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Forced responses: Oct 2019

Filed under: — group @ 1 October 2019

Bi-monthly open thread on climate solutions. Please try to be civil. Remember, climate science questions can be discussed on the Unforced Variations thread.

544 Responses to “Forced responses: Oct 2019”

  1. 501
    nigelj says:

    Engineer-Poet @497, thanks for the link to the movie. I’m not inclined to watch it right through, but I read a summary of it, and the theme is interesting. I hear what you are saying. I found an interesting interview with the director below:

    https://filmmakermagazine.com/35197-empire-of-dust-an-interview-with-bram-van-paesschen/#.Xd966pMzbIU

  2. 502
    Al Bundy says:

    E-P,

    I quoted you accurately but my posting was unclear about where the quote ended. It was a one line quote. So no, I was not hypocritically putting words in your mouth. I was being a dumbass making Trumpian mockings.

    Yes, staged combustion is a grand way to cool the burn. My engine uses it, along with EGRetention, to prevent NOX. The engine/furnace system you’re describing suffers from “opportunity cost” by completing the second stage in a furnace, where extracting physical work is difficult to impossible. What is the expected work to heat ratio? My goal is 3:2.

    You once spoke of ring-free and oil-free engine cylinders and pistons. Is that included in the design? Sounds expensive and seriously difficult to maintain clearances during warm-up. OTOH it eliminates the gravity-induced oil flow issues that arise in opposed piston designs that aren’t run in a horizontal configuration.

    You’re right about how the current electricity market creates insanity. The patched-together beast is subject to Enronesque levels of gaming. Zebra’s talking about ditching it so I don’t see why you would be compelled to re-post your critique again and again. Nor do I see why Zebra should “stipulate” that the system he wants to ditch sucks. I believe he’s said as much anyway. Frankly, if anybody has made a single comment supporting the current design I missed it in the hacker’s haze. Demanding that the person you’re discussing things with submit to you is a pretty stupid thing for a very smart person to do.

    (Speaking of the hacker, the group’s recent discussion about how adequate the current comments system is or isn’t just got another data point.)

    In any case, you’re right that currently both dispatchable and baseload suffer while the Golden Twins (wind and solar) are blessed. By forcing fossil generators to track not just demand but renewable production less efficient versions of fossil generators become more attractive than more efficient versions because the ability to swing production becomes the paramount consideration. This all begs the question: is this policy a productive push that is getting us down the proper path or tossing ourselves into a swamp? Hmm, selling swamp land is often quite profitable.

    You’re right that during delivery bio-methane suffers from the same fugitive emissions problem as fossil methane. It doesn’t take much leakage to screw up the GHG equations. California surely blew its GHG budget when that storage cave sprung a leak. 1% leakage * 120GWP = “just burn coal”, with the caveat that said leakage doesn’t accumulate indefinitely.

    And you’re right. When we’re praying that tipping points don’t tip a quick kick in the system’s GHG pants is risky as Hell. And since nuclear takes less material to build than wind/solar nuclear’s kick would be smaller. Perhaps we could have done it with renewables if we did it 30 years ago. Perhaps nuclear is the only current option because the patient is nearing collapse. Perhaps Killian is right, that it’s too late to build a low carbon energy system anywhere near as massive as our current fossil-based system (at least until significant draw down is achieved). We’re about to enter the “we can’t guarantee that next fall we won’t see a blue arctic ocean event” period.

    It’s frustrating to see you putting in lots of effort refusing to answer a simple question: Is DC better than AC for long distance transmission? So I’ll stick with the current dominant paradigm for now and put a frustrating pin in it: a DC backbone is a good thing to build.

    Yeah, three weeks of storage is laughable. Upthread three HOURS was considered (I’m going to re-visit the subject later). However, you also slammed the plan’s lack of sufficient excess power for CO2 draw down. Taken together I’d say that perhaps their choice of including a mere 50% overcapacity in their equations was a mistake. Maybe 100% overcapacity and a DC backbone would slay both problems. Maybe it’s a swamp that 25% nuclear could drain. Maybe 60% efficient methanol-fueled engines could do the same.

    By the way, the study did discuss costs and methods for the 12 hour storage issue:

    “The U.S. currently uses about 3,900 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year. A 12 hour chunk of that would be about 5.4 TWh. At a cost of $350 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), that would cost $1.9 trillion. If each of the 110 million single family homes in the U.S. were to install an energy storage system, and split the total volume needed with the electricity utilities, we’d need approximately 24kWh/home.

    About equal to a couple of Powerwalls, a little larger than a Sonnen or 1/2 of a Model 3.”

    So, an EV in every garage gives 24 hours of storage. Note that EV owners would have to choose how much of their car’s juice to sell when prices peak. Using plug-in hybrids would mitigate that issue.

  3. 503
    David B. Benson says:

    12 hours of energy storage:

    Do you have any idea just how expen$ive that would be?

  4. 504
    zebra says:

    #494 Engineer-Poet,

    “you don’t offer any solutions to that bias”

    Perhaps your mental issues are more extreme than even I thought. I just said…right there… and have said it multiple times, very clearly:

    eliminating bias by having a common carrier system where anyone can contract with anyone to buy and sell electricity.”

    I’ve explained it over and over. Perhaps because it is a simple policy change, that doesn’t have long lists for you to memorize, it doesn’t register in your memorizer brain?

    But it does exactly what you claim to want. No bias.

    Consumers can contract with nuclear plants, or wind, or solar, or any combination thereof, as best meets their needs. Where’s the bias??

  5. 505

    E-P 496: “To reach a 100% wind+solar U.S. electricity grid would require 3 weeks of energy storage. According to lead author Dr. Matthew R. Shaner.”

    Hopelessly optimistic.

    BPL: Oh, that’s a great counter-argument, E-P. I’m sure it convinced a lot of people.

  6. 506

    E-P 497: If outside support for coal-burning machinery was cut off, both standard of living and GHG emissions of the third world would slope downward rapidly.

    BPL: This is a frequent denier argument. Without fossil fuels, the Third World can’t be developed. It assumes, of course, that that “coal-burning machinery” can’t be replaced with something better.

  7. 507

    Engineer-Poet says:

    “I have given you a sketch of a fossil-fuel-free system with sufficient surplus energy to SOLVE the GHG problem by extraction and geological sequestration.”

    If Engineer-Poet has the solution as he claims, why aren’t we rushing to support him with funding? On this Thanksgiving day, we should be thankful that somebody has finally figured out how to sequester CO2 cheaply and efficiently so as to wipe out 150 years of accumulated emissions. BTW, since he apparently knows everything, we can ask Mr. Know-It-All to check the numbers.

  8. 508
    Killian says:

    #507

    He hasn’t.

  9. 509
    Al Bundy says:

    Paul Pukite: If Engineer-Poet has the solution as he claims, why aren’t we rushing to support him with funding?

    AB: Because he’s an ass. Humans would rather die than associate with an ass. I should know since shedding my inner asshole has been a decades-long process.

    Yo, E-P! My tossing you softballs is NOT evidence that I flunked physics. Quit reacting to friendliness with bile.

  10. 510
    nigelj says:

    AlBundy @502 asks Engineer Poet “Is DC better than AC for long distance transmission? ” In case you dont get an answer I checked myself a few years ago Generally it appears DC is better for long distance transmission, and is used for undersea cables for example.

    Basically DC is better in principle for all distances, but the converters are expensive, so this is why DC is only used for really long distances where the advantages of DC outweigh the costs of the converters. This is a good example where ‘simplicity’ is not always best. AC is best for short to medium distances because its cheapest overall, despite all the transformers and other gear.

    Welcome to the endlessly annoying real world.:)

  11. 511

    Somehow I have the tail end of a reply to which I cannot find the head.  It was probably in response to nigelj @485 claiming that the USA could get by on wind, PV and 12 hours of storage.  I continue:

    In the US, January has an electric-power consumption spike compared to the months around it.

    https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec7_5.pdf

    Right now where I am, there’s barely over 8 hours between sunrise and sunset.  It’ll be less at the winter solstice, which is followed by January just 11 days later.  Not only are these the shortest days of the year, the sun angle is the lowest… when it’s not cloudy.  On top of this, the capacity factor of wind here is under 25%.  The idea that the USA could go 100% wind+solar for electric with only 3 weeks of storage and no new LD grid just doesn’t pass the laugh test.  It doesn’t pass the laugh test WITH a new LD grid either.

    Now, add to this the need to convert heating, transportation and industry to carbon-free energy as well.  These sectors consume over 60% of total primary energy (59.6 out of 97.3 quads) and they have to be decarbonized too.  Starting NOW.  Talking about electricity alone ignores the elephant in the room.

    Even for electricity alone, the prescription is ridiculous:

    The U.S. currently uses about 3,900 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year. A 12 hour chunk of that would be about 5.4 TWh. At a cost of $350 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), that would cost $1.9 trillion. If each of the 110 million single family homes in the U.S. were to install an energy storage system, and split the total volume needed with the electricity utilities, we’d need approximately 24kWh/home.

    That’s $8400 per household, likely with a useful lifespan of 10 years or less.  The replacements would require building 540 GWh of new batteries per year, EVERY year, at a cost of $190 billion/year.  That’s 11 Gigafactories just keeping up with stationary batteries.

    Know what else you could build for that $190 billion/year?  About 6.9 Vogtle expansions at $27.3 billion apiece… and that’s at the FOAK price.  That’s 15.4 GW(e) of emissions-free power added every year, and the projected lifespan is 80 years.  That would generate 100% of net US electric consumption with 30 years of build-out, so if we started now we’d be done in 2050.  Remember, the battery replacement task is NEVER done.

    Know what else you could make with 24 kWh/home?  2 PHEVs carrying 12 kWh of batteries apiece.  That’s a vastly better use of $8400 per home.

  12. 512
    nigelj says:

    AL Bundy @9, both you and EP are spitting a fair bit of bile. Just saying.

  13. 513

    Al Bundy writes @502:

    I quoted you accurately

    I do not recognize the words as mine, and I searched the previous two pages of comments for that string and found nothing.  Unless you are able to hyperlink the source, admit your error and drop it.

    The engine/furnace system you’re describing suffers from “opportunity cost” by completing the second stage in a furnace, where extracting physical work is difficult to impossible. What is the expected work to heat ratio?

    Very small, producing perhaps 200-250 W(e) after the power to drive the fans.  The idea is to have an engine which can be added to existing furnace designs with minimal changes and turn the furnace into a stand-alone heat source which produces a small excess of electric power.  It’s useful in normal circumstances but a real lifesaver in a winter blackout.

    There’s no “opportunity cost” because you’re leveraging an existing system with a minimal-cost add-on.  Efficiency is beside the point so long as the essential job gets done.  If you’re going to completely re-engineer the heating plant to be a full cogenerator you’re talking a lot more money, a lot more hardware, and probably a lot more EPA regulation as you’ll be back-feeding the grid.  Having every unit emissions-certified (including self-diagnostics!) would drive the cost through the roof.  Side-stepping the EPA by having no “exhaust” as such, and making the unit as a whole a lower emitter than before, might be enough to keep the regulators away.  Target, $300/unit.

    If you’re producing a gross 500 W in a 50,000 BTU/hr furnace, electrical efficiency would be about 3.4%.  Producing a net 200 W after running the fans (figure 250 W circulation and 50 W combustion air) takes than down to less than 1.4%.  You’d still be saving about 500 W in normal operation, so about $75/year savings at $0.15/kWh if the furnace runs 1000 hr/yr.  A 4-year payoff on a $300 device isn’t bad, and then you get the backup heat too.  Probably worth it just for the insurance savings.

    You once spoke of ring-free and oil-free engine cylinders and pistons. Is that included in the design?

    I was contemplating Teflon rings and bearings, and keeping the temperatures and pressures low enough to avoid over-stressing it.  Silicon nitride is way too fancy for cheap stuff.  If the rebuild kit costs $10 that’s probably about right.

    You’re right that during delivery bio-methane suffers from the same fugitive emissions problem as fossil methane.

    We’ll no doubt need an interim gaseous fuel, though.  I like dimethyl ether (5.1 days atmospheric lifespan, GWP = 2) but there may be better candidates.

    Perhaps we could have done it with renewables if we did it 30 years ago.

    They were trying with “renewables” 40 years ago, after the first oil price shock made “energy crisis” a household word.  That’s how we got here.  Remember, “the trouble with renewables isn’t fundamentally technical—it’s natural.

    It’s frustrating to see you putting in lots of effort refusing to answer a simple question: Is DC better than AC for long distance transmission?

    Beyond a certain distance, yes.  It becomes cheaper and has lower losses.  But that distance is rather long.

    a DC backbone is a good thing to build.

    Only if you are stuck moving electric power over long distances.  The cheapest and most reliable option is to generate power where you need it.  If the answer is 100 GW of HVDC from Iowa and the Dakotas to New York City, and another 100 GW from TX and OK to Los Angeles and San Francisco, you probably asked the wrong question.

  14. 514

    zebra bloviated @504:

    Perhaps your mental issues are more extreme than even I thought.

    Calling it “thinking” is exalting it about twelve levels too far.  “Sophistry” is as high as it goes.

    I just said…right there… and have said it multiple times, very clearly:

    “eliminating bias by having a common carrier system where anyone can contract with anyone to buy and sell electricity.”

    “Common carrier.”  Is this going to carry as much as anyone might want, from wherever it is to wherever they might want it, whenever?  Who is going to pay for this to be built?  Who’s going to underwrite its amortization and on-going expenses, especially if they’re only fractionally used?  If you look at these issues at all closely, you have to admit that there is not any such thing, and likely cannot be at a cost anyone is willing to pay.

    The US has something like a “common carrier” status for natural gas pipelines.  The capacity of each pipeline is limited, and in times of peak demand users bid for shares of it.  Some have been known to game the system by placing bids to shut out competitors, then cancelling them at the tail of the auction window.  The result is that the pipeline carries less than its capacity and prices at the delivery end are bid up.  You’d see the same thing with electric lines.

    I’m all for e.g. electric customers building out capacity to consume spot energy surpluses where and as they are available, such as plug-in vehicles and heat/cold storage HVAC systems making the best use of available supply and acting as system buffers.  Unfortunately, very little of this truly shifts demand by more than a few hours, a couple of days at most.  What happens today is that both the NPP and the PV farm bid into the system at $0.00/kWh, the PV farm gets priority due to law and portfolio mandates, and the NPP is forced to curtail output and eventually shut down despite the remaining demand going to fossil fuels.  If the priority law and portfolio mandates were removed maybe the NPP could stay in business by bidding negative… if that was allowed.  The “common carrier” paradigm cannot fix a market prejudiced in favor of fast-changing generators.  You have to design the market to put zero-emission generation FIRST, regardless of source.  No system that allows fossil carbon to get ahead can save our planet’s climate.

    I’ve explained it over and over.

    And over and over, you have failed to understand the explanation of why there is no such thing.

  15. 515

    BPL writes @506:

    This is a frequent denier argument. Without fossil fuels, the Third World can’t be developed.

    This is not my argument.  It’s the Third World’s argument for why they should be allowed to continue and increase their consumption of FF.  I do not have a problem with returning the Third World to its 1919 standard of living; I did nothing to create their situation.

    It assumes, of course, that that “coal-burning machinery” can’t be replaced with something better.

    You assume, of course, that your “something better” won’t e.g. have its transformer oil stolen to cook street food, blowing up the transformers.

    Unless you are willing to LITERALLY kill people trying to tamper with what must be left alone, your “something better” is going to be destroyed by people too stupid to refuse the lure of corruption and theft… and the overwhelming majority of people are that stupid, and worse.

  16. 516

    Paul Pukite writes @507:

    If Engineer-Poet has the solution as he claims, why aren’t we rushing to support him with funding?

    Don’t fund me; almost none of this is my property, I just put the pieces together to solve the puzzle.  Fund GE-Hitachi to make PRISM an assembly-line product, and something similar for NuScale and a successor to Fermi 1.  Fund SARI so we can have evidence-based standards for health effects of radiation.

    If you seriously want to fund me, I will throw my best efforts toward ways to make good (as in over-unity electric-to-product) use of grid surpluses to replace fossil carbon consumption with carbon recently drawn from the atmosphere (already in progress, but on hiatus) and find ways to let you invest.  I have a sub-unity concept that is rather obvious to me, and of considerably greater value than the sub-zero sales of electricity that California makes to Arizona to push its “renewable” energy share up.  If you want to finance that, I’d be totally f***ing orgasmic.

    The instantaneous contribution of the latter could easily run to many hundreds of megawatts.  No, I’m not fooling.  If this is not obvious to you, I’ll let you in on the secret at the price of an NDA.

  17. 517
    Thomas says:

    Where’s Scott these days?

    There’s an old saying about soil: they’re not making any more of it.

    But some farmers are. In just five years, Niels Olsen used his own invention to build more soil on his property in Gippsland, Victoria.

    It delivered him the title of 2019 Carbon Farmer of the Year and it’s vastly improved the health of his land — but it requires an unconventional approach.

    The quest for carbon credits
    In March 2019, Mr Olsen made history as the first Australian farmer to earn carbon credits through the federal government’s Emissions Reduction Fund.

    The SoilKee Renovator mulches narrow strips and sows multiple seeds to encourage carbon storing.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-08/dollars-from-dirt-the-farmer-making-money-from-healthy-soil/11486346

    I think it’s a world first to be paid for carbon capture and storage on farmland, but could be wrong about that.

    Oh the funny thing about this? It’s beef cattle property.

  18. 518
    Thomas says:

    OK another “tool/method” to increase carbon in soils and increasing farm productivity is No Till farming. It’s huge now in Australia, and has been used in the major wheat belts for a very long time.

    Crops thriving in 2019 on Mr Gladigau’s farm, despite the drought.

    No-till farming for surviving drought

    Most farmers are desperate to avoid seeing their paddocks become a dustbowl, including John Gladigau, who has been farming with business partner, Robin Schaefer, on the sandy soils of Loxton in the South Australian Mallee region.

    He recalled that during the 1982 drought there was “not a blade of grass” on the farm.

    “There was nothing. It was just erosion. That was it,” Mr Gladigau said.

    Since then the business has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in no-till farming, or growing crops without disturbing the soil.

    And the picture now is very different.
    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-27/farmers-managing-in-drought/11739648

    See the 1982 dust bowl before photo and today in 2019 about half way down the article page. All their neighbours are now doing the same thing.

    “So this year, while we still have some eroded patches, we could argue that 95 per cent of our farming area is covered [and] isn’t eroded — isn’t blowing away,” Mr Gladigau said.

    While the machinery required for no-till farming has been expensive, Mr Schaefer said the long-term environmental benefits made it worthwhile.

    “It enables us to be able to plant our crops dry because we know they’re not going to get blasted by wind with any sand, or anything [else],” he said.

    “And they’re protected in amongst the stubble, and so that enables us to make use of every single drop of rain that falls.”

  19. 519

    #468, EP–

    My, what a temper-tantrum over a simple, objective piece of reporting! If one doesn’t like the metric, I think they should take it up with Lazard’s–they are, after all, an energy consultancy. Presumably they know something about the topic.

    However, those who are interested in the question of LACE (levelized avoided cost of energy) versus LCOE (levelized cost of energy) might profit from this EIA discussion:

    https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf

    A germane excerpt:

    Estimating LACE is more complex than estimating LCOE because it requires information about how the system would operate without the new option being considered. LACE is calculated based on the marginal value of energy and capacity that would result from adding a unit of a given technology to the system as it exists or is projected to exist at a specific future date. LACE represents the potential value available to the project owner from the project’s contribution to satisfy both energy and capacity requirements. LACE accounts for both the variation in daily and seasonal electricity demand in the region where a new project is under consideration and the characteristics of the existing generation fleet to which new capacity will be added, therefore comparing the prospective new generation resource against the mix of new and existing generation and capacity that it would displace. For example, a wind resource that would primarily displace existing natural gas-fired generation will usually have a different value than one that would displace existing coal-fired generation.

    So that complexity, that ‘squishiness,’ is one good reason for not simply junking LCOE, as E-P seems to be advocating. But, per the EIA, it’s not the only reason:

    Using LACE and LCOE together gives a more intuitive indication of economic competitiveness for each technology than either metric separately when several technologies are available to meet load. If several technologies are available to meet load, a LACE-to-LCOE ratio (or value-cost ratio) may be calculated for each technology to determine which project provides the most value relative to its cost. Projects with a value-cost ratio greater than one (i.e., LACE is greater than LCOE) are more economically attractive as new builds than those with a value-cost ratio less than one (i.e., LACE is less than LCOE).

    So, E-P’s example of wind power was on the right track–except for describing the *difference* as a “loss”–but his numbers were extremely misleading (i.e., his hypothetical LACE/LCOE ratio of 1/3). If you look at the EIA report, RE ratios are clustered fairly closely to 1/1, with (mostly regional) variations determining the most favorable cases.

    It’s interesting to note that for capacity coming online in 2023, Table 4a has solar PV at the very top of the table, with an average ratio of 1.07. Nuclear is not rated, because the EIA doesn’t foresee any new capacity being added in the US by 2023–a persistent reality no matter how many times E-P describes nuclear as “scalable.”

  20. 520
    Al Bundy says:

    A summary of the Wiki page on HVDC:

    HVDC is far more expensive to terminate at a local grid than HVAC. However, HVDC’s transmission lines are much cheaper and have much less loss. HVDC also eliminates the need to synchronize the two local grids. This feature means that HVDC lines have been run entirely within a single building.

    Running a line from New York to San Francisco is a political and perhaps economic issue, not a physical issue. HVDC’s newest incarnation is UHVDC with multiple terminations. Until recently it was mostly A to B and below 600kv. The new stuff is above 1,000kv and can span the USA with on/off ramps as needed to service various local grids. China’s building this stuff right now.

    I can’t see a more important investment to make if one chooses to forego E-P’s nuclear-all-the-way proposal. It’s one or the other: nukes or backbones.

  21. 521
    Al Bundy says:

    Which circles back to “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”.

    E-P’s one smart cookie yet he adamantly refused to discuss transmission. “My way or the highway” can cause one to forget that highways exist.

  22. 522

    #473, nigel–

    It’s just that the nuclear energy problem seems like its largely a political problem and a process problem more than a technical or cost problem.

    No, I don’t think so, nigel. I think the cost problem is precisely the issue (though to be sure, continuing political opposition doesn’t help).

    Here in South Carolina, for instance, there was fairly limited resistance to the expansion of the Summer plant. It was the spiralling cost of the project that literally financially broke the developers, SCANA–bankrupt and now bought out by Dominion Energy–and its junior partner, Santee Cooper (which is publicly-owned, and has a very cloudy future indeed.) The result was a waste of $9 billion.

    The story has been very similar in Georgia, where the Vogtle expansion could yet collapse. Hitherto, the differences has been twofold: 1) that Georgia Southern has much deeper corporate pockets, and 2) Georgia is a considerably more populous state than South Carolina and hence has deeper public pockets as well. I think the project will end up getting built, but it’s not a sure thing. And the projected final cost now seems to be somewhere north of $26 billion:

    https://www.ajc.com/business/southern-company-plant-vogtle-price-rises-25b/VZ5KQKWuMIDy5JyyOUTFmO/

    https://www.wabe.org/costs-vogtle-nuclear-expansion/

    https://georgiarecorder.com/2019/10/31/lawsuit-challenging-vogtle-nuclear-expansion-decision-gets-new-life/

  23. 523

    #503, DBB–

    DBB, usually a pretty careful commenter, asks, rhetorically “Do you know how expensive 12 hours of storage would be?”

    To which I object, “Asked and answered!” It’s in the original post:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2019/10/forced-responses-oct-2019/comment-page-10/#comment-749554

    A point AB also remarked on in #502, though I expect DBB couldn’t have seen that due to moderation time involved:

    The U.S. currently uses about 3,900 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year. A 12 hour chunk of that would be about 5.4 TWh. At a cost of $350 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), that would cost $1.9 trillion. If each of the 110 million single family homes in the U.S. were to install an energy storage system, and split the total volume needed with the electricity utilities, we’d need approximately 24kWh/home.

  24. 524
    Al Bundy says:

    Zebra,

    Backbones would aid your plan by preventing local monopolies with regard to a certain type of power requirement. If you can buy your power from 3000 miles away the gouger down the street can pound sand, eh?

  25. 525
  26. 526
    nigelj says:

    Kevin McKinney @522

    I accept that nuclear power costs are high in America, as per your examples which I have come across myself. I recall reading that a lot of the problems in America reflect poor quality project management, although no doubt there are several factors. I can’t find the article, but will post it if I can.

    But you are missing the bigger picture. My comments did not refer to America specifically, and so should have been taken as being global. Most countries haven’t got these severe nuclear power cost escalation problems as below.

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421516300106

    In addition the Lazard information you yourself posted showed Nuclear power is at least cost competitive with other forms of power. And finally, the Lazard analysis of renewables costs per mwatt hour doesn’t include storage costs of renewables, which are of course substantial. I haven’t done the math but it looks obvious that a grid that is largely renewables plus storage would struggle to compete with nuclear power on costs. However battery storage costs have been on a downwards trajectory, but a lot of faith is being put that this will continue robustly.

    The problem is potentially building a lot of renewables and then finding storage costs are high and so being stuck with that, or substantial gas fired plant. I’m fairly pro renewables, but not blinkered to the potential problems. I will post a separate comment on the issue of renewables and nuclear power because theres a simple enough answer to it.

  27. 527
    nigelj says:

    Engineer-Poet @511

    “It was probably in response to nigelj @485 claiming that the USA could get by on wind, PV and 12 hours of storage. I continue:”

    Hold it right there. I never claimed those things. I posted an article that looked interesting because it put some numbers on the issues.

    Your criticisms of the article are rather weak. The area where you live has a bad climate for renewables, so perhaps your area could use surplus renewable power from other locations?

    You need to find the research paper, and show where you think its wrong. Maybe it is wrong in significant ways.

    The storage costs of an 80% renewables grid with 12 hours storage are high, no doubt about that. They will fall, but maybe not fast enough in a realistic time frame so I admit it does create a case for some nuclear power.

  28. 528
    nigelj says:

    The issue of renewable power versus nuclear power could potentially be solved with the right sort of electricity market system that needs certain features:

    1) The electricity market needs to be mostly managed and regulated by the lines company, with government setting the most basic rules that underpin the system. This ensures government regulates, but doesn’t over regulate and politically interfere.

    2) The market needs to be open to all generating companies and generating options. (No government picking winners)

    3)The Market needs some competition and customer choice as Zebra points out. This pushes innovation and means the market solves some problems rather than one single authority being expected to problem solve.

    4) When generating companies add renewables, they MUST be prepared to add storage and not rely on generation from fossil fuels, or additional gas fired plant. This all has to be legislated for by government and managed by the lines company. This will force generating companies to then carefully compare renewables versus nuclear power. If there is an allowance for new gas fired plant, it should be minimal.

    5)There must be a mechanism to promote zero carbon generation which could be carbon tax, subsidies, or rules, or cap and trade. Any of these can work, you just have to commit to one of them and make it robust. They will all promote zero carbon options and make fossil fuels non cost competitive. Cap and trade has pushed wind power in New Zealand quite well.

    New Zealand has a system like this, so don’t tell me it cannot be done technically or as an administrative system or viable political option. The one difference is we don’t have a rule requiring that new renewables include storage, yet. Currently new gas fired power is permitted with everyone hoping it will be eventually replaced with affordable storage.

    This is workable, and puts nuclear power on a level playing field with renewables, doesn’t it?

  29. 529

    nigelj writes @510:

    Basically DC is better in principle for all distances, but the converters are expensive

    And lossy; losses can range from 0.7% to 3% per end (meaning up to 6% total, before resistance and corona losses).  Further, it’s still difficult to operate HVDC systems with more than 2 terminals (point to point).  I see talk about systems with 3+ nodes but so far I haven’t seen anything about one in commercial operation (haven’t been searching though).

    HVDC really only shines for long distances and underwater links, where it is impractical to charge and discharge the large capacitance of the line twice per cycle.

  30. 530

    Thomas writes @517 and 518:

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-08/dollars-from-dirt-the-farmer-making-money-from-healthy-soil/11486346
    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-27/farmers-managing-in-drought/11739648

    Increasing soil carbon is another “wedge” that we are going to need badly, and the best part is that it doesn’t depend significantly on any others.  So thanks for that good news out of Australia.

  31. 531

    Kevin McKinney writes @519:

    what a temper-tantrum over a simple, objective piece of reporting!

    There is nothing objective about blatant lying by omission.

    Estimating LACE is more complex than estimating LCOE because it requires information about how the system would operate without the new option being considered. LACE is calculated based on the marginal value of energy and capacity that would result from adding a unit of a given technology to the system as it exists or is projected to exist at a specific future date.

    And, as has been proven in country after country, the “cost of integration” grows very rapidly near the point where the unreliable source’s share of generation in the regional grid approaches its capacity factor.  One of the ways this manifests is in negative wholesale power prices, when the essential must-run plants which keep the grid operational are forced to sell below zero so there aren’t outright blackouts.

    There’s a very obvious way to avoid negative power pricing and still use unreliable generation productively (decreasing net emissions).  I’m utterly shocked that it is not merely not in widespread use, nobody seems to even know about it.

    Nuclear is not rated, because the EIA doesn’t foresee any new capacity being added in the US by 2023

    Vogtle units 3 and 4 are currently scheduled for completion in 2021 and 2022.  China does not have the massive political/regulatory problems we have; all 4 AP1000s started there are in operation already, and 2 of them are starting to replace coal as the source of space heat and DHW for Haiyang.

  32. 532

    Al Bundy writes @520:

    HVDC also eliminates the need to synchronize the two local grids.

    Japan has some parts which are 50 Hz, some which are 60 Hz.  For some strange reason, Japan was a pioneer of HDVC systems.  (Ever notice that your laptop power brick says something like “90-250 VAC, 50/60 Hz”?  It’s so that it’ll work anywhere in Japan and pretty much anywhere in the world.)

    I can’t see a more important investment to make if one chooses to forego E-P’s nuclear-all-the-way proposal. It’s one or the other: nukes or backbones.

    You forgot perhaps the BIGGEST takeaway from Roadmap To Nowhere:  your HVDC backbone is a massively expensive capital project that doesn’t generate a single watt.  It’s actually a substantial net consumer of power.  Even if you built it out, you’d still have to find the energy for it to carry.  Worst of all, as Conley and Maloney demonstrate, it’s an all-or-nothing proposition:  you have to build the whole thing or it doesn’t work, meaning you won’t truly find out if it works until it’s finished.

    If it doesn’t actually solve the problem it’s purported† to solve, then what do you do?  You will have wasted not only a $trillion or so, but another 20-30 years we don’t have.  How much always-on, emissions-free capacity could you build for the price of that supergrid?  How much sooner could you have it running?

    E-P’s one smart cookie yet he adamantly refused to discuss transmission.

    Oh FFS again.  I have discussed transmission here and here and here and here, to list a few.  Now, how about YOU discussing the fact that it’s lossy, expensive to build and sometimes takes decades of legal wrangling to deal with the people who say NIMBY?

    And while you’re at it, do something about your electric tunnel-vision and tell us all how you’d deal with space heat, industrial energy and transportation.  You know, the OTHER 60% or so of US energy consumption?

    † Yes, I say “purported” rather than “intended”.  I have no doubt that many of the people behind this are fronts for the fossil industry.  They are members of the fake fire brigade; they intend to fail.  See also the followups here and here.

  33. 533
    Al Bundy says:

    E-P: We learned in the PAST that…

    AB: Didn’t go back to find your comment, but the quote is innocuous, don’t you agree?

    E-P: I have discussed transmission

    AB: Yep. They’ve now shown up. I blame the hacker for hiding your comments.

    E-P: your HVDC backbone is a massively expensive capital project that doesn’t generate a single watt. It’s actually a substantial net consumer of power.

    AB: Massively expensive? A poor country like China can afford it so I’m guessing a rich one like the USA could, too. And it depends on your definition of “substantial”. 3% + 3% + 6% (end/end/line) isn’t much when considering that the transmission is of excess (free) energy.

    E-P: you won’t truly find out if it works until it’s finished.

    AB: Interesting. I’d think that physics is the same everywhere. Since China is building UHVDC we’ve got the answer, no?

    You seem to be operating with an incorrect axiom. I have no significant problem with nukes other than the “Israel problem”. Remember when they bombed their neighbor’s power plant because of proliferation fears? Limiting future nukes to thorium handles that. Of course, thorium hasn’t been “market proven” yet, so there’s that. But in principle I’m happy as a clam at the thought of an improved version of France’s path. My point is that there are choices. If folks want to spend more (or less, depending on the “expert” chosen) in order to avoid nukes, and are willing to live with whatever lifestyle adjustments that would require, I won’t quibble because I am seriously OK with lifestyle adjustments. Drop my power quota by 50% during Armageddon Week? Like I said, “Whatever”.

    What I DO care about (and you, Nigel, and probably everyone here) is the use of fossils to back up renewables. You choose renewables? Live with renewables. It can be done.

    To bolster your point, the cost headaches the previous generation is having (AP1000, IIRC) simply don’t apply to the modular systems you’re championing. Like France’s nukes, they’re “design once, build everywhere”. Well, other than the radiophobia anchor that constantly drags down anything nuclear.

    On your cogeneration-lite system: Why bother? It sounds like it reduces NOX, which is grand, but so does a staged combustion cogeneration system. It’s useful as a way to keep a few lights on during a blackout (but only when heat is required) but a small battery will do the same. And it is NOT easier to design a whole new system and get it approved based on an argument that most likely won’t fly instead of just buying an already-engineered and approved cogeneration system.

    You ask how I would suggest handling heat? Already answered: 1. passive solar. 2. active solar. 3. 60/40 (electric/heat) cogeneration using liquid bio/synfuel. 4. super-insulation. 5. nukes with district heat. Heating buildings is truly a minor issue other than legacy systems. So Job1 is to change the friggin building codes so no more stupid legacy systems are built.

    Transportation? Build sane vehicles that cut rolling and air resistance at least in half while at least doubling engine efficiency. That’s a quadrupling of MPG to around 220MPG even without considering that plug-in hybrids can drink electrons for short trips. Note that their engines can also function as 60/40 cogeneration units. There’s little need for stationary batteries when most folks own a rolling battery/cogeneration unit.

    E-P: And, as has been proven in country after country, the “cost of integration” grows very rapidly near the point where the unreliable source’s share of generation in the regional grid approaches its capacity factor.

    AB: So, offshore wind gives you 60%, onshore wind gives you perhaps 35%, solar gives you 30%. So that’s 125% not counting hydro and overcapacity for CO2 draw down. Obviously not rigorous but it looks doable, with the caveat that UHVDC or serious storage or serious Armageddon Demand Adjustment will be required for many areas.

  34. 534
    David B. Benson says:

    nigelj @528 — In the USA some states and compacts thereof have established ISOs, Independent System Operators. They establish rules for generators, transmission line companies and retailers on the grid. A good example is ERCOT Texas for which considerable information is available on the grid.

    The only favoritism which arises is federal tax policy, as ajudicated by the FERC. Except possibly for who pays for the transmission lines.

  35. 535
    Al Bundy says:

    Nigel,

    You asked why I talk different. It’s because I am different. My brother says that pretty much nobody understands what I say, which is strange to me (and me only) because I use the most lyrical and precise language that indirectly encompasses what would otherwise take entire books to convey. A big part is that I strive to discard everything I believe in every conversation I have. “Normals” listen and research so as to confirm they’re right. People like me do it so as to confirm I’m full of sh*t. So what you get tomorrow may not sync with what I said yesterday because what you say today affects the picture in my mind.

    In other words, parables are my native language.

  36. 536
    zebra says:

    #524 Al Bundy,

    “pound sand”

    Flip it around, and we see the real problem:

    1. I own a monopoly utility.
    2. I build a nice efficient combined-cycle gas plant with a projected 40-year life.
    3. The US gets its act together politically, and imposes a carbon tax that triples the cost of fuel.

    Of course, I’m going to write off my investment… oh, wait! I’m not going to write off my investment, because I can pass the cost on to the consumers, and they can pound sand, and I still make my profit.

    Because…I have a freakin’ monopoly, and they have no choice. They can just pay up, or freeze in the dark.

    And the CO2 keeps a-comin’.

  37. 537

    E-P 511: The idea that the USA could go 100% wind+solar for electric with only 3 weeks of storage and no new LD grid just doesn’t pass the laugh test.

    BPL: Yes, folks, scientists carried out an elaborate study showing that the US could go 100% renewable with 3 weeks of storage. But it doesn’t pass E-P’s “laugh test.” Therefore, we can forget it.

  38. 538
    zebra says:

    #514 Engineer-Poet,

    Seriously, you obviously don’t have a problem saying crazy stuff and contradicting yourself, so my only conclusion is some kind of mental/personality disorder.

    It has been pointed out to you by me and others multiple times that you answer my proposals for changing the system by describing the system as it exists. If that isn’t crazy, I don’t know what is:

    If the priority law and portfolio mandates were removed maybe the NPP could stay in business by bidding negative… if that was allowed. The “common carrier” paradigm cannot fix a market prejudiced in favor of fast-changing generators.

    For the n^nth time: The common carrier paradigm is that there is no such prejudice! It is exactly that all laws and mandates are removed!

    What exactly do you expect people to conclude about your reasoning ability if you can’t get past this point?

  39. 539

    E-P 515: people too stupid to refuse the lure of corruption and theft…

    BPL: By which E-P means Third World people, especially black Africans. Except I know a number of Africans who are working hard to bring renewable energy and ecological farming techniques to their respective countries, and they don’t strike me as stupid. Because people are living under bad governments doesn’t make them bad people. But E-P will use any excuse to portray dark-skinned people as inferior.

  40. 540

    nigel, #526–

    Thanks for an interesting article. But I think you’re overstating the conclusions a bit. While nuclear costs escalated most dramatically in the US, most of the nation’s considered still experienced cost escalation over time. And I note that some of the more glaring examples of out of control costs were not included in the analysis–I’m thinking of Finland and the UK here. As for the Lazard article, I’m on my phone right now, which means navigating away from this comment will probably kill it. So I’ll refresh my memory on LCOE and post again if I think I have something worth saying.

  41. 541

    Nigel, 526, part 2–

    Nigel, the Lazard analysis has the low end of nuclear at $118/MW, which is roughly 4x the lowest LCOE of onshore wind. Solar PV at utility scale is approaching wind’s numbers. Even allowing for the point that LCOE is only one metric, I wouldn’t call that “competitive.”

    True, there are other things that are more comparable listed–offshore wind, which has only a midpoint LCOE of $89 given, or residential solar, still more expensive than nuclear, or gas peaker plants. But if you are talking about large-scale utility power mainstays, then no, nuclear costs aren’t close.

    As to *storage* costs, I think they are virtually certain to come down, because storage batteries are a modular, mass-produced item, susceptible to commodification. Where is an example of such that has failed to become cheaper with increasing scale? And scale is increasing quite rapidly already, bringing costs down too, as predicted.

    I’m not anti-nuclear; in fact I’ve said repeatedly that I think existing capacity should be supported. E-P’s idea of structuring incentives to favor low-emission energy is spot on, IMO. But there is simply no way that nuclear power can act as a silver bullet for the immediate emissions crisis. Planning and building times alone mandate that: basically, to get on the required emissions trajectory in time, we’d need to start tomorrow on several times more reactors than there are in the world today.

    E-P inadvertently made that point with his #511, where his ‘nuclear-for-RE swap’ scenario envisioned adding 14 or so US reactors yearly until 2050 in order to be ‘done’–although I don’t think he was accounting for build times, let alone planning and permitting.

    So we’ll see a lot more RE, because it can scale more rapidly than anything else. But it’ll be supported by nuclear and hydro baseload capacity.

  42. 542

    Engineer-Poet says:

    “If this is not obvious to you, I’ll let you in on the secret at the price of an NDA.”

    According to Prof. Baez’s crackpot index, you have scored 10 points with that one. Perhaps double that since you require an NDA.

    #12: 10 points for mailing your theory to someone you don’t know personally and asking them not to tell anyone else about it, for fear that your ideas will be stolen.

    http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html

  43. 543

    nigelj wrote @527:

    Hold it right there. I never claimed those things. I posted an article that looked interesting

    So I got the reference mostly right?  I did say I wasn’t sure exactly what that un-moored text referred to.  If it was something you quoted or linked, close enough.

    Your criticisms of the article are rather weak. The area where you live has a bad climate for renewables, so perhaps your area could use surplus renewable power from other locations?

    Both electricity and geographical tunnel-vision again.  There are VERY LARGE AND HEAVILY POPULATED AREAS which have a “bad climate for renewables”; people in general do not like living where the winds are strong or the temperatures get high (as they do where there’s lots of sun).

    How do you propose to solve both the geographical and temporal mis-matches of “renewable power” to serve people pole-ward of 40° north?  Unless you got both, you got nothin’.

    You need to find the research paper, and show where you think its wrong. Maybe it is wrong in significant ways.

    It’s not up to ME to do forensic analysis to prove where a paper (in a genre populated by proven ideological liars) is wrong.  The burden of proof is on THEM, to show that they are beyond reproach.

    The storage costs of an 80% renewables grid with 12 hours storage are high, no doubt about that.

    And an 80% renewables grid, with next-to-no influence on transportation, space heat or industrial energy, is a guaranteed failure at reversing our escalating climate catastrophe.  We not only need 100% carbon-free energy, we need to create a large surplus and devote it to repairing the atmospheric damage of the last century.  80% is total failure.

    Honestly, Nigel, you have NO clue about the scale of the problem or the required response.  We need vast amounts of negligible-carbon energy; 20 TW(th) is on the low side.  Half-measures will not do, and we need an extra 1-2 TW(e) (or the equivalent in biological drawdown, from e.g. Thomas’s ag practice changes building soil carbon) to get rid of what’s already in the air.  If you’ve got something that pencils out, POST IT!

  44. 544

    nigelj writes @529:

    The issue of renewable power versus nuclear power could potentially be solved with the right sort of electricity market system

    It’s going to be a funny kind of “market”, because un-sequestered fossil fuels have to be put at a severe disadvantage.  Natural gas may have to be forbidden to play period, unless leakage can be almost eliminated.  I’m going to quote Agneta Rising speaking to the IAEA on the subject (my emphasis in bold):

    The IEA report also concluded that strong policy support is needed to secure investment and there is a need to reform policies to ensure competition on a level playing field. In the view of the IEA, electricity markets should value the clean energy and energy security attributes of low-carbon technologies, including nuclear power.

    … a failure to invest in existing and new nuclear plants in advanced economies would have negative implications for emissions, for costs and for energy security.

    Rising is using “energy security” to mean immunity to embargo, but weather disruptions are a security problem too.  Since the whole “progress” in “renewables” has been achieved by exempting them from market discipline for their unreliability, it’s certain that subjecting them to market forces will make them far less attractive and perhaps uneconomic.

    2) The market needs to be open to all generating companies and generating options. (No government picking winners)

    Including coal, oil and gas?  Are you reading them right back in for “market” reasons after reading them out to save the climate?

    True, we’re dependent on them today and will be for some time.  That isn’t a situation we should tolerate any longer than we have to.  Adding more of anything that requires FF as a fallback should be regarded as substandard, and both wind and solar fall into that category.  Yes, there are ways to make them useful for the time being, but as soon as that ends they should be retired at end of life and NOT replaced.

    3)The Market needs some competition and customer choice as Zebra points out.

    Sure thing.  PWR, LMFBR, MSR, all should be on the table.  I just saw a video on Elysium Industries.  They’ve got a molten-chloride fast spectrum reactor concept that’s really clever.  It’s just a pot full of liquid salt with U and Pu dissolved in it.  There’s no internal structure, just the liquid salt.  Once there are enough fissiles in it to go critical, it controls its own temperature by changing the fuel density.  The more heat you take out, the more heat it makes; if you stop taking heat out the salt expands, goes sub-critical and shuts down the chain reaction.  Not bad for a dumb pot full of liquid, is it?  Really no way for it not to work, either.  All the difficult stuff is going to be in the heat exchangers and power conversion.

    4) When generating companies add renewables, they MUST be prepared to add storage

    But how MUCH storage?  Suppose your USD1500/kW wind turbine is operating at a 40% capacity factor ($3750/kW avg).  Now you add a requirement for 8 hours of storage to guarantee firm power delivery.  If you bid for a firm 400 W from your rated 1 kW and do this with Li-ion batteries at $350/kWh, you need 3.2 kWh of energy in reserve costing $2800 per guaranteed kW.  Voila, your “cheap” wind plant cost is now up to $6550 per average kW.

    This works one heck of a lot better if you’ve got lots of hydro and weeks worth of “storage” behind the dams.  Hydro can make almost any other “renewable” look good… until you run out of water.

    New Zealand has a system like this, so don’t tell me it cannot be done technically or as an administrative system or viable political option. The one difference is we don’t have a rule requiring that new renewables include storage, yet. Currently new gas fired power is permitted with everyone hoping it will be eventually replaced with affordable storage.

    That works until you run out of gas.  It looks like NZ has plenty for now.  You may even be able to use e.g. Allam-cycle plants to avoid releasing CO2 and just put it back in the gas field.

    This is workable, and puts nuclear power on a level playing field with renewables, doesn’t it?

    As long as you make renewables pay for the carbon emitted by their backups, yes.  So long as you’ve got hydro for that you wouldn’t have any, so you’re golden.  Sadly, there aren’t too many places where that’s true, and you can only serve so many people at each one.

    The inconvenient truth is that most of the things people are proposing may work in certain locales, but can’t scale and can’t be transplanted.  We need a 120% solution that covers nearly everything.