Exergy and Power Plants

By Andy May

Key question: Can renewables ever replace fossil fuels and nuclear?

Understanding the value of renewables, vis-à-vis fossil fuels and nuclear power, requires that we consider that all energy is not equal in value. In fact, the quantity we call energy can be misleading and many experts prefer the quantity called “exergy,” which is defined in economics as (source Exergy Economics):

The maximum useful work which can be extracted from a system as it reversibly comes into equilibrium with its environment.”

Or it can be thought of as the measure of potential work embodied in a material or device. As Ayres, et al. (1998) argue exergy is a more natural choice as a measure of resource quantity than either mass or energy. Even today it seems BTU’s, a measure of heat of combustion, or MToe, million tonnes of oil equivalent, are commonly used and mislabeled energy (see the Exxon Outlook, 2017 or the BP Energy Outlook, 2017). In a previous post (here) I discussed EROI, or energy returned from energy invested. I complained in that post about the inconsistency and inaccuracy in current EROI and LCOE (Levelized cost of electricity) calculations. The problems mostly stemmed from comparing energy or electricity output from different sources (solar, wind, natural gas, coal, nuclear) as if all produced energy was equally valuable, which it isn’t. While comparing the heat of combustion or million tonnes of oil equivalent is clearly incorrect, Rud Istvan and Planning Engineer show that comparing the cost of producing megawatts of electricity, like the IEA and EIA do, is also incorrect, see here and here. Since exergy is a measure of useful work, it helps get around that problem. In a comment to that post, Captain Ike Kiefer posted a reference to Weißbach, et al. (2013) which has a much more valid EROI comparison (see figure 2) of conventional and renewable electricity sources in Germany. Since Germany is, in many ways, a testbed of renewable energy sources for the world; this is very helpful.

EROI is computed in many ways that make it difficult to compare different energy sources. Weißbach, et al. (2013) improve the calculation by using the system input and output exergy in the calculation rather than energy. Thus, now EROI becomes the ratio of the exergy returned and the exergy expended. Put another way, the ratio of the work we get out of a source of energy divided by the work that went into making it. In Weiβbach, et al., they take exergy delivered as equivalent to electricity delivered. Thus, how the electricity is used by the customer is not considered. One other important concept is that the study must include the full life cycle of the power plant, from the very beginning to the end, this is called “LCA.” LCA and exergy are discussed in full by Ayres, et al. (1998).

We will not get into all the ways that EROI has been misused in the past, but the reader can go to Giampietro and Sorman for more on this topic. However, one EROI misuse is worth mentioning as an example. EMROI is the money returned on invested energy, excluding labor and carrying costs. It is not a measure of EROI, but is sometimes presented as EROI which can be very confusing, to see the difference compare figures 1 and 2 and notice the scale change. Our economy runs on energy of different qualities, thermal energy and electrical energy. Currently, thermal energy power plants have an efficiency of 33%, meaning that they are one third as efficient as sources that produce electricity directly, like solar PV (photovoltaic) panels. We are comparing apples and oranges, thermal and electrical; and exergy and LCA can help do this in a valid way.

A modern economy needs electricity on demand, 24 hours a day, without fail. A period without electrical power is called a disaster for a reason. Because demand for electrical power rises and falls constantly there is a need to store energy so power generation can rise to meet increased demand. Fossil fuels, biofuels and nuclear are their own storage, so they have this capability naturally. Wind and solar do not have built-in storage, so it needs to be provided, and this is a cost that must be accounted for. Inexplicably, both the IEA and the EIA (see my previous post here) ignore this cost in their LCOE (levelized cost of electricity) calculations. For example, from the IEA guidelines for LCA (life cycle analysis) assessments (page 10):

“Back-up systems are considered to be outside the system boundary of PV LCA [photovoltaic solar life cycle assessments]; if a back-up system is included, it should be explicitly mentioned.”

This makes no sense, in a modern economy electricity must be available on demand or chaos ensues. Demand cannot be adjusted to cloudiness, so for solar (or wind) to work at all, it must be backed up. The backup (batteries, molten salt storage, fossil fuel, pumped hydro, whatever) must be part of the system. We will not discuss the other problems with IEA assessments here, but will mention that Giampietro and Sorman do a very good (and often hilarious) job of detailing the problems with the IEA assessments in their jewel of a paper entitled “Are energy statistics useful for making energy scenarios?

Using fossil fuel power plants as a backup creates a conundrum, if the fossil fuel plants must run all the time, but they are not selling power when the solar and wind facilities are providing power, who pays for the fully staffed and idling plants? It turns out the government must subsidize them with “capacity payments” to keep them from going out of business and closing down due to lack of revenue. If they did close, the grid would quickly become unstable as third world grids often are.

In figure 1 we see a Weißbach, et al. (2013) histogram of their exergy calculated EMROI by energy source. The yellow bars include the cost of backup (“buffered”) and the blue bars do not (“unbuffered”). The data used to compute the values shown in the figures can be downloaded as a spreadsheet here.

Figure 1, German EMROI of various energy sources. Source Weißbach, et al. (2013), data: source

Figure 2 uses the same data as figure 1, but EROI is plotted. The scale is reduced for figure 2 due to the smaller numbers. To compute EMROI a weighting factor of three is used in this case, see the spreadsheet for the details. The weighting factor is based on the production cost ratio of electricity to thermal energy. The economic threshold of 7:1, for Germany, is shown in gray. The biomass plotted is corn, the wind generation location is in Germany, coal transportation costs are not included and the type of coal is the German mix (roughly 42% hard coal and 58% lignite). Nuclear is based on 83% centrifuge and 17% diffusion refining. The solar PV values are all rooftop solar values. The commercial solar values are computed as if from the Sahara Desert, but the grid connection to Europe is not included in the cost.

Figure 2, German EROI of various energy sources) source: Weißbach, et al. (2013) , data: source

How is an energy source “buffered” or “backed-up”

Fossil fuel, biofuel and nuclear power plants backup themselves, one simply stores the fuel itself. Hydro power plants can increase the amount water behind the dam to a certain extent to provide some backup, but more is needed. Solar and wind power plants require a separate facility to store power or they require another source of power at the ready. The data plotted in figures 1 and 2 comes from Germany, a country with many contiguous countries that can supply it with emergency power (from fossil fuels, biofuels or nuclear sources) when wind and/or solar fail. They are very dependent upon German coal and lignite power plants for emergency power, currently 45% or so of Germany’s power comes from coal and lignite. In some cases, they have had to return paid taxes to coal power plants to keep them from going bankrupt.

But, this post is not about using fossil fuels to backup wind and solar power plants. Fossil fuel backup is the cheapest backup today and for the foreseeable future. The question we ask is can renewables replace fossil fuels? That requires non-fossil fuel storage of energy. Our charts and figures in this post only apply to Germany today, so does the rest of the discussion. As Weißbach, et al. (2013) write:

“No direct LCA [power plant life cycle assessments] studies could be found for storage systems but pump storage systems are very similar to hydroelectricity plants with storage capabilities. Alternative storage techniques like hydrogen electrolysis and gas storage are much more uneconomic anyway. Here, the Australian Benmore station with an energy demand … of 24,000 TJ has been selected and slightly scaled up (30,000 TJ) in order to fit the planned German Atdorf pump storage system with a projected lifetime of … 100 years. The material and working demands are similar, strongly dominated by the dam’s energy input. Atdorf’s storage capacity is about … 52 TJ … It should, however, be kept in mind that if no favorable topology is available the necessary geo-engineering elevates the energy investment substantially.”

Thus, the authors chose the most economical energy storage system (except for fossil fuel backup) to use for their calculation of the EROI of wind and solar. They chose to store 10 full load days of power for rooftop solar and 2 days for the desert commercial solar facility. They decided only two days would be required for the Sahara Desert facility based on weather history. We should add that topology is not the only problem with pumped hydro storage, land is also an issue. This storage method uses a lot of land, which is not a small cost and it displaces people, never an easy thing to accomplish.

Lifetimes

According to Weißbach, et al., a common mistake in EROI comparisons between electricity sources is using inaccurate power plant lifetimes, this problem is discussed by Planning Engineer and Rud Istvan also. Wind and solar energy sources are reported to have a lifetime of 20 to 30 years, although much shorter lifetimes have also been observed. In the case of wind, rotor and bearing fatigue limit the life and in the case of solar it is silicon degradation. However, it is common for combined cycle gas turbines to last more than 40 years and for coal power plants to last more than 50 years. Nuclear plants often last more than 60 years (the current US planned life) and hydroelectric facilities can last more than 100 years. It is very important for the plant lifetime to be accurate because the EROI (or levelized cost) scales directly with it. Consider then the US EIA statement (page 3) quoted below about lifetime and LCOE (levelized cost of energy). See also 2018 Levelized Costs AEO 2013, page 2:

“The levelized cost shown for each utility-scale generation technology in the tables in this discussion are calculated based on a 30-year cost recovery period, using a real after tax weighted average cost of capital (WACC) of 6.6 percent. In reality, the cost recovery period and cost of capital can vary by technology and project type.”

So, they know the various plant lifetimes are different. Presumably they know that the levelized cost of a 60-year nuclear plant could be as low as one half the cost of their assumed 30-year plant, yet they use 30 years anyway.

Conclusions

For the most part this post is a summary of Weißbach, et al. and I refer the reader to that excellent paper and their supplementary spreadsheet for more details. Here we only hit the highlights. They note that only a uniform mathematical procedure based on exergy makes it possible to compare all power generating systems accurately. They have done this using mostly data from Germany, the numbers will be different for different locations.

Solar PV, the most efficient rooftop solar, is not economic in this study. Wind energy is only economic when not backed up or “buffered.” Biofuels require no buffering, but it makes no difference, the huge cost of producing the fuels make them uneconomic. Commercial solar is economic in deserts, so if transmission lines can be built and if suitable backup storage is built, this is a renewable possibility. Unfortunately, the best backup is pumped hydro and this is often not possible in deserts. Weißbach, et al. do mention that, in their opinion, molten salt energy storage is not economic.

The most egregious flaws in previous EROI studies are:

  • Upgrading the output inappropriately for solar and wind generation because their output is electricity. That is renewable EMROI is computed, then compared with the EROI of conventional plants. Apples and oranges again! See also Giampietro and Sorman on this topic, page 10.
  • Using inappropriate power plant lifetimes.
  • Counting all output, that is using wind and solar capacity for calculations and ignoring the need for “buffering” or backup. Virtually all other assessments do this and the difference is huge.

Weißbach, et al. have corrected the errors in previous studies and seem to have computed the most robust set of numbers I’ve seen to date. So, what is the answer to the question at the top of the post? It seems that Germany is very unlikely to replace fossil fuels and nuclear with renewables. Weißbach, et al. have shown that, in Germany, all renewables, except commercial solar installed in the Sahara Desert, are currently uneconomic. This means that renewables must be subsidized indefinitely, unless a major technical breakthrough in energy storage appears. Currently, the cheapest form of “buffering” are the existing German coal and natural gas power plants. Other buffers, like pumped hydro and molten salt are uneconomic. However, since renewable fuels must be purchased by the grid, by German law, fossil fuel plants will probably not sell enough electricity to break even. Thus, fossil fuel plants will also need to be subsidized for grid stability. The alternative is for Germany to import all their emergency power from neighboring countries. But, in the latter case, they may need to subsidize the added necessary, and presumably fossil fuel, power surplus their neighbors will need. Germany is apparently burning Euro notes for power and, fairly large denomination Euro notes at that.

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302 thoughts on “Exergy and Power Plants

  1. If you argue that energy from different sources differs in value all possibility of rational decision making goes out of the window. Do not go down that path.

    • Energy from different sources does offer different values. A bucket full of kerosene can be used for a myriad of uses, from heat, light, cooking and making baby incubators (plastics). You can’t make plastic from a bucket of PV energy.

      If anything, the value of fossil fuels is far higher.

      • But is the -energy- from kerosene more or less valuable than energy from, say, me? And kerosene used to make plastic is not available to cook my food or do any other work.

        I’m very fond of fossil fuels. Hooking my bicycle up to a generator would tucker me out long before I got done all the things I want to do today. In that respect, I’d say that energy from something other than myself is indeed more valuable than energy from me (for work-work, at least; for pleasure-work, I mostly prefer my own. . . .)

      • The issue is can you store solar energy in a form for later use that is less expensive than hydrocarbons or coal?

      • for the 70% of Africans still off grid the kerosene lantern is the main form of lighting.

        Kerosene is relatively expensive and takes a large part of their disposable income: the fumes aren’t good for you and there is a risk of fire.

        a one off purchase of a solar LED light saves you money, produces better light and charges your mobile phone.

        Is a bucket of kerosene or a solar LED light more use or of more value to 70% of the African population?

      • “Griff March 18, 2017 at 2:21 am”

        More nonsense from Griff who has no idea about Africa, or anything it appears. Believe me what I say rural Africans will use what they know works, for them. A solar LED lamp will just be dismantled and sold for the sCRAP that it is.

      • https://cleantechnica.com/2015/05/12/solar-lights-eradicating-kerosene-lamps-africa/

        “A clean, affordable and better source of light,” said SolarAid CEO Andrew Webb, “is the first and most crucial step on the energy ladder.” Webb continued, “The benefits to families, schools and communities is truly staggering and the fact that 10 million people in rural Africa, as we speak, are using these lights is testament to the hard work and dedication of our SunnyMoney teams.”

        The total number of people across Africa now benefiting from solar light is estimated at around 50 million. As the largest seller and distributor on the continent, SunnyMoney solar lights account for one fifth of all sales. Webb pointed out, “The off-grid sector reaching 50 million people is fantastic, but there are over half a billion people in Africa still reliant on dangerous and very poor light sources like kerosene. In 2015, this is simply not acceptable. We need more support so that we can continue to give people across the continent the chance of a brighter future.”

        Also

        http://www.solarsister.org/

        http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/analysis/2337745/how-sunnymoney-sold-one-million-solar-lamps-in-africa

      • “Griff March 18, 2017 at 2:21 am

        …of their disposable income…”

        I missed that! Griff shows how ignorant he is.

      • Griff makes it seem that a ‘kerosene’ lamp is a smoky old piece of kit emitting a feeble yellow light. But surely, he means a Tilley lamp, which is a very efficient user of kerosene and provides an incredibly bright white light.

      • “Steven Mosher March 18, 2017 at 3:29 am”

        More rubbish from someone who’s never been there!

      • Mr Mosher,
        Those SOLAR Lights are not bad if you have more than 10 FULL hours of sunlight every day and don’t need light for more than 4 hours but to refer to solar or even wind generation as reliable, perhaps it is when the sun shines but the lights can’t be recharged at night. On rainy days during the monsoons, you might get 30 minutes of light before it’s battery is depleted. And wind is also unreliable for uninterrupted power, just look at South Australia for example of that problem. These lights would not be practical as a substitute for grid area service, only in totally off the grid area applications would they seem useful, and only to those that have never experienced anything better. Check, even a kerosene lamp might still be preferable just because the light lasts longer

      • Shoshin March 17, 2017 at 2:46 pm
        “You can’t make plastic from a bucket of PV energy”
        Actually you can… Use renewable electricity to knock off one molecule of Oxygen, and you have Carbon Monoxide (CO) which can be used as a feedstock for making plastics. Many other ways (and things to make) to do it too, and is called CO2 Reduction in this case. Basically, surplus renewables could be used to essentially create a whole new industry in a “renewable carbon” bank that essentially becomes a huge renewable ‘battery’. This is a very exciting concept, but whether will be cost effective remains to be seen.

      • “Energy from different sources does offer different values.

        Confusing the form of the energy with the energy itself. A joule is a joule is a joule. For any given use of energy, the form eg., chemical, heat, electricity, and the parameters of its supply, eg., availability, reliability, cost all matter. But generally the energy supplied by the electricity grid is kWh regardless of the form of its original source and the whole thing is based on a minimum acceptable reliability and availability. For users needing other forms of delivery eg. liquid or gaseous fuel, the same parameters of supply still apply but differ in what values are acceptable. Any original source that prevents the grid from meeting these essential parameters of supply is unacceptable.

    • If a mega-joule of energy in the form of coal had the same value as a mega-joule of delivered electricity, it would make no sense to burn coal to fire an electric power plant at roughly 33% joule to joule conversion efficiency.

      • “Solar energy is trying to take photons and turn them into electrons or, more accurately, turn those photons into a flow of electrons/electricity.”

        Better:

        Heave electrons to higher statues of accessible energy.

    • The difference is you are talking about chemical energy as in combusting the fossil fuel with oxygen. Which works way better than it should have (see last paragraph)

      Solar energy is trying to take photons and turn them into electrons or, more accurately, turn those photons into a flow of electrons/electricity. Now electrons can absorb 1 photon or several photons and become excited and/or release 1 photon at a time, but they are completely different physics particles and you can’t take any number of photons and make actual electrons nor really make an efficient flow of electrons.

      Plants have developed molecules that act as an intermediary and store the energy in chemical forms. Solar plants use various forms of chemical and mechanical energy to make electricity but the main form now is where silicon molecules have an excess area of excited electrons which “flow” to an area with fewer excited electrons (but this is very inefficient compared to other chemical, mechanical and nuclear forms of energy).

      Maybe some day, a new technology emerges that makes a solar system more efficient but simple photons excite very few silicon electrons and the process just does not cut it.

      Some things simply “work” in human endeavours and other things simply don’t work. Don’t bang your head against a wall using the things that don’t actually work. Don’t experiment over and over again with the same method hoping it will work. It don’t. Other methods might however.

      The gasoline engine is an amazing example of this. How the gasoline engine takes in a small amount of fossil fuel, combusts it in a piston to drive a shaft and produce mechanical energy all happening 5,000 times per minute and still actually works is mindboggling. But the darn thing works really well and might last for decades doing just that. In theory, there is no way this thing should actually work at all let alone as good as it does. And we are so lucky, that the darn thing works so well. It really shouldn’t have. We have already figured out that solar silicon does not work. But we keep banging out heads against a wall trying the same thing over and over again.

      • Combusts in a cylinder, pushing a piston.

        Pedantry aside, the steam engine which works on very similar principles, ie rapid expansion of gases, was invented long before and served as a good prototype for the iCE. I’ve no idea why you’d think anyone would not imagine it working before it was perfected.

      • Actually a photon of just the right energy (1022MeV) produces an electron and positron pair. The only problem is you can’t predict when or where that conversion will take place and it is VERY energy dependent.

      • Owen in GA – Gamma-ray energy levels? Well, we don’t have any black holes or continuous fusion bomb energy levels available so that puts it into the “doesn’t work” category.

      • Although, that is very interesting and the first time I have heard about this. While the energy levels are so far out there, it does suggest that photons and electrons are made of the same basic substance and suggests there may be a way to directly transform photons into electricity which would take humanity to the next level. This is the kind of physics research we need rather than the usual climate science repetition that we are subjected to.

      • It’s called an INTERNAL combustion engine, to distinguish it from the reciprocating steam engine (EXTERNAL combustion) which had got pretty sophisticated. The biggest issue was probably ignition, which has evolved hugely since the first magneto ignition systems. Anyway, apart from the ignition issue, they had a pretty good working model, so why would anyone think it wouldn’t work?

    • Roger Dewhurst, Electricity is most valuable when it is available when you need it. If it is only available on clear days or when the wind blows, it is far less valuable. You might have noticed in my previous post, on days when the wind is perfect and skies are clear, Germany pays other countries and their own businesses to take the excess electricity. That renewable energy has a negative value. On cloudy windless days, the cost of electricity in Germany is extremely high, that electricity is very valuable. Yes, energy from different sources has different values. This point is huge, very important and often overlooked.

      • Yes, there is a Europe wide market in electricity, so there is renewable electricity available cheaply from other countries perhaps as often as it is available from your own country… Germany makes a lot of money exporting electricity by the way.

      • Griffie,

        “Griff on March 18, 2017 at 2:22 am
        Yes, there is a Europe wide market in electricity, so there is renewable electricity available cheaply from other countries perhaps as often as it is available from your own country… Germany makes a lot of money exporting electricity by the way.”

        The punch line is

        ‘Germany makes a lot of money’

      • @Griff
        The opposite is true. Germany makes a loss on exported electricity. If Germany really made a lot of money by exporting electricity we wouldn’t have to pay 7 ct/kWh as RE subsidy. In fact we are often paying money to get rid of the excess electricity when we have not enough blind capacity to neutralize this redundant energy.

        Poland and the Czech Republic are already complaining that German excess electricity is using most of their free grid capacity to bring the northern wind power down to Bavaria. This is why Polish and Czech power plants get not enough capacity in their own grid and regularly have to shut down.

        Slowly the government is realizing the mess it created. They are stepping back from their own goals. Will they ever admit that the whole “Energiewende” was bs? Probably not.

      • >>Germany makes a lot of money exporting electricity by the way.

        Pure B.S.

        Germany has the same problem as Denmark. Its renewable energy comes all at once, and not necessarily when they want it. So it sells its excess power to Scandinavia, who can throttle back their hydro quite easily. And then when Germany wants the power, it buys it back. Great, huh?

        The trouble is that Denmark and Germany have to sell the power at off-peak times, and very cheaply. And they have to buy it back at peak times, when they are desperate, at hugely inflated costs. So Scandinavia are laughing all the way to the bank, while Denmark and Germany have the highest electricity costs in Europe. (Note: Germany subsidises industrial usage, at the expense of domestic users – who pay more than double the industrial cost.)

        R

      • The electricity cooperation with Germany costs the Czechs alone $65,000 annually. It must be similar in Poland.

    • Of course it differs in value. Junk food differs in value from organic food. Clarify your assertion please.

    • Of course it differs in value. Some is reliable, some is unreliable. Some is available on demand, some is not.

      Some is cheap, some is expensive.

      Reliable and on-demand is far, far more valuable. Cheap allows more value to be added elsewhere.

      • In 2016, some 350,000 family households in Germany had their electricity cut off because they could not afford the monthly costs. In the UK that number appears to be in the 250,000 range and a growing number of households in Ontario, Canada are living the same nightmare.

        It’s called energy poverty – in all cases in developed economies – and is the direct outcome of market distorting energy policies based on greenie wishful thinking which hits the poor and elderly the hardest. In a world awash in affordable hydrocarbon based energy it’s a disgrace that “progressive” politics are imposing the most regressive of all possible taxes on the most vulnerable..

    • Changing the name of a well understood medium is usually only for the purpose of confusion or jargonism

    • Too much complexity is unwieldy and difficult to communicate to policy makers and citizens. However, oversimplifying and pretending grossly different things are equivalent is irrational and leads to perverse policy outcomes. The latter is the path we are on today and we need to correct back toward greater fidelity to the truth.

      First we need to distinguish 3 distinct uses for energy:
      1. Thermal (i.e., comfort heat, process heat)
      2. Electricity
      3. Transportation

      This distinction is importation because each fuel has a different EROI for each application, and some are uniquely suited to one application or another. For example, liquid fuels are particularly suited for transportation, fossil fuels have their highest EROI when used directly as thermal energy, and PV solar exclusively produces electricity.

      Second, when comparing alternatives within an application, we need to normalize criteria to compare apples to apples. For electricity, we need to normalize to an equal degree of “dispatchability,” which is the measure of reliability and controllability that is essential for grid compatibility. This is what Weisbach et al. did by apportioning pumped hydro storage to buffer and backup each resource as necessary to levelize their grid compatibility.

      BTW, buffering and backup are distinct functions. Buffering or “firming” is filling in the gaps and variability of intermittent solar and wind to make their outputs stable. Backup is alternative generation of sufficient capacity and duration to completely replace the intermittent source for hours or days. In the real world, PV solar output frequently varies by 80% of nameplate capacity in mere seconds due to clouds. Spinning reserve or charged storage is necessary for buffering — to be ready to ramp up its output and pump electrons to instantaneously compensate for the unpredictable drop-offs in PV solar output. The instability of wind power is also well known and was demonstrated recently in the total blackout of South Australia. Their entire grid collapsed during a wind storm due to spasmodic wind output and loss of the grid link to external resources necessary to buffer and backup wind. When the winds got so high that the turbines feathered themselves and braked to a stop for self-preservation, there was not enough backup capacity to balance load on the grid, and the whole state went dark, doing great damage to smelting operations with molten metal in crucibles, and leaving the entire population at the mercy of the storm without the benefit of electricity.

      Weather-dependent variably electricity is inherently incompatible with a grid that requires generation to be precisely matched to load as measured 50 or 60 times per second. All kilowatt-hours are not equal. We absolutely cannot treat intermittent electricity the same as fully dispatchable electricity without normalizing for dispatchibility. The U.S. DOE and EIA know this, but have been ignoring it in their analyses out of political loyalty to the agenda of the political party in power. The faulty plant lifespans and other assumptions used in their LCA are intentional for the same reason. We need for scientific rationality and sound engineering to reinterject themselves into public policy.

      • “In the real world, PV solar output frequently varies by 80% of nameplate capacity in mere seconds due to clouds”

        Over a wide area this isn’t a problem.

        and Germany managed its grid through a solar eclipse during a period when soalr was providing around a third of its power.

        and in SA the windfarms tripped due to poor grid settings… that problem was solved in Germany by 2008.

      • “Griff March 18, 2017 at 2:26 am

        and in SA the windfarms tripped due to poor grid settings…”

        You have that info?

      • @Griff
        PV solar variability of 80% nameplate is normal for mutli-hundred megawatt utility-scale arrays covering hundreds of hectares. If you want to consider “wide area” larger than that, we need to add to the LCOE of PV solar all the transmission lines necessary to integrate that output. BTW, this should be done anyway, and is another intentional omission of the DOE and EIA. Even so, that output will still be variable during the day, and will still be zero at night, requiring significant buffering and full backup.

        As to wind, I am working on a detailed piece that will address your false claims. The short answer is the SA grid failed because of pre-existing conditions set by bad policy (critical lack of synchronous resources), and immediate causes (wildly variable wind output and the collapse of the external grid link). You can’t fix lack of synchronous generation with “settings.” The government of SA directed the power utility to take the ballast out of the ship by permanently shutting down the coal plant, and grid predictably capsized during the next storm.

      • “Ike Kiefer March 18, 2017 at 3:13 am

        As to wind, I am working on a detailed piece that will address your false claims.”

        Well said. Looking forward to seeing your piece.

      • Griff:
        You clearly don’t have a clue – just spouting. I live on a remote island – off the grid – and run our entire house, yes Josephine all requisite appliances included, on approx. 2kW/24hrs. I can see my regulator meter as I write: we have had sun mixed with varying cloud all day and PV input varies by at least the numbers mentioned.

        That’s real world -applies not only to our islands but anywhere, and at scale. In Dec 2016 and Jan 2017, solar and wind contributed just over 1% to Germany’s energy input.

        Next time you chime in, why not come up with something that based on reality. If you can’t why not just shut up.

      • “and in SA the windfarms tripped due to poor grid settings… that problem was solved in Germany by 2008.”

        When a short circuit occurs on a grid power plants go into ride through mode. Basically they keep generating power with the assumption that the short is transient in nature. In Gas or wind turbines the inertia of the turbine basically determines how long it can put out power when a short occurs. If the short is not transient a circuit breaker trips protecting the power plant from damage.

        In wind turbines the energy from wind is converted to DC then to AC. How long it can pump out power is dependent on how long it takes for the electronic to overheat. The manufactures of wind turbines allow the grid manager and wind farm owner to customize the settings. The default is typically set a 3 or 4 ride throughs. Anything more than that will cause the computer to shut down the turbine two allow crews to inspect the equipment for the cause of the shorts and make repairs. The setting can be set from 0 up to more than 20.. The grid manager should insure that the settings used are appropriate for the grid.

        in Australia the grid operator ignored this setting and all wind farm operators left it at default. As a result when 3 tornados damaged transmission lines f creating about 4 transient short circuits the computers registered too many ride through events and turned the wind turbine off even though 90% were generating power. This sudden loss of power caused an overload on the Victoria interconnected which then shut down. The fossil fuel power plants also shut down due to shorts, overloads, or in one case lightning damage.

        The wind turbines did shut down due to no wind or excessive wind. Wind farm output was in fact stable just before the shorts occurred. All of the ride through settings in the computers have been changed. No damage was found at any of the wind farms.

        http://www.pfbach.dk/firma_pfb/references/aemo_third_report_%20sa_black_system_28_sep_2016.pdf

      • “and in SA the windfarms tripped due to poor grid settings”

        Correction. It wasn’t the grid settings that were wrong. It was the wind turbine settings.

        “The Titanic was lost due to poor iceberg locations”

  2. Good review of the current economics of “renewables”. Without a major breakthrough in storage, no way are renewables practical, and the pricing should be adjusted to account for the need for backup–i.e. greatly reduced.
    Our green advocates will still claim the storage exists or is about to exist. Compressed unicorn farts in a combined cycle plant?

    • Tom Halla –
      I am reliably informed that Nessie – aka LNM – will ride to the assistance of the bean-eating unicorns.

      Wondrous farts. It has been alleged.

      Auto
      Mods – /SARC.. Note, please. And thanks again for your help.

      • Exactly. You don’t need to be an expert to understand that there is no impediment to companies doing it by choice if they wished to, and if it was genuinely profitable. Yet the state has to supply money and write new laws to make it happen?

        Environmentalists also produce their own calculus to argue that normal accountancy simply can’t value anything properly by their standards. Like politicians, they understand money well enough when it comes to their own finances.

    • It isnt just storage, it is, as the artcle points out, also about useful production capacity over time. Dispatchable power. Too much use of averages by those invested in renewables. With fossil fuels you can extract close to stated maximum capacity when ever you want for as long as you want. With renewables you only have a probability of drlivering output. uncertainty is always bad for consumers (good for hedge funds though). Coincidence? I think not. Widespread use of renewables needs huge amounts of storage and huge amounts of rated installed capacity. There must be a lot of people who understand this, but i guess they dont work in South Australia.

  3. Can renewables ever replace fossil fuels and nuclear?

    Not at the moment, but future technology may change things.
    If in 1890 you had asked “Can automobiles replace the horse”? I would have said, no, not at this point, however……….

    • But if you had thought as a futurist you probably would have said yes!

      Steamships and trains had proved the concept of mass transit the car was merely an extension.

      • As in the case of horses? Some got sick and tired of scooping Sh!t, and started thinking, the same for new ( for that matter ANY new ) progresses. Problem today is that now too much of innovation is “regulated” ,through fights over patents, environmental regulations that stifle progress etc, I wonder to this day what would have happened if Tesla would not have been opposed by Edison for instance.
        My opinion is that the last administration is a case in point. They stopped progress at every turn.

      • Then, obviously at this point in time, you must agree that forcing renewables down everyone’s collective throat makes about as much sense as forcing everyone into automobiles in 1890. So perhaps it is time to stop preaching renewables until they automatically improve the automobile did

      • If we were running on wind and solar and fossil fuel energy had never been discovered there would only be about two billion on the planet and they’d all be hungry. There wouldn’t be a tree left and the person who discovered fossil fuel energy would be hailed as the saviour of the human race. Those who believe we should stop using fossil fuels at this point would condemn the poor of the world to a hungry and hopeless life. They want Africans to live in shacks with a single PV powered light and no power for industry. It is a disgusting extension of colonialism. Africa as human zoo!

    • People took to horseless carriages because they wanted to and could afford them, not because of government mandates.
      If fossil fuel use worries individuals they are free to buy and install rooftop solar panels and batteries, cut themselves off from the grid, and enjoy their fossil-fuel-free life and leave the rest of us to enjoy plentiful energy use free of extra taxes and subsidies.

      • Early autos were expensive and financed by manufacturers as with GMAC (founded 1919).
        That model could be followed by solar panel and battery manufacturers, after all solar-generated power is free therefore panels and batteries could be paid off in no time (that was a joke).

      • Yes, but that whole ‘compelling-others-to-do-things-via-government-dictate’ thing is so trendy and satisfying right now.

      • Horseless carriages were also hailed as wonders of the age as it stopped manure from being spread on every street. A lot of non-rural people have no concept that horses produced massive amounts of dung and were a source of major pollution and filth before delivery trucks and cars came along.

        I’m just fine with people wanting to go off the grid and go organic etc. Just don’t think that it’s cheaper, easier or more sustainable. The community that I live in had the coldest winter in many, many years. Air quality warnings were issued because the price of electricity for heat got so high that many “back to earthers” decided to switch to burning wood (only organic firewood, as one supplier gamely advertises).

        Unintended consequences of high electricity prices are more smog and increased CO2 as people switch to cheaper dirtier fuels. It’s the same in the Third World. People in India don’t burn cow dung because they want to; they have no other options.

      • People took to horseless carriages for a number of reasons, but mostly because it is very expensive to keep a horse in an urban environment. That is, if you can find anywhere to keep it. It also costs you more or less the same in upkeep even if you only ride it at weekends.

        Also, the accident rate even with early autos was considerably lower than that with horses or bicycles. Safety is a commodity that’s hard to put a value on, but most people consider it important.

        For country folks that would not be such an issue, but then again by the time the auto arrived most of the population was in towns. Again it’s a question of comparing the TCO rather than the purchase cost.

      • Yes indeed.
        My great grandfather was killed at the age of 43, when his horse bolted and he was crushed to death by his own ice truck while making a delivery.
        This occurred at 13th and Race streets in Philly, in the year 1906.
        He was said to be a particularly strong, smart and capable individual, but these qualities availed him naught when that horse got spooked.

      • I can confirm this too:

        My Grand-Grandfather was killed by a horse accident in a big city around the year 1902. He died from the consequences of a horse kick.

        So, the “new” transport technology at the time was saver than the old horse power. Sadly this is not true for the new energy technologies nowadays: At least not for many killed birds and bats (by wind power) or killed Orang-Utans (by palm-oil plantations) and huge areas of eco-deserts for the production of other energy plants (e.g. gigantic areas of corn or sugar cane single-crop farming).

        Here one can see troublesome facts about “green” energy:

    • In 1890 the automobile was less than five years old with only a handful in existence. Within a decade or so it was obvious that it would replace the horse, and it did so by 1920 without any government interference. ‘Renewables’ have been around for decades or centuries, but are still dependent on massive subsidies and forced regulation.

      • Massive amounts of government money was spent on roads, and then highways, that created the market and demand for cars.

      • “Massive amounts of government money was spent on roads”

        There’s no such thing as “government money”, Chris.

        There is only “taxpayers’ money”, and as the taxpayers bought cars in ever-increasing numbers, they instructed the government to spend the taxpayers’ money on more, better roads that they could drive their cars on.

      • “Chris March 18, 2017 at 12:03 am

        Massive amounts of government money was spent on roads…”

        Govn’t money? In the UK it’s called the road *FUND* licence, designed to build and maintain roads, ie, user pays. It’s a separate “tax” on vehicle ownership. In New Zealand it’s called “road user charges” (RUC’s), and was designed to do the same, but ~50% of revenue raised isn’t being used for purpose, same as the UK.

        In 1995 I migrated to New Zealand and at the time the tax revenues raised by the UK road tax (As we call it) on private vehicles alone, and after calculating the exchange rate, represented ~75% of GDP for NZ as a whole.

        So Govn’ts make lots of money from private vehicle ownership.

      • Chris “Massive amounts of government money was spent on roads, and then highways, that created the market and demand for cars.”

        Um, growing up in Western Australia I can confirm many ‘roads’ I traveled in the ’60’s and ’70’s were dirt paths, some occasionally graded by the council but not always. heck in the popular South West even today some of the major road links between towns are still graded dirt.

        Roads aren’t required. When distance has to be covered and your options are: On foot or ;By vehicle, then governments participation is irrelevant.

        Roads existed before cars. Cars didn’t need roads. Roads are *better* for cars however, I’ll grant you that but I’d suggest maybe the car owners were the ones to pressure the governments into improving and expanding roads, otherwise the option you claim would suggest someone was amazingly convincing in tricking the the governments of the world into building roads for the few cars that actually existed at that time.

      • Chris March 18, 2017 at 12:03 am

        Massive amounts of government money was spent on roads, and then highways, that created the market and demand for cars.

        Chris it was business, trade and public need that caused road building. Rt1 on the US east coast was built in the earliest days of the republic.

        Go to many old European cities, and you can drive on Roman roads. Now unless you are going to maintain that the Roman Senate funded road building knowing that someday a Roman merchant would get to sell a Frenchmen a car, I think you think you are putting your horse behind the cart .

        michael

      • “Mike the Morlock commented on Exergy and Power Plants.

        “in response to Charles:

        “In 1890 the automobile was less than five years old with only a handful in existence. Within a decade or so it was obvious that it would replace the horse, and it did so by 1920 without any government interference. ‘Renewables’ have been around for decades or centuries, but are still dependent on massive subsidies […]

        “Chris March 18, 2017 at 12:03 am

        “Massive amounts of government money was spent on roads, and then highways, that created the market and demand for cars.”

        Throwing this in just for fun. It’s from a script I wrote for an Australian classical music program based on the Babe series of films.
        “The cantata entitled Le feu céleste, the celestial fire, by Saint-Saëns, is a celebration of electricity and it opened the World Fair in Paris in 1900, which itself was a celebration of the achievements of the past century, nation by nation, and a promotion of developments leading the world into the 20th century. Some are surprising.

        Russian sparkling wine defeated all the French entries to claim the internationally coveted ‘Grand Prix de Champagne’.

        Rudolf Diesel made his debut with his diesel engine running on peanut oil.

        Other debuts included the world’s first commercial escalator and the first films with synchronised sound.

        The Eiffel Tower, built for the World Fair of 1889, was lined with lights and a powerful electric light beam shone from its top.

        It’s easy to lose sight of how things were and we do take electricity for granted these days. But electricity generation and distribution and the electrification of factories began very gradually only in the 1890s. Homes and street lighting in Melbourne were electrified from 1894. Melbourne power stations then did not operate on Sundays and the street lights were switched off at midnight. The world’s first regular electric tram service was established in Berlin in 1881, Melbourne following in 1906.

        The internal combustion engine was not yet supreme and most cars were electric. An electric vehicle held the land speed record, exceeding 100km/hr for the first time in April 1899.

        By 1927, 34 per cent of homes in Australia were electrically wired, with the most popular electrical appliance being the clothes iron!

        I wrote that in 2011. I guess sales of electric irons are now declining somewhat.

    • No, renewables will not economically replace fossil fuels and nuclear except in small boutique circumstances. If the boutiques grown bigger in time, that is good for some purposes, but they will not grow big enough to be dominant.
      This was known since before the1950s. The logic is based on concepts like energy density, wind patterns, solar output, conversion efficiencies and prior operational measurements. While conversion efficiencies for photovoltaics like rooftop have improved over the decades, the energy density problem eventually sets the limit and further gains in efficiency are not going to have much effect. There will still be a big gap in measures like EROI between solar/wind renewables and fossil/nuclear mainstream systems.
      It is disgraceful that this was known for decades, yet poor engineering modelling and poor political decisions allowed a very costly excursion down the dead end road of renewables.
      Geoff.

      • They already replaced 32% of German electricity and over 40% of Spanish.

        They in 2015 provided 17% of all EU energy.

        Really, the figures on the ground show you we are already well past the ’boutique’ stage.

      • Read again, “Renewables will not economically replace fossil fuels….” Think about the word ‘economically”. Look at energy prices in Germany. Renewables are uneconomic compared with coal and nuclear. That is so clear that it is inarguable.
        Geoff.

      • I’ll repeat what I said yesterday.

        Griff is talking about this, and as usual is being disingenuous in his claims.

        For the purpose of this claim the EU includes biomass (which mostly consists of burning garbage in Sweden afaik) and hydro as renewables, which make up the vast bulk of renewable energy production in a select few countries – which countries, being so reliant on hydro and biomass, massively skew the statistics.

        For most other purposes, hydro and biomass aren’t included as renewables because they’re considered to be net producers of greenhouse gasses. Biomass – which, again, sources much of its fuel from garbage –
        produces a net CO2 increase. Hydro is considered to produce huge clouds of methane.

        And I’ll add this:

        Griff likes to bang on about renewables, but it’s clear what he really means by that term is solar and wind. He’s always talking about solar and wind. Never biomass, never hydro. Never biofuels.

        The figure he’s talking about is also not a measure of grid production but total gross energy consumption. That is, the gross amount of energy delivered for consumption across all sectors. It is not an actual tally of energy consumed, and it is not a tally of grid production. He deliberately ignores this distinction and constantly claims that the EU has 17% of its energy supply from “renewables”, whist constantly referring to renewables as solar and wind – meaning to imply by omission that the 17% figure is grid consumption.

        It isn’t.

        Germany’s wind and solar contributions to its grid appear impressive, but they are by nature unreliable. They will never replace other forms of energy production , cannot provide baseload and must be backed by other forms of production to be useful. All it takes is a night-time blocking high to settle over Germany – a very common occurrence – and the entire country’s “renewable” capacity is meaningless.

      • What do you call it when all evidence to the contrary, a person discounts facts and adopts rhetoric as their answer to everything? Religion?

        In which case Griff would be candidate for Pope.

      • @Griff (really for those Griff is trying to deceive)

        Total generation from RE and maximum generation from RE is far less meaningful than minimum generation, because the minimum reliable output determines how much dispatchable fossil fuel capacity has to be constantly maintained in the costly and inefficient roles of buffering and backup. And all the costs of buffering and backup should be rightly charged to the RE sources that require them. Here is the German electricity generation fuel profile for 23-29 January 2017 with a highlighted period on the 24th expanded to show exactly what forms of generation were contributing when the grid load was a stout 70 gigawatts.

        In percentages:
        Solar 0%
        Wind 1.1%
        Coal 58.8%
        Gas 17.0%
        Uranium 10.8%
        Fossil Fuel 75.9%

        So the numbers that matter are that Germany today in 2017, after 6 years of energiewende, must maintain 100% backup capacity for wind and solar and be able to supply 76% of grid load with fossil fuel. Firm capacity of 0% and 1.1% for RE are pretty “boutique” in my book.

        BTW, Spain’s government was forced into insolvency by RE subsidies and had to retrench on their commitments. The news I ready from Germany indicates a breaking point is fast approaching due to rising consumer dissatisfaction and energy poverty and the exodus of major industries due to the sky-high electricity prices. Neither are examples the world should follow.

      • Griff care to respond to the post by Ike Kiefer on March 18, 2017 at 7:00 am? Completely discredits your “facts and figures” you’ve been posting.

      • Geoff, Griff is also pulling a fast one by comparing faceplate power ratings,not actual power production.

    • Making intermittent wind and solar grid-compatible has always been about cost-effective and high-density electricity storage. But when that order-of-magnitude storage improvement arrives, most people do not realize it will also benefit baseload sources like coal and nuclear power. It will allow them to run continuously at their most efficient 100% level and still meter their output to match changing load. So wind and solar will still have to compete with other alternatives, and their lower EROI will cause their LCOE to be higher. Even when better storage arrives, RE will still need subsidies and mandates to be competitive with the grid.

      • Thank you; I have made this point previously. Holy Grail battery technology is much better mated to thermal baseload sources, because you’ll need much less of it than you would for intermittent sources like wind and solar — just enough to smooth out the daily and weekly demand fluctuations.

        If battery technology is good and cheap enough, you could substantially reduce or perhaps even eliminate peaking sources, which have the highest cost per MwH because they are used infrequently.

    • Gareth Phillips:

      “Can automobiles replace the horse

      And you quite rightly say that at that time you would have said no – but maybe. The thing is, in saying maybe, you would not then have implemented a plan to kill all the horses on the off-chance…

    • Then, obviously at this point in time, you must agree that forcing renewables down everyone’s collective throat makes about as much sense as forcing everyone into automobiles in 1890. So perhaps it is time to stop preaching renewables until they automatically improve the automobile did

    • Then why do we have to force it now. Lets wait for this future technology and then implement renewables.

      • the only major improvement for solar is to place panels in space. But how to get this energy on earth?
        Wind energy is fixed. More energy needs more space.

      • put it through the Microwave

        Or Fax it that might do the trick

        Or, best yet, move all those Uber Greens up there where the Solar Energy is

  4. “If they did close, the grid would quickly become unstable as third world grids often are.”

    Are you saying South Australia is part of the Third World?

    • Seems like SA politicians & green zealots are rapidly forcing it in that direction, but that’s fine, it will be a good lesson to the rest of the world.
      A masterclass in energy stupidity.

      • rd50 (and AP)
        Absolutely.
        South Australia is, indeed, back in the Third World.
        It cannot guarantee electricity to all.
        Like Mumbai and Manila [when I visited those great cities] – maybe better now – I don’t know.

        Auto – believing that the UK is – very slowly – picking our way out of the ‘Green’ obsession with unreliable electricity – whilst noting that, as I write, Wind is giving over 25% of electricity demand – per http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/ .

    • “South Australia is part of the Third World?” if not now they are pointed in that direction. No business, if they had a choice, would set up shop or stay where electrical energy is not reliable — as in ON DEMAND! If businesses leave a state begins to look like third world countries.

  5. Quote: Solar and wind power plants require a separate facility to store power or they require another source of power at the ready.

    How proud I am of the great state of South Australia for providing such a clear illustration of the truth of this statement for the rest of world. Truly that state is the leader in renewable energy education.

  6. Roger Dewhurst, your point sounds interesting but could you expand on it a bit more? Not clear where you are going with this.

  7. I agree with Roger Dewhurst.
    In the context of electricity production it doesn’t matter that fossil fuels have other uses (i.e. making plastics). The value of a fossil fuel is just its market cost in the form it is required in for generating electricity.

    • Market price is determined by demand for ALL possible uses of the product – in this case fossil fuel. Liquid fossil fuels prices are strongly influenced by its demonstrated uses for energy to power transportation – none of which involve electricity to any extent.

    • John Haddock and Roger Dewherst, The problem with renewables is they are delivered at the wrong time and wasted. Electricity delivered when there is no one to use it is worth zero and produces zero work. Energy supplied when it is needed is worth more. All fossil fuel energy created is used, it is worth more for that reason. Simple really. You just need to think it through.

      • It is simple Andy if you assume the external costs of burning fosil fuel are low. There may be large costs.

      • Oh, I’ve thought it through, thank you.
        I think we’re saying roughly the same thing, but I prefer to let straight economics do the differentiating.
        In a free market for a commodity, the output value is determined by the end use market. So whether it makes sense or not to use a particular technology or process to produce electricity is simply an economic decision based on the input costs and investment. If the market demands 24/7 reliable supply the investment bases and running costs for wind and solar must include backup capability. This is inescapable if renewables are going to provide a sizeable proportion of demand. No need to talk about different ‘values’, just require that renewables are costed for 24/7 reliable on-demand supply.

      • Andy May: “The problem with renewables is they are delivered at the wrong time and wasted.”

        When I lived in the Mojave desert, solar arrived at the same time as max electricity use, which was driven by AC. On a cloudy day, less AC and less solar power. Not a perfect match, but generally true. Of course, most people don’t live in the desert.

      • Pollution from burning fossil fuels has been taken care of decades ago. As to CO2, it is a hugely positive externality, and as such should be subsidized.

  8. Assuming a 30 year lifespan for all power generators leads to rdiculously inaccurate estimates of the cost of nuclear power, which typically can provide over 90% capacity for 60 years or more.
    A large portion of the cost of nuclear power lies in the large expenditure required for building the plant, thus lifespan in the case of nuclear has a great effect on the levelized cost estimates.
    And a solar panel does not provide the same output for 30 years. It decreases from day one.
    Even the Energy Dept realized that for commercial solar, you need a desert, and pumped storage.
    But even deserts can get cloudy and a grid must make sure disruptions don’t ever occur, regardless of how infrequent they may be.

    • Could you site a nuclear reactor that has operated for 60 years? I’d be interested in knowing which ones and what the reactor technology is. Considering 60 years ago that metallurgy was no where near as advanced as today, I’m left wondering how the reactor metal escaped hydride embrittlement.

      For example the Candu system, which is low pressure and had a planned lifetime of 40 years, only lasted 20 before major rehabilitation was required. The Bruce complex, which is the largest in North America, is rehabilitating it’s last reactor (out of 8) over the next few years. This program has been on-going for almost 16 years.

      • RT: Here’s a relevant section from the World Nuclear Association on US reactors:
        “By the end of 2016, the NRC had extended the licences of 87 reactors (83 still operating) beyond 40 years, 88% of the US total, and about 30 are now in their 40-60-year age bracket. The NRC is considering licence renewal applications for eight further units. Hence, almost all of the US power reactors are likely to have 60-year lifetimes, with owners undertaking major capital works to upgrade them at around 30-40 years. For instance for Davis-Besse, renewed in 2015 to 2037, the owners had invested almost $1 billion. The licence renewal process typically costs $16-25 million, and takes 4-6 years for review by the NRC.

        The original 40-year period was more to do with amortisation of capital than implying that reactors were designed for only that lifespan. It was also a conservative measure, and experience since has identified life-limiting factors and addressed them. The NRC is now preparing to consider extending operating licences beyond 60 out to 80 years, with its Subsequent Licence Renewal (SLR) programme. The first applications are expected before 2020, and Dominion has already advised the NRC of its intention to apply for a second 20-year renewal for the two Surry reactors in 2019. In June 2016 Exelon said it would apply in 2018 for the second licence renewal for its two Peach Bottom reactors, taking them to 80 years.”

        So you see that using a 60 year lifetime is average, not a maximum. Source:
        http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-t-z/usa-nuclear-power.aspx

      • The oldest still working nuclear reactor is in Russia, the FI.

        It came on line in December 1946 and is still operating some 70 years on.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-1_%28nuclear_reactor%29

        There are a number of research nuclear reactors operating in the US which are over 50 years of age.

        The world’s oldest commercial nuclear reactor was Oldbury Power Station in the UK, and was shut down in 2012, after some 44 years of commercial operation. I do not know whether that record still stands or whether there are now (2017) some older commercial nuclear reactors still operating.

      • Dan no longer in CA:

        The EIA assumptions on plant lifetime are for capital amortization purposes as part of the LCOE calculations. If you can get more than 40 years out of a nuclear plant, but require significant refit/upgrade work to do so, that does not totally invalidate the EIA estimate. Apples and oranges. If we assume a 40-year capital recovery period for LCOE purposes, that makes the figure for nuclear cheaper than the EIA publishes.

        If you extend the service lifetime of the plant with another 20-year license, then any necessary refit/upgrade expenses would start a new capital amortization schedule. Assuming all the original capital investment had been paid off, then the capital cost per mWH over the next 20 years should be substantially lower (assuming refit/upgrade costs are much smaller than original construction), resulting in a lower LCOE.

        So how long a nuclear plant stays in operation is a separate issue from what capital recovery period we assume for LCOE on new construction.

    • Arthur:
      Another way of stating your first paragraph is that the EIA is not a reliable source of information. It would be nice if someone could point this out to the new US Administration.

    • Deserts are also dusty. The dust reduces the effectiveness of the panels and requires regular cleaning in a place where water is scarce.

      • “Deserts are also dusty. The dust reduces the effectiveness of the panels and requires regular cleaning in a place where water is scarce.”

        I don’t know but coatings with nano-materials?

        You may recall that in the 1990s one of CSIRO’s research projects produced the self-shearing sheep (true!).

    • Re the claim that nuclear reactors last 60 years: no, they don’t. Below is a list of nuclear reactors that were shut down in the US, with their operating lifetime in years. (source: US NRC, Nuclear Regulatory Commission)

      Reactor Name State Years Operated
      1 Three Mile Island 2 PA 0.93
      2 Pathfinder SD 1.19
      3 Shoreham NY 2.99
      4 Saxton PA 5.00
      5 GE Valecitos CA 6.27
      6 Fermi 1 MI 6.32
      7 Peach Bottom 1 PA 7.76
      8 Indian Point-1 NY 12.12
      9 N.S. Savannah VA 12.47
      10 Fort St. Vrain CO 12.71
      11 Humboldt Bay 3 CA 13.21
      12 Rancho Seco 1 CA 14.65
      13 Trojan OR 16.88
      14 Dresden 1 IL 18.49
      15 La Crosse WI 19.01
      16 Zion 2 IL 24.02
      17 Zion 1 IL 24.68
      18 Maine Yankee ME 24.73
      19 San Onofre 1 CA 25.38
      20 Millstone 1 CT 27.59
      21 Yankee-Rowe MA 27.77
      22 San Onofre 2 CA 29.00
      23 Haddam Neck CT 29.33
      24 San Onofre 3 CA 30.00
      25 Big Rock Point MI 34.72
      26 Fort Calhoun NE 43.17

  9. Using ecoloon political accounting to obfuscate the picture should surely not be done under any circumstances. It seems to me, if you want to compare costs, you must include all costs of a longer term averaging. If hydro lasts 100yrs, then the cost of solar should include two replacements of the panels during the period.

    As an engineer, one must answer: I’m going to need x megawatt service for my manufacturing plant, what are my options and costs. If wind is too uncertain and one doesn’t know what the full costs are going to be, then this simply is not a commercial option. We’ve let politics into the engineering and so of course we are talking apples and oranges all the time. I note you even talk about the negative aspect of hydro storage being the need for more land and don’t seem bothered about how much land might be needed for HTC’s 500million solar panels that we fortunately dodged, or the forests of windmills land needs. Some hydro storage uses underground mines effectively where these are handy. Maybe, mechanical windmills could be employed there to advantage coupled with hydro. Egad, all this fuss over CO2! I continually battle against my P. Eng Association to resist incorporating climate fantasies into engineering work (over and above real empirical climate). And I avoid getting seminared, short coursed and diplomaed in climate change in design.

    • Also, if the Greens want to (as some have claimed) install wind nameplate capacity equal to 100% of Grid demand by 2050, then they need to factor in the replacement of all existing turbines at least once, and in some cases twice. That make a huge difference to the overall cost projection.

      It could even get to a situation where the worn-out turbine replacement rate soaks-up 100% of production before the target is reached.

    • If hydro lasts 100yrs, then the cost of solar should include two replacements of the panels during the period.

      Five replacements seem more likely.

  10. Can renewables ever replace fossil fuels and nuclear? Highly unlikely. In any case, the free market should decide, not government.

    • Ignore any potential future ‘external’ costs? If there are short term profits to be made, so-called free markets are usually pretty good at that.

      • “tony mcleod March 18, 2017 at 1:27 am

        Ignore any potential future ‘external’ costs?”

        Well, no-one did when in the UK we started chopping down forests, and *WE* are still here!

      • “Future external costs” is the nexus of most environmental alarmism and is usually wildly exaggerated, if not outright wrong. Case in point: continuing gentle warming and atmospheric CO2 fertilization of plant growth are almost certainly a net benefit, not a cost.

      • tony mcleod March 18, 2017 at 1:27 am

        “Ignore any potential future ‘external’ costs?”

        How do you ever get out of bed in the morning? Don’t you know that by simply going to the mail box to get your morning paper you can be hit by a run-a-way Lorry, who is riding a horse, which is pulling a turnip cart, that has Governor Brown on top of the turnips!

        Relax pull the covers up a bit and stop worrying.

        michael :-)

      • Let’s go back to before the Industrial Revolution.

        Now, What are these “future external costs”?

        If there are short term profits to be made, so-called free markets are usually pretty good at that.

        “So-called free markets” have provided you with a nice life compared to you ancestors have they not?

        What’s a short term profit?

      • tony is one of those people who believes that only someone who works for the government can care for people. And that everyone who works for the government cares.

      • tony is one of those people who believes that only someone who works for the government can care for people. And that everyone who works for the government cares.

        Old jokes but truisms, “The government, as is customary in joint ventures with industry, provided every assistance short of actual help.” And at the personal individual level, a laugh is the usual response to the introduction, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

  11. The environmental argument has long been that all of the real costs are not considered, whether you consider energy, entropy or whatever. These may be impossible until we really understand the earth and its “ecosystems,” if ever. There have been a number of attempts to value various habitats like marshes, organisms like wildlife, and so on, all based in part on certain assumptions. These are sometimes economic which begins to sound a little like circular reasoning. At least when they try to value “environmental health” they run into each other like windmills killing birds and bats along with other poorly evaluated projects.

  12. In fact, the quantity we call energy can be misleading and many experts prefer the quantity called “exergy,” which is defined in economics as (source Exergy Economics):

    “The maximum useful work which can be extracted from a system as it reversibly comes into equilibrium with its environment.”

    Have to wonder if “the many experts” wouldn’t be better served by picking up an introductory physics text and grappling with the mysteries of the second law of thermodynamics rather than sitting in meetings inventing cute newspeak jargon.

    • And after reading the introductory physics text, you should pick up an advanced engineering thermodynamics text. You will discover the exergy is NOT “cute newspeak jargon.” Exergy is an advanced thermodynamic concept vital for optimizing complex energy systems. I do not cover exergy in my undergraduate engineering thermodynamics course since it is a graduate level topic. If you have the right background, you can make a do-it-yourself exergy analysis with Excel. Or, there are commercial software design tools if you can afford a few thousand dollars per seat per year for the software lease.

  13. Technological change can quickly change the above calculations.

    About once a month I look for new stories about ammonia as fuel. The attractive thing about ammonia is that it can be produced by electrolysis. In other words, it may be a viable long term storage method for wind electricity.

    Here’s a link to a story about some industrial demonstrations of ammonia fuel in Japan.

    One project involves mixing ammonia with coal at existing power plants

    Adopting this technology at aging plants would bring emissions in line with those of newer facilities, reducing the need for new investment. If 70 plants switch to a coal-ammonia mix, CO2 emissions would fall by an estimated 40 million tons a year, equivalent to about 3% of Japan’s annual total.

    There is also evidence that ammonia can reduce particulate emissions from coal fuelled power plants.

    • And how much energy to produce the ammonia and how much damage will ammonia introduces in these plants? Great stuff on paper.

      • It is good to be skeptical. For a couple of years I followed a technology that turned turkey guts into oil. link The technology worked but the company went bankrupt anyway. Perhaps if the price of oil had stayed above $100/barrel they could have survived. The devil is always in the detail.

        The Japanese are actually doing ammonia demonstration projects. We’ll know if it works in a year or two.

      • Yes I am skeptical.
        Here is what you omitted from your link.

        “In rough numbers, Japan expects total power generation to reach 1,065 million MWh in 2030, with 26% of this power supplied by coal. If ammonia were to displace 20% of that coal power, which is the fuel displacement ratio described above, Japan would require annual imports of roughly 20 million metric tons of ammonia.
        This is a big number: it represents about 10% of the current global production capacity. Of course, Australia is already making plans to meet this demand.”

        So, Japan will be using 20 million metric tons of ammonia. Superb idea from you: produce ammonia!

      • As I recall, it turned out the process of turning waste into liquid fuel by use of heat and pressure was not easily scalable.
        It would work just fine on a small scale, but there was no way to make a profit on it at a larger scale, for numerous reasons.

      • In the Japanese example I linked, the economics are different because they have to rely on LNG. The article deals exactly with your question.

      • CommieBob, Maybe it will work as a sewage treatment process, but it doesn’t have an EROI high enough to be an economic fuel. Also, it sounds like they have air pollution problems.

      • Natural gas is non-toxic? Try breathing even small amounts for a while. It’ll disabuse you of that notion in a permanent fasion.

      • LNG, which is nearly 100% methane, is how the Japanese currently import it and has very low toxicity. Non-methane constituents of LNG are condensed and collected separately. Natural gas that was never liquified has a few percent of Ethane, Propane, Butane, Nitrogen, and .5% CO2. All are also very low toxicity. The really toxic stuff is what is delivered to your house because of the government required addition of sulfur compounds as mercaptans. Ironic, isn’t it? The gummint requires sulfur compounds be removed from liquid fuels, but purposely added to natural gas. (It’s what makes the gas smell so you can detect leaks with your nose) Here’s a page showing natural gas constituents: https://www.uniongas.com/about-us/about-natural-gas/Chemical-Composition-of-Natural-Gas

      • Ammonia is actually produced from Hydrogen (usually from natural gas) and atmospheric Nitrogen in the Haber Process.

        This energetically costly step of splitting dinitrogen is sometimes said to be the biggest single technological contribution to the human race because it allowes for the large scale production of nitrogenous fertilizers that now underlies the feeding of 7 billion people.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haber_process#Economic_and_environmental_aspects

        While the ammonia may be useful for reducing for reducing pollution in exhaust stacks, it makes no sense energetically to run a power station by consuming one fuel to make another fuel which is then burned to produce electricity. You gain more by just burning the original fuel directly.

  14. Comparing something we have not been able to get to work right….with something we know works right

  15. I’d just repeat the comment I made on the previous thread. You can’t have a sensible conversation about the substitution of one form of energy with another without factoring in the application, and in doing that including both the desired quality as well as quantity of the work one is seeking to use it for.

    Its basic economics.

    • That brings to mind the hundreds of miles they run power lines just to get a few megawatts of wind or solar to “most of the time” add to the grid input. When you think about the net cost vs gain, it has to be a wash at best without govt incentives.

      • And that is the important point. The basic issue isn’t what source of energy is best, they all have their place. The important thing is to ensure that there is a good market that both allows trading on volume and price, and that there is limited cross subsidisation or monopoly power.

        Under those circumstances if people want to buy PV even if doesn’t make economic sense, and even put them on the south facing roof of the house so they can be seen from the road, so be it. [NB southern hemisphere joke].

      • Pop: that is an example of a basic engineering principle, Income accrues from average use: capital cost is a function of peak stress.

        We design for the worst case. we pay for the design from average income. The most efficient use of capital is a steady state that never peaks out worse..baseload in electrical terms. we run high capital cost nukes at a constant level to maximise ROI

        The high peak to mean ratios of intermittent renewables mean that average income is low compared with peak capacity and the cost of building it – as evinced by the capacity factors of the installations, and that goes for any link through which the generated energy passes where it is a major or dominant flow.as well. I.e. capacity factors is a feature of grid links as well as generators.

        GW for GW capacity onshore wind is cheaper than nuclear, but with a capacity factor of less than 25% and the requirements for backup, and the short MTBF and service life of windmills, nuclear wins hands down in true levelised holistic lifetime costs

      • Leo

        It depends what you are using the energy for. Generation that is economic for base load is poor for servicing peaks. Thus PV for air conditioning loads or commercial refrigeration makes sense to handle the day time peaks, particularly if you can avoid strengthening the distribution system. Also OCGT do a good job of handling peaks because they are low capital high variable cost generation, unlike renewables.

        Also there is the portfolio effect. E.g wind can go pretty well in conjunction with hydro and service base loads at lower cost than nukes.

        And in a decent market if you want peak power you pay the premium. Income only accrues from average use where it isn’t worth the supplier making the distinction in their pricing, or a regulator with a tidy mind is involved. The greatest problem in the electricity market is people not paying the true cost of the nature of the energy they are using.

      • Pop, much solar is used in the building the panels are on. 7 UK car plants have solar panels as do many supermarkets, for example.

        HAS solar is a good match for aircon peaks in many areas.

        aircon and commercial refrigeration are used in the UK in demand management… the aircon and refrigeration across a wide area does not need to be running all the time at the same time, so it is managed by switching parts off.

        Other peaks in the UK – locally a few hours on winter evenings – are managed in part by hydro and UK pumped storage, which runs alongside demand management

      • “Griff March 18, 2017 at 2:35 am”

        Because they have large areas of roof space to house such panels, with the aim to reduce power costs, not to “save the planet”. Now how can a renter in a block of apartments install solar, “on the roof”?

      • reply to Griff March 18, 2:35am

        Sorry Griff your claim “Other peaks in the UK – locally a few hours on winter evenings – are managed in part by hydro and UK pumped storage, which runs alongside demand management” ought to make plain that UK winter short and longer cold spell peaks are overwhelmingly met by CCGT as a quick glance at UK National Grid Graphs at http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/ makes apparant in seconds. As usual you attempt to mislead, one way or another. Hydro and pump storage is minimal as you can see at the site quoted.

      • “Griff March 18, 2017 at 2:35 am”

        One thing I can bet no-one has factored in this installation of PV panels on large area roofs, is mass. The mass of the equipment installed on a roof not designed to carry that mass.

      • Patrick, don’t forget the subsidy mining as an incentive to install solar panels. There is also the marketing value, since brainless greens feel good about companies that do things like this and are more likely to patronize such companies.

  16. Trash-to-energy plants could locally supplement the grid with little or no cost fuel, when considering the costs of putting it in landfills, oceans, etc. We just need to accept that burning waste cleanly is the best total solution as the CO2 sinks grow correspondingly to the sources. Devices which require as much energy to manufacture as they are likely to produce in their usable lives are not economically viable. It is doubly dubious to locate them where considerable additional infrastructure additions must be made.

  17. All papers suffer hits when wrong terminology is used. Andy May quotes Weißbach, et al. (2013) -http://homepages.uc.edu/~becktl/shaka-eroi.pdf This German author made a perhaps excusable error when translating to English, but please note that ‘topology’ should be replaced by ‘topography’.
    Topology is a mathematical construct.
    “In mathematics, topology is concerned with the properties of space that are preserved under continuous deformations, such as stretching, crumpling and bending, but not tearing or gluing” (Wiki).
    Topography is a geographic construct dealing with land forms.
    This is not a criticism of the main thesis of the Weißbach paper, which highlights an important set of principles needing improvement, as does the above essay by Andy May.
    Geoff

  18. Back when I worked for a consulting firm we did a lot of electricity resource planning and it involved hydro.

    We ran simulations to figure the “firm power” that could be got running hydro plants through a standard 3-year drought period. The firm power was valuable and fetched a high price, the “secondary power” available only in wet years was much less valuable. But still, aluminum smelters signed up for the secondary power; they were prepared to accept the risk of not getting their secondary power during a drought.

    It has always been clear to me that the value of solar/wind is limited because their “firm power” is very low. Firm power is power that is always available for use for dispatch to the electrical network. Period. All other power is not serious; it is just play power.

    • No Chris, it’s a portfolio game. Hydro ain’t much use in dry years once the storage has gone, so in this case you need a counter cyclic resource alongside. PV may well provide this or perhaps even wind, depending on the climate.

      However, as you say, different customers have different needs for power quality vs. price. And I’d add that if you aren’t close to a distribution system PV and wind look pretty good (fighting it out with wood and diesel gensets).

    • CC,
      And back then when I was in the mining & energy business, it was conventional knowledge that a company would not even look at a plan to make a smelter or refinery, like for aluminium, when the power supply was renewable and hence intermittent.
      We owe to the Power of Advertising the failed or failing examples where people defied this wisdom. This is bad. The failed efforts are so costly for all of us. Trying one on is somewhat the social equivalent of denying your child an a vaccination and expecting more disciplined parents to share the cost of the spread of the illness.
      Geoff.

  19. Considering the rent factor, massive wind and solar don’t make sense for anywhere but otherwise useless land. How often is that land close to civilization? That tells you where it is practical.

  20. Domestic use of kWh is approx 1/4 of the total use in a country. The domestic gets hit with kWh costs nearly twice that the rest of industry pays. E.g. Germany €00.297/kWh domestic whereas it is €00.151/kWh for industry.
    There is clearly a contrived charging system that loads the domestic consumer with the debt. This rather confuses the issue of real costs and who pays for it.
    All of it is artificial, Cost levels for electric, gas, coal, oil, wind solar, whatever – artificial and political and who you know. It is difficult to have a serious debate about wind & solar on the grounds of costs.
    Whilst I like the idea of wind and solar, I don’t think human thirst for power can be in any way met by them. I would like to see the Thorium Molten Salt reactors replace coal and gas power stations. I think there could even be a time when we see smaller models in or close to every city, that’s if common sense ever gets to be used in deciding these things. I’m talking about good common sense, not what passes as common common sense these days, which is probably different due to vested interests/financial advantage for select minorities.

    • Those prices appear to include distribution (more expensive for retail consumers) and the retail consumer profile probably accounts for peak demand (the most expensive energy).

      There may well be cross subsidies, but it isn’t necessarily as bad as it looks.

      • I would suggest that peak demand is when industry is at work during the day, domestic use being minimal because people are at work. If anything, domestic use picks up when industry goes home at night and helps even out the load curve to be generated.
        I look at it like this… Germans have the highest domestic solar production anywhere. This will produce during the peak daytime demand and offset gas/coal use. This is good and useful and sensible. To try to go solar/wind all alone is obviously not feasible due to cloudy days and still air and other factors.
        The solar/wind costs are contrived and influenced by politics/corruption/money schemes that benefit but a few, with the charges/money being sucked out of the bill/taxpayer base.
        The arguments against solar/wind on manufacturing costs/materials/land use/etc, are mostly contrived in my opinion based on the fact that it is obvious that if you build a 850kW windmill, say, for a million euro and it produces 1/4 of rated output, you still get a return on investment, being paid 10c/kWh, which is half the Irish kWh domestic cost. For decades. There is a private windmill in uk that was built, must be 25 yrs ago now, before the idea really kicked off and has saved them perhaps hundreds of thousands of pounds. It is no different to the automotive industry. Things get recycled. I’ve heard complaint about copper production cost to the earth/environment etc. Nonsense! Copper is the most recycled metal which means once you have it you have it for ever, recycling is just heating it up and remolding it simplistically speaking. Concrete – what’s that argument about? A lot of nonsense is used to confuse and put down wind/solar and polarize opinion by those making out it is all bad against the common sense reality that it has a useful purpose and does help the environment long term. The odd dead bird is a loss but does not come close to reason. People die on the roads every single day everywhere, we don’t ban travelling.

      • Neillusion, from November to February solar energy production does not exist. In that time wind energy production can be very weak for stretches of 10 days or more – when it should be humming, making up for the missing solar power; look at Germany’s January 2017 figures.
        Peak demand is at noon and around 18:00 (when the sun is weak most of the year).
        Real wind productivity has been around 17% of capacity in recent years.
        Windmills are for subsidy-suckers. There is no need to have two separate electrical energy production systems now, one of them completely dependent on the other.

        The subsidy-system in Germany has been changed now, which will slow down new wind mill erecting to practically zero. Every folly has its limits.

  21. “Can renewables ever replace fossil fuels and nuclear?” No. Next stupid f*cking question.

  22. Like wise, in a capacity market, the wind and solar will also end up getting paid when they can’t produce. So they’ll be fleecing the consumer from both ends.

  23. Nice article Andy, like the others about energy you are posting at your site:
    https://andymaypetrophysicist.com/

    It seems to me we have a bit of a problem as for one reason or other we are failing to find an adequate substitute for fossil fuels, and if things continue that way that is a future game stopper. We cannot continue increasing our use of fossil fuels and expect them to last for very long.

    According to most sensible people in the 1950’s-60s, we should be running mainly on nuclear by now. Even Hubbert himself thought so, but it hasn’t worked that way.

    Wind and solar are quite mature technologies. We are seeing small incremental improvements as it should be expected for all the money thrown at their research, but not breakthrough that could be a game changer.

    The closest thing to a possible breakthrough right now appears to be high altitude wind power.
    http://euanmearns.com/high-altitude-wind-power-reviewed/
    http://euanmearns.com/the-eroei-of-high-altitude-wind-power/
    But even if a nice boost if it delivers as promised, it still has the fundamental problem of intermittent sources.

    I still find surprising the profound faith that people have on technological development solving any problem. Humans have been using technology for over 5000 years, and many civilizations have run into problems they could not solve. Nothing says we won’t run into problems we won’t be able to solve, and this could be one. We found a treasure trove of fossil fuels and are running through it like there’s no tomorrow. So far we have found no alternative.

      • “windmills are enough of a hazard to aircraft without hippies flying kites into the stratosphere.”

        Air transportation is totally dependent on liquid fuels. If we need an alternative to fossil fuels we might need also an alternative to air transportation.

    • Javier
      ” So far we have found no alternative.”

      And there is the rub. Apart from EV cars for the wealthy, as far as tranportation goes there is no alternative. It may prove to be a problem that is unsolvable by more technology.

      • “tony mcleod March 18, 2017 at 1:39 am

        …as far as tranportation goes there is no alternative.”

        Electrically powered trains seems to be a viable transport option for many people in high density city locations. I myself use Sydney trains 5 days per week. In fact I pass the 1977 Granville train disaster site, twice week days.

      • And there’s a hydrogen (from renewables) train in Germany. The UK train network is being extended and electrified… including (probably!) the new HS2 lines.

      • “Griff March 18, 2017 at 2:38 am

        And there’s a hydrogen (from renewables) train in Germany.”

        From renewables, go references? Hydrogen take ALOT OF ENERGY!

        “The UK train network is being extended and electrified…”

        Extended? To replace rail networks decimated in the Beeching report, initiated by the left leaning Labour Govn’t, acted on by the following Conservative Govn’t? Not so much, because of 18th century infrastructure issues like bridges, Brunel tried but was constantly rejected. I will admit his Great Western Railway gauge was wrong, standard gauge won! Electrified, sure, since the 1970’s matey! You don’t even have any idea what is happening in the UK with regards to that.

      • ” hydrogen (from renewables) train in Germany”
        Fair enough but there is a big jump to powering bulk ore carriers or 747s.
        Oil is the ‘enabling’ resource. Without it we’re back to a world made by hand.

      • “Electrically powered trains seems to be a viable transport option for many people in high density city locations.”

        The problem is that if liquid fuels are affected by lower production and/or high prices high density cities become non viable, as every basic product needs to be transported to big cities.

      • “It may prove to be a problem ”

        I see no problem. Carbon based liquid fuels are never an issue so long as you remove the particulates and the nasty nox, Sox, and the monoxide carbon compound stuff from the exhaust

        The rest is just water and plant food.

  24. Exergy is just an unnecessary buzz word created to complicate thermodynamics, confuse people, and misdirect while the hustlers go for your wallet. “Entropy” and “available energy” had it covered for decades. BTW, BSME & PE.

    1) You can’t get more out than you put in and 2) you can’t create/destroy energy. Unlike the GHG RGHE loop that allegedly does both.

    “In thermodynamics, the exergy (in older usage, available work and/or availability) of a system is the maximum useful work possible during a process that brings the system into equilibrium with a heat reservoir.[1]”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exergy

  25. As stated, the existing power plants were the cheapest backup power. So in reality the simplest economics works out to this…

    Power Plant + Fuel Costs
    verses
    Power Plant + Renewables + Fuel Costs – Fuel Savings

    Notice that, the renewables are really competing against just the cost of fuel. If it costs any more than that, its more expensive. But then there’s a second problem, under/overproduction by renewables. Simply put, renewables will cause price spikes and crashes in the wholesale market as they fall short of demand and produce more than demand can use. And in practice what this works out to is…wind energy either not being able to pay for its self when it’s not producing and not being able to pay for its self when it IS producing.

    Normally the market takes care of these issues in one simple way. They recognize that there is almost no value in the product (renewables), and cease production

    • I do not agree. If I/you had a coal powered electrical generator plant and could save 100 trucks of coal every time the wind blows, would you build a windmill. YES. now that is simple and the numbers work and over time a sensible percentage of coal burning is avoided and has all the benefits that go with that. Of course you need to keep a high percentage of coal input. So? It is not black or white – there is a grey area and wind power does help out. Don’t fall for contrived/artificial pricing market numbers on a screen benefits to a select few leeches on the bill/taxpayer

      • Well a 3mw wind turbine, even assuming a 33% capacity factor (which is high) will only make 219000 mwh over its entire life. Coal makes about 2mw/ton and costs $40/ton right now. So BASICALLY that works out to $20 (per mwh fuel costs) times 219000mwh or 4.3 million dollars.

        HOWEVER, the wind turbine costs 1.3 to 2.2 million per mwh of installed nameplate capacity. So the 3mw turbine costs between 3.9 million and 6.6 million. Most nations have been averaging a 20% capacity factor though. So most will actually NEVER be profitable. And these are high capital costs…the equivalent of buying ALL the coal a power plant will use over its entire life.

      • No, wind power does not “help out” in any way, shape or form. That is simply Greenie pie-in-the-sky unicorn farts emotionalism. Saving coal from being burned is no advantage except in the feverish minds of Greenie ideologues.

      • The problem is that due to the nature of a coal fired power plant, it’s output cannot be ramped up and down quickly. Therefore the idea that you are going to save on coal when the wind blows is nonsense.
        Beyond that, one of the biggest expenses for such plants is labor. Do you believe the manager is going to send everyone home for a couple of hours just because the wind has picked up?

    • @ poitsplace
      Your simplistic analysis is appealing and captures the generation redundancy, but it doesn’t address the thousands of line miles of new transmission required to integrate diffuse and remote RE to the grid. You need to add that term.

      And by adding both more power generation and more transmission without being able to retire any, the overall utilization rate of infrastructure is reduced, lowering efficiency of operations, increasing lifecycle costs, and increasing environmental footprint per unit of energy delivered. U.S. annualized capacity factor for generation has dropped from 47% to 40% since our second government push for renewables began in earnest in 2005. I can only imagine how it has dropped in Germany.

      • $3 billion + to build 500MW coal power station. Whilst cost of coal is cheap the actual cost of a unit kWh to make break even is 15cent or more. The cost of road infrastructure/maintenance, the nuisance of thousands of heavy lorry trips destroying roads. The pollution from the plant.
        I know its gotta be done, I just don’t agree with the financial accounting which has three problems – one is the opportunist profiteering that makes wind cost what it allegedly does, two that the issue is not a straight forward calculation on cost/kWh. The whole pricing of power is contrived and artificial, wherever it comes from, just as the price of oil used to be controlled (was quite low). Three, the fact that wind is free but inconsistent and coal is cheap but the investment needed to exploit it is huge.
        The price of anything depends to a large extent on what people can pay. If you subsidise wind then the price of turbine goes up. In the beginning this subsidy needs be done to protect investment/people, but profiteering/political and financial advantaged entities have exploited it all for profit. There is no way a 1MW wind turbine costs 2.2Million, or should cost that.
        Why not have a free market where consumers put there money where their choices dictate. When wind blows, buy, perhaps more expensive wind electric, if so inclined. If wind stops blowing buy coal electric. You would have a situation where people would perhaps not be so inclined or able to afford wind so its price would come down to a truer value point. Coal would get cheaper too or even put their price up a bit when the wind stopped!, a bit of competition perhaps. I would hope that wind could compete at this stage in the game, even wiithout subsidies. Gets complicated.
        I can run a diesel genny and get kWh price equal to the electricity board charge and not have to pay standing charge. That is just wrong wrong wrong. There is something seriously wrong with power production and pricing. I don’t trust the financial/profit/business corruption that exploits people and the confusion in an issue.

      • I don’t know.. where are they?

        Nothing rude or untoward at all in them.

        Doesn’t say “in moderation” just gone !!!

      • Last try…. I apologise if the other three appear.

        Another way of measuring is with a “reliability factor”

        ie, what percentage of nameplate can the source “guarantee to deliver” 95% of the time.

        For coal, gas, nuclear, this would be somewhere reasonably close to nameplate value.

        A couple of years ago, I did the calculations on one month of UK wind, (10 minute values iirc) and came up with an answer of around 4-5% of nameplate.

        Solar of course scores a big fat zero.

  26. You would have to include the cost of road repairs in any calculation of the cost of having vehicles to get around as road repairs seem to constantly needed (more and more pot holes) perhaps it would be a good idea to have vehicles that don’t require roads or roads that don’t need repairing.

  27. The Greens promised us steady wind electricity production, because “THE WIND ALWAYS
    BLOWS SOMEWHERE” (German Green leader Kuenast)….. which makes the problem just
    to a logistical problem of operating the grid.

    • and droughts and famines never happen because it is ‘always raining somewhere’…

      Ah! The liberal at student mind!

  28. With the exception of perhaps pump storage systems, these economical energy storage systems often do not include the costs of security. The energy density of the storage systems make them a real target of terrorist-type crazies.

  29. The triumph of the 20th century was to use government intervention to destroy the relationship between money and value.

    this is what the argument is all about: the value of renewables versus the value of a self storing energy source.

    money depends on the subsidy regime.

    • I don’t hang around here like the unemployed all day.

      See above.

      This is an abstract article which pays no regard to actually operating renewable power across the world.

      • Heard rumours gang green employment peaking at 97%, but wonder what it is nowadays. Perhaps Trump can get it to 0.04%. Having said that the same sources claim even it can be excessive, but I’m generous – it’s far less than the global error margin.

  30. None of it can be refuted if one assumes CO2 increase attributable to human activity is not a problem.

  31. Exergy, a new term to get acquainted with.

    ___________________________________________

    Germany is apparently burning Euro notes for power and, fairly large denomination Euro notes at that.
    ___________________________________________

    D’accord at once.

    Thanks, Andy May.

  32. Factor in all the other costs,

    Destruction of forests for the Windturbines, the heavy use of fossil fuels to have the windturbines built, transported and erected. The Building of roads to maintain the turbine spread across the countryside using fossil powered vehicles. The 1000 tonnes of concrete under each one. the 40 + lorries trucking across the countryside to pour the concrete. FInally at the end of the turbines life the fossil fuelled trucks needed to take aways the rancid carcass.

      • We need a helping of wind and solar the same way ice cream needs a helping of bird poop on top.

    • For @Neillusion, facts without emotion.
      Wind has a far larger environmental land and habitat footprint per unit of energy than fracking, and yields a fraction of the energy over its lifetime. Compare power production of 1.1 W/m2 for U.S. terrestrial wind national average to 90 W/m2 for 10 barrel/day stripper well in a played-out oil field to 300+ W/m2 for fracked gas well. Wind requires large, permanent pads and access roads for giant cranes to do maintenance, and involves trenching and permanently burying miles of cables. Here’s an aerial shot to illustrate the permanent scaring that wind involves.

      • Why you call it ‘scarring’? I live near a wind farm that has 70 x 850KW windmills. It was built on top a bog mountain – where much peat had been harvested already. It is windy and produces plenty of electricity. No trees cut down. No scenary issues. No problems – just harvesting the wind energy, saving use of peat in peat fired power station. The trees uprooted in pic above could/would/should have been planted elsewhere – so what it problem? Harvest free energy. Sure it costs to build it, what doesn’t – how many cars are there? But it does save on burning peat, in my example, which probably saves many peat bogs. My point is that arguments based on finance/land/copper/concrete/bird/bat are nonsense in bigger pic. And just as you have a pic and call it scarring, others would see sensible development and bigger pic advantage. Just to be clear I would keep coal power plants (keep the CO2 coming, but clean up the rest a bit) and gas but supplementing them with wind is just big pic good common sense in my opinion. It is just that money talks the loudest and goes to but few who have control and connections – robbing the tax/bill payer little by little (or not so little) There is so much nonsense from greens and anti greens alike who I think miss the real control factors which amount to human privilege and greed – the rich are always trying to line their pockets deeper and deeper with money from those who have the least. The arguments in respect of birds and examples above, is just nonsense in bigger pic. If you decide to live longer on this planet you/we need power. I hope Thorium MSR comes out big soon – I think the time until that gets a hold we will manage with what we have – coal, gas, oil, nuclear as is with a helping of wind/solar.

      • That is a bit of an emotive cheap shot…sort of like what the radical enviros do when take a picture of a recently clear cut forest. Fast forward 15-20 years, and it is all in grown in with new plant life. Nature abhors a vacuum.

  33. There also is a qualitative consideration: in what type of country do we want to live? A country covered with wind turbines and high voltage lines, large areas inaccessable due to hydro storage?
    Progress, in many cases, amounts to less dependency on land and nature. (housing, roads, transporation systems, electric light) Any technology that highly depends on land and nature should be regarded with great scepsis as it likely is backwardness. In this regard nuclear power is the best, leaving land for trees and animals.

    • Environmentalists want land covered with turbines, panels, high voltage lines and huge reservoirs as long as it puts us back in the 18th century. The environmental damage is not based on reality, but rather one’s particular end goal. If destroying the environment is necessary to punish people for being capitalists and successes, then so be it.

      • There will be a considerable increase in power lines in the UK due to new nuclear plants.

        UK HVDC lines to help ship Scottish wind power south have been deployed offshore or buried.

        solar panels very often go on roofs.

        There is no large scale hydro planned for the UK – exception one large potential pumped storage plan.

        Very many new UK wind turbines are far offshore. They are even trying floating ones.

  34. It’s like this-

    “In physics, power is the rate of doing work. It is equivalent to an amount of energy consumed per unit time. In the SI system, the unit of power is the joule per second (J/s), known as the watt in honour of James Watt, the eighteenth-century developer of the steam engine.”

    and why some can now happily reminisce about horsepower rather than manpower although brainpower was always the implicit assumption-

  35. I see numerous comments about Europe in general Germany in particular and electrical generation, here are sources for several European countries

    Germany
    https://www.energy-charts.de/power.htm

    Denmark
    http://energinet.dk/Flash/Forside/index.html

    Spain
    https://demanda.ree.es/demandaGeneracionAreasEng.html

    France
    https://demanda.ree.es/demandaGeneracionAreasEng.html
    this one is good for seeing imports and exports
    http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/france/

    UK
    http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/

    Finally as European wind speed map
    http://www.eldoradocountyweather.com/forecast/europe/europeanwind.html

  36. Meh. As written, this is a contortion of the problems of comparison. Generally true, specifically less true. One thing specifically true by anecdote is that if you subsidize wind, you are forced to subsidize its back up. Illinois is paying nukes to stay open, primarily because of the problems nukes have selling electricity against subsidized wind. No subsidies for coal though. Prices rise. Ergo, government pays our money to energy producers to raise prices to us.

  37. On the subject of comparability and the not so hidden costs of government and political interference, one might start with the Clinton nuclear power plant in Illinois. Originally budgeted at $400 million, it was built just after Three Mile Island at a cost of $4 billion. When it’s builder went bankrupt, it was sold to Exelon for $40 million. Still, Exelon can’t afford to keep it open with its costs (despite setting records for efficiency in refueling and other operations) and the market price of subsidized wind. So the state just granted the plant a generous subsidy package. Exelon calls that a level playing field.

  38. So Germany is being taxed without benefit out of guilt from something they had little control over..we know what happened last time. So instead of barrels of DMs to buy a loaf of bread, it is a euro per kW-hour ;)

  39. The disingenuity of Gang Green and their cohorts and useful idiots is amazing. First they punish fossil fuels and reward “renewables” aka “green” energy. Then they have the gall to crow about how well their “planet-saving” (and economy-destroying) energy is doing. Incredible.

  40. Wind and solar electricity production is a tax of energy consumers. Full stop. Like all other taxes it is meant to provide for a common good. In this case abatement of CO2 emmisions preventing harmful climate change. That is your case and it does not hold up to scrutiny. There is zero evidence that increased atmosperic CO2 levels result in harmful climate change.

    What you have are flawed model projections and rent seeking economics. We are moving to educate the public on your flawed political science and defunding the impoverishing rent
    seeking behaviour. Not all that complicated.

      • The environmental organisations declare we have only some decades left, but to achieve their renewables goals an incredible amount of steel etc must be produced which needs carbon and produces CO2. This is a contradiction. To save CO2 exhaust, build nuclear power plants.

  41. So let me get this straight. If I need a back up system capable of replacing a solar farm when the sun is not shining, why do I need the solar farm at all. Just run the back-up system full time.

    • Well, the constant cost of the fossil fuel is going to be expensive… especially if you are a state with no fossil fuel resources or worse an island where you have to ship the fuel in…

      And most of the world and the scientific community believe we need to reduce CO2.

  42. Why is it that people who shout “It’s simple physics” about global warming immediately shout “It doesn’t matter about the physics” when it comes to renewable energy?

    • The physics always matters, it cannot be overcome. However, renewable energy is all about the economics, which are improving rapidly year over year. Wind power in the US is now profitable at US $0.043 per kWh, of which $0.02 is paid by the utility, and $0.023 is by the government as a tax credit. Note: the wind power producer must have profits from somewhere to take advantage of the tax credit. The proof of this (profitability) is the rapid growth of wind power installations in the US, both onshore and now offshore.

      Solar PV at grid-scale is not far behind.

      From the US Dept of Energy, “2015 Wind Technologies Market Report”: link is https://energy.gov/eere/wind/downloads/2015-wind-technologies-market-report

      o Installed cost in the windy Great Plains is $1,640 / kW, continuing the downward trend of the past several years.

      o Also, wind power is sold at very low prices under a Purchase Power Agreement, for $20 / MWh. The federal tax credit continues at $23 per MWh.

      o Finally, capacity factors for 2015 are higher than ever, at 41.2 percent among projects built in 2014.

      More about renewable economics: California residential prices have not increased due to renewable power installations and production. Wind is a minor player in California, with almost all the available sites already built out. Solar PV has substantial future growth potential.

      Installed generating capacity in California is about 70,000 MW, of which 40 percent is renewable (24 percent solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and 12 percent large hydroelectric). We don’t have grid instabilities, nor blackouts, nor huge price increases from renewables. On an annual basis, total kWh supplied to the grid by renewables in 2016 was approximately 27 percent (excluding large hydroelectric). Large hydroelectric supplied approximately 5-6 percent in a drought year. In average rainfall years, large hydroelectric contributes 15 percent.

      Now that the California drought is over, 2017 is expected to have 45 percent combined renewables plus large hydroelectric power (approximately 30 percent solar, wind, etc, and 15 percent large hydroelectric.)

      • Your cost figures are wrong, you have not included the cost of backup or buffering. You’re making the same mistake the IEA and EIA made in their numbers. If you leave out necessary costs, of course you can get a low price/kw. The costs you quote assume a free fossil fuel backup, then you use it to justify getting rid of fossil fuels. Sorry, not buying it.

      • Mr May, as others have already informed you, EVERYthing requires 100 percent backup. To suggest otherwise is simply not true.

        Your comment re backup requirements suggest you don’t truly understand how a modern power grid is designed and operated. A grid operator must at all times have sufficient reserves ready for any unplanned outage, no matter how great. When a nuclear plant of 1100 MW is online, there must therefore be 1100 MW of backup ready to take over.

        The key is to make calculated, manageable risks. With wind power, as anti-renewable folk like to point out, wind output varies hour by hour and day to day. However, as they refuse to point out, grid operators have substantial knowledge of what the wind will be doing, with wind forecast algorithms in wide use. The same is true for solar. It is therefore not necessary to have 100 percent spinning reserve, when one can dispatch modern gas-fired plants to operate within a few minutes.

        So, my question to you is, how much does the cost to install a nuclear plant include for backup? Your answer must, if it is honest, include the cost to build and operate many pumped storage hydroelectric facilities such as the Ludington Plant in Michigan.

        Furthermore, if you truly believe that any power generating system operates at 100 percent capacity, online 100 percent, you must take a look at the actual figures.

        One such article (my own) uses monthly capacity factors from EIA.
        link here: http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/2016/06/us-monthly-power-generation-capacity.html

        or if you prefer the EIA article: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=14611#

      • Roger Sowell:
        You cannot lump base load power, peaking power and intermittent power together, they are different. Your chart is very misleading, you are conflating all three. Capacity factors, as the EIA and IEA rather misleadingly define it, vary for different reasons. The reason is important. Typical reasons, power is curtailed because it is not needed, this applies mostly to base load generation. Base load power plants do not require 100% backup and they do not have it, other than fuel inventory. Base load plants are hydro, coal and nuclear mostly. Peaking plants also do not require 100% backup, these are plants that can increase output on demand quickly, mostly natural gas plants, but they are only used at peak demand. Your natural gas capacity factor is low (in your post) because the plants are only on during peak periods.

        Wind and solar have low capacity factors, not due to operator choice, but because the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing, they do require 100% backup. Plus, their power is highly variable (wind speed, cloudiness, etc.) and other more controllable sources (coal, natural gas, nuclear) have to provide most of the power so they can “smooth out” the uncontrollable solar and wind. Supply has to exactly meet demand in fractions of a second. Your comment about 100% capacity is correct, but not to the point. Base load is usually curtailed by the operator due to it not being needed. Dispatchable is a good thing and not to be confused with uncontrolled intermittency.

  43. I just switched my (UK) gas & elecricity supplier, to EDF (Électricité de France, oh the irony), who run the UK’s nuclear power plants. For the next 12 months I’ll be paying 13.6 p/kWh for electricity instead of the 16.4 SSE were going to try and charge me. So I pay less, AND the money I do pay goes to help maintain reliable low CO2 (if you think that matters) generation. A win-win situation.

  44. Why do people living outside of Germany care about the Energiewende? One, we enjoy comedy. Two, Germans insist that we care by leeching their mania into the world financial system. BMW, Siemens, Mercedes, AXA, reMunich, and many other German companies flex their economic muscle locally in pursuit of their banker of last resorts (German government) strategic political agenda. Deals made with the Greens in Berlin find their way into the city council meetings of Cleveland, Tennessee.

    I understand that as an American I have little room to talk this way. I accept our responsibility under several administrations for playing a key role in advocating bad science and policy on others. We wear a dirty shirt. Knowing that we are working diligently to reverse course leading us out of the climate change morass.

    Love the sausages, beer, and leather pants. You can keep the politics.

  45. The entire supply chain for the manufacture of so-called “renewable” energy production equipment (windmills, solar panels, etc.) is entirely dependent on oil. Mining and transportation don’t happen without oil. The foundries that melt metal and silicon are the most energy intensive and, therefore, energy price sensitive of all industries operating. And then to pretend, as leftists do, that the total environmental footprint for renewables doesn’t exists has gone from tragedy to farce.

  46. Andy May – good review of Weissbach.
    Note: Solar needs three breakthroughs: $/m2, conversion efficiency, and storage.
    PS Our society is far more dependent on long term transport fuel or transport energy, as coal / nuclear can supply electricity for the interim.

  47. From time to time both coal-, gas- and nuclear power plants need to shut down because of planned or unplanned maintenance.

    Why is the buffering then set to zero for those plants?

    /Jan

  48. Much of the thoughts and comments on here miss the mark, completely.

    Grid-scale storage is already practical and economic under the right conditions.

    As some correctly note, the marginal power prices on a grid vary from time to time, depending on factors such as time of day, weather conditions, and what is actually generating. These combine to provide high incentive to install battery-based grid-scale storage. California already has such battery storage and is building more. The batteries are charged with what is called solar PV power in the day, and discharged in the peak demand period that occurs between 16:00 and 19:00 hours. What really happens is solar PV runs as usual, then one or more gas-fired plants are not reduced quite as much. Also, a high-cost peaking power plant is not run to meet the late afternoon / early evening demand.

    Such installations provide a market for the grid-scale battery industry. As that market matures, costs will decline and the next tier of high-cost production will be replaced with batteries. It is noted – wryly – that no special topography is required for grid-scale batteries, and no geoengineering either.

    Second point is underwater grid-scale pumped storage, such as the ocean-land system in Okinawa, Japan.
    The ocean serves as the lower reservoir, and an artificial, lined lake in the hills serve as the upper reservoir.

    The day is here where solar PV, wind, and battery grid-scale storage provides reliable, dispatchable, baseload-emulating power. The California Independent System Operator, CAISO, has demonstrated exactly that already.

    State of Hawaii already has the design and economics worked out for 100 percent renewable power to the islands, with full attention to safety, reliability, and low cost. The low cost is not hard to achieve, given their present high-price power of $350/MWh. That is 35 cents per kWh for residential customers.

    This, then, is how the renewables and storage will increase to provide grid power. The most expensive places first, or the low-hanging fruit. As technology matures, costs decline, and more will be installed.

    This has already happened with solar PV and land-based wind power. Battery-based storage has already met the requirements for the high-cost areas and will also decline in cost with time.

    The legacy paradigm of nuclear plants that refuse to decrease load (note that CAISO cites PG&E statement of “unsafe” to do so), large base-load coal plants, are obsolete.

    One last comment, regarding nuclear, coal, and presumably natural gas not requiring backup: utterly false. See for example what happened in Southern California in 2012 when the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) was taken off-line suddenly due to unexpected tube wear on essentially brand-new steam generators. More than 2,000 MW of power had to be found immediately. Luckily, there was plenty of spare capacity in the gas-fired power stations.

    • Grid-scale storage is already practical and economic under the right conditions.

      Thank you for a very good point Roger.

      I can just mention that the largest “battery” in my country is 7.8 TWh. It is a combined hydropower reservoir with both natural downstream water and pumped storage.
      Link (Norwegian): http://www.statkraft.no/media/Nyheter/Nyhetsarkiv/2013/statkrafts-5-storste-batterier/

      However, I think just as important as storage, is high capacity transmission lines

      A game changer here is the usage of new ultra-high voltage DC lines, which makes it possible to transmit power over much longer distances without too much loss. China make huge investments in such llines:

      /jan

    • So, you admit to 35 cents/kwh for renewables to work in Hawaii. Maybe it would work at that price, maybe not. Even if it did, it would be devastating to the poor in most parts of the world and would keep many millions in poverty. Thanks for making my point.

      • Mr. May, I don’t know you nor your background, so I must assume you are doing the best you know how to do. Or, perhaps you have a sinister agenda that you are pushing hard on those without the experience to realize that.

        I read your earlier post on EROI, now this one. Both are completely misleading where they are not outright wrong.

        The point I made above is that Hawaii already is in a perfect position to install 100 percent renewables with grid-scale storage. That is simply because the fossil-fuel industry provides them with 35 cent/kWh power (residential), despite their best efforts over decades to reduce that price. Hawaii has been eligible for wind and solar power for many years due to their high electricity grid price. Now, the time is right for the move to renewables with grid-scale storage, because battery-storage is much improved in cost and performance.

        Nobody is going to be in poverty due to renewable energy systems. Almost every region, state, or country makes power system decisions based on several criteria (as I stated earlier: safety, reliability, low cost, and environmental). In California, all of those four criteria are required by law. Renewables are required under the environmental umbrella, but they must also be safe and not compromise the grid’s reliability, nor present unreasonable high costs.

        Read again what I wrote above:

        “This, then, is how the renewables and storage will increase to provide grid power. The most expensive places first, or the low-hanging fruit. As technology matures, costs decline, and more will be installed.

        This has already happened with solar PV and land-based wind power. Battery-based storage has already met the requirements for the high-cost areas and will also decline in cost with time.

      • Why is it devastating to the poor?

        The poor are not grid connected anyway, nor for the most part is anyone shelling out to connect them to a conventional grid.

        Yet tens of thousands are getting light from solar PV schemes and millions from soalr LED lights.

      • Our prosperity is the result of industrialization. Steel, chemical, ceramics, glas…. This industry does not run on solar and wind. Focussing solely on households is activism.

      • Roger, Throwing personal insults and innuendo is not helpful in a discussion of economics, science and engineering and is usually a sure sign you are losing the argument. I suggest you try harder to argue dispassionately, people are more likely to take you seriously if you do.

        In any case, Hawaii’s electricity rate is so outrageously high (3x mainland cost) because they burn fuel oil to generate electricity for some foolish reason. They have one coal plant on Ohau which is much cheaper. Fuel oil is about the only source of electricity that is as expensive as renewables.

        I seriously doubt they can absorb much solar power, the variability of solar output, due to varying cloudiness, would destroy their grid. Their lack of usable space will preclude much wind power, although they do have some.

      • Griff, as I and others have shown, energy consumption is the main determinant of wealth and standard of living. The poor get out of poverty and move up in standard of living in proportion to their energy use. If energy is too expensive, they have no out. The industrialization of the world over the last couple of decades has move billions of people out of poverty. This is reversed if energy becomes too expensive. See this post and the links in it for more details: https://andymaypetrophysicist.com/2017/01/05/energy-and-society-from-now-until-2040/

      • Mr. May, my tone is one that conveys an utter disbelief that you would write such things, as if they were true.

        My clients and colleagues take me seriously because they know I use verifiable facts and sound logic.

        I’ll be sure to convey your expert opinion on Hawaii grid power to the Hawaiian planners and engineers, plus elected officials, who already have the system in the works. Stand by for proof that you are wrong. It may take a couple of years yet, but 100 percent renewables is coming to Hawaii. Or, you could deny the obvious.

        And by the way, every engineer knows that Exergy is merely a fancy word to indicate energy usefulness, or energy density. We use that (seldom, if ever) to indicate the fact that steam at high pressure and high temperature has more value than does steam at low pressure at saturation temperature. One can obtain more useful work in a steam turbine when the inlet steam has higher pressure and higher temperature.

        To suggest, as you have, that exergy has any relation to wind or solar power is, in short, ridiculous.

        Your article on EROI was equally short of merit.

      • so now the poor will be actually getting the energy which allows them to move up the ladder… from renewables

        an African school child who now has light good enough to study at night moves up the ladder.

        The world bank financed programme in Kenya to connect every Kenyan to electricity, which relies on renewables including geothermal as well as conventional will move the nation up the ladder.

        The Moroccan initiatives on cheap solar CSP built locally provides jobs and power and reduces the nation’s fossil fuel import bill and moves them up the ladder.

        (see also India)

    • Roger, have you considered writing an article to submit for publication here at WUWT? It would be great to have an article from someone with real practical experience in the industry covering these issues.

      As interesting as it is reading your comments here, it would be great to have a summation of the situation as you understand it in one spot for everyone to read.

      • On grid scale storage.

        It will be interesting to see how it plays out in South Australia, although there are so many other problems, largely political, affecting power generation and distribution in Australia the experience will not be wholly applicable elsewhere. One problem that seems to me to be endemic in any public project in Australia and has been at least since WW2, is a seemingly chronic inability of Australian organisations to work effectively together.

        But wherever, the introduction of ‘green energy’ is driven by a political agenda, it is almost guaranteed that costs will be hidden, planning will be inadequate, risks will not be effectively managed, not even identified, the promises will far exceed reasonable expectations and the outcome fall well short of reasonable expectations. Thus South Australia needs another A$500M for battery storage which wasn’t in the original plan. What will they need the next A$500M for. Where will it come from? Since Australia changes governments rather frequently, Australian politicians have the luxury of betting safely they won’t have to answer that question.

        There must be parts of the world, and I don’t think sparsely populated Australia is one of them, where an experimental set-up of majority green energy could be used to test the limits of its viability on a sufficient scale, yet without major risk to those dependent on reliable power. It would be a sensible engineering approach.

      • In real science and technology new developments are always tested, small scale first. Also, problems are analysed and most attention is given to the hardest parts, to be solved first. Not so in green energy. There hardly is any research for these more difficult parts: the industry (steel, chemical, concrete…) transportation (synthetic motor fuels) and other ways of energy storage. Billions are spent without any proof or promise which is pure ideological blindness. We have to admit that we do not know the future and our ancestors never could either. Progress is improving the present. We have no idea about the technology we may apply in 2050. Instead od regressing to nostalgic technology and austerity we need research, mainly nuclear. We never lived in a sustainable way but innovation came to the rescue: this is the real human spirit !

      • I was thinking specifically about a rebuttal to this article by Andy May. Roger objects to it, and I’d like to see the thoroughly laid out and explained explanation as to exactly what he thinks is wrong, and his version of how to look at it right.

      • Anthony said:

        “do try to keep up.”

        Anthony, I’m well aware of Roger’s articles published here. One of the brighter moments in an otherwise highly partisan web publication.

      • See here’s the thing, you seem to have no problem websites like RealClimate and the incorrectly named Skeptical Science, or even the angry/crazy/vindictive cat lady of Australia Miriam O’Brien (aka Hotwhopper) and their “highly partisan” websites that won’t allow comments from me and many others. They are so intolerant that such things aren’t allowed, and ALL of those websites proactively delete comments. “Skeptical Science” even has gone so far to retroactively modify user comments to fit their narrative. We caught them at it. That’s why they have their own sidebar entry under links of “unreliable”.

        We have links to websites that disagree with what we do here. I challenge you to find similar links back to WUWT, Climate Audit, or any other climate website that doesn’t toe the line of consensus.

        Plus, you get to comment here most of the time, via moderation, yet somehow I’m supposed to be more “open” if I read your intent.

        See here’s the thing, and there’s really no way of getting around this. I don’t give a shit what you think about what I should or should not be doing, or who should be writing articles at WUWT, or what I should or should not be writing about. I’m not interested in your viewpoint about “partisanship” here in light of the other websites and their lack of tolerance for any other ideas.

        No reply is needed, just bug off.

      • See here’s the thing, you seem to have no problem websites like RealClimate and the incorrectly named Skeptical Science, or even the angry/crazy/vindictive cat lady of Australia Miriam O’Brien (aka Hotwhopper) and their “highly partisan” websites that won’t allow comments from me and many others. They are so intolerant that such things aren’t allowed, and ALL of those websites proactively delete comments. “Skeptical Science” even has gone so far to retroactively modify user comments to fit their narrative. We caught them at it. That’s why they have their own sidebar entry under links of “unreliable”.

        Wonderful, Anthony. KBO.

    • David

      you can run industry on renewables too.

      The UK has 7 car plants with solar panels supplying a proportion of their power…

      The steel industry in S Wales is supporting tidal lagoons to provide its power…

      There are numerous other examples.

  49. Another problem with EROI is that it doesn’t include the energy consumed by an industry’s workers, landowners, and dependents. If these are included, the EROI for wind and solar power are negative. That’s why they always lose money without subsidies and set-asides. With current technologies, wind and solar power will always be economic parasites. In addition, they are environmental disasters that slaughter birds and bats, destroy natural habitat, despoil the landscape, pollute groundwater with toxic rare-earth metal mining wastes, and cause severe health problems for anyone unfortunate enough to live close to one of their installations.

      • ..IF I have calculated this correctly, 60,000 “Hiroshima Bombs”, as per “Glo.Bull Warming”, is kind of, sorta, maybe, equal to, approximately, 1,364,598,419 Unicorn Farts…..give or take 1,000,000 unicorn Farts (due to liberally weak Unicorns in some cases) …! Gotta love “Climate Change Seance” ! It can do anything !!!

    • Zero. Exergy only has meaning in a system that produces useful work. The exergy/available energy/availability in a bomb is zero since you cannot build a device that uses the energy to produce work.

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