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Unforced variations: May 2011

Filed under: — group @ 5 May 2011

This month’s open thread.

Seed topics: The genealogy of climate models, how to compare different greenhouse gases, whether a 2 deg C temperature target makes sense (Stoat has already weighed in), or reflections on the Nenana Ice classic (which has just concluded for this year). But you decide.

396 Responses to “Unforced variations: May 2011”

  1. 101
    ccpo says:

    Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company says:
    11 May 2011 at 4:12 PM

    94 ccpo

    As you put it we should all just meditate and let climate snuff out the excess population.

    Don’t misrepresent what I say to puff up your own agenda. Your agenda is a failure before it begins. Enough with the commercials. Time for RC to pull your plug.

  2. 102
    Didactylos says:

    dhogaza: Jim Bullis may be a crank, but he’s clearly well-intentioned. And his ideas aren’t remotely marketable, so it’s a bit unkind to say that he’s “here in an attempt to make money”.

    And to his credit, he has taken on board some criticisms about the poor aerodynamics in his design. Sadly he still hasn’t been able to produce any credible calculations for drag, instead sticking with his idealised version.

    Jim Bullis: I think any possible window of opportunity for a high efficiency diesel passenger vehicle has closed, since 100% electric vehicles are now a fully realised actuality.

  3. 103
    SecularAnimist says:

    ccpo wrote: “Net energy (Energy Returned On Energy Invested – EROEI) is in decline”

    This is not true of wind and solar energy, where there is no fuel cost, only the cost of the technology to harvest free energy — and the cost of that technology is rapidly decreasing already, and is likely to decrease even more rapidly as the new technologies that are now under development are commercialized and production scales up.

  4. 104
    dhogaza says:

    Didactylos:

    Jim Bullis may be a crank, but he’s clearly well-intentioned. And his ideas aren’t remotely marketable, so it’s a bit unkind to say that he’s “here in an attempt to make money”.

    You and I may know his ideas aren’t remotely marketable, but that doesn’t mean that he knows it. If you were to offer to invest in his company, do you think he’d turn you down on the grounds that his ideas aren’t marketable?

    Of course not.

  5. 105
    Jim Galasyn says:

    A reminder of the cost of our energy policies:

    Bitter return: Fukushima residents find more misery upon return to village in no-entry zone

    … Shoichi Akimoto, 60, stood in the garden, looking confused.

    His pet dog, John, still tied to his kennel, was lying dead in a burrow it had dug. …

    Kobayashi put unburned incense sticks on the gaunt body of the white-and-brown dog.

    “My dog will accept it although the incense is not burned,” he said. “I will bury his body on my next return.”

    The voice from the walkie-talkie made a final announcement: “For all of you, the time is up.”

  6. 106
    Ric Merritt says:

    SecularAnimist #102, yes, it is wonderful that Sol will continue to burn all that fuel for eons to come, with great benefits for us and no fuel costs.

    But you extrapolate the decreasing costs of the “harvest” technology into a future regime so different from the present that simple extrapolation probably will fail.

    Oil production has been flattish for several years, EROEI for oil alone is certainly declining (that is, the energy needed to lay hands on the oil takes an ever bigger bite out of the end uses we want the oil for in the first place), and at some point, perhaps very soon, oil production will turn down irrevocably.

    The infrastructure for all of industrial civilization, including our current baby steps in harvesting sustainable energy in industrial quantities, is radically interdependent and radically dependent on oil. (Not to mention other fossil fuels, which will follow oil’s decline after some interval not known very precisely today.)

    I’ll get optimistic about a continuation or improvement of current wealth (which averages out to a fairly modest level worldwide compared to what we first-worlders are used to) based on sustainable energy when someone explains to me how to convert ocean transport, aviation, heavy industry, big brawny trucks, etc, etc to electricity or whatever while investment based on fossil fuels grows scarcer and scarcer. Please do not assume radical improvements in human nature or politics. My guess would be in the other direction, actually, with scarcity promoting conflict.

    I cheerfully concede that I have professional expertise in neither climate nor energy, but I know it when I see it, which is why this estimable blog is my first stop for climate background. I am not seeing a comparable sophistication and overall judgment when these comments turn to energy. Some wonderful points o’ light here and there, but no one is putting it together for me.

    In an effort to head off strawman objections: it’s not a binary choice between skyscrapers and caves. There’s a lot of territory in between. We just don’t know yet how much of our current riches can be produced without the carbon-spewing stuff that is going away. (Though alas not fast enough to avoid enormous climate risks.)

    In sum, we aspire to make windmills and solar panels out of windmills and solar panels, without burning the black stuff in between. Today, no way Jose. Tommorrow, …??

  7. 107
    ccpo says:

    Patrick 027 says: 11 May 2011 at 8:05 PM

    Re 94 ccpo extrapolate ANYTHING with that many people, and it instantly becomes unsustainable, Anything?

    Pretty much. You have to consider not only the specific tech or product you are discussing, but all the connections in the global system it has. We are yet very poor at doing this kind of systemic, full life cycle analysis.

    Net energy (Energy Returned On Energy Invested – EROEI) is in decline and all “new” energy sources are below the current approximately 11:1 of (light) crude oil, No, at least some forms of solar power are above that (and not in decline). What about wind?

    Feel free to present your numbers, just be sure to include full life cycle, and particularly that wind relies on FFs for manufacture and rare earth ores for electricity generation.

  8. 108
    flxible says:

    Didactylos and dhogaza – The economic viability of JB’s fantasy is really irrelevent wrt climate change, what’s much more glaring is his pushing the belief that there are magic technological fixes to allow humanity to continue grossly exceeding the carrying capacity of the planet in the comfort Americans are “entitled to”, whether his personal fix is one or not.

    That “he’s clearly well-intentioned” with his personal transport scheme quite handily places him on that proverbial “road to hell” that well intentioned denialists are paving for us all.

  9. 109
    John McManus says:

    This just in . Filthy warmers , led by that nasty alarmist Anthony Watt have just published a pack of lies supporting CRU, NOAA and other ackwardims.

    Like an elephant labouring ( Canadian eh) mightily, Watt has brought forth a mouse who squeaks;temperature rise as measured by evey climate organization known is correct.

    Mullered again.

  10. 110
    David Horton says:

    “Nearly as effective as banning personal transportation would be making personal transportation an energy efficient process; by that I mean a factor of ten improvement over what we now accept for cars. That is what Miastrada is all about.” How does this differ from spam?

  11. 111
    Snapple says:

    Dr. Joe Romm has posted an article about the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy workshop.

    http://climateprogress.org/2011/05/11/vatican-on-climate-pray-for-science/

    I made some comments, too.

    Maybe you will also report on what the Academicians said.

  12. 112
    Edward Greisch says:

    104 Jim Galasyn: “A reminder of the cost of our energy policies:”
    Yes, that is the cost of a POLICY, not the cost of nuclear energy. The policy is irrational fear. The dog died of dehydration or starvation. There was no real need to evacuate. The reactor leak has not exceeded the natural background radiation except very close to the reactor.
    I have no financial or other connection with the nuclear power industry or their advertising agents and I never have. My nuclear experience involved nuclear weapons the first time I worked for the US army laboratory command.

    94 ccpo: “9 – 12 billion people. In fact, extrapolate ANYTHING with that many people, and it instantly becomes unsustainable”
    Yes. The Earth’s carrying capacity is 5 Billion, and fewer if they all live like Americans. “Ecological Footprints and Bio-Capacity: Essential Elements in Sustainability Assessment”  by William E. Rees, PhD, University of British Columbia and “Living Planet Report 2008” also by Rees.

    Internal Combustion Engines [ICE]: Could run on ammonia or hydrazine which could be made using electricity from any source. The obvious problems: Ammonia is a toxic gas and hydrazine is an explosive more like nitroglycerine than gasoline. I mean Hydrazine N2H6 is a monopropellant; it explodes without oxygen.

  13. 113
    John Brookes says:

    I previously mentioned a simple water-world model with 150ky glacial cycles. It came from a talk at UWA (which I unfortunately could not attend). Here is the announcement for the talk:

    SEMINAR:
    CWR Presents:
    – Response To Climate Change: Deny, Prevent, Adapt

    Wed, 13 Apr 2011 16:00 – Blakers Lecture Room, Ground Floor, Mathematics Building, UWA

    Jörg Imberger, Professor of Environmental Engineering, University of Western Australia Director, Centre for Water Research
    How should we respond to climate change and observed changes in weather
    patterns; local drought and heavy flooding? Daily we are confronted with
    opinions, dogma and often stereotyping.

    This debate has gone so as far as to label people “believers or non-
    believers”. Yet, when I try to find a document on the web to just even
    explain to me what the so much discussed “Carbon Tax” is all about, it
    is difficult to find a definitive document.

    I will start the talk with an overview of how it was, a simple
    explanation, with some new modelling, of the processes determining the
    interglacial cycles. From this follows a clearer explanation of the role
    of elevated green house gases and changes in land cover, putting us in a
    position to discuss the current response from the perspective of
    individuals, the community, industry and the government and its recent
    carbon taxation initiatives.

    We will see most of the responses may be catalogued under the general
    heading of “denial” or shifting blame. So what should be done?

    I will attempt to provide 4 rather simple, non spectacular, but
    effective suggestions for adapting to the changes we are experiencing;
    understanding the timescales involved and adjusting our behaviour,
    capitalising on new energy storage technologies that are just emerging
    that will allow us to match availability of renewable energy to demand,
    using agriculture and aquaculture to sequester more carbon and lastly,
    changing from traditional fixed point planning to adaptive management.

  14. 114
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 105 ccpo – I had assumed the sources I’ve used (see, for example, anything by the authors of the article “A Solar Grand Plan” (Scientific American, a few years ago) take that kind of thing into account or at least make a fair attempt to do so. They estimate/calculate CO2 or CO2(eq) emissions per kWh so presumbably they’ve included (most of the?)fossil fuel inputs, for example. It can take a lot of energy to process mineral resources, but consider the rather large (over the lifecycle) amounts of energy that are supplied by a small mass of material. If only considering the PV material itself, I’m not sure off hand but some technologies might be similar or exceed (?) nuclear fuel energy densities (of course depending on nuclear fuel cycle). Even with the whole module, effective energy densities can be hundreds of times that of coal …

    (I got info on several modules from brands Sharp, Evergreen, Uni-Solar, and Kyocera. The median energy density (assuming effective life of 2.4 times warranty at rated performance (for most modules, that’s 2.4 * 25 years = 60 years), capacity factor of 0.2) was 3471 MJ/kg and the maximum (Sharp 185 W module) was 4110 MJ/kg – that’s roughly 267 and 316 times the electric energy density of coal, 202 and 239 times oil (electric energy), and 156 and 185 times natural gas (electric energy) (numbers may vary depending on type of coal/oil/gas and conversion efficiency – I just used a nice round 40 % efficiency, which is probably a bit high and leads to values for the solar power module energy density relative to fuel – on the other hand, solar PV module output may be a bit higher than the amount delivered from the solar power system (wires(?), inverters, etc.); and most of the module mass is not the rare elements. Of course there are other components in solar power, as there are with coal, etc.
    (source:
    Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook By John Schaeffer, Doug Pratt
    http://books.google.com/books?id=im-No5TYyy8C&pg=PA59&lpg=PA59&dq=weight+of+PV+module&source=bl&ots=EjhMG5B8US&sig=xRNhG2OAgQEzKwnIKrS_a0ukj6I&hl=en&ei=aaqhSdLJGpqWsAO_1ry5CQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result#v=onepage&q=weight%20of%20PV%20module&f=false
    I may have also used this one:
    http://www.realgoods.com/product/solar+power/solar+electric/portable+solar/kyocera+40+watt+solar+pv+module.do )

    (recap and additional figures: solar module energy density – in terms of mass, area, and volume (note that different modules may be the maximum and median; also, I think the median is the average of two values because I have an even number of modules in the spreadsheet. I don’t bother reporting the minimum because that was a very small module with a shorter warranty (and also a different technology – triple junction (I’m assuming thin film (I didn’t write it down) – which may have more realistic potential for increases in performance?) (all three Uni-Solar modules I used were triple junction), whereas at least 9 of the 16 modules are polycrystaline Si – at least one is single crystal Si)

    medians: 3.47 GJ/kg, 45.6 GJ/m2, 0.927 GJ/L
    maxima: 4.11 GJ/kg, 53.9 GJ/m2, 1.34 GJ/L
    average: 3.l0 GJ/kg, 39.5 GJ/m2, 0.864 GJ/L
    average without the three Uni-Solar modules:
    3.45 GJ/kg, 45.2 GJ/m2, 0.947 GJ/L

    Also, efficiency (with respect to module area, which isn’t necessarily the same as the efficiency of the module for the PV cell areas or the cells themselves):

    median: 12.0 %
    maximum: 14.2 %
    average: 10.7 %
    average without the three Uni-Solar modules: 11.9 %

    modules:
    Sharp 185
    Kyocera KC120
    Sharp 165
    Sharp 14% 80
    Sharp 167
    Sharp 14% 123
    Sharp 140
    Sharp 70 triangle
    Kyocera
    Evergreen EC-115 PV Module
    Evergreen EC-110 PV Module
    Evergreen EC-55 PV Module
    Evergreen EC-51 PV Module
    Uni-Solar TJ PV 64
    Uni-Solar TJ PV 42
    Uni-Solar TJ PV 5

    —————–

    For comparison, I have, from notes taken from the “Cambridge Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences” (1980 ?) (did I omit “The” from the title by mistake? I’m just going by memory)

    energy of extraction of Cu, MJ/kg (most of which is not chemical energy of oxidized Cu):

    mass fraction of ore, MJ/kg (converted from kWh/kg)
    2 %, 54
    1 %, 79.2
    0.5 %, 126
    0.2 %, 324
    seawater (259 ppm mass), 1800
    common rock (70 ppm), 5400

    The energy for extraction from common rock is similar to the energy density of solar modules, and many rare earth metals and other useful elements have similar crustal abundances (Zr, V, Cr, Ni, Zn, Cu, Ce). The energy should of course be less for ores, and these materials don’t make up the bulk of the modules or, so far as I know, the overall material use (I don’t have any info on Nd mass per unit enery for wind, though. Of course, Zr is (often?) used in nuclear power plants, and they use Ni in turbines – though I’m not sure if that includes steam turbines (in significant amounts) – maybe just jet engines – well you get the point) How much Ru would be used in a dye-sensitized TiO2 cell? How small is the amount of Ag used for electrical contacts in Si solar cells (and can it be substituted?). MJ/kg chemical energy is larger for some other elements (relative to oxides in particular) – Al and Si in particular – but that is still similar to C (relative to CO2) – although I should refer to Gibb’s free energy, I have enthalpy ready to go: relative to oxides (except where I used sulfides – if I did that, I did this awhile ago and didn’t make it clear then – but it’s oxides for C through at least Fe on this list, and I think I calculated it per unit mass of the element, not the compound):
    C: 32.8 MJ/kg (similar to coal),
    Si: 32.4 MJ/kg,
    Al: 31.1 MJ/kg,
    Mg: 24.8 MJ/kg,
    Ti: 19.6 MJ/kg,
    Cr (from Cr2O3): 11.0 MJ/kg,
    Fe (from hematite, Fe2O3: 7.4 MJ/kg,
    from magnetite, Fe3O4: 6.7 MJ/kg)
    Zn: 5.33 MJ/kg
    Sn: 4.89 MJ/kg
    Ni: 4.08 MJ/kg
    Cu: 2.48 MJ/kg
    Pb (from yellow oxide): 1.05 MJ/kg
    Ag (oxidation state +1): 0.14 MJ/kg

    I tried to find a formula for the Cu energy values as a function of mass fraction, and applying it to several elements for common rock values(taking into account chemical energy):
    MJ/kg

    Si 46
    Al 52
    Fe 31
    Mg 63
    Ti 139
    Mn(?) (using Cr enthalpy and Mn abundance) 551
    (I may have ommitted chemical energy for some of the rarer elements)
    Zr 2672
    V 3098
    Cr 3434
    Ni 4020
    Zn 5114
    Cu 5493
    Ce 5864
    Ag 2106916
    Au 53853000

    But take that with a grain of salt – I copied these numbers down rather quickly, for one thing. Also, I ignored significant figures for all of this.

  15. 115
    Patrick 027 says:

    … and I don’t know whether the MJ/kg of Cu extraction was in primary fuel equivalent, electrical equilivalent, or some mix. It might be outdated, anyway (?).

  16. 116
    Patrick 027 says:

    … oh, and this: $ solar module / $ fuel, for the same MJ electricity
    (assuming 1 cent/kWh coal primary energy (possibly way-off),
    $80/barrel oil, not including any refining, etc,
    5 cents/kWh nat.gas, primary energy (it’s similar to oil at $80/barrel; consider it a sample calculation, as I didn’t have actual price data when I did this:)
    relative to ‘coal'(??see above), oil ($80/barrel – now considered the good old days), ‘natural gas'(??see above)
    minimum: 1.84, 0.383, 0.368
    median: 2.00, 0.417, 0.400
    average: 3.13, 0.652, 0.625
    average without the Uni-Solar modules: 2.05, 0.428, 0.411
    where the minimum, median, average, and average without Uni-Solar $/W of the modules was 4.84, 5.26, 6.34, 5.40

    Of course, part of economic value is timing, hence the relatively greater cost of solar power (I’m refering to the long time period of the investment). Still, one can see why (PH)EV’s could be helpful, depending on how time changes costs, and battery prices, infrastructure, etc. (especially considering I didn’t include the full price of gasoline, just crude oil).

  17. 117

    Perhaps I’m missing something here, but surely the–shall I call it “fossil fuel intensity?”–of renewable technologies is basically a function of the overall fossil fuel intensity of the economy as a whole?

    If so, then greater penetration of renewables into the energy mix would mean declining fossil fuel intensity, too.

    Several comments upthread seem to assume that it’s somehow a fixed coefficient, which I must say I don’t understand. There may be aspects of mining that are currently most conveniently accomplished by burning fossil fuels, but I can’t think of one for which their is currently no technologically practical ‘sustainable’ solution.

    (NB–use of petroleum products as chemical feedstocks is another issue, and IMO another good reason to stop burning them for fuel.)

    But, as I said, perhaps I’m missing something here?

  18. 118

    “. . .declining fossil fuel intensity for renewables, too.”

    And (of course) “there is,” not “their is.”

    Hey, still working on that first coffee. That nifty preview function doesn’t help if you don’t use it. . .

  19. 119
    Edward Greisch says:

    Patrick 027: You forgot to include the price of batteries, the eternal toxicity of the lead in the batteries, and the toxic waste produced in solar cell production. You also over estimated the life expectancy of the solar cells by a factor of 2.4. You should never depend on anything outlasting the warranty.

  20. 120
  21. 121

    One last procastinating comment for today–does anybody have more info on the progress of the Danish experiment attempting to link EVs with wind power, rather as envisioned by Jim Bullis?

    Some here will recall that there’s a partnership involving DONG (Danish energy co.), A Better Place (charging point co., active in Denmark, Australia, Israel, and prospectively Ontario, Canada) and Renault (French vehicle manufacturer, themselves cooperating with Nissan.) A Better Place launched their first center at the beginning of March; apparently the first Renault EVs are to hit Copenhagen streets in the fall.

    And of course, they must love the way fuel prices have been going lately. But I didn’t find much more beyond this press release:

    http://svtechtalk.com/?p=2481

    More, anyone?

  22. 122

    No, really, last comment for this morning:

    Some cautious optimism seems warranted for Beacon Energy and their flywheel storage system; there’s a better first quarter financial report (though they’re still losing money at a good clip), and an exciting if somewhat vague deal signed with gaelectric of Ireland (best wind potential in the British isles, and a 40% penetration target.)

    The market seems to like it. See NASDAQ:BCON

  23. 123
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote re: Fukushima: “There was no real need to evacuate. The reactor leak has not exceeded the natural background radiation except very close to the reactor.”

    With all due respect, you really damage your own credibility when you make statements like that.

  24. 124
    Nick Gotts says:

    “Yes, that is the cost of a POLICY, not the cost of nuclear energy. The policy is irrational fear. The dog died of dehydration or starvation. There was no real need to evacuate.” – Edward Greisch

    Tosh. There was, and still is, the possibility of far larger discharges of radioactivity than have occurred so far: evacuation was a necessary precaution. As has emerged just in the last few days, damage to reactor 1 is far greater than had been realised.

  25. 125
    Daniel C Goodwin says:

    I just read Mark Hertsgaard’s “Hot” and found it disappointing. It was hard to take seriously so much discussion of adaptation while the plagues of April raged.

    In particular, there was a lot of talk about seawalls. I don’t understand the point of seawalls in general as a defense against an unpredictable, non-linear rate of sea level rise. And those who raise the subject rarely consider the CO2 footprint of Portland cement. I would find it most interesting if RC could track down someone to discuss the pros and cons of seawalls.

  26. 126
    ccpo says:

    Re 105 ccpo – I had assumed the sources I’ve used (see, for example, anything by the authors of the article “A Solar Grand Plan” (Scientific American, a few years ago) take that kind of thing into account or at least make a fair attempt to do so. They estimate/calculate CO2 or CO2(eq) emissions per kWh so presumbably they’ve included (most of the?)fossil fuel inputs, for example.

    Patrick, I wouldn’t make that assumption. Even if you do, they still certainly did not do full cycle analysis out to, say, energy used by workers, their vehicles, families… etc. I mean, we really do not know how to do this properly at this time, so any assumptions based on our limited analysis is dangerous. It is better simply to do the obvious: power down, localize… reduce consumption to that which we can renew and recycle the rest as long as we can.

  27. 127
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 117 Edward Greisch – the warranty is not an expiration date. Solar modules decline in performance over time from – well, I don’t know a lot about that, I know some encapsulants may lose transparency over time; otherwise electronic materials may fail from … diffusion of dopants(?). There’s thermal cycling and physical stresses associated with that, I guess. Anyway, what I remember reading is something to the effect that mature technologies decay 0.5 % a year. This means at some point the module will be significantly underperforming relative to the rated value. I would assume, just like many other things, there can also be some failure rate with modules where some fraction just stop working completely each year – some perhaps can then be fixed, others recycled(?). Hence, a warranty. And for that matter, some fraction will be picked up by tornadoes or ravaged by fires, etc. Hence, insurance for small-scale ownership. But on the large scale, you can think of a batch of PV modules decaying more predictably at some % per year. For example, a 1 % per year decay (total effect of decay of working modules and losses of modules) would give you roughly the equivalent of 100 years of output at rated performance for the whole batch, if allowed to continue out to infinity. At some point, the performance of those modules still working will no longer justify the land/roof space and usage of other parts of the system, so they would have to be replaced then, anyway. But at least 60 years equivalent – which might actually take a bit longer to achieve because of the decay rate (I posted some actual calculations a few years ago on this) – seems reasonable to me.

    A lot of lifecycle analyses are more conservative and assuming only 30 years. Some components have to be replaced then or earlier (early replacements would be accounted for in such studies) so simply halving lifecycle impacts per unit energy going from 30 to 60 60 years won’t work, but some components will last longer than 30 years.

  28. 128
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “You should never depend on anything outlasting the warranty.”

    I assume then that you are in favor of shutting down and decommissioning US nuclear power plants when they reach the end of their original “warranty” (ie. their 40-year operating licenses based on their planned and expected service life), rather than rubber-stamping 20-year renewals as the NRC has been doing?

  29. 129
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “You forgot to include the price of batteries, the eternal toxicity of the lead in the batteries …”

    Not all photovoltaic systems include batteries; most residential, grid-connected, net-metered systems do not include batteries.

    Not all batteries use lead.

    And lead is recyclable.

    Edward Greisch wrote: “… and the toxic waste produced in solar cell production …”

    I have to stifle a guffaw when a proponent of nuclear power points to toxic waste from PV production as a problem.

    According to the US DOE, the toxic waste from the manufacture of PV cells is small in quantity, contained, and recyclable.

  30. 130
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 115 kevin mckinney but surely the–shall I call it “fossil fuel intensity?”–of renewable technologies is basically a function of the overall fossil fuel intensity of the economy as a whole?
    If so, then greater penetration of renewables into the energy mix would mean declining fossil fuel intensity, too.

    Makes sense. EROEI is the more fundamental issue. Although fossil fuels may remain important for some applications because of their chemical composition and physical properties (aside from chemical feedstocks: producing iron and steel, and Si, for example.) Then again, alternative methods might be found, or renewable hydrocarbons might be produced (I can imagine there might remain, for some applications, an issue with the composition of impurities being different in coal and oil vs renewable hydrocarbons, but maybe not…).

    Several comments upthread seem to assume that it’s somehow a fixed coefficient, which I must say I don’t understand. There may be aspects of mining that are currently most conveniently accomplished by burning fossil fuels, but I can’t think of one for which their is currently no technologically practical ‘sustainable’ solution.

    Re 117 Edward Greisch – You forgot to include the price of batteries, the eternal toxicity of the lead in the batteries, and the toxic waste produced in solar cell production.

    It’s not fair to say I forgot, because:

    1. I was focusing on EROEI, and in particular the part in mining, because that’s an issue ccpo brought up. I certainly did not forget that energy input is required in manufacturing after the elements have been seperated from ores (for example, for the PV materials, purification and crystal perfection (where necessary)). Actually I think that the energy used in extraction of elements is relatively minor part of the input. But manufacturing is the more obvious thing that one would include in a lifecycle analysis.

    2. I refered to studies done by others. I was not going to post detailed information about those studies just now/then because of my own time constraints. I certainly am aware that in general there can be other (in addition to greenhouse gases) pollutants from industrial processes or supporting industrial processes. Studies have been done on that. Did you know that, among… I think it was four types of solar cells – two or three being Si-based and one being CdTe, that they emit less, per unit energy, Cd than coal power – and CdTe emits the least – because there is less coal used in solar power than in coal power (I’ll post the reference eventually if somebody else doesn’t first)? I also saw a study about occupational hazards in solar power.

    3. I specifically mentioned the price of of batteries for (PH)EV’s (as an issue; I didn’t attempt an analysis). And Pb-acid batteries don’t seem to be the future there. And you’d need batteries for cars regardless of whether the ultimate source is nuclear or solar. And see points 1 and 2 above. – Oh, did you mean backup for solar power? Well that’s not really going to generally be necessary (batteries, specifically; they’re one option, and remember there’s also transmission and complementary power sources), and see points above.

  31. 131
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 125 ccpo they still certainly did not do full cycle analysis out to, say, energy used by workers, their vehicles, families… etc. I mean, we really do not know how to do this properly at this time, so any assumptions based on our limited analysis is dangerous. It is better simply to do the obvious: power down, localize… reduce consumption to that which we can renew and recycle the rest as long as we can.

    Just to clarify, it was not my intention to suggest that we shouldn’t get more efficient and curb population growth, etc.

    Energy use by workers – wouldn’t that tend to be a small truncation error, though? Certainly, if the amount of energy consumed by workers outside the job met or exceeded the net energy produced at their job, then they could not be a source of energy for society – if all paid labor were devoted to that one task then there would be few or no ways to use that energy anyway (no one would be making appliances or light bulbs, etc.). But there we see a correcting mechanism – less energy use would occur, and less of society would be devoted to making that energy. Of course, for greater economic benifit, we’d want more energy produced with less labor

    (PS this is the funny thing about green jobs. It’s a great selling point, but there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing – we don’t want to create too many jobs. Because the goal is not to have jobs, the goal is to have wealth (sustainable wealth, of course); if we could do that with less work, great! The more egalitarian solution for ‘too few jobs’ is a 2-day workweek. That’s the dream (when the jobs are few because of higher worker productivity, as opposed to lack of resources or a recession). Of course, some jobs are better done by fewer people working longer hours (computer programming, for example), so that model of job-sharing won’t work so well for everything. Anyway, I’m not sure we’ll have that problem with green jobs (that there would be too many).)

    But consider how much of the G(N/D – never sure which one to use)P goes to energy. And how that might change for different energy resources. Except for trade issues and income inequality, could that give us an idea of how much of the labor force is required to supply energy to the whole economy? (And workers who make less might use less energy, though perhaps not in a simple proportion). If something like 10 % of the economy is energy, then I would think the impact on calculated EROEI would tend to be a similar amount – ie it wouldn’t balloon out of control.

  32. 132
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 125 ccpo – of course, the amount of energy going into worker’s lives would decline with a general increase in efficiency; CFLs and energy-efficient buildings and greater fuel economy would thus increase EROEI for all energy sources, provided the full lifecycle of those things is an actual energy efficiency improvement.

    PS With a proper tax/policy on CO2(eq) emissions (and other pollutants, etc.), we could let the market work and we’d find out what’s sustainable and what’s not.

  33. 133
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re my 129 – third paragraph is from another comment and was supposed to be deleted.

  34. 134
    Edward Greisch says:

    126 Patrick 027: Semiconductors do fail because of the diffusion of dopants. The very best can last as long as 40 years if they are kept cold. Lower grades may last 10 years or less. Solar cells are semiconductors. Solar cells on a roof are going to get hot. Heat kills semiconductors. It follows the Arrhenius equation. The junction temperature is the key. Heat opens up the lattice and allows the dopants to wander across the junction. “Eventually”, you have a resistor.

    The Arrhenius equation is an exponential. Breakdown happens much faster as the temperature increases.

    Compare the junction temperature to the melting temperature of the bulk semiconductor to get a starting point. Semiconductors with high melting points would last longer. But you are only a consumer, which mean that they are going to sell you the lowest grade of reliability, called consumer spec. NASA and the military get a better deal. NASA even gets a choice of semiconductors. You get silicon because silicon is cheap. And easily melted.

    READ the warranty carefully. It probably doesn’t work as well at the end of the warranty as it did when it was new.

    “mature technologies decay 0.5 % a year” Nonsense. “But at least 60 years equivalent” No semiconductor is going to last 60 years unless it it is in the cold of deep space, around 3 degrees Kelvin.

    “It’s not fair to say I forgot, because:” Yes it is. The point you are still missing is that you either use the grid as a battery, which is not fair because the grid is coal fired; or the batteries are going to cost you $10,000/year to keep your present living standard.

    127 SecularAnimist: “I assume then that you are in favor of shutting down and decommissioning US nuclear power plants when they reach the end of their original “warranty” (ie. their 40-”
    Wrong. Nuclear power plants are not semiconductors. Nor are they cars. The technology is different, so it has its own rate constants.
    But there is another reason to replace old nuclear power plants: Technology has evolved and the world has changed. Generation 4 nuclear is so much better in so many ways that I would recommend replacing all previous generations with Gen 4 reactors.
    And guffaw yourself.

    I have no financial or other connection with the nuclear power industry or their advertising agents and I never have. My nuclear experience involved nuclear weapons the first time I worked for the US army laboratory command.

  35. 135
    Edward Greisch says:

    119 Jim Galasyn: http://www.desdemonadespair.net/2011/05/us-japan-joint-survey-reveals-high.html
    Red on their map is 19 to 91 MICRO sieverts/hour That is 1.900 to 9.100 millirem /hour. It takes 1319 hours =55 days to equal the annual natural background dose in Iran at 91 microsieverts/hour. Red is the highest dose rate on that map. 91 is the top of the range from 19 to 91. The map could be re-drawn to show more gradations. There isn’t really a high dose rate outside the evacuation zone. For how long was the 19 MICRO sieverts/hour sustained? An hour or 2? Not long anyway. How is it that people survive in Iran, given that they get 12 rems/year every year from natural sources?

    “It’s graver than Chernobyl in that no one can predict how the situation will develop,” whatever that means

    17,000 microsieverts = 17 millisieverts = 1.700 rem which you can easily get anywhere in the US from natural background radiation and 2 CT scans.

    “has discharged more radiation than the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear plant in the United States,” And so has your doctor’s CT machine, and that is just into one person. And so has any coal fired power plant. Since the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear plant in the United States discharged NO radiation into people, it is very easy to discharge more radiation than TMI did. It released only some heavy hydrogen that went straight up, not into people.

    Again, Natural Background Radiation in the USA starts at 350 millirems = 3.5 milli sieverts per year. The average dose per person from all sources is about 620 mrems per year.

    Please calculate your annual radiation dose:
    http://www.ans.org/pi/resources/dosechart/

    http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/rp/factsheets/factsheets-htm/fs10bkvsman.htm

    http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/radiation/around-us/doses-daily-lives.html

    http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/bio-effects-radiation.html

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9753369

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation

    http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/publications/2000_1.html

    I recommend you quit reading desdemonadespair and start reading http://www.world-nuclear-news.org
    http://bravenewclimate.com
    http://www.world-nuclear.org

    I have no financial or other connection with the nuclear power industry or their advertising agents and I never have. My nuclear experience involved nuclear weapons from the first time I worked for the US army laboratory command.

  36. 136
    Edward Greisch says:

    129 Patrick 027: “greater penetration of renewables into the energy mix would mean declining fossil fuel intensity, too.”
    Not necessarily. Your wind and solar keep turning on and off. Mostly off. That means that the coal fired power plant has to keep its turbines spinning fast enough to provide power the instant your solar or wind turns off. It is called “Spinning reserve.” The problem is that Spinning reserve burns almost as much coal as just getting the power from the coal in the first place. Wind and solar are nuisances as far as the electricity generating companies are concerned. That is one of the reasons why nothing has changed since 1960. Nothing will change until you accept nuclear power because nuclear is the only source that the electricity generating companies can live with other than coal.

    Again: I have no financial or other connection with the nuclear power industry or their advertising agents and I never have. My nuclear experience involved nuclear weapons the first time I worked for the US army laboratory command. I have never worked for the nuclear power industry or any related industry. My sole reason for commenting as above is fear of GW.

  37. 137
    Edward Greisch says:

    Patrick 027, SecularAnimist, Jim Galasyn and other renewables lovers: Please read:
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/05/12/renewables-are-not-sufficient-p2/
    Barry Brook does a good job of explaining it.
    “wind and/or solar power”….”would seem to be 10 to 40 times more expensive than an equivalent nuclear-powered system, and still less reliable.” “The cost to avoid 1 tonne of carbon dioxide would be >$800 with wind power compared with $22 with nuclear power.”

  38. 138
    Jim Eaton says:

    At 111 Edward Greisch says: “The Earth’s carrying capacity is 5 Billion, and fewer if they all live like Americans.”

    There are those who see no limit to human population, and some who think 5 billion is far too many.

    Some researchers, such as Julian Simon and Bjorn Lomborg believe that resources exist for further population growth. In a 2010 study, they concluded that “there are not (and will never be) too many people for the planet to feed.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overpopulation

    Others suggest a far smaller number than 5 billion:

    “To summarize this brief essay, determination of an “optimum” world population size involves social decisions about the lifestyles to be lived and the distribution of those lifestyles among individuals in the population. To us it seems reasonable to assume that, until cultures and technologies change radically, the optimum size of the human population lies in the vicinity of 1.5 to 2 billion people.”

    Gretchen C. Daily, Anne H. Ehrlich, and Paul R. Ehrlich
    http://urbanhabitat.org/node/955

    It appears that for the rest of the flora and fauna on the planet, as well as the lifestyles of humans on Earth, the lower number the better.

  39. 139
    Ron R. says:

    Edward Greisch said:

    “There was no real need to evacuate. The reactor leak has not exceeded the natural background radiation except very close to the reactor.”

    Wrong.

    I am surprised by the extent of the contamination and the vast area it covers,” said Tetsuji Imanaka, assistant professor of nuclear engineering at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute.
    http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201105070143.html

    Radiation has also recently been found at above permissible levels in tea leaves grown SOUTH of Tokyo.

    You said: “Again, Natural Background Radiation in the USA starts at 350 millirems = 3.5 milli sieverts per year.”

    Which, you might have mentioned YOUR industry so cheerfully contributed to (you have been strutting your nuclear weapons bona fides here a lot lately). According to Jacqueline Cabasso, the Executive Director of the Western States Legal Foundation which “monitors and analyzes U.S. nuclear weapons programs and policies and related high technology energy, with a focus on the national nuclear weapons laboratories” in an interview with Al Jazeera, “But more than 2,000 nuclear tests have enhanced this background radiation level, so we are already living in an artificially radiated environment due to all the nuclear tests.” Hmm, that “natural” background radiation is not so natural after all. Another omission. Surprise surprise.
    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/04/20114219250664111.html#

    You said: “Three Mile Island nuclear plant in the United States discharged NO radiation into people … It released only some heavy hydrogen that went straight up, not into people.”

    How convenient, it only went straight up, and not into people. Unfortunately however you’re wrong again.

    Results support the hypothesis that radiation doses are related to increased cancer incidence around TMI. The analysis avoids medical detection bias, but suffers from inaccurate dose classification; therefore, results may underestimate the magnitude of the association between radiation and cancer incidence.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1469835/

    There is no other way of saying it, you are a determined, er, spinmeister for the nuclear industry.

    A place to find news you won’t see in the MSM or on industry websites.

    http://enenews.com/

  40. 140
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #73,83,84,89….The thesis defense went badly for my student, with two faculty expressing doubt about climate change, and another saying that her topic is only supposed to be about hot temperatures & violence, not about global warming, and that we hadn’t established whether temps were indeed warming in the city.

    They decided to have her edit out any mention of climate change until the summary & conclusion, and not include the research how other effects of CC — such as increased hurricanes, droughts, and floods — are expected to increase violence, as increased violence has been linked to these extreme weather events. The student doesn’t like controversy, so she went along with them; also they convinced her that was how research and a thesis should be done, not with all this extra stuff that detracts from the main thesis.

    She, with my advice, had initially set it up to have a CC frame, like “higher temps are shown to increase violence, and in a globally warming world we could then expect more violence in that city & elsewhere.” There are lots of temp-violence studies going back over 100 yrs, most finding positive correlation (whether linear or curvilinear), and even the temp-violence researchers are now framing their articles in terms of CC. (I tried to argue that to no avail.)

    Anyway, after she submitted I did take her weather data going back 50 years for a city in South Texas, and found signif pos correlations (most moderate) on the mean of daily mean temps ([min+max]/2) for 10 of 12 months, and no month showing a cooling trend. Then I did a 10 year average of months from 1961-1970, and subtracted this from a 10 year average of months from 2001-2010. This showed a 1.3C increase, which is higher than the .6 or .7 C of global level warming. I sent this info to the other committee members, explaining that ice ages are only a few degrees cooler and a 6C warming could kill off much of life on earth. But I did point out the amount of warming over the 2001-2010 research period would probably not have significantly increased violence, since the overall corr for temp-violence was just .298. Plus the city stats only suggest an impact by CC on local temps, and do not prove it was partly or wholly due to CC (which is why I had not thought of looking into this earlier).

    I’ll be looking into applying a nonlinear function to correlations on the data, as Tamino suggested, some time later, with help from the stat/math faculty.

    The student has expressed interest in us both doing further study maybe for publication according to my ideas, but she just had to get her thesis over and graduate…

  41. 141

    “the grid is coal fired. . .”

    Which grid? Where?

    Certainly not true as a blanket statement.

  42. 142
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 133,135 Edward Greisch Semiconductors do fail because of the diffusion of dopants. The very best can last as long as 40 years if they are kept cold. Lower grades may last 10 years or less.

    Thank you. But is that 40 years / 10 years of continuous operation? Of course, thermal cycling has it’s own issues, but PV cells are only going to be hot some of the time. And then there’s potential for hybrid systems, where waste heat from PV is used to heat (or pre-heat) water, making the overall use of solar energy more efficient and boosting PV performance by lowering the temperature.

    Well, the people who study PV seem to think that you could use PV cells for many decades, beyond the 30 years used in lifecycle analyses. But go with the 30 years if you want. Still a high effective energy density if one thinks of the modules as ‘fuel’ (and everything else would be the power plant, transmission, etc.), and still a good EROEI, and still – not competitive with coal yet, but doable, and if we had a CO2(eq) tax, … and in the future… we’ll see.

    But you are only a consumer, which mean that they are going to sell you the lowest grade of reliability, called consumer spec. NASA and the military get a better deal. NASA even gets a choice of semiconductors. You get silicon because silicon is cheap. And easily melted.

    Well I would they wouldn’t put so much into quality that the price is too high. It’s compromise to find the economic optimum. Anyway, don’t forget about potential for buying power from consumption by power plants, businesses, and companies that might install PV on many, many roofs.

    READ the warranty carefully. It probably doesn’t work as well at the end of the warranty as it did when it was new.
    I knew that. It’s implied by my reference to a % per year decay of performance.

    “It’s not fair to say I forgot, because:” Yes it is. The point you are still missing is that you either use the grid as a battery, which is not fair because the grid is coal fired; or the batteries are going to cost you $10,000/year to keep your present living standard.

    Your wind and solar keep turning on and off. Mostly off. That means that the coal fired power plant has to keep its turbines spinning fast enough to provide power the instant your solar or wind turns off. It is called “Spinning reserve.” The problem is that Spinning reserve burns almost as much coal as just getting the power from the coal in the first place. Wind and solar are nuisances as far as the electricity generating companies are concerned. That is one of the reasons why nothing has changed since 1960. Nothing will change until you accept nuclear power because nuclear is the only source that the electricity generating companies can live with other than coal.

    It’s not really up to me to accept nuclear power. I’m not anti-nuclear, (at least not actively), just pro-Solar and wind.

    You’re still missing points – so coal, as currently done, can’t be a peaking power source. Okay then. Not that we should invest much in a (hopefully soon-to-be) dying industry, but maybe there is a way to use coal in a (relatively) efficient peaking power plant. Maybe with CCS. But we’ve still got some natural gas; we need to conserve it, it’s not innocent, but we don’t need to shut down those peaking plants right-away.

    There’s also hydroelectric – okay, they’d have to accept reduced capacity factors there if it’s now baseload, but it might work out to be economical – anyway, if solar and wind become competitive, then that’s the kind of thing that will happen – hydroelectric will have to accept it and becoming a partially-peaking plant would be an adaptation option for them.

    And besides, there’s (AA)-CAES (note that wind power could be paired with such pumped air storage by skipping the initial electric generation and just using the mechanical energy through the wind turbine to the pump, and then generate electricity from the stored energy), there’s transmission (the grid can be like a battery locally because it’s spatial extent can to some extent smooth out local temporal variations – consider the size of clouds, cloud regions, weather patterns – by analogy, wave power can deliver wind from various locations, but that’s a whole other tangent…).

    Plus – very importantly – don’t forget CSP-type solar (or solar ponds, for that matter) (solar stored as heat, either for electricity or industrial processes, as well as lower-temperature applications like space and water heating, which isn’t going to produce electricity (maybe save some though if electric heating were the backup) but I mention it anyway). Note that a CSP or solar pond-type power plant is basically a heat-engine type plant and if stored solar heat were insufficent, burning a fuel would work for backup-power with no additional power plant necessary. If necessary, there’s perhaps your peaking coal, although of course we want to get away from coal – other options are natural gas, and biofuels, or solar/wind/etc.-produced fuels (see following).

    And perhaps chemical batteries (H, and/or maybe production of C or CO from CO2 – note that peaks in energy supply exceeding the temporally-unflexible load could be diverted to other uses like producing fuels and chemical feedstocks or sequestering CO2, or desalination and pumping water if that can be flexible in time, also maybe Al production to some extent – some industries could adapt to changes in temporal/spatial patterns of energy supply…), pumped water, and flywheels.

    Also, there is some correlation of some of the peaks in demand (summer daytime) and supply, and in some places, wind and solar tend to complement each other to some extent (winter vs summer). Consider if you only used nuclear, you’d need some batteries to store energy to get supply to meet demand, unless you accept a lower capacity factor. Can nuclear plants be peaking plants?

    Have some of these things yet to be done. Yes. But is there any reason to think they, or at least a sufficient subset of them, can’t? You have to start somewhere; that something hasn’t yet been done cannot always be an excuse for not doing it.

    Again: I have no financial or other connection with the nuclear power industry or their advertising agents and I never have.
    Okay; I never said otherwise; haven’t kept track of others’s remarks on that. I have no such connection with solar and wind, for that matter.

  43. 143

    #135–“Your wind and solar keep turning on and off. Mostly off. That means that the coal fired power plant has to keep its turbines spinning fast enough to provide power the instant your solar or wind turns off. It is called “Spinning reserve.” The problem is that Spinning reserve burns almost as much coal as just getting the power from the coal in the first place. Wind and solar are nuisances as far as the electricity generating companies are concerned. That is one of the reasons why nothing has changed since 1960.”

    The comment responded to was originally mine, not Patrick’s, so I’ll respond.

    Ed, this sounds logical at first blush. But it’s wrong, on several counts. First, wind and solar are NOT “mostly off.” (Unless you define “off” as “less than maximum output.”) Second, there are these things called ‘weather forecasts’–which mean, among other things, that you don’t need spinning reserve at all times because there will be periods for which you know you can count on some level of output from a wind farm. Third, different forms of renewable energy are subject to intermittency at different times, and thus tend to offset. Fourth, geographical dispersion with adequate interconnection does help to compensate.

    The most telling point, though, is empirical. If it were the case that to add renewable energy, you always needed to add equal amounts of coal-fired spinning reserve, that would be a serious constraint on the growth of renewables as a proportion of the total energy market. In the real world, that simply has not been the case:

    “Between 2007 and 2008, renewable energy consumption grew 10 percent to 7.367 quadrillion Btu which was the highest level since the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) began keeping records, while total U.S. energy consumption declined by 2 percent (Table 1.1). Total energy consumption declined primarily due to the economic recession. As a result, renewable energy’s share of the U.S. market increased to well over 7 percent (Figure 1.1).”

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/solar.renewables/page/trends/rentrends.html

    Shouldn’t be possible, according to you, since clearly ‘conventional’ energy consumption must have actually fallen even as renewable energy was added.

    (And I suppose I should add that 7% renewables–still admittedly a small proportion–in itself certainly qualifies as a ‘change from the 1960’s.’)

  44. 144
    JiminMpls says:

    #133 Ed – Get a clue. Generation IV nuclear power plants don’t exist yet. There are no operational GenIII+ plants yet – and those under construction are billion$$ over budget.

  45. 145
    JiminMpls says:

    #133 Ed – Reality check. GenIV nuke plants won’t be commercially available for at least a decade. There aren’t even any operational GenIII+ plants yet, and those under construction are billions over budget.

  46. 146
    JiminMpls says:

    Wind and solar power are not intermittent. They are variable. The variability is easily managed.

    Nuclear power is intermittent. For example, the two unit Prairie Island plant in Minnesota shut down unespectedly during a recent thunderstorm. It was completely down for four days.

    Three years ago, the Monticello plant was shut down for over six months due to an accident in the plant.

  47. 147
    Thomas says:

    Ed @133,135
    Hopefully this won’t be considered as piling on…

    The analogy of PV equals semiconductors, is a poor one for predicting failure lifetime. Semiconductors are pushed to both very small feature size (current Intel design rule 22nm), and
    the power density at the device level is orders of magnitude higher than in a solar cell without concentrated (i.e. focused) sunlight. A centimeter squared chip might dissipate a hundred watts, you have to get to a substantial fraction of a square meter of PV to reach the same power level. So naturally we should expect that PV lifetimes are going to be much longer. Typical warranties specify 85% or 90% of speced output at the end of the warrenty period -typically 25 or 30 years. At the rate panel prices are declining, the cost of replacement after a few decades use should be a fraction of original cost, so the levelized cost of power from PV is insensitive to this issue.

    Again, coal as spinning reserve is a poor choice. For the most part natural gas peaking plants are being used for this purpose. Grid storage is also being experimented with, and this should help reduce the need for spinning reserve (with or without renewables). Demand management will also increase over time.

  48. 148
    Patrick 027 says:

    142 Kevin McKinney Second, there are these things called ‘weather forecasts’–which mean, among other things, that you don’t need spinning reserve at all times because there will be periods for which you know you can count on some level of output from a wind farm.

    Truly excellent point!

    (on a smaller scale, I wonder if refrigerators and electric heaters/heat pumps, etc. could turn on or off depending on high-resolution satellite imagery showing where clouds are relative to solar PV power plants or one’s own roof – if a cloud is coming, they might turn on ahead of schedule to build up a little heat or cold to get through; if a cloud is leaving soon they could wait a few extra minutes to turn on, etc.)

    (I wonder how hydroelectric power and any desalination/water pumping demands would correlate with wind and solar power. There’s spring melt, which isn’t really aligned with a peak or dip in solar power or energy demand. Summers in some places can be dry, which would make solar power complementary to hydroelectric. What about internal variability? Extrotropical or other cyclones have clouds, wind, and rain, tending to make hydroelectric and wind complementary to solar on the timescale of a few days – although that would tend to be more for run-of-river or small reservoir hydroelectric along smaller streams, if at all. What about droughts? Well, some coastal deserts have fog; you can have muggy and/or cloudy days without rain (but lower humidity days may tend to get hotter so the effect on air conditioning demand would be?) – still, I there should be some tendency for droughts to correspond to peaks in solar power supply, so that solar power could to some extent complement hydrelectric power and desalination needs.)

  49. 149
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 145 Thomas – thanks
    for the four combinations
    85 % at 25 years
    85 % at 30 years
    90 % at 25 years
    90 % at 30 years

    there is a % decay per year of
    0.648
    0.540
    0.421
    0.351

    an e-folding time of (years)

    153.8
    184.6
    237.3
    284.7

    and the years it would take to produce the amount of energy that would be produced in 60 years at the rated power (for a given capacity factor)

    76.0
    72.6
    69.2
    67.4

    the average % of rated power (for a given capacity factor) over 100 years would be:

    73.5
    77.2
    81.6
    84.3

  50. 150
    Thomas says:

    Patrick:
    Those are all good ideas for demand management. Obviously the more intelligence you can build into the system, the more optimal the (potential) operation. You are right about hydro. This spring the Pacific Northwest has very high water flows, a lot of wind turbines are being asked to shutdown because there is already an excess of power. That shows that one way that flow based variable power sources will be utilized, i.e. we will overbuild them, so at some times there is no way to utilize the full output. There is one company, WindFuels whose business plan is to combine stranded wind energy, with CO2 to create synthetic fuel. He claims it can be competitive at current oil prices. Its not really carbon neutral, as it simply captures for reuse CO2 sequestered from a fossil fuel plant, but at least it would allow us to get double use out of the carbon. Obviously it requires near zero priced electricity, which is the market value of “stranded” wind/solar. As a secondary benefit, it could skew the economics of wind in favor of overbuilding it.