From the IEEE: A Skeptic Looks at Alternative Energy

From the IEEE Spectrum Journal: A Skeptic Looks at Alternative Energy

It takes several lifetimes to put a new energy system into place, and wishful thinking can’t speed things along

By Vaclav Smil

In June 2004 the editor of an energy journal called to ask me to comment on a just-announced plan to build the world’s largest photovoltaic electric generating plant. Where would it be, I asked—Arizona? Spain? North Africa? No, it was to be spread among three locations in rural Bavaria, southeast of Nuremberg.

I said there must be some mistake. I grew up not far from that place, just across the border with the Czech Republic, and I will never forget those seemingly endless days of summer spent inside while it rained incessantly. Bavaria is like Seattle in the United States or Sichuan province in China. You don’t want to put a solar plant in Bavaria, but that is exactly where the Germans put it. The plant, with a peak output of 10 megawatts, went into operation in June 2005.

It happened for the best reason there is in politics: money. Welcome to the world of new renewable energies, where the subsidies rule—and consumers pay.

Without these subsidies, renewable energy plants other than hydroelectric and geothermal ones can’t yet compete with conventional generators. There are several reasons, starting with relatively low capacity factors—the most electricity a plant can actually produce divided by what it would produce if it could be run full time. The capacity factor of a typical nuclear power plant is more than 90 percent; for a coal-fired generating plant it’s about 65 to 70 percent. A photovoltaic installation can get close to 20 percent—in sunny Spain—and a wind turbine, well placed on dry land, from 25 to 30 percent. Put it offshore and it may even reach 40 percent. To convert to either of the latter two technologies, you must also figure in the need to string entirely new transmission lines to places where sun and wind abound, as well as the need to manage a more variable system load, due to the intermittent nature of the power.

All of these complications are well known, and all of them have been too lightly dismissed by alternative energy backers and the media. Most egregious of all is the boosters’ failure to recognize the time it takes to convert to any new source of energy, no matter how compelling the arguments for it may be.

An example is the 2008 plan promoted by former vice president Al Gore, which called for replacing all fossil-fueled generation in the United States in just a decade. Another is Google’s plan, announced in 2008 and abandoned in 2011, which envisaged cutting out coal generation by 2030. Trumping them all was a 2009 article in Scientific American by Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil engineering at Stanford University, and Mark Delucchi, a researcher in transportation studies at the University of California, Davis. They proposed converting the energy economy of the entire world to renewable sources by 2030.

History and a consideration of the technical requirements show that the problem is much greater than these advocates have supposed.

Read the entire article here.

h/t to WUWT reader “the1pag”

Advertisements

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
michaeljmcfadden

In terms of alternative energy, I believe it was here on WUWT that I saw both an analysis of the “net” energy costs (after subtracting energy costs of building/maintaining/rebuilding) of wind turbines. as compared to those of other sources. Also think it was here that I may have seen a figure on the numbers of birds chopped up by them.
Anyone know of any particular pointers that have that information handy? I’m a bit suspicious about the bird thing because the argument just seems a bit too “convenient” (i.e. the environmental wind turbines engaged in unenvironmental bird destruction) . Plus, while a wind turbine isn’t exactly something that birds would have “evolved” to deal with it seems a bit unlikely that birds wouldn’t be able to avoid a steadily moving object while flying.
– MJM

Edohiguma

Very interesting. Thank you. It confirms a few things I’ve been dabbling with myself. Especially the ration between China’s and India’s growth compared to how quickly and efficiently we’d manage to “phase out” conventional power production, which, as I’ve been maintaining for a while now, can’t be phased out as simple as our so called leaders claim. Flip a switch, wave the magic wand, that’s how things are today and, pardon my French, it’s beginning to piss me off. Doesn’t anyone think anymore?
This reminds me of the idea a few Eurocrats had a few years ago: Let’s build a huge solar park in North Africa. Every engineer I know literally facepalmed. I kid you not. They really slapped themselves on the forehead with their palms. The engineering issues for such an idea are astronomical, and that’s not even delving into the geopolitical problems connected to such, yes, nonsense. Apart from that, how insane does one have to be to think that putting power production on a foreign continent and countries is smart?

David Larsen

I have done solar applications in the early 1980’s because we were in remote areas with no transmissions feeds and solar was the right application. A friend of mine start using solar with my encourage 10-12 years ago for remote oil and water applications with the same success. Bringing transmission lines even back then cost at least $ 100k per mile. Solar is stil intermittant and if you use storage the batteries of a use life of 3-4 years. Over the life of the panels that is 7-8 new battery system per panel application. Real costs have to calculated for the life of the system. It is kinda like nukes, who pays for the million years of waste storage? All costs have to be calculated into system costs. That then gives you the REAL cost per kWh. Something the greenies do NOT do.

speed

Nine women can’t make a baby in one month.

Interstellar Bill

The most hypocritical aspect of renewable-energy advocacy is that all their costs, whether for materials, components, or installation, are based on petroleum energy. Talk about subsidies!
Imagine how even more economically ruinous renewable energy would be if it’s entire energy input had to be provided by other renewable sources, rather than petroleum. By the way, since hydroelectric is not counted as renewable it can’t be counted here, only wind and solar and biofuel.

Archonix

Michael, you must remember two things that are important about windmills: they’re usually sited on top of hills to catch the best winds – the very same winds that birds will catch in order to use their updrafts to gain altitude (usually circling the turbine itself as that’s where the best updrafts occur); and the tips of those blades are moving at a very high speed an, almost always at 90 degrees to the path the bird is taking around the turbine. They aren’t adapted to something coming straight up or down at them at well over 100 mph, which is what tends to happen when the bird flies through the path of the turbine blades. It’s good to be sceptical but, at the same time, a little common sense will tell you that those windmills are more than capable of all that bird death.

Incidentally there are plenty of videos of birds being hit by wind turbines. Too many to just be feak accidents.

Steve P

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the excise tax credit for ethanol production cost taxpayers US $6.1 billion in 2011. On top of that direct cost are three indirect ones: those related to soil erosion, the runoff of excess nitrate from fertilizers (which ends up in the Gulf of Mexico, where it creates dead zones in coastal waters), and the increased food costs that accrue when the world’s largest exporter of grain diverts 40 percent of its corn to make ethanol. And topping all those off, the resulting fuel is used mostly in energy-inefficient vehicles.
You might argue that [PDF] subsidies aren’t bad in themselves; indeed, there is a long history of using them to encourage new energy sources. The oil and gas industries have benefited from decades of tax relief designed to stimulate exploration. The nuclear industry has grown on the back of direct and enormous R&D support. In the United States it received almost 54 percent of all federal research funds between 1948 and 2007.

(my bold emphasis)
One can only hope that future generations will be smarter, but the signs aren’t good.

clipe

Anyone thought of capturing a Derecho? Batteries not included of course.
http://www.universetoday.com/96157/powerful-derecho-storms-as-seen-from-space/

D. J. Hawkins

@ Steve P
Do you have a source for the 54% of R&D going to nuclear? It seems way too high.

Simcoe surfer

Most birds migrate at night.

Gail Combs

I love Gomez’s comment. It is so typical of the CAGW touchy feely type of thinking.

All the skeptics A) are short-sighted and selfish, and B) assume that business-as-usual will prevail in the oil world, which it won’t.

So we (Australia & the USA) are supposed to commit economic suicide while shipping low cost coal to China. With no other buyers the coal is going to be a real bargain too. Of course China has such a great history on caring for the environment SEE: Toxic Rivers

I am puzzled. Surely Vaclav Smil’s analysis is off the mark a fair bit. He seems to suggest that we must worry about increases of atmospheric CO2 that will drive up global temperatures due to anthropogenic emissions of CO2.
However, Vaclav Smil completely ignores that only 3.5 percent of CO2 emissions are man-made, and that the remaining 96.5 percent of emissions are from natural sources.
That makes any discussion of reducing atmospheric levels of CO2 (or even limiting them) through energy production from alternative sources look more than a bit ludicrous, doesn’t it?
It seems to me that Vaclav Smil got suckered by a strawman-argument.

Doug Proctor

The naive idealism is why scientists shouldn’t, in a Wellsian world, rule it. Friction in any theoretical system is zero, and if it isn’t zero today, then with advances in technology, it will be. Real soon.
Communism’s failure to deal with human nature should be the only lesson necessary to understand the difference between our real natures, our real world of gains and losses, and those worlds dreamt of in the minds of philosophers, anarchists, libertarians and the socially concerned (while covers the various types of the eco-green). Clearly this lesson, learnt at the cost of huge sorrow, tears and literal blood, has not been enough. Perhaps it is a lesson that every second generation needs to learn anew, in its own way.
“Raising awareness” is not just a weak act, it is a cruel one. Say there is a problem, a deep problem, but propose only a magical solution, accepting no responsibility for the harm delusional programmes bring: this is a mean way of seeking to improve the common lot. A problem identified does not need the exact solution identified at the same time, but the direction and a short-term fix should be supplied. Yelling “Fire!” without first identifying the exits is an exercise in self-indulgent grandiosity.
The renewable concept is admirable. If it can be effected without shutting down the general living that goes with life. The eco-green are all about life, not living. The subsistence farmer on his eco-sustainable farm has life enough to provide a place to squat for his offspring, but what would he say about his “living” conditions? If the condition of the non-1st world were so wonderful, why are not the Gores and Suzukis selling of their Ferraris and moving to Livingoffthelandstan?
The eco-green revolution is a child’s answer to his personal guilt.

RK

Observation 1: I fly between San Francisco and Burbank often for business. There are acres and acres of flat roof top in Southern California and the sun does shine a lot there. If solar is compelling, why don’t the owners of these (mostly commercial) buildings put up solar panels and start putting electricity into the grid? I am suspecting that the economics does not work.
Observation 2: If solar is viable and sensible, why don’t we hear more about the countries along the equator adopting the technology en masse? They get the most sun I imagine. Just an unpublicized fact or these countries don’t see the economics working for them either?

Steve P

D. J. Hawkins asked at
July 6, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Do you have a source for the 54% of R&D going to nuclear? It seems way too

The number was given in the article by Vaclav Smil, which you can read in full at the link given above.
Do you have a source for what seems?

TimO

Find a true believer and you can make them cry by just explaining that even at 100% efficiency (which is impossible) there is just SO MUCH energy falling on a square meter of the Earth and the amount you can really collect in a day even if the weather is perfect just won’t cut it. Then start taking away for weather, clouds, aging of components and dropping efficiencies…. you can watch the tears form as they realize you can’t manufacture miracles and unicorns and rainbows in the REAL WORLD….

Resourceguy

I genuinely love this science site, but the energy posts leave a lot to be desired. The capacity factors listed are nowhere near reality unless you are talking about Russia and Japan where they have been known to operate nuclear reactors with half the building blown apart! These erroneous numbers make the rest of the post suspect. Sorry.

Steve P

–sorry Mods; I didn’t want to misquote Mr. Hawkins–
D. J. Hawkins asked at
July 6, 2012 at 5:10 pm
Do you have a source for the 54% of R&D going to nuclear? It seems way too high.
The number was given in the article by Vaclav Smil, which you can read in full at the link given above.
Do you have a source for what seems?

He doesn’t mention hydro-electric, the only feasible ‘renewable’ energy source for base load power that doesn’t suffer the cost/feasibility issues he describes. HydroE has the added benefit that it can be used to ‘store’ wind and solar power to meet peak demand.
Not only are China, India and Brazil building coal fired plants, they are building hydro-electric projects as well.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroelectricity#Major_projects_under_construction

Tom Jones

The article noted:
The nuclear industry has grown on the back of direct and enormous R&D support. In the United States it received almost 54 percent of all federal research funds between 1948 and 2007.
My first thought was that, this was a process of a bureaucracy picking a winner and jamming it down our collective throats. If the pressurized water reactor was forced to compete with LFTR, it would not have survived and proliferated like it did. We would all be better off for it.

Gail Combs

D. J. Hawkins says:
July 6, 2012 at 5:10 pm
@ Steve P
Do you have a source for the 54% of R&D going to nuclear? It seems way too high.
_______________________________________
A lot of that was Defense budget – the Manhattan project et al. but I agree it seems a bit high.

Poriwoggu

“Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil engineering at Stanford University, and Mark Delucchi, a researcher in transportation studies at the University of California, Davis”.
There is the root of the problem. Power systems are designed by electrical engineers. Civil engineers don’t know a lot of about power systems other than a couple “EE for non-EEs” courses, and “researchers in transportation studies” know nothing about power systems.
Electrical Engineers tend to have a higher regard for mechanical engineers than civil engineers because, after all, “Mechanical engineers build weapons, civil engineers build targets.”
Found some useful information on R & D:
http://www.issues.org/22.3/realnumbers.html
http://www.misi-net.com/publications/NEI-1011.pdf
The number 54% (see the MISI.net publication) is high – the number is 48% and about 35% of that is breeder reactors. If you toss out the breeders and other reactors types which were just drawing board exercises – that number gets considerably smaller.
The bottom line – building a prototype reactor is hard and expensive – building a new solar cell is easy and cheap and requires much less R & D funding.

Gail Combs

Resourceguy says:
July 6, 2012 at 5:53 pm
I genuinely love this science site, but the energy posts leave a lot to be desired…..
________________________________
It was an article in IEEE Spectrum magazine.

IEEE Spectrum magazine is the flagship publication of the IEEE, the world’s largest professional technology association. It is a monthly magazine for technology innovators, business leaders, and the intellectually curious. Spectrum explores future technology trends and the impact of those trends on society and business.
IEEE Spectrum is read by over 385,000 technology professionals and senior executives worldwide in the high technology sectors of industry, government, and academia. Subscribers include engineering managers and corporate and financial executives. Deans and provosts at every major engineering university and college throughout the world are also Spectrum readers.

If you have better information I am sure Anthony would be happy to publish your submitted article: SEE Submit Story in the header or click on the link. Getting good material from his experts in the “audience” is how this blog has become such a great resource. As you noted we often get feed mushroom growing material in the “professionally published” magazines and other media outlets

Let’s compare all the wind energy in the world to the Three Gorge Dam in China.
In 2010 the IEA writes the world produced 328 billion kWhrs.
That’s 328 million MWhrs, which is 328,000,000 MWhrs.
Divide by 8760 hrs in a year to result = 37,443 MW’s.
That’s like 15, 2400 MW Nuclear Plants going 24/7.
The Three Gorge Dam in China produces 22,000 MW’s.
So, all the wind energy in the world in 2010 is about 1.5 Three Gorge Damns
http://www.eia.gov/cfapps/ipdbproject/iedindex3.cfm?tid=2&pid=37&aid=12&cid=regions&syid=2005&eyid=2010&unit=BKWH
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_hydroelectric_power_stations
But that does not include the fact, that the wind doesn’t blow when we need it. In most locations it blows more at night than during the day. Most locations also produce more energy in the spring and fall, when we need it less. In fact many nuclear plants shut down during the spring or fall for maintenance. Also, it does not include the firming and lost energy from the nat gas or coal plants that must constantly vary their output to match the constantly varying output of the wind.
http://www.eirgrid.com/operations/systemperformancedata/windgeneration/
(scroll back through previous 24 hrs)
Then consider the environmental damage. To achieve those 37,443 of wind output in 2010 using 1.5 MW turbines operating at average output of 25% you would need, the world had about 100,000 wind turbines. The amount of ridge line, farmland, and shoreline occupied by those 100,000 is enormous, even compared to the destruction caused by 1.5 Three Gorge Dams.

SAMURAI

From my own research, it seems that Thorium/fluoride nukes are by far the most sustainable and cheapest form of energy on the planet, theoretically capable of producing energy at US$0.01/kWh from an element that is as plentiful Pb; there are 1,000’s of years of this stuff easily mineable.
India will apparently have it’s first Thorium test reactor up and running from 2016 and China and Japan are also spending a lot of R&D on the technology.
America had an up and running Thorium test plant in the 60’s, but the powers that be decided that fissionable security was more important that fiscal security and put the ax to the technology. Did DC miss the memo that USSR is defunct?
Anyway, Thorium reactors have the Holy Trinity of energy: cheap + safe + abundant, but it is trumped by the Unholy Trinity of: Environmental + Protection + Agency… As long as the EPA exists, no private-sector Thorium R&D program will be seriously started in the US as the barriers to entry established by the EPA will prevent it; the EPA wants solar and wind farms. LOL!
And so it goes…..until it doesn’t…..

Gunga Din

“Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil engineering at Stanford University, and Mark Delucchi, a researcher in transportation studies at the University of California, Davis”.
=================================================================
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Nucleon
Of course if they ever built one a ridiculous MPE (Miles per Erg) limit would soon be set. (Maybe it would require 15% radioactive ethenol?)

Dave Worley

“They aren’t adapted to something coming straight up or down at them at well over 100 mph, which is what tends to happen when the bird flies through the path of the turbine blades. It’s good to be sceptical but, at the same time, a little common sense will tell you that those windmills are more than capable of all that bird death.”
It is difficult to judge the speed of large moving objects. That’s why a 747 appears to float in the air. That’s also why so many folks are killed by trains going 65 mph when they appear to be doing 30. It’s an illusion of scale, and birds have the same problem. They are not accustomed to such large objects moving through the air and they misjudge the speed.
IMHO the argument against solar and wind energy is that they are an attempt to gather diffuse energy, and so they require an inordinate amount of surface area. The surface is the foundation of the ecosystem, and diffuse energy gathering is an inefficient use of it. Fossil fuels are concentrated energy and require very little surface disturbance relative to the energy produced.

I have written this before, but Greenies who dreamed of renewable energy, solar and wind, becoming large-scale technologies were betting on the price of oil and gas soaring.
Remember just a few years ago when oil was predicted to be $200 per barrel, and natural gas was to be $20 or $30 per million Btu?
If that had come true, the economics of solar and wind would be much, much better today. But, it didn’t. What happened?
Smart guys figured out how to do directional drilling with fracking, and tapped into enormous reserves of oil and gas. Prices for gas plummeted. Oil prices are a bit more complicated.
Solar and wind are doomed to perpetual subsidies, for at least as long as the oil and gas guys keep innovating.
It will be interesting to see how much longer governments are willing to waste money in such subsidies for renewables.
There ARE ways to overcome the intermittency issues of solar and wind. Solar thermal can continue to produce power at night, which is already done in California. Wind power can pump water uphill into a hydroelectric reservoir. This too is done in a few places. But, worldwide there are far too few elevated lakes near wind power farms.
The oil and gas geeks have won. As usual.
Maybe the Greenies will fare better next time, when natural gas prices rise to $30, in about 100 to 150 years. Adjusted for inflation, that will be about $300 to $500 per million Btu.
Such fun to watch the Greenies run smack into real world economics, and lose completely to the oil and gas guys.
Roger Sowell, consulting engineer in oil refining/petrochemicals 1974-2001.

“It takes several lifetimes to put a new energy system into place”


Nah! It only took me a couple of weeks to install enough solar panels, batteries, inverters, and charge controllers to be able to tell the power company they can put their smart meter someplace the sun doesn’t shine. And for those who think a solar system won’t work in places where they get a lot of rain, all I can say is that ours does a good job of supplying enough power both to run the house, and charge the batteries during the day. And it does so rain or shine as long as the sun is up. We run on the batteries at night
“sustainable power” is only a question of scale. One home at a time works just fine. I don’t need to produce enough power to light the whole damn county. Just my own house.

“The ultimate justification for alternative energy centers on its mitigation of global warming” says it all: There is no justification for alternative energy, at least not in the near future.
I say: Continue to investigate, that needs prosperity to make the research sustainable.
If you tax the people into poverty there will be no more research.

Claude Harvey

My comments on the IEEE article reproduced below. I’m a Life Member of that august society.
Claude Harvey
The professor is dead right on all counts. I developed, built and operated alternate (renewable) energy plants for 20 years. I avoided wind and solar because the economics was simply disastrous to everyone but the subsidized investor. In addition to dismal capacity factor, the problem dooming them both is “energy density” that is so poor, reasonable economy of scale can never be achieved. Too much material required for too little average output. Without massive subsidies, if I GAVE you the solar cells free of charge, you still could not build a solar-voltaic central power plant that made economic sense.

u.k. (us)

Don’t forget the IED’s, and sniper fire.

Gunga Din

Claude Harvey says:
July 6, 2012 at 7:07 pm
My comments on the IEEE article reproduced below. I’m a Life Member of that august society.
Claude Harvey
The professor is dead right on all counts. I developed, built and operated alternate (renewable) energy plants for 20 years. I avoided wind and solar because the economics was simply disastrous to everyone but the subsidized investor. In addition to dismal capacity factor, the problem dooming them both is “energy density” that is so poor, reasonable economy of scale can never be achieved. Too much material required for too little average output. Without massive subsidies, if I GAVE you the solar cells free of charge, you still could not build a solar-voltaic central power plant that made economic sense.
=====================================================================
And then along came Derecho …..
You’d have to give the stuff away again.

Reg Nelson

michaeljmcfadden says:
July 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm
Also think it was here that I may have seen a figure on the numbers of birds chopped up by them.
Anyone know of any particular pointers that have that information handy? I’m a bit suspicious about the bird thing because the argument just seems a bit too “convenient” (i.e. the environmental wind turbines engaged in unenvironmental bird destruction) .
——
There’s no money (funding) in that. If these were hydro or fracking projects the Greens would find someway to sue to halt their progress. Solar and Wind farms get the “Green” light no matter how detrimental they are to the local ecosystems.
Now if these birds were Flying Sacramento Delta Smelts, this might be a different story;
“Environmentalists have long complained that the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta’s pumps, which send water to Central Valley farmers and southern California residents, trap and kill fish. In 2006 the Natural Resources Defense Council sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for issuing a biological opinion that supported pumping more water south because the agency didn’t analyze how the pumping might affect the smelt. A federal court ordered the agency to be more mindful of the smelt.
So the agency demanded that water regulators reduce pumping. The National Marine Fisheries Services joined the fun by recommending that regulators restrict pumping to protect salmon, sturgeon and steelhead too. These opinions have superceded the water contracts of farmers and resulted in 3.4 million acre-feet of fresh water flowing into San Francisco Bay each year—enough to irrigate over a million acres of land.
More than 10,000 farm jobs have been lost as a result, and regional unemployment stands at about 15%. Environmentalists blame the water shortages on drought, but even in wet years farmers aren’t getting the water they’re due.”
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203918304577239472081683362.html

D. J. Hawkins

@ Steve P
Posted at Mr. Smil’s article:
Mr. Smil;
I’m curious as to the source of the 54% figure for all US federal R&D funds going to nuclear. Was this straight funding for nuclear power applications, or did it include weapons development, nuclear medicine, and power supplies for satellites? Otherwise, it just seem too high.
If you look here http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf01334/pdf/histb.pdf
you’ll see that the Atomic Energy Commission’s share of the federal pie bounces around 8%-15% until 1974 when the Energy Research and Development Agency took over, still around 10% and then in 1977 the Department of Energy steps in. Now, the Defense Department’s share hangs around 50% pretty consistently, but you can hardly claim it all goes toward nuclear power.
We’ll see what he has to say.

speed says:
July 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm
Nine women can’t make a baby in one month.

No, not *one* baby. But, if they are impregnated one per month, the rate of delivery is … one per month.
One woman can not deliver one per month.
I know what you are trying to say, but this is a particularly bad example (although widespread).

John Slayton

Dennis Cox, I’d be interested in knowing where you live.
On June 16, we completed the first year of operation of our 2KW solar installation. During that year, it produced as much power as we used, less about 10 kwh. The only reason I can think of that people in sun belt states aren’t lining up to order these installations is that nobody has any money right now. If the greenshirts really wanted this to catch on, they would be reluctant to enact stupid policies that keep us all broke.

Poriwoggu

Resourceguy says:
July 6, 2012 at 5:53 pm
I genuinely love this science site, but the energy posts leave a lot to be desired. The capacity factors listed are nowhere near reality unless you are talking about Russia and Japan where they have been known to operate nuclear reactors with half the building blown apart! These erroneous numbers make the rest of the post suspect. Sorry.

Don’t know what point you’re trying to make. The typical US nuclear power plant has been run at above 90% utilization for the last two decades. Since most of the plant cost is “fixed” cost and very little operational expense is fuel cost, they are used for base band power generation and run at capacity. Coal utilization is a little lower than what is quoted because of the low natural gas cost – whether coal or gas is used for base band power generation is a cost per delivered BTU decision.
Only base band power generation facilities would or could be used at high utilization.
Japan nuclear utilization however has been more than cut in half and is below 34%.

Well, all of those comments provide interesting insights and observations, but I still don’t understand why we must worry about anthropogenic CO2 emissions being a controlling problem with respect to CO2 causing rising global temperatures. How can 3.5 percent of annual global CO2 emissions cause so much havoc that the remaining 96.5 percent of annual CO2 emissions from natural sources can be ignored?
I’m just a farmer and have only common sense to guide me on this, seeing that no one else here seems to pay any attention to my concern. I thought that someone here would help me out on this, given that no one in the MSM does.

u.k. (us)

John Slayton says:
July 6, 2012 at 7:38 pm
“During that year, it produced as much power as we used, less about 10 kwh…”
——————————–
Really?, you must live a spartan lifestyle.
Is it possible to recharge your car, and run the a/c at the same time ?

Gunga Din

John Slayton says:
July 6, 2012 at 7:38 pm
Dennis Cox, I’d be interested in knowing where you live.
On June 16, we completed the first year of operation of our 2KW solar installation. During that year, it produced as much power as we used, less about 10 kwh. The only reason I can think of that people in sun belt states aren’t lining up to order these installations is that nobody has any money right now. If the greenshirts really wanted this to catch on, they would be reluctant to enact stupid policies that keep us all broke.
==========================================
Yes, they are their own worst enemy. Ours too.
(1 year is not really a proof of concept. Keep your coal plant. Stockpile coal like northern states stockpile salt to treat the roads in winter, not knowing what the winter will be like. )

John Slayton says:
July 6, 2012 at 7:38 pm
Dennis Cox, I’d be interested in knowing where you live.
On June 16, we completed the first year of operation of our 2KW solar installation. During that year, it produced as much power as we used, less about 10 kwh. The only reason I can think of that people in sun belt states aren’t lining up to order these installations is that nobody has any money right now. …

Sun belt states? My consumption can run about 1 MWhr (1,000 kWhrs) per month in the summer months, or about 33 kWh per day for the house which includes air conditioning (or resistive heating in the winter) plus appliances, and, I run the A/C frugally. Try more like 1.5 to 2 MWh for a larger house and with several kids and more appliances (plus more hot water usage!) … or about 66 kWh used per day. Clean, ALL-ELECTRIC house here BTW (no nat. gas).
What’s required in the way of solar cells and batteries etc for that kind of consumption in a ‘sunbelt home’ given the above requirements? Temperatures have been near 100 deg F (from both sides) now for 3 or 4 weeks running (nc Texas) …
.

davidmhoffer

Walter H Schneider;
How can 3.5 percent of annual global CO2 emissions cause so much havoc that the remaining 96.5 percent of annual CO2 emissions from natural sources can be ignored?
I’m just a farmer and have only common sense to guide me on this, seeing that no one else here seems to pay any attention to my concern
>>>>>>>>>>>>>
1. Don’t apologise for “just” being a farmer. My experience is that farmers understand a great deal about precipitation patters, cloud cover, and other issues that are important in terms of understanding climate.
2. I’m not certain where you got the 3.5% number from, I’ve seen both higher and lower. At day’s end however the exact percentage isn’t the biggest part of the issue. The issue relates to sensitivity. The alarmists are of the opinion that even small increases in CO2 will be amplified be secondary effects of changing the CO2 concentration. To date, the data seems to suggest otherwise.
Thanks for the food!

Gail Combs says:
July 6, 2012 at 6:20 pm
A lot of that was Defense budget – the Manhattan project et al. but I agree it seems a bit high.

It sounds like whoever compiled the figures believed that the entire budgets of the AEC (and successor, DoE) went to supporting nuclear R&D — which they didn’t.

John Slayton

u.k. (us): Really?, you must live a spartan lifestyle.
Well, actually no. Our kitchen is all-electric with normal stove, oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, etc. Heating/cooling is high efficiency heat-pump. Several computers, TV, a gazillion electrical gadgets. It works here because of the S. California climate. Wouldn’t work at all in northern states.
Is it possible to recharge your car, and run the a/c at the same time ?
Not sure I follow you on this question. The car is conventional gasoline, runs fine at 270K miles. I’ve considered plug-in hybrids, but if I ever replace it, it will more likely be with natural gas.
I actually agree with Mr. Smil’s general thesis, but I think distributed solar makes economic sense right now for a huge number of people, and without governmental incentives. (Best I not detail the economics again.)

usurbrain

I have been looking into the use of solar or wind since 1960. The reasons I am still looking into it is that it STILL has the same problems it did in 1960, – unreliable, expensive, high-maintenance, not ready for prime-time yet. But they always say that in 5-10 more years with more government help it will be more efficient, cheaper, better, etc. so I have waited for this “better” system.
Here is a well documented webpage with observations on a 3 kWh Solar Panel instalation.
http://www.csudh.edu/oliver/smt310-handouts/solarpan/solarpan.htm
Would you want this on your roof? If you live north of Washington DC you only get 75% of the energy he is getting and have to deal with scrapping off the snow in the winter. Can you climb up on your roof and clean the panels? How many users will fall off? How much to pay to have it cleaned? Will you do it in the winter? How much are the maintenance costs (More than for your furnace and air conditioner combined I would bet.) How about insurance? At latitudes north of Washington DC it would never pay for itself! It sure would make the salesmen rich though. What good are they in hail-stone areas?, Tornado areas? $45,000 paid for over 20 years is more than 200 dollars a month. And then you get to buy a new one. Now add in all of the above maintenance costs. My total electric bill for the year is way less than $100 a month. AND, you still pay your minimum electric bill and everyones electric bill goes up.
Google a “grid connected solar collector” a solar panel like this will cost more than $30,000 PLUS instlation charges. (oh, and since the government will give you 1/3 they sell them for about 50% more than they are really worth.)

Terry Jackson

Wind and solar can be made to work for RVs and boats and some residences in the sunny areas. It is almost always supplemented with a suitable generator for larger loads. A welder will not be nice to batteries. Where it will simply not work under any circumstance is industrial and commercial loads. Solar powered aluminum smelter, anyone?
An RV or residence can usually place enough solar panels on the roof to power the low loads of some lighting and appliances, even air conditioning provided they are hooked to the grid to provide the peaking power. It may well be feasible to get the sunbelt to provide enough solar and wind from residences to power those residences on average over the course of a year, but it will not have the power to supply any industrial or commercial uses.

John Slayton

Jim:
Texas…. Hmm. We talking Brownsville or Amarillo?

Wally

The point made is a good and valid one.
Things like solar for a central system running a country are fanciful. (And for same odd reason we are not allowed to consider hydro as “renewable”. Whats with that?)
However where I live the price of electricity has just gone up 20% – some of that due to a carbon tax. The rates are now about 37 c / kW-hr (A$ and US$ are roughly parity). The summer tariff is even higher.
So – even though the technology is silly, it now makes economic sense for me to put solar on my roof. I’ll sign the contract next week. Here, there are no panel subsidies, there is a renewable energy kickback (Which goes to the installing company not me!), and this lowers the price by about 15%. The numbers look a bit like this:
Annual power bill = $3000
Cost of solar install = $9200
Stated reduction in power bill = >65% but I will assume 50%: so power bill drops to $1500
Return on investment, per year = $1500 / $9200 = about 16%
Payback period is about 6 years. If the price of power goes up more (it is expected to rise another 10% to 20% in another year). then the return is better and the payback shorter.
There is a feed-in tariff also, which I’m assuming is worth nothing. The feed-in rate is now about 2/3 the price of just buying power, so we are not forcing the neighbours to pay for our solar indulgence (our feed-in tariffs WERE very high but have now come back significantly). Any benefit from the feed-in is, again, a bonus. Of course the other big factor here is that the generation is greatest in summer, when the a/c needs are highest and the power price is highest. This helps reduce the demand of us EVIL people with a/c which our politicians keep banging on about.
Of course, when there is no sun I have to buy power from a nice big coal plant. And this just illustrates the fallacy of central generation. Local… little bits… is finally making more sense. Just look into the numbers very carefully.
A full disconnect / battery system is also possible for home use, but vastly more expensive, and the cost of replacement batteries is significant. This might make sense when there is no grid connection available but when the grid is there, its harder to see any benefit: paybacks up around the 10 year mark are silly.