Going Solar: System Requirements For 100% U.S. Solar Generated Utility Baseload Electricity

By: Tom D. Tamarkin & Barrie Lawson

Over the next 50 years, utility companies in the United States must replace approximately 440 Gigawatts (GW) of baseload generation capacity to provide electricity nationwide. Significant electrification of the transportation segment through electric cars and trucks can potentially quadruple the amount of needed power.

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This paper explores the system requirements to replace this generation capacity with a photovoltaic only generation scheme. Topics include the definition of peak power demand, time of use issues, reserve power requirements, storage to provide power when there is no sunlight, and the various engineering challenges associated with managing a large area synchronous AC power grid.

This analysis considers the factors involved in dimensioning solar power generating plants. To illustrate the issues involved the example considers the case for supplying the entire electric power needs of the USA from solar energy without the use of fossil fuel, nuclear or other back up. To simplify the calculations, the example considers a single very large hypothetical solar power installation providing all the country’s power although in practice, generation would be dispersed in a network of smaller installations throughout the country each one closer to the point of need. Depending on the location of the solar arrays, some modifications or additions to the electricity grid distribution network may be required but these have been ignored for the purposes of this study.

In reality, such a future solar only electricity supply would most likely be generated by a mix of energy sources including several large T&D grid connected solar power installations as well as many domestic installations.
The example used for this study is a conventional solar power plant consisting of a large bank of solar panels, each made up from an array of individual photovoltaic (PV) cells, feeding the electricity grid network during the day and charging a bank of batteries which will provide the power during the hours of darkness.

The example shown below is a grid connected PV system (batteries not included) which is inactive at night when power is provided by traditional “spinning reserve” of steam driven turbines which make up part of the grid system. An off-grid system like the one considered here also requires a large battery bank to store energy during the day in order to maintain the supply during the night.

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Lieberose 71 MegaWatt (electric) Solar Power Plant near Berlin in Germany

Demand Assumptions

Capacity
Sources including the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), The Department of Energy (DOE), The US Energy Information Agency (EIA) and IndexMundi give estimates of the annual electrical energy demand or consumption in the USA in 2013 ranging from 3,633 to 4,886 TeraWattHours (TWh) or 12.4 to 16.7 Quads. A quad is 1.055 X 1018 Joules or 1.016 BTU (1 quadrillion BTU.)

The calculations are based on current demand only and do not include future growth. The drive towards the greater use of electric vehicles will increase this demand significantly over and above normal growth and, since most people recharge their batteries at night when the Sun is not shining, this will require a major restructuring of both the generation and storage capacities of the national grid to cope with the increased demand and its changed profile.

Power
For convenience it is often useful to convert this energy demand into the equivalent average rate of power generation or consumption. This measure assumes constant power generation 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. The power delivered is given by the energy consumed divided by the time, in this case, 1 year or 8760 hours. Thus the estimates given for average power consumed range from 415 to 535 GigaWatts (gW).

For the purposes of this example an annual energy demand of 3854 TWh corresponding to a power usage of 440 gW average generation is assumed.
Demand profile
But life is not so simple. The demand is not constant, but varies during the day and also suffers seasonal variations as well as regional variations. There are many published demand profiles reflecting these variations. The profile shown below, compiled by U.C. Berkley, is reasonably representative and offers the possibility of simpler assumptions than some other profiles. It shows that the demand during 12 daylight hours is approximately double the demand during the 12 hours of darkness. This means that 2/3 of the energy is consumed during the day and 1/3 at night.

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Source: UC Berkley

Assuming that the demand is to be exclusively satisfied by solar power alone, the night time demand would have to be generated by the solar panels during the day.

So with an average (continuous) power demand of 440 gW, the daily energy demand is 24 X 440 = 10,560 gWh. But all of this energy will have to be captured during the 12 hours of sunlight, that is, in half the time, so that the solar power generation capacity must be 880 gW.

Of the 10,560 gWh of energy produced during the day, two thirds (7,040 gWh) will be used directly by consumers and one third (3,520 gWh) will be used to charge the battery for subsequent discharge to satisfy the consumers during the night.

The corresponding power demand will be 586.7 gW during the day and 293.3 gW during the night.

It is assumed that the daily demand profile matches the timing of the hours of sunlight, but this is not necessarily the case. However it does not significantly affect the conclusions of this study.

In practice, the solar energy captured would be more in the summer and less in the winter so that more solar panels and larger batteries would be needed in the winter and fewer in the summer. An allowance can be made for this but for the purposes of this example, these variations have been ignored.

System Requirements

From the above we can conclude that solar generating power capability of 880 gW and a battery energy capacity of 3,520 gWh will be required to satisfy the demand.

But public utilities always need a plant margin to cover, maintenance, breakdowns, unplanned peak demands and other emergencies and this is typically 20%.

Also there will be a 10% efficiency loss in the inverters necessary to convert the DC solar energy generated by the PV arrays to the AC supply connected to the distribution grid. In addition there will be a further charge-discharge round trip Coulombic efficiency loss in the batteries of about 5%. To be generous, let’s say an extra 25% of energy must be generated to cover these two efficiency losses as well as the plant margin.

Thus the generating power will need to be at least 1,100 gW or 1.1 TW and the battery capacity will need to be 4,400 gWh to allow for the efficiency losses and the plant margin.

What does this mean in practice?

The Available Solar Energy

The actual amount of solar energy impinging on the solar panel depends on several factors.

The solar energy reaching the Earth’s atmosphere, known as the irradiance, is 1,367 W/m2 normal to the Sun’s rays. By the time it reaches the ground after absorption by the atmosphere it is reduced to 1,000 W/m2 normal to the Sun’s rays. This corresponds to the energy impinging on a flat plate on the ground when the Sun is directly overhead.

But outside of the tropics, the Sun is never directly overhead and, apart from mid-day, it is never even at its highest point as it appears to move from East to West due to the rotation of the Earth. If the Sun is not directly over the plate, the energy intercepted by the plate will diminish with the actual amount intercepted being proportional to cosΘ times the “normal” incident energy, where Θ is the angle of deviation of the Sun’s rays from the normal 90° incidence. (See Solar Power – Geometry)

Then there is no Sun at all during the night.

Finally the angle to the Sun, as well as the number of daylight hours, decreases (In the northern hemisphere) during the winter months as the Earth orbits the Sun.

Taking all of these factors into account, the average of the time varying solar energy received on the ground is called the insolation and figures have been published for the actual insolation at various geographic locations by several sources.

NREL is one such source which publishes a range of charts showing the daily average solar power received during each month of the year, plus yearly averages, for different solar array types and configurations at various locations in the USA. The chart below is typical and has been used, with others in the series, in the calculations which follow.

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Source: NREL

For the purposes of this study, the location chosen for the solar plant is somewhere in the South West, the sunniest part of the country, since this will require the smallest solar array. For a tilted flat plate array, as specified below, the chart shows that the average solar energy intercepted throughout the year by the array is around 6 kWh/m2/day in the South West. If the plant were to be located in the colder northern states, the energy intercepted would drop by a third to around 4 kWh/m2/day so that the solar array would have to be about 50% larger to capture the same amount of energy. Other charts in this series show how the insolation decreases during winter months and increases during the summer.

 

The Solar Array Configuration

Several configurations of solar panels are available.

Fixed Array
The simplest and least expensive solar array is constructed from a series of fixed flat plate collectors all facing south and tilted towards the Sun at an angle corresponding to the latitude of the site.

Tracking Array
The efficiency can be improved by 30% or more by means of tracking systems which ensure that the solar panel is always pointing directly at the Sun. Two axis systems track the apparent changing azimuth and elevation of the Sun as the Earth rotates during the day and continues its year long journey around the Sun. This option is quite complicated and very expensive. See more about Solar Tracking.

The Electrical Energy Captured

From the NREL charts, the annual average insolation (solar energy received) in the South West of the USA is between 5 and 6 kWh/m2/day for a fixed array tilted towards the Sun and 7 to 8 kWh/m2/day for steerable two axis solar panels able to track the Sun across the sky, maintaining the Sun’s rays as close to normal as possible to the surface of the array. Let us assume 6 kWh/m2/day for a fixed array and 8 kWh/m2/day for a two axis tracking array.

Conversion Efficiency

The current generation of mass produced commercial PV cells for converting solar energy into electrical energy have a conversion efficiency of around 15%.

This means that the above fixed array can generate the equivalent of a 24 hour average continuous power output of (6÷24) X 0.15 kW/m2 during each hour or 37.5 Watts/m2.

Similarly a two axis tracking array can generate an average of 50 Watts/m2 during every hour.

During hot sunny days the PV cell output will increase due to the increased solar radiation, but at the same time the cell temperature will also rise causing the cell output power to fall due to the decrease in the conversion efficiency. See (Solar Cell Operating Characteristics).The PV cell output power typically reduces by about 0.5% for every degree Celsius increase in PV cell temperature. The precise output power achieved from the cells depends on the conditions, but to optimize the power output, water cooling is often employed to keep the cell temperature as low as possible.

The calculations in this example assume STC (Standard Test Conditions) PV cell ratings, that is a cell temperature of 25 °C without external cooling. Local conditions may necessitate cooling to get the best out of the solar arrays and this would increase the cost and complexity of the installation.

Energy Lost During Charging

Because of the mismatch during charging between the voltage generated by the PV array and the voltage of the battery being used to store the charge there is a potential energy loss which can be as high as 10% of the captured energy. This loss can normally be reduced to about 1% by using Maximum Power Point Tracking, an electronic technique designed for this purpose.

The Solar Array Dimensions

To generate the system requirements of 1,100 gW, a fixed solar array would have to have an area of 1,100,000,000,000/37.5 sq meters, made up from 29.333 billion, 1 meter square panels, covering an area of 29,333 km2 or a square with sides of 171.3 km long. This is about the size of Belgium and 50% bigger than Israel, just for the silicon PV cells.

Similarly, using the more expensive tracking array could reduce this area to 22,000 km2 or a square with sides of 148.3 km.

Solar Array Manufacturing
Note that If 1 square metre PV panels were manufactured at the rate of 1 per second, it would take 930 years to manufacture 29.3 billion panels.

It takes energy to make PV panels, especially the highly efficient, old-school crystalline silicon kind. Even just creating the silicon crystals requires heating rock or sand to around 1650 °C (3,000 °F), and that’s not counting the creation of the electronics that connect the silicon wafers to the grid, and the mounting hardware that holds the whole thing together. And then there’s the energy used to ship the panels and install them.

A study by researchers from the Netherlands and the USA (Fthenakis, Kim and Alsema, 2008), which analyses PV module production processes based on data from 2004-2006 finds that it takes 250kWh of electricity to produce 1m2 of crystalline silicon PV panel. The solar panels considered above typically produce around 300kWh electricity per year, so it will take almost a year to “pay back” the energy cost of the panel.

Service Area
The total area covered by the solar array will significantly larger than the area of the panels to allow for installation, maintenance access and periodic cleaning. The space required for the batteries is in addition to this.

Site Location

The example above assumes that the entire solar generating capacity is located in a region with the most advantageous solar conditions. What if the plant were to be located in the cloudier and chillier North East?

From the NREL solar maps, we can see that the average daily solar radiation would be reduced from 6 kWh/m2/day to 4 kWh/m2/day. Thus the average electrical power produced by the PV cells with the same efficiency of 15% will reduce from 37.5 W/m2 to 25 W/m2 and the number of one square meter solar panels required to produce the same electric power would consequently increase by 50% to 44 billion covering an area of 44,000 square kilometers or a square with sides of 210 km. Bigger than Denmark, the Netherlands or Switzerland.

On the other hand, because of the higher PV cell temperatures experienced in the South West, installations would probably require local cooling systems to optimize the power output, whereas installations in the North East would benefit since they could get by without PV cell cooling. Cooling requires additional power to pump and chill water.

The required battery capacity would be largely unaffected by the location, but the cooling requirements could change. In the warmer southern regions forced cooling will most likely be required, but in the milder northern conditions we could expect this requirement to be reduced though probably not eliminated.

The Battery

Storage Requirements and AC Power Grid Engineering Challenges

The battery is no less complicated.

Thomas Edison is reputed to have said “When people get into the battery business they automatically become liars”. That was before he got into the battery business himself. It may not be true today but there’s plenty of room for misunderstanding the battery specifications, particularly with modern Lithium batteries.

Let’s just look at the capacity here. The battery’s capacity is the amount of energy it can hold. Unfortunately this is not all usable energy since it is not advisable to keep the battery at its fully charged level with a 100% state of charge, nor should a Lithium battery be discharged to below 2 Volts.

The most stressful operating state of a battery is when it is fully charged. Lithium batteries in particular are at risk of damage from even slight overcharging and Battery Management Systems (BMS) must provide precise control of the charging process to avoid this.

Lithium batteries also suffer damage at low states of charge (SOC) because the active chemicals in the battery undergo irreversible changes at low voltage affecting both the battery’s life and its safety. See Lithium Battery Failures and SOC.

Thus a Lithium battery should operate between about 20% and 95% state of charge so that its useful capacity will be around 75% of its theoretical or installed “nameplate” capacity. In the example that follows, the capacity is considered to be the usable capacity. Battery manufacturers however usually specify the nameplate battery capacity as its total energy content or theoretical capacity rather than its useful energy content. You need to know this.

Currently, Lithium ion batteries suitable for grid storage are available from several suppliers in 40 foot containers with various energy storage capacities of around 1 mWh and costing $750,000 or more each. They usually include cooling and an electronic converter unit delivering AC power at 480 Volts 60 Hertz or similar. To store 1 mWh during a charging period of 12 hours, the average charging power must be 1mWh ÷ 12 = 83.33 kW. Similarly the battery must be capable of delivering a power of 83.33 kW during 12 hours of discharge.

These charge – discharge rates assume the full plant margin of 25% is being generated and used.

Under normal circumstances the actual base load charge – discharge power without the plant margin requirement will be 66.67 kW. However these are the average power deliveries and the peak power availability and demand could vary considerably from the averages.

To store 4,400 gWh would need 4.4 million of these 40 foot containers costing $3,300,000,000,000 or $3.3 trillion. As a quick error check on the numbers calculated above, the total power handling capability of 4.4 million containers each supplying a power requirement 66.67 kW will be 4,400,000 X 66.67 kW = 293.3 gW, matching the requirement outlined in the Demand Profile above.

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Ai23 Energy Storage System Container

For 4.4 million containers, the containers would cover an area of 130.8 million m2 = 130.8 km2 or a square with sides 11.44 km long; but adequate access space must also be provided, adding substantially to the total.The standard container exterior dimensions are 12.193 m X 2.438 m giving an area of 29.727 m2

There could be some cost and space savings if the batteries were installed in a purpose built building, but this could hamper the planned long term battery replacement program. (See Battery Ageing next)

Note: If the manufacturer’s specified 1 mWh battery capacity is the installed capacity rather than the usable capacity considered here, one third more, or a total of 5.7 million containerized batteries would be required to store the required 4,400 gWh of energy.

In warm climates, extra battery capacity (and consequent solar generating capacity needed to provide it) will be required to power forced cooling of the battery to slow its ageing process and thus avoid its premature failure.

Battery Aging

All batteries suffer deterioration with age and their end of life is generally specified as being when the capacity has reduced to 80% of what it was when it was new. For lithium batteries the lifetime is typically between eight and ten years but depends on the usage conditions. Higher temperatures accelerate battery ageing and thus reduce battery life.

For high power applications, the required battery capacity is usually specified as sufficient to cover the end of life performance. This means that the capacity when new must be 25% higher in order to meet the end of life requirements. Since the calculation above already includes a plant margin factor, there is some leeway here, but in any case it would be prudent to adopt another 10% margin to avoid end of life failures. See more about Battery Life (and Death)

The biggest problem however comes from the finite life of the battery, since the entire installation will have to be replaced every 8 to 10 years.

Battery Recycling

Unlike the situation with lead acid batteries, there are currently very few recycling plants able to recycle Lithium batteries to extract the useful chemicals. In any case, taking a Lithium Cobalt cell as an example, the Lithium content in the LiCoO2 cathode material is only 7% by weight. Lithium is between 20 and 100 times more abundant in the Earth’s crust in terms of the number of atoms than Lead and Nickel, so that the demand for recycling is less. See Battery Chemistries.

Note that if these 44 million containerized batteries were manufactured in China, it would take 587 round trips of twenty days each way on the largest container ships to deliver them to the USA.

See more about Solar Power

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240 thoughts on “Going Solar: System Requirements For 100% U.S. Solar Generated Utility Baseload Electricity

    • AS USUAL, articles such as this one utterly fail to mention the flip side- which is that fossil fuel supplies are depleting at an accelerating rate and will not last forever.

      Furthermore a piece of land a two hundred kilometers on a side sounds like a hell of a lot- but drawn to scale a square that size on a map of the USA is a FLYSPECK rather than a problem.

      The cost of renewable energy is coming down fast and will continue to come down for a long time yet. Storage REALLY IS a tough nut but we will necessarily learn to live with a lot less storage than the authors indicate, as a matter of necessity. There are plenty of ways to substitute day time energy for energy ordinarily consumed at night, for instance thermal storage in either direction, hot or cold, such as hot or chilled water to regulate temperatures in houses and businesses.

      The lighting industry in the USA has not yet even gotten to three percent total penetration of LED lighting. The possibilities involving improving energy efficiency are as big and as bright as the problem of providing the energy is big and tough.

      Note that even this article admits that a typical modern panel pays back its electricity investment in a year. Such panels are still doing eighty percent or better at the end of twenty years and will be generating FIFTY percent or so at the end of sixty or seventy years IIRC but it has been a while since I checked that figure.

      • Excellent point. The purpose of this paper is to present the facts surrounding solar as a viable candidate for baseload power. Anyone with the slightest understanding of the issues can draw their conclusions based on the facts as presented. Having said that, please see my article on the issue of fossil fuel depletion. That is where the concern should be. Not on AGW and climate change because that (hyped perhaps) issue goes away along with fossil fuel depletion. See at: http://fuelrfuture.com/when-the-lights-go-out/

      • Hey Old Farmer Mac, I get what you’re saying but here is reality. Civilization A can embrace solar/wind and use force of law to drive out conventional energy sources from their midst. This will consume their entire focus getting this implemented and learning to live with it. Civilization B chooses to allow the markets to decide on their energy sources. Their society will continue to advance dramatically with cheap ubiquitous energy from fossil fuels and nuclear, whichever is cheaper. Fast forward several generations, B will have continued to dramatically advance their technology and military capability, while A will be consumed with meeting basic food, shelter, and transportation needs. And then one day B will consume A. The treehugger species will quickly become extinct, and a few generations later will be all but forgotten. Which civilization will you belong to? Choose wisely.

      • They are finite, but will last us for at least 400 to 1000 years.
        Let’s hold off on panicking till we have less than a century of supply left, then we can solve the problem with technology that is 3 to 9 centuries more advanced than we have today.

        I love the way solar advocates, always assume that the best case scenario is what we should use when sizing the solar collection system. For example the archaic farmer above takes the amount of panels we would need if we put all of the panels in one place, but forgets to add in the fact that little if any of the energy created in Arizona will make it all the way to New England, necessitating an increase in the size of the panels by several orders of magnitude in order make up for transmission losses.
        Or it assumes that we won’t need to increase the size of these panels if they are moved to places that are less friendly to solar power. Someplace like New England with lots of clouds and long winter nights.

        True believers are always willing to ignore reality in order to push their fantasy of the day.

      • “Fossil fuel supplies are depleting at an accelerating rate and will not last forever”

        Which is why the price of oil has dropped from $120/bbl to $50 over the last year.

      • The fact that fossil fuels will probably deplete in time…though not during our lifetimes…is true but off point. There will certainly need to be replacement technologies developed. This article serves to examine one of them.

        As for the area required, it may be a flyspeck (not really…it is the size of Belgium…albeit scattered around the country) but it is still way more land intensive than conventional power plants. These kinds of land intensive projects can be very difficult to permit. It would be great if we could cover some southwestern state with these things and run wires to everything but that isn’t how it works, is it?

        Yes…storage is the key factor. We agree on that. Until the storage problem is solved then the concept of mass power generation by solar just won’t be practical.

        One thing the article didn’t discuss adequately is the availability of materials to produce these solar panels. The 930 years to produce them at one per second is an interesting factoid, though with multiple manufacturing facilities, then one per second may be relatively slow. Maybe it will only take 200 years.

        As for the LED’s…I love them. But compared to the projected expansion of power demand…developing nations, etc. this is probably peanuts. We always seem to find more uses for electricity than we can find ways to lower consumption or increase efficiency. For every million or so LED bulbs, there is a newer, faster, more energy consuming data center.

        As for the payback…Every couple of years I look into adding solar to my house. Last time I checked, the payback (the real one) was 64 years. I’m sure commercial applications operate differently.

        Going back to the storage…which I think the author did a fair job of. Until this is solved, solar is gong to be a third rate way to generate power. I think nuclear has better medium term prospects. Personally, I agree with the Google engineers. The next source of energy probably hasn’t been discovered yet.

      • The known and estimated supply of oil and gas is enough for several hundred years use. Long before that a way will be found to convert mass to energy in a controlled manner, giving an unlimited supply for all time. Essentially we will have a Star Trek future a couple hundred years from now.

      • As one of the principal authors of this article I would like to reference my article titled: “2060 And Lights Out” which is on-line at: http://fuelrfuture.com/when-the-lights-go-out/ The time to depletion of fossil fuel reserves is a function of demand. As the developing nations of the world accelerate their use of energy, the time to economic depletion of fossil fuels quickens. Today the U.S. population is roughly 4.5% of the worldwide population yet we use over 25% of the world’s annual energy production. This is not sustainable. Other countries must rise and increase their standards of living and that will decrease the remaining reserves live expectancy by a factor of 4 to 5. All of a sudden 200 hundred years of coil, coal and natural gas become 50 years. The comment regarding the conversion of matter into energy is correct. Today we do it using atomic fission. That is a great high energy flux density source of energy but not without its problems; mostly the radioactive waste. The next major advance in energy production will come with atomic fusion; first using the deuterium tritium fuel cycle and later using more advanced so called aneutronic fuel cycles. I have assembled the absolute best website on fusion energy science, history, project news, politics and the like. We have an excellent treatment of Innovative Confinement fusion approaches being conducted in the private sector and the news section is updated daily. We have close to 50 videos on fusion. My article “Who Killed Fusion” is the most complete and credible history of fusion and its incompetent management and there is a detailed article about Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev and the downfall of fusion science in the U.S. See: http://fusion4freedom.us/ and/or the sister site at: http://fuelrfuture.com/ and indeed as my on-line presentation is titled, “Fusion is the Only Realistic Solution” at: http://fuelrfuture.com/category/issues/fusion-solution/

  1. what I always find ironic is the push for more passenger trains (amtrak and/or locals) using electricity while at same time removing ability to easily produce the electricity.

    • Wind farms take up even more space , provide less power , are even more unreliable and would eventually kill every bird in the U.S.

      • At some point wind turbines stop killing birds. There will not be many birds but it does stop.

        Wind and solar are a little complementary. I say that without suggesting that as a process.
        What is not stated is that in winter there is very little sun and less reliable, these farms would need to be 2 to 3 the size discussed.
        At $50k per job which is the required investment typically in the developed world, one trillion dollars of avoidable expenditure is equivalent to 20 million jobs lost for the newly graduated youth of the world.

        So if anyone is wondering where the jobs in Europe have gone and the consequent high youth unemployment look no further than the trillion euro invested in solar and wind.

        As a thought experiment and one that someone should actually calculate out, if all wind farms and solar plants were switched of what would the increased fuel cost actually be per year? I think it may be surprisingly little relative to the numbers being thrown around.

      • You can always plant corn under a wind farm, while that’s harder to do with a solar farm (corn grows too tall).

        The Lieberose solar plant in the article photo took out quite a chunk of forest.

        It seems more sensible to be putting solar on rooftops, non-residential especially, where you can have industrial grade conversion and maintenance. The Air Force Academy has been installing them on the Cadet dorms (the open rectangles above and below the grassy quad), where they probably blend in with the aluminum and glass ambiance.

    • Well it is an application of limit theory.
      And just being confined to solar, a very narrow one at at that.

      Missing from the article is any cost/benefit analysis of energy conservation, like foam glass or aerogel.

      One wonders what the most useful mix of energy resources would be, given the current and likely future developments.

      That is, without political interference…

    • While there may be considerable room for development of solar technologies, I think that wind turbines have little room for improvement remaining. Any technology that improves the turbine can be applied to conventional fossil fueled turbines with much better results. As for the propeller…we have been building those for a hundred years. Only minor room for improvement. The only thing left is a stick.

      I just don’t see the technology going anywhere.

  2. In short, the cost of electricity would be so exorbitant and the economy such a basket case, only the wealthy could afford it.

    • Bruce, if we were to go all in, I’m not sure even the rich ($20,000/year, according to Dear Leader) could afford it.

      • Oops. Give the Prez some credit; looks like I missed a zero and you’re rich at $200,000.

        OTOH, if we can ever get to that glorious workers paradise, no one will need any money. Just get in the appropriate meal line for gruel or filet mignon, depending on how equal you are.

    • You are partly there. The economy would tank, and so would demand for electricity, therefore the price would find equilibrium. Still out of reach of ordinary (and now poor, unemployed) folk who would scrounge every skerrick of vegetation to burn in their fires. It would be an environmental disaster.

    • I think Chris4692’s article shows that the fuel saving from any penetration will be swallowed up by capital costs.

      As I always say if it works and we live in the best environment for cheap capital why subsidies. Leave it to the market if its so overwhelming.

      • The study does not explore capital costs, so it does not and cannot show that. It explores operating costs only. It explores the operating costs system wide in the western US, especially the fuel savings and the added maintenance caused by cycling conventional facilities to compensate for the fluctuations of wind.

        A full life cycle cost analysis of course does need to include capital costs, but those are very specific to the location of the facilities, as would the output of a specific wind tower. On a system wide basis, there is a net fuel cost savings.

        And it isn’t my study, I found it in my searches online from what seems to be a probably reliable source.

  3. My biggest gripe are the assumptions being made. The notion that nuclear will decline I find utterly preposterous, especailly considering the advent of moltensalt reactors. NO power generation technology
    can compete against the safety, low cost, flex-power and nuclear waste eating capabilities of this reborn
    nuclear teachnology. I’m assuming the first operation plants will begin operating within the decade.
    The contest is not even close.

      • The rush to wind and solar is NOT because they think it will ever be adequate. It is a chance for massive crony capitalism and they really do not care if these startups succeed. And, as the agenda is to destabilize our industrial economy and lower out standard of living by a lot, they are perfectly happy if they fail and people runaway with the money or it succeeds and people cannot afford it, making them poor and forced to not rely in stable electricity.

        They do NOT want to favor any of the existing energy sources as these represent already established companies in which crony capitalism would not work.

    • The problem with conventional nuclear is ‘peak uranium’. If it is not based on Thorium, it will peak about 2035 and the fuel run down by maybe 2050. The year 2050 is also ‘peak energy’ from all sources, if something dramatic is not done soon about Thorium or fusion.

      • There’s plenty of U in seawater. I think I read here a few years back that a cubic mile of seawater contains an equivalent weight of all the U ever mined.

        It’s these US of A that is wasteful of their radioactive sources. Trying to store it away when it’s still very functional.

      • If I recall, fast breeder reactors could create more fuel than they use. Of course the (nuclear apocalypse) fear factor keeps us from using them.

      • There is no ‘peak uranium or peak thorium’ Breeder Reactors: A renewable energy resource

        If and its a big IF, that the Polywell works using the hydrogen boron aneutronic reaction (using similar calculations), we will have enough fuel and energy to last millions of years.

        Solar, Wind have not and will not sustain our type of civilisation. ‘Molten Salt Reactors’ will supply us will the energy and fuels that we will need in the future.

        Regards
        Climate Heretic

      • With respect utter codswallop.

        Uranium is dirt cheap and could be ten times more expensive without significantly impacting the cost of energy derived from it, which is all about the capital cost of the plant.

        At ten times the price you can get it out of seawater even, economically. And breeder reactors become economic.

        Then there is enough uranium for several thousand years.

      • Sounds like another one of those guys who assumes that the existing mines constitute all of the world’s uranium, and that when those mines run dry, we are out.

      • My comment was aimed at Arthur,s opening sentence. The two authors state that the post is an exercise to flesh out the details. It would then be easy enough to say ” What if they commit to building 50% of that to power future energy needs?”. The current administration certainly is determined to push for as much build out as they can get funding for.

    • like everything else in this area – the decline will be by the antiamerican antihuman mathusians who want both dead.

    • Isn’t the assumption based on the retirement of nuclear plants? In other words, the plants existing as of 2005. The first graph assumes no new nuclear plants will go online in the future—a fairly reasonable assumption given all the regulatory and legal roadblocks thrown in the way of any plans for a new nuclear plant in the US.

    • Great article

      I realize why grid equalization is ignored for this study but I also believe it’s non-trivial. You got to stick it where the sun don’t shine (and when)

      To paraphrase (it angrifies my blood) Why does every green solution seem to revolve around the least efficient (energy dense), most ecologically destructive and most expensive solution. If the proposed solutions were practicable, I would care a little less about trying to solve a non-problem.

      Seeming hypocrisy is not one of my strong suites. We’ve got to chop some bats to save some bats. (sigh)

  4. I do not spend a lot of spend a lot of time reading studies when the assumption in the opening sentence is wrong and the math is simplistic. First you have to look at the rate of building new on base load power plants compare it to the rate of decommissioning.

    It takes about 5 years to build a 1000 MWe base load plant. Modern power plants built after 1960 last at least 75 years. Every 20 years, a major overhaul is needed. The nuclear industry is working on what is needed to make nuke plants last 80 years now that we have shown they will last 60 years.

    On the other hand, solar does not last 5 years and it would take 80 years to build the equivalent of a 1000 MWe base load plant. This conjecture on my part because the solar industry does not brag about producing power just selling junk. Do not hold your breath waiting for performance solar reports at 5 or ten years.

    In other words, there is not enough trained technicians and engineers for solar to keep working not that it working yet.

    • Solar panels last a lot longer than 5 years. Most manufactures have PV warenties of 80% output after 25years . Right now there are a lot of examples of PV penels still working after 30 to 40 years. The world first PV cell was built 60 years ago and it sill works.

      http://pureenergies.com/us/how-solar-works/how-long-do-solar-panels-last/

      http://energyinformative.org/lifespan-solar-panels/

      http://www.civicsolar.com/resource/how-long-do-solar-panels-last

      • “Still works” = generating “some power” ?

        That is very much different than “generates nameplate power” … After 5 years, solar panels generate less than 50% of their initial rated capacity.

        Oh. Land area requires the “perpendicular solar array area” to be divided by the (cos (latitude)): A perpendicular PV solar array MUST be spaced further sideways from the next solar panel “up sun” to avoid “shadowing” ANY part of the solar panel. A “dead” or shaded area of PV panel kills power output.

        A partially shaded reflective solar panel – one that is reflecting as much of the sun’s energy to a distance receiver or solar heater) is affected by the loss of insolation, but is not shorted out and burning up power from its on-line neighbors. Thus, you need a row of solar panels, a driveway or maintenance space and shaded space (proportional to the latitude of the array), then the next array row.

        The loss of power from the southwest to the users (northeast, north, northwest, and east, southeast, southwest, south and southwest will lose an additional 35% to 75% of the generated power by transmission losses in the HV lines. Yes, ultra-high volt power lines lose LESS energy by resitance and induction losses than any DC or lower volt AC lines. But, after 700-900 miles, more than 30% of the original energy is gone into heat.

      • Wait until some Greenpeace types wake up and start protesting how many trees are being cut down to construct solar farms in temperate zones like in Europe? I can imagine how they might employ drones to do ~something~ to make solar power a lot more expensive.

      • Warranties are useless after the solar company goes bankrupt. There is already quite a list for solar companies no longer in business.

        Solar panel cost offset is approximately twenty years. Solar company warranty is only for the solar panel for twenty five years, not the efficiency.
        http://solar-panels-review.toptenreviews.com/sunpower-solar-panels-review.html

        e.g. @ http://www.gnern.com/index.php?page=solar-power

        “…”2. Surface treated with reflection-reducing process, increasing the light absorption.
        Back sealed with anti-aging EVA, resistant from moisture and corrosion.

        3. The efficiency of our crystalline solar cell is over 16%. Each panel is strictly tested before leaving the factory.
        4. Our solar panel is designed with a lifetime of 25 years, and guaranteed that the power decline less than 8% within 10 years, and 20% within 20 years…”

        Any solar panels working after 40 years are working at severely reduced efficiency. Just what companies installed those panels? Or are you referring to ancient panels kept in lab conditions?

        “…Solar panels are not able to absorb ALL the light and heat coming from the sun. Most solar panels only have a 20 percent efficiency rate at best. This means that around 80 percent of the sun’s light remains unused and wasted…”

        Which brings up, just how much land do you plan to waste installing solar? Land that then does nothing but block rain from evenly landing on the ground succoring life.

        Instead growing corn for wasting as biofuel, do you plan to pave the cornfields with solar panels?

      • I expect PV panels will last forever but the system will stop making electricity because the con artists selling PV said there was no maintenance cost. My expectation is that you will find more cases [of] house fires than 5 year old PV systems that still work. The reason can be found in in one of Stephen’s links.
        “Note that batteries and inverters typically have to be replaced every 5 to 10 years.”

        The exception to five years is the person who makes electricity for a hobby. I know of a retired electrician in Arizona who has keep his system working but if you have to pay $5000 for an electrician to fix the system, it is going to stay broke.

        Since retiring, we have been living in an old motor home. One of the things that did not work was the 7kw Onan but with the help of a retired electrician friend we got it running so the air conditioning could be used on hot days. The repairs would have run about $1000 at a dealer. Last winter we used a $88 Harbor Freight generator or the alternator on the engine.

        So it is not a case of PV being able to work, it is a case of being too expensive to keep the PV working. My original point is that PV will break faster than it can be built.

      • RACookPE1978 – Oh. Land area requires the “perpendicular solar array area” to be divided by the (cos (latitude)):

        Don’t you also need to add 1/2 the earth tilt (23.4 / 2) or Latitude = 12 degrees? If not, your shading during the ‘wintertime’.

      • Yes, you are correct. Thank you. Of course, that only adds more area to the needed “dead country” that must be kept clear of trees, brush, undergrowth, and effective crops.

      • If you live in California and if you pay $.40/kWh and if you expect the top tier retail price of electricity to rise 6% a year as it already has for the last 6 years and if you grid tie and if you live in a sunny area with a large south facing roof and if you have $30,000 laying around, solar power is competitive and pays for itself in about 7 years. After all these ‘if’s’ are taken into account, your effective retail rate should drop to about $.11/kWh, which is about what retail electricity should retail for anyway.

      • Even at a 60 year life you could not get the required capacity nearly in place before the existing panels had to be replaced.

    • Correction

      Modern power plants built after 1960 CAN last for 60 years but across the western world we are closing coal fired power plants built in the 1970’s and later because coal is apparently evil. Nuclear plants have major issues after about 40 years because neutron bombardment causes embrittlement of the materials used. The only way to fix it is replace the entire reactor installation. There are ZERO nuclear power stations that are operating after 60 years of life. The oldest in the world is the Beznau plant in Switzerland which came online in 1970.

  5. “Let us assume 6 kWh/m2/day for a fixed array and 8 kWh/m2/day for a two axis tracking array.”

    I do not understand this calculation. A tracking array should be on the order of at least 1.57X more efficient than a non-tracking one.

    E.g., say you had a solar panel at the equator at the Vernal equinox. A steerable array gets full power from Sun up to Sun down. The fixed one gets it in proportion to the sine of the elevation angle. The average of the sine over a half cycle is 2/pi = 1/1.57.

    At higher latitude and different time of year, the steerable array still gets full power, while the fixed one gets even less than 1/1.57.

    So, it seems the separation should be more like 5/8 rather than 6/8.

    • Maybe it’s on account of shading, as MarkW points out below. Which just means that all that complicated steering is limited in what it can provide, too.

      It’s really hopeless. The amount of square footage needed is ridiculous, and is so immense, it would have climate changing effects of its own.

    • Maybe you are not including the air mass attenuation? The physical mass of air transversed in early mornings and late afternoons has its toll also, so should be somewhat less than the mathematical 1/(½π).

    • It is not that simple. There is power generated even it turned away from the sun, provided there is some cloud. The hazy days are not great for peak power, by the panel generates power when not pointed directly at the sun. There is a lot of scatter so the drop off is not quite as simple as the exposed surface and surface angle and reflection angle. Take a small panel, short it through an ammeter and point it around the sky. There is always something.

    • Bart-

      NREL has solar insolation data for various sites in the US here-

      http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/1961-1990/redbook/sum2/state.html

      You can check out the observational data for various cities.

      Sunny locations give an improvement ratio of single tracker to fixed tilt of about 4/3.
      Cloudy locations are lower at around 5/4 improvement ratio.

      Dual axis trackers provide only a few percent benefit over single axis trackers for non-imaging solar PV.

    • Are you properly weighting matters.

      Whilst a non steerable array, is set up to extract maximum efficiency at peak midday sun, no doubt it has reasonable efficiency +/- 2 or even +/- 3 hours either side of midday.

      The steerable array, gains efficiency at sun up and sun down. It is able to extract the most power that can be extracted over the course of the solar day, but whilst that is good, the fact is that there is little power in the sun say +/- 6 hours either side of midday.

      So a steerable array leads to diminishing returns. It has no efficiency gain at midday, and only marginal efficiency gains +/- 2 hours, or even +/- 3 hours of midday. Of course it has far better efficiency at say 7am, or at 4:30 pm, but at this time of the day, the amount of solar energy available (to either type of array) is in any event reduced.

  6. Regarding the first chart, why are they comparing fall days to spring days? Fall and spring are the times of year when electricity demands are the lowest. Why not do a chart of winter and summer?

    I also couldn’t find what type of load the chart was supposed to represent. The dotted red line is at 300kW. That’s too much for a house, Maybe an apartment complex?

    Nor could I find anything indicating what part of the country was supposed to be represented by that chart.

    • The chart says it was compiled by UC Berkley, so I’m going out on a limb and guessing that it was taken from somewhere on the Berkley campus. The text then makes the ludicrous claim that this is chart is representative of the US.
      Comparing the mild climate of the San Fran region to the rest of the US? Nothing representative in there.

      • The chart may be electrical energy usage by the Berkeley campus itself, the day peak is squarer and shifted more to daytime than the demand curves available on the Cal-ISO site. FWIW, the peak demand in California is typically about 7PM, which means battery storage requirements would be even higher than mentioned in the article. OTOH, with electric vehicle charging load, it should be possible to push EV charging to late morning when solar production is high and demand well below daily peak.

        As for utility scale batteries, I would expect sodium-sulfur to be a better fit for the amount of energy storage required as both sodium and sulfur are extremely plentiful.

      • For battery charging in the late morning to work, you are going to have to convince lots of employers to install chargers and to give away all that power for free.

      • Agree on issues involved with convincing employers to install chargers. OTOH, late morning solar power will probably be really cheap in California in a few years, so there may be a push to stimulate demand at that time.

    • How much more expensive are tracking arrays compared to fixed arrays? To start with, each panel will have to be mounted on it’s own stand, complete with a significant concrete to anchor the base. Then you have to move the panels further apart to keep them from shading each other, meaning you are going to need more land. Even then, as the sun nears the horizon, the amount of shading will still increase, meaning you either have less total surface area receiving sun light, or you can only track the sun when it is relatively high in the sky.

      I like the way the authors dismiss the problems of getting less sunlight, while also needing more energy during the winter, and proceed to design their “system” for an optimum spring or summer day.

      If you want to be taken seriously, you have to cost out the system to be able to handle the dead of winter.
      And then assume that 20% to 30% of the US is under cloud cover, and that snow storms have buried a non-trivial percentage of your solar farms. (They get snow storms in Atlanta and Birmingham every few years. Ditto Albequerque. If you haven’t built your system accordingly, people are going to die because they don’t have the power they need.

      • There’s only so much sunlight hitting each acre, so tracking arrays aren’t going to get any more sunlight per installed acreage. They will need fewer square feet of panels than fixed, but I doubt that would make up for the additional capital and maintenance expense.

      • I live in Ohio. Our peak power demand days are in late December and early January. On those days the sun rises a few minutes before 8 am and sets a few minutes after 5 pm. We get lots of precipitation, unlike California. So a good chunk of those months your solar array will be covered with snow and ice. For us, solar is just a complete waste of money.

    • My thought exactly, as soon as I looked at the first chart.
      Spring and Fall are the ‘low-power’ months at my home (Mississippi gulf coast).
      Summer day consumption is WAY higher due to air conditioning, and
      Winter night consumption is WAY higher due to heating. (I heat & cool using the most efficient heat pumps I could get when replacing mine after the hurricane Katrina storm surge.)

  7. I’m assuming the point of this piece is to demonstrate how preposterous it would be to even think solar could do the job. Am I wrong?

    • The point of the article is to generate discussion regarding “solutions” proposed by politicians and others who have little appreciation for, or understanding of, the math and science and yet propose…as has a leading presidential candidate…that coal, gas, petroleum and todays nuclear fission can be replaced with this technology. Obviously (I hope it becomes obvious) solar is not a realistic solution to replace baseload power.

      • Agreed it’s like a Order of Magnitude Engineering Study to form a perspective on the real drivers of solar power. IMHO the authors have succeeded.

  8. The way thing are going, and have been going for a very long time, there will be no nuclear, there will be no LFTR, there will be nothing. Some say electricity will be so expensive, only the wealthy can afford it. They are so wrong. With no economy, there will be no wealthy.
    Can a society destroy itself? Would a society destroy itself? Does the will to survive and the sense of self-preservation somehow take leave?
    I offer two examples.
    Germany 1938. The German people (or the leaders, or whatever) chose a leadership and policies which would lead to the utter destruction of the country. Anybody who wants to claim “But it was not the German people who did it”, all I can say is, it was not the Estonians, the French, or anybody else.
    Second:
    Pause for thought, The Xhosa people of Southern Africa commit suicide. The episode is detailed in a WUWT post, here.
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/06/20/historic-parallels-in-our-time-the-killing-of-of-cattle-vs-carbon/
    It can, and does happen.

  9. >>But all of this energy will have to be captured
    >>during the 12 hours of sunlight.

    Excuse me, but I want my energy in the winter. And here it gets light at 9am in the winter and dark at 4:30pm. A quick recalculation, perhaps??

    R

    • And therein lies the problem.

      Interconnects would be wasteful and expensive, and presently there is no method available to store energy for when it is needed.

      Further, whilst it may be day light at 9am and dark at 4:30 pm, but there is little solar power before about 10:am and after 3 pm. The useable solar day is very short for most of us in winter.

      Peak power has to be available at peak demand. In mid to high northern latitudes this is winter evenings. Solar is completely incapable of meeting this demand. It is OK in the Middle East to meet their peak demand of midday in July and august for aircon, but not a workable solution to meet the needs of mid to high northern latitude countries.

      • And that’s without calculating in the impact of 3 inches of snow sitting on the panels.
        Perhaps that might be another advantage of steerable panels, you can move them to the vertical to shake the snow off.

  10. Let’s not forget that intercepting solar heat to create electricity will dangerously cool the earth, CAGC. Our great grand children wil be forced by alarmists to use fossil fuels to warm the earth, because new pal-reviewed studies will then show that cooling rather than warming is dangerous for life on earth.

    • Interesting,
      “They” denounce CO 2 for trapping heat and warming the earth, yet the same fools push for solar (and wind) which also trap solar energy turning it to electricity which heats the earth. The only difference there no doubt that solar will heat the earth above what would normally occur while the effect of CO 2 remains to be proven in the real world.

    • K A – B O O M !
      Hydrogen is a violent explosive. It has an explosive range (in terms of mixture composition) of 10% – 90%. This is vastly worse than methane or propane. Hydrogen can leak out of the smallest holes, even holes so small they will contain oxygen or methane. Hydrogen will diffuse into metals, causing them to become brittle. This embrittlement guarantees the above mentioned leaks. For those in the know, Hydrogen power is nobody’s idea of a good time.
      As far as the solar catalysis of water goes, no breakthrough there. You still can not get more energy out than you put in.

    • Sillyness. What is the energy conversion efficiency of the H2 producing panel compared to the electric panel? And what is the energy-to-electricity conversion efficiency of machines that burn or recombine this hydrogen to produce electricity? Expat is probably not an engineer, and if he is, I do not want to drive over his bridge.

    • For the thorium lovers: There is plenty of thorium on earth. It is quite inert and hard to process. It melts 550F higher than U235. Now that you have fuel rods, they must be irradiated which will produce U-233, some of which will break down to U-232. Hot stuff so much more shielding in necessary. A thorium reactor produces lots of nasty neutrons which degrade the reactor vessel much more rapidly that U-235.Now the waste problem in half life format: U-232 160,000 years, technetium-99 300,000 years, iodine-129 15.7 million years, protactinium-231 33,000 years. Where is the advantage? Trans Atomic Power is working on a design that uses low grade reprocessed fuel. They claim that there is enough used fuel to keep the the world’s reactors going for 75 years with their design. It may be possible to refuel this design every 10 years as opposed every 2 or 3 years for present designs. NRC approval is slow and costly. As the government is throwing billions of dollars into its green agenda, I would never expect the process of approval to speed up.

  11. Thus the average electrical power produced by the PV cells with the same efficiency of 15% will reduce from 37.5 W/m2 to 25 W/m2 and the number of one square meter solar panels required to produce the same electric power would consequently increase by 50% to 44 billion covering an area of 44,000 square kilometers or a square with sides of 210 km.

    Seems doable, if you draw it on a map you will see that a square of this size is only a small square in the Nevada desert. 44 000 square kilometer is 15% of Nevada.

    That would of course be just for the illustration, the panels would be spread around, but it shows that we have space enough for this.

    In some areas the shadows from solar panels could even have a positive side-effect. Build roofs with solar panels over parking lots and other trafficked areas so we can have shadows in the hot summer sun.

    To store 4,400 gWh would need 4.4 million of these 40 foot containers

    That is a very bad example and also a very bad choice of storage.

    Firstly, a mix of wind, solar and hydro would reduce the storage need to a fraction of this. There will always be some wind somewhere and a lot of hydro when the sun is not shining.

    Secondly, hydroelectric pump stations are far more economically attractive for energy storage than big batteries.

    Thirdly, an interesting alternative could be to use the batteries in parked electric vehicles as storage. The owners of the vehicles must get some compensation for this, and they would need the option to quick-charge when they needed to use the car, but it could still be economically feasible since the investments would be minimal.
    As an example: 100 million electric vehicles with a 24 KWh battery each, like the current Nissan Leaf, would give a storage capacity of 2400 GWh.

    /Jan

    • Should be fun at 4:00am when everybody runs outside to recharge the cars so they can use them at peak hour. Should also be fun getting home if a heavily overcast and rainy day follows, cutting solar efficiency to less than 1%.
      Walk home, eat a cold dinner and freeze in the dark until it’s time to walk to work the next day.

    • So the quality of power will depend on 100 million people plugging their car batteries into the grid? That idea may work on Mars if it becomes populated.

      • I’m pretty sure that none of the cars currently on the market have the ability to take battery energy convert it back into 60Hz power and pump it back onto the grid. For this idea to work, you are going to have to add about $1000 to the price of every electric car.

        Some people are so in love with an idea, that they never bother to think through the practical implications of their hair brained schemes.

    • Fascinating how someone can be encouraged after reading an article pointing out all the problems with solar. All you focus on is the absolute best case total size of the array, if it is placed somewhere with ideal or better sun conditions. In the real world, since transmission losses mean that actual solar stations must be within a few hundred miles of the place that uses the electricity. Which in turn means that most of those panels are going to be placed far to the north of Arizona, which means they will have to be sized as much as twenty times larger to still produce enough power to get the local homes through the long winter nights.
      Assuming it doesn’t snow, in which case it doesn’t matter how big they are, since they won’t be producing any power anyway.

    • BTW, all of the good sources of hydro were tapped at least a generation ago, and your enviro friends are agitating for most of them to be taken down even as we speak. As to pumped storage, that’s hideously inefficient and the number of places where it is practical can be counted on the fingers of one hand, assuming you are the victim of several industrial accidents.

      • Slight disagreement (very slight). For water supply, pumping to an up-ground reservoir during the “wet” season to then be released during the “dry” season might make sense. But only for water supply.
        Pity that the bucks burned to build wind turbines weren’t put into making water turbines more efficient. Then they might recoup more of the energy it took to pump the water “uphill” (if turbines are installed). Never all of it.

      • As to pumped storage, that’s hideously inefficient

        Pumped storage is widely used and has a round trip efficiency in the range 70% to 87%. The new ones are the most efficient.

        Installed capacity in the US is 20 GW and another 31 GW have been proposed.
        http://energystorage.org/energy-storage/technologies/pumped-hydroelectric-storage

        As an example of a new and highly efficient pump station, the Norwegian “Fossane” pump station has an upstream efficiency of 91% and a downstream efficiency of 95% which gives an overall efficiency of 87%.

        However much of the stored capacity does not need to be pumped up. Existing hydroelectric power plants will only need to hold back the water in the reservoirs when the solar and wind turbines produce the power, and use it when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing.

        To do this we have to scale up the hydroelectric peak power capacity but no extra efficiency losses are introduced

        /Jan

      • To do this we have to scale up the hydroelectric peak power capacity but no extra efficiency losses are introduced

        Funny. Oboma’s enviro’s and his EPA and FW departments and his Ag departments and his naturalists and his water and conversation departments are destroying and blowing up dams all over the west and northwest right now.

        Name 6 dams that HAVE BEEN built in the US recently.
        Name ANY that have NOT been religiously and violently opposed by his enviro’s.
        Name ANY hydro power that has been credited as “renewable” by his enviro-controlled departments and democrat legislatures as a DELIBERATE attempt to remove them from future energy schemes.

      • Racook, I was takling about scaling up the installed capacity on the existing hydroelectric plants.

        You cannot do that without cutting out the guts and face of the dams and the entire rocks and wall structure and rention structures between the back of the upper suction BEHIND the dam and the massive penstocks between the dams and the bottom of the outlets of the turbines. There is also no more room on the floors and outlets of the powerplants, and no more water available behind the dams in each drainage area.

        That’s a politician’s idea of a solution. Make up the intent, pretend that the “law” requires the physics and the engineering to work.

      • They’ve been designing water turbines for over 100 years. I doubt there is a lot efficiency left to be squeezed out of them.

      • Racook says:

        You cannot do that without cutting out the guts and face of the dams and the entire rocks and wall structure and rention structures between the back of the upper suction BEHIND the dam and the massive penstocks between the dams and the bottom of the outlets of the turbines

        Yes, obviously some pretty huge investments have to be done on each plant. However, most of the assets obtained from these investments have a very long life time. An economic life time assessment of 66 years is typically used for the tunnels and similar infrastructures, but the real technical lifetime will often exceed even that.

        This means that huge investments in hydroelectric power plants can make sense.

        I do not say that this is our savior, but I think it is far more interesting to look for technological solutions rather than deeming all proposals as hopelessly farfetched even before they have been properly assessed.

        /Jan

    • There is not enough materials and manufacturing ability to make this work.
      I calculated this all out in 1975 for the increased needs of the US between 1975 and 1985. Same answer NO way No how. Terrestrial Solar is a nice toy! Not an industrial solution for modern needs…pg.

    • Using cars for grid storage has to be one of the silliest ideas ever. If a car is discharged by having the grid suck energy out of it, it is useless as a car until it is recharged. If you don’t know whether or not your car will be charged when you need it, it is also useless.

  12. Forget all of the theory how much renewable energy wil be needed in the future and just perform one practical experiment.
    Produce one tonne of steel using wind, solar, nuclear or gas energy.

  13. Been fighting this BS for 40 years. It gets tiring. I’m all for a single state (hee hee hee, CA perchance) to mandate total solar and wind.

    We’ll be getting the “Syrian Refugee” problem in MN. Only it will be the CA refugees. We can give them tents to live in temporarily. (Yeah, a TENT, that’s the ticket.. -20 F, howling wind, and a tent…That would be appropriate. Doesn’t Darwin say we should just let the “stupid” perish? Cleaning the gene pool?)

  14. I think solar power is great, and sceptics should be at the forefront of pushing it, … pushing greenies to go off-grid in order to save the planet. I suggest a $1000 grant to every home that opts to go off-grid, all you need are solar panels, several batteries, an inverter and probably a wind turbine …

    … the wind turbine operating in reverse, blowing tumbleweed across the sales offices, reflecting the fact that nobody would take up this offer, on account of solar being so feeble that it can only manage to power your lights, you’ll have to make alternative arrangements for heating/cooling and cooking.

  15. Interesting article as it lays out the impossible challenge of unrealistically replacing existing fossil and Nuclear fuel plants with unreliable renewable energy. This ill be very expensive with enormous capital expenditures for poor technologies like wind and batteries that may never see improvement.
    One issue I have is the false IEA claim that existing plants “need” to be replaced. I assume that is to comply with the goal of arbitrarily shutting down fossil and Nuclear even though they are still viable.
    I worked closely in the refining and chemical business and many 65 year old plants are still operating profitably with proper maintenance and periodic up grading. Some plants built in the 40’s are operating profitably and safely with technology upgrades at rates about 7 times their original capacity and now environmentally compliant with the addition of scrubbers.
    These plants operate at high service factors in the mid 90% in a competitive environment.
    It is a myth that plants are shut down because they are old, probably conceived to justify enormous capital expenditure for unreliable green energy.

    • One thought I omitted, have any of these fools looked into how much more of our industry will move overseas because the electricity will be so expensive and unreliable. There go some more jobs and income to the treasury.
      One last point the oil and gas companies are among the largest contributors to our US treasury. Not to mention the road tax which the electric car is not paying, How will the fools replace this enormous payment to the treasury, HIGHER INCOME TAX!!!

      • Further to the comment on what is supporting the US economy today and paying taxes, see this article.
        What would the jobs report look like without fracking, etc.
        How much taxes have the solar and wind industries paid considering all the subsidies.

        http://fuelfix.com/blog/2015/09/02/texas-and-north-dakota-grew-at-a-torrid-pace-in-2014-before-crude-busted/#34823101=1
        “Robust oil and gas activity helped several states grow their economies in 2014, with the fastest growing states all heavy energy industry players, according to Commerce Department data released Wednesday.

        The Texas economy grew the second most among the states last year after it saw its gross domestic product increase 5.2 percent, making it one of a handful of states to outpace the U.S. economy overall.

        Only North Dakota was ahead of Texas last year after its GDP grew 6.3 percent. Wyoming, West Virginia and Colorado rounded out the top five.

        The steep fall in the price of U.S. crude oil, which only really caught the attention of market watchers by late Oct. 2014, had yet to take a big toll on energy companies across the country. The Texas economy grew nearly 5 percent in the fourth quarter of that year, and North Dakota saw a 5.5 percent jump.

        Most of 2014 was very good to the oil and gas industry. Texas and North Dakota saw their mining sectors, which includes the oil and gas industry in the Commerce Department data, increase GDP by 9.2 percent and 16.3 percent, respectively. For both states, mining was among their three fastest growing industries.

        In Colorado, GDP for the oil and gas industry grew more than 23.3 percent. In West Virginia, a state long dominated by the coal industry but which is now taking advantage of its position on the southern end of the Marcellus Shale formation, saw its mining sector grow 38.3 percent.”

      • If you are talking about a catalytic cracking unit (cat cracker) they are not a distilling tower, a distilling tower is required down stream to separate the cracked components. Many units use vessels up to 55 foot diameter and process up to 150,000 barrels of feed per day.
        How many solar panels do you need to replace the fuel production of 150,000 barrels a day. (A barrel is 42 gallons).

      • Let’s see. 1 bbl of petroleum contains about 6 million BTUs of energy, or 6 GJ. One KWh is 3.6 MJ. So one barrel of oil is about 1667 KWh. 150,000 bbl is about 250 million KWh. From the NREL chart above. I think 10 KWh/m2 per day is more than you can expect from solar in the US. So, you would need 25 KM^2 of solar panels in Arizona on a good day to replace 150,000 bbl of petroleum. Oh, what the heck, its only 3 miles on a side.

  16. Perhaps we need to stop thinking large grids and settle for individual building solar power, especially on homes. To me that is a more logical solution. Sure the grid will still be needed but with a lot less power to generate. The only drawback would be cost to maintain the grid as revenues dropped. Better to spend a few billion that way than chasing pipe dreams.

    • Diffusing the cost across a lot of people and area makes the cost harder to see. It does not make the cost any less. If there are any economies of scale to be had, you can kiss them goodbye, increasing costs again.

    • Why? The cost of solar would still be exorbitantly high and the cost of backup power would also be exorbitant, and for those unfortunates still hooked to the grid, why their rates would “necessarily skyrocket”.

    • Can you nominate exactly when there will be a lot less power to generate? You know, day by day, season by season, changing conditions caused by weather or the erection of a new building or growing tree that shades your panels, the reduced efficiency of the panels themselves. Getting to the moon was a simple task compared to this calculation.

    • Tom, in Hawaii I recall reading that the power company will not let people connect to the grid any more. They were putting too much power into the grid during the day and not enough when people came home after work and wanted to crank up the AC. Much more than 5% added or subtracted from the grid can cause major base load problems. An unbalanced grid, is an unhappy grid.

    • Lots of expensive, inefficient local generation instead of centralized, cost-efficient sources of power.
      How many industries do you plan on driving out of the US?

  17. Most of the comments have centered around the fact that pure/mostly solar is not feasible and yes this is an exercise to prove that point. Just like temperature is not about CO2, going solar is not about being practical, economical, or reliable. Environmentalists only care about their version of “sustainability”……a word that is being overused and abused in the name of “saving the planet from people”. The environmental narrative has nothing to do with advancing the human race. The sooner everyone understands the real motives of environmentalists the sooner we can get back to taking care of humanity.

  18. Solar is being considered as a viable energy source (even though it isn’t) for one reason only; that it is “green” energy, and is “zero-carbon”. Without Climatism, there would be no solar industry. None.

  19. Among the simplifying assumptions in the post is the unstated one that a two-axis flexible array will receive vertical sunlight from dawn to dusk.. Obviously, in a close-packed array, only the east-most column of panels would receive full sunlight at dawn, those to the west lying in its shadow. The opposite occurs at sunset, with full sunlight only at around noon, depending on spacing. Anyone want to design a large three-axis array stretching from Canada to the Rio Grande?

    • Don’t put it too close to the Rockies, you’ll lose at least half an hour of afternoon sunlight if you do.

  20. As with other wind and solar energy projects, the energy required to build, maintain, and back up this project would overwhelm whatever energy it produced. Unless there are order of magnitude increases in wind and solar power efficiency and reliability, they will remain energy parasites that can only survive with political mandates and subsidies.

    • But if we don’t build them to replace what works then there will more severe storms which will spin the wind things more (no solar during a storm) so that they might produce the energy to replace what worked and so eliminate the storms that might make the wind things work ….uh….bear with me here….I have a point…..I just need someone to tell me what it was.)
      /sarc

  21. Since “they want to ban fossil fuels, I think all those solar panels from China should arrive by solar and/or wind power including the tugs that dock the vessels. What is the economics for the longer passage?

  22. “Over the next 50 years, utility companies in the United States must replace approximately 440 gigawatts (GW) of baseload generation capacity to provide electricity nationwide.”

    …unless we can get the warmunists outa office.

  23. What allowance have you made for winter? (Sorry if I have missed it!)

    In the UK solar runs at less than 5% capacity, probably a lot less in January. This is of course at a time when demand is highest.
    This would necessitate at least double the back up/battery capacity, when based on annual figures.

    • The article is US-centric where for the nation as a whole, the demand in summer is higher than the demand in winter – especially with the population moving to the sunbelt states. The purpose of the article was to show that an all-solar generation model doesn’t make sense in the US. As you have correctly pointed out, it makes even less sense in the UK.

      • The article is not US centric. It is California centric. The climate in California is far milder than the climate east of the Rockies.

  24. Having engineering training I enjoy the application of quantifiable common sense to the prevention of bird killing power generation supply.

    The problem may have at last been solved: a US patent was granted last month for a low energy producing device.. See http://ecat.com/news/e-cat-patent-granted-by-uspto

    I know about the scepticism surrounding this line of research but $10,million has been paid over for the technology rights. If this proves to match its claims we can expect to have low cost domestic <10Kw units in our homes in future.

    • Did your engineering training involve being skeptical of those convicted of fraud? There are many con artist who make too good to be true. If you have taken chemistry and thermodynamics your BS meter should have pegged high.

      • A patent does not validate that a claim is operational or a statement is correct. It is simply awarded to an applicant based on novelty and lack of prior disclosure. Andrea Rossi’s claims in Italy of “cold fusion” (he calls it E-CAT) have no basis in science except in the LENR field of very low energy, hence of no practical value as an energy producing scheme. It is noteworthy that Rossi spent time in Italian prison for fraud and there is no independent verification with numbers that his E-CAT system preforms. It appears that Rossi may be using his U.S. patent to attract investors who are not knowledgeable in physics and who do not conduct adequate due diligence. Some people might use the word scam. See: http://newenergytimes.com/v2/sr/RossiECat/Andrea-Rossi-Energy-Catalyzer-Investigation-Index.shtml

      • A patent does not validate that a claim is operational or a statement is correct. It is simply awarded to an applicant based on novelty and lack of prior disclosure. Andrea Rossi’s claims in Italy of “cold fusion” (he calls it E-CAT) have no basis in science except in the LENR field of very low energy, hence of no practical value as an energy producing scheme. It is noteworthy that Rossi spent time in Italian prison for fraud and there is no independent verification with numbers that his E-CAT system preforms. It appears that Rossi may be using his U.S. patent to attract investors who are not knowledgeable in physics and who do not conduct adequate due diligence. Some people might use the word scam. See: http://newenergytimes.com/v2/sr/RossiECat/Andrea-Rossi-Energy-Catalyzer-Investigation-Index.shtml

  25. There is a significant units error here. mW is milliwatt; megawatt is MW. Only a factor of a billion difference. Also, gW is wrong, it should be GW. But in that case, there is no ambiguity.

  26. It appears the actual power is less than the projected power in the NREL map. I am in central Colorado, rated 5-6, but the installers of my panels claim an average of 4.2 KW/day. That is a 19-43% exaggeration, or 31% if the average of 5.5 KW is used.

    • What do your panels actually produce compared to what is claimed? Why does the solar industry report ‘expected’ performance when it is never achieved?

      • For the same reason auto makers tout the “EPA mileage” even though real cars on real roads never make those numbers?

  27. “Over the next 50 years, utility companies in the United States must replace approximately 440 Gigawatts (GW) of baseload generation capacity to provide electricity nationwide. ”
    ==================
    Makes me wonder how I might legislate my own corner of the tax base.
    Even better………..just print money, I’ll be dead by time the bills come due.
    What about the children ?,… they’ll only know what they have been told.
    Until they begin to question.
    Then you better hide.

  28. Some points:

    (1) don’t use the crustal abundance of Li vs Pb and Ni. Li is a ‘lithophile element ‘ like Si, Al, B, C, Ge, Ga, Na, K, Rb, Cs, Be, Mg, Ca, Sr, Ba, RE elements and a host of others that generally don’t occur as sulphides and is therefore are much dispersed in the crust which is ‘lithic’ in composition (alkali alumino-silicates mainly). Ni and Pb are ‘chalcophile’ elements which means they do not dissolve to a significant extent in alumino-silicate crustal rocks, but selectively combine with sulphur.

    This results in their tendency to concentrate in veins or as stratified “cumulates” in very large liquid basic magmas in which various minerals (having different solubilities) crystallize in the melt and settle out forming stratified layers (see Bushveld Complex for the most famous type locality for this process). As the the early-forming minerals (magnesium silicates) settle out, the remaining liquid composition changes and remaining elements in the shrinking liquid phase become more concentrated until they, too, settle out (chromite, platinum group metals, for example – these are ‘siderophile elements – they like associating with a group of elements in the middle columns of the periodic table – iron the ‘type’ element). Finally, the chalcophile elements crystallize out later as a layer, or, as is common with the final residual liquids, these may be subjected to tectonic pressures and squeezed out into fractures formed in the enclosing crustal (alumino-silicate) rocks.

    There are complications in these events but basically that is how it works. I have a 40yr old paper on the process – an hypothesis that quantifies the concentration of elements into mineral deposits in the crust which includes an estimate of how much (tons) of each element WAS concentrated into “resources” based on crustal abundance, USGS estimates of resources as a “statistical sample” of what is actually there, and its electro-chemical potential as a proxy for chemical activity. I’ve been thinking of putting this out here in WUWT to see if it can withstand total annihilation here!

  29. It would be useful to me to have cost estimates here. I can’t really extract anything like a per-kW hour out of this analysis.

    Currently I pay something in the range of 8 cents per kW hour. Plus a lot of complicated gobble-goo about fees and debt service and extra special stuff. But my usage cost go up by about that.

    If the per kW hour cost is drastically higher than that then I really don’t care how much land it would take. It’s a non starter. I know that solar in Ontario is drastically more expensive than any other form of electricity currently on the grid. I don’t care about the land when I have already rejected it because of the foolishly high costs.

    But if it were, say, 7 cents, then I could be convinced to take a look. A square of land about 200 km on a side isn’t that big a deal. Lots of human activities use up chunks of land that big.

    So, help me out with some cost estimates?

    • Steam plants do not take much land. The generating capacity to supply a city if a million people would fit inside a Walmart. The last ship I was on in the navy had two reactors and two steam plants. Electricity produced by steam plants is very affordable at around 5 cents/kwh. If you buy coffee on the way to work, you spend more of coffee than electric power.

      There are some places where electricity is more expensive but that is because government likes to tax energy and then blame energy companies. That works well for them. There are many examples where local governments disliked power plants and taxed them out of business. Gone were the property taxes and the income from workers. When a small city loses $10-20 million in tax revenue it hurts.

      If make the investment in a PV systems, your property taxes will go up even if the PV systems does not save you any money.

      • >>If make the investment in a PV systems, your property taxes will go up even if the PV systems does not save you any money.

        While all hidden costs must factor into an actual budget analysis for PV systems, this is currently not true in California. Property tax exemption on PV systems was extended in 2014 until 2025. Its nice to be subsidized. The state income tax credit has expired and was not renewed and the federal tax credit on PV solar systems expires this year.

  30. I see 2 possible ways to do a solar dominated grid without massive storage, neither without problems:

    – A massive global generation and distribution grid, just waiting for a politically motivated disruption.

    – Solar power satellites, not nearly economically competitive, at least not at current launch costs.

    As for storage, lithium batteries have major advantages where the storage must be compact and low mass. Utility storage does not need to be low mass. Still, even the least expensive storage will have costs, and likely an objection from the radical greenies.

    • The other problem with global distribution is that you can’t transmit power more than a few hundred miles without big losses. Perhaps we can look into this again when they perfect room temperature super conductors.

  31. It seems a ridiculously simplistic analysis.
    eg “solar energy captured would be more in the summer and less in the winter … An allowance can be made for this but for the purposes of this example …” How about cleaning dust and dirt? How long does snow stay on the ground around US? How about weeks of no sun? etc

    • I was intending to make this very point.

      Solar panels are ideally placed in dry (ie., cloudless) sunny (ie., cloudless) sites. These tend by their nature to be dusty.

      I have a holiday home in Southern Spain. During the summer, there is a build up of fine dust (sands blowing from the Sahara) which covers the garden furniture. The other day it rained (it has only rained a few times this year), the car looked like a leopard covered in brown spots (1 to 1.5 cm in diameter). Essentially it was raining a light film of mud. It is referred to as ‘red rain’ because of the reddish tint from the sand that is left behind when the rains dries out

      In Spring, the swimming pool is covered with a fine layer of pollen. The pollen season goes on for about 2 weeks, and may be it takes about 3 weeks for the pool to clear. The pool looks almost mustard yellow during the height of the pollen season, gradually getting a greeny colour and then an opaque white as the pump and filter gradually removes the pollen.

      All of this would have a dramatic impact upon efficiency of these panels. They would require regular cleaning to maintain efficiency, and that is unlikely to happen in view of the expense.

      I suspect that the snakesoil salesmen under estimate the loss of efficiency caused by ordinary environmental factors (including bird poop) and the expense involved in regular maintenance required to keep the panels working efficiently.

      I have seen many pictures of panels in farmers fields where the fields have become overgrown between the panels and thereby obscuring the sun. .

  32. Even though the analysis is sketchy, it raises some good points of discussion. Direct energy payback for solar modules (assumed crystalline silicon) is said to be > 1 year. That’s not too bad for renewable solutions. Up to maybe 8 or 10 years for CdTe “thin film” modules. Current utility scale solar uses single axis tracking – splitting the difference between the two mentioned above. Required land area is about 0.03% of the earth’s land area. Again, not impossible. Especially since these systems will have to be distributed across the planet.
    The battery issue seems to have been given equal treatment. in overview – not impossible, just requiring an order of magnitude or two more effort than we currently give it. Not cost-efficient by today’s standards.
    Needs a lot more detailed wringing out to be an actual plan.

  33. I simply find photos like this obscene – http://www.juwi.de/uploads/tx_dfmediacenter/Solarpark_Lieberose.jpg

    When they are done strip mining coal they are required by law to restore the land back to forest http://www.groundtruthtrekking.org/static/uploads/photos/regraded-tilled-replanted_1.700×700.jpg

    Solar farms are as big as coal strip mines and, as opposed to how strip mined areas are restored back to nature, solar “farms” will NEVER be restored, there will only be more and more of them scaring the land permanently.

  34. And if you think batteries are bad, look at Pumped Storage. Dams and reservoirs that would change in height by more than 50% daily, and cover about ten times the areas of all existing dams and reservoirs presently providing the existing Hydro power. The Environmentalists would never allow that to happen. The reservoirs would also be useless for sport or recreation due to the constantly changing height/level. And the would waste about 10 % of the power they provide. Same for pumped air, CO2, whatever stored in unused salt mines, oil wells or whatever.

    • Please see our on-line presentation titled “Why Fusion is the Only Realistic Solution” at: http://fusion4freedom.us/category/issues/fusion-solution/ This is on our website and is an extensive section covering all the issues surrounding the future of energy and the need to stop wasting money on renewables as defined by today’s politicians which only serve to incorrectly raise people’s expectations and drain federal tax dollars in the green energy scheme of big green corporate largesse

      • Fusion indeed is the power of the future. The joke about always has been for the last 30 years and always will be is unfortunate. The reason fusion has not been developed relates to the fact that on the civilian energy side (as opposed to the NNSA managed weapons side) fusion science has been poorly managed and chronically underfunded. We still have a fair amount of high energy experimental and plasma physics to do, to fully understand all the instabilities leading to stagnation, etc. Whereas the government and the popular science media wants people to believe we have spent billions and billions of dollars on dedicated and focused fusion science and research, this is not the case. In 1980 President Carter signed the magnetic fusion energy engineering act after a universally unanimous vote of approval in both the house and senate. Two years later the funding was reduced by 75% at the direction of President Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman. Then in 1985 Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev convinced President Reagan to discontinue the American unilateral development of fusion and set forth the proposition of an international consortium to do fusion; initially the U.S., Russia, and China. Our DOD would have no part of this so the efforts languished for many years. Ultimately ITER was formed and the U.S. now is only a 9% partner in ITER which is sited in Southern France. Unfortunately the current administration has directed the DOE that all nonmilitary weapons fusion R&D money be directed on U.S. ITER related projects as a matter of our ITER obligations. ITER is a magnetic tokomak approach which is now $10 billion dollars over budget and close to 20 years beyond schedule. It is effectively run by the IAEA under the UN. Imagine putting the UN in charge of developing energy (remember he who controls energy controls the world.) I have assembled the absolute best web site on fusion energy science, history, project news, politics and the like. We have an excellent treatment of Innovative Confinement fusion approaches being conducted in the private sector and the news section is updated daily. We have close to 50 videos on fusion. My article “Who Killed Fusion” is the most complete and credible history of fusion and its incompetent management and there is a detailed article about Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev and the downfall of fusion science in the U.S. See: http://fusion4freedom.us/ and/or the sister site at: http://fuelrfuture.com/ and indeed as my on-line presentation is titled, “Fusion is the Only Realistic Solution” at: http://fuelrfuture.com/category/issues/fusion-solution/

  35. Lot’s of interesting back-and-forth on this one. If I had the time, I’d calculate the number of square km coal pits are opened each year, and use that for the area of coal generation. Any one done that calculation yet? Please share.

    • There is a coal mine and large coal plant that the interstate runs across in Gillette, Wyoming. If you are not looking for it, you will pass by it without noticing it. If you are worried about eyesores, think about NYC.

  36. Ah… as Willis says…. Wind and the Sun are FREE! Everything else costs money…… reality bites…. hard!\

    • No one charges you for coal or uranium. They are free too.

      What costs is making use of them, same as for wind and solar.

  37. Your calculation needs some improvement. First…you can’t have all the panels in the southwest….in fact a small percentage will be located there. You can’t ship all this power to where it’s needed….you only get to ship it a few hundred miles before energy transmission losses become to great…..therefore…at best you’d only get 4 watt/m2/day.

    You’d would need considerable storage and panels for the days the sun doesn’t shine. This can be extended periods of time too….I lived in syracuse…sun didn’t shine between Nov.To May.

    The land area would be much higher perhaps by a factor of 10. Not very much land is flat….and it’s usually already used by farming. There needs to be space in between panels. Due to the angle of the panel array. Also need access ways for maintenance. Figure a 50 percent loss there.

    Figuring all of this you’d probably need 3 times as many panels. I bet you could not find enough usable land for this

  38. Come on. Continental crust contains 15 ppm of fissile material (Thorium &. Uranium) on average and one ton of it is enough to feed a 1GW power plant for a year, if it is used in an efficient manner. That’s 70 thousand tons of granite to be mined, size of a football field to a depth of 12 feet. For the same purpose one needs 4 million tons of coal. To get to that amount, you have to remove a lot more rock from above coal layers. Therefore volume of annual mining can be decreased more than a hundredfold and you do not need special sites, you can dig down almost anywhere. That’s for a time when all concentrated reserves are gone, but we have much better ores for millennia.

    If nuclear fuel is used efficiently (not like the 0.5% fuel efficiency of current nuclear plants), you’ll have much less nuclear waste with next to no long half life transuranic contamination in it, so its radiation is back to background level in several centuries. Therefore it is sustainable, so we do not have an energy crisis, not even in the long run.

    Compare it to the insane land use requirements of solar power, together with millions of tons of batteries.

      • You are right, Thorium is not fissile, just as most of Uranium (99.27% of it, isotope 238U). However, it can be turned into 233U in an appropriate reactor design, and that’s fissile, so it can be used for energy production. And you don’t even need fast neutrons to do that.

        I do not know if fission energy is a bridge to future fusion solutions or not, but it does not really matter. We have ample reserves of fission precursors in Earth’s crust for the rest of the solar system’s lifetime, so it is sufficient in itself.

        Fusion energy has its own problems. Unlike fission, it is very difficult to initiate it in a controlled manner, what is more, all simple pathways produce much more neutrons than fission reactors for the same energy output. And neutron radiation is really nasty, it is very difficult to contain it and does tremendous structural damage to all construction materials around.

        Aneutronic fusion, on the other hand, is hardly more than a pipe dream.

      • Fission is the bridge to fusion. The comments regarding radiation and radioactive waste from fusion need explanation. Fusion produces no direct radiation, per se. However certain fusion reactions such as the deuterium tritium (DT) produce substantial amounts of high energy neutrons which can alter containment structure integrity and create radioactive byproducts. That is now typically addressed by a lithium bath which is also proposed to produce the needed tritium in a breeding process. Aneutronic reactions such as 3He D or P 11Boron are indeed more difficult and we must first develop experience with DT reactions, but they will ultimately be developed over time. Fusion indeed is the power of the future. The joke about always has been for the last 30 years and always will be is unfortunate. The reason fusion has not been developed relates to the fact that on the civilian energy side (as opposed to the NNSA managed weapons side) fusion science has been poorly managed and chronically underfunded. We still have a fair amount of high energy experimental and plasma physics to do to fully understand all the instabilities leading to stagnation, etc. Whereas the government and the popular science media wants people to believe we have spent billions and billions of dollars on dedicated and focused fusion science and research, this is not the case. In 1980 President Carter signed the magnetic fusion energy engineering act after a universally unanimous vote of approval in both the house and senate. Two years later the funding was reduced by 75% at the direction of President Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman. Then in 1985 Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev convinced President Reagan to discontinue the American unilateral development of fusion and set forth the proposition of an international consortium to do fusion; initially the U.S., Russia, and China. Our DOD would have no part of this so the efforts languished for many years. Ultimately ITER was formed and the U.S. now is only a 9% partner in ITER. Unfortunately the current administration has directed the DOE that all nonmilitary weapons fusion R&D money be directed on U.S. ITER related projects as a matter of our ITER obligations. ITER is a magnetic tokomak approach which is now $10 billion dollars over budget and close to 20 years beyond schedule. It is effectively run by the IAEA under the UN. Imagine putting the UN in charge of developing energy (remember he who controls energy controls the world.)I have assembled the absolute best web site on fusion energy science, history, project news, politics and the like. We have an excellent treatment of Innovative Confinement fusion approaches being conducted in the private sector and the news section is updated daily. We have close to 50 videos on fusion. My article “Who Killed Fusion” is the most complete and credible history of fusion and its incompetent management and there is a detailed article about Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev and the downfall of fusion science in the U.S. See: http://fusion4freedom.us/ and/or the sister site at: http://fuelrfuture.com/ and indeed as my on-line presentation is titled, “Fusion is the Only Realistic Solution” at: http://fuelrfuture.com/category/issues/fusion-solution/

  39. What I take from this is that N Korea is 60 years ahead of curve and the rest of the “civilized” world seems hell bent to catch up.

    • I wish I could post a picture here of Asia and that section of the world at night. North Korea is virtually dark at night while the rest of the developed world glows brightly. Great analogy.

      • The future most environmentalists envision for the rest of us.
        The leaders of course will always get power and other luxuries, much like Pyongang is an isolated spot of light in the N. Korean countryside.

      • You think it is easy for the leaders of North Korea?
        You have no idea what it is like:

        They are so ronery.

  40. Ignore the section on the analysis of the battery issues. It will not be relevant because, since we will be able to use technology to control the climate, that means all we have to do is put suitably sized solar panel farms all around the equator. ‘As The World Turns’ [catchy title, yes?] the sun will always shine on half the panels. That vaunted technology previously mentioned will easily be able to transmit the power generated to where it is needed. Therefore ‘batteries not included’. That same technology will of course be able to prevent the wars which would otherwise inevitably break the wires used to move the energy. Problem Solved!

  41. This is just goofy. I use about 18 kwh per day, which requires 3kw of panels, say 4kw to cover losses. That’s just 12 panels that fit nicely on anyone’s roof. Panels cost about $0.75 per watt so $3000 for the panels, plus $1000 for the inverters and another $1000 for installation. Add one of Tesla’s home batteries and I can provide all my own power, 24/7.
    PV prices are continuing to drop and there is no end in sight. Appliances and light bulbs continue to get more efficient and appliances will eventually load shift as necessary.

    Yes, we should continue to use coal, natural gas, nuclear, etc., but solar and wind work and are cost competitive even today, and that will continue to improve.

    With regard to cars, I recently picked up a low mileage used Nissan Leaf Electric Vehicle (EV) for $9k. I can charge it for $0.12/kwh at home and get 4 miles/kwh so it costs me $0.03 per mile for ‘fuel’, compared to our big SUV that got about 8 mpg or or about $0.45 per mile for fuel.

    The technology is here now and works. It will only get better.

    • Greg commented: “This is just goofy. I use about 18 kwh per day, which requires 3kw of panels, say 4kw to cover losses. That’s just 12 panels that fit nicely on anyone’s roof. Panels cost about $0.75 per watt so $3000 for the panels, plus $1000 for the inverters and another $1000 for installation. Add one of Tesla’s home batteries and I can provide all my own power, 24/7….”

      What’s “goofy” is people like you actually believe this. Aside from the Tesla “Powerwalls” not being ready for consumers nor able to provide 18kwh 24X7 power unless you triple up on them and the panels your figures are not realistic. What you propose costs closer to $30K but doesn’t come close to 24X7 availability for even a 7kwh. It’s the cool aid that drive people into making statements and decisions based on false narrative.

      • Chinese production pricing is $0.50/watt. Wholesale pricing is available at $0.75/watt. Complete system packages are available wholesale at $1.27/watt, delivered, plus installation, which takes one to two days. If you want pay $30k for such a system, that’s up to you.

      • Greg commented: “…Chinese production pricing is…..If you want pay $30k for such a system, that’s up to you.”

        Panels + inverters + controls + PowerWall + permits = $30K after rebates in my neck of the woods as attested to by numerous neighbors who have made the plunge (without the $7K Powerwalls of course). City codes discourage DIY…if you could. That would be for only one usable 2.3kw 3.3kw peak Powerwall that does little to provide house power and we’re in the sun belt. What you described….after losses to and from the storage…..would require minimum 5 Powerwalls and five times the panels to keep you “off the grid” and that would be minimal reliability and no conventional backup. My neighborhood doesn’t even have the land or rooftop area for that many panels. I won’t pay anything for solar as my 10K/ day max averages $55/month (with all fees/taxes) and the payback won’t be there for a long time even as efficiency increases. You are in the kool aid fantasyland hyped by the Cult of Warmists. If your math was reality many more would be going “off the grid” solar. Go get a quote for your 18kw/day self sufficient power and see what it would really cost instead of your back of the napkin musings.

      • markl: And that doesn’t factor in the loss of efficiency from environmental factors, plus the degradation over time. Nor has he budgeted in anything to replace those panels and batteries every 10 to 15 years.

      • Heck, it cost $15,000 to cover my roof (2,00 sq ft.) with asphalt shingles. Start you solar panel estimates from there.

    • I think you have your prices wrong… An installed system for a 4 kW system would be more like 12 to 15,000. I got a quote for an 8kw around 17,000….before the 30% subsidy. On top of that you need to get them cleaned say 200/yr. a cost to remove and reinstall when you need the roof replaced say 300/yr. …so economies are dwindling.

      Not all roofs are suitable for solar…..some don’t have sufficient south exposure. Or trees blocking the panels. Also there a lot of penetrations so leaks are big concern.
      If everyone got a system….grid prices would skyrocket. Rooftop solar isn’t the idea solution.

      • In California, rooftop solar is the solution for power companies to partially meet their governmental mandate of 33% ‘renewable’ power generation requirement by 2020 – through net metering.

        That’s why they are pushing home PV systems so hard. Of course in California, hydro power is not considered renewable. You won’t see any proposals submitted for hydro or nuclear in our lifetimes, the cleanest way to generate any electricity. California’s dirty little power secret is that the 25% imported coal generated power from Arizona and New Mexico is also not counted. California still cannot regulate interstate commerce, so they’ll wait for the EPA to do that with federal environmental regulation.

      • I welcome the California mass rooftop experiment. It will be very interesting to gather real world experience for some factors including electrical output, system maintenance and depreciation cost, additional roofing maintenance, fire and weather damage, and homeowner injury and death rates.

        I suspect that insurers will be keenly interested in some of these, and will begin to adjust policies and rates accordingly.

    • Greg says:
      The technology is here now and works. It will only get better.

      Super! Since it’s now, go for it. Report back w/your results.

  42. I can’t believe solar panels pay back their own energy costs. Aren’t the people (Fthenakis, Kim, etc 2008) who published this number biased by benefitting from use of alternative energy? I would really look for another study on energy costs.

    • Well, do the math. Typical panel is 250 watts. You get about 6 equivalent sun hours per day so 1.5kWh per day. That’s 548kWh per year. Over a 25 year life span, that’s 13,687kWh = 13.7 mWh. Typical solar panels are said to take about 500 kWh/square meter to make, thus the payback is said to be 2 to 4 years.

      • “Chinese production pricing …” and “Well, do the math. ”

        Okay Greg do that math for the system you have installed.

        My last job before retiring was in China. I am not impressed with quality of electrical equipment made in China. A typical PV system nevers produces any electricity. Some work for a few years but never meet claims of expected production. The reason I am skeptical is that I have been looking for decades and yet to see actual data that indicates that PV systems are not junk.

        The power industry will sell power made in large utility scale PV systems. Not because we think it is a good idea but because it is good marketing. We are also regulated which means we pass the cost on to the consumer.

      • Quite an interesting site (although it covers Australia):

        http://www.solarchoice.net.au/blog/7kw-solar-pv-systems-prices-output-return-on-investment

        I know some who have installed 3 to 5kWh systems, and they consider these to be too small in everyday operation. I suspect that if you calculate that you require say 4kWh, you should add 50% as a ‘safety’ margin. It would also pay dividends if there is a year on year power depreciation/degradation since one has to build this in, or otherwise the system performance could become critical sooner than you might expect.

        Personally, I consider that solar is only any good for low grade applications such as heating water whether this be domestic hot water systems, or a swimming pool. But there is no way that solar will heat an outdoor swimming pool for use in winter months. But for 6 months of the year, solar is good for heating swimming pools in a sunny climate.

      • Greg, you lucky man, you. In Europe a 250 W panel delivers about 250 kWh/a, which is the equivalent of 28.5 W/h day and night or 2h 45 min of nameplate capacity every day. In Europe panels also wear out and one is well advised to calculate with 20 % less nominal capacity for the second half of a panels life, if you always paid for proper maintenance. Over a 25 year life span that would be 5625 kWh, 41 % of your magic panel.
        During the months of winter you get practically nothing, of course, in these parts.

      • A typical solar panel is rated at 250 watts under standard operating test conditions. That is all together different than the amount of energy produced by a “typical panel” per period time which is dependent on the solar energy photon flux striking the panels which is the whole point of the article we present.

      • No in western Colorado we get an average of 4.2 KW/day/1KW panel, That’s383KW for your 250 watt panel at .08/KW, or $30.64/year. Mine cost $1500/250 watts, so will pay back in 48.9 years and be long dead by then.

      • 1) You are applying peak power to all hours of daylight. Power production drops significantly as you approach sunrise and sundown.
        2) You are not calculating in the loss of efficiency from environmental factors, plus the cost of regular cleaning,.
        3) You are not factoring for losses in efficiency over time.

        Pay off is way more than 2 to 4 years. In fact you will be lucky if you get the thing paid off before you have to replace it.

  43. Y’know, Google itself “googled:” this scenario quite recently, using their own paid scientists, and concluded that it can’t possibly work. If among the biggest boosters of leftist crap reached the same conclusion as the rest of us, I’m inclined to believe them. The article was clearly intended to drive the same point home. This is a “pipe dream” for the gullible and touches reality nowhere. Nothing in the article itself suggests that the author believes this is a realistic scenario- to the contrary, the author is ridiculing the very idea!

    Short term, there is no realistic substitute for nukes, and breeder reactors will stretch the problem off into the foreseeable future well beyond our lifetimes and those of our children. This course of action will buy a lot of time for our grandchildren to assess their possible futures and plan accordingly.

    That is, if you actually believe CO2 is a problem. If you don’t, as I don’t, then let our very effective economic system determine. based on market values. which is the most effective path forward. Free people are very good at deciding what is best for themselves and their progeny.

    • Google made statements a number of years ago about replacing coal with solar. They even put PV on the roof of their headquarters and had a web site so we all could monitor how well they worked. Not very well. Greenwashing is about putting PV panels in the wrong place to make electricity but the right place to take a picture with a company logo.

      • Not ‘Ph.D. scientists’ but really stupid engineers. Engineering is about the practical application of science. While I have demonstrated that in the field of producing power it would be really stupid of me to suggest hair brained ideas about server farms. What did I learn as Freshmen, it is unethical to take money by misrepresenting your background.

        My conclusion is that google hires con artists.

      • The Google Ph.D. scientists that wrote the article sub-titled: “Today’s renewable energy technologies won’t save us. So what will?” are Dr. Ross Koningstein and Dr. David Fork. The article admits solar, wind, et al, are not viable solutions for baseload power; nor is political hot air. Again I have posted the original article at this link. It is useful to read the article and especially the last few paragraphs including the one highlighted in background color before developing an opinion. These folks are looking at the issues as a matter of science. Others in Google look at the collateral issues as a matter of “political economics” based on government subsidized largesse including tax credits, stimulus grants and loan guarantees as well as the perceived PR value of hood winking the public into believing Google is Green beyond their bank accounts and stock performance. IEEE Spectrum article published at: http://fusion4freedom.us/what-it-would-really-take-to-reverse-climate-change/

  44. This; “The solar panels considered above typically produce around 300kWh electricity per year, so it will take almost a year to “pay back” the energy cost of the panel.” reminded me of a question; Why isn’t there a measure of the Environmental Cost of Capital? Every dollar/pound/euro requires an expenditure of energy to repay (make whole after it’s been spent). Why isn’t there a way to impute some CO2 value against what’s spent trying to reduce CO2?

  45. It looks like the USA will need about 350 nuclear power plants. Where does the uranium reserve stand? How many years do we have once we go nuclear because we ran out of natural gas and coal?

    [200 – 400 years of coal reserves remain at today’s rates. Or more. .mod]

    • The US has huge reserves of uranium. We also have a surplus of lawyers to slow things. Fortunately, the nuclear industry lawyers are better. Meanwhile the jobs associated with mining go someplace else.
      We also have excess capacity to produce fuel.

  46. Given that every PV solar cell in line of sight of an EMP explosion will be instantly and totally destroyed, it is imprudent to count on PV solar for more than a few percent of baseload generating capacity.

    • How would they be impacted by a Carrington Event? The Carrington Event was a severe solar magnetic storm that occurred in 1859.

  47. Changes brewing in California, where the honeymoon may be over for rooftop solar.

    Local news reporting So. Cal. Edison and other California utilities planning to raise rates for customers using rooftop solar in the future. Current customers grandfathered in.

    California Utilities Say Solar Raises Costs for Non-Users

    “You get into a situation where you have a transmission and distribution system with nobody paying for it,” said Akbar Jazayeri, vice president of regulatory operations at Edison, a unit of Edison International and California’s second-largest electric utility.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-12-17/california-utilities-say-solar-raises-costs-for-non-users

    “While the rays of sun are free, the technology needed to harness them, convert them into electricity and transfer that electricity to where it is needed is not,” said Caroline Choi, Edison’s vice president for Energy and Environmental Policy.

    http://www.ocregister.com/articles/solar-678341-electricity-edison.html

    Southern California Edison says they do encourage renewable energies but solar customers use the power grid more than standard customers and should therefore pay not more but their fair share to maintain and upgrade the grid.

    http://www.kmir.com/story/29927878/proposed-fees-for-solar-customers

    (my bold in KMIR article)

    • Steve P commented: “Changes brewing in California…..”
      Now we will be told that providing our own electricity is a minor cost to providing the managing and distribution of the energy we produced. We are taking a well running/capable/reliable/inexpensive energy system and force converting it into being costly/inefficient/unreliable to comply with a failed theory supported by useful idiot environmentalists that believe humans are subservient to nature. California deserves it.

  48. I’m not understanding the purpose of the absurd premise? There is no reason to contemplate a solar only energy economy. Solar has a place, but so does every other form of energy production.

    • We’ll never make an environmentalist out of you. Fossil fuels must be eliminated. Nuclear power is spawn of the Devil. Hydroelectric dams must be removed so that the little fishies can swim free. Only wind and solar are acceptable. Now. Just wait.

  49. I think using a tracking system instead of a fixed plate array could have additional advantages, over and above the increase in efficiency.
    I also think a clever system of negative and positive feedback could make the tracking more or less autonomous and automatic. Although the complexity may be in the mechanism, rather than in the tracking calculations needed on a continuous basis.
    One of these additional advantages would relate to protecting the panels from various potentially damaging events, such as hail, extreme winds, snow, etc. By turning them edgewise to the direction of hail or winds, they would have a great deal more protection than if they were fixed in place. Turning them upside down during snow would allow clearing them by simply inverting the panel to it’s functional right side up position.
    Turning them upside down periodically could also allow a sprinkler system to clean the panels of dust and windborne dirt.
    I can think of a few other reasons to have them movable, but these examples are in response to specific criticisms I have heard in the past.

    Having a centralized location may be possible if it is possible to build a thing I read about a number of years ago…a superconducting grid of distribution and transmission lines.
    It had previously occurred to me that we could locate nuclear plants in very remote locations, perhaps even on Antarctica, if transmission losses could be drastically reduced or eliminated.
    Considering that transoceanic communication cables were laid down over a hundred years ago, it should be possible to create such things if it was deemed necessary.

    • Menicholas

      For an order of magnitude (to copy one of Willis’ useful phrases) estimate of the cost of a current-technology superconducting “designed and tested” assembly, look at the cost of the “small and short” Superconducting Supercollider ring. Only a few dozen miles long, that “loop” underground in TX was admittedly requiring also magnetic vacuum bottles connected end-to-end, and the individual magnetic assemblies were a bit cheaper because they were individual superconducting loops, not a long-end-to-end conductor. However, a simpler conductor does not need the elaborate “steering” and “aiming” ability of the supercollider. But the price will (in today’s dollars) be comparable.

    • There was a tracking system designed about 20 or 30 years ago that did tracking without any electronics. It depended on weight, fluid, and deferentially covered solar thermal panels. It looked pretty low cost to me.

    • Carbon fibers have 1/5th the resistance of copper plus much higher strength. That means the economical transmission distances (based on losses only) goes from 300 miles to 1,500 miles. Going to DC transmission gives you about 2,000 miles. Maybe 2,500. .

  50. The sooner Donald Trump gets into the Oval Office the better the chance will be to avoid the destruction of America’s cheap energy system that has served America so well until Obama started his green devilry!

  51. As much as I would like to throw solar panels on the roof, if just as a fun hobby to offset electric costs, I would loose more than I would gain when the city ups my property value and I end up paying several hundred dollars more in property tax every year. Say I paid for a $10,000 system, I would pay $500 in a permit on top of the system and then and extra $300 every year in property tax increase. Even though panel prices are dropping, it cost more to have them than what they could save.

    • For more on “Polywell” see the Fusion Innovative Confinement Concepts (beyond the mainline approaches of magnetic tokomak and laser driven inertial) under fusion science of my extensive website on fusion. Scroll down to the section titled “Inertial Electrostatic Confinement.” Note the first entry which is a very well done lecture by Robert Bussard, Ph.D. at Google on his Polywell concept. The lecture was given about 6 months prior to Dr. Bussard passing away from cancer. Also note the other approaches to fusion in this section. Most likely to succeed in the short term to produce a sustained net energy gain in a demo environment is Plasma Jet Magneto Inertial Fusion (PJMIF.) Section is at: http://fusion4freedom.us/innovative-confinement-concepts/

  52. Well that is odd. I mentioned a group doing Polywell – with a link and the comment disappeared. Look up “Polywell Proton Boron”. To find them.

    • For more on “Polywell” see the Fusion Innovative Confinement Concepts (beyond the mainline approaches of magnetic tokomak and laser driven inertial) under fusion science of my website on fusion. Scroll down to the section titled “Inertial Electrostatic Confinement.” Note the first entry which is a very well done lecture by Robert Bussard, Ph.D. at Google on his Polywell concept. The lecture was given about 6 months prior to Dr. Bussard passing away from cancer. Also note the other approaches to fusion in this section. Most likely to succeed in the short term to produce a sustained net energy gain in a demo environment is Plasma Jet Magneto Inertial Fusion (PJMIF.) Section is at: http://fusion4freedom.us/innovative-confinement-concepts/

  53. Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:
    A bit of a slog, but well worth the effort if you want to know. Fairly simplified and understandable. Complexities of the real world will make it harder. The batteries really are impossible in the engineering sense. We cannot get there from here. Thomas Edison took on the problem of batteries in the 1890s. He made little progress. Progress since can only be described as discouraging. The best possible batteries we have devised so far are simply inadequate.

    I’m not being pessimistic when I assert solar energy will never amount to a significant portion of what we use for our societies.

    We aren’t even to a half-percent in the USA.
    http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/topics/encyclopedia/solar/

    Understanding this:

    is very important to understanding why being against fossil fuels is the same as being against people, and for suffering, enslavement, and death of our fellow man.

    Pay special attention to the light-gray fractions in the graphic.

    We simply must have large scale power plants generating electricity from coal and nuclear fission, and we must have liquid hydrocarbon fuel. The only practical source of hydrocarbon fuel so far is petroleum.

    We cannot change the overall system until we change these underlying facts.

    Solar will be with us forever (practically). We will use it. It still will never be a significant part of our overall energy use. There will always be better options. (Better means several things, but mostly cheaper and easier.)

    Wind, however, is a farce. We are hurting ourselves and future generations with our daft efforts toward windmills, and we are killing birds and bats while we harm ourselves. It is hard for me to take wind seriously. There are so many problems it just isn’t worth considering. Engineers have made so many improvements, but taken together, the whole lot still amounts to net-negative. Overall energy gained from an average windmill is unlikely to exceed the energy expended making and maintaining it. Thus the enormous tax-funded incentives and subsidies. I’ll cite T. Boone Pickens as a positive example of it, putting his money where his mouth was until it hurt too bad and he lost too much money in it, and Warren Buffett as a negative example where he invests in wind energy while the tax-incentives make it profitable for him, and he sells before things turn south, leaving the hardships of wind power to less-financially savvy persons with higher ideals regarding “renewables.” Warren Buffett is a hypocrite, and a cruel one at that.

    Wind blows, but windmills suck, and the wind-power political-industrial complex is playing us all for suckers.

  54. “The Google Ph.D. scientists…”

    Yes, Tomer, I read the article and the resumes. Hence my criticism. Too be fair, I went back a read it again. I am really tired of school children, actors, and Ph.D. scientists who never bother to set foot in a classroom to study the environment engineering suggesting hairbrained solutions. Let me sum up the article. They were stupid. Further more the Google Ph.D. scientists are still stupid, they failed to learn the correct lesson. I am an not an expert in the field of climate change but I am an expert in engineering solutions to mitigate it.

    The first tool is Life Cycle Analysis, LCA, which is the cradle to grave assessment of the environmental impact of doing something. The research for power plants has been done and it is so old that it is on microfiche. A second tool is Root Cause Analysis (RCA). This a regulatory requirement for nuke plant to find the root cause when a problem occurs and correct it.

    Other tools are integrated safety analysis, process safety, and hazard analysis. Solutions for climate change should avoid unintended consequences. This rules out solutions using hydrogen and anhydrous ammonia outside a carefully setting.

    The reason I am skeptical climate change is that there are so many practical solutions that we are not using because they are not politically correct but we are hell bent of ineffective solutions like wind and solar. The Google Ph.D. scientists did pick up on wind and solar being a bad choice but missed the possibility that there is not a significant problem to start with.

    My wife and I are slowly going blind with cataracts. This is a real problem. I did not look to Google Ph.D. scientists for innovative solutions. However, did a google search to learn more about cataracts surgery. There are many innovations in the cataracts surgery field. Not one of the MD’s had the arrogance to suggest that innovation in their field of expertise translated to solving climate change.

    So Tomer you may want to be more skeptical of Ph.D. scientists who are stupid to think that having a very narrow focus of study does not infer a large gap in general knowledge.

  55. I wonder about the math in this article. For example, the author states:
    “Note that if these 44 million containerized batteries were manufactured in China, it would take 587 round trips of twenty days each way on the largest container ships to deliver them to the USA.”
    That means that each of these “largest container ships” would have to carry 44,000,000/587 or roughly 75,000 shipping containers, (each 40′ long) on each trip. Very large ships indeed.

  56. Other thing you never see in analyses of PV is the effect of clouds on output on windy days. Anyone who’s ever experimented with PV knows that cloudy conditions can take your output down to 10% of nameplate or less, and in high winds the change from sun to cloud can take place in literally seconds for a small installation, probably still less than a minute for a large one. That’s a much worse variability than is typically experienced with large wind turbines,especially as it happens so fast that it would be hard to fire-up a standby generator in time. .

  57. To grasp the insanity of all this, consider that our President has reportedly agreed that China is to be allowed to construct all the new coal-fired power plants they wish through year 2030 at their current clip of more than one new plant going on line each week while vowing the we will shutter our coal-fired plants now. The end result of our “going whole-hog solar” would be to transfer probably the entire wealth of the U.S. to China purchasing solar cells and batteries manufactured in China using electric power generated by Chinese, coal-fired power plants.

  58. TonyL September 4, 2015 at 10:51 am
    K A – B O O M !
    Hydrogen is a violent explosive. It has an explosive range (in terms of mixture composition) of 10% – 90%. This is vastly worse than methane or propane. Hydrogen can leak out of the smallest holes, even holes so small they will contain oxygen or methane. Hydrogen will diffuse into metals, causing them to become brittle. This embrittlement guarantees the above mentioned leaks. For those in the know, Hydrogen power is nobody’s idea of a good time.

    And yet for decades hydrogen was supplied to houses all over the country without the problems you outline. One of the reasons town gas was replaced with natural gas in the UK was the low calorific value of town gas. A major problem after the introduction of natural gas was the increase in ‘violent explosions’.

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