Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

By Staff on Jul 5, 2010 with 60 responses

US Commits Nearly $2 Billion to Two Solar Power Companies

Abengoa Solar plans to build the largest concentrating solar plants in the world in Arizona.

Two solar energy companies are looking to expand with the help of nearly $2 billion in new financing through the US Recovery Act, President Barack Obama announced over the weekend.

During his weekly address, Obama said the Department of Energy would provide $1.45 billion in conditional commitment funds to Abengoa Solar, as well as additional funding to Abound Solar Manufacturing for three massive construction projects.

Abengoa Solar plans to build the largest concentrating solar plants in the world in Arizona. When completed, the 250-megawatt facility known as Solana is expected to provide enough clean energy to power 70,000 homes.

“After years of watching companies build things and create jobs overseas, it’s good news that we’ve attracted a company to our shores to build a plant and create jobs right here in America,” Obama said of Abengoa. “In the short term, construction will create approximately 1,600 jobs in Arizona. What’s more, over 70 per cent of the components and products used in construction will be manufactured in the USA, boosting jobs and communities in states up and down the supply chain. Once completed, this plant will be the first large-scale solar plant in the US to actually store the energy it generates for later use — even at night.”

The Solana project will be able to store up to six hours of energy by using molten salt. The strategy will allow the facility to provide power even during cloudy weather and after sunset, enabling it to help meet the summer peak demand.

Meanwhile, Obama continued, Abound Solar “will manufacture advanced solar panels at two new plants, creating more than 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs. A Colorado plant is already underway, and an Indiana plant will be built in what’s now an empty Chrysler factory. When fully operational, these plants will produce millions of state-of-the-art solar panels each year.”

While acknowledging the severe economic conditions facing many citizens, Obama said such projects can gradually help replace many of the jobs that have been lost in this recession.

“These are just two of the many clean energy investments in the Recovery Act,” he said. “Already, I’ve seen the payoff from these investments. I’ve seen once-shuttered factories humming with new workers who are building solar panels and wind turbines; rolling up their sleeves to help America win the race for the clean energy economy.”

Reproduced with permission from Greenbang.

  1. By Solar Power in Phoen on July 5, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    This just continues to prove that solar power is the wave of the future. It is only getting more accessible and more affordable every day.

    [link]      
  2. By Deaf258 on July 5, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Obama is all for destroying the environment and this is another one of his ruses. What’s wrong with putting solar farms in the city on the old & new buildings? Destroying nature to build solar plants is not environmentally sound.

    [link]      
  3. By paul-n on July 5, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Stories like this make me glad I don’t live in the US – what a waste of taxpayer money, and on a Spanish company at that!  Spain has finally come to its sense and cut of its egregious solar subsidies, but now the US is picking up where they left off.

     

    $1.45bn for a 250MW plant is $5800/kW of capacity – you can buy PVpanels now for less than $2000/kW.  Add in the capacity factor of 20% and the real costs is $29,000/kW – compared to gas turbine at $700, hydro at about $4000-7000 site dependent and nuclear at about $10,000/kW.

    Oh, and conservation/demand management, at about $500-1000/kW.  You could easily reclaim much more than 250MW for $1.45bn in spending.

    And, nothing much new will be learned from this exercise.  The technology for concentrating solar thermal has been around for decades, and is still just as uneconomic as ever.  Perhaps if they charged people in Arizona California style peak electricity rates, then it would be economic, but so too would be doing thermal management on the houses to reduce AC loads, which is what all this solar electricity would be going to.

    Yes it may create jobs, but there are many other ways to do that for $1.45bn that would have much better benefits.  

    [link]      
  4. By Kicker on July 5, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Deaf258, What is the result of any of Obama’s “ruses” – show proof. It’s too easy to spout negativity.
    Did you not read the part about the old Chrysler building? What would he get out of destroying the environment? Obama haters need to use some kind of logic and truth once in a while…

    [link]      
  5. By dbmuse on July 5, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    no way… arizona treats foreigners as criminals…
    give the project to California.

    [link]      
  6. By Tan on July 5, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Although I do agree with Paul N on the cost calculations, I think he is missing the point that

    1) His analysis is for capital costs, so does not include any consumables. Oil, gas and uranium has been projected to become increasingly expensive. Also if you factor in wastes, including CO2 production, these options become less favorable.

    2) Hydro is ecologically devastating to the river ecosystem both up and down stream. Wind energy is currently an unacceptable due to public resistance. So solar is the only alternative.

    (I’m not sure where his figures come from, but here’s a relatively recent data http://www.jcmiras.net/surge/p130.htm Solar voltaic panels are still more expensive than solar thermal)

    [link]      
  7. By dave on July 5, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    dbmuse
    5 July, 2010, 7:29 pm

    no way… arizona treats foreigners as criminals…
    give the project to California.

    Only the illegal ones. They mimic (and enforce) US law, because the US wont.

    [link]      
  8. By k2 herb on July 5, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    YAY USA for finally investing something proper into alternative energies.

    [link]      
  9. By mrdecider on July 6, 2010 at 12:58 am

    Re Paul H -
    Whether intentional or not, your analysis is misleading. Your calcs are for the entire cost to just be for the solar part – it probably also includes lots of additional infrastructure like power lines out, operator living spaces, vehicles and backup equipment, interface to the power grid, etc. The capacity factor (search wikipedia) should be way over 20% – Arizona has sun most all year, and it will work 6 hrs after sundown or 18 hrs a day. BIGGIE no fuel charges, no shipping or pipelines or cartel embargos. And include capacity charges for the other sources as well – that brings them much more even.

    [link]      
  10. By Mike on July 6, 2010 at 1:52 am

    First of all, the federal loan guanantee doesn’t cost the tax payer anything, the federal government is backing the loan not funding it. Besides, its a loan – it gets paid back and is a great investment in U.S. jobs, energy security, oh and offsets greenhouse gasses. Secondly, on the economics of the plant. The accurate construction cost comparison would be to that of a natural gas plant and pre-purchase the fuel for thirty years at a 40% capacity factor (876 GWh/yr). The gas plant will be less expensive, if you can guarantee the price of gas for 30 years. And oh, the solar plant doesn’t emit any CO2. Third, the Solana plant is built on idle alfalpha fields, not a high environmental resource but in turn the power plant will be reducing that property’s water consumpution by about 80%, oh and it will also not produce greenhouse gasses. Finally, if we put pv on roofs, which we should, the cost per kWh produced will be more than it is from the Solana plant, and we would only get power when the sun shines and we would lose that powere nearly instantaneously when a cloud passes to be backed up by what? A gas turbine, so consider that cost also. Further, we would still need CSP to supply high population centers with enough power.
    The rhetoric about one technology or another is useless. Efficiency, carbon capture, nuclear, wind, geothermal, pv and CSP all have very useful and needed roles in our energy future. It will not come for free. It will cost both financial and natural resources. But we need to invest in our energy infrastructure for the next century.

    [link]      
  11. By moiety on July 6, 2010 at 2:53 am

    mrdecider said:

    Re Paul H -

    Whether intentional or not, your analysis is misleading. Your calcs are for the entire cost to just be for the solar part – it probably also includes lots of additional infrastructure like power lines out, operator living spaces, vehicles and backup equipment, interface to the power grid, etc. The capacity factor (search wikipedia) should be way over 20% – Arizona has sun most all year, and it will work 6 hrs after sundown or 18 hrs a day. BIGGIE no fuel charges, no shipping or pipelines or cartel embargos. And include capacity charges for the other sources as well – that brings them much more even.


     

    Additional infastructure should and must bew paid by renewables. If a type of energy requires the costsa and requirements for that part should be paid for by the supplier of the energy. Coal hydro gas do not have these problems as they can gaurntee their supply at predictable times and infastructural requirements for these plants (in general low) are paid for by the plant.

     

    The capacity factor for solar is quoted is not far from reality. One reference which requires a subscription

    http://www.treehugger.com/file…..-power.php

    Back up your claim.

    [link]      
  12. By Bennie Gant on July 6, 2010 at 3:41 am

    Solar Energy Disadvantages:
    The initial cost is the main disadvantage of installing a solar energy system, largely because of the high cost of the semi-conducting materials used in building one.
    The cost of solar energy is also high compared to non-renewable utility-supplied electricity. As energy shortages are becoming more common, solar energy is becoming more price-competitive.
    Solar panels require quite a large area for installation to achieve a good level of efficiency.

    The efficiency of the system also relies on the location of the sun, although this problem can be overcome with the installation of certain components.
    The production of solar energy is influenced by the presence of clouds or pollution in the air.
    Similarly, no solar energy will be produced during nighttime although a battery backup system and/or net metering will solve this problem. See http://www.dsireusa.org for details on how net metering allows you to save electricity and money.
    As far as solar powered cars go – their slower speed might not appeal to everyone caught up in today’s rat race.

    Solar Energy Advantages
    Saves you money
    After the initial investment has been recovered, the energy from the sun is practically FREE.
    The recovery/ payback period for this investment can be very short depending on how much electricity your household uses.
    Financial incentives are available form the government that will reduce your cost. (visit http://www.dsireusa.org to find out about incentives available in the state you live in!).
    If your system produces more energy than you use, your utility company can buy it from you, building up a credit on your account! This nifty little scheme is called “net-metering”.

    It will save you money on your electricity bill if you have one at all.
    Solar energy does not require any fuel.
    It’s not affected by the supply and demand of fuel and is therefore not subjected to the ever-increasing price of gasoline.
    The savings are immediate and for many years to come.
    The use of solar energy indirectly reduces health costs.
    Environmentally friendly
    Solar Energy is clean, renewable (unlike gas, oil and coal) and sustainable, helping to protect our environment.
    It does not pollute our air by releasing carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide or mercury into the atmosphere like many traditional forms of electrical generation does.
    Therefore Solar Energy does not contribute to global warming, acid rain or smog.
    It actively contributes to the decrease of harmful green house gas emissions.
    It’s generated where it is needed.
    By not using any fuel, Solar Energy does not contribute to the cost and problems of the recovery and transportation of fuel or the storage of radioactive waste.
    Independent/ semi-independent
    Solar Energy can be utilized to offset utility-supplied energy consumption. It does not only reduce your electricity bill, but will also continue to supply your home/ business with electricity in the event of a power outage.
    A Solar Energy system can operate entirely independently, not requiring a connection to a power or gas grid at all. Systems can therefore be installed in remote locations (like holiday log cabins), making it more practical and cost-effective than the supply of utility electricity to a new site.
    The use of Solar Energy reduces our dependence on foreign and/or centralized sources of energy, influenced by natural disasters or international events and so contributes to a sustainable future.
    Solar Energy supports local job and wealth creation, fuelling local economies.
    Low/ no maintenance

    Solar Energy systems are virtually maintenance free and will last for decades.
    Once installed, there are no recurring costs.
    They operate silently, have no moving parts, do not release offensive smells and do not require you to add any fuel.
    More solar panels can easily be added in the future when your family’s needs grow.

    [link]      
  13. By Stephen I. on July 6, 2010 at 5:06 am

    It’s not a waste of taxpayer money. And for god’s sakes, would you people stop acting like every little dime the government spends is a waste? This is a good investment in the FUTURE. Something most Republicans don’t like, because as we’ve seen, the Grand Old Party is nothing more than the Grand Old Past. The idea that the future can’t be full of hope and promise and that we should continue going down the road of big oil and coal. Well, most Americans aren’t that stupid. At least, I hope they aren’t.

    [link]      
  14. By Kit P on July 6, 2010 at 7:47 am

    “It’s not a waste of taxpayer money.”

     

    Stephens brings up a good point.  What is a waste of tax dollars or rate payers’ money?

     

    The idea here is to make electricity.  If something does not work for its intended purpose, then it is a waste of money.  

     

    For example, Bennie G writes;

    “Solar Energy systems are virtually maintenance free and will last for decades.

    Once installed, there are no recurring costs.”

     

    Of course this is not true.

     

    As a Republican, I would like to see the spreadsheet that shows something is “a good investment in the FUTURE”.  

     

    If you take a poll of coal miners in West Virginia you will find the majority of are registered as Democrats.  At the power plants I have worked, there appears to be a diverse set of political opinions. 

     

    “Well, most Americans aren’t that stupid. At least, I hope they aren’t.”

     

    There are many good reasons why electricity is made the way it is.  The mix of solar is small only because it does not work very well.  It is not for a lack of trying.  I am not against trying because trying might not be a waste of tax dollars this time. 

    [link]      
  15. By TD on July 6, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    So a million dollars spent per permanent new job created. NOW THAT’S STIMULUS!

    no way… arizona treats foreigners as criminals…
    give the project to California.

    DBMuse, you have to be joking. Foreigners illegally in this country ARE criminals. Foreigners legally in the country aren’t affected by the new Arizona legislation.

    [link]      
  16. By paul-n on July 6, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    @Bennie G – did you even read the original post?  This is about a utility scale concentrating thermal plant, with steam turbine and molten salt heat storage, yet you have block quoted a standard blurb about solar pv’s, including things like;  ”depending on how much electricity your household uses” and “have no moving parts.”

     

    If you are going to take part in the discussions here, then actually discuss the topic at hand, do not just give a form response and a blatant plug for your website.

     

    For once I (sort of) agree with Kit, in that if something does not achieve its purpose, then it is a waste of money.  However, even if this project does achieve its purpose (250MW), it still looks like a waste of money.  If the system was such a sure bet as Abengoa would have us believe, no loan guarantees would be required, investors would back it.

     

    Down the road in Tempe, Arizona is First Solar, the world’s largest maker of thin film panels, who now (claim) to have their production cost down to $810/kW.  Of course, there are still all the balance of system costs, which are not trivial, but are certainly cheaper than this project.

     

    @ mr decider – in this case, the capacity factor is being increased by using the storage, but that does not increase the net energy gain, it merely takes the same energy and spreads it out, while losing some along the way.    The capacity factor of the collectors will be about 20-25%, the turbine will have a lower capacity, since part of the heat is being diverted to storage, so you have smaller capacity and higher factor for the turbine itself.  

    I think that developing storage is a good thing, but what this project seems to show is that it is too expensive to be worthwhile.  I think they should be doing more r&d to develop other ideas and pr get their costs down before committing to more large scale projects.  Large scale CSP’s demonstration projects have been developed since the 70′s and none of them are commercially viable today, including this one.  

    The only way it is viable, is if electricity prices rise enough to make it so – but you won’t hear Abengoa, or the solar thermal industry in general, admitting that.

    [link]      
  17. By Gene @ Diy Solar on July 6, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    It is important for countries, such as the United States, to move away from the dependency on foreign oil and to use green energy resources that are readily available. No one can deny the sun isn’t a steady resource.

    [link]      
  18. By Thomas on July 6, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Paul: NREL claims up to 70% capacity factor with CSP salt storage.
    http://www.nrel.gov/csp/trough…..orage.html

    The 17MW SolarTres in Spain claims to have an annual capacity factor of 74%:
    http://www.nrel.gov/csp/trough…..r_tres.pdf

    If this can be accomplished on the 250 MW scale it would be huge. Its probably worth the loan guarantee to find out.

    Below is a chart of power densities for renewable sources of energy from the book Withoutthehotair. These densities take into account the capacity factor and assume that the plants are placed in ideal locations. Abengoa claims they’re 250 MW plant in AZ will be 1900 acres. That’s ~32.5 w/m2. That would be an almost 117% improvement in output over no storage CSP. Seems optimistic, but if you can almost triple the capacity factor….

    Power per unit land or water area

    Wind 2W/m2
    Offshore wind 3W/m2
    Tidal pools 3W/m2
    Tidal stream 6W/m2
    Solar PV panels 5-20W/m2
    Plants 0.5W/m2
    Rain-water(highlands) 0.24W/m2
    Hydroelectric facility 11W/m2
    Solar chimney 0.1W/m2
    Concentrating solar
    power (desert, no storage) 15W/m2
    ——————————————-
    Abengoa AZ CSP plant
    (molten Salt storage) 32.5 W/m2 ????????

    It should also be noted the space requirements for any of these technologies, keeping in mind that the average American uses the energy equivalent of 250 Kw*h/day. Too bad Northern Mexico isn’t in better geopolitical shape because CSP power plants could use that cheap labor in those deserts. We could import power across the border instead of labor and drugs.

    New Power Plant Mix : 60% Nuclear, 20% NG, 20% CSP, 10% Wind, Export coal to China.

    [link]      
  19. By thomas on July 6, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Paul N said:

    ” in this case, the capacity factor is being increased by using the storage, but that does not increase the net energy gain, it merely takes the same energy and spreads it out, while losing some along the way.    The capacity factor of the collectors will be about 20-25%, the turbine will have a lower capacity, since part of the heat is being diverted to storage, so you have smaller capacity and higher factor for the turbine itself.  “


     

    Paul  I think we need to define capacity factor.    If I have a 50 MW nameplate plant with a capacity factor of 10% than my average power output is 5 MW.  If I add a storage capacity and  my capacity factor increases  increases to 50% then my average out put is 25 MW.  

    There is an energy cost to these heat storage mechanisms but they pay dividends as shown by the data.

    http://www.nrel.gov/csp/trough….._final.pdf

     

    As for subsidies ALL energy is subsidized by the government.  Coal, Nuclear, Natural Gas, Wind, Solar ALL.  Obama has guaranteed 8 billion for nuclear power in GA that will create 800 permanent jobs.  So from the $/job perspective on that project is even more “wasteful”.  I’m sure that 8 billion in loan guarantees only covers the consturction costs of the plant.  The decomissioning and waste disposal subsidies for theses plants will add more cost.   If nuclear energy is so compelling why can’t all the money be raised privately? Despite this no one is saying that Nuclear is a “bad technology”.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/…..99046.html

    The fact that the nation’s second largest industrial waste stream,coal ash, has no federal oversight is a huge subsidy for coal power.  What if radioactive coal ash had to be disposed of like low level nuclear waste? $.025/kwh power.

     If you don’t like solar that’s fine but don’t act as if it receiving unparralled favoritism. But let’s “stick to the data”.  People like socialized energy and its here to stay. 

     

     

    [link]      
  20. By paul-n on July 7, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Thomas, yes, it is all subsidised in different ways, and they are all wrong.  BUt each new one (subsidy) just perpetuates the situation, steers things further from reality, and wastes increasingly scarce capital.

    But governments do that all the time.

     

    As for capacity factor, in this case, we have to different capacities, that of the collectors, and that of the turbine.  The capacity factor of the collectors sets the maximum amount of energy that can be collected, and it will be about 25% of the collector “nameplate”.  By installing a smaller turbine, and using storage you can have a higher capacity factor for said turbine, but you can;t produce any more energy than what is collected by the panels.

    In the limiting case, you store enough for the turbine to be considered baseload, though I don;t think this project at that stage.

    Ultimately, what matters is how much energy you are producing, and when, with what predictability/reliability, and how much it costs to produce it.  In this context the “collector capacity” is irrelevant, it is only the turbine that matters.  The collector capacity appears as a different concern, that of cost, and it would seem that the cost of something, or everything, in this project is very high.

    Of course, when you can have the government backstop your risk that is fine, otherwise you would have to find a way to do it cheaper, or admit that it is not economic.

     

    As for coal ash, I see no reason why it cannot be put back into spent coal mines, from whence it came – that would not make it 25c/kWh, though there is nothing wrong with electricity being at that price.  But agreed that no one should get a free ride on disposal etc.

     

    Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that it is politically unpopular to do anything that results in higher energy prices.  So coal will continue to get a free pass on ash disposal etc, nuclear will continue to get is subsidies, as will solar and wind.  Everyone is paying higher taxes (or suffereing greater deficits) for all of this, but it seems the American people, at large, would prefer this than higher energy prices, so they get what they want.  

    I just think it is not an (economically)  sustainable approach, but that seems to be of little consequence to any government, present or past.

    [link]      
  21. By Kit P on July 8, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    “There is an energy cost
    to these heat storage mechanisms but they pay dividends as shown by
    the data.”

     

    Sorry Thomas but the link
    you provided does not support your statements.

     

    So far the only viable way
    to use solar thermal to make electricity is adding fossil fuels to
    generate heat when the sun is not providing heat.

     

    I must conclude from all the
    studies that I have read that solar thermal generating stations are
    just inefficient gas fired power plants.

    [link]      
  22. By paul-n on July 9, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Thomas said;

    Abengoa claims they’re 250 MW plant in AZ will be 1900 acres. That’s ~32.5 w/m2. That would be an almost 117% improvement in output over no storage CSP. Seems optimistic, but if you can almost triple the capacity factor….

    There is something not quite right with this statement.

    First of all, lets look at the area.  1900 acres equals 7,700,000 sq.m.  At a peak solar insolation of 1kW/sq.m, that is a gross power of 7700 MW.  The average solar insolation for arizona is 6 kWh/sq.m/day or roughly 6 hours of full power sunshine, and gross energy of 46,000MWh/day .  

    The turbine will put out 250MW, and the storage system will take part of heat energy and allow the turbine system to operate for an extra 6 hours, for a total of 12hours at 250MW, which is 3000MWh/day.

    Now, if it was not diverting heat to storage, it would be putting it all into power output, so we would have 6 hours at 500MW (for same 3000MWh).  So by adding storage we have spread the energy out over 12 hours instead of 6 – thus we have doubled (not tripled) the capacity factor, and the peak power is halved,.

    Finally, 3000MWh of output from 46,000 received, is a net electrical efficiency of 6.5%, worse than even the cheapest solar panel – not that land use efficiency is a really big deal in Arizona.

    And, 3000MWh, at $0.1/kWh is an annual income of $109m, so it will take more than 20yrs to pay off the capital, and that is  not including the operating costs, hardly a great investment.

    So this may be the biggest CSP + storage project yet done, but it is hardly a great leap forward in solar efficiency, or in cost.  It seems that it is just scaling up the smaller plants, which are already known to be technically successful but uneconomic, into a bigger one, which will be technically successful, and equally uneconomic.  The only efficiency gained here is that bigger CSP+storage plants are more efficient at wasting money

    [link]      
  23. By Thomas on July 9, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Agreed that 32.5 w/m2 is too high.  I assumed 100% capacity instead of 70%.  At 70% capacity factor on 250 MW nameplate I get ~23 w/m2.   I’ll look at your numbers after lunch.

    Paul N said:

    As for capacity factor, in this case, we have to different capacities, that of the collectors, and that of the turbine.  The capacity factor of the collectors sets the maximum amount of energy that can be collected, and it will be about 25% of the collector “nameplate”. 


     

    Disagree.   The chief limit on capacity for any power plant is the availability of its “fuel”.  No matter how advanced the underlying technology without this fuel its capacity factor and its power output is zero.

    Another thing to remember is that engineering constraints cause there to be an optimal operation range–a “sweet spot”.  In any kind of Rankine Cycle this range is an optimal temperature zone.  When the steam’s temperature is below the sweet spot the cycle becomes less efficient eventually leading to no output.  Same goes for high operating temperatures.  Excess heat has to be released somehow, damages equipment and eventually the plant “melts down”.  The primary concern of a conventional plant manager is to keep the plant operating in the “sweet spot”. This maximizes the plants capacity.

    In the case of CSP its fuel is solar radiation.  We agree that the solar radiation in the AZ desert can only keep a CSP in the operating zone 25% of the time.  The other 75% the operating temperature, ~400-500 C, cannot be maintained and the plant has very little output.

    In a CSP with no storage there are many times of day when some solar radiation is avaialble but not enough to meet the  cycle requirements. This energy cannot be used and is a wash. Storage shifts energy usage to these times to prevent this available energy from being wasted.

    In practice a CSP with storage starts production later in the day while its storage tank “heats up”. After this startup cost has been paid, the plant can react to intermittent changes in  available “fuel supply”. When a patch of clouds passes over, instead of plant production dropping drastically energy is drawn from storage.  If it’s clear all day, the tank is drained as solar radiation levels drop.

    We agree that no more energy is being collected.  Energy usage is being shifted around to “keep the pot boiling” for as long as possible.

    A plant has a 50 MW of turbine nameplate that operates optimally 4 hours a day. Its total output is 200MWh.  If optimal hours are increased to 6.8 then I only need 30MW of  nameplate to make the same amount of power.  My $/Kw has dropped if cost of storage system < cost of 20 MW of turbine capacity. This gives engineers another path to decrease the cost of renewable power.

    We won’t know how this project turns out for five years, but this  is the most promising renewable energy technology.

     

     



    [link]      
  24. By Kit P on July 9, 2010 at 11:49 am

    “which are already known
    to be technically successful but uneconomic”

     

    What do you consider
    technically successful?

    Even by the incredible low
    standards of the solar industry they do not work very well. It is
    simple. How much electricity to you say you are going to make
    compared to how much you actually make.

     

    I have only read about one
    type solar thermal plant that has a decent availability factor. It
    is achieved by burning natural gas. In reality ‘successful’ solar
    thermal plant are really inefficient gas peaking plants.

     

    Furthermore, solar has huge
    environmental impact compared to the amount of electricity produced.

    [link]      
  25. By Thomas on July 9, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Kit:

    “ASSESSMENT OF A MOLTEN SALT HEAT TRANSFER FLUID

    IN A PARABOLIC TROUGH SOLAR FIELD” (2002):

    “Assuming a 2-tank storage system and a maximum operation temperature of 450°C, the evaluation showed that the levelized electricity cost can be reduced by 14.2% compared to a state-of-the-art parabolic trough plant, such as the SEGS plants in California. ”

    Are you refuting that heat storage does not lower the cost of CSP electricity? Are you refuting that heat storage does not increase the capacity of a CSP? If so what are you basing this on? Do you have a study to site, your own calculations?

    Yes natural gas is used to keep the molten salt above freezing overnight. NG can also be used as backup power source for extended cloudy periods. By your logic hybrid cars are an expensive way to use less gasoline. That technology has turned out to be pretty successful.

    In this study that you’ve read but don’t cite did they say how much NG was used? Same study:

    “According to the results of annual performance calculation the annual fuel consumption for freeze protection will be about 2 million m³ of Natural Gas for a 55 MW plant with molten salt as HTF. Assuming a gas price of $0.081/m³, freeze protection will cost $162,000 per year. This is small compared to the normal total O&M cost.”

    See “Life Cycle Assessment of a High Temperature Molten Salt Concentrated Solar Power Plant” (2010) for the enviromental impacts of CSP compared to other energy sources MW to MW, or not. I’m not going to go line by line through this stuff.

    If you have something to add other than “this is a waste” platitudes, let talk.

    [link]      
  26. By Kit P on July 9, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    “Are you refuting that heat storage does not lower the cost of CSP electricity?”

     

    No, I am saying the link you provided does not support your statements.  Since the reports have different titles maybe you make a mistake in posting a link.  I did show you the curtsey of reading what you linked.

     

    Thomas you need to be careful in your reading.  Words like ‘can’, ‘could’, ‘should’, ‘might’, and ‘maybe’ have a different than the word ‘does’. 

     

    For example, in a given year coal ‘does’ provide 50% and nuclear 20%.  We can therefore benchmark actual performance with predicted performance.  If LCA studies show that solar is emits 100 times less than a coal plant but the solar plants runs so poorly that it is 1000 below predicted performance, the solar plant is 10 times worse than coal.

     

    I think we should build solar thermal power plants to make electricity.  I am not very hopeful that they will ever produce much electricity. 

     

    Think of solar as the sexy teen in a scanty swim suit at the beach.  Nothing technical precludes that teen from being the world’s greatest grandmother 50 years from now.  However, so far every solar plant has turned out like the starlet on drugs.  What a waste!  It may be sad but it is not a platitude.  Good performance of a power plant is very easy to document.  

    [link]      
  27. By Thomas on July 9, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    Agreed that if you covered 1900 acres with advanced PV you could produce more energy on a perfect day.  The best PV cells are more efficient at energy conversion than some old coal power plants.  However PV is far more expensive per meter than a parabolic trough. Much more weather sensitive as well.

     

    “Now, if it was not diverting heat to storage, it would be putting it all into power output, so we would have 6 hours at 500MW (for same 3000MWh).  So by adding storage we have spread the energy out over 12 hours instead of 6 – thus we have doubled (not tripled) the capacity factor, and the peak power is halved,.”

     

    The plant operator chooses the production-storage ratio. On a good day, he/she can peak whenever they want to.  Lets say the 6 hours of operation are 10:00 -16:00.  The manager at your plant can decide to go 100% storage from 10:00-14:00 .  Then operate at 500 MW from 14:00-20:00.  Thats big for a renewable. I said almost tripled by going from 25% with out storage to 70%  with.  

    “The only efficiency gained here is that bigger CSP+storage plants are more efficient at wasting money.”

    The economies of scale will help with the steam turbine side of the CSP plant just like it does for NG or coal.  The turbine doesn’t care how the steam got to 500 C or have we entered into some new paradigm?

    We both agree that $.10/kwh is heavily subsidized and does not reflect real costs, however you use that as the measuring stick for economic viability.  NONE of our energy options are viable at .10/kwh. Cut off big coal and gas subsidies and that $.10/kwh will rise.

    My main point is that CSP capacity can be extended with storage thus lowering its $/kw which are still above non-renewables. 

    [link]      
  28. By thomas on July 10, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    No, I am saying the link you provided does not support your statements. 


     

    Kit: Again which of my  statements do you disagree with? 

     

     

    [link]      
  29. By Kit P on July 10, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Thomas here is the specific
    place where your link does not support your statements:

     

    “There is an energy cost
    to these heat storage mechanisms but they pay dividends as shown by
    the data.

    http://www.nrel.gov/csp/trough….._final.pdf”

    [link]      
  30. By thomas on July 10, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    Kit: I did look at this study it’s primarily focused on testing new storage system technology by simulating 30 years of normal operation.  It does bring up some technical challenges associated with molten salt storage and advocates for further research.  I couldn’t find where it made any numerical claims on the effect of molten salt storage on $/kw or capacity factor.   It refers you to other papers that focus on the economics.  But we can agree to disagree.

    [link]      
  31. By paul-n on July 11, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    My main point is that CSP capacity can be extended with storage thus lowering its $/kw which are still above non-renewables.

    Thomas, I have to fundamentally diagree with this statement as written, though I think i can see what what your intent is.

    If the facility is built such that the turbine can handle 100% of collector output, and then you add storage, this MUST increase the cost, as the storage facility is not free.  You still can only produce X kWh per day, just spread out over a longer period

    However, by using storage to produce electricity during evening peak periods, we  (may) be able to increase the VALUE of the electricity produced.

    This is not the same as lowering the cost, it is being able to sell at higher demand (and price) periods to recover the additional cost.  It may make the CSP plant more economical (i.e. pay itself off faster), but that is purely because of a better revenue stream, not lower cost.

    But, given the record of CSP plants, and the costs and output of this one, I don’t see it paying itself off, ever, unless it is getting subsidised by above market electricity rates.

    [link]      
  32. By Kit P on July 11, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    “I couldn’t find where it
    made any numerical claims ..”

     

    What do
    you call this?

     

    “they pay dividends ..”

    [link]      
  33. By Kit P on July 11, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    There
    is something that Thomas does not understand and maybe Paul too.
    Steam plants to not like sudden temperature changes since it cause
    large thermal stresses on mechanical components. The oil fired WWII
    tin can and the nuclear cruisers I operated were very similar in the
    engine room. It does not matter where the heat comes from but we
    would not cool down the plant at night unless we were going to be in
    port for several days. If we were getting underway the next day, it
    would take us 12 hours to heat up the steam plant.

     

    There
    are very strict code requirements for safety related piping at nuke
    plants but all US power plants are designed to code to protect
    workers.

     

    So on
    one hand thermal storage would reduce the thermal loading of large
    mechanical components.

     

    However,
    storing massive amounts of energy is very dangerous. Nuke plants
    have containment buildings to protect the public in case of a failure
    of safety related piping of which there have been no failures in US
    plants.

     

    Over
    the years, steam piping has failed often killing workers. It has
    happened nuke plants, coal plants, and even at solar thermal plants.
    If we can protect workers and the public from a small, relatively
    harmless amount of radiation, why can we not protect workers from a
    steam explosions?

     

    The
    answer is we do. If you look at the history of ASME codes, workers
    injuries of steam explosions of almost no existent these days. The
    first problems at nuke plants were not seen for 10 years. Lesson
    were quickly learned and we have not had a related fatality for 20
    years. The Japanese being smarter did not learn the lesson and
    killed workers about 15 years ago.

     

    Storing
    massive amounts of energy is new at steam plants. I have read some
    design report for a plant in Spain but they have not yet provided
    operational data. What can go wrong is scary but they have designed
    for it.

     

    If a
    spring in a old record player on a small compressed gas bottle can
    destroy a room, what will happen with large amounts so stored energy.
    I tried explaining this to some young engineers in Spain. The
    precautions I suggested would take 4 hours. I was called back to the
    plant in the middle of the night. The piece of metal shot that shot
    passed their heads destroyed another hefty piece 100 yards away.
    What were those precautions again?

     

    So what
    have we learned about concentrated thermal. It is shiny and makes
    nice photo ops for the the president. The data suggest that it is a
    very poor way to make electricity. It has higher environmental
    impact than coal. Studies show that it could be better but history
    does not support studies. Find me the solar steam plant operator
    bragging to another steam plant operator.

     

    The
    experience with geothermal steam plants in California has been much
    better. It works and make a lot of electricity. Old geothermal
    steam plants in California may have higher environmental impact than
    the same vintage of coal plant. New geothermal steam plants I think
    are better.

    [link]      
  34. By Kit P on July 11, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    For those who need a pretty picture to
    understand why solar is a waste of resources check out this graph.

     

    “Renewables Watch provides important
    information about actual renewable production within the ISO grid as
    California moves toward a 33 percent renewable generation portfolio.”

    http://www.caiso.com/green/ren…..sWatch.pdf

     

    [link]      
  35. By thomas on July 11, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Kit P said:

    “I couldn’t find where it

    made any numerical claims ..”

     

    What do

    you call this?

     

    “they pay dividends ..”


     

    Your study did not talk about economics or capacity.  The studies I cited did. They said that the levelized cost of the electricity produced can be
    lowered by storage. 

    I’m not sure where you’re going with steam explosions since we’re talking about molten salt storage.  No steam is created in the storage process.  Energy is transferred from the molten salt to steam when energy is being produced.    Do you have any reports of injuries or deaths from molten salt storage tank explosions? One of the reasons molten salt is used because its much less reactive than water.

     

    “It has higher environmental impact than coal.”

    Can you cite this?

    Paul: Remeber I said you can dispatch the power as well as compensate for short term losses in fuel.   This is done by reducing the number of plant
    shutdowns caused by brief periods of daytime cloudiness. In other words
    the plants operating capacity can be increased.  Plant shutdowns increase maitenance costs on the equipment.    Higher capacity and
    lower maintenance costs yields lower $/kw.   Dispatchability improves revenues on good weather days.  I’m echoing studies that I’ve cited and others but we can agree to disagree. 

    I’ve never made any claims of the “payoff potential” of the technology. 

    [link]      
  36. By thomas on July 11, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    This is from the study cited by Kit:

    “Fields of parabolic troughs alone are only able to economically generate power when the fuel resource – sunlight – is available during the day and when cloud cover and atmospheric haze cover are minimal. At other times, the plant must be placed in a standby or shutdown condition, decreasing capacity factor and reducing overall energy output relative to other power supply technologies (based on coal or natural gas for instance) which are not so constrained.

    Depending on solar field and storage system sizing and optimization, thermal energy storage can potentially remove most or all of this constraint, expanding the time frames when power can be supplied (on cloudy days and evenings and nights).”

    If  the value of this “cloudy electricy”  produced over the lifetime of the plant is greater than the salt storage installation and O&M then, storage lowers the $/kw of the plant.  As I’ve said no new energy is being produced but gaps in fuel supply are filled. This keeps the plant online longer on “partly cloudy” days.   

     

    [link]      
  37. By Kit P on July 11, 2010 at 8:21 pm

     

    “Your study did not talk
    about economics or capacity.  The studies I cited did.”

     

    I did not cite a study and
    your study did not. Like I said, I think you made a mistake in your
    links. Until go back and provide links that say what you said the
    said, I can not read them.

     

    “This is from the study
    cited by Kit:”

     

    No Thomas, that link was a
    quote from what you wrote. Do you remember now?

    [link]      
  38. By thomas on July 11, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Ok, so the link didnt work? Misunderstood you.  Your link worked for me obviously.  

    Here’s the best study I’ve dealing with the economics. It looks at different solar field, turbine, and rankine cycle
    configurations and minimizes for Levelized Energy Cost ($/kwh) for a 50
    MW plant.     They do claim that the capacity factor is above 50% and that
    molten salt storage lowers the plants $/kwh.  Which ranged from
    $.13/kwh without storage to  $.105/kwh with storage (including the cost
    of storage).  Still expensive but its possible to dispatch it as well.

    See if either of these links work.

    Embedded link:

    Thermal Storage Commercial Plant Design Study for a 2-Tank Indirect Molten Salt System

    Actual link:

    http://www.nrel.gov/csp/trough…../40166.pdf

     

     

     

    [link]      
  39. By paul-n on July 12, 2010 at 12:37 am

    Thomas,

     

    Just posted some information on the thread about RR’s radio interview, which is appropriate to mention here.  See if you can spot a better opportunity for this project than where they are currently doing it..

    In Hawaii;

    • 75% of their electricity comes from oil fired generation
    • The average selling price is $0.26/kWh (highest in US)
    • Part of the Big Island has an annual solar insolation of 6kWh/sq.m/day, similar to Arizona

    If they did the project here, it would be profitable without any subsidy, and would lower the local electricity costs, rather than increasing them.  And, there is the additional bonus that it would reduce national crude  oil imports.

    Now, I’m not sure why neither Abengoa or the Federal Gov (or the Hawaii government) looked at this, but is sure seems to deliver more benefits for the dollar than in  Arizona, where it will be the most expensive electricity produced, and will not save one drop of oil.

    If the objective is to demonstrate commercial viability, it would seem make sense to do it in the place where it will make the most money.

    [link]      
  40. By Thomas on July 12, 2010 at 11:56 am

    If you could get the land cheap…parabolic troughs aren’t as picturesque as pineapple plantations.  I’d be worried about volcanic ash on that optical equipment too.

    [link]      
  41. By paul-n on July 12, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Southwest corner of the Big Island, on the lower slopes of Mauna Loa, looks like a dry, barren area at the base of Mauna Loa (from Google Earth).

    Check out the renewable energy map at http://www.eia.doe.gov/state/s…..cfm?sid=HI

    When all you electricity is imported oil, this sort thing IS a good idea.

    [link]      
  42. By Kit P on July 12, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Thomas thanks your link finally worked.

     

    In general the way to reduce generating cost of high capital cost, low fuel cost projects is to increase CF and extend plant life.  Storage may be a practical way to do this or it may not.

     

    I am not too worried about the cost of solar.  PaulN needs to be reminded that selling price of electricity is only partially the result of generating costs.  People like to complain about the cost of electricity but the benefit far out weighs the cost.

     

    The solar industry has to make designs work.  It is not enough to just interesting.

     

    I like to find the reasons for doing things.  A farm COOP announced a second ethanol plant.  I went to their web site and found the first one was running beyond expectations.  In Finland, the electric utility ordered a new nuke.  Since no new nukes had been built in Europe in many years, I wondered why.  The two nukes the utility ran were running beyond expectations.

     

    The reason to build solar is because people who do not make electricity think it is a good idea.  I know of no one who makes electricity thinks solar is a good idea.  Mandate solar and we will try to make it work.

    [link]      
  43. By paul-n on July 12, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Kit, you can consider me now reminded.  That is, after all, why peak period electricity sells for much more than off peak, even though it costs about the same to make (except for GT).  And yes, electricity IS cheap, for all the benefits it gives.  Cheap even at twice or five times the price, I still would not give it up, and neither would most people (though they may use less, if they are not in California)

     The solar industry has to make designs work.  It is not enough to just interesting.

    Quite so, they have done plenty on being interesting, sexy even, and now it is time to come up with the goods.

    I actually like the approach of First Solar.  Instead of being obsessed with getting the highest efficiency out of silicon PV’s, they have been obsessed with getting the cost of production down.  Their Cd-Te panels are only half the efficiency of silicon ones, but a quarter of the cost, and still heading south.  That is why they are being used for most utility scale PV installations – they are not sexy but they do work and produce the same for much less cost.  

     

    I still don;t understand why Hawaii is not pushing harder for these.  Solar has always been competitive with diesel fired generation (“remote, off grid locations”) and that is what they have.

    Mandate solar there and I am sure they will make it work.

    [link]      
  44. By Kit P on July 12, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    “ That is, after all,

     

    Sorry Paul more often than
    not the ‘why’ is more complex than can be explained by generalities.
    My electricity is cheaper because my utility is well managed working
    with other utilities and state PUCs top keep the rates low. It is
    always generating cheap electricity and sometimes it gets to sell at
    market rates to utilities that are not as well managed.

     

    “I still don;t understand
    why Hawaii is not pushing harder for these.”

     

    Who cares? I started to
    explain in my last post but edited it out because I do not know much
    about making electricity in Hawaii. First off I suspect your
    assumptions about the economics of solar are wrong. For all
    practical purposes solar does not work.

     

    The CEO of the world leader
    for making electricity with solar for years tried to explain why
    solar is was not a good idea in a tropical climates. Now they are
    building the ‘world’s largest’ solar in a tropical climate. Why? I
    am not sure but I suspect it has something to do with the nuke plant
    they are planning. Nothing demonstrates failure like failure. Take
    a reasonable person on a tour of a 40 year old nuke plant and the
    newest ‘world’s largest’ solar and they will figure out why a new
    nuke is needed.

     

    Paul you are trying to use
    logic to explain sex appeal. I can provide a link to the ‘world’s
    largest’ solar PV but if you read the annual report for the utility
    you would notice how much more electricity is produced by their
    landfill gas plant at a much lower cost. LFG and dairy farm manure
    project have huge positive environment impact but rotting garbage and
    cow manure have less than zero sex appeal.

    [link]      
  45. By woot on July 14, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Kit P: I disagree. Rotting garbage and cow manure high as VERY high sex appeal.

    [link]      
  46. By Kit P on July 14, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Woot you might me right and
    maybe my perceptions is out of date. In a campaign add, out local
    congressman is seen stepping in it at a dairy farm while taking about
    bringing renewable energy jobs to the area.

    [link]      
  47. By paul-n on July 15, 2010 at 2:33 am

    “logic to explain sex appeal”

    That is quite funny, and you are right, you can’t explain these political decisions by logic, frustrating as that is.  As you have said before, sometimes you have to say so what.

     

    Having bad decisions made is not the end of the world, as long as they are outweighed by the good ones, but I don’t see that happening at present, and certainly not in renewable energy.

    Which is too bad, because then all renewable energy gets painted as a bad decision.

     

    As long as there are people and cows there will be sludge to make energy and fertiliser, it’s the most reliable renewable source there is, and probably one of the lesser used ones.

    [link]      
  48. By Kit P on July 15, 2010 at 9:30 am

    I have heard several
    presentation on how to deal with the media on environmental issues.
    The first one was after the the nuke plant I worked at in California
    closed. What I learned was that the editorial stance of the paper
    was based on selling newspapers. Outrageous fear mongering about the
    nuke plant and Pollyanna stories about solar were good for business.

     

    The second presentation was
    at a biosolids (aka, sewage sludge) conference. At the time, I was
    working on my masters in environmental engineering as part of working
    on cleanup of DOE super fund sites and the spent nuclear fuel
    repository. Eastern Washington State had lots of large dairy farms
    and my company has decided it was a renewable energy opportunity.

     

    There I sit on the first day
    of the conference with my boss and another engineer. I was very
    excited about the prospect of getting out of nuclear power. I could
    finally make my big sister in California proud. She had no problem
    explaining one other brother who was a rehabilitated drug addict with
    a criminal record but how could see explain to her friends a brother
    that worked at a nuke plant.

     

    What did I learn. The
    keynote speaker was a well known journalist who had almost destroyed
    his career by digging a little deeper and writing that there was no
    scientific merit to the hot environmental crisis at the time. It
    does not matter how good a job you do protecting the environment do
    not expect the news media to tell your story fairly.

     

    So we all know about the
    ‘environment’ organizations that are against nukes and coal power
    plants. They love renewable energy in general but try to build one.
    It will just as hard to build that big solar plant as a new nuke
    plant. There will be some disease carrying vermin that will be given
    a cute name like ‘kangaroo mouse’ so that they can raise money to
    protect them from ‘big’ solar. Energy projects are always tied up in
    court. Then they claim it takes too long to build.

    [link]      
  49. By Thomas on July 15, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Agreed,

    People have to realize that energy always comes at cost.  If they say the environmental costs of one is too high you have to be willing to embrace the costs of others.  Personally I think we should gradually switch from coal to nuclear baseload. 

    [link]      
  50. By paul-n on July 15, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    There will be some disease carrying vermin that will be given
    a cute name like ‘kangaroo mouse’ so that they can raise money to
    protect them from ‘big’ solar. Energy projects are always tied up in
    court. Then they claim it takes too long to build.

    Last year while I was in Bakersfield I read story about a wind developer who had experienced just this in California, would take 3 years and many lawyers to get thought he process, and may still fail.  So they picked up their project and went to Texas, took 4 months to get approvals and they are off and running.

    It is little wonder that California’s economy is cratering, as they make it impossible to do anything there, except lawsuits. I guess lawsuits in themselves have minimal environmental impact, so they flourish in California, but they do more harm than good, and eventually, they will run out of money to pay the lawyers.

    No doubt that the media is in the business of selling papers, or gathering viewers, just as politicians are in the business of athering votes.  None of these necessarily make for good engineering decisions.

     

    They love renewable energy in general but try to build one.

    And they only way they seem to be able to build them, is with huge subsidies.  If people are willing to pay the true cost, then they can have what they want.  Everyone seems to want it, but to have someone else pay the true cost.

    As I have quoted him before, the physicist Richard Feynman said “in introducing any new technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled” 

     

    [link]      
  51. By Kit P on July 15, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    Thomas not to worry, nukes
    will slowly replace coal. The O&M cost of nukes is trending down
    while the cost of coal is trending up. New nukes are very expensive
    because they are built to last 60 years.

     

    PaulN let me remind you
    that that the electricity generating industry is strictly regulated
    in the US so talking about thing being subsidized is just kind of
    silly.

     

    In California, the cost of
    electricity is high because of the over reliance on natural gas. You
    would be surprised at all of the inventive ways they have figured out
    to tax natural gas and making electricity in general. It would
    appear over reliance on NG is the only result of promoting renewable
    energy in places like California, Spain, and Germany.

     

    Having a diverse mix of
    generating sources is a good thing. Coal and NG are subject to
    transportation disruptions. In Japan, an earthquake produced ground
    motion that was larger than assumed in seismic analysis. Seven
    nukes were off line for an extended period of time. At this time
    we do not have to worry to much about the cost of renewable energy
    because it is just too small a share. Like nuclear, renewable energy
    may turn out to be a good investment compared to the cost of fossil
    fuel.

    [link]      
  52. By rrapier on July 16, 2010 at 12:41 am

    By the way Kit, Sam and I have been discussing your recent posts. Your change in demeanor is noted and appreciated. I think everyone feels like you have something to offer, and I think you have found the forumula that allows much more productive discussions to take place.

    Cheers, RR

    [link]      
  53. By paul-n on July 16, 2010 at 2:13 am

    Kit, I am not talking about the electricity industry being subsidised, just the renewables, specifically, wind and electricity.  I consider $2bn in loan guarantees a subsidy, and then there are the grants for the Cape Wind project, and the general mandate for wind to be first in the loading order.  Those are all subsidies.

    Agreed the impact of these on overall rates is very small, and restrictive policies like Ca have increased costs much more.  But my point is, and remains, that profitable operation of wind and solar still seems dependent on subsidies.  If these are to grow, they should find a way to do so without subsidies.  

    [link]      
  54. By Thomas on July 16, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Big Coal and Big Nuke are “profitable” in large part due to government subsidies.   Remove subsidies from the big guys first. You’re asking for rookies to be strenuously drug tested while the all-stars have paid off the referees and are taking shots in bathroom stalls.

    [link]      
  55. By Kit P on July 16, 2010 at 10:27 am

    “I consider $2bn in loan
    guarantees a subsidy…”

     

    Then you would be wrong
    PaulN unless you mean industry is subsidizing government. The US
    government makes a profit on loan guarantees.

     

    Again PualN let me remind
    you that the reason for California having higher electricity prices
    is the amount of natural gas being used and how energy is taxed. You
    have to keep up with a changing world. For a long time, NG provided
    cheap electricity because Western Canada had lots of cheap gas and
    only one market. California had deregulation regulations did not
    allow generators to lock in long term contracts with Canada. Then
    everybody and their brother built NG plants exceeding the capacity of
    pipelines. NG prices became volatile until more drilling and
    pipelines could meet demand. The new price of NG is at least double
    of what it was before the NG building boom.

     

    Wind, biomass, and
    geothermal produce electricity at a lower cost for Californians than
    NG. This was not true 15 years ago but it is now.

     

    For investors building power
    plants there is less risk with NG because of lower capital costs. If
    you want investors to take more risk, incentives or mandates must be
    provided.

    [link]      
  56. By Kit P on July 16, 2010 at 11:17 am

    “Big Coal and Big Nuke are
    “profitable” in large part due to government subsidies.”

     

    I do not know what subsidies
    you are talking about. Most coal and nuke plants serve a regulated
    market. The cost of making my electricity with coal is pasted on to
    me after review by the state PUC. A modest profit is provided to
    stock holders.

     

    Some nuke and coal plants
    are now operated by companies that bought poor performing plants.
    They make a modes profit by lowering the cost with better management.
    A single unit nuke plant might have a staff 1000. A company running
    5 nukes might have an average 600 per plant.

     

    The 104 US nuke plants
    subsidize government. Fuel cost for a nuke plant are about the same
    as property taxes. Again I do not know of any large subsidies that
    the commercial nuclear industry receives.

     

    Thomas is likely the victim
    of anti-nuke misinformation campaigns. DOE has a very large budget
    for nuclear. Almost all of it is associated with nuclear weapons
    storage and cleanup.

     

    Just for the record, the
    standards are the same for the big a little guys when it comes to
    making electricity. If you do a little research you find the ‘big’
    guys in coal and nuclear are also the ‘big’ guys in wind, solar, and
    biomass too.

     

    Size does not matter.
    Excellence matters. One of the best utilities is relatively small.
    When you look at performance indicators, their coal and nuke plants
    are always near the top year in year out. I can think of three of
    the largest that are always good too. However, I can not recall the
    last time a west coast utility did something that I thought was
    remarkablly good.

    [link]      
  57. By Thomas on July 16, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Kit P said:

    “Big Coal and Big Nuke are

    “profitable” in large part due to government subsidies.”

     

    I do not know what subsidies

    you are talking about. Most coal and nuke plants serve a regulated

    market. The cost of making my electricity with coal is pasted on to

    me after review by the state PUC. A modest profit is provided to

    stock holders.

     

    This is  kind of like you asking where all the air pollution was, when 19% of monitored U.S. counties aren’t meeting current EPA air quality standards. 

    Obama just approved $8.3 billion  in loan guarantees for nuclear power.  We talked about it on this site. 

    “Again I do not know of any large subsidies that

    the commercial nuclear industry receives.”              

    Maybe 8.3 billion isn’t “large”.  You could have a future in politics…

     

    Here’s a study that goes through the current energy subsidy structure and its problems.

    http://www.earthtrack.net/file…..ptions.pdf

    This is the breakdown of the estimated 74 billion in energy subsidies spent in 2006:

    52%          Oil and Gas

    10.5%       Coal

    12.4 %      Nuke

    7.6 %        Ethanol

    7.5 %        Renewables

    2.1 %       Conservation

     

    These figures are just direct subsidies. 

    Coal ash is the second largest industrial waste product in the U.S.  It contains an ugly assortment of heavy metals, silica and lime. It is also slightly radioactive. Studies have shown that these can be harmful to local communities in the event of a “spill”  like in TN or more commonly when this stuff gets airborne. Yet it is not regulated by the EPA.   The EPA has begun to change course on this, but big coal and utilities are fighting back citing ”cost”. The fact that there are no national rules on the disposal of this material has been a huge subsidy for the industry since its inception.  There are also the indirect costs of coal  production like tainted drinking water in WV. 

    —Kit : insert blind denial of scientific evidence on coal ash here——-

     

    The Price-Anderson act places a $10 billion cap on corporate liability for a commercial nuclear generating accident. This is even in the event of gross negligence or misconduct.   There is not yet a plan for the long term disposal of high level nuclear waste.  You can bet whatever strategy is chosen the costs will be” socialized”.

    Kit and Paul are complaining about 7.5%,  while well-established members of the energy mix receive much bigger chunks.  If you’re against subsidies then be against all subsidies not just renewables.

    Perhaps you’re arguing that subsidies on Coal and Nuke are “justified” because they make up the vast majority of our energy mix?The subsidy$/MWh is much higher for renewables. But, why do these “mature” industries need subsidies at all? Both big coal and big nuke say they need increasing gov. support.   

    I’m not against energy subsidies in principle.  Although, like all subsidies, they encourage rent seeking behavior.  A much better strategy would be to move money away from fossil fuels subs toward conservation. Making old homes more energy efficient with better windows, insulation, thermostats etc has much greater returns because you decrease the number of  power plants needed and you lower the energy bills of consumers. 

     

    [link]      
  58. By Kit P on July 16, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Thomas thanks for providing
    the source of information.

     

    Yes, 8.3 billion is a
    “large” large number. You do know that the government is
    not giving any money to build that nuke plant? If fact the utility
    has to pay the government an large application fee to investigate and
    process the loan guarantee. The government is making a profit on
    this program which is not just for nuke plants.

     

    As far as your link, it is a
    report by one person who references himself.

     

    Federal
    subsidies to new nuclear power plants are likely between 4 and 8
    cents per kWh”

     

    Actually
    there is a PTC of 1.8 (adjusted for inclation) cents per kWh for the
    first few years of 6000 MWe of new plant capacity.

     

    Thomas
    wrote:

     

    This
    is the breakdown of the estimated 74 billion in energy subsidies
    spent in 2006:

     

    Since
    no new nukes plants have been built yet and therefore have not
    generated any electricity, no money has been allocated or paid by the
    government. I suggest Thomas that you find a more reliable source
    than Doug Koplow at Earth Track.

     

    —Kit
    : insert blind denial of scientific evidence on coal ash here——-”

     

    Thomas you did not provide
    any evidence that the government is paying the bill for managing coal
    ash or cleaning up the TVA spill.

     

    “The Price-Anderson act “

     

    The pooled insurance program
    is paid for by the nuclear industry. Another profit center for the
    federal government.

     

    “There is not yet a plan
    for the long term disposal of high level nuclear waste.”

     

    Actually there is, it is the
    NWPA. A license application has been submitted to the NRC for a
    geological repository in Nevada as required by congress. POTUS is
    currently getting a civics lesson in separation of powers between the
    branches of government.

     

    “You can bet whatever
    strategy is chosen the costs will be” socialized”.”

     

    Actually it paid by the rate
    payers who get electricity from nukes. Some of the high level waste
    is a result of nuclear weapons and the navy propulsion program.

     

    I hope this helps you
    understand the issues better.

    [link]      
  59. By Thomas on July 17, 2010 at 5:12 am
    “Thomas you did not provide
    any evidence that the government is paying the bill for managing coal
    ash or cleaning up the TVA spill.”
    The TVA is a federally owned corporation established under the New Deal. So what they pay for, taxpayers pay for. You miss my point though.  Under the current rules ash producers can treat it as if this stuff was yard waste.  If they had to treat it as a toxic waste and a threat to public health their costs would rise.  This is an indirect subsidy.  
    Well we’ve made progress at least you are admitting that there are “large” subsidies for nuclear power…
    This is how a loan guarantee works and why everyone wants one:
    In the event that the borrowing corporation cannot pay back its loan, the Feds promise to pay the loan off. This results in a much lower interest rate for the borrowing corporation because the risk of the loan is being “socialized”. They can now borrow money as if they were building an office building or a warehouse. The biggest risk in nuclear plant production is that the project gets bogged down in red tape. Production time and costs get prohibitively high and the project is abandoned.  There is song and dance to get on board but companies gladly take part in it.  
    Your assertion that because no new nuclear plants were built, the industry received no subsidies is only true for the PTC. The real money is spent  before these new plants are built and producing power. A large amount of money is invested in their R&D. 
    The EIA says we spent over $5.1 billion on electricity production subsidies in 2007.  See chapter 5.
    Over $ 1 billion in 2007 on nuclear power R&D.  That’s actual money not loan guarantees or PTC.  Without this government support along with those loan guarantees new nuke plants would not be possible.  
    Big Coal made out the best, however, getting almost $3 billion in subsidies for “Refined” and “Clean” coal power R&D, incentives, and tax breaks.
    $58 million for wind and $13 million for solar power. Another 37 million were incentives for “renewables”, which we’ll assume solar and wind dominate. So  $108 million in a $5.1 billion dollar program.

    That means Big Coal got  about 57%, Nuclear got about 20% and wind and solar power combined got about 2% of energy production subsidies.  I think the subs for nuclear are justified but the coal numbers reflect the “small state” power in the Senate. 
    “A license application has been submitted to the NRC for a
    geological repository in Nevada as required by congress.”
    Keywords are “application” and “submitted”.  Yucca isn’t going to happen under this administration.  Chu wants solidification whatever that is. Most Nevada residents are deeply opposed to it. Better hope for Angle. 
    [link]      
  60. By Kit P on July 17, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    “taxpayers pay for”

     

    That is not how either TVA
    or BPA works. Ratepayers pay for it. Not the federal government.

     

    Thomas, again where do you
    live. California? You keep making stuff up.

     

    “Well we’ve made progress
    at least you are admitting that there are “large”
    subsidies for nuclear power ..”

     

    That is not what I said. I
    said that Thomas documented $0 dollars subsiding coal and nuclear.

     

    “The biggest risk in
    nuclear plant production is that the project gets bogged down in red
    tape.”

     

    Actually it is that a
    project will get started based on demand projections that do not
    materialize. One third of the nuke plants orders were canceled
    before the TMI accident.

     

    Of course that was then, now
    the loan guarantee program looks very closely at projects based on
    probability of success. Now construction does not start until the
    NRC issues a COL.

     

    “Your assertion ..”

     

    No that was a fact. I have
    read the legislation and carefully follow what congress budgets.

     

    “The real money is spent
    before these new plants are built and producing power. A large amount
    of money is invested in their R&D.”

     

    Investors are paying for
    this not the federal government. In some cases some of the costs are
    paid by customers through CWIP (Construction work in progress).

     

    “Over $ 1 billion in 2007
    on nuclear power R&D.”

     

    Very little of this has
    anything to do with commercial nuclear power and the new LWR power
    plants being built. The thing Thomas leaves out is that the nuclear
    industry pays lots of taxes. For example, the government will share
    half the cost testing the new licensing process.

     

    “I think the subs for
    nuclear are justified but the coal numbers reflect the “small
    state” power in the Senate.”

     

    Virgina, Pennsylvania, Ohio,
    Illinois, ect are small states? Just for the record, California gets
    lot of electricity from coal. Thomas I think what you think does
    not matter very much based on how you do research.

     

    I am in favor of limited
    incentives to ensure an adequate and diverse energy supply and will
    accept 10% government waste. I used to be anti-coal but the more
    research on my part changed my mind.

     

    This why I keep asking the
    where Thomas lives. California has not coal and no business telling
    anyone how to do it better. It is easy to be against something but
    it is a lot harder to be a leader and do it better.

     

    “Chu wants solidification
    whatever that is.” Heard this story at a DC conference in the
    1984. I would not have believed the same organization that started
    with the Manhattan project would be so inept at caring out a simple
    plan.

     

    Mix the high level waste
    molten glass and you get a very stable product. You could put high
    level waste in a drinking water reservoir and not exceed CWA limits
    for safe drinking water. The rate at which radionuclides leach out
    of the glass is less that the rate of radioactive decays. Not that
    we would put the glass in drinking water.

     

    A facility for
    ‘solidification’ is being built on the Hanford reservation which has
    leaking tanks left over from WWII and the cold war. The glass logs
    will be put in shipping/storage contains until a long term geological
    repository is built.

     

    Since surface structures at
    Hanford will not survive the next ice age and Yucca Mountain will be
    high and dry, elected officials in Washington State think Yucca
    Mountain is a great idea.

     

    Near Hanford is a facility
    making commercial nuclear fuel uranium that came from US weapons
    programs. At Savanna River a facility for MOX is being built to burn
    weapons plutonium in commercial nuclear plants. This part is part
    of treaties with Russia.

     

    What we learned studying
    Yucca Mountain is that the source term hundred thousand of years
    from now is uranium and plutonium.

     

    What the French, Germans,
    Japanese, and Russians do is recycle uranium and plutonium to make
    MOX fuel and make glass logs out of the waste.

     

    There is a problems knowing
    what Obama and Chu want to do because they have been a little vague.
    I waiting to live in a country that can recycle heavy metals like
    aluminum cans.

    [link]      
Register or log in now to save your comments and get priority moderation!