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Unforced Varations: Aug 2012

Filed under: — group @ 2 August 2012

Once more with feeling…

571 Responses to “Unforced Varations: Aug 2012”

  1. 451
    Edward Greisch says:

    448 Jim Larsen: Nothing has changed in the management of the automobile industry. If you make cars that last too long, the rest of the industry will try to change that. Why? Because they make more money if you are forced to buy a new one as often as possible. How old do you think I am? Over 100?

    448 Jim Larsen: Fairbanks is not a special case. Feasibility is part of doing engineering. If it isn’t feasible, there is no sense dreaming or writing about doing it. Chatting and having a good time is not the purpose of RC. The purpose is deadly serious: ending GW before it ends us. Chatting and having a good time could be “misappropriation of funds.”
    Solar power has dropouts in mid-day in Arizona!
    “Reliables” are not renewables. Comment by Cyril R.: We would need 5 Billion tons of lead to make a lead-acid battery for the US if we used only renewables. “A USGS report from 2011 reports 80 million tons (Mt) of lead in known reserves worldwide.” The whole world has only 1.6% of the lead required to make the US battery. “At today’s price for lead, $2.50/kg, the national battery would cost $13 trillion in lead alone ….”

    So are you going to fill up the Great Basin with water to a mile above sea level? Your energy storage needs are absurd with renewables. Look up “feasible.” You can’t do it with the batteries in future electric cars either. But please do go ahead and find out how much lithium that would take, and what the world’s supply of lithium is.

  2. 452
    flxible says:

    Edward, “feasible” is precisely what supplying a major portion of global energy with N is not – even in the US, maybe especially in the US. All of the resource constraints you see on use of renewables apply as well to N-power, particularly with respect to cooling water in the Arizona desert, not to mention the large areas of the US increasingly subject to drought as GW progresses. Instead of the amount of lead needed for a world sized battery, let us know how much water [frequently potable water] would be needed to cool a world sized reactor.

    Meanwhile your favored solution languishes and you continue to “misappropriate funds” insisting no progress can be made with any other approach, even conservation apparently. Again, how does Gen4’s off-grid wonder help?

  3. 453
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “SecularAnimist’s plan is a plan to continue burning fossil fuels to make electricity. How you could possibly think that ‘nuclear power is incapable of generating electricity at night when there is no wind’ is beyond me. Obviously, it is wind and solar that don’t work on calm nights.”

    You argue that wind and solar require backup — e.g. on calm nights. You argue that this means that any “plan” to maximize the use of wind and solar requires us to “continue burning fossil fuels”. But if nuclear power can generate electricity on calm nights, why are fossil fuels required? Fossil fuels would only be required if nuclear power cannot provide backup generation on calm nights.

    Edward Greisch wrote: “Wind and solar have not yet shut down a single fossil fueled power plant, but there are 104 fossil fueled power plants that were never built because of the 104 nuclear power plants in operation in this country.”

    You are unfairly applying different standards to nuclear and renewables. For renewables, you demand that currently operating fossil fuel power plants must be “shut down” to count the renewables as reducing emissions, but for nuclear you only require that fossil fueled power plants “were never built” because nuclear made them unnecessary.

    But there are many fossil fueled power plants that have not been built during recent years, thanks to the 50 gigawatts of wind generation capacity that has been built in the USA to date. According to the American Wind Energy Association, that is equivalent to the generating power of 44 coal-fired power plants, or 11 nuclear power plants. According to the AWEA, those turbines “avoid emitting as much carbon dioxide as taking 14 million cars off the road”.

    Compared to wind, the US solar energy industry is just getting started, but an NREL analysis using “conservative assumptions” (including a 17 percent capacity factor for PV and 20 percent for solar thermal) calculated that solar energy generated nearly 5 GWh in 2011. The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that 506 MW of new PV capacity came online in the USA in the first quarter of 2012, and projects that total PV installations for the year will exceed 3 GW. The 392 MW BrightSource Ivanpah concentrating solar thermal power plant now under construction will, according to BrightSource, generate enough electricity to serve more than 140,000 homes during peak demand hours, avoiding more than 400,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year.

    A recent NREL report found that “the U.S. has the technical potential to support over 190,000 GW of solar energy, including nearly 155,000 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity and 38,000 GW of concentrating solar power”.

    The reality is that the ongoing rapid deployment of wind turbines, and the skyrocketing growth of both solar photovoltaics and solar thermal power at all scales, from residential to utility-scale, is already eliminating the need for many fossil fuel power plants which will “never be built”, and is indeed contributing to the phaseout of the worst carbon polluters, coal fired power plants. And we have barely begun to exploit the vast potential of these energy sources.

  4. 454
    Hank Roberts says:

    One thought, whenever we get fusion power (that 30-year horizon has receded as fast as we have moved toward it) — these superultradupercritical coal plant generator systems will be usable. They’re the only steam plants built to run as hot as a fusion plant could, we hope, run (built with metals that won’t corrode at those temperatures and pressures, which they’re having to develop).

    (Why? the fission piles are limited by how long they take to cool off, so they’re run cooler than even current coal burners).

  5. 455
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Lindzen at it again in the WSJ, including such wise advice as:

    “Despite shrill claims of new record highs, when we look at record highs for temperature measurement stations that have existed long enough to have a meaningful history, there is no trend in the number of extreme high temperatures, neither regionally nor continentally.

    As the bumper sticker says, “silence will not protect you.”

  6. 456
    Ron R. says:

    SecularAnimist — 19 Aug 2012 @ 10:52 AM:
    “Edward Greisch: your entire comment #411 is a strawman fallacy. Which has been pointed out to you, pretty much every time you recite it.”

    Jim Larsen — 21 Aug 2012 @ 3:31 AM:
    “So you are “required” to point out the special case repeatedly…. Your conclusion doesn’t switch to disengage and leave them be, but to insist that you have no choice but to again pound that special case.”


    Also see:

  7. 457
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Edward Greisch – maybe more later, but one quick point – why would we use Pb batteries for all storage? CSP, CAES, pumped hydro, etc.

  8. 458
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Hank: ,,,these superultradupercritical coal plant generator systems will be usable. [w/ever-receding fusion]

    Good point. Akin to the borehole disposal method for isotope messes we’d rather never see again: made possible by drilling technology developed for petroleum.

  9. 459
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re me @ 457 Re Edward Greisch @ 451

    Okay, I see you suggested Pb because pumped hydro won’t work –

    The linked post describes one particular project and mentions without explanation that it is not well suited to complement unschedule and intermittent power supply – this comment says/suggests it has to do with maintaining pressure in the pipes. I had to skim over some things and didn’t go beyond that comment, but it seems to me this is a particular case (advantage – two existing reservoirs; disadvantage – long tunnels – how do these compare to typical pumped hydro? I don’t know – but if it’s a problem, I guess that pretty much rules out a Lake Ontario – Lake Erie system (which, being Great Lakes, have great areas so could store greater energy per unit water rise or fall, although the head is substantially less than 800 m). I guess Ideally you’d have a two stage hydroelectric dam with an intermediate reservoir that fills and empties as desired – or maybe that stress cycling would break the dam? Much I don’t know – but I do know there is such a thing as pumped hydro and it contributes something. Add to that simply varying the output of hydroelectric dams – such as the one at Niagara Falls (not the full Erie-Ontario head but you don’t need canals/tunnels. From EIA data, conventional hydroelectric net generation has generally been from a bit below to a little above 40 % of net summer generating capacity (2006: ~ 42 %, 2001: ~ 31 %, but that’s a bit of an outlier for recent years; it’s been closer to 40 % than 30 % in most recent years). So existing hydroelectric presumably can operate with such intermediate capacity factors while still being economical. To what extent this is due to seasonal and weather-related river flow variations, I’m not sure, but one or more of the links I posted earlier discuss the potential for hydroelectric to help balance supply and demand with wind and solar in the mix. It isn’t necessary to have one kind of storage/backup that can do everything – some may manage second-by-second, minute-by-minute fluctuations, to smooth it out so that others can handle the hourly variations, yet others the daily or weekly or seasonal variations. CAES, CSP, (pumped)hyrdo, but also, solar-produced fuels are a possibility, then there’s geothermal… And the grid helps even things out too (its less likely to be cloudy or clear all at once over larger scales). And it is possible to forecast wind and solar resources so it isn’t entirely unscheduled.

  10. 460
    SecularAnimist says:

    Dr. Jeff Masters, writing about Tropical Depression 9, which is now expected to become Tropical Storm Isaac some time today, and likely will become Hurricane Isaac within a few days, says:

    “I blogged about the climatological chances of a hurricane causing an evacuation of Tampa during the convention in a post last week, putting the odds at 0.2%. The odds in the current situation are higher, probably near 2%. It would take a ‘perfect storm’ sort of conditions to all fall in place to bring TD 9 to the doorstep of Tampa as a hurricane during the convention, but that is one of the possibilities the models have been suggesting could happen.”

    I certainly don’t wish for a hurricane to clobber Tampa, but it would be interesting to see the discussions about whether a hurricane that caused a convention full of global warming deniers to be evacuated can, in fact, be attributed at least in part to global warming.

  11. 461
    Patrick 027 says:

    EIA: derived from tables 8.2c and 8.11c – specifically, the “Electric Power Sector by Plant Type” sections (divided net generation, 1000s kWh, by net summer capacity [kW] * 1000s of hrs per year (assuming 2000 was a leap year – I’ve heard that the century years are an exception but I think 2000 was an exception to that exception so…):

    summing (summer net capacity kW * 1000 hours) over 2001 to 2010, dividing sum of net kWh generated over those years,
    Average capacity factors 2001-2010:

    coal ………….: 0.7069
    petroleum ……..: 0.1485
    natural gas ……: 0.2077
    other gases ……: “#VALUE!” (I did this in Excel – PS some of these small contributors may not be exactly the same in each of the two tables, I suspect).
    Total Fossil Fuels: 0.4256

    NuclearElect.Power: 0.9010

    Hydro pumped storg: -0.0374 (since it’s storage you wouldn’t expect much net generation; existing capacity in 2010 is 22.4544 GW; total for electric power sector is 972.4 GW in 2010.)

    Convntn.Hydroelect: 0.3806
    biomass wood …..: 0.6141
    biomass waste ….: 0.4912
    geothermal …….: 0.7441
    solar/PV ………: 0.1608
    wind ………….: 0.2561
    Total Renewables .: 0.3753

    Other …………: 10.07 (I’ll have to look at the fine print to see why)

    (electric power sector): 0.4625

    For whatever it’s worth, accepting a 20 cm rise or fall in Lake Ontario in exchanging water with Lake Erie would involve an input or release of 3.69 E 15 J, which is 1.03 TW over 1 hour, or 42.7 GW over 1 day, or 6.10 GW over 1 week. No inclusion of conversion/viscous losses, the kinetic energy of the flow, etc.

    Niagara falls (which only has a fraction of the head between lakes Erie and Ontario) is an interesting case because only some of the flow (for obvious reasons) is sent through a hydroelectric plant. The dimished falls doesn’t clear debris as well as it did in its natural state. Not exactly at the top of our concerns here, but if the falls were ‘set to full power’ in times of more abundant power or low demand (maybe they are for all I know?), maybe that would help.


    Edward Greisch @ 451, first link, first paragraph (emphasis mine, although it might be somewhat unfair as they didn’t specify increasing nuclear energy in that part – the whole thing is 50 pages and I’ve got other stuff to do)

    It is commonly assumed that greenhouse gas and energy problems can be solved by switching from fossil fuel sources of energy to renewables. However little attention has been given to exploring the limits to renewable energy. The main problems are to do with the magnitude of the supply tasks that would be set and the difficulties that would be encountered integrating large amounts of intermittent renewable energy into supply systems. This paper argues that wind, photovoltaic, solar thermal and biomass sources, along with nuclear energy and geo-sequestration of carbon could not be combined to provide sufficient energy to sustain affluent societies while keeping greenhouse gas emissions below safe levels. The case is strongest with respect to liquid fuels and transport. Brief reference is made to the reasons why a “hydrogen economy” is not likely to be achieved. The conclusion is that consumer-capitalist society cannot be made sustainable and the solution to major global problems requires transition to The Simpler Way.

    I italicized a portion which I believe is simply incorrect (studies have been done, etc.). The rest, make of it what you will.


    and the second link @ 451:

    [WRT wind intermittency storage requirements etc.] “the results will not matter since we will have many different renewable energy sources acting together (as if there is some “harmony” in two essentially random signals).

    The variation as a fraction of the average will tend to get smaller as randomly varying components are added. They would have to vary in lockstep to maintain the same variation. It is known that wind and solar have a complementary tendency in at least some places. As with the grid spatially, multiple sources can help smooth things out.

    Reading the rest, the combination of wind and solar is addressed. The author identifies an optimum mix of wind and solar (which is mostly wind) that greatly reduces the capacity factor of the backup power; the backup capacity is still a large fraction of peak demand.

    It’s interesting that the author keeps refering to the seasonal cycle of the solar resource as the culprit. It’s not the occasional cloud that passes overhead at one site. Everyone knows about the seasonal cycle.

    The author chooses 6 sites (for solar power), 2 each in AZ, CA, and CO, to base this on. Having many more sites in the same region, I’d expect, would help the shortest term variability but maybe not the the 1-2? daily variability as synoptic-scale systems would tend to cover the area. But while the SW is identified as a great place for large centralized PV and CSP plants, we could have PV elsewhere, etc. I wonder how many sites the wind study was based on?

    I’d have to refresh my memory but some of the links I provided earlier addressed this sort of thing and seemed to be able to deal with it.

    Now I have some other things to do…

  12. 462
    David B. Benson says:

    Edward Greisch @450 — Perhaps I know rather more about these power production issues. (1) Planning includes the civil works and power plan; engineering tasks both. Indeed the civil engineering, by law, requires a professional engineer. (2) Permitting requires the P.E. to work with the applicable state agency regarding state code for civil works. There are other aspects as well which involving an environmental sciencists or engineer. (3) The actual site preparation will certainly require at least several weeks assuming superior construction engineering planning and construction management (an engineering position).

    No place in the USA can this all be done in less than 2 years; might take longer than that in, say, CA and NY.

  13. 463
    Jim Larsen says:

    Edward, OK, I’ll engage.

    Nuclear power is not just baseload power, but “sticky” baseload, in that taking it offline is difficult and expensive, so it has problems, but I find it a grand addition to a renewable-based system. I remember as a kid defacing graffiti that said “Hell no, we won’t glow!” by writing “Is nuclear power dangerous?” in front. But the subject is fraught with pitfalls. Sure, supplying the USA with nuclear power is a grand idea. Little risk. Great results. Not much chance for any downside beyond the cost, much of which could be blamed on the opposition for making it unnecessarily difficult. Nuclear “waste”? Naw, it’s nuclear “resources” just itching to be included in a nuclear battery.

    But Iran has the same rights as the USA. So does Yemen. You REALLY want nukes spread around amongst the masses?

    That said, thorium holds promise.

    The renewable system depends on storage, be it air pressure, big honking sodium batteries, everybody’s car, or the battery stripped from everybody’s last car, for leveling the load from day to day, with effectiveness up to a week. Given the ability to shuttle power 500+ miles, it can be made to work. But advocates MUST realize that outliers exist. In a fossil economy, outliers can be handled by a small adjustment, but in a renewable world, outliers affect everybody’s life tremendously.

    This will be evident in seasonal shifts. If a whole month is going to be short, there’s no storage medium that will help. Consumption *must* drop for that month. If a whole month is going to be flush, the choice is to find a use for or just flush the excess.

    The result will be an electric market that varies both on hourly and seasonal time frames, with swings at least large, and possibly gargantuan. A 1000% change in electric rates and back again will probably be a yawner. Companies will figure out low-capital high-energy systems that sit around half the time and burn through electrons willy nilly the other half. Patrick mentioned aluminum. When energy is essentially free, AL smelters will run 24/7, and a month later, when it’s $1(?) a Kwh, they’ll all shut down. Workers will live in a weird world. Double shifts one month, and “unpaid vacation” the next.

    So yes, I find nuclear useful. It provides a solid base and makes the job easier – but it adds risk. One of those pods gets stolen and stuff will hit the fan for sure. It would be “purer” to not include it in the mix, but we simply don’t know how much cheaper or more expensive it will be to include nuclear in the mix – and will never know unless we include nuclear. That dirty bomb of 2019? well, it didn’t happen since we didn’t build pods, so pod-believers can say pods would have been safe.

    451 Uh, I gave a link that suggested maintenance costs dropped 13% over ~a decade ending in a huge global slump. Since new cars are exempt from user maintenance cost, the unsold cars in 2008 and 2009 represent a shift of the car fleet from immune new cars to repair-prone old cars. Thus, the 13% is likely too low.

    The way this works is either you say, “Yes, I was wrong.” -OR- you provide something showing my cite is incomplete or flawed. So, either produce something showing cars have not gotten more reliable over the last decade (or pick your timeframe), or man-up and say the business has changed since you wrote your book. (My guess is you’re about 80. That would put you solidly in the demographic you represent.)

    451, Uh, Fairbanks is a special case. When I lived there there was NO local food. But special case or not, I solved the problem using biodiesel to feed the existing generators. Yet, you just whined that Fairbanks is what? typical?

    Again, the way this works is you either show how biodiesel can’t provide Fairbanks with electricity OR you admit the problem is solved. Whining about definitions for a solved issue is, well, s****d.

    Let’s let it rest here. We have TWO issues, and NO further issues will be accepted from you until those two are resolved (as per the communication thread).

    1. Can Fairbanks exist at reasonable cost by the use of biodiesel or a similar tech? (they’ve got tons of trees)

    2. Are cars getting more reliable?

    Address these two, and ONLY these two subjects. I will Repeat, Repeat, Repeat, as suggested, until you finish these two subjects.

  14. 464
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re my re


    assuming some combination of wind and solar capacity is used such that the average wind+solar power available equals average consumption;

    backup capacity is given as a fraction of peak demand (which looks like it may be around 7.5 or 8 GW on the graphs; it looks like average consumption may be around 5 GW – it’s hard to tell, though. (PS this is not for the whole U.S. – obviously. It would be interesting to see if that would make a difference. I thought the diurnal range of consumption would be larger.)

    the energy supplied by backup power is given as a fraction of production or total production – it’s not entirely clear if this is backup + available wind and solar or backup + utilized wind and solar (which can be different without storage) – I think it may be the first one. It would be possible to tease more out of this by comparing peak demand and average demand, figuring out what fraction of average demand would be supplied given the capacity factor, etc. – or maybe it’s specified in the comments?

    the energy storage required to use wind and solar energy for the backup power is given (assumes a conversion loss) – as a fraction of annual production (* is this equal to annual consumption in this case?, or that plus conversion losses?)

    Wind only:

    backup capacity: 88 % of peak demand
    backup generation 21 % of production (*)

    energy storage needed 9% of yearly production (*)(given 20% net loss (“round trip”))

    Solar capacity = 0.21 * wind capacity:

    backup capacity: 89 %
    backup capacity factor: 14 %
    backup generation: 19 % of total production (*)

    storage: 10 %

    Wind and solar, equal capacity:

    backup capacity: 91 % of peak demand
    backup capacity factor: 17 %
    backup generation: 24 % of total production (*)

    combined capacity factor 19 % (I think this is if there is no storage and some energy is simply not used.)

    storage: 13 %
    storage rate up to 2.5 * average power consumption.

    The “Solar Grand Plan” uses CAES for (some) long term (seasonal) storage (and maybe H – not sure of time scale offhand – it’s been awhile actually since I read it). CSP is good for hourly-daily storage. Other link(s) I gave suggest hydroelectric power can respond on an hourly basis to would-be supply-demand imbalances – but now I’m repeating myself…

    PS why be ‘ecumenical’ (as the author noted) with solar? It may be because of resource size. Wind is certainly among the least expensive options. Wind doesn’t actually take up much land at all, in the sense that you can have farms, etc (maybe not houses, though, unless it’s small-scale wind…) around the wind turbine towers, but you can’t pack the wind turbines too close together, obviously. And… (birds and bats, …) Meanwhile, CSP has at least short term storage; PV can go on roofs. If storage is planned (making fuels for winter (PS combine space heating furnace with TPV for home generating electric power in a CHP (or is it CPH?) plant) or PHEVs), solar power’s peaks and valleys can be dealt with. How will demand patterns look with growing water scarcity? To some extent, patterns of energy use are adapted to the supply as it is now – a business may use electricity at night to make ice for daytime cooling, for example. This type of adaptation could be reversed in a solar-dominated world.

    out of time.

  15. 465
    Patrick 027 says:

    Well now that I posted that, here’s a critical comment I found that looked interesting (haven’t even read through it though – seriously out of time now)…

  16. 466
    Jim Larsen says:

    460 Secular said, “I certainly don’t wish for a hurricane to clobber Tampa, but it would be interesting to see the discussions about whether a hurricane that caused a convention full of global warming deniers to be evacuated can, in fact, be attributed at least in part to global warming.”

    Well, they are mostly(?) religious AGW deniers. That would make such a ‘cane God’s Political Announcement.

  17. 467
    Jim Larsen says:

    Patrick, you mentioned an expert who figures wind will be bigger than solar. I think it will change over time. Ultimately, solar has the best chance to become too cheap to meter.

    Wind is about materials science now. The computer simulations are good enough to make further improvements grand but not game changers – and they’re pretty guaranteed over the next decade anyway, but make carbon fibre cheap and wind goes nuclear.

    On the other hand, solar is about converting a product that first relied on a clean room product – silicone – and making it work with paint.

    It would be nice if there were a third renewable. Yeah, I know, hydro. But its jobs are baseload and capacitance, not random production.

  18. 468
    Speedy says:

    News from the German department of I-told-you-so:

    The ‘energy turnaround’, advertised as replacing nuclear with renewables is in reality replacing clean and safe nuclear with dirty and dangerous fossil fuel, with a little bit of renewables for greenwashing. This time they are celebrating the opening of two new lignite (!) fired units at Neurath:

    The most disgusting part is that this plant is advertised as an enabler for renewable energy due to its ability to quickly respond to varying demand, while the Germans are destroying their by far biggest source of clean energy.

    The picture of the two new units at the Neurath power plant at the RWE site is a perfect illustration of Germany’s broken energy policy. A brand spanking new lignite plant, with some windmills in the background for greenwashing. To make matters worse, the hill the windmills are built on, Vollrather Höhe (, is a spoil tip from the nearby Garzweiler open pit lignite mine (

    I also recommend the video on this plant, but take your blood pressure medicine before you start watching it:

    Note that I’m not directly opposed to wind and solar, they certainly have niches were they are very useful, I just think that the idea of powering an industrial society with diffuse and unreliable power sources is as likely as me riding a unicorn to work every day.

  19. 469
    Edward Greisch says:

    [edit: please revise as less of a rant and an attack and more of a cogent, supported argument–Jim]

  20. 470
    Daniel J. Andrews says:

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a take-down of Ridley’s latest article in Wired. I read it while waiting in the grocery store, didn’t notice the author of the piece, but did notice the strawmen. A few times he claimed “scientists said”, but then referenced newspaper articles, popular media, politicians, opinion editorials. There was also some nice revisionist history too around acid rain and the ozone hole, with some cherry-picked numbers added on top.

    Halfway through I actually flipped to the front cover to make sure I was indeed reading Wired, and hadn’t accidentally picked up something inane (Cosmopolitan, People, WSJ ;).

  21. 471
    Brian Dodge says:

    “What fraction of available wind energy (for installed turbines) isn’t being used due to grid issues?”
    anhydrous ammonia fertilizer ~$900/ton, manufactured using fossil fuels; most wind power is in rural areas. “At practical levels of current density the direct ammonia fuel cell has an overall efficiency of about 60% compared to 30-35% for the indirect-type fuel cell.”
    – which would allow time shifting of electrical power.
    Or – – application to mobile uses – planes, trains, and automobiles.

  22. 472
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 467 Jim Larsen re my 464 re my etc.

    Clarification – I was neither agreeing nor entirely disagreeing with that ‘study’ – which I put in single quotes because, while it was quite a bit more involved than a back-of-the-envelope (just look at those graphs), it didn’t seem quite ‘fully done’ (limited number of sites, limited portion of the grid, no CSP, etc.). Also, I don’t think the author is an expert in this particular field. Still it seemed interesting enough that I posted a summary of the numbers. The author wasn’t forecasting a solar/wind capacity ration, just recommending one (for the region considered).

    The comment here, and the 2nd following it, make interesting counterpoints:
    and they have links. The first of those comments makes a point about it being somehow odd to measure energy storage as a fraction of annual production – I don’t see why that would be odd, although if some production is simply dumped, consumption would probably be more helpful.

    I started looking at the prior work done by the author on wind –
    – the author mentions statements made about how distribution of wind sites reduces variability, apparently feeling they aren’t backed-up with evidence (I would have thought that they were). So far I’ve gotten to “As a starting point I want to create a production profile based on real wind power production data. As sources I choose south-eastern Australia, Ireland, and the Bonneville Power Administration in Oregon, US.” SE Australia isn’t exactly small (though I’d like to see a map of where the wind installations area) but Ireland and Oregon don’t exactly spread out much. 3 widely spread clusters of sites would be better than 3 all in one place, but I’d think a distribution of more clusters with less overall clustering (except in accordance with wind resource) would be better still.

    That link about making C or CO from solar energy has me thinking about a possible clean carbon storage. Apparently you can have fuel cells too so you don’t lose so much by combusting it to drive a mechanical heat engine.

    PS is there such a thing as a cirrus-floccus-mammatus ? Well there is now. Or maybe Ci has pouch-like structures all the time and I just never noticed before.

  23. 473
    Jim Larsen says:

    Patrick, yeah, the selection of sites (I didn’t read the link) seems strange. I’d have picked something like Oregon, New Mexico, Iowa, and one or two sites on the Atlantic coast. If you want to know how it all works together, your sites have to be able to electrically communicate.

    The question is critical. In a mature renewable system, what’s the daily and monthly variation in output? The assumption Edward G makes, that consumption can’t adjust, guarantees his conclusion, that building a renewable system would require so much overcapacity or storage as to be ludicrous. But vary consumption, and the whole thing works (I think).

  24. 474
    Patrick 027 says:

    Looking through Delucchi and Jacobson, “Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part II:
    Reliability, system and transmission costs, and policies”
    (PART I is here):

    Section on variability:

    There is an interesting comparison of reliability and variability among power plants, noting that large power plants are sometimes taken offline.

    U.S. from 200-2004: average coal plant down 6.5 % and 6.0 % for unscheduled and scheduled maintenance, respectively – from North American Electric Reliability Corporation, 2009a.

    Modern wind turbines’ down time – 0-2% land, 0-5% ocean (p. 133 of Dong Energy et al, 2006)

    Commercial solar projects “are expected to have” average downtimes around 1 % (“~1%“) (some experience zero in a year, some have had downtimes up to 10% (from Banke, 2010).

    Individual solar panel and wind turbine downtimes don’t affect electrical supply much; large power plant downtimes can be an issue.

    (This is distinct from variations in the solar and wind resource.)

    Geographic distribution:

    p.2 (hyperlinks added)

    Mills et al. (2009a) report that the spatial separation between PV plants required for changes in output to be uncorrelated over time scales of 15, 30, or 60 min is on the order of 20, 50, and 150 km. Mills and Wiser(2010) review several studies of the effect of dispersion on the variability of PV generation and state that “the clear conclusion from this body of previous research is that with “enough” geographic diversity the sub-hourly variability due to passing clouds can be reduced to the point that it is negligible relative to the more deterministic variability due to the changing position of the sun in the sky”(p.11).

    Spatial distribution of wind is also discussed. And there’s this interesting comparison long term variability of wind to hydroelectric:

    Citing Katzenstein et al. (2010): Estimated output from 16 modelled 1.5 MW turbines distributed through the Central and Southern Great Plains (U.S.) was compared to observed hydroelectric power (“hydropower”), both for 1973-2008. For the annual energy outputs, standard deviations for wind and hydropower were 6% and 12% of there average annual outputs, respectively. The largest single-year deviations were +14% and -10% for wind, and +26% and -23% for hydropower.

    Combining sources:


    Some studies that have examined combining WWS renewables to match demand over time include those that have examined combining wind, solar, and geothermal (CWEC, 2003)); wind, solar, and wave (Lund, 2006), wind, solar, and hydroelectric (Czisch, 2006; Czisch and Giebel, 2007); wind, solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric (Hoste et al., 2009; Jacobson, 2009; Jacobson and Delucchi, 2009; Hartand Jacobson, underreview), and wind, solar, and battery storage (Ekren and Ekren, 2010; Zhou et al, 2010).

    A study of supplying CA electric power (Some hydroelectric power is imported from Pacific NW, but the solar, wind, and geothermal supplies are constrained to be from CA): (emphasis mine)

    Although results for only two days are shown, results for all hours of all days of both 2005 and 2006 (730 days total) suggest that 99.8% of delivered energy during these days could be produced from WWS technology. For these scenarios, natural gas was held as reserve backup and supplied energy for the few remaining hours. However, it is expected that natural gas reserves can be eliminated with the use of demand-response measures, storage beyond CSP, electric vehicle charging and management, and increases in wind and solar capacities beyond the inflexible power demand, which would also allow the excess energy to produce hydrogen for commercial processes, thereby reducing emissions from another sector.

    from the figure 1 caption:

    hourly figures (so we might need ~ 1 hour (or perhaps some fraction of that) of storage)

    (demand + T&D losses on two days; values graphically estimated, averages are very rough estimates)
    33 GW average, 44 GW peak (Jul 28, 2005)
    29 GW average, 36 GW peak (Nov 15, 2005)

    GW capacity:

    73.5 wind
    28.2 PV
    26.4 CSP
    20.8 hydroelectric
    4.8 geothermal (used as baseload)
    24.8 natural gas


    Czisch (2006;2007) similarly calculated that electricity demand for 1.1 billion people in Europe, North Africa, and near Asia could be satisfied reliably and at low cost by interconnecting windsites dispersed over North Africa, Europe, Russia, and near Asia, and using hydropower from Scandinavia as backup.

    p.4 of 21, excerpt about using vehicle batteries:

    Kempton and Tomic (2005b) calculate that in order for V2G systems to regulate power output to keep frequency and voltage steady over very short time intervals (minutes) when wind power supplies 50% of current US electricity demand, 3.2% of the US light-duty vehicle (LDV) fleet would have to be battery-powered and be on V2G contract for regulation of wind power. In order for V2G systems to provide operating reserves to compensate for hourly variations in wind power (again when wind power supplies 50% of US electricity demand), 38% of the US LDV fleet would have to be battery-powered and be on V2G contract. (In both cases, Kempton and Tomic (2005b) assume that only half of the battery EVs would available for V2G at anytime.) Finally, in order for V2G systems to provide longer-term storage to compensate for daily variation in wind power to ensure that wind output never drops below 20% of capacity, given the yearly wind profiles from an interconnected wind system in the Midwest (based on Archer and Jacobson, 2003), 23% of the US LDV fleet would have to be fuel-cell powered and be on V2G contract.

  25. 475
    Patrick 027 says:

    “from the figure 1 caption:”

    refering to the GW capacity values. I think it was based on hourly usage and production, hence my comment about storage, though it might not be so necessary because of geographical smoothing even within CA, etc. (?). I estimated the average and peak GW values from the graphs.

  26. 476

    On another (unforced, I hope) topic, my article on the sea-ice crash just hit its 1,000 page view–in about 60 hours! Compared with the usual readership rate on these sorts of pieces, that’s pretty stellar–color me excited!

    Thanks to readers here who took the time to check it out.

    And if you missed it, it’s here:

  27. 477
    dbostrom says:

    Over on Skeptical Science there’s a permanent thread on anthropogenic waste heat, or more specifically how it won’t warm the planet in a noticeable way.

    The thread itself is a form of waste heat.

    I wonder if RC could use a permanent thread where acolytes of various energy capture/liberation schemes could bash one another in perpetuity. Surely the discussion would have better continuity, with less duplication of effort?

    As well, the rest of us wouldn’t have to soak in the wasted sectarian radiation flowing from the various monomaniacs promoting the exclusively ideal nature of their favorite energy god.

    On the other hand, there’s Patrick 027, who single-handed redeems the redundancy. And it -is- an open thread.

  28. 478
    Charlie H says:

    #460, SecularAnimist; #466 Jim Larsen,

    I recall that Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell claimed that Katrina hit New Orleans as retribution for Massachusetts legalizing gay marriage.

    I’m sure a hurricane hitting Tampa would get equally creative interpretation.

  29. 479
    Jim Larsen says:

    477 dbostrom said, “the rest of us wouldn’t have to soak in the wasted sectarian radiation flowing from the various monomaniacs promoting the exclusively ideal nature of their favorite energy god.”

    I don’t have one of those. Near the beginning of this discourse I looked at Germany’s renewable portfolio. Wind was first, with biofuel second. I took that as a baseline, and figured a mixed renewable future was better than monomaniacal. So, a vehicle which can selectively run on two renewable sources seems smart. Dunno. Maybe renewable chemical energy is a bad idea. Some folks here seem to think so. In any case, I had fun exploring the ideas with folks who I learned tons with/from. Sorry if it didn’t float your boat.

    Patrick, thanks for the deviation data. It reinforces my opinion that this is all doable.

  30. 480
    Jim Larsen says:

    Oh, and Patrick, your link showed that over a seasonal period, hydro is in fact “random production”, so my initial comment was 100% false. It’s base load and capacitance for a day, but for a season it’s random production.

  31. 481
    dbostrom says:

    Jim: Sorry if it didn’t float your boat.

    And I’m sorry for whining. Considering how many niches are available for various energy options to occupy and the heft of the monster waiting outside the nursery to kill any challengers, slagging on “competing” systems is pointless adelphophagy and depressing to witness. Gets my goat.

    But I live in Seattle, so perhaps I’m growing allergic to endless discussion of anything even remotely touching public policy. We’ve been discussing having a regional rail commuter system since 1912 and only 100 years later are actually laying track, now that right-of-way is practically impossible to obtain except for a toy system.

  32. 482

    #480–It probably varies a lot on regional scales–some flows are probably quite reliable, most of the time.

    But it was quite fun, a couple of years back, when debating wind bashers, to be able to point out that the “unreliable” Danish wind resource was backstopping “reliable” Norwegian hydro–way down due to drought–and “reliable” Finnish nuclear–down for refurb. As I recall, that was true for a stretch of several months.

    In general, it does seem–well, odd–to argue for putting all eggs in a single basket, even if you happen to think that one basket is clearly best.

    (And Captcha says, “oauseh egg.” If only I knew what ‘oauseh’ meant…)

  33. 483
    Jim Larsen says:

    471 Brian,

    I read the other day that over 50% of China’s installed wind capacity is stranded. Sounds so astounding I’m not sure I believe it, but apparently the subsidies or however wind is promoted in China work so well that any electricity produced is a minor issue. I noted something similar when I calculated that Secular’s PV system would be profitable even without any electrical production.

  34. 484
    SecularAnimist says:

    dbostrom wrote: “various monomaniacs promoting the exclusively ideal nature of their favorite energy god”

    I might be considered “monomaniacal” about solar energy, though I’m also a big fan of wind power, and of burning biomass to generate electricity, and of course drastically improving efficiency.

    But I don’t think that solar power is “exclusively ideal”.

    I just think that it is a set of technologies (photovoltaics and concentrating solar thermal electricity generation, solar thermal space & water heating, etc) that are both mature and rapidly improving, that are being deployed now, at all scales from rural villages in India and Africa, to residential and commercial rooftops in the developed world, to industrial/utility-scale gigawatt-class power stations.

    And I think that proliferating solar power technologies — including the capacity to manufacture them cheaply and easily, anywhere — as rapidly and as far & wide as possible, can do enormous good, not only by quickly reducing GHG emissions from electricity generation, but also by providing electricity to millions of people in the developing world who currently have NONE, and by making the electric grids of developed nations like the US more distributed, resilient and reliable.

  35. 485
    wili says:

    Jim Larsen at #473 said: “vary consumption, and the whole thing works”

    Here in Minnesota, we all accept that there are some days when the snow will be too heavy or the ice too slick to do anything, and people all just stay home from school or work. They’re called “snow days.”

    And of course there is the long tradition of taking a siesta in mid-day in Spain and elsewhere when it’s just too hot to do much of anything productive (pre-AC).

    If we can accept that most activities have too take a pause once in a while for these environmental reasons, why not have “dark calm days”–when the wind isn’t blowing anywhere nearby and it’s night or too overcast for much solar, time to take a “solar/wind siesta.”

    Add that kind of flexibility to an enormously reduced load over all (through both efficiency and some outright curtailment), and to various big and small storage strategies (already in place in places like hospitals), and suddenly a viable modernish society run only on renewable power becomes thinkable.

  36. 486
    Hank Roberts says:

    Yeah, I tried arguing that every fission plant warrants a decent sized zone around it that will host solar, wind, thermal storage facility, biodiesel plant, whatever else is locally available with cross-connections and switches in place and tested so when the grid goes down, they can power the fission plant’s cooling down system for months.

    We know we’ll lose the grid — for months — next time there’s a Carrington event:“carrington+event”+probability

    We’re sitting under the Sword of Damocles trusting the strength of that single thread holding it up.

  37. 487
    wili says:

    Commercial natural gas was likely major factor in late-20th century stabilization

    Increased capture of natural gas from oil fields probably accounts for up to 70 percent of the dramatic leveling off seen in atmospheric methane at the end of the 20th century, according to new UC Irvine research being published Thursday, Aug. 23, in the journal Nature.

    I’m not sure whether this is the last word on the pause in the increase in atmospheric concentrations, but it confirms something I strongly suspected.

    (Kevin, you may have to read the first part backward–“He’s u, a 0 (zero), (goose) egg” ?? One prone to paranoia may suspect that recaptcha is constantly subtly insulting and berating us ‘-)

  38. 488
  39. 489
    sidd says:

    Outta curiosity: This page has tracking from
    AddThis, Facebook,Google,Sitemeter

    and when scripting is enabled
    SpecificClick,Scorecard in addition

    Does realclimate really really really need all this ?

  40. 490
    flxible says:

    sidd, There is no ‘tracking’ on RC – you need to clear your cache and cookies occasionally, and log out of any of those “share it” sites you belong to or have used recently, especially any google related.

  41. 491
    Dan H. says:

    Also, 2007 was 7% higher than last year, and 2006 was 14% higher. Other years were lower. Compare the highest recent years; humans have burned more acres than nature.

  42. 492
    Hank Roberts says:

    flxible, sidd’s first four trackers are found by Ghostery; I use that and NoScript (and I don’t see the latter two, so I agree with your advice).

  43. 493
    flxible says:

    Hank – Clicking any of the [300+] items under the “Share” at the bottom of every main post is the only way to get any cookies here other than the RC cookie and that one from “AddThis”, which is what records the clicks on any of the ‘share’ items – the one from Sitemeter is simply a hit counter for this site, useful for the RC owners – google and faceplace set no cookies here – I use duckduck and never face, and I never see their tracks. Most folks are not aware that ANY faceplace or google function that you use will track you everywhere and set myriad cookies from everyplace, RC is one of the most ‘trackless’ sites on the net. My bet is you and sidd are carrying around facebook and google cookies from log-ins or searches.

  44. 494
    David B. Benson says:

    Patrick 027 @472 — Bonneville Power Administration’s main office is in Portland, OR, but the wind farms are in the Columbia Basin. That is mostly in eastern WA but also some in OR. The BPA data is only for those wind farms for which BPA is the balancing authority. About the same amount of Wind generation capacity in the basin but also elsewhere in eastern OR uses other balancing authorities.

  45. 495
    Patrick 027 says:

    re the bravenewclimate studies – I noticed from the graphs that BPA (the power supplier, not the stuff in plastic) has a seasonal cycle with what seems like 1 distinct peak in winter (averaging over the mini-peaks within it that year) – no big summer peak. It’s been my impression that the Pacific NW, or parts thereof, don’t have as much air conditioning as much of the rest of the country, and may have less need for it (so far). I think the U.S. as a whole, and even large parts of it, have summer peak demands greater than winter peak demands – this might boost the case for solar power a bit relative to what one gets considering BPA. Also, I thought wind is supposed to peak in the colder part of the year in much of the country. I’m not sure if it does this in BPA; – maybe Ireland? Australia’s winter is in BPA’s summer, so that’s a factor. More tomorrow…

  46. 496
    Ron R. says:

    Hank and fixible:

    I’m no expert but I think Ghostery is similar to another program called “Do Not Track”. I tried them months ago then found that they were actually leaving multiple cookies. Their help forums were full of people asking why that is. They have various reasons which may, or may not be legitimate. They do provide information about one’s viewing to marketers but claim that they do not personally identify you. I emailed the support people and they told me that these programs are actually affiliates and constructs of business and marketing firms. They work by asking the business not to leave cookies. Color me skeptical.

    I remember a program back when called Scotty which was much simpler and, to my mind, better. It simply removed any and all cookies the moment the page came up. None of this pretzel like reasoning or excuses.

    All that said, someone sent me an article the other day that revealed that a certain popular privacy program (I don’t remember which) was actually involved in secretly gathering highly personal information for interested parties. Sadly, I tend to assume that privacy is history, both on and off the web. Outrageous yes, but we live in the age of outrage.

    Privacy should not be a “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear” issue, which is just another way of saying you’re guilty until proven innocent, it’s the principle, it’s a human right.

    My 2 cents.

  47. 497
    SecularAnimist says:

    Hank Roberts wrote: “We know we’ll lose the grid — for months — next time there’s a Carrington event …”

    Indeed, concern about extended loss of grid power from a Carrington-type geomagnetic storm, or other disruptions, is one reason that the US military is aggressively deploying wind, solar and other renewable energy technologies:

    … the Department of the Interior and the Department of Defense are teaming up to strengthen the nation’s energy security and reduce military utility costs.

    Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that encourages appropriate development of renewable energy projects on public lands withdrawn (set aside) for defense-related purposes, and other onshore and offshore areas near military installations.

    The MOU sets out the guiding concepts for the Renewable Energy Partnership Plan, the departments’ roles and responsibilities under the agreement, and how they will work together to carry out the initiative. A major goal of the partnership is to harness the significant proven solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy resources on or near DoD installations across the country.

    … “Developing renewable energy is the right thing to do for national security as well as for the environment and our economy,” Secretary Panetta said. “Renewable energy projects built on these lands will provide reliable, local sources of power for military installations; allow for a continued energy supply if the commercial power grid gets disrupted; and will help lower utility costs.”

    DoD is aggressively pursuing the development of renewable energy on its installations both to improve the energy security of the installations and to reduce the Department’s $4 billion-a-year utility bill. Together with advanced microgrid technology, which DoD is testing, renewable energy will allow a base to maintain critical functions for weeks or months if the commercial grid goes down.

  48. 498
    dbostrom says:

    Mann bites dog.

    Go get ’em!

  49. 499
    Susan Anderson says:

    you said a mouthful!

  50. 500
    Lazarus says:

    Can any one address a query I have about Dendroclimatology? It comes about from a denier blog post;

    Basically the argument is that pine needles are affected by temperature, and can stay on the tree for at least a decade, perhaps several, contributing through photosynthesis to tree ring growth. So the climate that created the needles will have an affect on the size of the rings for decades.

    Does anyone know how much effect or uncertainty this will have on dating and any techniques used to compensate for it?

    [Response:Completely idiotic, as is clear within a matter of a minute or less. Don’t read stuff like that, it will make you stupid.–Jim]