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

By Russ Finley on Nov 17, 2014 with 116 responses

New IEA Study: Least Cost Scenario has Nuclear as the World’s Largest Source of Electricity by 2050

An article in Grist about the same study had a different headline: “How solar can become the world’s largest source of electricity.” From the study:

The hi-Ren requires cumulative investments for power generation of USD 4.5 trillion more than in the 2DS, including notably PV but also wind power and STE (Solar Thermal Energy).

The study also notes that, in theory and given enough time, power systems that don’t burn fossil fuels should eventually pay for themselves with fuel cost savings (which is also a trait of nuclear). See Figure 5 below.

IEAResults

Figure 5 from IEA Study

Wind and Solar are just two pieces of a big puzzle

Wind and Solar are just two pieces of a big puzzle

When talking climate change solutions, many pundits focus on wind and solar even though they are just two pieces of a very complicated climate change puzzle. What should be in their thought bubble is a pie chart of similar complexity to the one shown below from a study commissioned by the WWF (World Wildlife Fund)  five years ago:

WWF Vision to Mitigate Climate Change

From the press release about the IEA (International Energy Agency) study:

The sun could be the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050, ahead of fossil fuels, wind, hydro and nuclear, according to a pair of reports issued today by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The two IEA technology roadmaps show how solar photovoltaic (PV) systems could generate up to 16% of the world’s electricity by 2050 while solar thermal electricity (STE) from concentrating solar power (CSP) plants could provide an additional 11%.

To put that into perspective, if 16% + 11% = 27% of global electricity generation came from solar today it would reduce global greenhouse gases maybe 7% or so. The other 93% would still be there. See the pie chart below:

Impact on Emissions if Solar = 27% of Electricity Generation Today

The study, like all studies of its kind, is a giant hypothesis made out of a collection of hypotheses. For example, although liquifying  the CO2 from combusted natural gas and coal and then pumping it under extreme pressure into nearby underground caverns (CCS — Carbon Capture and Sequestration)  has been done,  it is only a hypothesis that it can scale to any meaningful level. How far wind and solar can scale is also largely unknown. We all know that very few hypotheses come to fruition.

The IEA is trying to emulate on a global scale the recent NREL study that tried to show how the United States might achieve 80% renewables for electricity generation by 2050. Read The Exaggerated Promise of Renewable Energy. Similar studies have been done by the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), the EIA (Energy Information Association), NREL (National Renewable Energy Lab), Greenpeace, and on and on. If these organizations really could predict the future (which is an absurd thought if you think about it), they wouldn’t all come up with such divergent scenarios. Because the WWF isn’t a big fan of hydro power and the destruction of forests for biofuels and biomass, their 2050 scenario bears little resemblance to that of the new IEA study.

StudyResults

Disparate Study Results

Their analysis uses “cost optimisation to identify least-cost mixes of energy technologies and fuels.” But here’s the thing, because their answers are the result of educated guesses about cost, those answers are, by definition, also little more than educated guesses. If their cost predictions three and a half decades into the future are wrong (and they will be), the resulting energy road maps are also going to be wrong. Again, from the Breakthrough Institute:

Nuclear/Solar Cost Comparison

Nuclear/Solar Cost Comparison

All energy production schemes have their upsides and their downsides. However, that does not in any way suggest that all energy schemes are equally environmentally destructive (per unit power provided).

The Real Cost of Solar and Wind: Storage, Dams, Biomass

One of the major costs of scaling solar and wind is what it will take to back them up. The study acknowledges that wind and solar will need large amounts of backup power, which today is supplied mostly by natural gas that can be turned on and off as the wind and sun fluctuate. Just as the NREL study did, the IEA study assumes that most of this gas will be replaced with a massive build up of hydroelectric dams and pumped hydro storage, along with a roughly ten-fold expansion of the burning of biomass.

Storage

hydrostorage

Read Pumped hydro storage will eliminate wind and solar intermittency …really? From a link in that article:

Pumped storage plants, however, consumed 29 billion kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity in 2011 to refill their storage reservoirs, resulting in a net generation loss of 6 billion kWh.

Never mind the cost, here is an interesting paper titled The Catch-22 of Energy Storage arguing that because pumped hydro storage is so energy intensive, the more of it you have, the less total energy humanity has at its disposal, which is why it can’t be an answer to the intermittency of wind and solar.

Dams

We will have to roughly double the amount of hydro electric power that exists today (and I don’t know if they accounted for all of the dams of today that will be silted in by 2050, evidence that hydro isn’t really renewable).

damsediment

Brace yourself for the damming of pretty much every major tributary in the Amazon and Africa and the attendant loss of their river ecosystems. You may have heard about the drought in Brazil (although I’m not claiming  that it is a direct result of global warming). The media loves to focus on slowly rising water levels but the real hammer of climate change will be shifting rainfall patterns. How will that affect the IEA road map? From Power Magazine:

…lack of rainfall is hitting the power industry especially hard in parts of Brazil. But with reservoir levels at historic lows in some places, more electricity has been required from fossil-fueled power plants …the lack of water has contributed to electricity blackouts in many parts of the country.

The lack of rainfall has limited hydroelectric output but offers a big opportunity for other power generators. The EIA says generation from natural gas and other fossil fuels was at record high levels  …Petrobras, Brazil’s state-controlled oil and gas firm and the sole importer of LNG to the country, imported a record 2.833 million tons of LNG over the first eight months of 2014.

Brazil’s electric power mix:

  • 1.1% Wind
  • 2.4% Nuclear
  • 2.6% Coal and Coal Products
  • 4.4% Oil Products
  • 7.6% Biomass
  • 11.3% Natural Gas
  • 70.6% Hydroelectric

Biomass

Although I take anything said by the FOE or Greenpeace with a large grain of salt, consider reading this summary called Dirtier than coal? by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, which actually used information from a study published in the journal Science. From that summary:

FOEChart

Impact of Using Biomass for Energy

The droughts plaguing the Amazon are likely exacerbated by deforestation, which has increased by roughly 28% in the past few years.

Solar Thermal Power Plants

A very big part of the plan is for massive solar power stations that concentrate solar energy with mirrors to make steam to power turbines. The only advantage this type of solar power has over rooftop solar is that it can also be used to melt salt to be stored to provide heat to run those turbines when the sun isn’t shining. How’s that working out? This article titled Mainstream Media Slams Ivanpah, California’s Latest Solar Project does a nice summary.

From the New York Times on the Ivanpah solar thermal power plant:

The plant, which took almost four years and thousands of workers assembling millions of parts to complete, officially opened on Thursday, the first electric generator of its kind.

It could also be the last.

The above Times article was all about financial problems. It made no mention of wildlife issues. Also note that this project does not store any energy (too costly). It is instead, backed up with natural gas. This project also not only usurped prime threatened desert tortoise habitat, it’s doing a number on anything that flies. Birds ignite into flames and fall to earth in front of a smoking contrail. Employees at Ivanpah call them “streamers.” According to  the Atlantic, while visiting Ivanpah, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement witnessed birds entering the flux to become streamers and saw streamers every few minutes during the visit.

If  images of oil covered birds from the occasional oil spill can be used to rally public support for regulations to minimize those spills, then it’s fair game to use images of incinerated and decapitated birds to do the same for solar and wind.

scorched-bird

Streamer

This IEA study only covers electricity generation, which is responsible for less than half of the energy we consume and about  a quarter of global GHG emissions. My main point in this article isn’t so much that these scenarios are unlikely to come to fruition, my main point is that they probably should not be allowed to come to fruition. Real environmentalists should be appalled. We have to find more elegant solutions or our grandchildren will never know the natural world.

LandArea

The Breakthrough Institute graphics used above came from a recent article called Renewables and Nuclear at a Glance.  It’s a series of easy to understand graphics that takes only a minute or so to scroll through. Consider also reading this short piece: When Renewables Destroy Nature.

Luckily, the future isn’t predictable. The meme that spread around the world that maybe it’s a good idea to have fewer children halted the increasing population growth rate in its tracks. World population continues to increase but its rate of increase has been dropping toward zero for many decades now.

Today a meme is spreading that maybe it’s time to replace combustion as a source of energy. However, grossly exaggerating the theoretical potential of renewables while underrating the proven capacity of nuclear is not likely to lead to a solution.

Credit puzzle graphic: David Goehring via Flickr Creative Commons.

 

 

  1. By Jabs on November 18, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Interesting that you use ridiculously outdated PV cost numbers and cherry-picked nuclear numbers. PV is coming in cheaper in the UK than the most recent nuclear FIT there (that’s right, nuclear FIT). In regions with good sun, upcoming tenders for PV are expected below USD 0.08/kWh.
    You also conveniently cherry-picked the single most trouble-prone, expensive CSP plant (which is using a new technology) in the world, ignoring the many plants that are operating fine. You could, however, have looked at the most recent parabolic trough CSP bids by Abengoa and ACWA Power in Morocco for ~USD 0.16/kWh with 5h of storage.
    Using biased, outdated information to make nuclear look like a better option is disingenuous and muddles the real trade-offs between power generation types.

    [link]      
    • By Bob_Wallace on November 19, 2014 at 2:06 am

      Actually solar has been selling for $0.05/kWh in the US SE. Take out the PTC and the price rises to about $0.065.

      (Solar and wind get 2.5 cents per kWh produced in the first ten years of production. Since PPAs generally run 20 years the average subsidy over 20 years is under 1.5 cents.)

      That was the selling price in 2013. Expect to see lower numbers when 2014 figures are released.

      Non-subsidized onshore wind in the US is now selling, on average, for just under $0.04/kWh.

      And best to not get too “concerned” about storage for wind and solar. We aren’t likely to need any for a long, long time and we’ve got some very interesting, and potentially very cheap, technologies emerging.

      [link]      
      • By Jabs on November 19, 2014 at 9:17 am

        Thanks for the reply, Bob. As you hinted at, for PV, the US system artificially reduces final PPA rates through its tax equity and PTC schemes. The US is definitely not the cheapest place for PV as system prices are still somewhat higher than in other, less red tape-burdened markets. The real costs are just hidden in convoluted corporate structures and PPAs. I think we are generally on the same page, anyways.

        You’re right about the storage point. I just wanted to mention that it was included in these CSP projects because it was highlighted as a major, prohibitively expensive concern in the article. A funny thing to claim when the price for CSP + storage is already competitive with the recent English nuclear FIT.

        Speaking of wind, I also see a huge potential in the US to add newer, low-wind speed turbines (as they have started to do in Europe) that will unlock countless sites previously deemed uneconomic. Looks good!

        [link]      
  2. By Anatoly on November 18, 2014 at 9:47 am

    Interesting article, good start for future of green/alternative/sustainable energy development. Article shows that every source of energy has side effects – intermittency, cost, you name it.
    Let’s look from the point of source availability, environmental effect, cost – from sustainability point.
    World allready has huge energy storage – deep water pressure (starting from 20m depth), why my efforts to utilize this energy are destroyed. I have invented device that allows utilization of pressure to energy to become the most reliable, sustainable in cost of energy infrastructure and energy itself. Look in rate of energy production by using this devices. They can produce energy with rate 4MW per cubic m of device size and every 10m of depth (1bar over atmospheric). For example 1GW can be delivered by device operating in 200m depth (20bar) with size 3m x 3m x 5.5m (generator size extra).
    Because new devices can use other sources of pressure, such as spring pressure, they can be used in places with no access to deep water. When we start to explore new energy source there will be plenty of other uses.

    [link]      
  3. By Forrest on November 18, 2014 at 10:13 am

    Interesting post, especially the point of not being able to predict the future. The point of environmental groups focusing on their pet solutions and attempting to convince public and government to only these solutions is troubling. Also, the race to frighten public and stampede the country to their solutions equally troubling. These environmental groups whom sidestep nuclear energy can be called hypocrites and serve to demonstrate to public that global warming is not to be taken seriously. The author is attempting to minimize hydro power. This power is rated most inexpensive, reliable, and predictable. Sediment is a natural occurrence, but does not affect pressure or power production. Maybe in theory if the reservoir is completely full and river diverted. Worst case scenario the dam is retired. The life cycle is extremely long as compared to other power sources. Energy Department evaluations claim we could boost hydro power 40% per environmental sensitive dam placement. Other studies claim we can double hydro power by replacing old turbines with efficient ones and adapting turbine power to dams already in service. The life cycle of conifer tree growth is misleading. To count the potential future CO2 sequestration against timber harvest is dishonest. For example forest land will quickly snatch up the vacant land sunshine to dense shrubbery of competing tree growth. The younger forest woodland more capable of annual CO2 conversion than old growth woods. Also, clear cut forest have been hammered by Environmentalist as a disaster, only to be told by biologist that the process can be extremely helpful to spur young tree growth for selected sites. Forestry is a science dedicated to maximizing tree growth or tonnage per acre. Forest have to be routinely logged to maintain that efficiency. Biofuel assessment per actual hard science data trending very positive. The Environmentalist appear to put Biofuel and Biomas in the nuclear category as threatening to their preferred solution. So, they impugn with misleading, made up, or make believe assumptions. Land use penalty of biofuel was one early invention to dis the solution. Studies of real land change dispel the assumption. University of Iowa just recently published study refuting the land use formulas applied by EPA. Also, most deniers will never calculate that wild land may not be as productive to Co2 conversion as compared to genetically improved plant growth. Some of the poorest countries set on top of poor farmland/grassland/desert, but will be able to grow bio mass grass species that greatly improve carbon sequestration and improve wildlife habitat.

    [link]      
    • By Forrest on November 18, 2014 at 10:40 am

      ISU’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD), examined actual
      observed global land use changes in the period spanning from 2004 to 2012 and
      was compared to predictions from the economic models used by the California Air
      Resources Board (CARB) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop
      ILUC penalty factors for regulated biofuels. The report concluded that farmers
      around the world have responded to higher crop prices in the past decade by
      using available land resources more efficiently rather than expanding the
      amount of land brought into production.

      There hasn’t been much land use change in terms of converting
      non-agricultural land into crop land. We’ve seen more double-cropping or triple-cropping in some parts of the world. More planted acres actually harvested.

      [link]      
    • By Bob_Wallace on November 19, 2014 at 6:50 pm

      Forrest, let me introduce you to the concept of “paragraph”.

      http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/paragraphs/

      I don’t know about others but when I encounter a word block such as what you’ve written, I attempt read it but after a few sentences and a few topic changes my eyes glaze over…. ;o)

      [link]      
  4. By Philip K. Glass on November 18, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    All those words and images and you never reported the costs from the IEA report. What are their financial numbers for least-cost and high-renewables scenarios?

    [link]      
    • By Russ Finley on November 19, 2014 at 12:16 am

      The numbers are relative and subject to assumptions. You want to see them so you can question their assumptions to support your own biases. The white rectangles in the image below are all of the same size. Solar, hydro, and nuclear are almost identical. Assuming slightly different assumptions would make any of the three slightly larger than the others. Any of them could proclaim to be the largest single source, depending on what the authors desire.

      [link]      
      • By Philip K. Glass on November 19, 2014 at 1:45 am

        Thanks, I found a link: http://www.iea.org/media/freepublications/technologyroadmaps/solar/TechnologyRoadmapSolarPhotovoltaicEnergy_2014edition.pdf

        I didn’t remember the USD 4.5 trillion number cited at the top of this article being there when I first read it. I apologize if I just overlooked it.

        This is a lengthier quote from that same section of the report:

        To decarbonise the entire energy system in the 2DS by 2050 will require about USD 44 trillion of additional spending. This investment is more than offset by over USD 115 trillion in fuel savings, resulting in net savings of USD 71 trillion. Even with a 10% discount rate, the net savings are more than USD 5 trillion (IEA, 2014b).

        The 2DS hi-Ren requires cumulative investments for power generation of USD 4.5 trillion more than in the 2DS, including notably PV but also wind power and STE. The lower consumption of fossil fuels in this variant saves USD 2.6 trillion, however, partly offsetting the additional investment needs, so that overall the 2DS hi-Ren variant results in additional costs of USD 1.9 trillion. This represents a 3% increase in total cumulative costs for power generation compared with the 2DS, and only a 1% increase over the 6DS.

        However, investments are more significant in the next two decades of the hi-Ren Scenario. This is reflected in the implicit carbon prices in both variants, which differ significantly by 2030 (Table 5).

        According to Table 5 the implicit carbon price per tonne is the same for both scenarios in 2020 and in 2050, but in 2030 2DS is $90 and hi-Ren is $115, and in 2040 2DS is $142 and hi-Ren is $152. So you need up to a 28% higher implicit carbon price, in 2030, to execute the hi-Ren plan.

        My bias is that coal with CCS is going to be more expensive than nuclear power and most renewables. I am surprised to see so much of it at the bottom of the 2DS chart. I would bet that it will never overcome nuclear power on price, so the 2DS scenario should have an even larger nuclear bar.

        [link]      
        • By Russ Finley on November 19, 2014 at 12:08 pm

          All good points.

          I appreciate your going to the trouble to find and post the link. I didn’t realize until I saw your comment that I had not put a link to the study in the article.

          I

          [link]      
  5. By GreenEngineer on November 18, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    What I don’t understand is how anyone can claim to have real, representative total lifecycle costs for nuclear power, when the majority of the long-term costs have been and continue to be deferred to the indefinite future.

    Until we have a waste disposal solution that is (1) widely used and (2) fully life-cycled costed, any such cost estimates are using purely made-up numbers.

    Also, I would want to see a model which includes the probability of accidents (which are part and parcel of any complex technological system – they will happen) and the life-cycle costs of dealing with those accidents. They’re spending $1.5B to put a new sarcophagus around Chernobyl, and that is going to last only 100 years (vs. thousands of years of ongoing liability). Likewise, I’m not sure how you amortize the cost of the Fukushima accident to Japan, but someone had better made a credible attempt at doing so before they claim to know what nuclear power costs.

    I am not an anti-nuke fanatic. In theory, I am willing to accept the reality of nuclear accidents as a possible cost alternative to the reality of the costs of fossil fuel and even renewable power generation. But I have never seen a credible cost estimate for nuclear power which fully considers and amortizes expenses which are currently treated as externalities.

    [link]      
    • By Robert on November 20, 2014 at 12:02 pm

      Embodied energy of total system as a percentage of output =

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

      __________________ (100) =

      Eroei

      Plug the numbers in and you’ll see that the low Capacity Factors of the renewables and the low Energy Stored On Investment of various

      different storage options will not provide enough energy to power a growing world AND replace fossil fuels.

      Here are some links concerning Eroei and Esoi.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130308111310.htm

      http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Energy-and-Environment/Energy-Analysis-of-Power-Systems/

      We must learn the mastery of nuclear fission as proposed by Alvin Weinberg so many decades ago!

      [link]      
      • By GreenEngineer on November 20, 2014 at 12:44 pm

        I am very familiar with EROEI. The primary issue with renewables, in that context, is not low lifetime EROEI (generally 5-10, which is decent though not great) but the fact that the energy payoff comes over a very long period of time, so you have to make very substantial investments up front.

        You are probably correct that you cannot replace fossil fuels and continue to grow our energy production at historical rates. And guess what that means – we’re going to have to adapt to a reduced growth rate of energy production. In the developed world, that should be relatively easy because we are so extremely wasteful – the fact that it is NOT easy is largely attributable to economic factors (i.e. greed) and cultural factors (i.e. an overweening sense of entitlement).

        As I said originally, I think it’s entirely possible that we cannot have our cake and eat it too. In fact, I think it’s likely. If that’s true, it’s unfortunate in the extreme, but in any case the solution is NOT to engage in funny economic math to try to make nuclear (or any other option) look better than it is.

        That’s a sure path to ruin, because reality does not care about our economic theories. Reality keeps its own set of books, and our civilization will live or die, suffer or prosper based on those tallies. Dressing up the economics of a fundamentally uneconomical energy system will not change our fate. We need to look at hard reality and do the best we can with it – not cultivate a complex of delusions about how we “must” (implying that somehow because we must, we necessarily will) master a particular technology.

        [link]      
      • By Bob_Wallace on November 20, 2014 at 7:03 pm

        Let’s back up a bit. First, why is EROEI important? I’ll give you two reasons.

        1) If our energy source is finite (and running low) then we better pay a lot of attention to how much of it we use to some more of it.

        That doesn’t matter so much if our source is free and, for all practical purposes, unlimited as in the case of wind and sunshine.

        2) The energy input is one of the factors that drives cost of energy produced. Energy + materials + labor + some other odds and ends = Pennies per kWh.

        Let’s look at the cost of wind and solar. (I’ve added back in subsidies – these are costs of production numbers.)

        Onshore wind in the US. Average 2013 prices for 20 and 25 year PPAs = 4 cents per kWh.

        DOE “2013 Wind Technologies Market Report”

        http://energy.gov/eere/wind/downloads/2013-wind-technologies-market-report

        PV solar in the US SW. Average 2013 prices for 20 and 25 year PPAs = 6.5 cents per kWh.

        Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory entitled “Utility-Scale Solar 2012: An Empirical Analysis of Project Cost, Performance, and Pricing Trends in the United States”

        http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/big-solar-now-competing-with-wind-energy-on-costs-75962

        Now we’ve got an interesting problem. If the EROEI for wind and solar are really, really low, i.e., if we get only a few kWh of electricity out for each kWh of electricity in how could that price so incredibly low?

        And, given that the price is so low, what would it matter? We’re not going to use up the wind (or the sunshine). If we have to input 1 unit of free wind/sunshine in order to get out 5 units of cheap electricity aren’t we in great shape?

        We get cheap electricity from a technology that is relatively cheap to build using a free, ‘unlimited’ energy source.

        [link]      
        • By Bob_Wallace on November 20, 2014 at 7:15 pm

          Let me throw some more into the mix.

          Current model wind turbines return all the energy it takes to manufacture (including material extraction and refining), install, and recycle them in 3 months to 8 months – depending on the wind resources where they are installed.

          Turbines are designed to last 20 years and we’re just now replacing the 30 year old turbines at Altamont Pass.

          20 years output / 8 months “input” = 30.
          20 years output / 3 months “input” = 80.
          30 years output / 8 months “input” = 45.
          30 years output / 3 months “input” = 120.

          That’s a range of 30x to 120x of energy returned on energy invested.

          PV silicon solar panels repay their energy input in under two years. We don’t know how long they will last but the oldest array in existence is now about 40 years old.

          20 years / 2 years = 10. And increasing.

          I would bet that your claims of low EROEI for wind and solar go back to a flawed paper by Weissberg (sp?) in which he charges the energy used for storage/backup back to wind and solar but does not do the same for nuclear and coal.

          [link]      
          • By Ulenspiegel on November 25, 2014 at 8:07 am

            The source was:

            D. Weißbach et al. (2013): Energy
            intensities, EROIs (energy returned on invested), and energy payback
            times of electricity generating power plants. Energy, Band 52, S. 210
            ff. doi:10.1016/j.energy.2013.01.029

            The authors used for wind turbine EROEI a model that is not longer sold (E-66), the real numbers with modern turbines (e.g. E-101) are of course much higher.

            The second issue was of course that they worked with extremly high storage demand (-> low effective EROEI) that is not needed in reality.

            The major issue is of course that the authors simply mixed values of EROEI of finite resources with those of infinite resources. That is nonsense IMHO.

            Both, PV and wind have an energetical pay-back time of under two years, therefore, an exponential RE fuelled growth with doubling each three or four years is possible.

            [link]      
            • By Bob_Wallace on November 25, 2014 at 11:15 am

              Using outdated energy input numbers for wind suggests that the paper was intentionally biased against renewables.

              Do you happen to know if they used current or outdated numbers for solar? The first solar panels made probably never paid back the embedded energy. We’re now seeing < two years (< one with thin film).

              [link]      
            • By Ulenspiegel on November 26, 2014 at 5:37 am

              They used the following data (table 3, p.216) for Germany:

              For PV (poly Si / armorphous) rooftop/field:

              Embodied energy [MJ] 2102/2172 880/950
              Lifetime energy production [MJ] 8353 2000
              EROI 4.0/3.8 2.3/2.1
              EROI, buffered 2.3/2.3 1.6/1.5

              One can contrast this with the data of the Fraunhofer ISA, who use for 2013 an EROI for roof-top installation of >15. :-)

              [link]      
    • By Russ Finley on November 24, 2014 at 8:58 pm
      [link]      
      • By daveswenson on December 7, 2014 at 9:26 pm

        Good questions, good points

        [link]      
  6. By Forrest on November 19, 2014 at 7:32 am

    Agree with the madness of attempting cost analysis’s that are riddled with assumptions that inflate of deflate authors biases. You can axe wind power through Endangered Species Act just as well as stopping dam site construction per Snail Darter. You can stop coal energy per minute mercury emissions and same for CFL light bulbs. Nuclear can be stopped per theoretical worst case scenario as well as oil per utilization cost of military defense. My guess, natural gas will step in to replace old coal power, wind power will increase at slower rates, roof top solar will greatly increase. Environmentalist will maintain stranglehold on nuclear as they don’t believe GW is a true problem and they don’t like the energy source. They were able to stop pipeline construction even though the activity rated good for economy during a much needed time and even when admitting the activity calculus would be more environmentally responsible. So, what’s stopping them and Hollywood from accosting nuclear. We’re degenerating into a nation of hacks that compete to snooker easy to fool (bad education) public, i.e. national health care. We utilize emotional arguments as the public can understand that force. No, leadership as that would make one a target of twitter hackers and PC conformance crowd. The power sector should be decided upon local and regional dynamics of need and resources. Good to position the market to dislodge better solutions and empower more clean energy. This general pressure of government should be utilized to all solutions and not play to voter constituency biases that “think” wind power is free or to succumb to crony capitalism influence by supporting business as usual no compete utilities with guaranteed market share. When one considers the cost of grid, cost to increase rigor, and the reliability one can easily make a case for offline power for non urban users. Technology is rapidly making it cost effective and more efficient. Currently, utilities will be willing to lose money per dissuading commercial or industrial customers from adapting cogeneration solutions as they feel threaten by competing ability to generate power. They will utilize their crony influence to stop solar as well. Home CHP power production has already been sabotaged by politics of large donations. These dark forces pretty much business as usual for D.C. political machinery with hands out.

    [link]      
  7. By Forrest on November 19, 2014 at 9:43 am

    The author defends nuclear (rightly so) per the biases of environmentalist and reporting that impugn via cost analysis with hard to qualify assumptions. The same can be said of biofuel solutions that quickly get thrown under the bus per environmentalist biases and faulty evaluations. For example this authors post a link to Princeton study claiming the UK assessment of biomass is faulty. The claim is wood is 80% dirtier than coal for power production. What? That’s incredible and wholly inaccurate. Voodoo accounting makes an incredible stretch for the mission. First the study focuses on woodland or tree harvest per simplistic approach of cut down one tree then plant one tree and wait. The evaluation totally misses the point that it is a forest. Meaning trees of all stages of growth that compete for solar power. One tree gets cut and the sudden increase in solar energy makes all neighboring trees more productive as well as the jungle of small tree growth setting within distance to take over. Many of these smaller trees are quite large as well. Tree growth is easily evaluated by typical forestry standards. Logging or “pruning” is vital to forest to maintain maximum efficiency. Forest, if to crowded stunt tree growth or to sparse waste solar power. Nature will eventually accomplish efficiency increase, but modern logging and forestry quickly accomplish the cure. Also, none of the studies I’ve read account for the root sequestration of carbon. Biologist claim much of the mass of tree is underground and never harvested. The biased study claims British forest acres static and the wood that goes to biomass goes unused for lumber or wood products. This is faulty as the value of trees increase the acreage will increase. The reason the forest were cut down per public ed easy and faulty education were profiteers. Well, why then did not the forest regenerate quickly as they always do? Truth was forest were of little value and eliminated per better uses such as farm land, grazing, homesteads, or landscape desires. The linked article high on accusations and summary of damming assumptions. This is the same treatment nuclear receives from dishonest evaluations per environmental biases. Also, the hybrids of grass and small popple a notch up on ability to grow biomass tonnage per acre. None of the studies points of concern can be translated to these bioenergy sources.

    [link]      
    • By Forrest on November 20, 2014 at 8:23 am

      Also, a large portion of biomass energy can be classified as waste. For example almost all wood stoves powered by tree trimmings, storm damage, or selective tree cutting. Live tree cutting for landscape or optimal forest pruning should be classified as waste. Same could be said of pellet fuel manufactures whom make a profit by utilizing the cheapest supply. That would be sawmill, wood product, and paper mill waste. There is a large supply of bark beetle and other insect damage trees. Our Michigan biomass power plants operate mostly on chipped wood of waste trees per homeowner, roadway, and high line maintenance. Canada had the highest rated carbon emissions in world per pine bark insect damage. They are utilizing that wood for European export of pellet fuel. Biofuel production currently has a by product of biomass fuel. This is expected to double the benefit of biomass as the fuel portion more valuable and the by product of biofuel process is as energy dense as coal. Same with the torrefaction process that doubles BTU rating of these black pellets. This is patented pellet process enjoys lower cost production and can utilize a vast array of supply stock i.e. switch grass. The Energy and Agricultural departments have evaluations claiming the U.S. has 1 to 1.3 billion tons of biomass available in U.S. for the task. The cellulose fuel supply industry claims the conversion rate will steady become more efficient and go north of 100 gallons per ton. Agriculture will do most of the heavy lifting, but a vast variety of biomass wasting away such as landfills. Reports I’m reading claim 30% of future renewable energy will be accomplished by the bio. Also, analysis of replacing 30% of the U.S. need of oil and do so upon the top tier rating of environmental friendly fuel source not to lose the point that the fuel is also rated as top employer of workforce. One big benefit to Europe whom attempting 20% reduction in GHG emissions is cofiring of coal plants. They change the mix to accomplish emission standards. This is very attractive per ability to utilize existing equipment and low investment needs. Also, by prolonging plant lifespan, a big advantage to total emissions. The construction emissions of wind turbine power is high.

      [link]      
      • By Forrest on November 20, 2014 at 8:26 am

        BTW U.S. exported 3.2 million tons of pellet fuel to Europe in 2013.

        [link]      
  8. By Forrest on November 20, 2014 at 7:43 am

    The acreage use, worded as a detriment, for wind power per the post illustration is misleading. Wind turbines do little to disturb use of land other than the small footprint. The spacing a factor of harvesting wind energy. So, if utilizing the same logic one could list the entire land mass of world as a detriment for nuclear and petrol, yet that is misleading as the detriment would have to include the entire global history for formation of fuel supply. Same misleading problem with solar energy as the roof top portion has no acreage use.

    [link]      
  9. By Robert on November 20, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Nice!

    Here’s some more basic math for those of you who think “solar and wind can do it all”.

    Embodied energy of total system as a percentage of output =

    (1/CF)+1/Esoi(1/CF-1)
    __________________ (100) =
    Eroei

    Plug the numbers in and you’ll see that the low Capacity Factors of the renewables and the low Energy Stored On Investment of various different storage options will not provide enough energy to power a growing world AND replace fossil fuels.

    Here are some links concerning Eroei and Esoi.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130308111310.htm

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Energy-and-Environment/Energy-Analysis-of-Power-Systems/

    We must learn the mastery of nuclear fission as proposed by Alvin Weinberg so many decades ago!

    [link]      
    • By Forrest on November 21, 2014 at 8:28 am

      Future does belong to nuclear. This the vast majority viewpoint of advanced degree of engineers and physicists. That hasn’t changed much over the years. People tend to think in today’s terms, but future will demand huge quantities of power. Nuclear has tremendous capability for the mission.

      The raw material required for wind turbine energy is staggering. Also, the cost evaluations of wind power are an exercise of deception. Like Public Ed cost, no one appears to have a bottom line figure as so many paths of support. They need to disclose the real cost of entire turbine and all components to public. A suggested retail price that anyone anytime can purchase with money in hand. Also, the true install cost with same requirement including costs to permit, study, locate, insure, hook up to grid, etc.. Then a hour by hour production schedule of power. The public can then evaluate the true cost of wind without federal tax payer incentives or artificial utility cost pass through to consumers. It would be easy to put a price on undependable, intermittent power as this power requires expensive backup power vs investment. We the taxpayers and ratepayers can then evaluate the cost vs benefit of green energy. Very phony to put hard numbers to this value, like so often attempted.

      We need to have honest evaluations of solar as well, but this info appears to be more accessible. I just ran through current numbers per EIA post of L.A. location and power production for a 1 KWH solar system. I applied the latest cost per installed watt for rooftop and my utility power generation cost (real cost savings). We split power and distribution costs in Michigan per eventual free choice of power provider. So, at 6 cents per KWH savings and 6% requirement for investment earnings…..I would save $7.80 per month (if living in LA), but the investment would require $27/month minimum to achieve payback. I could double the solar savings by going off grid, but still not close to payback. Self install would lower capital cost as well as avoided cost of backup power, but these are stretches to self justify. Also, to simply, the figures have no replacement costs.

      [link]      
      • By Bob_Wallace on November 21, 2014 at 3:53 pm

        “The raw material required for wind turbine energy is staggering.”

        Yet in the US electricity from new wind farms costs 4 cents per kWh and electricity from new reactors would cost over 12 cents per kWh. Raw materials are only one part of the total cost of bringing new generation on line.

        “Also, the cost evaluations of wind power are an exercise of deception”

        Four cents is the non-subsidized price for the wind farm. Wind farms have to pay for 100% of their liability insurance coverage and don’t receive special financing rates.

        Nuclear reactors have to cover only a very small percentage of their liability exposure, About 90% is provided to them by taxpayers. Nuclear reactors get low finance rates because taxpayers guarantee the loans.

        Residential solar has reached grid parity – it pays itself off and saves the owner money – in the US states with the highest retail electricity costs. Hawaii, California, Arizona and some NE states.

        Deutsche Bank has calculated that solar will reach parity in all 50 US states by 2016.

        Nuclear has some rough sledding ahead. A plant that costs out at 12 cents per kWh has to sell at an average of 12 cents over the year. And that number assumes the plant up and running 90% of the time. The vast majority of nuclear’s costs are fixed. Fuel, for example, costs only $0.008/kWh. Shutting down doesn’t help like it does a high fuel cost gas plant.

        I’m going to use non-subsidized prices for wind and solar in order to be overly fair to nuclear.

        Wind is now selling in the US for 4 cents. When demand is low and the wind blowing (common during late night hours) nuclear has to sell below the cost of wind. Since wind has no fuel costs and variable operating costs of less than a penny wind can price below 4 cents and still make money. Nuclear can lose 10 cents per kWh.

        Normally large thermal plants can lose money at night and make it up during the daytime peaks. But solar at about 7 cents is going to be killing daytime peak prices. I’ll show you below what happens on the German grid when a modest amount of solar is added. The wholesale price of electricity gets destroyed. There goes nuclear’s opportunity to recapture some of its loss.

        As we install solar (both utility scale and residential -which drops grid demand) nuclear will have to look to the remaining morning and afternoon short peaks.

        Nuclear starts out needing 12+ cents an hour. It looses, say 10 cents an hour for perhaps 12 hours a day. Now it needs to sell for 22 cents in order to avoid bankruptcy.

        Natural gas peakers cost far, far less than 22 cents. We can store wind and solar for far less than 22 cents.

        Even a paid off nuclear plant such as Kewaunee with operating costs of 5 cents per kWh can’t survive in today’s energy world.

        It’s not how much one loves or hates nuclear. It’s economics.

        [link]      
        • By fleeb on November 22, 2014 at 7:52 am

          Refer to

          http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm
          This is a good update on power generation per EIA NEMS modeling software for 22 U.S. power regions. Data is for construction of new power plants expected for 2019. Note that old power plants that are paid off and working well are extremely competitive. Also, the regional variation of utilization, capacity, and fuel cost make LCOE comparisons misleading. The modeling software attaches 3% to cost of money for GHG power plants as an implicit hurdle, so don’t double up on “clean” energy value, it’s already in the mix. The dispatchable vs non dispatchable power generation is so hard to compare the reason it is separated and caution not to compare. For example the utilization of wind energy is calculated per siting of natural resources available, not per real time operator control of need. As we now the true need will often be a fraction as baseload plants may sit in position to meet power needs. To take baseload power off grid and calculate that as a penalty to baseload power is a whopping mistruth as your evaluation attempts to acheive. Also, the EIA study doesn’t attribute any cost to backup power such as the expensive power of plain gas turbine to wind power. The utilities will build power plants based on their specific cost avoidance. When this critera is used LACE power plant cost of power is very flat. This means utilities are making good decisions upon power plant selection. In general hydro and geothermal great where available. Grid solar not so much. Biomass is competative when empowering coal, natural gas advanced combined cycle turbines wonderful, wind is good but not comparable as to much of a wild card.

          [link]      
          • By Bob_Wallace on November 22, 2014 at 2:09 pm

            I’m quite familiar with the EIA five year ahead predictions, I’ve been following them for a few years. Their numbers are flawed.

            Look at their total LCOE for onshore wind. $80.3/MWh. 8.03 cents per kWh.

            The NREL reports that the average PPA for onshore wind in 2013 was 2.5 cents. Adding back in the PTC for a 20 year PPA the selling price was just under 4 cents per kWh. Half of what the EIA is projecting wind to cost five years from now.

            The EIA numbers are in 2012 dollars are roughly equal to 2013 dollars, so inflation is not involved.

            The NREL selling price includes costs not included in a LCOE including land leases and owner profits so the EIA is even more out of line.

            There is pretty much universal agreement that the cost of wind electricity will continue to fall over the next few years as technology improves.

            Now let’s look at PV solar. 13 cents per kWh. In 2013 the average PPA in the US SW was 6.5 cents without subsidies. If you force the cost for utility solar in the NE by changing out the CF the price would be 8.5 cents. Average out for the country and real world prices are half the EIA prediciton. And solar is almost certainly going to drop over the next few years.

            The EIA is also low for nuclear. Several pennies low.

            There is something very wrong in the particular office and there has been for the last couple of years. They are producing predictions which are not anchored to reality.

            I’m adding on a couple of graphs. The first is the NREL wind PPA price data. You can see that the real world numbers are far below the EIA predictions.

            The second graph is one the EIA prediction office presents for the growth of solar power in the US. They predict that solar will installations will soon cease and not resume for a decade.

            This is simply batsh!t crazy.

            [link]      
            • By Forrest on November 22, 2014 at 5:09 pm

              The average purchase agreement for wind power was 2.5 cents per kilowatt. I don’t buy that without further vetting. If so, some major cost avoidance factors at play. Meaning artificial governmental influence. Not much value attempting to go beyond 5 years as that would be to speculative. PTC should not be a consideration for attempting to compare low cost power production. Basically, wind energy has a fatal flaw per the inability to dispatch generation requirements. To utilize wind or solar we have to control time schedule of consumption demand and put in place expensive storage. The time value of money is the most potent restraint of power generation and one that wind demands most of. The accelerated depreciation sales to high tax payers a big hidden cost to empower wind. We hear the rich get richer, but chose to avoid the rationalization when the corruption empowers our chosen desires.

              [link]      
            • By Bob_Wallace on November 22, 2014 at 5:25 pm

              You can do your “vetting” here –

              DOE “2013 Wind Technologies Market Report”

              http://energy.gov/eere/wind/downloads/2013-wind-technologies-market-report

              As I stated “The NREL reports that the average PPA for onshore wind in 2013 was 2.5 cents. Adding back in the PTC for a 20 year PPA the selling price was just under 4 cents per kWh.”

              That is a rough number for teasing out the “artificial government influence”. Wind farms have a choice between a 2.5 cent PTC for the first ten years of production or a 30% ITC. The PTC and ITC should have about the same impact on government payout.

              You are correct. Wind is not dispatchable. Wind does need storage and backup.

              As well, nuclear is not dispatchable. Nuclear needs storage and backup.

              You’ve now moved the conversation beyond the topic of cost/LCOE and on to grid design costs. If you spend a little time with pencil and paper I think you’ll see it is cheaper to run a wind/solar/storage/NG grid than a nuclear/storage/NG grid.

              [link]      
            • By Russ Finley on December 1, 2014 at 3:39 am

              I’m quite familiar with the EIA five year ahead predictions, I’ve been following them for a few years. Their numbers are flawed.

              There is something very wrong in the particular office and there has been for the last couple of years. They are producing predictions which are not anchored to reality.

              If you spend a little time with pencil and paper I think you’ll see it is cheaper to run a wind/solar/storage/NG grid than a nuclear/storage/NG grid.

              Right, “…a pencil and scrap of paper.” An anonymous commenter with a pseudonym of Bob Wallace telling readers
              that the EIA (U.S. Energy Information Administration) and the IEA (International Energy Agency) have it all wrong. He has the answers for you.

              The IEA study in my article found that the two most viable
              scenarios were a wind/solar/storage/nuclear/NG grid. Wind and solar can’t do it alone and neither can nuclear. Only one has been providing safe, gargantuan amounts of economically viable low carbon energy for over half of a century. How far and how fast wind and solar can scale remains an untested hypothesis.

              The second graph is one the EIA prediction office presents for the growth of solar power in the US. They predict that solar will installations will soon cease and not resume for a decade.

              I don’t know about that, Bob. Considering that the NREL solar estimator shows that it will cost your average Floridian $30K over 25 years to displace their electricity use with solar. And the cost of solar goes up as the costs of integrating it into the gird go up. They won’t let home owners put new solar on their roofs in most parts of Maui. The grid can’t handle more of it.

              [link]      
            • By Bob_Wallace on December 1, 2014 at 11:34 pm

              Sorry, Russ, that’s my name. Now you’re going to have to find some other silly thing to use to distract from the topic.

              Well, it actually says “Robert” on by birth certificate. Perhaps you could perform a little tap dance using that.

              ” Wind and solar can’t do it alone and neither can nuclear”

              I’ve made no claim that wind and solar can do it alone. Wind and solar, as well as nuclear, need help. Storage and dispatchable generation complete the picture with either a heavily wind/solar grid or a nuclear grid.

              (If you’ll go back and look at one of my previous posts to you I gave you a rough formula for wind/solar and nuclear with NG fill-in.)

              ” Only one has been providing safe, gargantuan amounts of economically viable low carbon energy for over half of a century.”

              Actually, when one includes the subsidies that nuclear has received the cost of electricity has been pretty high.

              ” The findings are striking:since its inception more than 50 years ago, the nuclear power industry has benefited—and continues to benefit—from a vast array of preferential government subsidies. Indeed, as Figure ES-1 (p. 2) shows, subsidies to the nuclear fuel cycle have often exceeded the value of the power produced.

              This means that buying power on the open market and giving it away for free would have been less costly than subsidizing the construction and operation of nuclear power plants. Subsidies to new reactors are on a similar path.”

              http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/nuclear_power/nuclear_subsidies_report.pdf

              ” How far and how fast wind and solar can scale remains an untested hypothesis.”

              That’s not a problem. I can dig out some data if you require it.

              “t it will cost your average Floridian $30K over 25 years to displace their electricity use with solar”

              Again, you go off topic and start talking about your roof. Your roof is not a utility company.

              “And the cost of solar goes up as the costs of integrating it into the gird go up.”

              Actually ERCOT reports that the cost of integrating wind and solar into their grid is very cheap. About $0.0005/kWh. Cheaper and easier than integrating large coal and nuclear plants.

              “They won’t let home owners put new solar on their roofs in most parts of Maui. The grid can’t handle more of it.”

              The power boys in Hawaii got past their little snit. They have released a plan to make Hawaii 65% renewable by 2030. With a large component of end-user solar.

              http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/hawaii-utilites-capitulate-on-solar-in-65-renewables-plan-2030

              [link]      
            • By Bob_Wallace on December 1, 2014 at 11:35 pm

              Russ, I would appreciate it if you would document my “lies” or retract your charge.

              This is my second request.

              [link]      
        • By Russ Finley on December 1, 2014 at 3:49 am

          You are correct. Wind is not dispatchable. Wind does need storage and backup.

          As well, nuclear is not dispatchable. Nuclear needs storage and backup.

          Ahhh, where to begin.

          Wind has a place in our energy mix but it isn’t enough to describe it as non-dispatchable. It is a new category best described as “non-dispatchable intermittent.”

          U.S. nuclear power plants (without pumped hydro) are non-dispatchable by design. Unlike the French or submarine and aircraft carrier reactor designs which can vary power output, our nuclear power plants are meant to supply only baseload because dispatchable power is handled primarily with natural gas. If storage ever becomes economically competitive for use with wind and solar, it would be competitive to use with nuclear as well, which could help scale up use of “non-dispatchable intermittent” sources to their economic point of diminishing return, whatever percent that is.

          Nuclear has no need for storage. Some nuclear power plants (only 2.8% of nuclear power goes to pumped hydro) use pumped hydro storage to provide dispatchable peaking power to displace natural gas but the vast majority of nuclear power plants don’t have pumped hydro storage, and those that do, also don’t need it.

          You could argue that nuclear, with a capacity factor above 90%, needs backup 10% of the time. But if wind, with a capacity factor of about 30% were providing 20% of our electrical energy instead of nuclear, it would need backup 70% of the time.

          As you know, because wind only supplies 4% of our electrical power, it doesn’t’ need backup. At today’s 4% market penetration, when the wind stops blowing, the only impact is an increase in fuel flow to affected natural gas plants. At this point, wind farms only serve to reduce fuel bills when the wind is blowing. Because wind isn’t needed to keep the lights on, it does not need to be backed up.

          Should wind ever reach the point where it needs to be backed up on becalmed days to keep the lights on, natural gas could do it. Storage only comes into play when you look for a way to displace the natural gas role of producing power on demand to meet peak loads (dispatchable energy). Making “non-dispatchable intermittent” energy sources into dispatchable energy sources by storing an oversupply of their energy and releasing it when needed is just one way to replace gas to meet peak load demands but nuclear can also store energy.

          [link]      
          • By Bob_Wallace on December 1, 2014 at 11:47 pm

            “Nuclear has no need for storage.”

            Yes. And no.

            At very low levels of penetration there is no need for storage. The same applies to low levels of wind and solar.

            Nuclear can operate without storage (but with backup) up to the annual minimum demand. After that nuclear needs either storage to time shift extra output or needs to load-follow.

            Load-following increases the price of electricity from a nuclear plant.

            The majority of costs for a non-paid off nuclear plant, even a paid off plant, are fixed. Things like loan payments, security forces and property tax have to be paid whether the plant is running at full speed or half speed. Fuel for nuclear plants in 2013 was $0.0079/kWh.

            Slowing down a plant by dumping steam saves nothing. By slowing the reaction saves very, very little.

            The cost of electricity from a nuclear reactor = (total annual costs) / (total annual electricity sold). If you cut overall output by 50% with load following you double the cost of electricity produced.

            We didn’t build a lot of storage for nuclear in the US (21 GW) but we also kept nuclear penetration below 20% of total production. (France uses the rest of Europe as its battery. Japan built, IIRC, 35 GW of storage.)

            “As you know, because wind only supplies 4% of our electrical power, it doesn’t’ need backup.”

            5%. But,yes, we are still far below the point where we need to add more storage/dispatchable generation.

            There are various ways to fill in long low wind/solar periods. NG is one. Biogas (landfill/feedlot/municipal sewage), biomass, PuHS, load-shifting, power sharing between grids, possibly even H2 or syngas.

            [link]      
      • By Ulenspiegel on November 26, 2014 at 5:47 am

        “Future does belong to nuclear. This the vast majority viewpoint of
        advanced degree of engineers and physicists. That hasn’t changed much
        over the years.”

        Now you are bullshitting. :-)

        HINT 1: The guys at various Fraunhofer Institutes are engineers and physicists and come to an opposite conclusion, based on availabel technology. Sorry.

        HINT 2: Nuclear energy may still have in the field of intellectual masturbation a certain appeal, however, when it comes to costs, political acceptance and practicability it is in a hopeless position.

        [link]      
  10. By Forrest on November 23, 2014 at 6:42 am

    By 2050 you will need to put hydrogen fuel in the mix, as well. It could disrupt the math and become the most practical, least cost energy storage medium. Fuel cell cost, pumping, and storage technology have undergone similar pace of improvements as BEV. Car companies have been bullish on the technology. Price of fuel cell has dropped dramatically and durability has improved. High pressure tank storage very reliable and pumping equipment continues to improve efficiencies. Energy Department is funding research for IGCC technology that utilizes the hydrogen generated from gasification of coal for combined power with fuel cel. This could push coal power to higher efficiencies than natural gas combined cycle power. Nuclear biggest headache is thermal steam turbine low efficiency, running about half of natural gas combined cycle. Nuclear could improve efficiencies with high temperature pyrolysis of water. This is efficient hydrogen production if heat is a waste product and power generation is not needed. Meaning these gigantic base load power plants could flex production to hydrogen if wind picks up. Fuel cells can scale up or down to meet needs of heavy trucking or mini car needs. The micro CHP capability of fuel cell is perfect match for home power and heat needs. Some companies already working on that solution to home energy needs. The energy conversion is extremely high as well as lack of pollution. Modern fuel cell has good efficiencies with varying power needs. Piping low pressure hydrogen is similar to natural gas. Piping may need a plastic coating to cut down leak rate. The grid could never compete with domestic fuel cell CHP. This technology could make GHG fear mongering passe.

    [link]      
    • By Bob_Wallace on November 23, 2014 at 12:23 pm

      Why focus on H2? We may need some sort of “fuel” for deep backup. Why not ammonia? Why not a synthetic gas? Why not biogas from feedlots and municipal sewage? Why all the love for H2 to the exclusion of other options?

      Nuclear has a massive headache. New nuclear needs to see its product 24/365 except for its ~10% required downtime. New nuclear will cost more than 12 cents/kWh.

      Any new generator that comes in under 12 cents can cause nuclear to lose money when it’s producing which means nuclear has to charge more during other hour. Wind, solar, natural gas, stored wind/solar, and possibly tidal are all competitors that undercut nuclear.

      [link]      
      • By Forrest on November 24, 2014 at 7:56 am

        My postings support all the above including wind, coal, and oil. Nuclear is a proven great base load power plant, meeting needs of society and environment. Hydrogen may become a large player when one looks to long term future, 2050. Wind has already suffered a bad year, and appears per your linked report, to only be popular by production credit and liberal tax depreciation write offs usually sold to rich high rate taxpayers. The PPA are dropping like flys as no one is interested and they dump the sale to low as 2.5 cents/Kwh. Not sustainable. The industry suffered big layoffs, 2014. Funny you mentioned ammonia. Pellets of solid ammonia borane or AB could really propel vehicle adaption of hydrogen. High pressure storage of hydrogen the most costly aspect of the fuel. The AB pellet is stable at normal temperature and pressure. The 3/4 gram pellet harbors 1.8L of H2.

        [link]      
        • By Bob_Wallace on November 24, 2014 at 1:40 pm

          Forrest – please support your claim that “The PPA are dropping like flys as no one is interested and they dump the sale to low as 2.5 cents/Kwh. Not sustainable. ”

          Links to credible sources.

          Based on everything I know, you’ve posted incorrect information. How about we straighten this out?

          The reason there were layoffs in the wind industry in 2014 come from the way the subsidy system has been jerked around by Congress.

          [link]      
          • By Forrest on November 24, 2014 at 3:18 pm

            Read you link.

            [link]      
            • By Bob_Wallace on November 24, 2014 at 3:44 pm

              Forrest, I knew you were being dishonest. I just wanted to see if you had the character to step up and admit it.

              One does not build a wind or solar farm and then shop their PPA around to see if someone will buy at some price.

              PPA are contracts that are negotiated and signed prior to the wind or solar project initiated. Prices are settled. Amounts to be supplied and accepted are settled. It’s all a legal contract before the first shovelful of dirt is turned.

              If the people who wanted to build the farm couldn’t make a good profit on a 2.5 cent PPA then they wouldn’t sign it. They’d hold out for more or look for some other type of business.

              Projects that are built without PPAs are called “merchant”. Merchant plants have power to sell and bid for sales on a daily (15 minute block) basis. As far as I know there are no merchant wind or solar farms in the US. There is one large merchant solar farm being built in Chile as the economics are better there.

              [link]      
      • By Russ Finley on November 30, 2014 at 11:53 pm

        Nuclear has a massive headache. New nuclear needs to see its product 24/365 except for its ~10% required downtime. New nuclear will cost more than 12 cents/kWh.

        Any new generator that comes in under 12 cents can cause nuclear to lose money when it’s producing which means nuclear has to charge more during other hour. Wind, solar, natural gas, stored wind/solar, and possibly tidal are all competitors that undercut nuclear.

        It’s no wonder that the public is so easily duped by such simplistic, misleading, nonsensical (nuclear has to charge more during other hour?) statements. Power pricing is much more complicated than your average citizen even wants to know. The Bob Wallace moniker wants to convince you that 12 cents/kWh is expensive for new (existing nuclear power plants produce power for much less than that) baseload power. Everyone knows that wind (which certainly has a role in our grid as a way to reduce natural gas plant fuel bills when the wind is blowing) as a non-dispatchable (you can’t dispatch it to meet sudden electricity demands because the wind may not be blowing then) and intermittent power source can’t provide a steady base of electricity (baseload) that can be added to in times of greater demand with power from peaking power plants. If wind could do baseload, there would be no nuclear power plants. On the other hand natural gas alone can provide baseload. So nuclear ends up competing in price for the baseload role with fossil fuels, natural gas and coal, not wind, not solar. Oil lost the competition to produce power (except in Hawaii) long ago, but won the competition to power transport.

        The utilities have always paid different prices for different sources of power (baseload, peaking, load following). You can’t compare wind to nuclear. They don’t compete for the same role in our grid. One reduces natural gas plant fuel bills, the other provides baseload. Your utility bill reflects a kind of average of prices paid for the various forms of power production during different times of day and different times of the year. The new nuclear power plants being built are betting on a future carbon price, which will make them undisputed kings of low carbon baseload, relegating natural gas to peaking power, and coal to exports to China (which would from a climate change perspective, make this all a moot point).

        [link]      
      • By Russ Finley on December 1, 2014 at 2:14 am

        The Bob Wallace moniker said:

        Gosh, Russ. Why are you having trouble with loss recovery pricing? I’m sure you know that coal and nuclear often underbid wind during late night hours in order to avoid shutting down. That means taking a loss. If you take a loss during some hours then you have to charge more during other hours to stay in business.

        Gosh, Bob, are you seriously trying to convince other readers that recovery pricing hasn’t always existed, hasn’t always been part and parcel of energy pricing? The price you can charge varies with supply and demand, hour by hour, day by day. It’s the name of the game …always has been. To pretend that only nuclear participates in that game is characteristically dishonest of you.

        I’m not against incorporating wind and solar into our energy mix and I thank you for the opportunity to repeat that wind cannot do baseload …its role is to reduce the fuel bill in natural gas plants. There is no reason that two sources with different roles should have the same pricing.

        Read Paying Wind Generators Not To Produce Power:

        Chances are your utility bill has gone up this year if you live in the Northwest. One small part of the reason may be that you’re paying for electricity that was never generated.

        What’s left is our ability in an orderly fashion to take wind off the system and serve the load with hydro,” he said.

        But, shutting down the wind generators has a cost. When the BPA takes them off line, it compensates the wind farms for the costs of not generating electricity when the wind is blowing.

        The Bob Wallace moniker continues:

        (Do we need to get into a discussion about merit order and clearing prices?)

        LOL …bring it.

        Russ, let’s put some prices on the table.

        Better yet, Bob, let me put a graph on the table that came from a link you provided while bullying one of our commenters (“…I knew you were being dishonest. I just wanted to see if you had the character to step up and admit it.).

        If you moved those little circles that represent wind prices up to the $0. 04/kWh line per your remark that “the non-subsidized costs of wind are a bit under 4 cents” you find that wind is more expensive than half of its competitors. But as with baseload generators, that doesn’t matter. It has a different role to fill and and therefore a different price that goes into the average that becomes an electric bill. A grid is the some of its parts. Not all parts cost the same.

        [link]      
        • By Bob_Wallace on December 1, 2014 at 2:33 am

          No, Russ. It seemed that you were not aware that in order to stay in business nuclear has to recover its losses.

          “To pretend that only nuclear participates in that game is characteristically dishonest of you”

          I said nothing of that sort.

          ” wind cannot do baseload”

          Actually wind can provide some baseload.

          http://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/winds/aj07_jamc.pdf

          But we don’t need “baseload”/always-on generation in order to keep the lamps lit. We need to be able to supply demand.

          Your graph is an amalgamation of 2012 and 2013 prices. The averge PPA for wind in 2012 was $0.04/kWh. In 2013 the average PPA fell to $0.025/kWh.

          Let me give you a graph that breaks it out for you.

          ” A grid is the some of its parts. Not all parts cost the same.”

          That is a fact, Russ. That is a fact.

          And here’s another fact that goes along with it. When you add in expensive parts the price of the grid goes up. When you instead use less expensive parts the price goes down.

          [link]      
          • By Bob_Wallace on December 1, 2014 at 2:35 am

            ” characteristically dishonest of you”

            Russ, I take great offense at that. I would like for you to either document your charge or withdraw it.

            [link]      
          • By Bob_Wallace on December 1, 2014 at 2:44 am

            I made a mistake in the above comment.

            Russ’s graph which he used in accusing me of posting an incorrect price for onshore wind PPA in 2013 is not a 2012-2013 average.

            It is a 2011-2013 price average.

            [link]      
            • By Russ Finley on December 3, 2014 at 12:47 am

              You misunderstood my intent. That wasn’t an accusation. I quoted you only so readers would know where I got the values. I assumed your values were valid. I was merely pointing out that when wind subsidies are accounted for, that the wind price bubbles rise up and above most of its competing energy sources. See graphic below and envision the bubbles being raised higher when subsidies are accounted for.

              [link]      
            • By Bob_Wallace on December 3, 2014 at 1:43 am

              Russ, you called me a liar.

              You first called me a bully but I let that slide because I figured that you must have tender fee-fees.
              =====

              As for your graph, have you yet not figured out that an average of 2011 to 2013 prices is not the same as the 2013 prices?

              Are you not aware that the price of wind and solar have been falling very rapidly?

              If you look at your bubbles for Interior you’ll see that the bottom one is about 1.7 cents/kWh. Add in about 1.2 cents for subsidies. (Wind gets at 2.3 cent per kWh PTC for the first 10 years of production. PPAs generally run 20 to 25 years so adding 1.2 over the life of the contact is roughly correct.)

              You’ve got a cluster of bubbles around $20/MWh, 20 cents/kWh. Those are 2013 contracts. Wind, without subsidies, has dropped to about 4 cents.

              Dubai just contracted for a solar farm at 5.98 cents per kWh. That is with no government support. No subsidies.

              The US will be getting there in the not too distant future.

              Wind and solar are simply getting to inexpensive for nuclear to have a future. I really don’t care what someone speculates about 30 years from now. Wind and solar are going to get even cheaper, probably settling in between 3 and 4 cents for farms still being paid off. And after payoff wind farms are going to produce another decade or so of almost free power while solar farms, after the 20 year payoff, will go on for decades. We really don’t know how many yet. Our oldest array is 40 years old and still going very strong.

              No one has found a way to bring nuclear to under 10 cents per kWh. We’ve been working at it for over a half century and the price keeps rising.

              If we get 60%, 70% of our electricity at <4 cents we can easily spend a dime for storage and the average cost is under a dime. It takes only simple math to check that out.

              There's no intrinsic value in nuclear. It doesn't poop out chocolate eggs. There's no external gain that would encourage us to build it in spite of its cost. In fact, nuclear brings a danger into our lives unlike any other energy source. (Coal is pretty nasty, but not hundreds of years nasty.)

              Just take a little time, Russ. Check my DOE sources for current prices. Put aside the stuff from the BT, they have a dog in the fight. Put pencil to paper and see if you can create a financial argument that says the world will build nuclear rather than much cheaper renewables.

              [link]      
      • By Russ Finley on December 1, 2014 at 2:30 am

        The Bob Wallace moniker said:

        I’ll give you what I believe are real world prices and their sources …Solar = $0.05/kWh PPAs (subsidized) being signed in the US Southwest.

        And let me give you the real cost of installing enough solar on a roof in the sunshine state to provide 100% of the average Floridian electric bill as calculated by a source I assume you think is “credible” because you linked to it in the comments here; the National Renewable Energy Lab.

        I’m not against incorporating wind and solar into our energy mix but the results showed that installing solar in this location would cost the owner $30 thousand more dollars over 25 years than if they had not installed solar. I have no problem with that. Fossil fuels are very hard to defeat economically.

        [link]      
        • By Bob_Wallace on December 1, 2014 at 2:38 am

          Are you kidding me, Russ?

          I posted the cost of utility scale solar. With DOE links. And you somehow think the cost of end-user solar in Florida has something to do with that price?

          [link]      
      • By Russ Finley on December 1, 2014 at 3:00 am

        Are you kidding me, Russ?

        I posted the cost of utility scale solar. With DOE links. And you somehow think the cost of end-user solar in Florida has something to do with that price?

        Are you kidding me, Bob?

        I posted end-user cost of solar, a value a consumer will understand …the NREL shows that a consumer in Florida would lose $30 thousand dollars over 25 years because they installed enough solar to displace their average electric bill. I’m a big fan of solar. My electric car also cost a lot.

        [link]      
        • By Bob_Wallace on December 1, 2014 at 3:13 am

          Russ, your article is about nuclear. Is nuclear end-user generation?

          I was commenting on current prices for utility scale (wholesale) electricity. End-user solar has zero to do with utility prices.

          It’s late, Russ. Read the links I gave you for 2013 wind and solar prices. Do some research on your own and find out what new nuclear costs.

          You should know about the Hinkley Point strike price. You should be familiar with the budget and timeline problems in Europe at Olkiluoto 3 and Flamanville. If not, then use the place names and do a search.

          I gave you the link for the Citigroup LCOE for Vogtle. Not a link to the actual paper as it is behind a pay wall, but to an article which quotes from the paper.

          And here’s a link for you. Apparently India has struck a deal with France to build new nuclear in India for 9.8 cents/kWh.

          http://zeenews.india.com/news/maharashtra/india-france-agree-on-cost-of-power-generated-by-jnpp_916832.html

          [link]      
      • By Russ Finley on December 1, 2014 at 4:28 am

        Russ, your article is about nuclear.

        No, it isn’t. Maybe you should have read it before commenting. It’s about the IEA study predicting our future energy mix.

        I was commenting on current prices for utility scale (wholesale) electricity.

        And here is what I said about that (see chart below):

        If you moved those little circles that represent wind prices up to the $0. 04/kWh line per your remark that “the non-subsidized costs of wind are a bit under 4 cents” you find that wind is more expensive than half of its competitors. But as with baseload generators, that doesn’t matter. It has a different role to fill and and therefore a different price that goes into the average that becomes an electric bill. A grid is the some of its parts. Not all parts cost the same.

        The pseudonym Bob Wallace continues:

        End-user solar has zero to do with utility prices.

        And this is what I said about that:

        I posted end-user cost of solar, a value a consumer will understand …the NREL shows that a consumer in Florida would lose $30 thousand dollars over 25 years because they installed enough solar to displace their average electric bill. I’m a big fan of solar. My electric car also cost a lot.

        The pseudonym Bob Wallace continues:

        It’s late, Russ. Read the links I gave you for 2013 wind and solar prices. Do some research on your own and find out what new nuclear costs.

        I know what nuclear costs. It doesn’t pay to ignore points made in previous comments. Let me repeat a few of them:

        The IEA study in my article found that the two most viable scenarios were a ind/solar/storage/nuclear/NG grid. Wind and solar can’t do it alone and neither can nuclear. Only one has been providing safe, gargantuan amounts of economically viable low carbon energy for over half of a century. How far and how fast wind and solar can scale remains an untested hypothesis.

        It has a different role to fill and and therefore a different price that goes into the average that becomes an electric bill. A grid is the sum of its parts. Not all parts cost the same.

        The pseudonym Bob Wallace continues:

        You should know about the Hinkley Point strike price.

        Of course I know about it. As I said before:

        The utilities have always paid different prices for different sources of power (baseload, peaking, load following). You can’t compare wind to nuclear. They don’t compete for the same role in our grid. One reduces natural gas plant fuel bills, the other provides baseload. Your utility bill reflects a kind of average of prices paid for the various forms of power production during different times of day and different times of the year. The new nuclear power plants being built are a bet on a future carbon price, which will make them undisputed kings of low carbon baseload, relegating natural gas to peaking power, and coal to exports to China (which would from a climate change perspective, make this all a moot point)

        You have heard me say this before. Debate isn’t about winning.
        Debate partners never cede. You provide me the opportunity to inform interested readers.

        [link]      
        • By Bob_Wallace on December 1, 2014 at 11:52 pm

          test

          [link]      
  11. By Russ Finley on November 24, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    Greenengineer

    Cost of long term storage:

    What I don’t understand is how anyone can claim to have real, representative total lifecycle costs for nuclear power, when the majority of the long-term costs have been and continue to be deferred to the indefinite future. Until we have a waste disposal solution that is (1) widely used and (2) fully life-cycled costed, any such cost estimates are using purely made-up numbers.

    For starters, and I realize that you already know this, the cost of on-site waste storage as well as contributions to the Nuclear Waste Fund are already reflected in electricity rates. The U.S. Nuclear Waste Fund has been receiving $750 million a year from nuclear power plants, which has an unspent balance of $25 billion. The cost of long term storage, like all cost estimates, depends on assumptions. Will it be reprocessed before storing the lower level waste as glass cylinders? Will the type of storage require any ongoing costs at all (deep geologic deposit)? Instead of locking it away, will most of it be consumed as fuel? From the World Nuclear Association:

    1) Nuclear power is the only large-scale energy-producing technology which takes full responsibility for all its wastes and fully costs this into the product.
    2) The amount of radioactive wastes is very small relative to wastes produced by fossil fuel electricity generation.
    3) Used nuclear fuel may be treated as a resource or simply as a waste.
    4) Nuclear wastes are neither particularly hazardous nor hard to manage relative to other toxic industrial wastes.
    5) Safe methods for the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste are technically proven; the international consensus is that this should be geological disposal.

    Probability of future accidents:

    The probability of future accidents can’t be calculated with any meaningful accuracy and is irrelevant in any case. See my first paragraph. Nuclear is going to be part of our energy mix. In the 60 years of nuclear energy production we have a total of three data points: Chernobyl, TMI, Fukushima, two of which didn’t kill a soul. We do know that there will never be another Chernobyl reactor design, which was spawned by the Soviet military industrial complex to maximize production of plutonium for bombs when generating electricity and didn’t even have a containment dome. We do know that modern designs are far safer than older ones, which have proven to be the safest form of energy generation we have.

    Cost of accidents:

    According to the EPA, one out of four Americans lives within four miles of a Superfund hazardous waste site. The $1.5 billion to put a new sarcophagus around Chernobyl is the cost of creating another industrial waste site. The CBO has estimated that cleaning up just our non-federal waste sites may cost $120 billion. It seems likely, given a thousand years, that humanity will come up with a better solution for those few acres at the Chernobyl reactor site, and if we don’t, well, add it to the list of other Superfund sites around the world. The rest of the polluted areas surrounding the reactor have become Europe’s largest wildlife preserve.

    http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/entirereport_11.pdf

    Likewise, I’m not sure how you amortize the cost of the Fukushima accident to Japan, but someone had better made a credible attempt at doing so before they claim to know what nuclear power costs.

    We could start with the fact that extra fuel imports as a result of closing nuclear has cost Japan about $30 billion in the last two years, and if there were a price on carbon, the impact would be much greater.

    http://www.eia.gov/countries/cab.cfm?fips=ja

    It’s true that all the alternatives have impacts, many of them severe, and this includes renewables. It may well be that there is simply no way to generate the ~70 exajoules of electricity that the world uses in a net-cost-positive way. I think that this is very likely the case, and is the reason that I work on the demand side of the equation.

    I tend to agree with everything in the above statement. All of these studies also assume huge changes in the demand side. The shorter total height of the two bar charts on the right in the article represent massive assumed efficiency gains.

    [link]      
    • By Forrest on November 25, 2014 at 7:56 am

      Earth’s mantle may be heated by continuous sustained nuclear reaction. Geologist do know radioactive decay of elements such as uranium
      happens all the time beneath earth’s surface and heat magma. Lava often has low level radiation. Just saying, we shouldn’t treat nuclear energy as mad man science and radiation as scary invented pollution per the process. It’s an earth natural process. The French reprocess low level nuclear waste. That should be step one to minimize our waste and in doing so, provide a huge pool of nuclear fuel resources. Something like a football field of waste concentrated to closet size. Deep geologic deposit of waste makes sense. The nuclear accident clean ups really magnified the value of robot control. This technology will greatly improve in future.

      I live just four miles from Superfund site. Not very exciting. Years ago they portrayed horrific historical savaging by man made industry pollution for profit. Taxpayers spent millions upon study, fencing, warning signs and promotion of responsible government actions. Like wise it turned into nature sanctuary. Updated studies claim best to top off with clay layer as nature appears to be cleaning the site up. Hazardous waste companies are upset as they lusted over taxpayers expenditures to relocate dirt to expensive hazardous landfill. Citizens appear not to be scared as some of the most expensive homes built next door. Maybe they enjoy lower taxes? Michigan State had a biological study of nature upon these waste sites. They discovered potent soil components and plant life that have ability decompose the problem. Russia utilizes these low cost natural processes for hazardous soil pollution remediation. Maybe the U.S. is suffering to much crony capitalism influence per political decision making and awarding supporters that profit from waste industry? No, that couldn’t happen. At least it didn’t happen yet with this Superfund site, but the decision makers are not doing anything to bolster the natural process and have not disclosed or committed to public awareness of the low cost value per such action. Politicians just wait with hand out before making declaration and will not disclose low cost alternatives that don’t pay to play. You can’t be to careful, safe, and environmental.

      [link]      
  12. By Forrest on December 2, 2014 at 7:27 am

    Wind and solar prophets claim the energy source is cheap, plentiful, and will quickly replace coal, nuclear, and even natural gas. Well, the financial groups predicting the Keynesian theory of easy government printing will soon be over and may be replaced with inflation. Good luck to expensive wind and solar. Same with accelerated depreciation to attract high rate taxpayer money. PPAs will vanish as ratepayers scream for rate relief and demand moth balled coal plants be put back on line. Solar and wind are anemic with unreliable production schedules. Roof top solar trend lines are positive. Panel cost decreasing, reliability up, controls less costly, and battery cost improving. Yet, far from competitive. Remote off grid areas such as Africa will deliver most of the solar growth. Walmart is installing rooftop solar about twice the rate of other businesses, but probably doing so for good will marketing. These big box stores also utilize skylights to reduce daytime lighting needs. Walmart does both yet can only achieve 20% of power need. That’s probably the ratio the power grid will be able to utilize wind and solar as well. At least per current technology. Consider some of the following. Peak power demand of morning and evening not serviceable, by solar. Property tax cost eliminate savings, not attractive, cleaning access, roof complications/compromise, and lack of unaffordable battery storage to name a few stopping points. Wind has high investment cost, requires remote access to hyper expensive grid, uncontrollable, and usually not on duty during peak need. Wind power in Midwest, the zone of maximum benefit. Other select zones that happen to be close to need and grid will likewise be easy accepted. But, for most part, both wind and solar power supplies have critical shortcomings and the power generated not valuable. The generated power is supplemental and will not replace grid power plants, but may force makeup to more of the lower efficient quick response gas turbine power. The problem with grid has always been peak power demand of which solar and wind by themselves aggravate. The proponents offer solutions to greatly modify grid with steep investment cost to alleviate some of the wind and solar handicaps, but these solutions would empower current power plants as well. Nuclear should be positioned as prime environmental and low cost candidate to power needs of growing economy. Same with hydro, geothermal, and biomass. We should propel these to front line status. We can utilize some wind, but need to go slow to adapt to unique requirements and adjust to new approaches to maximize investment value. Invention will be required to adapt much of this new energy. Example, roof top construction to utilize solar within the role of protecting shelter from elements. Solve the power storage problem, and control of consumption cycle. For example charging BEV at night and freezing ice cubes for daytime AC. Maximizing CHP technology may just easily dovetail with solar and together enable off grid solutions. Hydrogen may become the disruptive force to all the above. Yes and yes, nondispatchable power generation is not comparable to controlled or continuous power. nondispatchable power is the least valuable and most problematic to business of power generation, but is valued per perception of public and GW concerns. The public needs real cost vs benefit numbers to evaluate. Good luck to them as they never been told the truth yet per politics.

    [link]      
    • By Bob_Wallace on December 2, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      ” Good luck to expensive wind and solar.”

      Might I offer you a bit of price reality?

      Wind Onshore
      $1.63 Installed Cost/Watt
      DOE 2013 Wind Technologies Market Report

      PV Solar
      $1.81 Installed Cost/Watt
      Greentech Media 2nd Qtr 2014 Executive Summary

      CCNG
      $1.09 Installed Cost/Watt
      Open EI DOE Database Median Overnight Cost

      Nuclear
      $6.94 Installed Cost/Watt
      Vogtle current cost estimate $15.5 billion for 2,234 MW

      Please note that nuclear has higher operating costs than wind and solar.

      And do learn how to use paragraphs when attempting to communicate.

      [link]      
  13. By Forrest on December 3, 2014 at 7:21 am

    It doesn’t take long to search opposing data, disputing wind proponents blather. Much noise within the typical evaluations to confuse ratepayers and taxpayers. It reminds me of the politics of confusing voters upon value and cost of Public Ed..Wind energy has many problems of which one is cost. Ask yourself, if the energy source was actually cost effective, why have the states with highest wind turbine count experience seven times the rate of increase? Why did the industry attempt to stuff voter consent to handcuff ourselves to Michigan Constitution wind growth rate of 30% by 2030. If the energy source so cheap, why such extreme measures required to promote? Read this link to understand the utility industry and value of wind power. It’s long, but well worth the read as politics and wind enthusiast are attempting to misinform.

    [link]      
    • By Forrest on December 3, 2014 at 7:29 am

      My utility company did invest in one wind turbine to investigate and evaluate costs. They still operate the turbine, but report the cost are ridiculous. They chose to invested in state of art pollution control to upgrade a coal plant. It may be a mistake as the federal agents can impose regulation costs with pen. For example since the current administration has found so much “new” power the flotilla of unelected agencies have themselves found new powers such as IRS redefining wind power credits and write offs, well beyond Congressional law.

      [link]      
    • By Forrest on December 3, 2014 at 7:30 am
      [link]      
    • By Bob_Wallace on December 3, 2014 at 11:53 pm

      “Ask yourself, if the energy source was actually cost effective, why have the states with highest wind turbine count experience seven times the rate of increase? ‘

      I think someone fed you some bad info there, old bean.

      [link]      
  14. By Forrest on December 3, 2014 at 7:51 am

    I continue to evaluate hydro power and impressed with the value and benefits. Norway and Sweden blessed with much of the power. They utilize wind power, but enable the unreliable energy source with hydro. They store up water for eventual loss of wind power to balance production cycle. Also, pump storage not so bad as far as energy storage efficiencies go. Turbine designed for the purpose lose 15-30% of the power, but the energy storage medium is still 1/10 the cost of alternatives. Hydro power still rated the cheapest energy source, longest life cycle, and lowest cost per KWh to put in place. It easily has twice the duty cycle as compared to wind, but lower than coal and nuclear. The energy source can flex to utilize high production within peak load. Most of the dams across country sit with no turbine power production. They utilize the dam for recreational, flood control, and water stores. Most of the old dams could increase efficiency per modern turbine replacement. Most of the in place dams could be converted to power generation. Small hydro also, hardly exploited. Estimates claim our hydro power could double with such conversions and do so with sensitive placement for little environmental cost. One large problem is the same problem wind suffers. Remember the Pickens Plan to greatly exploit Midwest wind energy? The business plan ruined by the fact, expensive grid connections made the energy source uncompetitive. Even if wind energy install cost was free, not worth the money. How do present day wind proponents get around costly connections to grid. Per magic of legislation to dump that cost to utilities and ratepayers.

    [link]      
    • By Bob_Wallace on December 3, 2014 at 11:50 pm

      Hydro is pretty good. Aside from the damage it can do to fish habitat and the loss of scenic areas there’s not a lot of downsides and the cost can be cheap.

      Those countries with abundant hydro are in great shape A few countries are already “100% renewable” with hydro. Paraguay produces 10x more electricity than it uses with hydro and sells the extra to its neighbors.

      Hydro is a great fill-in for wind and solar. If a country doesn’t have enough hydro to go ‘all hydro’ then they can install wind and solar, use them when available then fill in with hydro.

      Pump-up hydro storage is pretty good and is our safety net when it comes to running an all renewable grid. We know that PuHS works, we’ve been using it for 100 years. It has reasonably high efficiency ratings and it’s affordable.

      The task now is to find cheaper and easier to site storage. If we can truck low cost storage around the grid and plug it in then we lower transmission costs and make our grids more stable.

      The US has could add about 10 GW of hydro to its grid by converting dams which are not being used for generation. And we’ve got as much as 65 GW of ‘run of the river’ hydro we could tap. And we’ve got lots of existing dams which aren’t good for generation but would be great for PuHS.

      Other than rooftop solar pretty much any generation or PuHS we add to the grid is going to take some amount of new transmission lines. The cost of transmission is taken into account when a new facility is planned, it’s the total cost that makes the decision.

      Transmission costs are going to be passed on to ratepayers or taxpayers, perhaps a mix of both. There’s no sugar daddy giving transmission lines away. Pickens’ plan failed because the new transmission line didn’t come close enough to his site. He would have paid his share to hook up, but the route turned out to be too far away. His turbines got installed at multiple other wind farms.

      [link]      
  15. By Forrest on December 4, 2014 at 8:24 am

    Amazing, some rail against the alternative fuel RFS and spout open market concerns while comfortable with wind power dependence on federal and state picking winners. Wind power squeeze taxpayers, rigs tax code, and regulations such as mandatory provisions of RPS. Wind promoters claim cost of wind energy is competitive, hardly the case. With enough money even pigs can fly and even wind energy can be made to appear grid parity with much of the cost foisted off onto public via the rate schedules, tax code, and government hand outs. The proponents of wind often point to PPA contracts, but the cost is not same as price. Adding to the deception EIA calculates new wind 2018, with capacity factor of .34, 30 yr life, with levelized cost of $86.6/MWh including $3.2/MWh for transmission. They include subsidies not or partially available to competing energy and exclude various hidden costs. The 30yr life not the experience nor the lifespan published by manufactures. Reality is more like 20 yr. Transmission cost underestimated by EIA, standby power not included as well. Consider the more realistic 20 year lifespan pushes levelized cost to $93/MWh. Back out the accerated depreciation just for wind benefit of 5 year, price jumps to $101/MWh. Back up power cost not included within EIA. Consider the following:

    . Increase frequency of stop start operation of existing power plants
    . Standby mode costs
    . Gas plants that need to operate in synchronous mode for variable wind power
    . Operating current power in part load condition, thanks to wind

    To balance variable wind add $17/MWh for natural gas and $55 for coal. Adjust the CO2 savings down as well. Total levilized cost not sits at $151/MWh for natural gas and $192/MWh for coal.

    [link]      
    • By Forrest on December 4, 2014 at 8:46 am

      A better measure for cost is grid level reality. What are the balancing, grid level, and system costs? Low level wind power production is assumed to access sweet spot locations. Adding to this, low level wind doesn’t cost much within grid as the system has ability to absorb variability. Currently wind operates within this sweet zone of 3-5% production. Costs of all three variables will accelerate with higher percentages of wind power.
      We must note that wind power hardly replaces any power stations as the entire fleet must be maintained to come to rescue when wind fails. Always during peak seasonal loads. EIA has new advanced combined cycle NG at $65.6 /MWh. Advanced coal at $123 /MWh, and nuclear $108 /MWh. Sounds like viable costs to me considering these plants produce power on schedule and name plate capacities. Don’t think wind is going to run over nuclear per dirt cheap cost as some would have you believe. Rate payers are paying $8.5 to $10 billion / year over what would have been lower cost installations of natural gas power. This will increase at faster rate with more wind energy. Taxpayers paying $12 billion for extension of PTC. The biggest cost is to competitive ability of nation, whom were energized to invest in politics to phony up (deceive) voting public.

      [link]      
      • By Bob_Wallace on December 4, 2014 at 10:11 pm

        “We must note that wind power hardly replaces any power stations as the entire fleet must be maintained to come to rescue when wind fails”

        There’s some truth to that. Everyone knows the wind doesn’t blow 24/365 nor the Sun shine all the time. (I really don’t know why anti-renewable people keep pointing out the obvious. Did they just realize that and think no one else knows?)

        Let’s imaging you had a grid all set up with CCNG. Costs you money to fuel those turbines.

        The along comes cheap wind and cheap solar. Installing wind and solar allows you to cut way back on your fuel costs and only run your gas plants part time. Overall your costs drop.

        Then along comes inexpensive storage. Storage lets you cut back even more on your gas use. Your cost of power keeps dropping and dropping.

        BTW, storage is starting to replace gas already….

        [link]      
    • By Bob_Wallace on December 4, 2014 at 10:06 pm

      “wind power dependence on federal and state picking winners”

      For all years up to the end of 2013 US taxpayers subsidized nuclear energy more than $185 billion. During the same timeframe wind and solar received about $25 billion combined.

      In 2013 nuclear produced 19.4% of all US electricity. Wind and solar produced 4.33%

      Nuclear has received 7.4x as much subsidy over time and yet is produced only 4.5x as much electricity as wind and solar in 2013. We are currently getting 1.6x more electricity per dollar subsidy with wind and solar.

      I’d say the government hasn’t done a good job picking a winner with nuclear energy but has done a lot better with wind and solar. Looks to be as if we wasted an awful lot of taxpayer on nuclear.

      [link]      
  16. By Forrest on December 5, 2014 at 5:30 am

    Substantial amounts have been invested in energy R&D over the last 50 years. Much of this has been directed at developing nuclear energy – which now supplies 12% of world electricity. (This historical R&D figure expenditure on nuclear exploited by antinuclear crowd as subsidy for nuclear. It’s really about physics and countries future.

    Today, apart from Japan and France, there is about twice as much R&D investment in renewables than nuclear, but with rather less to show for it and with less potential for electricity supply.

    Nowhere in the world is nuclear power subsidized per unit of production. In some countries however it is taxed because production costs are so low.

    Renewables have received heavy direct subsidies in the market by various means. Fossil fuels receive indirect subsidies in their waste disposal as well as some direct subsidies.
    Nuclear energy fully accounts for its waste disposal and decommissioning costs in financial evaluations. http://www.world-nuclear.org

    2010- Renewables took 55.3% of U.S. subsides and accounted for 10.3% of the power,
    of that, wind gobbled up 42.0% and produced 2.3% of nations power. Nuclear 21.0% and produced 19.6% and coal 10% producing 44.9% of nations power. Nuclear has tremendous capability and continues to receive R&D investment as most scientific minds have this energy source crucial to meet demands of countries future energy needs.

    We must evaluate new power choices based on the grid we have, instead of the grid we wish we had. The cheapest power plant is the one already paid for. Once a wind project qualifies for PTC subsidy, it continues for a decade. We have no electric storage of any significance and have no specific plans for future. Deficit spending and low cost capital will soon come to screeching halt. Good luck replacing cheap power with expensive unreliable power and expensive grid extensions, Do you think the voter purchase agreements will diminish per the need for wind?

    [link]      
    • By Bob_Wallace on December 5, 2014 at 10:13 pm

      I’m sure you know what cherry-picking is and also realized that when you tried to make an argument based on only 2010 subsidy numbers you were engaging in cherry-picking.

      I suspect most of the people reading this blog understand as well.

      Here’s the entire cherry tree. Subsidy data from the beginning of when we started spending money on domestic reactors until the end of 2013.

      For all years up to the end of 2013 US taxpayers subsidized nuclear energy more than $185 billion. During the same timeframe wind and solar received about $25 billion combined.

      In 2013 nuclear produced 19.4% of all US electricity. Wind and solar produced 4.33%

      Nuclear has received 7.4x as much subsidy over time and yet is produced only 4.5x as much electricity as wind and solar in 2013. We are currently getting 1.6x more electricity per dollar subsidy with wind and solar.

      BTW, $185 billion is not a total accounting of nuclear subsidies. It doesn’t include taxpayer assumed liability, extra security expenses guarding reactors from terrorist/enemy attacks, the federal money that has been spent attempting to find a solution for long term radioactive waste disposal, etc. It also does not include the money spent on government reactor research which was passed along to the private industry.

      [link]      
    • By Bob_Wallace on December 5, 2014 at 10:18 pm

      ” The cheapest power plant is the one already paid for. ”

      You are partially correct here. In general paid off reactors generate electricity than any new capacity, even wind. But about 25% of our nuclear fleet doesn’t fall in the “cheapest” category. We’ve already closed down five reactors due to cost and should be closing another this month.

      Rumors abound that Exelon may close five of their six reactors in early 2015. They have six reactors which have been operating at a loss for over five years.

      “Renewables have received heavy direct subsidies in the market by various means.”

      Perhaps you aren’t aware that when/if the Vogtle reactors come on line they will be more heavily subsidized, per MWh, than are new wind and solar farms. Loan guarantees, taxpayer assumed liability, and a PTC.

      [link]      
    • By Forrest on December 6, 2014 at 9:23 am

      Some of the logic to dis nuclear has a comical element. I’ll put my antinuclear hat on to demonstrate. Wind turbines need to be replaced as they are no longer cost efficient to run. Hundreds of turbines scheduled to be decommission because of high operational cost (when not promoting propaganda one could just as easily mention equipment will wear out, eventually). Wind energy enjoys immense subsidies, (the logic goes, wind is a natural resource and like oil needs to pay it’s fair share of public tax). True cost of wind energy is hidden as currently the sector avoids billions of cost upon the free use of land and water mass that is required to heat up wind for their power source. Land owners should be compensated for the use. Wind power not paying for the eventual destruction their power source inflicts on public, that routinely requires $ billions to reconstruct. Hundreds of lives lost to the destructive force as well. Yet, wind power pays no insurance premium for their destructive power source. Wind pays no cost for the huge expenditure to study climate, weather, wind, emergency response and emergency preparedness. Wind energy must be regulated to put in place deterrents and safety measures to stop wildlife damage. Annual records must be maintained to demonstrate to public the energy choice kills no wildlife. The misstep, bad reporting, or inefficient controls will result in large monetary damage lawsuits designed to deter the wind sector of such actions. Any endangered species sighted within 100 mile radius (typical zone to ensure) the turbine should be removed.
      Some environmentalist will claim the cost of maintaining military should be claimed as subsidy of oil as military can be called to duty to protect international supply and prevent terrorist capture of oil pumping and transport facilities. The bad information just propagated among activist to kill competition to their wonderful solutions.

      [link]      
      • By Bob_Wallace on December 6, 2014 at 11:11 am

        Interesting. Like the proverbial one million monkeys, you get something right now and then.

        ” Wind turbines need to be replaced as they are no longer cost efficient to run”

        Yep. We’re swapping out the 30+ year old turbines at Altamont Pass wind farm now. (Turbines that were expected to last 20 years.) Maintenance costs were starting to rise and we’re replacing them with new tech turbines that will produce a lot more power out of the same area.

        We’ve also closed some reactors lately because repairing them was too expensive to justify. Two in SoCal, one in Florida, one in Vermont….

        “Wind energy enjoys immense subsidies”

        Yep. About one-eighth of the very immense subsidies nuclear has received.

        You do manage to wander into certifiable crazy-land with your “inflicts on the public”, but you do have your role to play.

        [link]      
  17. By Forrest on December 6, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Wind proponents talk of moneys, but they should focus on pigs per their fuzzy math skills. As given enough tax payer money even pigs can fly, so it is with grid parity wind cost. Read this link to get better info contrary to the lauded wind energy costs. http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/310631/more-realistic-cost-wind-

    According to the Taylor/Tanton report, there are numerous hidden costs to wind power, including the cost of back-up power, the cost of extra transmission, and the cost of favorable tax benefits. And, the assumption of a 30-year life used in government calculations for wind power is optimistic, based on reports from European countries regarding the useful service lives of their wind turbines. Including these hidden costs in calculating the cost of wind energy increases its cost by a factor of 1.5 or 2, depending on the power system that is used as back-up. The total levelized cost of wind energy averages $151/MWh with NG back-up/balancing and $192/MWh with coal back-up/balancing.

    Oh, don’t forget that wind energy cost should not be compared to dispatchable power as it can’t fulfill the desirable and valuable status. Meaning at best clever operation and control of the grid could save some natural gas or coal at times from lower power plant operation production. Big whoop.

    [link]      
    • By Bob_Wallace on December 6, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      Interesting idea. Start talking about the cost of electricity sourcing in terms of “pigs”. Sort of like comparing hourly wages in terms of Big Macs.

      So if we’re using wind we’d save money and be able to buy more pigs, making wind “pig positive”.

      But if we’er using nuclear we’d lose money and have to sell some of our pigs to pay the power bill, making nuclear “pig negative”.

      [link]      
      • By Bob_Wallace on December 6, 2014 at 2:32 pm

        Oh, and we can refer to your further stuff about the hidden costs of wind as “pig s…”.

        It’s an interesting new metric. I wonder if it will catch on.

        [link]      
  18. By Russ Finley on December 14, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    I just ran into another graphic that sliced and diced the IEA report to show sources for electricity generation (as opposed to total energy generation). The 450 scenario is for policies aimed at holding CO2 emissions to 450 ppm.

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/uploadedImages/org/WNA/WNA_Update/WNA_Update/IEA%20WEO%20projections.png

    [link]      
    • By Bob_Wallace on December 14, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      Those 2040 coal projections make no sense.

      #1 China. Consumed 50.2% of the world’s total coal consumed in 2012.

      #2 US. Consumed 11.7% of world total in 2012.

      #3 India. 8% of the world total in 2012.

      That’s 70% of the world’s coal consumption. China seems to have peaked or just about peaked coal use. The US is dropping consumption. India is looking for ways to cut coal use and ramping up renewables.

      If you’ve got 70% of the market shrinking then you won’t get a doubling of consumption.

      Add to that most major investment banks and the World Bank will no longer finance coal plants.

      Nuclear grows? Hard to see that happening as nuclear is almost certain to continue shrinking over the next decade or so. We have more reactors closing than coming on line.

      http://www.worldnuclearreport.org/WNISR2014.html

      Over the next decade wind and solar will likely continue to get cheaper. We’ll see drops in storage costs which will allow wind and solar to become closer to 24/365. There just won’t be financial room for new nuclear (or new coal).

      IMO what they really get wrong is the small growth they project in solar. We’re about to experience a solar boom all around the globe. Countries which would never build a coal or nuclear plant are going to be installing a lot of solar.

      [link]      
    • By Forrest on December 15, 2014 at 7:37 am

      Low CO2 power and needs of low cost power appear to within the graphic. I would expect nuclear to increase 2-1/2x per the effort. Hydro to increase 2x for sensible low cost power needs. Also, wind to pickup 15% generating capacity and stall as the power at that percentage is efficient and utilized efficiency per the investment. Biomass percentages increase dramatically, yet a small fraction of overall energy needs. Cellulosic ethanol and space heating will be in competition for the feed stock as well. Solar small generation ability and high cost will limit the mass production of KWh, but extremely useful within selected user needs. Hopefully, coal will migrate to the more efficient gasification and combined cycle power plant. Natural gas to provide stop gap needs of quick power generation. Also, not on the graphic, is the increasingly popular micro grid conversions and the CHP generators of engine, turbine, and fuel cell. Stationary fuel cell CHP installs, last year sit at 100,000 and expected to be one million in five years. Growth rate of 15% APR expected. I continue to notice high funding of international R&D for fuel cell. Automotive, is thinking more of the technology for future needs of consumers than battery car. Fork lift manufacturers already expected to be dominated by the technology. Current FC CHP installs surpass internal combustion engine. Japan once again is envisioning a tremendous future in the technology is leading international community in acceptance and production. Reminds me how Japan stomped on U.S. auto market per hybrid acceptance.

      [link]      
    • By Forrest on December 23, 2014 at 8:04 am

      China gets it, per Exxon report on future of energy. They will lead in energy consumption and construction of new nuclear power plants. The report expects wind, solar, and bio energy to be anemic contributor to power. Hydro, coal, and natural gas will have substantial gains. That path is most conducive to future needs of country to empower economic sector. Low cost power is critical foundation underpinning to support of growing economy. Also, for the U.S. to mitigate as much as possible environmental damage we need to dummy up and improve the state of power generation. It would be foolish to take the ostrich approach and believe that other countries impressed by our superior environmental elitist thinking skills and will follow. Better to improve coal, nuclear, and natural gas to make the conversion to power safer, more efficient, and less polluting and do so cost effectively.

      [link]      
  19. By Patrick on February 12, 2015 at 12:22 am

    You need 9-72 hours of energy storage to meet 99.9% of hours of load from renewables with a cost-optimized combination of wind, water, and solar [1]. Let’s assume 48 hours. The remaining 0.1 percent of load can be met with waste gas from landfills and/or biomass. This would add a trivial amount to the total cost so it can be ignored for these estimates.

    Capacity factors – wind produces energy 33% of the time, solar produces energy 25% of the time.

    solar costs $2,000 per kW

    wind costs $1,600 per kW

    pumped hydro costs $2,000 per kW

    If that’s the case, then solar is $8,000/kW adjusted for capacity factor, and wind is $4,800/kW adjusted for capacity factor. This doesn’t include the cost of storage, though. If we need 48 hours of storage on average, then this adds $4,000/kW to the price of both wind and solar. So solar is $12,000/kW adjusted for capacity factor and including the cost of pumped hydro, wind is $8,800/kW.

    The price to beat is nuclear. The new Vogtle plant is around $6,600/kW (adjusted for CF)[2]. This is competitive with coal and natural gas.

    If we went full solar and wind with wind supplying 90% of the supply, then the total cost of the system would be around $9,120/kW.

    8,800 * .90 + 12,000 * .1 = 9,120.

    The average electric bill is $1,200 per year per household. This would increase to ~$1,800 per year if we went full wind, water, and solar right now. Hardly breaking the bank. However, it will take several years to transition to 100% renewable, during which time the technology will be improving and the costs will continue to drop. Solar plus pumped hydro will be cheaper than gas in no more than 5 years at current rates of improvement. By the time we get to 100% WWS, electricity will actually be much cheaper than it is now.

    It would appear, based on these calculations, that nuclear power is simply not needed.

    [1] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378775312014759

    [2] http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/programs/energy-and-climate/nuclear-is-cheaper-than-solar-thermal

    [link]      
    • By Bob_Wallace on February 12, 2015 at 12:55 am

      Let’s clean up some numbers. Utility scale solar was $1810/kW six months ago and rapidly falling. If you’re projecting costs into the future best to use something close to $1,000/kW. We’ll likely go below that.

      Wind will fall some. But the problem is your capacity factor. Current builds are returning CFs in the mid 40% range and we seem to be headed to 50%. We’ve learned a lot about how to get more energy from wind over the last few years.

      Your solar CF is a bit high if you’re talking national. 20% is probably a more accurate number. Average CF for the entire nation is closer to 18% by solar will likely we more heavily installed in the sunnier places.

      Now, the cost of a 100% grid. Wind and solar are likely to cost about 3 cents per kWh. We can probably get 50% to 70% of our electricity directly from wind and solar. Remember, the wind blows a lot of hours. And we’re redesigning blades/turbines for more constant output as opposed to capturing peak wind strength.

      We won’t know for a number of years whether the number is closer to 50% or 70% because we don’t know how much dispatchable load we can create. EVs should be an immense resource for the grid. The average EV will need to charge less than 3 hours per day which means that EVs can be incredible sources for places to dump peak supply. And that means we can install far more capacity without running into the need to curtail.

      10% to 20% from other renewables. Hydro,tidal, geothermal, biogas/mass and possibly wave. A lot of the hydro and biogas/mass will be dispatchable which lowers storage needs.

      Now storage. This is an emerging, developing technology. Worst case we use a lot of pump-up. Better case, EOS Energy Systems is taking orders for $160/kWh, 10,000 cycles. That’s 4 cents per kWh cycle.

      Best case (unproven) Ambri liquid metal batteries. 300 year lifespan, unlimited cycles. Even at a high price like $500/kWh the cost would be less than half a penny per kWh per cycle. Extremely cheap. These batteries have been working in prototype form and factory construction is underway.

      A move from $100 per month to $150 per month may be a bit high. We could see the cost of electricity stay the same or fall. Remember, after payoff we’re going to get years of almost free electricity from turbines and panels.

      And don’t forget the $140 billion to $242 billion we pay out each year to treat coal-caused health problems. It would be nice to see that cost go away.

      [link]      
      • By Patrick on February 12, 2015 at 3:49 pm

        Okay,

        So solar @ $1,000kW * 5 (adjusting for 20% CF) is $5,000. Add $4,000 for pumped hydro (assuming 48 hours of energy storage is the average), that’s $9,000/kW adjusting for CF and energy storage.

        Wind would be $1,600 * 2 (I’m assuming that the more efficient turbines cost as much as the older less efficient ones) $3,200 adjusted for CF. Add pumped hydro and you get $7,200.

        I think you’re going to need about 24 hours of pumped hydro, and gas generators on top of that to burn waste gas or biogas. The generators are cheap and would add a trivial amount to the total cost. I don’t think batteries are going to work at the scale required; I think there are resources constraints that you might be overlooking. Pumped hydro is plenty cheap though. We can use the same tech used to dig gas wells to dig shafts for underground vertical pumped hydro, and we can use abandoned shafts. Plus you don’t have a huge toxic mess from the mining/manufacturing/disposal of batteries. If the new capacity factor for wind is 50%, then about half of our energy would be coming from stored pumped hydro and biomass, and the other half would come directly from wind/solar.

        It appears that a tipping point has been reached and that nuclear is no longer necessary. This did not appear to be the case just a few years ago.

        [link]      
        • By Bob_Wallace on February 13, 2015 at 2:05 am

          I agree. Not that many years back as I contemplated the need to get off fossil fuels my thinking was that we were going to need move to nuclear, pay more for our electricity and live with the occasional meltdown and problem of radioactive waste.

          Nuclear was more expensive than coal, but the cost of climate change much higher. Wind and solar were so expensive that they weren’t in the picture.

          A few years later my opinion had shifted to thinking it better to pay a bit more for wind and solar to avoid nuclear disasters and waste.

          Now we’ve reached the point at which a renewable grid is cheaper than a nuclear grid. Additionally, wind and solar prices should continue to decrease.

          [link]      
          • By Bob_Wallace on February 13, 2015 at 2:13 am

            I’m not thinking PuHS will be our storage technology of choice. It’s there as a safety net but I think batteries are likely to beat it out.

            The EOS zinc-air batteries have a single daily cycle cost of 1.5 cents per kWh. Financed at 6% for 25 years makes the cost a bit under 4 cents. That is as cheap or cheaper than PuHS. Plus batteries are modular, easier to site, and can be distributed around the grid. Distributed installation firms up the grid and avoids transmission losses/costs.

            What could be the complete game changer is Ambri liquid metal batteries. With a 300 year life, unlimited cycles expectancy the cost of storing a kWh for a day would be well less than 1 cent.

            The Ambri batteries are working in prototype and work is underway to build a couple of factories. Materials are readily available and “dirt cheap”. Manufacturing is apparently cheap.

            We should know within a year.

            [link]      
            • By Patrick on February 13, 2015 at 1:53 pm

              I’m just skeptical of these silver bullet solutions. The liquid metal battery sounds too good to be true. We should remember that this is a company seeking to secure funding. Timescales and costs are usually underestimated when promoting a new technology.

              I’m excited to see what happens with the Ambri battery, but experience has taught me to temper my enthusiasm when it comes to these sorts of claims.

              [link]      
            • By Bob_Wallace on February 13, 2015 at 10:57 pm

              Liquid metal batteries do sound too good to be true. But they work at the prototype level and the company is well funded.

              I’ve yet to see an article that says “Liquid metal batteries won’t work because….”

              They aren’t proven at the real world level at this time. At this point there is only a small factory producing them and it is really just a “prototype” factory. It’s a test site for working out the best manufacturing process.

              We should know within a year, two at the most whether the batteries are going to work. They should be on grids in less than two years. Australia and Hawaii look like they could be the sites of the first factories. Very expensive electricity and booming solar installations.

              [link]      
            • By Patrick on February 14, 2015 at 1:19 pm

              Has anyone ever attempted to figure out how much water would be needed for pumped hydro backup?

              This article claims that 14% of Santa Clara County’s reservoir capacity would be needed for one day’s worth of stored energy. For two days, can we assume that 28% of reservoir capacity would be needed? http://www.energystoragenews.com/Elevated%20Weight%20Pumped%20Hydro%20Storage%20System.htm

              If so, can we conclude from this that around 28% of all city water supplies would be diverted to pumped hydro? And is this even possible, especially given that we are running out of water all over the country?

              Pumped hydro will be cheaper than Ambri batteries, this pro-Ambri article admitted it:

              “Ambri is betting it can deliver reliable bulk energy storage for well below $500 per kilowatt-hour. That’s still more expensive than pumped hydro, but since batteries can be placed nearly anywhere, Ambri thinks its technology can be the most economical choice for many applications.”

              (I think there is an error in the above quote- it says kilowatt hour but I think they meant installed kW)

              That quote is referring to conventional pumped hydro storage. Gravity power pumped hydro will be even cheaper. But the problem is a lack of water. Could salt water be trucked in and desalinated? Would it need to be desalinated? That’s a lot of water to truck in to fill up a pumped hydro module, but you only have to fill it once.

              I think if we solve the water issue, pumped hydro is definitely the way to go. Batteries would still be useful for locations where the geology is not suitable for underground pumped hydro, but I think pumped hydro will be our main backup.

              Either way, renewables are cheaper than gas and coal. If we assume $500/kW for Ambri batteries, then solar comes to $6,000 per useful kW and wind comes to $4,200 per useful kW. That’s for energy that is clean, renewable, and on-demand.

              Nuclear costs $6,600 so it’s already beat. But we can’t even really compare the latest reactors to renewables because they are not the melt-down proof breeder reactors that have been proposed; they are not safe or renewable like wind and solar. Nuclear has a lot of catching up to do- would need a melt-down proof breeder at less than $4,000/kW to compete.

              Biggest problem with underground pumped hydro is that it is unproven and utilities will be reluctant to build one until it has been proven. Catch-22 is that you need to build one in order to prove that it works. Such an energy storage system will therefore likely require government intervention to get started.

              [link]      
            • By Bob_Wallace on February 14, 2015 at 10:14 pm

              I recall a plan to build closed loop PuHS in Utah. If I recall the details correctly they were talking about the initial filling taking 2-3 years using excess water from the rainy season. After that there would be a need to replace the 10% lost to evaporation.

              We’ve got around 77,500 existing dams which aren’t being used for power production. We’ve got thousands of abandoned rock quarries, surface mines and subsurface mines. And plenty of places where both reservoirs could be excavated.

              We can even build “turkey nests” where the upper reservoir is built on higher ground close to the coast and the ocean is the lower. No fresh water required.

              “Ambri is betting it can deliver reliable bulk energy storage for well below $500 per kilowatt-hour.”

              Yes, kW. But that <$500 should have a 300 year lifespan with unlimited cycling. $500 / 109,500 (one cycle per day) = $0.0045. Less than one half cent per cycle.

              Operating costs should be extremely low.

              Being able to distribute storage around the grid avoids transmission costs/losses. It lowers the need for grid upsizing, power can be shipped and stored during times of low demand when the system is not taxed. There will be no extended environmental permitting issues and possible resistance to creating new reservoirs. Storage can be trucked in and plugged in in days, not years.

              Of course we don't yet know if Ambri will deliver so the benefits are speculative.

              I really think we're going to reach 3 cent wind and 3 cent solar within five years. Those are unsubsidized prices.

              We're below 4 cents with wind now. Solar is just above 6 cents while our installed prices have significant room to fall.

              3 cent input wind and solar used directly plus 3 cent W/S stored at even 10 cents totally kills any new coal, natural gas or nuclear.

              Let's look at the supply needed in addition to hydro, geothermal, biomass/gas and tidal.

              Assume 40% direct from wind at 3 cents. 30% direct from solar at 3 cents. 30% stored W/S at 10 cents. That's 5 cents per kWh electricity.

              Ten cents is storing in EOS zinc-air batteries. Ambri, if it works, would bring that price down a lot.

              [link]      
            • By Patrick on February 15, 2015 at 3:57 pm

              I’m not sure how having a 300 year lifespan helps. People typically want to make their money back within their lifetime. Ambri admits that conventional pumped hydro is cheaper per kW, and that the main benefit is that you can put a battery anywhere whereas even underground pumped hydro is geographically limited. I think pumped hydro will probably be the main backup while batteries will remain niche, but like you said, it’s all speculation at this point. Gravity Power is building 3 modules in Germany so we should know in just a few years.

              Also I’m not sure how you get 30% direct from solar. As I understand it the amount you can get directly is limited by the capacity factor, so we could get 20% direct from solar and 50% direct from wind with no storage. This is just nitpicking though since it doesn’t affect the price much.

              [link]      
            • By Bob_Wallace on February 15, 2015 at 9:58 pm

              With 300 year life you’re buying a very long term cash flow. That has value to institutions. I would imagine financing will be done for 20, 30 year payoff as would happen with PuHS. Which, or what else, may be the solution we’ll just have to wait and see.

              Capacity factor has nothing to do with how much of an energy source we consume expect its role in price setting.

              The amount of a energy we consume directly from a source is a factor of hours of availability, demand during those hours, and price.

              Solar is available about 20% of the hours of the year, rough average for the US. Those are high demand hours, think air conditioning. And many people will charge EVs at work/school as that will be their easiest access to outlets. Finally, solar is on the way to being one of our two cheapest ways to generate electricity.

              [link]      
        • By Bob_Wallace on February 13, 2015 at 7:20 am

          Here’s something interesting we just received from GE -

          “While we cannot share specific numbers from our customers’ sites unless they release it already or it’s public information, but we’re definitely seeing some above 50 percent capacity factors at many farms.

          Capacity factors obviously vary across wind farms due to a wide range of site locations and other factors. GE wind turbines in farms across the United States—in states such as Montana, California, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Kansas—have reached capacity factors of over fifty percent over the last two years (2013-14).

          These sites include a variety of GE wind turbine models and installation dates, and each site has registered capacity factors ranging from 50.4 to 52.4 percent, including availability at around 98 percent.”

          I also saw a comment on solar CF running as high as 32%. I’m assuming that would be using active tracking. My ~20% assumes fixed mounts.

          If I find the solar CF source again I’ll try to post it.

          [link]      
          • By Patrick on February 13, 2015 at 1:45 pm

            Are the more efficient turbines/ solar panels just as expensive as the less efficient ones? It doesn’t matter if they are twice as efficient if they cost twice as much.

            I don’t think we should completely give up on nuclear. The S. Korean reactors are dirt cheap- but these are just more advanced versions of the AP1000, a pressurized water reactor. It’s not renewable or melt-down proof.

            I’m still skeptical regarding batteries, I think we will need a huge amount of pumped hydro storage. Gravity Power Modules says they can produce 1600MW for over 4 hours per module. If we wanted to supply 12,000,000MW per hour for 48 hours we would need 300,000 GPMs. That sounds like a lot but there are close to 500,000 gas producing wells in the US.

            [link]      
            • By Bob_Wallace on February 13, 2015 at 10:51 pm

              With solar panels the cost per watt continues to fall. More watts per square meter (higher efficiency) lowers balance of system costs (shipping, racking, labor, real estate). BoS costs are now higher than panel costs per watt.

              I doubt that increased turbine efficiency is increasing costs but I’ve no data. Much of the increased efficiency is taller towers (some increased cost), different blade shaped (little to no increased cost), better software (probably no real cost increase), wind prediction systems (shouldn’t be expensive).

              The South Koreans have different labor costs. (And seem to have some quality/bogus parts issues.) The Vogtle reactors, built with incredibly low financing rates) are now projected to cost 12 cents per kWh which is totally unacceptable for US grids.

              We shouldn’t give up on nuclear. We should continue research to see if there is a way to drop the price by 3x (an enormous goal). But we should quit building any more until they can be produce competitively priced electricity.

              A year from now we should know far more about battery storage. The energy industry is full of talk about 2015 being the year that storage moves to a new level.

              [link]      
  20. By Forrest on February 12, 2015 at 6:03 am

    To wind and solar apologist working within hypothetical future value, will just say, the future is unpredictable, even beyond technology ability. Consider, each area of country, city, utility, etc. has unique needs, abilities, and resources. New energy supplies will be a compromise. The route will be dynamic and should always meet needs of consumer at an affordable price and quality, less we willing destroy our national competitiveness. It’s a little disingenuous per the original concern of GW to throw so many powerful solutions to the side. This post is typical of the scope of problem and need to multiply solutions as wind and solar will not come close with ability to do much quickly or cheaply at the scale needed. Both nice to have, but basically frosting on the cake.

    [link]      
    • By Bob_Wallace on February 12, 2015 at 6:17 am

      ” wind and solar will not come close with ability to do much quickly or cheaply at the scale needed”

      And you can prove this how?

      Give us some proof that wind and solar can’t be installed fast enough to replace 80% of fossil fuel use by 2050. (Setting a goal a bit higher than the IPCC high case.)

      Give us some proof that the price of wind and solar increase as they scale up.

      [link]      
      • By Forrest on February 12, 2015 at 8:28 am

        You don’t have proof. It’s just speculation and subject to broad shifts within reality. What happens to the solution if fuel cell (as some expect) to reign supreme. How, about new oil production technique. Biofuel steady increase, biomass solutions, acceptable nuclear solutions, new hydro siting that has little environmental impact. China is expected to go big within nuclear solution. Most on left claim the U.S. can’t deny Iran the benefits of nuclear energy, so why do they attempt to deny ourselves? The biggest factor to such expensive low power solutions, what happens if we run out or denied other peoples money? If China refuses to export lithium? If sequestration continue to project value? I read much more of these, than of wind and solar dominated energy supplies. Especially, from those whom trade is to supply the energy. Power storage will help, but also help status quo cheap base load power. CHP technology is making power production a coproduct where ever heat is needed. Also, CO2 solutions appear to need much more than solar and wind can provide and alternative solutions more or just as powerful. We need more solutions as it’s unproductive to fight for or promote desired solutions.

        [link]      
        • By Bob_Wallace on February 12, 2015 at 8:37 am

          Tell you what, Forrest, you answer the questions I asked you and then I’ll deal with your questions.

          You made some absolute claims. Were you talking from a position of knowledge or were you just throwing words?

          [link]      
          • By Forrest on February 12, 2015 at 9:48 am

            Was just reviewing 2/15 EIA data for Short Term Outlook for renewable energy. Not very bullish report. First per 2013 data hydro produced 6.2 percent of counties power. This was more than the rest of renewable power combined. Wind is projected to climb to 5.2% in 2016 with solar far behind at 7/10 of 1%. Renewable power is dominated by wind, biomass and hydro all about equal in 2016. Biomass does heavy lifting within the space heating business as well. Other than power, biofuel remains about the same, so the effort petrol put forth to freeze investment must be paying off. I read a report by Energy Dept that claimed with their new dam siting software, this power production can be very environmentally friendly. Probably more so than wind per the bird kill. Hydro has learned the art of more small dams and less disruptive grand schemes. Low pressure turbine design is efficient nowadays as well. Just retrofitting dams in place for tourism or flood control with well sited new dams could produce 30% of countries power and do so with attractive steady state of generation.

            [link]      
            • By Bob_Wallace on February 12, 2015 at 9:56 am

              That’s strike two.

              Are you able to answer the questions?

              If not, just admit that you were blowing smoke.

              [link]      
            • By Forrest on February 13, 2015 at 5:44 pm

              GE is hiring a lot of talent to commercialize their fuel cell.This is disruptive technology to power production. They utilize stainless steel in place of expensive platinum. The device is small and efficient. Power generation can be dial up from 1 to 10 mega watt. Meaning expensive power storage not needed as the 65% efficient device can handle the fluctuations. It small footprint can easy be located within view of consumers another advantage. Micro grid technology and savings come into play and double that with CHP technology as the fuel cell operates at 1500 deg F. So, the technology is powered on natural gas, but just as well methane bio gas generated by waste or biomass. Whats so good about the latter, is the negative carbon rating of such fuels. Double that with CO2 deep well sequestration that proven so effective with ethanol. If we are truly concerned of GW and inert life supporting CO2 gas accumulation, well efficient nuclear, fuel cell, biomass, ethanol, and hydro is more than capable to quickly disrupt the calculus irregardless of Hansen’s magic box simulation software and garbage in calculus. Power generation may become a by product of heat need. I do like wind and solar, just let’s not get carried away with their value. Like I said frosting on the cake status. Also, the battery car a welcomed vehicle but has limitation to light duty inter city. BTW, very critical application.

              [link]      
            • By Bob_Wallace on February 13, 2015 at 11:02 pm

              We can’t rely on methane for our power. It is a source of carbon and we will burn through the supply in not that many years.

              There’s not enough biogas to produce a large percentage of our power. We’ll have trouble producing enough for airplanes.

              [link]      
            • By Forrest on February 14, 2015 at 7:35 am

              The most powerful tool in CO2 reduction arsenal is the biological. Nature’s emissions of CO2 dwarf mankind’s, but nature also recycles the gas. Best to Interrupt nature’s emissions, by harvesting biomass and utilize for lumber and energy per man made processes that don’t emit raw methane and CO2. Utilize digester anaerobic bacteria and trap methane for our energy needs. Prevent termite destruction, rotting, insect damage, and fire. Trim and log forest for max growth rates and minimum danger per modern forestry standards. Grow bio crops that sequester CO2 in soil. Plant kingdom is prolific upon capturing CO2. Let them do their magic, just don’t let them cough it up again. Grass such as Miscanthus Giganteus are proving exceptional for the task. GMO technology will improve carbon sequestration trait. Modern farming practices and ethanol processing, places the fuel at carbon negative. Not bad since fossil fuel is number one emitter of CO2 above power plants. It’s a straw man argument to rationalize that forest production can’t meet all the energy needs of country therefor unacceptable. I see the fuel cell doubling up the value of these biological processes. Small power production becomes extremely efficient. These biological processes tend to mix and blend. Meaning waste, farm, and forest feed stocks will be processed by combinations of processes of which bio-digester is one. Fuel cell will empower these processes as well with advent of yet another co product. CHIP processes fit nicely within the scheme. Hydrogen production within high temp nuclear is gaining upon a path for countries energy concerns. NuScale is achieving customer base for their SMR nuclear solutions. Two to three years out the retiring coal plants like this alternative power. These plants slide off of truck with 45 mw capacity. Approval of design 2020 with production of 2023. BTW, TVA Watts Bar unit #2 has gained approval for operating license. The project suffered delay and extra cost but finally completed with expected power production cost below the current wholesale rate of 6.8-7.2 cents/kw. Nuclear will come in close to six. Nice that U.S.is attempting to shore up our decimated nuclear industry with the S.A. project funding. They would like the U.S. to gain a foothold upon the expected nuclear renaissance.

              [link]      
            • By Bob_Wallace on February 14, 2015 at 7:54 am

              Biofuels might help us keep some fossil fuel in the ground but it is extremely unlikely that we can meet more than a small portion of our energy needs with biofuel.

              You can make extremely optimistic predictions of what nuclear prices might be in the future, but right now nuclear where labor costs are on US/European scale costs more than 12 cents per kWh. That is not a player.

              Westinghouse took a second look at small modular reactors and shut down their division. NuScale is probably doing nothing more than creating salaries for it’s executives with money that will never produce a product.

              When/if someone can figure out how to build nuclear at a competitive price then private money will build some. For now the only way that nuclear gets built is with public money and the public is beginning to understand that their money is being wasted.

              Even paid off reactors in Illinois are begging for public money in order to keep from going under. Exelon has six reactors which have been losing money for over five years. This will only get worse as the cost of wind continues to fall and cause reactors to lose money at night and as the cost of solar continues to fall, taking away nuclear’s ability to cover their losses.

              We’re closing paid off reactors in the US because the economics will not support their operation. These are reactors with no capex and finex costs to service.

              There’s a new energy reality. There’s an unlimited amount of <5c/kWh electricity available to utilities. There's an ability to fold a lot of wind and solar into existing grids without modifying those grids in any way or fashion. Utilities are simply not going to pass up cheap capacity and build expensive capacity.

              [link]      
            • By Forrest on February 14, 2015 at 11:09 am

              Hells bells we will have 5 cent power forever with wind mill? Well, we best put a tax on that cheap energy as it does appear to run the monopoly gambit risk. Best to regulate the energy and make sure no corporation attempts to corner the market. We need to tax investor money at higher rate as the wealthy will surely exploit this. Funny about nuclear calamity and high cost. I have friends that actually sit in the control room. SW Michigan has some cheap rates per the three reactors within 40 mile radius. The property tax wealth of these cities or village revenue stream is amazing as the production of electricity safety record, constant power production, and low cost. Guess, I haven’t been watching close enough the last fifty years. Not much GW emissions seep out of those power plants. One big problem of petrol, beside the obvious emissions. We don’t control our supply or cost as the market is international. Hence what those ISIS boys do in the Middle East may hemorrhage our economy to depression status. How about the Enviro Activist factor that appear to enjoy shooting American competitiveness per their biases. You post of biofuel inability of production, yet put so much effort in demonizing the sector. Same with international corporate antics that spend major capital likewise. So, is it or isn’t it a threat to future profitability of petrol?

              [link]      
            • By Bob_Wallace on February 14, 2015 at 11:19 am

              5 cent power from wind forever?

              Nope. Scuttlebutt is that one PPA got signed for 1.5 cents in 2014. Adding back in the PTC that would be 2.63 cent wind

              Hang on. Going down.

              Got a time machine so that someone can go back in time and build some reactors 30 years ago so that they would be providing inexpensive electricity today?

              Paid off reactors give us 3c to 5c electricity. 5c plants are going bankrupt, the 3c ones will hang in for a while. But think about a 20 year old paid off wind turbine or solar panel. Many years of 1c/kWh electricity.

              That will be great for our economy.

              Petroleum will get largely killed by batteries. You should know that. There will be a continued, much lower, demand for oil as industry feedstock. That’s fine as long as we recycle or bury those products when we’re done with them.

              Re-sequester.

              [link]      
            • By Forrest on February 14, 2015 at 4:01 pm

              Funny, haven’t haven’t read much of the wind turbine taking over the energy sector. Maybe we should inform utilities of the free power. So, your saying were good to go with pulling the plug on taxpayer support, rate payer support, and regulations as the industry is setting on the cusp on running nuclear and coal out the door. Good to be informed of limitless cheap power. Heating with electric probably run natural gas out the door as well. Those gas cars will look prehistoric when attempting to compete with batteries. Who would of thought, that that much power stored within a small inexpensive battery. Maybe military will just switch out a battery upon tank battle? Sounds like jet fuel and hydrogen a waste of time as well. It would be cool to open the hood of a 3/4 ton 4×4 plow truck and discover no engine, just the battery and starter motor powering the drive train.

              [link]      
            • By Bob_Wallace on February 14, 2015 at 10:20 pm

              Pictures, thousand words, that stuff.

              Pictures below.

              ” Heating with electric probably run natural gas out the door as well.”

              New gen heat pumps are now making heating with electricity very competitive. With better insulation/draft sealing most homes could now be efficiently heated with electricity.

              The military is moving to batteries where they are appropriate, including solar systems for forward basis. Eliminates the need to put people in danger trucking fuel forward.

              For most purposes hydrogen is a waste of time. Hydrogen is nothing but an inefficient battery.

              There are niche applications such as tanks where we will likely stick to liquid fuels for a while. But who knows what tomorrow’s battery capacities might be?

              [link]      
  21. By Forrest on February 24, 2015 at 11:05 am

    Nuclear energy is quickly condemned by most on the left. They have irrefutable info on high cost, expense, danger, futility, etc.. Meanwhile, now that Obama has progressed on Iran nuclear talks per allowance of a nuclear power Iran, you hear how good nuclear power is? Iran needs low cost nuclear per their desire to improve environment. That while they invest in solar and wind this power is wholly inadequate. Iran needs to sell it’s oil and utilize cheap plentiful nuclear for home use. We can not deny this country the many benefits of nuclear power. So, apparently many falsehoods projected by the left as they adjust information to fool public.

    [link]      
  22. By You Must Be Joking on February 27, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    ummm, whatever you point is/points are, they are undermined when you use information from The Breakthrough Institute as their foundation. It’s not like they do/publish actual research. Opinion polling (what Ted Nordhaus does), while called “Research” by its practitioners, isn’t what we need here.

    Here’s a good sample of a factual description of how TBI behave, from MITs Center for Ethics:
    http://ethics.harvard.edu/blog/breakthrough-institutes-inconvenient-history-al-gore

    plenty more if you look.

    You can judge a man by the company he keeps

    [link]      
    • By Russ Finley on March 3, 2015 at 11:17 pm

      ummm, whatever you point is/points are, they are undermined when you use information from The Breakthrough Institute as their foundation.

      I have a long RSS feed. There are a lot of websites out there I won’t waste my time reading because they are either uninformed, dishonest, and/or hateful, or all of the above. The BTI makes my reading list because of its high quality and honesty. Not that I agree with every article. Coincidentally, I just Googled BTI and found at the top of the search list three attacks on it by three of those websites I won’t waste my time reading, which makes my case.

      1) I would hope that most Energy Trends readers would know better than to
      give any credibility to anything a drive-by anonymous poster has to say
      about anything.

      2) I didn’t use their information as a foundation for my points. I used the IEA study results for that. It pays to read an article before commenting on it.

      3) Your link points to a dumb hit piece on Roger Pielke who writes for TBI by a guest blogger politico with a BS in biology on somebody’s blog called Center for Ethics.

      You can judge a man by the company he keeps

      …says the anonymous troll.

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