Energy Storage Report: Hydrogen as An Alternative to Batteries


Francis Menton

As mentioned in the last post, my new energy storage report, The Energy Storage Conundrum, mostly deals with issues that have previously been discussed on this blog; but the Report goes into considerable further detail on some of them.

One issue where the Report contains much additional detail is the issue of hydrogen as an alternative to batteries as the medium of energy storage. For examples of previous discussion on this blog of hydrogen as the medium of storage to back up an electrical grid see, for example, “The Idiot’s Answer To Global Warming: Hydrogen” from August 12, 2021, and “Hydrogen Is Unlikely Ever To Be A Viable Solution To The Energy Storage Conundrum” from June 13, 2022.

At first blush, hydrogen may seem to offer the obvious solution to the most difficult issues of energy storage for backing up intermittent renewable generation. In particular, the seasonal patterns of generation from wind and sun require a storage solution that can receive excess power production gradually for months in a row, and then discharge the stored energy over the course of as long as a year. No existing battery technology can do anything like that, largely because most of the stored energy will simply dissipate if it is left in a battery for a year before being called upon. But if you can make hydrogen from some source, you can store it somewhere for a year or even longer without significant loss. Problem solved!

Well, there must be some problem with hydrogen, or otherwise people would already be using it extensively. And indeed, the problems with hydrogen, while different from those of battery storage, are nevertheless equivalently huge. Mostly, to produce large amounts of hydrogen without generating the very greenhouse gas emissions you are seeking to avoid, turns out to be enormously costly. And then, once you have the hydrogen, distributing it and handling it are very challenging.

Unlike, say, oxygen or nitrogen, which are ubiquitous as free gases in the atmosphere, there is almost no free hydrogen available for the taking. It is all bound up either in hydrocarbons (aka fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas), carbohydrates (aka plants and animals), or water. To obtain free hydrogen, it must be separated from one or another of these substances by the input of energy. The easiest and cheapest way to get free hydrogen is to separate it from the carbon in natural gas. This is commonly done by a process called “steam reformation,” which leads to the carbon from the natural gas getting emitted into the atmosphere in the form of CO2. In other words, obtaining hydrogen from natural gas by the inexpensive process of steam reformation offers no benefits in terms of carbon emissions over just burning the natural gas. So, if you insist on getting free hydrogen without carbon emissions, you are going to have to get it from water by a process of electrolysis. Hydrogen obtained from water by electrolysis is known by environmental cognoscenti as “green hydrogen,” because of the avoidance of carbon emissions. Unfortunately, the electrolysis process requires a very large input of energy.

How much is it going to cost to produce green hydrogen as the storage medium for a mainly wind/solar grid? My Report first notes that as of today there is almost no production of this green hydrogen thing:

To date, there has been almost no commercial production of green hydrogen, because electrolysis is much more expensive than steam reformation of natural gas, and is therefore uneconomic without government subsidy. The JP Morgan Asset Management 2022 Annual Energy Paper states that ‘Current green hydrogen production is negligible…’

So we don’t have any large functioning projects from which we can get figures for how expensive green hydrogen is going to be. In the absence of that, I thought to undertake an exercise to calculate how much capacity of solar panels it would take to produce 288 MW of firm power for some jurisdiction, where the panels could either provide electricity directly to the consumers or alternatively produce hydrogen by electrolysis that could be stored and then burned in a power plant to produce electricity. (The 288 MW figure was selected because GE produces a turbine for natural gas power plants with this capacity, and says that it can convert the turbine for use of hydrogen as the fuel.). Here is that exercise as written up in my Report:

Consider a jurisdiction with steady electricity demand of 288 MW. . . . The electricity needs of our jurisdiction can be fully supplied by burning natural gas in the plant. But now suppose we want to use solar panels to provide the electricity and/or hydrogen for the plant sufficient to supply the 288 MW firm throughout the year. What capacity of solar panels must we build? Here is a calculation:

• Over the course of the year, the jurisdiction will use 288 MW × 8760 hours = 2,522,880 MWh of electricity.

• We start by building 288 MW of solar panels. We will assume that the solar panels produce at a 20% capacity factor over the course of a year. (Very sunny places such as the California desert may approach a 25% capacity factor from solar panels, but cloudy places such as the Eastern US and all of Europe get far less than 20% of capacity; in the UK, typical annualised solar capacity factors are under 15%). That means that the 288 MW of solar panels will only produce 288 × 8760 × 0.2 = 504,576 MWh in a year.

• Therefore, in addition to the 288MW of solar panels directly producing electricity, we need additional solar panels to produce hydrogen to burn in the power plant sufficient to generate the remaining 2,018,304 MWh.

• At 80% efficiency in the electrolysis process, it takes 49.3 kWh of electricity to produce 1 kilogram of hydrogen. GE says that its 288 MW plant will burn 22,400 kilograms of hydrogen per hour to produce the full capacity. Therefore, it takes 49.3 × 22,400 = 1,104,320 kWh, or approximately 1,104 MWh of electricity to obtain the hydrogen to run the plant for one hour. For the 1,104 MWh of electricity input, we get back 288 MWh of electricity output from the GE plant.

• Due to the 20% capacity factor of the solar panels, we will need to run the plant for 8760 × 0.8 = 7008 hours during the year. That means that we need solar panels sufficient to produce 7008 × 1104 = 7,736,832 MWh of electricity.

• Again because of the 20% capacity factor, to generate the 7,736,832MWh of electricity using solar panels, we will need panels with capacity to produce five times that much, or 38,684,160 MWh. Dividing by 8760 hours in a year, we will need solar panels with capacity of 4,416 MW to generate the hydrogen that we need for backup.

• Plus the 288MW of solar panels that we began with. So the total capacity of solar panels we will need to provide the 288MW firm power using green hydrogen as backup is 4,704 MW.

Or in other words, to use natural gas, you just need the 288 MW plant to provide 288 MW of firm power throughout the year. But to use solar panels plus green hydrogen backup, you need the same 288MW plant to burn the hydrogen, plus more than 16 times that much, or 4,704 MW of capacity of solar panels, to provide electricity directly and to generate sufficient hydrogen for the backup.

That calculation assumed a 20% capacity factor of production from the solar panels over the course of a year. It turns out that actual solar capacity factors are more like 10-13% for Germany, 10-11% for the UK, and about 12.6% in New York. (California, with few clouds, gets capacity factors somewhat in excess of 25%.). Doing the same series of calculations using a 10% capacity factor for the solar panels, you will need something like 9,936 MW of solar panels to provide your 288 MW of firm power for the year, with the green hydrogen as your storage medium.

In other words, you will need about 35 times the capacity of solar panels as the amount of firm power that you are committed to provide. The reasons for the vast differential include: the sun doesn’t shine fully half the time; most of the time when the sun does shine it is low in the sky; places like the UK, Germany and New York are cloudy more often than not; and there are significant losses of energy both in electrolyzing the water and then again in burning the hydrogen.

Anyone and everyone should feel free to check my arithmetic here. I’m fully capable of making mistakes. However, several people have already checked this.

My Report then takes a stab at translating the enormous incremental capital cost of all these solar panels into a very rough cost comparison of trying to generate the 288 MW of firm power from solar panels and green hydrogen versus simply burning natural gas in the plant. I got cost figures for the turbine plant and the solar panels from a March 2022 report of the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Using that data:

[T]he cost of the 288MW General Electric turbine power plant [would be] around $305 million, and the cost of the 4,704 MW of solar panels [would be] around $6.25 billion.

If you needed the 9,936 MW of solar panels because you live in a cloudy area, the $6.25 billion would become about $13 billion.

My very rough calculation in the Report, with the 20% solar capacity factor assumption, is that electricity from solar panels plus green hydrogen storage would start at somewhere in the range of 5 to 10 times more expensive than electricity from just burning the natural gas. At the 10% solar capacity factor assumption, make that 10 to 20 times more expensive.

And after all of this we still haven’t gotten to the very substantial additional engineering challenges of working with the very light, explosive hydrogen gas. A few examples from the Report:

  • Making enough green hydrogen to power the world means electrolysing the ocean. Fresh water is of limited supply, and is particularly scarce in the best places for solar power, namely deserts. When you electrolyse the ocean, you electrolyse not only the water, but also the salt, which then creates large amounts of highly toxic chlorine, which must be neutralised and disposed of. Alternatively, you can desalinise the seawater prior to electrolysis, which would require yet additional input of energy. There are people working on solving these problems, but solutions are far off and could be very costly.
  • Hydrogen is only about 30% as energy dense by volume as natural gas. This means that it takes about three times the pipeline capacity to transport the same energy content of hydrogen as of natural gas. Alternatively, you can compress the hydrogen, but that would also be an additional and potentially large cost.
  • Hydrogen is much more difficult to transport and handle than natural gas. Use of the existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure for hydrogen is very problematic, because many existing gas pipelines are made of steel, and hydrogen causes steel to crack. The subsequent leaks can lead to explosions.

It’s no wonder that green hydrogen is all talk.

Read the entire article here.

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David Wojick
December 5, 2022 10:13 pm

And yet Nutty Netherlands builds green hydrogen hub, or something.

Offshore wind is hot on hydrogen. Crazy getting worse!

Reply to  David Wojick
December 6, 2022 2:36 am

Hydrogen hubs are the latest fad in mans ‘fight against physics’.!!

They are doing a hydrogen hub near me in Holyhead, North Wales;
Estimated capital expenditure for the pilot project has a range of between £4.8m to £7.3m.
( ~ £3 million spent so far just on promotion – cars, glossy handouts & website).

Set to produce 300 kg H2/day ( = 2.5ton diesel ) for £7.3 m.

Spoken with the ‘executive team’, none of them have any concept of the physics or efficiency / losses involved … but all are well versed in politico/management speak “we are striving to reach our net-zero carbon targets“.

Lots of people getting into the money trough.

Reply to  1saveenergy
December 6, 2022 12:07 pm

Moderators, please nuke avejons26 access to spam this site with blatant advertisements.

Reply to  JamesB_684
December 6, 2022 1:59 pm

But avejons26 makes more sense than green hydrogen

Reply to  1saveenergy
December 7, 2022 2:13 pm

They are doing a hydrogen hub near me in Holyhead, North Wales”

Move! Somewhere else, before you find the local H₂ site blew all of your windows into your house, accidentally.

“produce 300 kg H2/day ( = 2.5ton diesel ) for £7.3 m”

Is “£7.3 m”, the cost for the entire installation or for 300kg of H₂?

John Hultquist
Reply to  David Wojick
December 6, 2022 9:53 am

The North Sea as a Green Power Plant of Europe, an offshore renewable energy system that will consist of multiple..”
. . . piles of scrap on the sea floor in 2040.
 Somewhat like:

May Contain Traces of Seafood
Reply to  John Hultquist
December 6, 2022 5:36 pm

To become an artificial reef? Or HAS become?

One is a plan, the other is spin to make the most of a unintended outcome.

December 5, 2022 10:50 pm

I wonder what would be the CO2 emitted in order to manufacture, transport, install the solar panels which will have to have the capacity of 15 to 35 times the actual needed energy (and every how many years this would have to be done, since the panels lifespan is not infinite – 10, 20 years ?).

Joe Crawford
Reply to  Petit-Barde
December 6, 2022 10:15 am

Don’t forget the amount of space needed to install all those solar panels. A back of the envelope estimate says you might need something like 80 sq. miles of solar panels to provide reliable solar power for the approximately 200,000 homes supported by the initial 288Mw of solar. And that doesn’t account for the space needed for the hydrogen generation and storage equipment or the GE gas turbine power plant.

Reply to  Joe Crawford
December 6, 2022 10:45 am

I remember doing some VERY rough estimates of the area that would have to be covered with solar photovoltaic cells in order to provide as much ele trinity as the US uses. I seem to remember needing to cover all of Southern California plus all of Arizona.

Joe Crawford
Reply to  fdemaris
December 6, 2022 1:32 pm

California may need that much if they continue along their current path. Might even need more than that by 2035 just to cover charging all the new EVs they’re mandating.

Reply to  fdemaris
December 6, 2022 2:08 pm

The info I have shows that solar farms require over 50 times the area of a coal power plant. This is assuming a 30% CF – for locations with lower CFs, the acreage required would be a lot more.

Reply to  Graeme4
December 7, 2022 2:22 pm

Coal plants are quite small. Even with storage pads for coal. (the ones I’ve seen leave the coal in railroad cars).

December 5, 2022 11:11 pm

I would be far more worried, having a hydrogen production/storage plant near me, than a nuclear power plant, or even a nuclear waste storage facility.

Reply to  davidf
December 5, 2022 11:12 pm

And dont get me started on trucks running around with hydrogen tanks compressed to 700 bar!!

Reply to  davidf
December 6, 2022 3:16 am

…….and parked at a truck stop with Lithium battery powered trucks either side……what would H&S do, apart from exhibit apoplexy or would they overlook their reason for existing in the pursuit of NZ0, with this potential bomb – make the job of terrorists a whole lot easier? Utterly, Its a mad mad mad world, crazy.

Iain Reid
December 5, 2022 11:14 pm

using renewable generation and with it’s intermittency, how often is there going to be sufficient spare capacity to run a hydrogen plant? The economics of an intermittent supply to make hydrogen must surely be unfeasible, jjust as the intermittency of renewables to supply a grid is unfeasible
This idea must fail at the first hurdle.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Iain Reid
December 6, 2022 1:39 am

Dear boy, the theory is you just build a massive overcapacity of solar and wind plant. Most of the time most of this is creating hydrogen. Only at peak times will all of it and the stored hydrogen be used to produce electricity.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Leo Smith
December 6, 2022 7:24 pm

And most of the time the revenues of wind and solar become close to zero, or even negative. Which means they need a multiple of the price on the lower volumes when they are not over-generating in order to pay for themselves.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Iain Reid
December 6, 2022 7:21 pm

Shell’s REFHYNE project reported

The number of hours where
power is cheaper than natural
gas + CO 2 would have limited utilisation factor of
electrolyser operation to only 10% in 2021

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Iain Reid
December 7, 2022 4:19 am

I analysed the surpluses that would be available in the UK from increasing installed wind capacity by various amounts with a small amount of nuclear baseload. The size of the surplus varies enormously for any given level of wind installation. There is only a small percentage of the time when the surplus would be close to maximum: it is very unlikely to be worthwhile installing capacity to take advantage of it, meaning that inevitably there still remains significant curtailment. The average utilisation doesn’t look all that spectacular even for much lower levels of electrolysis capacity. Since the idea is that storage meets supply shortfalls, the plant will not be operating when there is no wind surplus (otherwise you are effectively burning hydrogen to make hydrogen – a losing proposition).

This mouseover chart allows the tradeoff between acceptable capacity utilisation and curtailment to be explored.

December 5, 2022 11:25 pm

But But But…. our fearless (clueless) Leader Albo and his Climate Changer (propaganda) Minister Bowen have continued to assure us that renewables are the CHEAPEST form of generating electricity..”FREE” from the sun and wind… Coal, Gas and Oil are also “free” from the ground…It just takes a lot less effort to harvest them, AND as an added benefit, they all have storage already built in… basically Solar Energy with built in storage… Now, who’d have thought of that… and all done by mother nature….

John XB
Reply to  kevc114
December 6, 2022 5:34 am

In Europe the more ‘cheap’ so-called ‘renewables’ that go into the mix, the more expensive electricity gets, because… since wind/solar cannot supply but intermittently, they cannot sell enough electricity to be economically viable. Therefore when they do sell, they sell at a massively overpriced (rate (compared to normal fossil fuel), AND in the UK (not sure about elsewhere in Europe), if they produce at a time when their output is not needed, such as night time (wind) or midday (solar) then they are paid NOT to supply, the cost of which goes onto consumer bills.

But it gets better. Wind and solar takes precedence, therefore fossil fuel plants have to disconnect if wind/solar can supply. This forced intermittency, plus the fact they have to remain fired up and on standby, makes fossil fuel plants economically unviable, so they too overprice their output to cover costs and stave off bankruptcy due to lack of sufficient sales volume.

Such are the excess profits of wind/solar outfits that some European Governments are preparing to introduce windfall profit taxes.

But there’s more. In the UK where until 2015 over 50% of electricity was from coal, now all shut down and replaced by wind, the grid is so fragile that any enterprise with emergency (diesel) generators is contracted to feed into the grid on demand to stop the lights going out.

Just last week the UK – lack of wind – the grid came within a whisker of failure and the National Grid was offering crazy buy-in prices of £1 000 per MW to encourage feed-in and gas plants to step up their output.

Cheap it isn’t.

Capt Jeff
December 5, 2022 11:25 pm

Where’s the cost of hydrogen production and storage covered in your calculations? 5 to 10 times more expensive at 20%? Don’t think that’s anywhere near reality, by several multiples!

Rich Davis
December 6, 2022 12:03 am

Of course there’s no justification for these expenses given that CO2 is harmless/beneficial. As long as we have cost-effective fossil fuels, we should be using them.

As an engineering problem it’s interesting to think about, but the need is hundreds of years into the future. At some point, nuclear power will need to be our primary energy source, but we’re going to need transportation fuels and fuels for industrial processes that require very high temperatures. Hydrogen may play some role at least as an intermediate feedstock.

I would think that rather than wastefully storing surplus nuclear power as hydrogen just to be inefficiently burned in a turbine to meet peak loads, it would be better to design the nukes to be better able to ramp up and down to follow demand. Also design processes that produce liquid transportation fuels such as methanol from biomass to also ramp up and down efficiently so that between the two, supply and demand are constantly in balance despite fluctuating power demand on the grid. The incentive to ramp the fuel production up and down would need to be variable pricing.

In the very distant future when uranium and thorium are depleted, we may need to turn to geothermal. Maybe at some point it will be cheaper to store energy from intermittent sources like wind and solar, but if so, that implies a very impoverished energy future.

One thing is clear. Intermittent sources are a dead end.

Reply to  Rich Davis
December 6, 2022 3:19 am

In the very distant future when uranium and thorium are depleted, we may need to turn to geothermal.” – surely no, as we are being the sea levels are rising, the solution (haha) must e to use some of that “excess” salinated water to extract Deuterium for Heavy water…simples.

michael hart
Reply to  186no
December 6, 2022 2:47 pm

There’s actually a vast, vast amount of Uranium in seawater. I have some ideas about how to better extract it.
No one currently extracts it because it’s cheaper to mine deposits on land.
We are not energy limited by sources of Uranium.

Last edited 1 month ago by michael hart
Dave Andrews
Reply to  Rich Davis
December 6, 2022 7:09 am

“Intermittent sources are a dead end”

Yes. The push for unreliables has been going on since the mid 1980s and on a worldwide basis they still only provide around 9% of electricity and around 2% of final energy. (electricity is only 20% of final energy)

Meanwhile fossil fuels provide 80% of the world’s energy the same as they did in 1970.

Last edited 1 month ago by Dave Andrews
Reply to  Rich Davis
December 6, 2022 8:06 am

In the very distant future when uranium and thorium are depleted, we may need to turn to geothermal.”

By then we will have fusion working. If not that, anti-matter.

May Contain Traces of Seafood
Reply to  MarkW
December 6, 2022 5:40 pm

Fusion is still 5 years away… same as 5 years ago 😛

Dennis Gerald Sandberg
Reply to  Rich Davis
December 7, 2022 1:16 am

BTW methanol for transportation fuel is illegal because it’s considered a threat to ground water in the event of leaks/spills.

December 6, 2022 12:38 am

Good work. That was my finding too. I limited mine to just the hydrolosys of hydrogen, and burning. It is theoretically 18% efficient.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Michael
December 6, 2022 1:41 am

Pumped storage nets you 75%. US mountain states could usefully dam up some rivers and create double reservoirs in certain favoured places.

David Dibbell
Reply to  Leo Smith
December 6, 2022 4:18 am

In 1966-67, when I was 10 years old, my family lived just east of Denver. On a camping trip in the mountains, I remember hearing about and possibly touring part of a pumped hydro storage facility. It was probably the Cabin Creek Generating Station, completed in ’67.

Last edited 1 month ago by David Dibbell
Reply to  Leo Smith
December 6, 2022 5:11 am

But but but… What about the ENDANGERED Lesser spotted mountain Shrdlu?

Dennis Gerald Sandberg
Reply to  Leo Smith
December 7, 2022 1:24 am

Run that plan past Greenpeace and at least a dozen other non-profits that will oppose pius the DNC before you spend $millions on the EIS that will never get accepted.

December 6, 2022 12:51 am

AFAIK the storage of hydrogen is lossy, because the tiny molecules easily pass through the walls. I read numbers of up to 2% / 24h, but that highly depends on the storage technology.

Leo Smith
December 6, 2022 1:37 am

I did some calculations once to establish how many windmills would be needed to supply the UK through any wind null using ‘the wind is always blowing somewhere’ fallacy

About 100 times more than the average would indicate.

The cost of electrician would be concomitantly higher than it was then, so, around $4000/MWh….

Ben Vorlich
December 6, 2022 2:19 am

Ignoring the fact that of wind and solar it’s a choice between Scyla and Charybdis the UK would probably choose wind for the majority of hydrogen production. Using solar only it’s worse than we thought.
For the UK, when we’ve gone Net Zero, 288MW seems at bit on the low side. Current electricity use about a fifth of total energy consumption and current demand never falls below about 25GW, say an average of 33GW times 5 for total in Net Zero land or 170GW, about 600 times the numbers of solar panels in the above calculations. What’s the area required for that?
Or have I got it wrong?

December 6, 2022 2:59 am

Francis, would it perhaps be worthwhile to do a small paper on natural gas as backup?

The latest argument on wind and solar is that if you add them to a conventional generating system, they more than pay for themselves financially because they reduce the amount of fuel consumed.

The equivalent argument which would be made about CO2 is that there is a net emission saving, even after you account for all the extra emissions due to erecting a parallel wind+solar system, because you burn less fuel by adding them.

I don’t believe either one, haven’t ever seen any proper analysis showing either one. But its an argument that is worth knocking on the head in the excellent clear and decisive way you have dealt with battery and hydrogen storage and backup solutions.

David Dibbell
Reply to  michel
December 6, 2022 4:08 am

Good suggestion!

Craig Howard
Reply to  David Dibbell
December 7, 2022 3:31 pm

The “renewables” don’t dive a whit about the cost.

Craig Howard
Reply to  Craig Howard
December 7, 2022 3:34 pm

That would be renewables purists don’t give a whit about the cost.

Just great, the new comment system doesn’t allow edits. Can’t wait till it’s the 21st century.

December 6, 2022 3:18 am

“”Anyone and everyone should feel free to check my arithmetic””

Ah, but did you not roll the bones? That’s how real climate seance is done….

May Contain Traces of Seafood
Reply to  strativarius
December 6, 2022 5:42 pm

… at overseas conferences.

Everyone knows that real Climate Progress canNOT be done in your home country.

Rod Evans
December 6, 2022 4:00 am

Reading this very sensible overview of just how crazy Green Hydrogen is, makes you realise why the Alarmists are so wedded to the concept.
The Green energy advocates are only prepared to accept wind or solar as the prime energy source. They refuse to support nuclear, which would be capable of producing as much electrolysed hydrogen as society would need in the ‘Green’ future. They refuse to allow any fossil fuel extraction, obviously, and they refuse to allow hydro because some snail or similar important local life form, might be negatively impacted by billions of gallons of fresh water…
That insistence on solar or wind then leads to just one outcome. To provide anything like enough green hydrogen, would require carpeting the world with solar panels or wiping every bird from our skies with wind turbine blades.
Image the scale of the ‘green’ industries just producing hydrogen would require!
If you were into marketing wind turbines and or solar the idea of generating hydrogen is the ultimate wet dream. It would be a never ending growth industry the ultimate inefficient use of wealth and manpower.
Forget about digging trenches with spoons and having a team of trench fillers following on to back fill. Get with the 21st century programme. Green energy is the way to go, if you want to consume ever more labour for ever less wealth creation.

abolition man
Reply to  Rod Evans
December 6, 2022 7:05 am

It really is astounding to see one (and possibly two) whole generation(s) of Western children clamor loudly for their own impoverishment and enslavement! They apparently managed to make it through school without acquiring a scintilla of knowledge about science and engineering in the real world!
They will receive a rude awakening when their cherished leaders start ordering them to work for the collective good! Fat, lazy and stupid is not a path to success; especially when the Marxists start prosecuting the lazy!

Joe Crawford
Reply to  Rod Evans
December 6, 2022 10:55 am

I’ve slowly come to the conclusion that the “The Green energy advocates” don’t really want to fix the ‘CO2 problem’, or for that matter ‘Climate Change’. They can’t all be that dumb. They apparently just want to use them to justify switching to what they would call an “equitable socialist economy”, and make major reductions in the size of the human population.

David Dibbell
December 6, 2022 4:05 am

Good article.

Aside from the proposed production of hydrogen as a storage medium to produce electricity, consider what else is being proposed from the fossil fuels industry itself!

The absurdity is highlighted to me in this ExxonMobil project at Baytown TX. They are going to use natural gas, a perfectly good and clean-burning fuel, as a starting material for hydrogen. They will capture and store the CO2, then burn the hydrogen in the olefins plant at the complex. Not making this up.

Background: I graduated from college in ’78 and started my engineering career at this Exxon refinery and chemical plant in Baytown. What a terrific place that was, with so much technical depth and capability! I left for other reasons in ’80 and moved back “home” to the Northeast.

The BOP (Baytown Olefins Plant) project was completed and started up during the time I was there, although I was involved only on the refinery side. The BOP produces ethylene, propylene, etc.

It just seems unreal to me now, how little sense it makes for this hydrogen and carbon capture project to be promoted as a good idea. All in the name of “reducing emissions” of CO2, the starting material for all future food, fuel, and fiber produced by photosynthesis.

December 6, 2022 5:01 am

I calculated how much installed capacity is needed to supply an assumed 24/7 Power requirement under the assumption that in addition to supplying domestic power, the turbine fleet would also generate Hydrogen or some other storage medium at a certain efficiency sufficient to supply enough powerwhen the wond doesn’t blow. This is simply a calculation of average energy flows and takes no account of the storage necessary for a prolonged wind drought.
Let P be the power in Gigawatts required to satisfy all our societal needs 24 /7
Let I be the power in Gigawatts of installed wind capacity necessary to achieve this
Let Cap be the Capacity factor – the percentage of the nameplate power that is delivered on average
Let Eff be the efficiency factor of the energy storage say Hydrogen with efficiency about 50%
Imagine in any 100 hour period let Cap be the number of hours the wind turbine is producing
Energy supplied in Gigawatt hours =I *Cap where cap = number of hours say 40 for a 40% capacity factor
This energy must be enough to satisfy our 40 hour need i.e. P*40 plus in addition to supply that power for the 60 days that the wind is not blowing taking into account the efficiency factor of the storage medium i.e. P*60/eff
then I *40 =P*40+P* 60/Eff
I used 40 an d 60 hours for illustrative purposes
The general equation uses Cap and 100-Cap
And the equation is
I*Cap=Cap*P+P* (100-Cap)/Eff
or I = P* (Cap+(100-Cap)/Eff)/Cap
Using figures of cap=40% and storage efficiency = 50% the answer is that you need an installed capacity of 4 x the assumed 24/7 power requirement
Needless to say this calculation has not entered the minds of the Net Zero fanatics at te Climate Change Committee.
I will happily supply anyone with a spreadsheet that encapsulates this.

December 6, 2022 5:06 am

I have posted a calculation similar to yours addressing how much installed capacity operating under a certain capacity factor you need to supply a given requirement. My conclusions wer very much in line with yours. If you contact me. I will happily send my general purpose spreadsheet that addresses this issue

December 6, 2022 5:25 am

While hydrogen can indeed be burned in a boiler as described by the author, that is an extremely inefficient means of converting the stored energy in hydrogen to electricity … for the same reason that all steam plants are inefficient (typically operating at a conversion rate of only 25% of input thermal energy to output electrical energy. It is for this same reason that 75% of all coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy is wasted. It’s called the “carnot cycle” and it is unavoidable in a steam plant of any kind.

The efficient means of converting stored hydrogen produced from electrolysis is to use it as stored fuel in a fuel cell. Fuel cells typically operate at far higher efficiencies than any steam plant, at roughly 60-70% vs. 25%. Fuel cells have the advantage of serving both as mobile engines and static engines. Fuel cells also generate no air pollution at all, unlike any fossil fuel fired steam plant, regardless of whether carbon is treated as a pollutant or not, and fuel cells are very low maintenance engines compared to any steam plant or internal combustion engine.

Reply to  Duane
December 6, 2022 7:57 am

Power plants are at best 25% efficient?
I don’t know where you get your propaganda from, but you need to get your money back.

Curious George
Reply to  Duane
December 6, 2022 8:03 am

I read somewhere about hydrogen powered fuel cell with an efficiency over 90%. It was made of gold – no, platinum – and it used oxygen, not air.

old cocky
Reply to  Duane
December 6, 2022 12:38 pm

Petrol and turbocharged diesel engines give better efficiency than that.

Reply to  old cocky
December 7, 2022 1:50 pm

Petrol engines using carburetors had a best efficiency of about 25% determined by the compression ratio, advances with fuel injection systems increased the efficiency to about 30%. Diesel engines are more efficient because of the higher compression ratio giving about 45% peak efficiency. Steam turbine power plants have a maximum efficiency of about 45%

May Contain Traces of Seafood
Reply to  Duane
December 6, 2022 6:01 pm

Fuel cells also generate no air pollution at all

Do they grow on trees then?

Make sure you don’t fall into the error of over simplifying a product lifecycle.

(edit for spelling)

Last edited 1 month ago by May Contain Traces of Seafood
Tom Halla
December 6, 2022 5:32 am

Being unwilling or unable to do math is a requirement for a green.

Reply to  Tom Halla
December 6, 2022 6:01 am

Woke educationalists even argued that ‘upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers’ was part of a nefarious, covert system of racial domination via long division and algebra.

These attempts to rid maths of its alleged white supremacy make two things crystal clear. First, that identity politics in education is no longer confined to the arts and humanities – even maths and the hard sciences aren’t safe from such relativism. Second, for all their talk of ‘decolonisation’, it is woke activists who think of ethnic minorities as lesser beings, incapable of mastering ‘western’ subjects unless those subjects are completely rewired beforehand.

2+2 doesn’t equal 4 anymore, it equals white supremacy.

December 6, 2022 5:53 am

Note #1: Hydrogen is smaller and lighter, meaning it can slip through cracks methane can’t.

Note #2: Hydrogen will burn with lower amounts of air present and with higher amounts of air present when compared to natural gas.

Note #3: Flame speed is one of the more significant design issues when it comes to hydrogen combustion, as controlling the location of the combustion becomes more challenging. 

Note #4: Hydrogen’s adiabatic flame temperature is approximately 260C (500 F) hotter than natural gas. 

Note 5#: Because hydrogen is so much lighter, or less dense, you need approximately 3 times the volume of hydrogen as compared to natural gas to get the same amount of energy. 

Conclusion: Hydrogen is a complete waste of time – and a danger.

Last edited 1 month ago by strativarius
Dave Andrews
Reply to  strativarius
December 6, 2022 7:39 am

Network Rail looked at the possibility of using hydrogen for train services in the UK and decided it was not suitable for long range or freight services. Hydrogen storage is bulky and the volume of fuel required is 8 times that of diesel whilst a hydrogen train using electrolysed fuel requires three times as much electrical energy as an equivalent electric train for a given number of journeys, thanks to combined losses in electrolysis, fuel compression and fuel cells.

They thus put forward a plan to electrify 13,000 kms of rail track at a cost of £30b in December 2021 but it was rejected by the UK Treasury.

Curious George
Reply to  Dave Andrews
December 6, 2022 7:57 am

Most losses happen before hydrogen is loaded onto the engine. “Three times” does not apply to the train itself. I don’t think hydrogen is the way to go, but let’s not use artificial arguments.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Curious George
December 7, 2022 5:51 am

I’m no expert on this but that was how it was reported in magazine Rail News December 2020.

Reply to  strativarius
December 7, 2022 1:34 pm

Note #3: Flame speed is one of the more significant design issues when it comes to hydrogen combustion, as controlling the location of the combustion becomes more challenging.”

It’s more of a significant design issue with methane because the lower flame speed leads to it ‘flame off’ and therefore forming explosive mixtures in the space, hydrogen on the other hand tends to ‘blow back’ and not leave to an explosive mixture. In the UK when switching to nat gas from town gas (Hydrogen) all they had to do was visit your house for a few minutes and change the burners.

December 6, 2022 7:02 am

Francis, I agree that most of the problems with green hydrogen are economic. However, this statement is somewhat off the mark:

Hydrogen is much more difficult to transport and handle than natural gas. Use of the existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure for hydrogen is very problematic, because many existing gas pipelines are made of steel, and hydrogen causes steel to crack. The subsequent leaks can lead to explosions.

You are correct that we can’t just start pumping hydrogen into the existing natural gas pipelines without an engineering review. Besides, everything that is connected to the existing natural gas systems is not designed to burn hydrogen and would not work well or safely. However, there is extensive industrial experience with high purity, high pressure hydrogen piping, so creating new hydrogen pipelines system is not a problem. Commercial hydrogen pipeline systems already exist. The problems of hydrogen attack such as hydrogen blistering, and hydrogen embrittlement are well understood and easily managed with proper metallurgy and fabrication procedures.

Rod Evans
Reply to  Tom.1
December 6, 2022 7:16 am

How confident are you every plumber operating out in the servicing world of domestic gas systems knows what metallurgy is, let alone be able to decide if pipe A is up to hydrogen spec and pipe B isn’t?

Reply to  Rod Evans
December 6, 2022 7:23 am

A plumber doesn’t need to be a metallurgist, and most plumbers know what they need to know, being trained professionals. I’m surprised you have so little confidence in plumbers.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Tom.1
December 6, 2022 8:41 am

I have confidence in their skills but I still think they charge way too much.

Reply to  Tom.1
December 6, 2022 10:05 am

Reminds me of the push some decades ago to reduce expenses of electrical wiring in buildings by using aluminum wire instead of copper. Electricians are also supposed to be well trained, but there were many catastrophic fires due to improper installations. Just like hydrogen plumbing, aluminum wire connectors must be perfectly installed.

Reply to  Tom.1
December 6, 2022 8:00 am

Just because something can be done in a specialized, cost be damned environment, doesn’t mean it is possible to do the same thing in a larger context.

Reply to  MarkW
December 6, 2022 8:13 am

I said nothing about cost-be-damned, just the opposite. Still, in the world today ordinary people get along quite well with all kinds of complex technologies, some of which are dangerous. And for that matter, natural gas can be quite dangerous, and so is the carbon monoxide that it can produce under certain conditions. No CO with hydrogen though.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Tom.1
December 6, 2022 8:40 am

“creating new hydrogen pipelines system is not a problem”
Other, maybe, than cost?

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 6, 2022 9:50 am

I think I covered that.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 6, 2022 10:01 am

And some cost it would be, given that just about every gas pipeline in the country would need to be replaced. This falls into the category of the observation that liberals (greens, watermelons) have a solution for everything that is obvious, simple and wrong.

Reply to  slowroll
December 6, 2022 4:58 pm

Hydrogen is much more difficult to transport and handle than natural gas. Use of the existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure for hydrogen is very problematic, because many existing gas pipelines are made of steel, and hydrogen causes steel to crack. The subsequent leaks can lead to explosions.”

Until the early 70’s town gas was supplied to almost all the houses in the uk, which consisted of over 50% hydrogen. No real problems with explosions, the major issue was the CO which was poisonous (as I recall the most popular method of suicide at the time). With the advent of North Sea natural gas it was decided to replace the town gas supply with natural gas. This was done, unfortunately leaks of natural gas led to explosions which necessitated replacement of the pipelines nationwide.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Phil.
December 7, 2022 7:21 am

Town gas supply was a) highly local, and b) at low pressure. Much less of a problem. Even small amounts of hydrogen will eventually attack a pipeline operating at 100bar.

Reply to  It doesnot add up
December 7, 2022 1:25 pm

In the UK the nat gas was also supplied at low pressure however it still leaked and caused an explosion hazard which didn’t exist with the town gas (majority H2).

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Phil.
December 8, 2022 1:52 am

Not entirely sure about that. Hydrogen has wide explosive limits and a lower LEL than methane, so avoiding them depends on it diffusing rapidly – draughty homes and open windows help, but modern sealed boxes would be much riskier. CO has a much higher lower limit at 12.5 mol%, which might help a bit. There have been spectacular hydrogen explosions e.g. at a Norwegian filling station, Fukushima nuclear reactor, assorted refineries…

However, I was really thinking about hydrogen embrittlement of pipelines which will happen a lot faster under pressure.

Reply to  It doesnot add up
December 8, 2022 8:12 am

Hydrogen does diffuse rapidly which is why explosions in houses wasn’t a problem, leaking methane, while it had narrower ignition limits, actually achieved explosive mixtures hence the problem.

Fred Haynie
December 6, 2022 7:02 am

Nature is storing hydrogen all the time. Four hydrogen atoms are “stored” with a single carbon atom any time natural gas is formed. Nature has stored an abundance of this clean burning fuel that we depend on as an energy source. Build more pipe lines and produce more CH4.

December 6, 2022 7:20 am

Well first off, there is an awful lot of math here and since math is racist…………

Reply to  gdtkona
December 6, 2022 8:03 am

According to several teachers, proper grammar is evidence of white supremacy.
My browser nags me whenever I fail to misspell a word, or fail to use proper grammar.
Does that mean Google is racist?

December 6, 2022 7:37 am

I disagree with this article.
The real problem with hydrogen vs. battery is precisely storage.
Hydrogen leaks through any and every material known to man. This is physics and would result in leaks of hydrogen literally from the moment of production to the moment of combustion.
Even Columbia admits that leakage would be between 2.7% and 5.6% economy wide:
In reality, leakage is likely much higher. Wikipedia even notes that liquid hydrogen – i.e. enormous energy used to cool down hydrogen from gaseous to liquid form – can result in leaks of 1% PER DAY.
Furthermore: whether liquid or high pressure – there will be additional energy losses for the liquefaction or pressurization process on top of leakage.

December 6, 2022 7:42 am

Electrolysis of water was an early undertaking of chemists as early as 1789. It has been commercialized in it’s niche applications and the economics of those applications are constantly reviewed by people needing hydrogen for whatever purpose. If it was any good for massive energy storage applications we would be using it already. Politicians need to quit assuming the energy supply network is the way it is on the assumption that engineers are stupid.

Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  DMacKenzie
December 6, 2022 8:18 am

Yes, I’m endlessly amused at the level of debate on the subject, politicians like Trudeau who likely couldn’t explain the workings of a toaster telling us how we are going to reshape the energy systems of the planet in a decade.

The word hubris has too few letters to describe how utterly clueless most of these people truly are.

Last edited 1 month ago by Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  DMacKenzie
December 6, 2022 10:08 am

Well, to someone who doesn’t know anything about a technical issue, everything is simple. “Just do it like this….” That’s how Darwin awards are won.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
December 7, 2022 5:12 am

Remember always that in order to get the energy of 1 gallon of gasoline via hydrogen, you would need to carry around 35 gallons of water even if you could magically convert water to hydrogen and oxygen perfectly and losslessly.
This basic fact is why the water carburator is a scam even if it were possible.

Rick C
December 6, 2022 7:44 am

But…but… we’re going to need all the green hydrogen to transform transportation to carbon-free energy – especially air, rail and trucks. We’re going to need billions of acres of solar and millions of wind turbines just to make hydrogen. By the way, to carry around quantities of hydrogen equivalent to tanks of diesel requires massively heavy tanks that can safely hold 3,000-10,000 psi (200-700 bar). To carry the equivalent hydrogen energy of a 747 would probably require a fuel tank weighing more than a 747.

Pat from Kerbob
December 6, 2022 8:15 am

At least this article mentions the issue of water use. Here in Alberta people freak out at the relative small amount of fresh water used in fracking and to generate steam for SAGD and other oil/sand separation processes. For example the Fort Mac area operations are only allowed to take 2% of the annual flow of the Athabasca.
And it’s the end of the world.

With the transportation issues with hydrogen it’s going to have to be produced close to the electricity generation plants that will use it and that means far from the oceans in most cases.
The amount of water needed for this will be magnitudes greater than the O&G industry uses today.

But that is just waved away , of course.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Pat from Kerbob
December 7, 2022 7:26 am

The other alternative is the UK’s CCC idea of making hydrogen at floating offshore windfarms and piping it ashore. So start with very expensive electricity to feed a combined desalination and electrolysis plant on a floating platform and then a fragile pipeline to shore, easily attacked. Perhaps stop off halfway for some depleted gas field storage, give or take how much leaks out…

Rube Goldberg and Heath Robinson would I am sure have exulted in the craziness of it.

December 6, 2022 8:15 am

Did you ever notice…

Nobody ever talks about the need for backups for conventional power sources? Why do we want to destroy an electrical infrastructure that works for Rube Goldberg scheme that quite obviously doesn’t work?

Reply to  Moriarty
December 6, 2022 10:10 am

Because art majors and gender studies majors are making technical policy.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Moriarty
December 7, 2022 7:31 am

We do of course have backups for conventional power sources. It’s just that you don’t need a lot given the opportunity for maintenance by rotation in low demand seasons and the general reliability of the plant. It is only at peak demand that the extra margin comes into play. The typical grid runs with average demand of about 60% of peak demand. Much of that difference is accounted by the diurnal fluctuations, but the seasonal element is usually of some significance as well.

Rud Istvan
December 6, 2022 10:18 am

The green H2 situation is significantly worse than depicted. You also have to store the hydrogen. Either cryogenically or by compression into tanks. The former wastes an additional 45% of electricity, the latter ‘only’ 15%. Both covered in essay ‘hydrogen hype’ in ebook Blowing Smoke.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 7, 2022 7:33 am

The latest ideas concern the use of salt caverns. Suitable salt formations are not to be found everywhere, and the real performance of these for long term storage at the volumes required is an unknown.

Beta Blocker
December 6, 2022 10:31 am

Concerning the use of nuclear generated electricity for the production of green hydrogen and as load-following backup for wind and solar …..

The nuclear industry is promoting the oncoming small modular reactors as having significantly better load following capability than the current generation of reactors, thus making the SMRs a good fit inside a grid where wind and solar output varies considerably. 

In addition, the SMRs are being promoted for use in supplying electricity for producing green hydrogen and for charging grid scale batteries during those periods when wind and solar are keeping up with instantaneous demand and the SMR’s output isn’t needed in real time for grid backup and stabilization.

Nuclear fuel represents about 10% of the cost of running a nuclear power plant. The other costs include capital cost amortization, operations, and maintenance. An enhanced load-following capability is very useful for an SMR to have. But when a nuclear plant isn’t generating at near full capacity, it isn’t recovering its costs unless it is either being subsidized or unless the unit price of the electricity that it does actually produce in real time sells at a high enough price.  

In any case, using nuclear, wind, and solar for power generation is strictly a public policy decision. Relying on green hydrogen for energy storage, for transportation, and as a substitute for natural gas is strictly a public policy decision.  In a truly competitive power market, neither nuclear nor solar nor wind could compete with gas-fired generation. In a truly competitive energy market as a whole, hydrogen would be a complete non-starter as a replacement for natural gas, for gasoline, and for diesel.

Were it not for government-mandated low and zero carbon requirements, no one would be thinking about new-build nuclear power, not here in the United States anyway. No one would be thinking about wind and solar backed by batteries. No one would be thinking about hydrogen as a substitute for natural gas, for gasoline, and for diesel.

Another issue is now emerging as a consequence of the general inflation America and the western world is now experiencing, and its impacts on the power generation equipment supply chain.  Rumors are developing that the estimated capital costs of the new SMRs are increasing rapidly, adding more financial and project management risk to the difficult task of getting these new technologies rolled out and initially deployed on schedule and on budget.    

Over the last thirty years since 1990, the inflation-adjusted capital costs of any large-scale industrial facility built in the United States have approximately doubled, and for a variety of reasons which are difficult to address either individually or collectively.   If today’s inflation continues at its current pace, it’s not unreasonable to believe that by the end of this decade, the capital costs of any nuclear, wind, solar, or grid-scale battery project will have doubled yet again over today’s current estimates.

We have a perfect storm coming close on the horizon. President Biden and the climate activists in his administration are determined to shut down all of America’s coal-fired generation on an accelerated schedule. They haven’t got anything resembling a coherent and credible plan for replacing the shuttered capacity.  And so the great bulk of the retired capacity will be permanently lost.

The numerous obstacles now standing in the way of replacing any substantial portion of the lost generation capacity are huge, and are getting worse with each passing year. All of us have no choice at this point but to adapt to a future world in which electricity costs two or three times what it costs today, and where we have to get by with two-thirds or even half of the electricity we use today in the year 2022.

Last edited 1 month ago by Beta Blocker
December 6, 2022 11:20 am

Hydrogen at 10,000 psi still takes up a ton more room than batteries or gasoline.

December 6, 2022 12:11 pm

The Houdini molecule will escape unless very expensive means are used.

December 6, 2022 3:46 pm

The obvious best use and storage for hydrogen is in long hydrocarbon chains called….gasoline, diesel fuel, JP-1, kerosine, ect.. Hydrogen is too expensive (read inefficient) to produce because what do you do with the oxygen (with approximately 1/2 of the energy used) left over if sourcing from water or are you to use methane…that nasty fossil fuel. Why not just use methane for transportation fuel…better than hard to store hydrogen.

Walter Sobchak
December 6, 2022 7:39 pm

“When you electrolyse the ocean, you electrolyse not only the water, but also the salt, which then creates large amounts of highly toxic chlorine, which must be neutralised and disposed of.”

You must also create an equal quantity of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) which will neutralize the Cl.

I am not a chemist, but I suspect that Cl can be minimized by controlling the voltage at which the reactions occur.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
December 7, 2022 10:57 am

The ocean is quite big as a diluent for any HCl you might make. Plans to use the oceans actually require an element of desalination as a pre-treatment, which eats into the process efficiency. Read about the Dutch PosHYdon project here:

It’s only tiny of course, but the engineering hurdles look to be considerable. It is not going to be cheap hydrogen at GW scale. Diluting a small amount of hydrogen into the hydrocarbons pumped ashore from a field which is not in the first flush of life is not going to test the resilience of piping hydrogen ashore in quantity.

Ric Howard
December 7, 2022 8:36 am

These two statements from the article seem to have a numerical contradiction:

“Very sunny places such as the California desert may approach a 25% capacity factor”

and …

California, with few clouds, gets capacity factors somewhat in excess of 25%

A brief scan of the “California” link suggests the 1st statement might better say “… may approach a 30% …”.


December 7, 2022 1:47 pm

Great article…

Except you do some amazing calculations regarding “capital costs”.

Total capital costs include the cost of land and buildings.
You calculations might include structures, but I seriously doubt they include the cost of land.

A regular reason for excluding the capital cost of land is because land is priced differently, literally every where.

Still, California, Utah or Nevada desert gets pricy when near habitable locations.
Worse, land in New York State or England is far pricier.

Soar installation calculations should always include the total acreage required. Commercial pricing for a few locations would also help.

Thank you!

Dean S
December 7, 2022 4:08 pm

I think the energy needed to transport and store the gas needs to be taken into account. That will also consume a large portion of the energy in the hydrogen, or need additional solar panel installation.

December 8, 2022 10:27 pm

I do not lose sleep at night over energy. The solution to the energy “crisis” is the use of abundant available energy for which we have only a little R&D remaining. That may be nuclear power (small modular nuclear reactor), hot-dry geothermal, solar panels in orbit free of atmospheric attenuation, gas hydrates, whatever we are willing to do. There is no shortage of available energy, unless we limit ourselves as we are.

With abundant cheap energy, we would not be sweating the cost of hydrogen fuel cells, which is the most logical successor to gasoline, that is, given a market incentive, gasoline stations would have no problem adding a hydrogen UST and dispenser pump to their gas pumps which would result in a gradual phasing out of gasoline according to supply and market forces.

As soon as energy shortages hit college campuses, there will be effective action. We should therefore encourage ineffective action such as the use of wind and solar on college campuses until they wake up. College campuses and state capitals should be the first to feel the coming blackouts. SNMRs use less than critical mass in their reactor cores, solving one safety issue. But I’m thinking that we didn’t have GIS in the 1970s when the existing plants were built. Department of Energy could use GIS to build a national model of optimal siting locations for SNMR. Near water (but not too near), far from people, far from natural hazards, close to electric grids, away from critical habitat, etc. Tell the GIS what is desirable in a location and undesirable and it will figure it out.

Hydrogen fuel is an enemy for cost warriors, for now. Grid electricity would need to be $0.05 per kwh to make it worthwhile. My bill ranges from $0.10 to $0.15 per kwh. This region gets a lot of power from hydro, geothermal, combined cycle natural gas, a little from Diablo Canyon reactor, etc. So we aren’t that far off. It’s not completely out of reach. Nearby SMUD rates (Sacramento) go up to $0.32 per kwh. It is beyond reach for them.

I see it as entirely possible but requires determination and good engineering (or market forces).

PG&E was going to shut down Diablo Canyon. After closing San Onofre and Rancho Seco, the State of California actually stepped in and stopped the shutdown of Diablo Canyon, preserving 10 to15% of the State’s power. There is hope.

As I understand it the most serious problem with aging nuclear reactors is pipe corrosion. Not a corrosion engineer but somehow that doesn’t seem that hard to fix. Viewing it like a homeowner, we bought an old home with cheap plastic or galvanized plumbing. It will be expensive to replace it with HDPE or copper, but one replacement should last a long time, improving the unit cost. Drains that are cast-iron pipe can be replaced with ABS for a cost. Big initial expense, then it will last a long time. So replace the pipes in old reactors with corrosion-resistant pipes. Cheaper than a new reactor … or no reactor.

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