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From Russell Seitz:
(with apologies to Jen Sorensen at Slowpoke comics).
200, Jim Bullis: The percentage increase in wind and solar is a very different thing compared with the growth actually needed to displace coal as the basis of response to new loads.
Only if you mean displace coal completely real soon. The real questions are How much? and How soon?
I am not sure how much of the 4% is hydro. I think that 4% is non-hydro renewable. However, with exponential growth (as it looks like we have had in recent years and will continue to have), the base only affects the projection by a few years.
It is ‘making stuff up’ when the EPA redefines the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and to call it rhetorical hyperbole to object to this means that we have a real problem with education in physics.
And it is not just an academic nicety to insist on this being done right. There are serious economic implications of this effort to mislead, which I think it really is.
IIRC, Jim, the percentage of hydro was already higher than that–6%, I think?
So, no, the 4% would have to be renewables other than hydro–if my memory here is correct.
Jim, read up on the current active work being done to revise the old label.
You might contribute your suggestions to one of the focus groups.
This would be a more productive use of your time than complaining about the old one, since the new ones are being worked on.
Remember, you’ll have to boil the physics down to few enough words to fit readably in a 4×5\ space, and half the people read below 7th grade.
Long detailed texts won’t fit on the label.
FurryCatHerder, CM, (and Jim) –
I had some concern about PHEV’s being plugged in at night evening out the diurnal load, as this takes away some of solar’s advantage (although not wind’s); however, weekdays the 9-5 crowd can plug in during the day at work (Re Jim: which would tend to involve peaking plants, potentially solar)
On the information for the Leaf (if I recall correctly), it takes a long time to fully charge, but apparently a shorter time for almost fully charging – did I get this wrong? Will this interfere with flexible charging times?
What is the line frequency that appliances (and maybe cars someday) can respond to (PS I’d imagine this would work quite well for heating/cooling as it takes time for the temperature of a building to drift toward discomfort and problems)? Is is the deviations from a sinusoidal waveform?
I had imagined that some portion of the load might, via weather observations, visible satellite imagery, respond proactively to upcoming changes in solar power…
(where could I read about smart grid stuff – the actually smart and the dumb?)
RE Jim – there are two distinct ways of bringing power on line to changes in load:
1. bringing reserve capacity in (can included energy storage plants with stored solar, wind energy; of course hydro)
2. long term response – building more capacity. This needn’t be plants with reserve capacity; this can be wind and solar power plants, etc.
Building more solar power plant capacity doesn’t itself make sense in response to increases in load at night, but does for increases in load during the day (esp. in spring/summer) particularly since there is already a greater demand at that time (diurnal, also seasonal – except for the the winter peak)). Solar power can displace other peaking plants, those with reserve capacity that can be brought on line as needed – now what should those plants do? Maybe they can peak at other times, or add some baseload (if a plant can run, it can run, right?)
Who really cares that solar and wind (raw form, not storage plants, which can be in the peaking/reserve capacity category) can not just be brought on-line as needed and respond to loads, in so far as to whether or not solar and wind plants should be built in response to greater load + eventual decreasing fossil fuel consumption (okay, it matters to the economics and necessary storage and/or transmission and/or presense of flexible loads and other power plants, but not in such a black/white way)? Build the plants, they’ll supply energy; other plants can be brought on line, turned up and down as needed.
As to 1. momentary changes in load – that happens anyway. If 20 years from now a PHEV is plugged in, it isn’t the last load added – somebody may decide to turn on the microwave after that! So who’s to say that baseload isn’t charging eh PHEV and a peaking plant isn’t powering the microwave? But that doesn’t make sense, neither does the opposite. What matters is becoming less dependant on finite nonrenewable resources, reducing (net) emissions (there’s room for sequestration, but …**), and getting it done economically.
** – Why support forests, etc, without a tax on CO2eq, which is what in principle ought to pay for it.
** – again, why go against PHEV’s and still allow coal untaxed; you could go against coal and then the PHEV issue would be partly resolved.
Building more solar power plant capacity doesn’t itself make sense in response to increases in load at night,
(taken in isolation from other plants, storage, transmission, flexible loads, emissions, etc.)
“On the information for the Leaf, it takes a long time to fully charge, but apparently a shorter time for almost fully charging – did I get this wrong?”
It’s hard on the battery, though, so it’s not something you want to do frequently.
Solar and wind need to have some sort of storage if they are going to take over from coal and gas. Nothing really looks good except for large amounts of hydroelectric power.
” I do thank you for letting free speech prevail.”
Free speech has nothing to do with it- I am not disposed to waste time trying to edit bloggerel of such a low order.
Now kindly go away
My point was that EVs and hybrids are not the solution, they’re only part of the solution, which I think calls for (a) radically cleaner cars, (b) a modal shift from cars and trucks to bikes, trams, trains, boats; and (c) reducing the overall transport volume; all at the same time. Smaller, lighter conventional cars help limit the growth in emissions from growing traffic, but not to make the deep cuts we need, at this point, to avoid 4°C warming over this century.
I did misrepresent your position on the relative merits of EVs and hybrids. Sorry. Didn’t mean to. And as to #202, I realize that you actually mean what you say about the EPA conversion violating the second law of thermodynamics. This is not the case in the narrow reference frame adopted by the EPA, but Didactylos, Patrick and I have been over this several times already. By adopting this narrow frame, though, the EPA sticker methodology makes EVs look less carbon-intensive and more economic with primary energy than they are, and thus distorts the comparison with hybrids. But I don’t suspect any “effort to mislead”.
I leave the discussion with the impression that hybrid and EV CO2 emissions are not that far apart under current average U.S. circumstances(*), so rankings between them may be sensitive to different reasonable methodological choices. I do however see EVs as advantageous in the medium term, given the fast development of renewable energy, and for strategic reasons pointed out by Bob and others, so I think there’s a strong case for investing in them.
(**) Countries with e.g. France’s nukes or Norway’s hydro will differ.
JB 192: As long as the coal trains are rolling, if we care a whit about global warming, we had better try to make that system work
BPL: As long as the coal trains are rolling, if we care a whit about global warming, we had better try to replace that system entirely.
Increasing the efficiency of the ICE fleet is currently the cheapest and easiest way to reduce emissions from cars.
Reducing the transport volume is generally more applicable to trucks than cars as measures to significantly reduce vehicle-miles driven over a few years would have to be fairly coercitive.
People who prioritize other changes seem to be more interested in promoting their pet technologies or social agendas than in reducing emissions.
France and Norway aren’t unique. It would be better if countries which use little to no fossil fuels for generation would export electricity to countries who use baseload fossil fuel plants instead of encouraging their residents to use electric cars.
There’s a limit to how far electricity can be economically transmitted so in some cases (such as Iceland), I agree electrical vheicles make sense.
Our main point of disagreement is how soon it would be possible to do this without doing unreasonable harm to the economy. However, I also maintain that the issue is CO2, and any arrangement that puts that under control should be welcome. So while coal is an obvious big part of the problem, using coal itself would be ok if it was accompanied by solutions that compensated for the CO2.
204 Hank Roberts
The EPA sticker in question is the new one, which has been put out for comment, and immediately jumped on by marketeers to promote the Nissan Leaf. They made it sound like it was final. You alerted me to the fact that it was still being discussed.
I have to say though, that the ‘comment’ period is not all that meaningful, and of the 50,000 comments usually received on such things, there is not much seriousness in evaluating individual comments.
I am not complaining; I call it campaigning, since only if a lot of people get interested in getting this right, will it get fixed.
And we are not there yet, even in this discussion, even though progress has been made.
Absolutely right on this one.
I am all for electric cars in settings where they make sense.
I just want the evaluation done correctly. Then it is up to us to fit products into the system that meet the needs of people. And it is sometimes necessary to change things and then convince people to accept the change. That is not easy.
208 CM, Didac, Patrick, Furry, Anon and others
Thanks for sticking with this and helping work it through. I think we mostly settled the EPA sticker, though I am not sure that the concept of marginal response has stuck just yet.
I think those that wake up ten years from now will find that renewables have not expanded as we are no led to expect, but reasonable people can differ on this.
Maybe some other time we can talk about changing vehicle aerodynamics.
Patrick 027 –
The frequency change is noticeable enough that I can watch generators come and go from my bedroom.
If you lived in Texas, you could too. But only because I live in Texas ;)
The short answer is that not only is Jim completely wrong, but he’s not even close enough to “right” that “completely wrong” describes his belief set.
Case in point — negative costs for energy. We already have them in ERCOT, and if I lived someplace where I could take advantage of it, I’d be at it right now. The future is here. Today. Not next week, or next month. The growth in renewables is high enough that I can’t even call some of the people I used to be able to chew the fat with. They’re too busy installing power systems that are bigger than anything they’ve installed in prior years.
Jim @ 214:
I’d be willing to discuss changing vehicle aerodynamics if you’d actually built one of your cars and gotten it on the road, working, full-scale, etc.
As for the built-out in renewables, the growth rate has had legs for years now. At something around $4.50 / watt installed (no rebates), not installing solar becomes a bad financial decision. I talked to people a few weeks ago in New Orleans who are now quoting bids at $5.50 / watt installed. At the start of the year the price was around $6.00 / watt for AC-only and $7.00 / watt with batteries.
I spoke with the company that I’m going to transfer my internet hosting to (http://www.burlyhouse.net) and told the owner that for a $15 / month surcharge, his clients can pay to build-out solar with a 7 year payback. The solar power systems I recommended have about a 25 year guarantee, but only because no one knows how many more years they’ll last — many of the parts have MTBF’s measured in decades and panels from the 70′s are still putting out 70 to 80 percent of nameplate.
It isn’t — seriously — that you’re overly pessimistic, it’s that if technology repeats itself with renewable energy, you’ll be the guy who insists on using an abacus while others had switched to slide rules, then calculators, then PC’s. A lot of the problems that existed four or five years ago have been solved. And in some cases, the new problems that were created by those solutions have been solved, and so on.
… I forgot in my last two comments that some forms of solar power – such as CSP – have storage included. That storage can vary, so it can be a peaking plant with reserve capacity available and/or baseload, depending. Also, fuels can be burned to compensate for greater than some level of cloudiness and at night/winter to run the same heat-electrical conversion device, so it can ‘stand-alone’ to some extent on the grid, no need for compensating power plants.
(CSP could also just supply heat, completely or from cogeneration, as for industrial processes).
I also recently read of an idea that wind power could directly be converted to CAES storage (mechanical energy – pump air), so that electricity needn’t be produced, then consumed, then produced again, but produced just once from the stored energy. (CAES can also be used to store PV energy – in that case the multiple conversions are necessary).
Misunderstanding and misinformation from both sides. Carbon dioxide should NOT be described loosely as “toxic”, or “pollution”. Yes, it is physiologically harmful and even fatal to many organisms at high concentration, but that really has nothing to do with greenhouse gas-driven global warming. And “pollution” should be used more restrictively in reference to novel materials introduced into the environment by humans, or where levels are elevated orders of magnitude above what is considered natural. The increases of atmospheric concentration will not asphyxiate us, so just ditch that argument. The warming, on the other hand, is potentially very dangerous from geophysical, ecological and socio-economic standpoints. There is simply no denying that! Harold Pierce, no scientist has claimed that the ocean is becoming an acid, but it is indeed becoming more acidic. The latter term simply refers to a decline of pH, not to an actual pH value. And yes, we can measure pH that accurately. As for the comment regarding limestone, another but of nonsense. Those limestone deposits were accumulated over millenia, at least. Yes, they do usually represent an Earth that was warmer, with higher atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, but that’s irrelevant to our argument. I assure you, you would not wish to have lived in those climates, and our current human civilization is ill-equipped to adapt to those conditions on a timescale of a few centuries.
214, Jim Bullis: I think those that wake up ten years from now will find that renewables have not expanded as we are no led to expect, but reasonable people can differ on this.
Would you like to share with us your quantitative assessment? I predicted 5 doublings each of US solar, wind, and biofuels in the next 5 – 10 years. This is a simple rough extrapolation of recent and not-so-recent quantitative trends.
Multiple technologies are being deployed. One net yet mentioned here, I think, is to attach a concentrated solar thermal device to an existing coal-fired plant. It provides for an immediate reduction in daytime coal consumption without the necessity of building a new storage mechanism for night-time. As more natural gas lines are built, the coal-burner is later replaced by a gas burner, for another net reduction in CO2/megawatt-hour.
This isn’t hypothetical, it’s being done now.
217 Patrick 027
Compressed air storage is limited by the fact that the process has to be adiabatic or much of the energy is dissipated as heat.
Cogeneration needs to be done where the heat can be used. This gets tough for solar in the desert. Industrial processea are not generally going on there and residential users of heat are, of course, not handy.
Residential CSP, meaning just solar, once widespread in my neighborhood, has all but disappeared.
Peter Roopnarine wrote: “And ‘pollution’ should be used more restrictively in reference to novel materials introduced into the environment by humans, or where levels are elevated orders of magnitude above what is considered natural.”
When I first began learning about “pollution” in high school, back around the time of the first Earth Day (having previously only known of it via Tom Lehrer’s 1965 song), it was defined to include both “novel materials introduced into the environment by humans” (e.g. DDT or plutonium), as well as the emission of naturally-occurring materials in quantities that exceeded the capacity of natural systems to deal with them, which would certainly include such things as nitrogen pollution from agricultural runoff, and carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels.
I think it is entirely appropriate, reasonable and correct to speak of “carbon pollution”.
> naturally-occurring materials in quantities that exceeded the
> capacity of natural systems to deal with them
Yep. It doesn’t need to be “orders of magnitude” — all you need is a slight excess above what the natural system can handle– including situations where when that degrades the ability of the natural system starting a worse trend.
Beware definitions that let polluters off the hook.
Widespread in your neighborhood?? Concentrated Solar Power?? Complete with concentrating mirrors/lenses and steam generators?? Or are you thinking of CPV, Concentrated PhotoVoltaics, equally unlikey to be “widespread” in any residential area? Or does your qualification “meaning just solar” actually indicate simple flat panel PV systems? Are you really just hoping to promote continued dependence on coal plants by denigrating technologies you don’t understand to further justify BAU and your reforestation plan?
That’s with mirrors.
ScepticMatthew (220), if my math is correct you’re asserting non-hydro renewables will provide more that ALL of the projected electricity demand in the US, even out 10 years. Sounds excessive…
Much as it pains me to agree with Russell Seitz (a little facetious, but too tempting as he recently said that about me; he is both better informed and intriguingly acid), I think “now please go away” about sums it up. I come here to try to understand a lot of material that is over my head, and when someone refuses to either assimilate careful explanations or move on it takes up the time of a lot of people who have better things to do. While a number of patient kind people have tried to provide some real information, it doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere, so it seems time to move on.
Thanks for the info on filters. An abacus level solution is just to scroll past, but with repeat offenders at this level it’s not enough.
“continue sweater” seems apt: Madame Defarge? Raveled sleave of care?
226, Rod B.: ScepticMatthew (220), if my math is correct you’re asserting non-hydro renewables will provide more that ALL of the projected electricity demand in the US, even out 10 years. Sounds excessive…
It might be.
I have not read an account of resource constraints up to a factor of 30+ increase, but the US would have to re-open its rare earth and precious metal mines (that’s another process that is underway.) The biofuels would replace some of the petroleum-based fuel used in transportation, not fuel that is used to power electricity generation (for the most part; some biofuels are now used in electricity generation.) Biofuels are also starting (really, really small scale so far) to replace petroleum as feedstock for plastics. So wind and solar might realistically be in excess of 50% of total, since total electricity demand will also rise.
I am sceptical of my own prediction, but I have found no absolute fault with it so far: it’s a simple extrapolation of trends since the first GWBush energy bill, and of the fact hectored at us by true believers that the US does in fact have a lot of unharvested insolation and wind.
A historical analogy, admittedly smaller scale. Do a thought experiment and imagine yourself back in the US in the late 1930s, right when Douglas introduced the DC-3 and Lockheed introduced the Super G Constellation. Without subsidies (e.g. NACA) and military contracts the airline industry couldn’t grow. A tiny fraction of mail and passengers go by plane: trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific by travel is almost 100% by ship. It took a few decades for aircraft to dominate ground transportation, but wind and solar have been under development for decades already. I do not know in what year 4% of trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific travelers went by plane, but it was not long after that until the fraction exceeded 75%.
My forecast is for 5 doublings within each class of energy generation in 5 – 10 years. That will be an astonishing change if it occurs. Does anybody have a better forecast? It would be nice to make side-by-side forecasts and see which actually has been more accurate from 2010-2020.
Re 221 Jim Bullis
Compressed air storage …has to be adiabatic or much of the energy is dissipated as heat.
Yes, pumped hydro (or in some small cases, flywheels, or perhaps lifting a big weight up and down from a floating platform over an oceanic trench) might be better (which can simply be, up to a point, no additional facilties but just using hydro when solar+wind+etc. can’t meet demand) (PS Niagara Falls might simply be allowed to flow at full power in the summer daytime at some point in the future, which might (?) help cut some of the buildup of debris under the falls (which started to build up when the Falls’ power was reduced to supply energy, as I understand it; of course, in the long run the Falls will continue to move upstream until it reaches lake Erie (and then what?), although it may become a series of rapids at some point(?); Also, to avoid too much fiddling around with the Falls itself, I wonder about maybe a series of canals and pumping stations going from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario which would pump water uphill in summer daytime and produce power in winter evenings/nights/mornings; the thing about pumped hydro between reservoirs is that you have to work within the ecologically/economically/socially acceptable limits of water level variation (large areas help there), though in some cases that may be a larger range than others (I think I’ve heard of underground pumped hydro – old mines? (safe?) Not sure…) . But you have to consider economics; as the energy supply (and usage) evolves, the gain in value of one form of energy at one time and place may justify the costs and energy losses of storage/transmission/conversion to bring it to that time and place in that form. PS I think people are working on adiabatic CAES.
Cogeneration needs to be done where the heat can be used. This gets tough for solar in the desert. Industrial processea are not generally going on there and residential users of heat are, of course, not handy.
Yes, but see above paragraph. Cogeneration would be used where it makes sense; while solar power, taken in isolation of some factors, makes the most sense in the desert (and without isolation (of transmission costs, etc.), can still make good sense), there is still a good solar resource over much of the rest of the U.S. and other non-desert regions, and CSP-type power (as distinct from CPV) can easily incorporate fuel combustion for back-up power. (Also, I would expect that runoff from solar power plants could boost agricultural value of neighboring land in semiarid regions.)
This is something I have always wondered about. In the Dakotas and Montana there is ample wind and sun and hydro. On the Missouri River there are 9 dams in the three states. Right now in all three states there are wind turbine farms popping up like weeds. if there is large-scale solar, I have not seen it.
Apparently there are times when the wind turbines have no market for their power, so would there be an advantage to using that spare electricity to pump water back to the other side of the dams? If so, why not just harness the wind to pump water back up the system on a continuous basis with wind pumps? Sort of like how ranchers used to fill their stock tanks – as long as the wind blew, water entered the tanks. Solar could also be used.
Yes, pumped hydro makes a whole lot of sense. It’s currently the most-used method to store electricity so far as I know but it’s usually done with electricity from nukes.
Perhaps pumped hydro isn’t used because natgas is online often enough that it makes sense to deploy wind simply to use less natgas. If wind was only built because of subsidies, it might not be used efficiently (burning tax-free coal is cheap once the plants are built so why bother?). Or maybe no one wants to invest in suitable transmission lines from the wind to the hydro sites because of the way the system is regulated or something.
Extrapolating growth rates yields all sorts of nonsense. Doubling renewables from 1% is easier than doubling them from 10%. Doubling 1% does not require closing non-renewable plants ahead of schedule for instance. Electricity generation choices are largely determined by public policies anyway so all reasonable predictions will be wrong (including this one).
ScepticMatthew (228), well, I agree it could be an interesting exercise. But as a pragmatic reality, it still seems hyperbolic. Even if the production arrived in 5-10 years you’d still have an intractable “smart” grid deficiency and a horrendous storage on a massive scale problem.
Anonymous Coward (231), a nit correction: pumped hydro does not store electricity; it uses excess electricity to create a store of mechanical potential energy.
“I think it is entirely appropriate, reasonable and correct to speak of “carbon pollution”.”
Yes. Nitrogen and phosphorus (when implicated in the pollution of waterways) are excellent examples of natural and largely benign substances gone awry–and regulated accordingly.
232, Rod B.: Even if the production arrived in 5-10 years you’d still have an intractable “smart” grid deficiency and a horrendous storage on a massive scale problem.
As far as I can tell, that isn’t an insurmountable impediment. In CA, IA, and TX they are expanding the grids to carry the power from wind and solar farms (though there are delays, as with the Sunrise Power Link in San Diego County), and similarly in the other great plains states and NY. Where renewables supplant or enhance coal-fired plants, or where trees substitute for coal (at least one of these I read about in MI and one in NY), the existing grid suffices.
I think that the words “intractable” and “horrendous” are misleading, if not positively false. The grid solution requires about the same amount of work as 10 years on the interstate highway system, and the storage components can be made by a nation that makes millions of new cars per year, and built the Western States and TVA dam systems, and built 100+ nuclear power plants in about 20 years.
As I said to Jim Bullis, Would you like to make a quantitative forecast for the next 5-10 years to contrast with mine?
The fact that the carbonate/bicarbonate equilibrium buffers acidity does *not* mean that the pH value does not change at all i.e. the ocean does not become more acidic… it, of course, becomes.
the reaction equations You sketch are exactly those that do the damage when acting on the coral reef material, or lowering the chemical potential for the deposition of solid lime for various organisms
ScepticMatthew (235): But we already knew HOW to build millions of new cars per year, the Western States and TVA dam systems, and nuclear power plants. We have little more than a clue how to even build electric storage facilities for more than a one-off localized purpose.
The technology to route traffic is much more complex and complicated with electric grids than it is with highways — though we probably have a little more know-how than for storage systems. Even with that our handling of peak roadway traffic is far less than hunky-dory. Though this is less of a problem as people are far more wont to put up with traffic delays than electricity delays. Secondly, the first connections to the first (localized) wind farms are PV arrays are infinitely easier than the connections required nationwide when very little (???) non-renewable energy sources are available. The first ones don’t take a whole lot more than ‘running a wire to the nearest pole.’
237, Rod B.,
We certainly know where we disagree.
Since I live near the originally proposed route for the Sunrise Power Link, I think that the biggest obstacles to solving the problems that you have mentioned are the local environmentalists, but even they are not absolute obstacles (nor do I think that they are always wrong), and the Sunrise Power Link is being built, more expensively than originally proposed. The Mojave Desert power plants were stalled in court actions for a while, and they are now progressing.
ScepticMatthew (238), that’s a problem only for the construction. While I don’t mean to minimize that, theoretically we know one way to fix it: pass a federal law that abrogates the Endangered Species Act and a myriad of other environmental controls and bans individual reluctance for any environmental or cosmetic reasons in so far as they would apply to renewable generation and transmission. Beyond that there are heavy difficulties and unknowns regarding communication, measurement, and control of a nation-wide fully interconnected grid — though people are working on it.
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239, Rod B. On the whole, that’s a more upbeat comment than most of the others, or at least it seems so to me.
ScepticMatthew (238), that’s a problem only for the construction.
And to date, the effects have been to delay projects and make them more expensive, not to kill them outright. Study, works and court actions have cumulative effects, so future projects should not be delayed as much. Or so I expect. Once the first Mojave Desert project received its final approval, final approval of the others followed in short order.
ScepticMatthew (241), but wait until they want to install a tower in the habitat of a golden-cheeked warbler! ;-)
Mr. Bullis’s rumination on underground compressed gas storage might improve were he to study the problem of compressive stress in materials as brittle as silicates. If he positions himself next to an empty champagne bottle a quarter-full of alka-seltzer tablets, dashes in a cup of water, and quickly wires down the cork, he shpuld gain a more realistic perspective after only a minute or two of close observation.
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