associated capital costs that is difficult to pay back just in fossil fuel savings. If they do become a significant source of power (say 30%) that will cause the cost of power plant-generated electricity to increase (because the plants must have full capacity but are run at partial capacity).

Solar and wind are not answers to the huge problems we face in keeping 7 billion people alive, healthy and bringing them into the modern world that we already enjoy.

I think bio-fuels are also a false promise. I just read a long article at BPs web site in support of bio-fuels. In short, they are widely exaggerating the possibilities. I did some quick calculations based on a potential yield per acre of land of 600 gallons of bio-diesel per year (this is an estimate from a wiki article). To get enough just for US gasoline alone would require a land area dedicated to bio-fuels three times the size of Iowa (which is almost entirely one big corn field currently). Remember too that some of the yield must also be used up in planting, fertilizing, protecting, harvesting, processing and distribution.

It simply isn't practical. But much like solar and wind, bio-fuels are presented to the public as though they are viable solutions just around the corner. This has the effect of reducing the public sense of urgency and promotes the continued use of fossil fuels as it could be many years before it becomes obvious to the public that these alternatives are not viable solutions. It is no wonder that bio-fuels are promoted by oil companies. They know that they cannot compete economically with fossil fuels for a long time to come.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-22, 12:11 AM
So Ivan, you think that if rooftop solar without any subsidies produces electricity at a total cost that is less than grid electricity we can say that rooftop solar is cheaper than grid electricity?

Okay, so at my location in Australia if a person uses half they electricity they get from rooftop solar and without any subsidy or feed-in tariffs I get a cost for electricity from solar of about 28 cents per kilowatt-hour. This is less than the cost to the householder of electricity from the grid.

If under the same circumstances a household uses 80% of the electricity produced by their rooftop solar I get a figure of about 18 cents per kilowatt-hour.

So to me it certainly seems that rooftop solar is cheaper than grid electricity where I am, even if no recompense is received for electricity exported to the grid.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-22, 12:17 AM
Would you agree that in areas where other sources of generation exist in plentiful supply, and in areas that arent very sunny, that solar is a poor choice for power generation?

This isn't relevant to my points that (1) point of use solar is cheaper than grid electricity in Australia, and (2) point of use solar is cheaper in England than new nuclear, but, if you tell me the area, I can attempt to work out if rooftop solar would be cheaper than grid electricity there. Whether or not its a good choice I don't think I'll speculate on, as that's a bit subjective.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-22, 12:18 AM
That is the main point that people are missing. Solar and wind cannot be true substitutes for fossil fuel, only partial substitutes. They have large associated capital costs that is difficult to pay back just in fossil fuel savings. If they do become a significant source of power (say 30%) that will cause the cost of power plant-generated electricity to increase (because the plants must have full capacity but are run at partial capacity).

Solar and wind are not answers to the huge problems we face in keeping 7 billion people alive, healthy and bringing them into the modern world that we already enjoy.

I think bio-fuels are also a false promise. I just read a long article at BPs web site in support of bio-fuels. In short, they are widely exaggerating the possibilities. I did some quick calculations based on a potential yield per acre of land of 600 gallons of bio-diesel per year (this is an estimate from a wiki article). To get enough just for US gasoline alone would require a land area dedicated to bio-fuels three times the size of Iowa (which is almost entirely one big corn field currently). Remember too that some of the yield must also be used up in planting, fertilizing, protecting, harvesting, processing and distribution.

It simply isn't practical. But much like solar and wind, bio-fuels are presented to the public as though they are viable solutions just around the corner. This has the effect of reducing the public sense of urgency and promotes the continued use of fossil fuels as it could be many years before it becomes obvious to the public that these alternatives are not viable solutions. It is no wonder that bio-fuels are promoted by oil companies. They know that they cannot compete economically with fossil fuels for a long time to come.

I think you mentioned you live in California where there are already significant pressures on water resources, I just watched Collapse a NatGeo documentary based on the book by Jared Diamond. Growers in the central valley are destroying thousands of fruit and almond trees due to the lack of water to support them all. What if at some point it becomes necessary to desalinate large amounts of water just to meet minimum demands in the US Pacific and Southwest, I'm pretty sure that solar and wind power won't cut it. One nuclear power station produces as much energy as 500 wind turbines.

korjik
2013-Feb-22, 12:31 AM
This isn't relevant to my points that (1) point of use solar is cheaper than grid electricity in Australia, and (2) point of use solar is cheaper in England than new nuclear, but, if you tell me the area, I can attempt to work out if rooftop solar would be cheaper than grid electricity there. Whether or not its a good choice I don't think I'll speculate on, as that's a bit subjective.

Houston, Texas, and speculation is not needed. Local weather precludes efficient solar for anything but small scale applications.

TooMany
2013-Feb-22, 12:59 AM
I think you mentioned you live in California where there are already significant pressures on water resources, I just watched Collapse a NatGeo documentary based on the book by Jared Diamond. Growers in the central valley are destroying thousands of fruit and almond trees due to the lack of water to support them all. What if at some point it becomes necessary to desalinate large amounts of water just to meet minimum demands in the US Pacific and Southwest, I'm pretty sure that solar and wind power won't cut it. One nuclear power station produces as much energy as 500 wind turbines.

That's an excellent point. To deal with coming crises due to overpopulation, over consumption of limited resources (like fresh water) and the side effects of global warming we are going to need lots of reliable power. If we try to sustain ourselves in a low-energy-use economy there may be major setbacks that will affect people deeply, even in the US and other developed countries.

Suppose we don't deal with this problem until oil reaches economically damaging prices. We will then have to make do with relying on coal to make transportation fuels and to heat homes. This will further warm the climate possibly leading to a cascade of problems resulting not just in inconvenience, but possibly poverty and a setback to modern civilization accompanied by a large die-off in the world population due to food shortages in the underdeveloped countries.

I'm not trying to be an alarmist, rather just a realist who won't even be here to witness such a fate.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-22, 01:14 AM
That's an excellent point. To deal with coming crises due to overpopulation, over consumption of limited resources (like fresh water) and the side effects of global warming we are going to need lots of reliable power. If we try to sustain ourselves in a low-energy-use economy there may be major setbacks that will affect people deeply, even in the US and other developed countries.

Suppose we don't deal with this problem until oil reaches economically damaging prices. We will then have to make do with relying on coal to make transportation fuels and to heat homes. This will further warm the climate possibly leading to a cascade of problems resulting not just in inconvenience, but possibly poverty and a setback to modern civilization accompanied by a large die-off in the world population due to food shortages in the underdeveloped countries.

I'm not trying to be an alarmist, rather just a realist who won't even be here to witness such a fate.

I don't disagree.

A lot of our activities have had serious and negative effects on some of the most important food producing areas of the planet. Modern agriculture has resulted in the loss of huge amounts of topsoil which takes centuries to replenish. My cousin farms in central Idaho and explained to me about 20 years ago that each year he lost about 3,000 tons of soil per acre. We're also fishing down the foodchain in the oceans and increasing amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere has resulted in much more acidic oceans. Warmer temperatures are also killing off coral which is a very important habitat for many species, the marine equivalent of rain forests.

What if we have to start relying on energy intensive food production like hydroponic farms to feed the earth's billions of people. We're also probably going to have to pump water long distances, requiring more energy. In the US midwest one of the most important food producing areas of the planet, some of the aquifers are seriously depleted.

In all likelyhood we're going to need vast amounts of energy in the near future just to maintain our complex global society, I find it very difficult to believe that solar, wind and all the other renewables will come anywhere close to meeting demand. It's one reason I feel so strongly about putting the necessary research into LFTRs right now.

danscope
2013-Feb-22, 01:23 AM
Surely it is while we are still enjoying oil that we have an abundance of plastics, and those plastics are required in the manufacture and maintanance of solar panels and wind turbines. Having a large installed base of clean renewable resources can only be a very good thing, now and in the future.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-22, 01:28 AM
Houston, Texas, and speculation is not needed. Local weather precludes efficient solar for anything but small scale applications.

Okay, let me know the cost of installing solar there. At Australian installation costs I get a cost of about 13 cents per kilowatt-hour and at German installation costs I get a cost of about 10 cents a kilowatt-hour.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-22, 01:43 AM
Surely it is while we are still enjoying oil that we have an abundance of plastics, and those plastics are required in the manufacture and maintanance of solar panels and wind turbines. Having a large installed base of clean renewable resources can only be a very good thing, now and in the future.

It will be a good thing, my concern is presenting them as the only option.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-22, 01:52 AM
There's been a lot of great developments with solar power, I think it was Ara Pacis who posted about the Maine Solar House;

http://www.solarhouse.com/

Solar roof shingles have been available for years;

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

And companies like Nanosolar are introducing new fabrication technology;

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

It's all going to be part of the changing energy picture and it's positive, I just believe that the demands are going to be so high that we need nuclear power as part of the equation.

CaptainToonces
2013-Feb-22, 07:07 AM
Houston, Texas, and speculation is not needed. Local weather precludes efficient solar for anything but small scale applications.

Yep, Houston is pretty rainy. West Texas, on the other hand, is ideal for solar.

Why are we comparing solar to nuclear? Aren't they both good alternatives that we should be comparing to fossil fuel?

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-22, 01:54 PM
Okay, let me know the cost of installing solar there. At Australian installation costs I get a cost of about 13 cents per kilowatt-hour and at German installation costs I get a cost of about 10 cents a kilowatt-hour.
You can't work out the cost per kWh of a solar installation without also knowing what its output would be, due to effects of latitude, direction and angle of the installation, clouds, etc.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-22, 02:07 PM
So Ivan, you think that if rooftop solar without any subsidies produces electricity at a total cost that is less than grid electricity we can say that rooftop solar is cheaper than grid electricity?

Okay, so at my location in Australia if a person uses half they electricity they get from rooftop solar and without any subsidy or feed-in tariffs I get a cost for electricity from solar of about 28 cents per kilowatt-hour. This is less than the cost to the householder of electricity from the grid.

If under the same circumstances a household uses 80% of the electricity produced by their rooftop solar I get a figure of about 18 cents per kilowatt-hour.

So to me it certainly seems that rooftop solar is cheaper than grid electricity where I am, even if no recompense is received for electricity exported to the grid.
OK, all these numbers look plausible. But is 50% true? If you don't export, do you know what proportion of your roof-top electricity you are using?

You can perhaps also understand on the basis of those same figures, realising that we'll only get about half as much output as you, that with grid electricity costing 10p/kWh in the UK, it's madness to put one up without considerable subsidies.

You still haven't directly answered my question, do you export to the grid or not?

neilzero
2013-Feb-22, 03:35 PM
At about 45 degrees North latitude, the steeper (up to almost vetical) the South facing roof the better. If it is steeper than 45 degrees it favors December over June. The grid can use all the help it can get in December in many locations = the utility should pay you more for any net to grid in December. If not optimize for April or September. Many steeper than 40 degrees south facing panels helps compensate for the many horizontal, and low pitch roofs in most locations, especially 25 degress to 40 degrees latitude, where snow is a rare problem. There are several problems with PV panels instaled other than on roofs: Children playing on them resulting in damaged panels and injuried children and law suits. Stolen panels and wireing. The area under the panels is rarely usable but accumulates trash. The supporting stucture and fence can cost 30% of the total cost.
Generally the total panel voltage should be slightly less than the maximum your inverter can tolerate= perhaps 700 volts, so there is a significant electrocution possibility. Neil

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-22, 04:49 PM
At about 45 degrees North latitude, the steeper (up to almost vetical) the South facing roof the better. If it is steeper than 45 degrees it favors December over June. The grid can use all the help it can get in December in many locations = the utility should pay you more for any net to grid in December.
When the sun is at lower angles, its rays pass through a larger distance of atmosphere before striking the collector, and thus are subject to greater attenuation before striking it. The effect is substantial. You'll get so little electricity in December for that reason, that trying to better match the angle to the December optimum will only increase your production by a small absolute amount. You'd get much greater increase in the summer if you matched the angle in the summer instead.

I think the Do The Math website has a blog post on this kind of detail.

Antice
2013-Feb-22, 05:07 PM
At about 45 degrees North latitude, the steeper (up to almost vetical) the South facing roof the better. If it is steeper than 45 degrees it favors December over June. The grid can use all the help it can get in December in many locations = the utility should pay you more for any net to grid in December. Many steeper than 40 degrees south facing panels helps compensate for the many horizontal, and low pitch roofs in most locations, especially 20 degress to 40 degrees latitude, where snow is a rare problem. There are several problems with PV panels instaled other than on roofs: Children playing on them resulting damaged panels and injuried children and law suits. Stolen panels. The area under the panels is rarely usable other than to accumulate trash. Neil

december is dark when you get to 64 deg lattitude. no angle is going to fix a day cycle of less than 2 hours.
same with january.
the day increases to 6 hours during late february, so there is a noticeable window of production if your site is good. (meaning you aren't blocked from direct sunlight by any mountains)
there is also the issue that the sun does not go up and down on the same side of the sky. in the summer, a south facing roof only has sun on it for 12 hours. the remaining 12 hours the sun is North of the house. for 6 hours of those 12 the sun at a more than 45 degree angle off from optimal.


@Ronald

Can solar panels save money if you put their unit price at an arbitrarily low enough price?
yes they can.

can they save money at full market price and no subsidy. much more doubtfull, payback would at the very least be excessively long compared to more southern locations.

Now here comes the real question. what else could i do with that money to save energy, and is that saving grater or lesser than what solar can contribute?
Most assuredly there are.
I could invest in better insulation, i could invest in a ground to air heat pump kit, heck. I'd even save more money by investing in an air to air heatpump than i could with your solar panels.

Opportunity costs are a real cost in the form of loosing out on other more attractive options. and in a climate like the one i live in, these other options have a much quicker payback than solar. I can probably halve my heating costs by adding a cheap air to air heatpump for the only mildly cold times of year.
So should i spend my hard earned savings on a heat pump, or some rooftop panels that only contribute at a time of year I pay less than average for my electricity?

And all this stuff about wither solar panels can save a home owner a few quid is missing the big picture. getting our big energy users off of fossil fuels. solar can't do that here. ever. solar can't deliver 2GW continuous power to a aluminium refinery. Hydro can, and nuclear can. those are the only options left when all the dirtburners are taken off the table.
Home owners in Norway use less than 10% of the electricity made. homes are generally not the big energy sink in the system. industry and dense office clusters are. powering these with wind and or solar would require totally plastering multiple square kilometers worth of prime coastal real-estate, when you could take some undesirable real-estate and use it to make 5Gw+ of reliable power in a single site with nuclear.

BioSci
2013-Feb-22, 05:11 PM
I think the Do The Math website has a blog post on this kind of detail.

NREL has a useful on-line solar calculator: http://www.nrel.gov/rredc/pvwatts/

that can calculate expected power production by month for any location/slant/direction


NREL's PVWattsTM calculator determines the energy production and cost savings of grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) energy systems throughout the world. It allows homeowners, installers, manufacturers, and researchers to easily develop estimates of the performance of hypothetical PV installations.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-22, 05:38 PM
Yep, Houston is pretty rainy. West Texas, on the other hand, is ideal for solar.

Why are we comparing solar to nuclear? Aren't they both good alternatives that we should be comparing to fossil fuel?

Good question.

Antice
2013-Feb-22, 06:02 PM
Good question.

Because solar is touted as a solution that can do it all, when in fact it can't. it cant even begin to scratch the surface of the real problem, but it's still fronted as if it were a golden bullet that can single handedly save the world.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-22, 06:21 PM
Because solar is touted as a solution that can do it all, when in fact it can't. it cant even begin to scratch the surface of the real problem, but it's still fronted as if it were a golden bullet that can single handedly save the world.

I agree.

I also think if we try and rely on solar and other renewables to the exclusion of nuclear power in replacing fossil fuels we create a much greater risk of a major loss of human population.

TooMany
2013-Feb-22, 06:40 PM
There's been a lot of great developments with solar power, I think it was Ara Pacis who posted about the Maine Solar House;

http://www.solarhouse.com/

Solar roof shingles have been available for years;

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

And companies like Nanosolar are introducing new fabrication technology;

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

It's all going to be part of the changing energy picture and it's positive, I just believe that the demands are going to be so high that we need nuclear power as part of the equation.

I heard that Nanosolar is in financial trouble and laying people off. The problem is that, even though they have a more efficient process for getting each watt of energy than silicon, the Chinese manufacturers of silicon panels can make them cheaper. This may be due to the cheap labor or even subsidies in China, I'm not sure.

Solar can be part of the solution, especially in sunny places like Southern California. It just cannot provide enough energy to substantially reduce fossil fuel consumption. We are eventually going to have to find another way to power our transportation system. This can be electricity, but solar is not that helpful. Electric cars must be largely charged at night when no solar energy is available. The only other actual choice we have for transportation is to make liquid fuels from coal. This will be expensive and I don't think that is going to help with global warming.

Bio-fuels are snake oil. I'm in the process of reading this rather lengthy article (http://phe.rockefeller.edu/docs/Kiefer%20-%20Snake%20Oil.pdf) that explains why it is impossible for them to solve the problem of transportation fuel.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-22, 06:51 PM
I heard that Nanosolar is in financial trouble and laying people off. The problem is that, even though they have a more efficient process for getting each watt of energy than silicon, the Chinese manufacturers of silicon panels can make them cheaper. This may be due to the cheap labor or even subsidies in China, I'm not sure.

Solar can be part of the solution, especially in sunny places like Southern California. It just cannot provide enough energy to substantially reduce fossil fuel consumption. We are eventually going to have to find another way to power our transportation system. This can be electricity, but solar is not that helpful. Electric cars must be largely charged at night when no solar energy is available. The only other actual choice we have for transportation is to make liquid fuels from coal. This will be expensive and I don't think that is going to help with global warming.

Bio-fuels are snake oil. I'm in the process of reading this rather lengthy article (http://phe.rockefeller.edu/docs/Kiefer%20-%20Snake%20Oil.pdf) that explains why it is impossible for them to solve the problem of transportation fuel.

It's getting into political territory, but I think there needs to be a coordinated program that integrates the various technologies so that there's an effective plan to replace fossil fuels. Letting current market forces dictate what happens makes no sense when it creates huge costs not very far down the road.

Antice
2013-Feb-22, 07:24 PM
It's getting into political territory, but I think there needs to be a coordinated program that integrates the various technologies so that there's an effective plan to replace fossil fuels. Letting current market forces dictate what happens makes no sense when it creates huge costs not very far down the road.

Yes. The entire issue is a political one, and not really a technical one. current gen nuclear could be used to take large chunks out of the current releases of CO2 simply by being able to replace coal on a 1 to 1 ratio.

Yes it will take time to ramp up a nuclear buildout, but that is no excuse for not getting started.
yes, solar and wind can both give a helping hand in situations where they are viable, but one has to remember that dumping billions into these technologies for a hugely limited return has a very high oportunity cost when we already have a workable alternative that is much more viable for the majority of the task already. spending those billions on getting a major nuclear rollout underway (that includes educating those people who are going to run these plants), would be a much wiser investement.
The future is going to judge us, and i can tell you right now, and without any crystal ball gazing, that they are not going to look kindly back at us.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-22, 07:38 PM
Yes. The entire issue is a political one, and not really a technical one. current gen nuclear could be used to take large chunks out of the current releases of CO2 simply by being able to replace coal on a 1 to 1 ratio.

Yes it will take time to ramp up a nuclear buildout, but that is no excuse for not getting started.
yes, solar and wind can both give a helping hand in situations where they are viable, but one has to remember that dumping billions into these technologies for a hugely limited return has a very high oportunity cost when we already have a workable alternative that is much more viable for the majority of the task already. spending those billions on getting a major nuclear rollout underway (that includes educating those people who are going to run these plants), would be a much wiser investement.
The future is going to judge us, and i can tell you right now, and without any crystal ball gazing, that they are not going to look kindly back at us.

I'm hopeful, the thing with politics is they can change suddenly and with modern communication technology it's hard to keep information from being widely distributed. There's a lot of myths to undo around nuclear power and radiation risk, there aren't spontaneous beams that shoot out of nuclear power plants at random intervals instantly killing thousands which is what you'd expect based on some of the rhetoric from the anti-nuclear movement.

One thing I'm picking up on educating myself about thorium in liquid reactors is there's a lot of very intelligent people working on the issue and even more starting to see the value of nuclear power.

TooMany
2013-Feb-22, 10:08 PM
It's getting into political territory, but I think there needs to be a coordinated program that integrates the various technologies so that there's an effective plan to replace fossil fuels. Letting current market forces dictate what happens makes no sense when it creates huge costs not very far down the road.

The facts are not a political issue nor a matter of opinion. Governments and corporations can say whatever they please, but that doesn't make it true. There is a need for people to understand the realities of these renewable resources and particularly their fundamental limitations. Instead what we see is that the public is told by implication that these things (solar, wind and bio-fuel) can solve all our problems. Meanwhile the dependence of fossil fuel has not changed and little has been done to address global warming.

I believe our only hope to sustain our population and standard of living and to head off global warming is nuclear energy. For a while I was very enthusiastic about solar, particularly solar thermal plants. However, they have yet to prove practical and the energy storage issue is not solved. So unfortunately they fail to entirely solve the present and future problems even in areas with abundant sunshine and plenty of desert area nearby, like where I live.

danscope
2013-Feb-22, 11:10 PM
You have to get familiar with fractions. Blanket statements and glittering generalities don't improve the argument.
Those who advocate high tech nuclear power usually have a financial stake in the process. So they intensly dislike solar and wind power and treat them as badly as possible. You are going to have to live with each of them. Get used to it.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-22, 11:34 PM
The facts are not a political issue nor a matter of opinion. Governments and corporations can say whatever they please, but that doesn't make it true. There is a need for people to understand the realities of these renewable resources and particularly their fundamental limitations. Instead what we see is that the public is told by implication that these things (solar, wind and bio-fuel) can solve all our problems. Meanwhile the dependence of fossil fuel has not changed and little has been done to address global warming.

I believe our only hope to sustain our population and standard of living and to head off global warming is nuclear energy. For a while I was very enthusiastic about solar, particularly solar thermal plants. However, they have yet to prove practical and the energy storage issue is not solved. So unfortunately they fail to entirely solve the present and future problems even in areas with abundant sunshine and plenty of desert area nearby, like where I live.

I see it in pretty stark terms I won't go into here.

All I'll say is I hope we make some important changes soon, and that includes stop using emotional arguments to prevent the use of nuclear power.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-22, 11:43 PM
You have to get familiar with fractions. Blanket statements and glittering generalities don't improve the argument.
Those who advocate high tech nuclear power usually have a financial stake in the process. So they intensly dislike solar and wind power and treat them as badly as possible. You are going to have to live with each of them. Get used to it.

I have no personal stake in nuclear power and the closest I've come to the field is a great uncle who worked at Los Alamos.

I'm concerned about the results of not making meaningful changes around how we produce and use energy while we still have a chance. And like TooMany not too long ago I thought solar and other renewables were going to be enough, I don't anymore. Nuclear power has its hazards, but in my opinion they are far outweighed by the benefits, especially with something as relatively safe and efficient as Molten Salt Reactors.

TooMany
2013-Feb-22, 11:53 PM
You have to get familiar with fractions. Blanket statements and glittering generalities don't improve the argument.
Those who advocate high tech nuclear power usually have a financial stake in the process. So they intensly dislike solar and wind power and treat them as badly as possible. You are going to have to live with each of them. Get used to it.

Well you have quite an indefensible accusation there Dan. Nobody is making any profits on new nuclear plants because we aren't building any. There is such an barrier of litigation to going forward with new nuclear power plants in the US, that no profit-making organization will take the risk of attempting to build one.

Nobody I know of "intensely dislikes" solar. What they dislike is pretending that it is a viable, practical alternative to coal and other fossil fuels.

Plenty of people intensely dislike nuclear power apparently because they don't understand it very well and are unduly fearful. These people run around on a mission to shutdown all nuclear power plants in the world because they think they represent some sort of mega destructive power. Every chance they get they file a lawsuit. This just happened at the nukes fives miles from my home. These nukes are currently shut down for boiler tube maintenance. The lawsuit wants to close them permanently. That will cost Californians hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions and ramp up the use of fossil fuel by almost 20% in the Southern half of the most populous state.

This crusade against nuclear powered has helped to poison public opinion. Nonsense about the radiation damage caused by Three Mile Island and Fukushima is constantly claimed by these people. They also espouse nonsense like "no amount of radiation is safe" when they are bathed in ionizing cosmic radiation throughout their lives.

What reason would anyone have to hate solar? I can understand people hating wind power because the windmill farms are one of the ugliest things you will ever see. There is one about 100 miles from me near Palm Springs. It absolutely destroys the beauty of the landscape. Half of the wind mills don't even work (last I looked a few years ago), but there are hundreds and hundreds stretching for miles. People who live near windmills claim that the noise is unpleasant. So there is something there to actually dislike.

There are a very few people who complain that rooftop solar is ugly. Frankly I cannot understand that at all. They are flush to the roof, dark and hardly noticeable.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-23, 12:25 AM
You can't work out the cost per kWh of a solar installation without also knowing what its output would be, due to effects of latitude, direction and angle of the installation, clouds, etc.

I agree that one needs to know important relevant information about a energy source in order to make an estimate of cost. For example I think it's important to have an idea of the cost of things such as operations and maintenance, waste disposal, decomissioning, insurance, and so on before one could estimate the cost of nuclear power per kilowatt-hour and then compare it to another source.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-23, 12:41 AM
You still haven't directly answered my question, do you export to the grid or not?

Sorry if I've been a bit slow answering your question, but I wanted to clear up whether or not you thought rooftop solar could ever be cheaper than grid electricity. I didn't know if you thought solar electricity could be cheaper than grid electricity even if a rooftop PV system cost a pound. That seemed to be a pretty important point to clear up. But I'm glad we know agree that rooftop solar is cheaper than grid electricity in Australia.

Here in Australia, just about everyone on the grid with a rooftop solar system exports at least some electricity to the grid. There are feed-in tariffs and these vary. For most Australians the feed-in tariff for new solar is now about eight cents a kilowatt-hour.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-23, 12:43 AM
You can perhaps also understand on the basis of those same figures, realising that we'll only get about half as much output as you, that with grid electricity costing 10p/kWh in the UK, it's madness to put one up without considerable subsidies.

How much do households pay per kilowatt-hour?

korjik
2013-Feb-23, 05:43 PM
How much do households pay per kilowatt-hour?

look at what you quoted. It is approximately the same here in Houston if I remember my conversion rates correctly. Dime to 15 cents US$

noncryptic
2013-Feb-23, 06:23 PM
Because solar is touted as a solution that can do it all,

Solution: yes. Can do it all: no.


but it's still fronted as if it were a golden bullet that can single handedly save the world.

No it isn't.


when in fact it can't.

Doesn't matter if the argument is a straw man to begin with.


it cant even begin to scratch the surface of the real problem,

Aside from the question what the "real problem" is,

solar in Germany provides 3% of electricity there. If that's not a scratch, what is it? That scratching has been getting deeper over time, and doesn' t seem to let off.

Another renewable: hydroelectricity, has been in use for a long time already and is good for 16% of global electricity production. That's a deep scratch. Sure it's not applicable everywhere - nor does it need to.

There's also wind, geo-thermal and a couple of other technologies; we have never relied on, nor do we need or want one single technology for electricity generation.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-23, 07:53 PM
This thread was split off the LFTR thread after Ronald Brak turned that into a discussion of the merits of solar versus nuclear power and he stated that deciding between nuclear and fossil fuels was a false choice. Apparently due to the ability of solar power alone to bridge the gap between what we now produce with alternative energy and what we need to get largely off of fossil fuels.


I was walking through the botantical gardens the other day when an old man leapt out from behind a shubbery. He was wearing some sort of filthy, torn and stained grey robe, carried a grubby stick with a star on the end that looked like he had stolen it from a little girl pretending to be a fairy, and he smelled like a lav. "Ah ha!" he cried. "I am a mighty wizard and for disturbing me you can either be boiled in oil or eaten by piranha weasels! Make your choice!"

I said, "Neither. I will instead walk away from you quite rapidly because you are a complete nutter."

"Ah, well, yes. It was a bit of a false choice," he admitted.

But there is no comparison between nuclear and solar power, so isn't this whole thread a false choice. Solar power offers only a fraction of the energy density of coal power which in turn is a fraction of the energy density of nuclear power. Solar is only available when the sun is shining so it's dependent on weather, time of day and season. A nuclear power plant operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year unless down for work. From what I understand it would require a land surface 100 X 100 miles to meet US energy demands by solar power alone, that's 10,000 square miles, a huge area with it's own impacts. The capital costs would be enormous and you're still left with an intermittent power source.

The real world model isn't the replacement of nuclear power with solar, it's the replacement of nuclear with fossil fuels, a step backwards.

Germany is returning to coal for power:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/08/31/germany-insane-or-just-plain-stupid/


But don’t worry. Germany is building about 25 clean coal-fired power plants to offset the loss of nuclear and address Germany’s admittedly “unaffordably expensive and unreliable” renewable portfolio (Der Spiegel). The German Green Party can now celebrate the opening of a 2,200 MW coal-fired power plant near Cologne. It started spewing out its annual, relatively clean, 13 million tons of CO2, and other nasties, so much lower than those older dirty coal plants that would have put out 15 million tons of CO2 for the same power output.

Switzerland will phase its nuclear power plants out gradually and replace them with natural gas power generation which is better than coal but still a source of further emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere.

http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/specials/climate_change/energy/Nuclear_or_gas_power_needed_to_keep_lights_on.html ?cid=45872

Japan is also seriously looking at returning to reliance on coal for power.

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/westview/Japans-switch-to-coal-fired-power-problematic-192070231.html

The US uses over 1 billion of tons of coal a year for power.

http://www.eia.gov/coal/


In 2011, the amount of coal produced at U.S. coal mines was 1,094.3 million short tons. Coal is mined in 25 states. Wyoming mines the most coal, followed by West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

More than 1,000 coal power plants are being planned in the world with most in China and India, so instead of a revolution of clean renewables we're going ever further down the same road. So clearly the demand for power is from the same category that nuclear generation is in, constant and flexible. Not intermittent like solar or wind.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/20/coal-plants-world-resources-institute


More than 1,000 coal-fired power plants are being planned worldwide, new research has revealed.

The huge planned expansion comes despite warnings from politicians, scientists and campaigners that the planet's fast-rising carbon emissions must peak within a few years if runaway climate change is to be avoided and that fossil fuel assets risk becoming worthless if international action on global warming moves forward.

In the real world it's not solar power that is the option to nuclear power, it's coal or natural gas, at a time when atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are reaching alarming levels and the climatic changes occurring are troubling to say the least. It's highly unlikely we'll achieve the kind of zero impact energy production that some seem convinced is necessary and only obtainable with solar power. We can however utilize one of the densest forms of energy available and with modern designs with a fraction of the risks and waste while achieving much higher efficiencies, in some cases with fuel elements in large stockpiles.

danscope
2013-Feb-23, 09:57 PM
Considering Japan's volcanic environment and the severe price they have paid with nuclear, it isn't surprising that they seek other ways of making power.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-23, 10:33 PM
Considering Japan's volcanic environment and the severe price they have paid with nuclear, it isn't surprising that they seek other ways of making power.

The tsunami was far more severe than the Fukushima power plant accident, and by increasing the rate of climate change we could be creating the conditions for more of them to take place.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/09/16/us-climate-geology-idUSTRE58F62I20090916


"Climate change doesn't just affect the atmosphere and the oceans but the earth's crust as well. The whole earth is an interactive system," Professor Bill McGuire of University College London told Reuters, at the first major conference of scientists researching the changing climate's effects on geological hazards.

TooMany
2013-Feb-23, 10:51 PM
Aside from the question what the "real problem" is,

solar in Germany provides 3% of electricity there. If that's not a scratch, what is it? That scratching has been getting deeper over time, and doesn' t seem to let off.

Another renewable: hydroelectricity, has been in use for a long time already and is good for 16% of global electricity production. That's a deep scratch. Sure it's not applicable everywhere - nor does it need to.

There's also wind, geo-thermal and a couple of other technologies; we have never relied on, nor do we need or want one single technology for electricity generation.

The real problem is this. Even all these things added together do not provide anything close to substitute for fossil fuel electrical plants nor a substitute for transportation fuels. As resources become more scarce, large amounts of energy will be required to recover the resources. For example, in perhaps fifty years or less, we in the US will be mining our own land fills for valuable commodities like copper, aluminium, steel and plastics. Sorting these things out will require large amounts of energy, much larger than currently generated.

Will we require huge engineering projects to get more fresh water all over the world, large amounts of energy to synthesize fertilizer and recover elements needed for fertilizers from poor sources and to amend the depleting soils that feed the world. Will we need huge amounts of energy to power our transportation system as the oil runs out. We will need additional energy to make all the organic chemicals we need from coal when oil becomes scarce.

We are not going to succeed with some unreliable combination of "renewable" sources of energy like solar and wind. Hydro-power is nearly maxed-out world wide already. Considering the enormous investment Germany has made in solar, 3% of their electrical power is a pitiful return on investment. What will power everything else in Germany as oil runs out? These renewable technologies won't come close to providing the energy nor reliability needed to support 7 billion people (growing to 9 by 2050) as resources become more difficult to obtain.

We have been in the process of exploiting easy to access resources and wasting them for a couple of centuries. Now those resources are going to require more and more energy to recover. Look at the tar sands as a source of oil for example. They have to burn about half the available hydrocarbons to extract the rest. Yet, we are already exploiting this pathetic return in energy in relation to CO2 generated.

Unless we make up our minds to start designing and building safe nuclear plants, world civilization is going to peak soon and then may start to decline. If we don't build the nuclear plants, the only practical alternative left will be coal. The US military has done studies of alternative fuel sources. The average cost of bio-fuel is $65 per gallon. Bio-fuels are a bad joke, a scam, not a solution to anything. The average cost of coal-derived liquid fuel is only $7 per gallon. Which do you think will win?

So if we don't use nuclear power and instead use coal we will be forced to deal with rising global sea level and massive migrations of people and agricultural lands to more northern territories. If we use neither nuclear nor coal, civilization as we know it will collapse from energy starvation.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-23, 11:28 PM
We have been in the process of exploiting easy to access resources and wasting them for a couple of centuries. Now those resources are going to require more and more energy to recover. Look at the tar sands as a source of oil for example. They have to burn about half the available hydrocarbons to extract the rest. Yet, we are already exploiting this pathetic return in energy in relation to CO2 generated.

Compared to something like LFTRs the tar sands are a very poor way to produce energy.

The sand/bitumen mixture(which is the consistency of a hockey puck) is mined using fossil fuels for power, it's then processed to separate the bitumen out using natural gas and large volumes of water(as much as Edmonton and Calgary combined for the whole project), it's then mixed with light crude so it can be piped to upgraders(some not far from here) where coal powered electricity is used to turn it into synthetic crude.

At this point it's sent to refineries and turned into gas and other products, the waste stream behind it is huge. It takes about one ton of tar sand to produce one barrel of oil and what's left behind has high concentrations of mercury, lead, arsenic and other toxins and is no longer contained in a stable matrix as in the tar. Processing releases large amounts of PAHs which are carcinogens. This is all before it's even burned in vehicles to produce more greenhouse gases. Hundreds of thousands of acres of boreal forest and vast peat bogs have been destroyed in developing the region, areas that typically fix carbon.

Over $200 billion dollars has been invested in the "oil" sands, if even a fraction of that money had gone into modern nuclear reactor design and production we could be looking at a much more sensible means of producing energy.

Solar power isn't going to replace this, there isn't even any comprehensive proposal being put forward on how you could do it with solar. The choice is between nuclear power as a base for energy needs or fossil fuels.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-24, 01:14 AM
look at what you quoted. It is approximately the same here in Houston if I remember my conversion rates correctly. Dime to 15 cents US$

In the UK there are different rates for residential and industrial use. Households in England normally don't pay 10 pence per kilowatt-hour.

Unless retail electricity prices drop in Houston it sounds like you will end up with a lot of point of use solar power.

noncryptic
2013-Feb-24, 02:36 PM
These renewable technologies won't come close to providing the energy nor reliability needed to support 7 billion people

If you say so, i'll just have to accept is as truth, won't i.

Antice
2013-Feb-24, 04:47 PM
If you say so, i'll just have to accept is as truth, won't i.

No you don't
You are entirely free to do the research yourself, run the numbers, do interviews with industry experts, and read up on both the physics and practicalities of the technology involved, and then make up your own mind.

Especially the reading part is important, and i don't mean reading pop sci, but actual papers on the subject.
The math part is important too, and don't just stop by calculating what it would take to do a certain thing, but think about the consequences of following such a plan of action. especially the part about failing the plan. what is the backup plan?
And even more importantly, how much time do we have before the plan has to start becoming really effective.

korjik
2013-Feb-24, 04:59 PM
In the UK there are different rates for residential and industrial use. Households in England normally don't pay 10 pence per kilowatt-hour.

Unless retail electricity prices drop in Houston it sounds like you will end up with a lot of point of use solar power.

Hardly. Solar is nearly useless in Houston. The prime solar generation times are also the prime clouds and thunderstorm times here. There is also the fact that large, flat, angled, mostly glass panels are hurricane bait.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-24, 11:20 PM
Hardly. Solar is nearly useless in Houston. The prime solar generation times are also the prime clouds and thunderstorm times here. There is also the fact that large, flat, angled, mostly glass panels are hurricane bait.

Houston's insolation appears to be as good or better than Melbourne and also has fewer clouds in daylit hours in summer when electricity prices are higher. Solar should start to save money in Houston at Australian installation costs and will definitely save money at German installation costs. We also have hurricanes in Australia and so we have standards that generally mean that if the roof stays on the solar panels stay on.

korjik
2013-Feb-25, 04:10 AM
Houston's insolation appears to be as good or better than Melbourne and also has fewer clouds in daylit hours in summer when electricity prices are higher. Solar should start to save money in Houston at Australian installation costs and will definitely save money at German installation costs. We also have hurricanes in Australia and so we have standards that generally mean that if the roof stays on the solar panels stay on.

Tell you what: You believe what you read, and I will continue living here.

You must also be correct that hurricane standards for roofs must also work just as perfectly for solar panels. I mean they are obviously the same thing and installed the same way.

When someone actually proves that solar works, I will take it seriously. Until then apples, oranges, adjustable goalposts and characters from the wizard of oz will not convince me.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-25, 08:34 AM
When someone actually proves that solar works, I will take it seriously. Until then apples, oranges, adjustable goalposts and characters from the wizard of oz will not convince me.

So would about 100,000 rooftop installations in Melborne, a city that is about as cloudy as Houston, consist of proof that solar works? Or would you need something more substantial than that? (You can look at them with the satellite view on Google Maps if you like.)

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-25, 09:35 AM
So would about 100,000 rooftop installations in Melborne, a city that is about as cloudy as Houston, consist of proof that solar works? Or would you need something more substantial than that? (You can look at them with the satellite view on Google Maps if you like.)
It is certainly proof that the financial environment in Melbourne makes it attractive for people to install roof-top solar. If their electricity tariffs are anything like yours in Adelaide, then that doesn't surprise me.

The US is awash with very cheap gas at the moment, a lot of which is being burned for electricity (meanwhile coal is being shipped out of the country to China, it's easier to export coal long distance than gas) so energy prices are low in the US. I would guess that is why Houstonians don't find it worthwhile installing solar.

Though, with the feed-in tariff reduced to 8c/kWh, I think someone has started saying "we've got enough now."

I fell into my own semantic trap - we pay about 10p/kWh domestic here in Britain, but usually with a substantial fixed charge on top. Though there is competition among suppliers and a variety of tariffs available. Large users will pay less.

BioSci
2013-Feb-25, 05:30 PM
Tell you what: You believe what you read, and I will continue living here.

You must also be correct that hurricane standards for roofs must also work just as perfectly for solar panels. I mean they are obviously the same thing and installed the same way.

When someone actually proves that solar works, I will take it seriously. Until then apples, oranges, adjustable goalposts and characters from the wizard of oz will not convince me.

According to NREL solar data that includes weather data and actual solar radiation measurements (averaged from multi-year data)
the average yearly solar radiation of Melborne and Houston in units of Kwh/m2/day is:

Houston: 4.79
Melbourne: 4.74

That means averaged over a years time, the total solar PV generation would be about equal for the two locations.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-25, 06:37 PM
This is a bizarre discussion, the person that began it by inferring in another thread that people who support nuclear power as the main option to the use of fossil are insane,
I said, "Neither. I will instead walk away from you quite rapidly because you are a complete nutter.", seems almost completely unable to accept that solar power can't physically meet the current energy demands of the world with current technology.

Debating the relative costs of solar versus nuclear power while ignoring their vast differences in energy density and flexibility is meaningless.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-25, 10:02 PM
It is certainly proof that the financial environment in Melbourne makes it attractive for people to install roof-top solar. If their electricity tariffs are anything like yours in Adelaide, then that doesn't surprise me.

Electricity is roughly 22 cents a kilowatt-hour in Melbourne.


The US is awash with very cheap gas at the moment, a lot of which is being burned for electricity (meanwhile coal is being shipped out of the country to China, it's easier to export coal long distance than gas) so energy prices are low in the US. I would guess that is why Houstonians don't find it worthwhile installing solar.

Low retail electricity prices and high solar installation costs are why the US as a whole doesn't have much in the way of point of use solar. But that's changing with US installation costs coming down.


Though, with the feed-in tariff reduced to 8c/kWh, I think someone has started saying "we've got enough now."

There are quite a few somebodies who say that. Some of them own coal plants.


I fell into my own semantic trap - we pay about 10p/kWh domestic here in Britain, but usually with a substantial fixed charge on top. Though there is competition among suppliers and a variety of tariffs available. Large users will pay less.

I had a look at a couple of places in England and they appeared to be paying about 13 pence a kilowatt-hour with a small fixed charge. Or at least a smaller fixed charge than in Australia. That makes the per kilowatt-hour charge in these places roughly 15% less than in Melbourne.

Antice
2013-Feb-25, 10:20 PM
Because solar is touted as a solution that can do it all,


Solution: yes. Can do it all: no.



but it's still fronted as if it were a golden bullet that can single handedly save the world.

No it isn't.


it cant even begin to scratch the surface of the real problem,

Doesn't matter if the argument is a straw man to begin with.



Aside from the question what the "real problem" is,

solar in Germany provides 3% of electricity there. If that's not a scratch, what is it? That scratching has been getting deeper over time, and doesn' t seem to let off.

Another renewable: hydroelectricity, has been in use for a long time already and is good for 16% of global electricity production. That's a deep scratch. Sure it's not applicable everywhere - nor does it need to.

There's also wind, geo-thermal and a couple of other technologies; we have never relied on, nor do we need or want one single technology for electricity generation.

you are talking about electricity as it is the only energy we need bother about cleaning up, but it isn't. world electricity use is but a fraction of the total. the main consumption area of energy is in transport. (almost 70% of the total) with industrial heat being the second largest.

you talk about a measly 3% of a tiny fraction of the total as actually doing something. it's not even noticeable in the global CO2 release statistics.
Hydro is scratching the surface maybe, but it's practically maxed out. we can't power the world with hydro. that avenue is all but played out.

Solving the dirty energy crisis is all about replacing coal and oil. that means making viable alternatives for replacing them. we don't need more peaking power. hydro is already taking care of that most places in the world, we need base-load generators that can make reliable energy 24/7 in order to run synfuel plants, that unlike biofuels actually can be made in enough bulk to make a dent in the fossil fuel share of the transport market.

We need reliable heat sources to drive our factory processes. there are more factories that burn coal for their heat than there are coal plants making electricity. now electrifying these factories by adding solar won't work. factories need reliable power that is there on demand, aka baseload. if we electrify them and fail to build a reliable source for electricity, we get in a situation where more coal plants will be built. because neither wind nor solar can supply what these facilities need. reliable on demand energy.
This makes solar a non solution except in special cases.
this also makes wind a non solution except in special cases.
they are both non solutions in my book. they are unable to deliver what we need to get rid of the dirty coal and oil habit we inherited from our parents and grandparents.

Wind and solar have their uses, but not as a solution for cleaning up our energy usage. they belong in the outback, where grid connections are far and long apart.

Nuclear otoh can be built near production centers, and they can deliver 100% emissions free energy reliably. 24/7 except for planned maintenance periods.
you can't plan a month ahead for weather. and that is what solar and wind is. it's weather based power.

Is there a golden bullet that can do it all. certainly not, but there is a silver bullet that can break a hole in the problem so that other technologies can be made viable enough to use against it.
Nuclear is that silver bullet. it can make energy in a large enough quantity, and if we allow it, cheaply enough that we can employ technology like synfuel production, vertical farming, and even capturing CO2 back from the air, so that we can feed it back into the synfuel factory. thus making synfuels a 100% CO2 neutral energy carrier.

We see all this talk about using electric transport. well we can do that for private transport, but those megaships carrying freight all over the world can't. and they are the true main movers on this planet. Converting them to run on synfuels is easy and relatively inexpensive.

This is not a strawman, this is a look at what the REAL scope of the issues we are debating are.

Can solar work for a single home owner who is being raped by his utility company? sure. let him/her pay for it themselves. don't spend billions in subsidies to benefit the few. those moneys should be spent on real solutions to the real problems, and not some red herring issue about home owners and their, in the big picture, miniscule contribution to the global consumption of dirty power. because that is the only real fallacy here. focusing on the wrong problem entirely.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-25, 10:53 PM
Yes, it needs to be a systemic approach to building an alternative energy system that replaces fossil fuels. The piecemeal approach obviously doesn't work.

I turn 50 this year and have been hearing for most of my life about the green revolution that will provide clean energy and lifestyle. And now we're burning over 6 billion tons of coal a year and going for very dirty and destructive non-conventional fossil fuels like tar and shale oil. It's a scam to claim that renewables are going to replace fossil fuels in this century.

TooMany
2013-Feb-26, 01:53 AM
If you say so, i'll just have to accept is as truth, won't i.

Please do take Antice's advice. You don't have to take my word for it. If you believe for example that bio-fuels are going to replace our transportation fuels, I suggest you read this detailed paper (http://phe.rockefeller.edu/docs/Kiefer%20-%20Snake%20Oil.pdf) and then cross verify it with other analyses that don't come from those with a vested interest in renewable subsidies.

Figure out how much it will cost to build enough PV panels to substitute for all electrical power. Well, it can't be done because there is no way to store it. Germany has enough solar installed that on a perfect day at noon, solar can generate 40% of the required electrical power. Unfortunately, because the sun doesn't shine at night or through thick clouds and because the electricity cannot be stored, the Germans get less than 5% of their electricity this way. The other 95% has to come from somewhere else. Perhaps if they double their investment in solar, they can get 10%, leaving a mere 90% to be provided by coal.

How do you recommend that they stop burning large quantities of coal? So far they have failed to do so. Nuclear power in Germany accounted for 17.7% of electrical power, before they shut them down. Shutting down their nukes brought them right back to square one on reducing carbon emissions. Actually worse, they lost more than three times the CO2-free energy that is provided by solar. The "greens" are happy because now they have more radioactive coal ash entering their air and environment but no clean nuclear power plants.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-28, 01:25 AM
So, on my second point that point of use solar is currently cheaper than new nuclear in England, I have looked at electricity prices in a couple of places in England and they appear to be about 13 pence per kilowatt-hour or about 20 cents. As a guess I would put the average wholesale electricity price at around 7 cents giving 13 cents per kilowatt-hour as the retail component. Apparently the 'strike price' or minimum guaranteed price for new nuclear to go ahead in the UK is about 15 cents. So adding retail costs to this gives 27 cents a kilowatt-hour. Note that the cost of new nuclear is actually much higher than this as there is a very large insurance component that is carried by the public.

In Germany solar is being installed at an average of about $2 a watt. At this cost point of use solar would produce electricity for about 16.3 cents a kilowatt-hour in England. I have a figure for the average cost of point of use solar installations in the UK for the last quarter of last year which is $3.30 a watt. Using this figure, electricity from point of use solar in England costs about 25.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. So point of use solar in England is currently cheaper than new nuclear even without including the full cost of insurance. If the cost of solar decreases at the same rate as it has in Germany then solar in the UK will cost about $2 a watt or less to install in a few years. Solar could well be below $1 an installed watt by the time Hinkley Point C could be completed at some point after 2020.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-28, 02:05 AM
None of that changes the fact that solar simply isn't available with the energy density and consistency needed to replace fossil fuels.

danscope
2013-Feb-28, 03:08 AM
Solar makes it's contribution. No question. It is clean, and in time, it pays for itself, as does wind, which is a kind of solar power. There is nothing wrong with these technologies and they make jobs for people all over the place, another good thing.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Feb-28, 03:55 PM
So, on my second point that point of use solar is currently cheaper than new nuclear in England, I have looked at electricity prices in a couple of places in England and they appear to be about 13 pence per kilowatt-hour or about 20 cents. As a guess I would put the average wholesale electricity price at around 7 cents giving 13 cents per kilowatt-hour as the retail component.
Not wanting you to think I'm being unhelpful... I looked at my electricity bill and I'm paying 12p at the moment. (I have to pay VAT on that, but VAT on energy is only 5%.)

Wholesale prices of electricity in the UK are currently around 3p/kWh. So actually the difference between the generator door and point of use domestic is currently about 9p/kWh for domestic customers. So actually a slightly bigger margin than you reckoned. http://www.consumerfocus.org.uk/policy-research/energy/paying-for-energy/wholesale-retail-prices

If solar is 2000/ kW (seems similar to your $3.3/W) to install in England, lasts 10 years, then you'd have 200 depreciation per year, but we really ought to have a money opportunity cost (benefit foregone of not having that money invested and earning you interst in a savings account). Interest is pretty poor at the moment, so maybe the money opportunity cost is only about 50 per year, to be generous to you. So call it total cost of 250 per year. That would buy you, at 10% load factor, 867 kWh, ie about 29p/kWh. So I think the cost of solar energy is rather higher in Britain than you do. New nuclear would have to come in at over 20p/kWh at the factory gate to be more expensive. And that is before we give some benefit for the greater predictability of one over the other.

noncryptic
2013-Feb-28, 04:45 PM
None of that changes the fact that solar simply isn't available with the energy density and consistency needed to replace fossil fuels.

Not now it isn't, obviously.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-28, 06:01 PM
Solar makes it's contribution. No question. It is clean, and in time, it pays for itself, as does wind, which is a kind of solar power. There is nothing wrong with these technologies and they make jobs for people all over the place, another good thing.

I agree and for a lot of reasons a big one being the energy market should be as diverse as possible. The most important thing as I see it right now is to get off of fossil fuels as quickly as we can with the least long term impact. Holding out for a purely solar/wind power option while we quickly destroy the ecological and social base we all depend through the reliance on fossil fuels is highly irrational.


Not now it isn't, obviously.

If we had years to work on replacing fossil fuels then we could wait till the technology was mature enough to let us depend mainly on renewable energy from things like solar and wind power, but I don't think we do. We're collectively waiting for the other shoe to drop on the climate change issue compounded by a bunch of other human driven impacts.

We're quickly driving the global environment into a fundamentally new state in terms of energy budget, biodiversity and habitat. Many of the places we now consider to be ideal for living won't even be available in a few decades to a centuries time. They'll be too arid, under water or even possibly have too high concentration of ozone as is already being suggested by climatologists like James Hansen due to the loss of Arctic Sea Ice. The nice benign environment we've come to think of as normal is rapidly transitioning to something much different, the debate isn't going to be on what ideal energy model we're going to adopt, it's going to be, how are we going to preserve the most of human civilization we can or even possibly can we preserve it?

galacsi
2013-Feb-28, 08:21 PM
None of that changes the fact that solar simply isn't available with the energy density and consistency needed to replace fossil fuels.

If you mean fuel for cars I can agree.(Or not if new efficient batteries arrive on the market) But otherwise what is the matter of this energy density ?

Solon
2013-Feb-28, 08:37 PM
Although I think nuclear power is much safer than we are lead to believe, there is no doubt solar energy could easily provide all our needs. Buckminster Fuller thought so anyway, and I believe he was one of the finest engineers the US has ever had. If you count wind as really being solar energy, then his idea of a turbine on top of every transmission tower was genius, and along with the World Grid, would ensure 24 hour worldwide availability. Hydroelectric is also solar power, as is biomass.
With a global grid, solar concentrators would also be more viable, and could be very cheap if they were to be set up in the deserts. I have asked a glass manufacturer if the sand in the deserts could be used to make reflectors and they said "Sure", so you set up a production line using reflectors to melt the sand to make more reflectors, eventually covering large areas, while also providing shaded or filtered light underneath that could be used for numerous purposes, including food production.
Of course, as JP Morgan told Mr Fuller, he would never be rich, as he made everything look too easy, and he needed to make it all seem much more difficult, and that a perceived shortage of a commodity was needed to keep prices high. That's how capitalism works, and I see the Nuclear scare as being the way to keep nuclear derived excess capacity from occurring. France has a state owned nuclear power system, and seems to be very efficient and a source of pride among the employees.
Present PV and wind technology though is subject to a shortage of rare earth materials, and the mining required to acquire these materials is leading to more negative impact on the Earth than is admitted to, and needs to be factored into the environmental footprint of large scale PV implementation. Our total energy consumption is still only one millionth of one percent of the total solar energy reaching Earths surface, so surely we could, if not for the corporate 'profit first' mentality, be in an excess power situation?

danscope
2013-Feb-28, 08:58 PM
We had years. And we had an energy research and developement administration. Some guy killed it.

starcanuck64
2013-Feb-28, 10:03 PM
If you mean fuel for cars I can agree.(Or not if new efficient batteries arrive on the market) But otherwise what is the matter of this energy density ?

It's the difference between an energy source being practical or just theoretical. Theoretically there's a huge amount of solar radiation available for utilization. But it's spread out across the surface of the Earth and often blocked by clouds. It's also only available during the day and varies greatly depending on the season and how far you are from the Equator.

A nuclear power plant on the other hand is going to produce the same amount of power wherever you build it and do it with a minimal footprint for decades.

Ronald Brak
2013-Feb-28, 11:35 PM
Ivan, I assumed rooftop solar would last as long as it does in Germany. I used five percent as the discount rate and decided on this after looking at the low mortgage interest rates in the UK. In Australia I typically use 6.25% because of our higher costs of capital.

CaptainToonces
2013-Mar-01, 11:33 AM
Hardly. Solar is nearly useless in Houston. The prime solar generation times are also the prime clouds and thunderstorm times here. There is also the fact that large, flat, angled, mostly glass panels are hurricane bait.

Why can't you produce the solar in West Texas and send it across the grid to Houston?

neilzero
2013-Mar-01, 02:15 PM
The present grid is at capacity some sunny days, removing power from West Texas. Another power line from West Texas to Huston costs about 5% as much as a nuclear power plant to power Huston. Huston is 0.3% of USA power needs, where should we send some of the other 99.6%? We can use about 0.1% locally in West Texas making sythetic vehicle fuel (at about $16 per gallon) when there is a surplus of electricity from the solar. I agree West Texas solar and wind can supply several percent of USA energy needs, before the cost gets rediculous. Neil

CaptainToonces
2013-Mar-01, 08:08 PM
What are the obstacles to building a world-wide power grid capable of transporting power from wherever it's sunny to wherever it's dark?

Antice
2013-Mar-01, 08:44 PM
What are the obstacles to building a world-wide power grid capable of transporting power from wherever it's sunny to wherever it's dark?

Lots and lots of practicalities.
it begins with petty territorial politics, and ends with money. such a grid would need to be able to transport a large fraction of the worlds energy needs at any given time. capacity costs money. LOTS of money. So much money, that there probably isn't enough money on the planet to pay for something like this.

There are also technical issues, like transmission losses. for distances like a quarter of a planetary circumference are going to be insane.

TooMany
2013-Mar-02, 12:20 AM
Although I think nuclear power is much safer than we are lead to believe, there is no doubt solar energy could easily provide all our needs. Buckminster Fuller thought so anyway, and I believe he was one of the finest engineers the US has ever had. If you count wind as really being solar energy, then his idea of a turbine on top of every transmission tower was genius, and along with the World Grid, would ensure 24 hour worldwide availability. Hydroelectric is also solar power, as is biomass.
With a global grid, solar concentrators would also be more viable, and could be very cheap if they were to be set up in the deserts. I have asked a glass manufacturer if the sand in the deserts could be used to make reflectors and they said "Sure", so you set up a production line using reflectors to melt the sand to make more reflectors, eventually covering large areas, while also providing shaded or filtered light underneath that could be used for numerous purposes, including food production.
Of course, as JP Morgan told Mr Fuller, he would never be rich, as he made everything look too easy, and he needed to make it all seem much more difficult, and that a perceived shortage of a commodity was needed to keep prices high. That's how capitalism works, and I see the Nuclear scare as being the way to keep nuclear derived excess capacity from occurring. France has a state owned nuclear power system, and seems to be very efficient and a source of pride among the employees.
Present PV and wind technology though is subject to a shortage of rare earth materials, and the mining required to acquire these materials is leading to more negative impact on the Earth than is admitted to, and needs to be factored into the environmental footprint of large scale PV implementation. Our total energy consumption is still only one millionth of one percent of the total solar energy reaching Earths surface, so surely we could, if not for the corporate 'profit first' mentality, be in an excess power situation?

Buckminster Fuller was very intelligent and creative person, but not necessarily practical. Yes there is enough sunlight falling on the earth to power the world many times over. It's just not easy to make use of that energy in a manner that would allow it to actually provide most of our energy needs.

One approach might be to build enormous PV installations and/or solar thermal plants in desert areas and islands scattered around the globe (both north and south of the equator) and then connect it all into a common world-wide grid made from superconducting lines that traverse continents and oceans. This would allow more or less reliable output around the clock all year (I think, but I'm not sure). Such a project simply cannot happen now. I'm not sure that we have the resources to carry it out, even over several decades. Worse, it is not politically possible in the foreseeable future.

The problem is not that solar cannot generate useful energy, it's that it is not a practical substitute for fossil fuels. The investment needed to obtain reliability from solar is just huge, so a solar run world is unfortunately a fantasy rather than a real possibility.

It's that simple. In comparison, getting reliable power from modernized, safe nuclear plants is an easy task. Because of the cost and lack of reliability, solar will fail to get us off of fossil fuel. In spite of all the money Germany has invested in solar, they obtain less than 5% of their electrical energy from solar.

We will either burn coal for the next hundred years or we will build nuclear plants. Those are real choices.

CaptainToonces
2013-Mar-02, 01:37 AM
In spite of all the money Germany has invested in solar, they obtain less than 5% of their electrical energy from solar.
I'm not sure why you think 3% is so insignificant. If Germany grows their amount of energy obtained from solar by 20% each year then 3% will be 18% in a decade, and 100% of their today's needs in 20 years.

Solon
2013-Mar-02, 04:49 AM
Lots and lots of practicalities.
it begins with petty territorial politics, and ends with money. such a grid would need to be able to transport a large fraction of the worlds energy needs at any given time. capacity costs money. LOTS of money. So much money, that there probably isn't enough money on the planet to pay for something like this.

There are also technical issues, like transmission losses. for distances like a quarter of a planetary circumference are going to be insane.

I haven't looked into this site yet, but it seems someone thinks a global grid possible. And I don't think money would be a problem if everyone would just stop warring.


The GENI Initiative focuses on linking renewable energy resources around the world using international electricity transmission.

Antice
2013-Mar-02, 08:16 AM
I haven't looked into this site yet, but it seems someone thinks a global grid possible. And I don't think money would be a problem if everyone would just stop warring.

we are talking sums in excess of the global domestic product.

wars might cost a load of money, but they are nowhere close to the scale of wealth use needed for a global grid like that. remember that one has to pay for all that energy production as well. we aren't talking about just replacing current electricity use here. we need to electrify the remaining 80% of the total consumption as well, so a global grid has to be able to scale up to carry that much more.
We also need the generators to make all of it as well. that is a cost that comes in addition to the grid costs.
Fact is. if we choose the right type of electricity generating power stations the whole concept of a global grid becomes moot. we don't need it. it's an unnecessary expense.
We can build current gen nuclear today, while simultaneously working towards making concepts like LFTR into reality.
And i can tell you right now, with confidence. that once a major nuclear buildout is started, the cost per GW capacity of nuclear will drop like a stone. current gen stations usually end up as very expensive because every single build is a custom job. building 15TW worth of capacity will require that builds be standardized enough to drop the cost down to maybe as little as a quarter of what it currently is.

eburacum45
2013-Mar-02, 09:05 AM
A Superconducting Global Grid could deliver large amounts of energy anywhere in the world; here's an image of a hybrid system, which not only delivers electricity but also pumps supercooled hydrogen to the destination, and incorporates a maglev train as well.
http://www.aip.org/tip/INPHFA/vol-10/iss-5/images/20-4.jpg
A (literal) pipe dream, maybe, but nothing in the concept is impossible. Superconducting supergrids are likely to exist in due course, unless our civilisation collapses; they could carry energy generated by nuclear fission, nuclear fusion and/or solar power and other renewables, and hopefully will carry all three.

geonuc
2013-Mar-02, 10:00 AM
We will either burn coal for the next hundred years or we will build nuclear plants. Those are real choices.

^^^^ this

Although, I'd amend and say we also need to continue to increase use of wind, solar and geothermal energy as practicable, and continue funding research efforts to make them more practicable in the future. But right now, we need to build nuclear power plants. And improve the grid.

neilzero
2013-Mar-02, 04:36 PM
There is wind power at 35,000 feet which can supply all the power we will need in the next century, often less than twenty miles from the point of use. See skywindpower.com Click on execitive summary. I'm impressed.
This is a tethered unmanned electric heliocopter which typically produces several times the energy needed to keep it aloft = a flying wind generator. There are several technical problems, but all may have good solutions if we throw money at the problems with better than average skill. Some of the problems are storm damage, lightening, helicopters need frequent maintainence, aircraft hiting the tether/ think barrage balloons, resistance losses in the tether are high, without room temperature super conductors, not in my back yard, bigger electric bills and/or taxes for everyone. Close relatives are kite and balloon tethers that generate electricity.
How about the top 1/4 of free flying balloons covered with PV panels, which power lasers sending the energy though holes in the clouds to existing solar sites? Neil

TooMany
2013-Mar-02, 07:03 PM
I'm not sure why you think 3% is so insignificant. If Germany grows their amount of energy obtained from solar by 20% each year then 3% will be 18% in a decade, and 100% of their today's needs in 20 years.

That's not true. The problem is that they cannot store the energy. On a good sunny day, they can already get 40% or nearly half their electrical power at noon, and yet that solar capacity gives them less than 5% overall. If they triple their solar PV investment, they can a little more than 100% on a sunny day at noon, but overall they will still get only about 15% of their needs. This from a very large investment.

The sun does not shine at night and PV output is low on cloudy days. They will always need fossil fuel to provide the rest which will still be a majority of their needs. Note that we aren't even considering transportation fossil fuel, just electric power. So overall the energy contribution of solar in Germany is tiny. Do you see any path to make solar power phase out fossil fuel?

When Germany shutdown their nuclear power plants in reaction to Fukushima, they lost 17.7% of their electric power and were forced to replace that with coal. All that power was CO2 free. So by shutting down these plants they wiped out the carbon savings from their solar investment more than 3 times over! The anti-nuke politics in Germany is such they that are doing something costly, impractical and actually increasing their CO2 output instead of reducing it. It's a bad joke.

TooMany
2013-Mar-02, 09:36 PM
There is wind power at 35,000 feet which can supply all the power we will need in the next century, often less than twenty miles from the point of use. See skywindpower.com Click on execitive summary. I'm impressed.
This is a tethered unmanned electric heliocopter which typically produces several times the energy needed to keep it aloft = a flying wind generator. There are several technical problems, but all may have good solutions if we throw money at the problems with better than average skill. Some of the problems are storm damage, lightening, helicopters need frequent maintainence, aircraft hiting the tether/ think barrage balloons, resistance losses in the tether are high, without room temperature super conductors, not in my back yard, bigger electric bills and/or taxes for everyone. Close relatives are kite and balloon tethers that generate electricity.
How about the top 1/4 of free flying balloons covered with PV panels, which power lasers sending the energy though holes in the clouds to existing solar sites? Neil

I have seen that before. It's a cool idea, I've seen it proposed with balloons also. It may have some chance of being practical, but I wouldn't count on it. Imagine the number of huge windmills required on the ground. Now imagine them up there on 10 mile long tethers (6 miles high). What is the tether/wires made of that 10 miles of it is light enough to be practical to keep aloft and strong enough to counter the drag?

To make these practical don't you suppose they would have to be huge, like the large ground wind mills? Small windmills are far less economical than large ones. Suppose you could get 5 MWs from one copter (obviously a large one). Peak requirements for the US is 1 million megawatts. So you would need 200,000 of these things in the air during summer. A ground based 5 MW windmill costs about $400,000 so were looking at $80 billion for ground windmills. Do you suppose that the copters would be cheaper? I doubt it. They may have to be made of lightweight composites, making them far more expensive than ground windmills. And there is the cost of the tether.

You mentioned some of the other problems. The resistance of the wires can be overcome by using a high voltage, but I'm not sure if these generators can produce a high voltage because they run at relatively low RPM. Perhaps the voltage can be stepped up, but a transformer would be too heavy. Maybe there solid state electronic pumps can raise the voltage. That will add to the cost.

When one fails, down comes several tons of stuff from 6 miles high, including an 10 mile long tether. Safety would be a very serious problem, there may not be many places on land where you can take the risk. So perhaps they would have to be deployed over the ocean. How close together can you deploy them without them crashing into one another or getting tangled?

Then there is constant maintenance and monitoring. How many of these can one man monitor safely? Occasionally they will have to land (on the ocean?). Is this high-level wind supposed to be constant?

The balloon with PV is even worse. Helium is already is short supply. Solar panels on the ground to generate the peak needed power would occupy about 100 sq km. At $2/watt, the cost of panels would be $500 billion. But of course that won't do it because it would only generate this peak at the middle of the day when it's not cloudy. Just like with the Germans, you would get only get at best perhaps 20% of your needs with solar sufficient to generate the peak power needed. Balloons might get you above most of the weather.

If there was actually a practical way to get our energy needs from solar and wind, that would be great, but there isn't.

CaptainToonces
2013-Mar-04, 03:13 AM
That's not true. ... If they triple their solar PV investment, they can a little more than 100% on a sunny day at noon, but overall they will still get only about 15% of their needs.
...
Output is low on cloudy days. They will always need fossil fuel to provide the rest which will still be a majority of their needs.
You're saying their investment in solar energy can't be put into finding ways to store the excess energy generated during mid-day?

Ronald Brak
2013-Mar-04, 04:13 AM
Germany is already storing electricity generated during the day. When prices fall during the daytime as a result of solar power German pumped storage takes advantage of the low prices and fills its upper resorvoirs. This means that pumped storage capacity can be used twice in a day, which is very good for its profitability.

neilzero
2013-Mar-04, 04:52 AM
Lets use some of the numbers you suggested: My city Jacksonville, Florida including Orange Park, Florida is about one million population and measures about 15 by 20 miles with large unpopulated areas sutable for rectennas and or flying generator tethers at up to 35,000 feet. In theory 300 tethers, but 100 is more realistic to reduce tangled tether probability to near zero. Each unit has considerable position discretion, and they typically make soft landings in nearly all failure senarios, but it may not be practical to reel in ten miles of tether in less than one hour, so the downed tether can block traffic on many wide roads, but the tether will land in the tree tops on both sides of most narrow roads. Our trees grow like weeds. We definately do not want to drive over a tether carying one million volts, which could happen if we need to quickly ground the flying generators due to a nearby tornado. Kites and tethered balloons are similar except less position discretion but possibly no voltage on the tether except for lightning which occurs frequently here.
The flying generators can produce an average of 5 megawatts, so 100 of them produces 1/2 gigawatt which is about 25% of the peak demand, most of the time, as high altitude winds are more dependable. Diversity is good, so 25 percent is about optimum. The last I heard we got about 25% from a nuclear plant almost 200 miles North of here. A more dense city might have to settle for 10% of their peak demand from flying generators, but rural and semi rural can go to as high a percent as they think is prudent. The copters can cost about 5 times as much, as 5 megawatt wind turbines average less than one megawatt in our locarion, because wind speeds are often quite low, even at the beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Check HVDC in wikipedia to see how one million volts is practical without transformers. I'll guess you need ten experienced persons and ten trainees to manage 100 flying electric generators, so I agree the pay roll is not trivial.
The second million balloons definately need to use hydrogen, which will increase the "not in my back yard" complaints. The fire hazard is near zero at 35,000 feet or more, due to lack of oxygen, but the hydrogen balloons will land in someone's backyard occasionally with about half of the hydrogen. One study concluded 23% of peak demand was the maximum practical for surface wind turbines. My guess is somewhat less than 20% for solar, but there are perhaps 100 alternatives that can be practical for more than 1% each, so surely we can get a significant percent of our energy from alternatives. Uranium nuclear has present problem of about 100 designs competing, so we should go with LFTR until we see some clear winners for uranium. Neil

TooMany
2013-Mar-04, 05:28 AM
You're saying their investment in solar energy can't be put into finding ways to store the excess energy generated during mid-day?

No, I'm saying that would be so expensive that they cannot afford to do it. That's why they are mostly burning coal.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Mar-04, 10:02 AM
Ivan, I assumed rooftop solar would last as long as it does in Germany. I used five percent as the discount rate and decided on this after looking at the low mortgage interest rates in the UK. In Australia I typically use 6.25% because of our higher costs of capital.
The key factor is not the interest rate, but the length of time the capital lasts; the interest portion is small in comparison to the depreciation or repayment element. If you pay a 10 year mortgage at 5% on 2000 principal, the payment is, in excel pmt(5%,10,2000) = 260, or 247 for pmt(5%,10,2000,0,1) if you prefer front-loaded payments, so my guestimate of 250 was very close.

Even at 13% load factor, which has to be wrong for UK because Germany is on average further south than England and less cloudy, I get 1139 kWh per year at 250, which is 22p/kWh, so something has gone wrong with your calculation. Perhaps 10% was pessimistic but 11% is surely realistic. That's 26p.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Mar-04, 10:37 AM
Germany is already storing electricity generated during the day. When prices fall during the daytime as a result of solar power German pumped storage takes advantage of the low prices and fills its upper resorvoirs. This means that pumped storage capacity can be used twice in a day, which is very good for its profitability.
Germany has 2GW of pumped storage, comprising 2 x 1GW schemes. Though of course what matters, in relation to PV storage, is not so much the peak output as the storage. (In contrast, the 1.7GW Dinorwig plant in UK is not operated to maximise storage and release, because it is more valuable as a rapid response device for grid balancing, as it can go 0 to 1.7GW in 16 seconds; it can also restart the grid following a blackout.) In fact it is notable that one of the two German 1GW stations has almost double the output of the other, presumably because it has a larger storage reservoir. Wiki reports that their annual output is about 2,800 GWh. So their load-factor is about 16%. Not much better than the solar PV, and worse than the wind, they are storing. But probably only half of that is PV storage, since, as you imply, it is run down in the morning peak and refilled in the day, and thus presumable refilled again at night, to double the usage.

That 2,800 GWh, btw, is 0.5% of the 590TWh of electricity Germany consumed in 2010. If only half of that is about time-shifting renewables, rather than balancing, it clearly has a very long way to go.

Germany is eyeing large quantities of pumped storage, 5MW in Thuringia alone, though of course it is the storage capacity rather than the peak ouput that matters most for the purpose of PV. As this do-the-math post indicates, storing realistic quantities of electricity in pumped storage schemes to make is on a huge scale. http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/11/pump-up-the-storage/

Germany is actually at the moment building a large cable to connect itself to Norway, because it can use Norway's hydro capacity as virtual storage, without even the need to run it backwards. Basically Norway will keep the water in the dams until the price is higher, and import when it is cheap.

noncryptic
2013-Mar-04, 02:51 PM
So much for "they cannot store the energy".

TooMany
2013-Mar-04, 05:04 PM
So much for "they cannot store the energy".

Your right, they already have 0.5% of their storage needs. All they need to do is multiply that by 200. No problem. They can use solar energy convert all hill tops into storage lakes. What are they waiting for?

"Cannot" and "utterly impractical" amount to the same thing. Recommended reading: http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/...p-the-storage/ (http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/...p-the-storage/)

This "renewable optimism" is possible due to public naivete. The pretense that this renewable solution actually exists, and worse, the pretense that bio-fuels can economically provide our transportation needs. These are not solutions. The fossil fuel companies who employ large numbers of engineers and scientist know this very well and so promote these "renewable solutions" as a carrot on a stick to lead the public away from the only practical solution (nuclear-electric) which would put them out of business.

neilzero
2013-Mar-04, 07:55 PM
Although I think nuclear power is much safer than we are lead to believe, there is no doubt solar energy could easily provide all our needs. Buckminster Fuller thought so anyway, and I believe he was one of the finest engineers the US has ever had. If you count wind as really being solar energy, then his idea of a turbine on top of every transmission tower was genius, and along with the World Grid, would ensure 24 hour worldwide availability. Hydroelectric is also solar power, as is biomass.
With a global grid, solar concentrators would also be more viable, and could be very cheap if they were to be set up in the deserts. I have asked a glass manufacturer if the sand in the deserts could be used to make reflectors and they said "Sure", so you set up a production line using reflectors to melt the sand to make more reflectors, eventually covering large areas, while also providing shaded or filtered light underneath that could be used for numerous purposes, including food production.
Of course, as JP Morgan told Mr Fuller, he would never be rich, as he made everything look too easy, and he needed to make it all seem much more difficult, and that a perceived shortage of a commodity was needed to keep prices high. That's how capitalism works, and I see the Nuclear scare as being the way to keep nuclear derived excess capacity from occurring. France has a state owned nuclear power system, and seems to be very efficient and a source of pride among the employees.
Present PV and wind technology though is subject to a shortage of rare earth materials, and the mining required to acquire these materials is leading to more negative impact on the Earth than is admitted to, and needs to be factored into the environmental footprint of large scale PV implementation. Our total energy consumption is still only one millionth of one percent of the total solar energy reaching Earths surface, so surely we could, if not for the corporate 'profit first' mentality, be in an excess power situation?
Not easily, and advances such as room temperature super conductor may never happen. At present the longest HVDC power lines are less than 2000 kilometers and 20,000 kilometers are needed to solve the day night problem with solar. About 15,000 kilometers to solve the Summer/Winter problem across the equator, and that leaves out about 2% of the world's population at extreme latitudes and isolated islands.
We have made modest investments in SBSP = space based solar power, but several breakthroughs are necessary to make it less than 100 times as costly as fossil fuel.
The concentrating mirrors need telescope precision if they are 2 or more kilometers from the boiler at the top of the tower, and each mirror needs to be steerable, so 3 meters of head room underneath requires a very costly support structure covering about a million square kilometers. The trillions of mirrors need to be cleaned at least annually and children playing on the mirrors will be injured to mention just a few problems. Neil

galacsi
2013-Mar-04, 09:24 PM
Your right, they already have 0.5% of their storage needs. All they need to do is multiply that by 200. No problem. They can use solar energy convert all hill tops into storage lakes. What are they waiting for?

Not they don't need to multiply by 200 but by much less. Because they don't have to store all their yearly production ! This is obvious ! Now gravity energy storage in lake or elsewhere is not the only game. There is also hydro pneumatic energy storage systems. The germans have the ADELE project : http://www.rwe.com/web/cms/en/364260/rwe-power-ag/innovations/adele/

noncryptic
2013-Mar-05, 12:52 AM
Multiplying many times goes quickly if it doubles every year. Such 'progressive growth' (as opposed to linear growth) is typical of things economical - within limits of course, limits that have been reached in the fossil fuel industry, as i'm sure many here are aware. But until then fossil fuel based energy production has been growing progressively by some 3% per year over about 100 years.

Case in point regarding solar:

Installations of solar energy systems double
http://money.cnn.com/2012/03/14/news/economy/solar-energy/index.htm
"...The U.S. added a record 1,855 megawatts of photovoltaic capacity in 2011, a 109% increase versus the year prior..."

starcanuck64
2013-Mar-05, 01:09 AM
Multiplying many times goes quickly if it doubles every year. Such 'progressive growth' (as opposed to linear growth) is typical of things economical - within limits of course, limits that have been reached in the fossil fuel industry, as i'm sure many here are aware. But until then fossil fuel based energy production has been growing progressively by some 3% per year over about 100 years.

Case in point regarding solar:

Installations of solar energy systems double
http://money.cnn.com/2012/03/14/news/economy/solar-energy/index.htm
"...The U.S. added a record 1,855 megawatts of photovoltaic capacity in 2011, a 109% increase versus the year prior..."

If you're going from practically nothing to even a modest increase in terms of overall energy production then the percentage increase can appear impressive.

Solar still presents strict limits on how much energy can be collected and when. You can engineer all sorts of fancy and expensive schemes to make solar and wind power more practical...or you can invest in highly practical energy technology.

One ton of thorium will run a 1,000 MWe MSR for one year. There are 3,200 tons of it in storage in the US alone and more being mined constantly as a bi-product of rare earths mining.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Mar-05, 09:19 AM
Not they don't need to multiply by 200 but by much less. Because they don't have to store all their yearly production ! This is obvious ! Now gravity energy storage in lake or elsewhere is not the only game. There is also hydro pneumatic energy storage systems. The germans have the ADELE project : http://www.rwe.com/web/cms/en/364260/rwe-power-ag/innovations/adele/
"Obviously" you don't need to time-shift 100% of your generation, but perhaps not far off. If you are trying to run your country mainly off intermittent renewables with load-factors like PV and wind then you would need to take something like about 75% of your annual usage out of storage. By managing security of supply internationally with your neighbours, you can get this down, but the EU's "ever closer union" isn't close enough for many of the nations to be willing to trust their neighbours with security of energy supply, even though the cost savings from managing security of supply across borders are huge in a high-renewables world. Even if it was got down to 30%, getting such a quantity of storage remains a truly massive endeavour. It took Germany about 30 years to implement the 2GW of pumped storage it has got.

Note and apology: According to that RWE Adele brochure Germany now has 7GW of pumped storage. I read somewhere in not such an old document that there are only the 2 pumped storage facilities in Germany, but actually there is a list of about 40 here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_power_stations_in_Germany They have clearly been active in expanding their offer here.

Clearly there are methods of storing electricity. But they are expensive, at best only about 75% efficient, and landscape-changing quantities are required in a high-renewables world. Once you acknowledge the need for storage to make renewables workable in quantity, it makes those renewables a lot more expensive. Gas turbines are currently much the cheapest way to address electricity demand peaks. Pumped storage has only been implemented because it is an effective method of very short term grid balancing and black-out recovery; because gas turbines can't be started in just seconds.

noncryptic
2013-Mar-05, 09:51 AM
If you're going from practically nothing to even a modest increase in terms of overall energy production then the percentage increase can appear impressive.

Even if growth declines to less impressive levels, it's far from impossible to scale up energy storage.


You can engineer all sorts of fancy and expensive schemes to make solar and wind power more practical...

Nuclear isn't exactly cheep either.
In fact Wall Street thinks it's to expensive.

Should the World Increase Its Reliance on Nuclear Energy?
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443995604578001973671148176.html


One ton of thorium will run a 1,000 MWe MSR for one year.

The cost is in more than just the fuel, and one major advantage of solar is that the 'fuel' needed to run it delivers itself to the solar power plant free of cost and free of pollution. Though i suppose that's not exactly an advantage to those in the fuel transport business.


Clearly there are methods of storing electricity. But they are expensive, at best only about 75% efficient, and landscape-changing quantities are required in a high-renewables world

"Landscape-changing" is not prohibitive now, see the Alberta tar-sand field: an area the size of Great Brittain (and the single largest co2 producer in the world), and it to is "expensive". And yet none of that makes it impossible, as opposed to what's claimed about solar.

Ronald Brak
2013-Mar-05, 11:50 AM
Ivan, solar panels from any reputable manufacturer are expected to last at least 25 years. There are 40 year old panels that still work. Inverters don't last as long and so 10 years is the normal maximum warranty on them without paying extra for an extended warranty. Fortunately inverters are much cheaper than they used to be. I did of course include inverter replacement in my caculations. I used a total system lifespan of 30 years which is only 20% longer than a common warranty here.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Mar-05, 05:20 PM
Ivan, solar panels from any reputable manufacturer are expected to last at least 25 years. There are 40 year old panels that still work. Inverters don't last as long and so 10 years is the normal maximum warranty on them without paying extra for an extended warranty. Fortunately inverters are much cheaper than they used to be. I did of course include inverter replacement in my caculations. I used a total system lifespan of 30 years which is only 20% longer than a common warranty here.
OK, that's the big difference then. I understood that 10 years was a reasonable planning horizon for them, but that seems to have changed. Making them last a lot longer clearly brings down the cost a lot.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Mar-05, 05:22 PM
"Landscape-changing" is not prohibitive now, see the Alberta tar-sand field: an area the size of Great Brittain (and the single largest co2 producer in the world), and it to is "expensive". And yet none of that makes it impossible, as opposed to what's claimed about solar.
You can't operate a tar-sand field the size of Great Britain when there are 60 million people living on it, as is the case of Great Britain itself. Many of the inhabitants of Great Britain find on-shore wind-turbines very objectionable, and campaign against them in a way that makes it difficult to install them even in remote parts of Scotland where the best wind is. They even complain about wind farms 10km offshore.

starcanuck64
2013-Mar-05, 09:13 PM
Even if growth declines to less impressive levels, it's far from impossible to scale up energy storage.

Massive storage systems have their own disadvantages and impacts. If you're storing solar power in water reservoirs then there's the construction costs and the risks associated with dams.

http://www.damsafety.org/news/?p=412f29c8-3fd8-4529-b5c9-8d47364c1f3e


Hundreds of dam failures have occurred throughout U.S. history. These failures have caused immense property and environmental damages and have taken thousands of lives. As the nation’s dams age and population increases, the potential for deadly dam failures grows.

No one knows precisely how many dam failures have occurred in the U.S., but they have been documented in every state. From Jan. 1, 2005 through Jan. 1, 2009, state dam safety programs reported 132 dam failures and 434 "incidents" - episodes that, without intervention, would likely have resulted in dam failure.

Battery technology is too immature and the most efficient batteries are also the most dangerous.

Molten salt is a option, but storing the necessary amount of heat would require very large reservoirs.


Nuclear isn't exactly cheep either.
In fact Wall Street thinks it's to expensive.

That's largely due to the risk factors traditionally found with Pressurized Water Reactors, I'm advocating the use of thorium in Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors, which aren't pressurized, don't use water for coolant and have a tiny waste stream when compared to PWRs and other solid fueled nuclear reactors. LFTRs shouldn't even be in the same regulatory class as PWRs. If you punched a hole in the side of a PWR while it was operating you'd have a serious incident. If you did the same with an LFTR the core molten salt/fuel mixture would flow into a drain pan and be carried into sub-critical storage. You can do away with much of the very heavy containment and complex heat exchange and coolant systems, which should significantly reduce costs. Most of the fission products are stable within a decade so the waste storage issue is also dramatically reduced.


The cost is in more than just the fuel, and one major advantage of solar is that the 'fuel' needed to run it delivers itself to the solar power plant free of cost and free of pollution. Though i suppose that's not exactly an advantage to those in the fuel transport business.

It's spread out over the entire globe and is often blocked by clouds and the Earth itself for large periods of time, which brings us back to the storage and transmission issue. We can build highly complex and expensive solar collection and storage systems with fairly significant failure modes, or go with a nuclear power technology that promises safety and efficiency in a relatively small package.

edit- I meant the sunlit portion of the globe obviously.

Gigabyte
2013-Mar-06, 09:33 PM
Solar energy still works just fine, and always has. You probably ate some food produced with solar energy today.

TooMany
2013-Mar-07, 01:17 AM
Not they don't need to multiply by 200 but by much less. Because they don't have to store all their yearly production ! This is obvious ! Now gravity energy storage in lake or elsewhere is not the only game. There is also hydro pneumatic energy storage systems. The germans have the ADELE project : http://www.rwe.com/web/cms/en/364260/rwe-power-ag/innovations/adele/

Yes I made a mistake.:o I'll do the analysis more carefully:

I also skimmed this paper: Prospects For Pumped Hydro Storage In Germany (http://www.wiwi.uni-due.de/fileadmin/fileupload/BWL-ENERGIE/Arbeitspapiere/RePEc/pdf/wp1107_ProspectsForPumpedHydroStorageInGermany.pdf )

Astounding as it may seem, that paper quantifies the storage in MW (power) instead of MWh (energy stored). Same with at least one Wiki article about German hydro storage.

To run mostly on solar and wind in Germany, it would be wise to have enough storage for at least two weeks. Even with that much, you still probably need substantial fossil fuel power plant backup maintained in case of unusually bad weather over a long period.

Germany consumes 590 TWh per year. So two weeks worth is about 22.7 TWh. The hydro storage they currently have is 2,800 GWh according to Ivan which is only 1/8 of a two week supply. Actually it may be worse because need is high in winter and solar is poor then. So let's say they need 10 times the existing hydro storage or 28 TWh.

Is it possible/practical to build 10 times the existing pumped storage or have they already exploited the low hanging fruit? Then you have to figure out how much wind and solar you need to keep that supply available. I would image that solar is poor in the winter, but I could be wrong. Maybe wind is better in winter. How much do they have to increase their wind and/or solar generation to get down to say 10% reliance of fossil fuel?

Concerning the adiabatic compressed air storage. How long can they keep it hot? As it loses heat they lose efficiency. They mention 600 C as the temperature, which is quite hot. They claim a possible 70% efficiency. The demonstration plant proposed is supposed to hold 360 MWh. A commercial version they claim would hold 1 GWh. To hold 28 TWh, they would need 28,000 such storage facilities. They don't mention how much even one would cost. They also include this interesting admission:


Germany has pumped storage power plants producing a total of about 7,000 MW [again, power not capacity?]. The expansion potential is severely limited, especially in northern Germany where the balancing need is greatest.

You might also be interested in this pie chart which shows that Germany is up to 7% from renewables with a goals of 17% by 2020. Note that the 11% provided by nuclear is gone now wiping out all carbon gains thus far in their ambitious renewable program.
http://www.powerguru.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Proportion-of-renewable-energies-in-primary-energy-consumption-in-Germany.jpg

So far we have been talking just about electric power. In the US transportation accounts for about 40% of all fossil fuel use. Then there is heating as well. So, on top of German electrical needs, if you add in their heating and transportation needs you are probably about doubling what the electrical consumption is. So how do you do it with wind, solar and pumped storage? Germany has the most robust economy in Europe. I.e. they are wealthy because they have a very healthy high-tech manufacturing industry. Can weaker economies elsewhere afford such "green" extravagance? Even if Germany were to succeed gloriously, they would succeed only in reducing only their emissions. What about the rest of the world that isn't so wealthy. We do need to get the whole world down to avoid GW.

I'll make a prediction. By 2025, Germany will still depend on fossil fuel for 70% (currently about 80%) of their energy needs and they will be out of cash for subsidizing solar, wind and storage. The only way they will keep their CO2 from growing is to buy nuclear electricity from France.

What about future growth of energy use? Resources are getting scarcer and it will take more and more energy to meet the needs of a growing world population. Should we go back to a medieval civilization to minimize our energy needs? I'd rather not but I won't be here to live with it; I just feel bad for the children and grandchildren.

There is an answer that is proven in concept, reliable, economical, scale-able as needed and inexhaustible and that is safe nuclear power with Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors.

galacsi
2013-Mar-07, 09:12 AM
Yes I made a mistake.:o I'll do the analysis more carefully:

I also skimmed this paper: Prospects For Pumped Hydro Storage In Germany (http://http://www.wiwi.uni-due.de/fileadmin/fileupload/BWL-ENERGIE/Arbeitspapiere/RePEc/pdf/wp1107_ProspectsForPumpedHydroStorageInGermany.pdf )

Astounding as it may seem, that paper quantifies the storage in MW (power) instead of MWh (energy stored). Same with at least one Wiki article about German hydro storage.

To run mostly on solar and wind in Germany, it would be wise to have enough storage for at least two weeks. Even with that much, you still probably need substantial fossil fuel power plant backup maintained in case of unusually bad weather over a long period.

Germany consumes 590 TWh per year. So two weeks worth is about 22.7 TWh. The hydro storage they currently have is 2,800 GWh according to Ivan which is only 1/8 of a two week supply. Actually it may be worse because need is high in winter and solar is poor then. So let's say they need 10 times the existing hydro storage or 28 TWh.

Is it possible/practical to build 10 times the existing pumped storage or have they already exploited the low hanging fruit? Then you have to figure out how much wind and solar you need to keep that supply available. I would image that solar is poor in the winter, but I could be wrong. Maybe wind is better in winter. How much do they have to increase their wind and/or solar generation to get down to say 10% reliance of fossil fuel?

Concerning the adiabatic compressed air storage. How long can they keep it hot? As it loses heat they lose efficiency. They mention 600 C as the temperature, which is quite hot. They claim a possible 70% efficiency. The demonstration plant proposed is supposed to hold 360 MWh. A commercial version they claim would hold 1 GWh. To hold 28 TWh, they would need 28,000 such storage facilities. They don't mention how much even one would cost. They also include this interesting admission:



You might also be interested in this pie chart which shows that Germany is up to 7% from renewables with a goals of 17% by 2020. Note that the 11% provided by nuclear is gone now wiping out all carbon gains thus far in their ambitious renewable program.
http://www.powerguru.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Proportion-of-renewable-energies-in-primary-energy-consumption-in-Germany.jpg

So far we have been talking just about electric power. In the US transportation accounts for about 40% of all fossil fuel use. Then there is heating as well. So, on top of German electrical needs, if you add in their heating and transportation needs you are probably about doubling what the electrical consumption is. So how do you do it with wind, solar and pumped storage? Germany has the most robust economy in Europe. I.e. they are wealthy because they have a very healthy high-tech manufacturing industry. Can weaker economies elsewhere afford such "green" extravagance? Even if Germany were to succeed gloriously, they would succeed only in reducing only their emissions. What about the rest of the world that isn't so wealthy. We do need to get the whole world down to avoid GW.

I'll make a prediction. By 2025, Germany will still depend on fossil fuel for 70% (currently about 80%) of their energy needs and they will be out of cash for subsidizing solar, wind and storage. The only way they will keep their CO2 from growing is to buy nuclear electricity from France.

What about future growth of energy use? Resources are getting scarcer and it will take more and more energy to meet the needs of a growing world population. Should we go back to a medieval civilization to minimize our energy needs? I'd rather not but I won't be here to live with it; I just feel bad for the children and grandchildren.

There is an answer that is proven in concept, reliable, economical, scale-able as needed and inexhaustible and that is safe nuclear power with Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors.

I will try to answer to some of these points.

About hydro pneumatic energy storage , in its current version,yes it is limited because they use caves to pump air into. These caves are old salt mines or the same and they are in a limited suply.
Using artificial tanks is more expensive and I don't think at the present time it is economical. (?? )

But there are numerous other theorical possibilities. A neat one , using amonnia to store solar energy . There are several way to use ammonia , you can burn it , and it burn quite well now in new motors ; you can dissociate it and use the hydrogen or have it in a closed loop system : http://solar-thermal.anu.edu.au/high-temperature/thermochemical-energy-storage/

THat's new for me but interesting :

18291

Edited , an other link : http://nh3fuelassociation.org/

Solar energy has a much better prospect in sunny countries like Spain , Greece and all the countries south of the mediterranean sea than in Germany. There is also the fact that Germany is very densely populated. That does not help. But Spain or Morroco, Algeria have all the needed area and much more , and they could export electricity to the North.

Last point and I quit the forum : Population are already decreasing in all the developped world and sometimes at a great speed like in Germany, Italy , Japan , Korea and many more countries . So maybe your Medieval idea is not so out of the mark . But yes it is an other story.

TooMany
2013-Mar-07, 05:32 PM
I will try to answer to some of these points.

About hydro pneumatic energy storage , in its current version,yes it is limited because they use caves to pump air into. These caves are old salt mines or the same and they are in a limited suply.
Using artificial tanks is more expensive and I don't think at the present time it is economical. (?? )

It's doubtful that sufficient capacity is practical.

Don't get me wrong. I think all of these ideas and efforts to use solar are great. I'm not a big wind enthusiast because they are such an eyesore. I just feel that running the world this way is not going to be a practical solution soon enough. I think we have a more practical solution sitting in front of our noses (LFTRs), but people need to understand what it is and how it is different from past nuclear generation. There is a deeply held prejudice against nuclear energy. There are real dangers but they can be managed even better than they are now. Far more people die from the use of coal per kWh than from nuclear. Coal releases more radioactivity into the environment than the nuclear industry per kWh. People need to understand these facts.


But there are numerous other theorical possibilities. A neat one , using amonnia to store solar energy . There are several way to use ammonia , you can burn it , and it burn quite well now in new motors ; you can dissociate it and use the hydrogen or have it in a closed loop system : http://solar-thermal.anu.edu.au/high-temperature/thermochemical-energy-storage/

THat's new for me but interesting :

18291

Edited , an other link : http://nh3fuelassociation.org/

Ammonia has been suggested as a synthetic liquid fuel generated using nuclear energy to replace gasoline. The cycle is carbon neutral. A drawback I see is the volatility and the nastiness of direct exposure to anhydrous ammonia. There is a thread concerning this in the Energy from Thorium forum; some people are very enthusiastic about it as a fuel. If you are interested in engineering solutions, I highly recommend this blog. It's a discussion among people who really know their stuff.



Solar energy has a much better prospect in sunny countries like Spain , Greece and all the countries south of the mediterranean sea than in Germany. There is also the fact that Germany is very densely populated. That does not help. But Spain or Morroco, Algeria have all the needed area and much more , and they could export electricity to the North.

Yes, but a problem in the Sahara is the political instability. The Sahara is one of the ideal places, but for continuous supply, you would need solar plants in many places all around the globe (including the Pacific ocean I would think). Still I'm not sure how much storage would be required. Certainly a transcontinental grid would require underwater superconducting lines. Wouldn't it be great if we lived in a world where nations could cooperate and join forces to supply the world with abundant clean solar energy?



Last point and I quit the forum : Population are already decreasing in all the developped world and sometimes at a great speed like in Germany, Italy , Japan , Korea and many more countries . So maybe your Medieval idea is not so out of the mark . But yes it is an other story.

True, but population overall is still rising. It is expected to peak anywhere from 9 billion to 15 billion. My worry is that without adequate energy, those populations will become unsustainable (due to dwindling cheap resources) leading to a world wide collapse.

starcanuck64
2013-Mar-07, 08:47 PM
Solar energy still works just fine, and always has. You probably ate some food produced with solar energy today.

That's not really the issue.

The issue is as it's almost certain that we need to phase out fossil fuels to avoid the most serious consequences of climate change, how do we replace the burning of over 6 billion tons of coal a year and the growing reliance on non-conventional fossil fuels that have new and significant negative impacts.

Solar is going to have it's place in a new energy market, it lacks the capacity to rapidly replace how we currently generate power. Basically the longer we put off converting to nuclear power as a replacement for fossil fuels, the more damage we do to the global environment. The real world evidence isn't that solar power production is rapidly replacing fossil fuels, it's that when nations stop producing power from nuclear fission they return to fossil fuels.

starcanuck64
2013-Mar-12, 10:26 PM
How clean is solar power anyway if you're buying PV cells made in China, as I think will be the case more and more as they are out-competing other producers?

Nanosolar Layoffs (http://gigaom.com/2013/02/19/struggles-continue-for-thin-film-solar-startups-nanosolar-latest-with-layoffs/)


Super cheap solar panels being churned out of China continue to put pressure on the startups looking to build the next generation of thin-film solar cells. According to two reports (Dana Hull, and Greentech Media) thin-film solar startup Nanosolar has done a round of layoffs, which could be as substantial as 75 percent of its staff.

The manufacturing process in China is anything but environmentally responsible and more than likely uses electricity from coal.

http://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/4583


Founded in Shangrao in the southern Chinese province of Jiangxi, Jinko Solar is regarded as a star of the clean-energy industry. Four months ago it was named a “CleanTech Driver 2011” by Germany’s Deutsches CleanTech Institut. But its environmental performance is less worthy of praise: local-authority tests carried out on river water near the Haining facility found fluoride levels 10 times above permitted standards.

This incident is no anomaly. Energy use and pollution at polysilicon refineries further up the industrial chain are even more extreme, while the large amounts of hydrofluoric acid used at solar-panel manufacturers result in large quantities of fluoride waste. Industry insiders say that rivers near solar-panel factories frequently show fluoride levels at least 10 times above mandated levels, sometimes as much as 100 times or more.

CaptainToonces
2013-Mar-13, 03:48 AM
The manufacturing process in China is anything but environmentally responsible and more than likely uses electricity from coal.
That's a completely separate issue regarding China's environmental controls on its factories. I hope they find a way to keep their solar panel manufacturing from causing fluoride pollution, but if something has to be manufactured using coal power, the instruments of alternative energy like solar panels shouldn't be far down on the list.

starcanuck64
2013-Mar-13, 06:54 PM
That's a completely separate issue regarding China's environmental controls on its factories. I hope they find a way to keep their solar panel manufacturing from causing fluoride pollution, but if something has to be manufactured using coal power, the instruments of alternative energy like solar panels shouldn't be far down on the list.

The manufacturing of a product isn't separate from the product itself and if the manufacturing of solar power cells and panels is putting large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and causing significant fluoride pollution in the fabrication sites then it's not really clean energy. You've just artificially removed the negative impacts from the site of power production.

Ronald Brak
2013-Mar-19, 08:57 AM
Some people say that solar energy is too diffuse to be practical, but Australian solar power produces over 50 times as much electricity as Australian coal power per square metre of footprint. Also, solar power produces about 200 times as many kilowatt-hours per kilogram of mass required as coal power does. If the oxygen required to combust coal is included then solar power is about 400 times a more concentrated source of electricity than coal.

starcanuck64
2013-Mar-19, 08:43 PM
Some people say that solar energy is too diffuse to be practical, but Australian solar power produces over 50 times as much electricity as Australian coal power per square metre of footprint. Also, solar power produces about 200 times as many kilowatt-hours per kilogram of mass required as coal power does. If the oxygen required to combust coal is included then solar power is about 400 times a more concentrated source of electricity than coal.

Could you provide a source for that, it sounds pretty far fetched.

Solar power is collecting at optimum 1,300 watts/m^2 at between 10-20% efficiency, with coal you're burning a given mass to release a specific amounts of potential chemical energy so I don't see how comparing the square meter footprint is relevant.

galacsi
2013-Mar-19, 11:56 PM
About coal mining footprint :

18333

Ronald Brak
2013-Mar-20, 01:56 AM
Could you provide a source for that, it sounds pretty far fetched.

Solar power is collecting at optimum 1,300 watts/m^2 at between 10-20% efficiency, with coal you're burning a given mass to release a specific amounts of potential chemical energy so I don't see how comparing the square meter footprint is relevant.

Electricity produced per square metre is one way of measuring how diffuse a source of energy is. I was looking at how diffuse solar and coal power were, so that's why I looked at how much electricity they produced per square metre of footprint. Apart from 10 megawatts in Western Australia and a few installations done by people who are afraid of heights, almost all of Australia's solar power is roof mounted. This means solar power removes very little land from its original use. Coal, however, takes up a lot of space. For example, the Hazelwood coal power plant and mine in the Australian state of Victoria takes up 3554 hectares. As a result of the difference in the amount of land dedicated to the production of electricity, Australian solar produces at least 50 times as much electricity as coal per square metre. The actual figure is probably over 100 times, but I couldn't be bothered working things out to such precision.

But kilowatt-hours produced per kilogram of material required is probably a better measure of how concentrated a source of electricity is, and here solar power is a clear winner. There is very roughly about 500 tonnes of concrete and steel used per megawatt of coal plant capacity. This is more than what is required for solar power before the mass of coal burned is taken into account. Because of the vast amount of coal consumed, solar power produces about 200 times as much electricity per kilogram of material required.

starcanuck64
2013-Mar-21, 12:59 AM
Electricity produced per square metre is one way of measuring how diffuse a source of energy is. I was looking at how diffuse solar and coal power were, so that's why I looked at how much electricity they produced per square metre of footprint. Apart from 10 megawatts in Western Australia and a few installations done by people who are afraid of heights, almost all of Australia's solar power is roof mounted. This means solar power removes very little land from its original use. Coal, however, takes up a lot of space. For example, the Hazelwood coal power plant and mine in the Australian state of Victoria takes up 3554 hectares. As a result of the difference in the amount of land dedicated to the production of electricity, Australian solar produces at least 50 times as much electricity as coal per square metre. The actual figure is probably over 100 times, but I couldn't be bothered working things out to such precision.

But kilowatt-hours produced per kilogram of material required is probably a better measure of how concentrated a source of electricity is, and here solar power is a clear winner. There is very roughly about 500 tonnes of concrete and steel used per megawatt of coal plant capacity. This is more than what is required for solar power before the mass of coal burned is taken into account. Because of the vast amount of coal consumed, solar power produces about 200 times as much electricity per kilogram of material required.

Ok, that makes more sense. I think it's great that Australia has moved towards solar power as an energy alternative, it's fairly ideal though, I'm not sure how many countries could closely follow your model. It's still something to think about, it not just how we produce energy that's important but how we use all resources.

Solon
2013-Mar-21, 06:39 PM
World's largest solar power plant

The Shams 1 solar plant outside Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates will produce 100 megawatts of electricity at full capacity

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2295717/Who-needs-oil-Worlds-largest-concentrated-solar-power-plant-258-000-mirrors-opens-Abu-Dhabi.html

If you have money to burn, especially other peoples, this might be OK, but the costs look rather steep for the projected full power output. And could one almighty sand storm reduce them to scrap?
$600 Million

New nuclear power station gets planning consent


The two 1.6-gigawatt reactors will become one of the biggest power plants in the UK, providing enough electricity for up to 5m average homes. The nuclear plant is expected to be the first in a series of new ones the coalition has proposed as part of its plans to replace ageing coal and nuclear facilities that are due to be closed over the next few years.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/19/nuclear-power-station-consent-hinkley-point

$20 Billion.

So the solar would be about the same cost for the same output. But of course you couldn't really use solar in England very well. I don't really understand why smaller, modular nuclear plants wouldn't be the sensible course for both countries, but haven't got cost figures for that option.

Solon
2013-Mar-21, 08:08 PM
..but haven't got cost figures for that option.

After Fukushima, U.S. Seeks to Advance Small Nuclear Reactors


According to the Sandia National Laboratory, these smaller reactors would be factory built and mass-assembled, with potential production of 50 a year. They would all have the exact same design, allowing for easier licensing and deployment than large-scale facilities. Mass production will keep the costs down to between $250 million and $500 million per unit.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kensilverstein/2013/01/15/after-fukushima-u-s-seeks-to-advance-small-nuclear-reactors/

Not as big a price difference as I'd have though using the higher figure, but if installations are distributed, then there should be some decent saving on transmission infrastructure?

publiusr
2013-Mar-22, 09:00 PM
I wonder if the two can be used in combination. A nuclear rover/bulldozing equipment in a moonbase helping fabricate reflectors.

Antice
2013-Apr-06, 09:18 PM
this little tidbit (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2013/04/04/study-nuke-power-has-saved-millions-of-lives-media-yawns/#.UWCNxZNuwZy) dropped into my lap today.

it's a blog post about how the media has received the latest Hansen paper.
I haven't read through it all myself yet, so I'l withhold judgement on the paper itself for now, But i do wonder the same as the blog poster. why doesn't these kind of things get more attention? The mainstream media is more than happy to let lot's of hyperbole and scare mongering get more than it's share of coverage, even to the point where the scare mongering is displacing real news. we saw this a lot in relation to the big Tsunami and Fukushima, where what happened at Fukushima were given way more coverage than the Tsunami itself. despite the Tsunami being by far the bigger event.

TooMany
2013-Apr-06, 11:25 PM
this little tidbit (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2013/04/04/study-nuke-power-has-saved-millions-of-lives-media-yawns/#.UWCNxZNuwZy) dropped into my lap today.


From that blurb:
How does mainstream media not jump all over the news that nuclear power has apparently saved millions of lives?

It might be an interesting exercise to figure out who owns the media (apparently a handful of individuals and corporations own almost all of it) and what their interests are. The media over the years that I've been around has substantially declined in quality of reporting, especially investigative reporting. For example CNN touts their "keeping them honest" segment but they never take on vital issues, just political squabbles. Same for 60 minutes; they fry only the small fish.

We live in a world now where the media spoon feeds the public pablum of almost no importance thus maintaining the average citizen (who does not spend much time doing research, e.g. on the internet) in a state of really knowing nothing about important issues. The media has completely failed to illuminate what is going on in our world (in particular in the US, I cannot speak for the rest). We rarely see the big issues discussed, particularly by experts rather than politicians. In any controversy, the media now behaves as if there is no such thing as a fact but only a sea opinions each of which is treated as equal regardless of its actual value.

The media reports nothing positive about nuclear power and blows up accidents into catastrophes. I can only think that this treatment is in service of the people that run the media. Are they perhaps heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry or do they simply not care to inform the public for other reasons?

(The ultimate bottom in reporting media has been achieved by Fox News which has an agenda and cares not at all for facts nor to hear from actual experts.)

Antice
2013-Apr-07, 12:39 AM
I can't say who owns what outside of my own little corner of the world, And as far as I can see it seems to be some deeper issue at work as well as the usual political slant going on. There seem to always be some issues where certain groups are given free reign, and no balance is ever attempted. and this is strange, because some papers who are usually aggressively opposed to anything any green group says no matter what it is, is suddenly agreeing with the self same "green" groups as soon as the nuclear issue is brought up. agreeing so much in fact, that they are practically letting them write their own articles and publishes them without hardly editing the grammar. (yes they publish stuff like this. I've been party to sending in "news" in the same manner myself as part of getting PR for the local scouts group. all they do is change the name of the author of the piece to one of their staffers, and voila. free filler for the morning paper.)

I think that it has become increasingly clear to me these last few years, that mainstream media is incredibly corrupt and lazy. Real to the point investigative journalism seems to be more or less dead nowadays. And this is a real shame, because it means that motivated interest groups with good pr agents are more or less given a free reign in the mainstream media outlets. Fighting an enemy who keep getting open lies published as facts again and again due to publisher laziness is akin to beating down a many headed hydra. the only way to skin it is to out-publish them. something that is a rather expensive proposition. Pro nuclear environmentalist groups are fighting back, but it's harder to get published with "happy" stories about how nuclear energy can save the world rather than scare mongering hyperbole like what groups like greenpeace sends in. and they send those kinds of stuff in more or less constantly.

And this is what affects the public perception of the issues. when people are subjected to the same falsehoods and exaggerations again and again, it becomes an accepted "truth". It matters not if the "truth" isn't really anything at all like reality or not. all that matters is that they keep being fed the same stuff again and again.

aquitaine
2013-Apr-07, 12:39 AM
this little tidbit (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2013/04/04/study-nuke-power-has-saved-millions-of-lives-media-yawns/#.UWCNxZNuwZy) dropped into my lap today.

it's a blog post about how the media has received the latest Hansen paper.
I haven't read through it all myself yet, so I'l withhold judgement on the paper itself for now, But i do wonder the same as the blog poster. why doesn't these kind of things get more attention? The mainstream media is more than happy to let lot's of hyperbole and scare mongering get more than it's share of coverage, even to the point where the scare mongering is displacing real news. we saw this a lot in relation to the big Tsunami and Fukushima, where what happened at Fukushima were given way more coverage than the Tsunami itself. despite the Tsunami being by far the bigger event.

Because it's easier to scare people with things they don't understand. In a society where 95% of the populace is scientifically illiterate it's easy to manipulate them into going along with whatever the latest fad is, whether it be organic food or renewable energy by demonizing and delegitimizing its competitors, that way solar doesn't have to compete on its technological and economic merits.

I would have to say ground zero for this is Germany. After Germany ditched nuclear to double down on wind and solar, despite the truly unbelievable sums of tax money spent they have been having major problems with an increasingly unstable grid and frequent shortages causing skyrocketing electricity prices. But you wouldn't hear any of this in most of the media and in my debates with RE supporters they are in total disbelief. I will hand it to Der Spiegel, they have done a great job reporting the realities of the switch to renewables and how costly it is. Now if only the other greens get the message........

TooMany
2013-Apr-07, 10:02 PM
I would have to say ground zero for this is Germany. After Germany ditched nuclear to double down on wind and solar, despite the truly unbelievable sums of tax money spent they have been having major problems with an increasingly unstable grid and frequent shortages causing skyrocketing electricity prices. But you wouldn't hear any of this in most of the media and in my debates with RE supporters they are in total disbelief. I will hand it to Der Spiegel, they have done a great job reporting the realities of the switch to renewables and how costly it is. Now if only the other greens get the message........

Thanks for mentioning Der Spiegel. I had no idea they had an online English version. I sampled a few articles and found it interesting. Most of us here in the states live in a provincial cocoon and have no idea what's going in the rest of the world (except for the occasional progress reports on our foreign wars).

At least Germany may serve us by demonstrating that, even for one of the wealthiest countries in the world, solar/wind is not an affordable nor practical solution for the energy problem.

neilzero
2013-Apr-07, 11:19 PM
Germany needs more storage than most locations, mostly due to elliminating their nuclear, but 14 days is likely over kill as most of Europe and bit of Asia and NW Africa have potential to supply back up if a 3 day supply is exhausted by 3 concectitive days of cloudy skies. Even two days of no wind is rare over all of Germany, but wind may be 5% or less of the total averge KWH. Likely some geothermal is practical.
Even one full day of storage would exhaust the better locations and cost many billions of dollars.
Yes, thorium looks good, but hardly any of us are skilled enough to fully evalulate the safety. Are you willing to trust the ten people who can see the big picture on thorium safety, if we can identify those ten people? I'm approaching paranoid about 10,000 near term areas of safety, one of which is new nuclear. Neil

TooMany
2013-Apr-08, 01:10 AM
Germany needs more storage than most locations, mostly due to elliminating their nuclear, but 14 days is likely over kill as most of Europe and bit of Asia and NW Africa have potential to supply back up if a 3 day supply is exhausted by 3 concectitive days of cloudy skies. Even two days of no wind is rare over all of Germany, but wind may be 5% or less of the total averge KWH. Likely some geothermal is practical.
Even one full day of storage would exhaust the better locations and cost many billions of dollars.
Yes, thorium looks good, but hardly any of us are skilled enough to fully evalulate the safety. Are you willing to trust the ten people who can see the big picture on thorium safety, if we can identify those ten people? I'm approaching paranoid about 10,000 near term areas of safety, one of which is new nuclear. Neil

Where do you get 10 people? What "10,000 near term areas of safety"?

The necessary technology for thorium molten salt reactors was tested successfully 40 years ago. There is nothing special about "thorium" per se and safety. It's about reactor design, in particular about whether or not they require complex mechanisms to work in case of some failure. The beauty of the thorium molten salt reactor is just that. It's can be made passively safe. This is far more difficult to achieve (if not impossible) with PWRs. Secondly, these reactor can use as fuel all the thousands of tons of radioactive "waste" we have sitting in pools at our current nuclear plants and reduce those wastes to a point where the total waste produced for the energy consumed by an individual over their entire lifetime fills a coffee cup. Compare that with the mountain of coal ash generated on behalf of one individual life, the tons of CO2 put in the air, not to mention the mercury, carbon particulates emitted and radioactive elements found in coal .

And yes I would trust good scientists and engineers to tell me what is safe. I do that when I fly in a airplane and even when I drive my car. I would not trust people with political agendas for anything. I don't really even completely trust the FDA because it is politically controlled. I would not trust the NRC because apparently it has become a politically-controlled bureaucracy with the effective role of preventing nuclear energy from solving our problems.

Antice
2013-Apr-08, 01:30 AM
Germany needs more storage than most locations, mostly due to elliminating their nuclear, but 14 days is likely over kill as most of Europe and bit of Asia and NW Africa have potential to supply back up if a 3 day supply is exhausted by 3 concectitive days of cloudy skies. Even two days of no wind is rare over all of Germany, but wind may be 5% or less of the total averge KWH. Likely some geothermal is practical.
Even one full day of storage would exhaust the better locations and cost many billions of dollars.
Yes, thorium looks good, but hardly any of us are skilled enough to fully evalulate the safety. Are you willing to trust the ten people who can see the big picture on thorium safety, if we can identify those ten people? I'm approaching paranoid about 10,000 near term areas of safety, one of which is new nuclear. Neil

Why are you so paranoid about the safety of new nuclear?
Anyone capable of actually looking at the actual death tolls related to each and every one of the energy technologies are able to see that even old nuclear is by far safer than just about everything else. This isn't so just because nuclear is so inherently safe, but because nuclear has a unique safety culture attached to it that goes further than any other industry in order to insure the safety of both it's workers and the public at large.

Nobody I know of that is a nuclear advocate is advocating letting go of this safety culture. personally I would much rather see the rest of the human energy industries try to achieve even only a fraction of the safety levels that the nuclear industry has managed.
I can tell you right now, that if coal had to clean it's act up to the same standards as nuclear, then coal would be much much more expensive than it is right now.
The story with new nuclear is one of even safer designs. designs that are passively safe in ways that ensures that nothing can escape containment no matter what happens short of a nuclear strike against the facility.
Then there is MSR type reactors. reactors who's cores are molten from the start. not only that, these cores are self regulating the reaction by the use of thermodynamics.
MSR's are a quantum leap in terms of safety improvements over old school reactors, and that is saying a lot when the old school reactors are already safer than just about anything else out there already.

neilzero
2013-Apr-08, 02:07 AM
Hi TooMany: The 40 years is the key. Back in the 70s there were possibly 40 persons who knew most of the details of the thorium reactor, most of them with very little hands on experience and only about half thought safety was an important issue. Most of them lost interest and have forgotton. A few of them are senile or dead. Ten is likely optimistic in 2013, and possibly zero want a full time job designing the new thorium reactor which will likely have many different details.
If one is inclined to be paranoid it is reasonable to worry about almost everything sold at Walmart and most of their competitors, and suppliers are only slightly more conscerned about our safety. 10,000 is likely way low. The more ethical employees, including engineers are typically only involved with a few aspects of the safety of a few products = most of us are highly specialized, and keep quiet about our vauge suspicians as we want to advance instead of search for new employment. Your faith in general integrety is likely about the only thing holding modern civilization together so keep your positive attitude, and I appreciate you trying reduce my gathering paranoia. Neil

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Apr-08, 04:13 PM
[New nuclear power station gets planning consent
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/19/nuclear-power-station-consent-hinkley-point
$20 Billion.

Actually Guardian has messed that up and made it sound twice as good as it really is, sad to say. There will be two 800MW plants for a total of 1600MW, for a total construction bill currently estimated to be ca $20bn.

starcanuck64
2013-Apr-08, 07:14 PM
Hi TooMany: The 40 years is the key. Back in the 70s there were possibly 40 persons who knew most of the details of the thorium reactor, most of them with very little hands on experience and only about half thought safety was an important issue. Most of them lost interest and have forgotton. A few of them are senile or dead. Ten is likely optimistic in 2013, and possibly zero want a full time job designing the new thorium reactor which will likely have many different details.
If one is inclined to be paranoid it is reasonable to worry about almost everything sold at Walmart and most of their competitors, and suppliers are only slightly more conscerned about our safety. 10,000 is likely way low. The more ethical employees, including engineers are typically only involved with a few aspects of the safety of a few products = most of us are highly specialized, and keep quiet about our vauge suspicians as we want to advance instead of search for new employment. Your faith in general integrety is likely about the only thing holding modern civilization together so keep your positive attitude, and I appreciate you trying reduce my gathering paranoia. Neil

There's active programs developing thorium based MSRs all around the world, it's not lack of knowledge here in the west that's preventing investment in what is probably the most promising technology available for energy production.

Even Namibia is developing this technology.

http://www.pr.com/press-release/480532


Windhoek, Namibia, March 21, 2013 --(PR.com)-- Groot Group with local and international partners comprises of educational institutions, quasi-governmental agencies, NGOs, researchers, scientists, and industry stakeholders are forming Namibia Institute for Thorium Energy (NITE), a nonprofit organization whose objectives are to research and design the plan for a Thorium Reactor as well as develop the Thorium and Thorium Chloride (ThCl4) Liquid for the supply to selected users.

"The abundance of the element thorium throughout the Earth's crust promises widespread energy independence through Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) technology. A mere 6,600 tonnes of thorium could provide the energy equivalent of the combined global consumption of 5 billion tonnes of coal, 31 billion barrels of oil, 3 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, and 65,000 tonnes of uranium. With LFTR, a handful of thorium can supply an individual's lifetime energy needs; a grain silo full could power North America for a year; and known thorium reserves could power advanced society for many thousands of years."

I agree with what Antice and TooMany are saying, we're intentionally being kept in the dark over the real issues and possible solutions around energy production and use. Reality will eventually assert itself, but how much will we be able to do by that time.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Apr-09, 04:23 PM
For example, the Hazelwood coal power plant and mine in the Australian state of Victoria takes up 3554 hectares.
... for a 1.6GW power plant. 3554ha is 35.54 km2. That is surely not representative of the coal/electricity situation in general. I do not believe that there is normally anything like 20km2 of coalfield in current operation per GW of coal plant. But in Australia you can doubtless be careless of land usage.

In the short run solar panels can be put on house roofs. In the longer run you run out of house roofs and have to occupy land. It is recognised that solar PV is a lot more economical of land space than biomass. If 100 W/m2 is a typical value for PV, taking into account load factor, and the fact that angling and shadowing means there has to be gaps between rows, then that is 10km2/GW.

Ivan Viehoff
2013-Apr-09, 07:19 PM
Some order of magnitude calcs on coal. Coal is rather variable stuff but typically it has a density of about 800 kg/m3 and a heat content of about 30 MJ/kg. A Watt-year is about 31.5 MJ so call that 1 W-yr/kg. A coal seam 10m thick therefore delivers about 8000 Wyr/m2. Modern coal stations are about 45% efficient, though old terrible ones can be below 30% efficient. So a 1GW station at 40% efficiency requires about 300,000 m2 (= 30ha = 0.3km2) of 10m thick coal seam per year. In practice open cast mining proceeds incrementally and then restitutes land over about a 10-20 year time-scale, so in practice a 1GW coal mine is perhaps appearing to occupy about 5km2 of open-cast mining, if the seam is effectively about 10m thick, but actually that is only because mines tend to be operated for about 20 years before being closed and restituted.

The Hazelwood situation is a bit worse than that. First, because the coal is brown coal, which is slightly lighter, slightly less calorific, than normal coal, and comes out of the ground with about 65% water content, so wastes some energy being dewatered. Second, because Hazelwood power station is a terrible one, one of the most inefficient in the developed world.

Ronald Brak
2013-Apr-10, 06:16 AM
In the short run solar panels can be put on house roofs. In the longer run you run out of house roofs and have to occupy land.

Not in Australia. If we wanted to we could build vast storage capacity and then meet the entire country's electricty demand solely from sunshine hitting roofs. In practice we of course won't do that. If roofspace is running short solar cells can be mounted on walls. This might seem unlikely at the moment, but if the price gets down to $1 a watt people will start doing it.

Ronald Brak
2013-Apr-10, 06:20 AM
...Hazelwood power station is a terrible one, one of the most inefficient in the developed world.

Hazelwood is a monster. It not only kills people outside it with pollution it also kills people inside it with asbestos. It is estimated that a total of $400 million dollars will have to be paid out to Victorian State Electricity Workers as compensation for illness resuting from asbestos exposure in coal power plants.

starcanuck64
2013-Apr-10, 06:54 PM
Hi TooMany: The 40 years is the key. Back in the 70s there were possibly 40 persons who knew most of the details of the thorium reactor, most of them with very little hands on experience and only about half thought safety was an important issue. Most of them lost interest and have forgotton. A few of them are senile or dead. Ten is likely optimistic in 2013, and possibly zero want a full time job designing the new thorium reactor which will likely have many different details.
If one is inclined to be paranoid it is reasonable to worry about almost everything sold at Walmart and most of their competitors, and suppliers are only slightly more conscerned about our safety. 10,000 is likely way low. The more ethical employees, including engineers are typically only involved with a few aspects of the safety of a few products = most of us are highly specialized, and keep quiet about our vauge suspicians as we want to advance instead of search for new employment. Your faith in general integrety is likely about the only thing holding modern civilization together so keep your positive attitude, and I appreciate you trying reduce my gathering paranoia. Neil

The real issue back in the 1970s isn't that people lost interest, it's that almost all the funding for new reactor R&D in the US went into the Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor(LMFBR) for political reasons. The thorium MSR was designed to be a much safer and efficient alternative to PWRs.

The basic concept hasn't been lost in the mists of time, we still understand the characteristics of the salts the fissile material will be in solution in and how to design the core to allow efficient fission. The main concerns now are implementing already understood principles and designing extended capabilities into what is a fairly simple reactor design.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_fluoride_thorium_reactor#Reactor_primary_sy stem_design_variations

It would cost close to the same amount required to build a coal fired power plant to develop a single fluid LFTR;


According to estimates of Japanese scientists, a single fluid LFTR program could be achieved through a relatively modest investment of roughly 300-400 million dollars over 5–10 years to fund research to fill minor technical gaps and build a small reactor prototype comparable to the MSRE.

And probably between $5 to $10 billion US to build a working 2 fluid LFTR. It's almost certain that some team will have a working LFTR before the end of this decade, probably the Chinese.

To put that in perspective, around $1 trillion will be invested in coal power plant construction in the next quarter century if current plans go ahead.