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Forced responses: Feb 2020

Filed under: — group @ 8 February 2020

This month’s open thread on climate solutions.

527 Responses to “Forced responses: Feb 2020”

  1. 501
    David B. Benson says:

    This is an adequate summary:

    Too be blunt, without sufficient ancillary services the grid collapses into a blackout. Very difficult to restart.

  2. 502
    Michael Sweet says:

    David Benson at 477:

    Please tell me something I have not already posted on this thread. You say transmission line failure can also stress grids and needs spinning reserve. In my first post at 434 I said :

    “Transmission line failure can also cause problems but a strong grid can compensate for a line failure.”

    While this problem will remain in a renewable world, the most common large problem spinning reserve has to deal with is when the breaker trips at unreliable major nuclear or fossil power station. This causes the instant loss of the entire station power. In addition, the grid must provide the parasitic load (the power used to rum cooling pumps and other emergency equipment). For nuclear plants the parasitic load is 5-10% of total generated power. In the USA, nuclear plants spend 1-5% of their time in unplanned shutdowns. The NRC allows Nuclear plants to SCRAM three times per year without penalty.

    For Example, the Columbia Generating station SCRAMed 23 times between 2000 and 2009, more than twice per year. As I have noted above, nuclear plants cannot supply spinning reserve to back up unreliable nuclear plants.

    I am stunned that nuclear supporters dis renewable energy, which can provide sufficient spinning reserve to keep the grid running, when the main issue spinning reserve has to deal with is the unplanned shutdown of unreliable nuclear plants. Currently renewable energy is not used to provide spinning reserve because it is not economic to use the cheapest energy for that purpose.

    The entire topic of spinning reserve shows nuclear is not a good option for the future.

  3. 503
    Killian says:

    Re #475 Endless Pointless Prattle said why don’t Killian’s allies just put that all into soils and obviate the issue already… if they can?

    They aren’t doing it

    In fact, we are.

    the question is:&nbsp are they UNWILLING, or UNABLE?

    Again, it is all being done. As time moves on, scale incraeases. As time moves further, rates will increase. Gods willing, we solve this monstrous emergency.

    But you, sir, will be no part of that solution. And nuclear, in that it creates problems, is only moving deck chairs and should be phased out. To the exten we accept Bridge Tech and Appropriate Tech as assists to transition, nuclear should be limited to niche *needs.*

    Please, someone, anyone, tell me why E-P is not 100% Bore Holed?

    Point proven. When you’re getting flak, you’re over the target.

    Huh? That statement had nothing to do with any specific thing you said. If you asked a question of me, or made some statement to me, who knew? You’re wasting space here. I don’t read your garbage. You’re a racist and more. You deserve nothing from any human but pity and isolation.

    I stated that purely on the fact you and your interlocuters have destroyed the usefulness of this space beyond any and all recognition.

    Shame on all of you.

  4. 504

    #501, DBB–

    Thanks. Worth highlighting, in view of recent discussion:

    The grid integration of renewable generation simultaneously requires additional ancillary services and has the potential to provide ancillary services to the grid. The inverters that are installed with distributed generation systems and roof top solar systems have the potential to provide many of the ancillary services that are traditionally provided by spinning generators and voltage regulators. These services include reactive power compensation, voltage regulation, flicker control, active power filtering and harmonic cancellation. Wind turbines with variable-speed generators have the potential to add synthetic inertia to the grid and assist in frequency control. CAISO tested the 131 MW Tule wind farm’s synchronverter in 2018, and found it could perform some of the grid services similar or better than traditional generators. Hydro-Québec began requiring synthetic inertia in 2005 as the first grid operator, demanding a temporary 6% power boost when countering frequency drop by combining the power electronics with the rotational inertia of a wind turbine rotor. Similar requirements came into effect in Europe in 2016.

  5. 505

    Michael Sweet gets hypocritical @482:

    I doubt many readers will agree with you that you know more about reactors than all the editors at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

    BAS is a dedicated ideological anti-nuclear organization.  They know that nuclear energy is safer than every other source that humanity has successfully harnessed.  They ignore this to demonize it in favor of the fossil fuels pushed by their donors (with some offset from “renewables”).  BAS, and everyone who publishes through it, is despicable.

    Your objections are all just so much ignorant ranting.

    You project like an IMAX.

    the entire post that Zebra made is a quote from the article I linked.

    I have no time to read all the lies promulgated by your propagandists, let alone refute them.  Life is too short.

    You stated up thread that renewable energy cannot provide spinning reserve. I gave a specific example to prove that you are just spewing ignorant rants.

    You gave a non-existent hypothesis of a situation which is only possible for part of a day and is specifically discouraged by policy and compensation.  In other words, Ain’t Gonna Happen.

    Currently it is more economic to use renewable energy directly and use another source for the spinning reserve to back up unreliable nuclear plants.

    Nuclear plants are upwards of 93% reliable, including scheduled outages.  So-called “renewables” are vastly less reliable than that.

    The spinning reserve in a renewable system is much lower that current spinning reserve because most current spinning reserve is to back up large, unreliable nuclear and fossil fuel plants.

    You are delusional.  ALL of the output of wind generation can be lost at the winds of a front exceeding the wind farms’ rated top speed, and all PV IS lost at dusk.

    The verbal sleight-of-hand you’re trying to pull here is calling it “spinning reserve” when dispatchable generators are concerned, but re-label it “balancing” when unreliables are involved.  There’s no difference, and your unreliables need vastly more of it.

  6. 506

    Michael Sweet fails to do the math @483:

    “electrofuels are methane (natural gas), gasoline and diesel fuel. The fossil fuel industry has built out storage for terrawatts of storage of all these materials. I have referred you to Connelly et al Smart Energy Europe many times but you have chosen not to read it. It costs out a system for All Power (not just electricity as nuclear supporters talk about) using electromethane (natural gas) for storage. It is a little (10%) more costly than BAU for power but has many benefits.

    One of them being that the losses create a near-infinite sink for otherwise unsalable unreliable power (they’re only good for the generators, not the consumers).  In other words, they’re very inefficient.

    Today’s best electrolyzers consume 43 kWh (154.8 MJ) to produce 1 kg of hydrogen.  This hydrogen has a LHV of just 120 MJ, so unless you’ve got a condensing application you’ve lost more than 20% right off.  Electro-methane is worse.  1 kg hydrogen reacts with CO2 to make 2 kg CH4, plus water.  CH4 has a LHV of just 50 MJ/kg, so your original 154.8 MJ has become just 100 MJ… and that doesn’t include whatever energy it took to get the CO2.  If you burn it in a NGV, you might get 30% of the LHV at the crankshaft.  Voila, your 154.8 MJ has become 30 MJ, for a throughput efficiency likely less than 19%.  Contrast an EV which gets something like 80% grid-to-wheels.

    There are other issues.  Synthetic CH4 is just as bad a greenhouse gas as natural CH4.  The one great advantage is that every natural-gas well becomes a storage well, but Porter Ranch shows that we should be discouraging that as well.

    In a nuclear economy, most of your energy storage is actinides, not chemicals or gravity.  You have power on demand, so you don’t have to store energy for months; you can use EVs and district heating instead of having to stash summer methane away for transport and winter warmth.  There’s a vastly smaller amount of energy required for electric transport vs. electrofuels-powered transport.  This not only downsizes the required generation by a factor of 4, it slashes the environmental footprint by a much larger factor.  Unlike massive wind farms blinking their anti-collision beacons over vast landscapes, nuclear is almost literally “out of sight, out of mind.”

    Jacobson 2015 has been cited 278 times, that is not “quite heavily criticized”.

    And Clack 2017 is one of those cites.

    The Clack et al 2017 paper written to criticize Jacobson primarily argues Jacobson did not use hydropower properly.

    No, Jacobson lied.  If there is a rated ceiling to hydropower and the model blithely ignores it, the model is a fraud.  Jacobson further ignores realities by assuming that all generation and all loads connect at a single point, assuming that there are neither costs nor losses nor limits involved in transmission, but that’s the nature of his toy model.

    The real refutation of Jacobson is the real world.  Germany’s attempt to go that way has resulted in extremely high electric rates, vast changes in the landscape yet a massive failure to meet 2020 emissions targets.  Germany is proof that Jacobson and and all his ilk are wrong.  Maybe most of them are just mistaken rather than conscious frauds, but wrong they are.

  7. 507
    David B. Benson says:

    Michael Sweet @502 — You might care to study the recent grid failures of the Australian NEM. There are no nuclear power plants in Australia. Engineer-Poet quoted extensively regarding the South Australia blackout in a comment supra, and at the risk of repetition I point you to

    You can also research the two rolling blackouts of the ERCOT Texas grid. Neither was due to the nuclear power plants on that grid.

    Basic to understanding electrical power supply is that about 70% of the maximum load is omnipresent. So efficient continual generation must be arranged. Solar power is obviously out. Wind generation isn’t always present; here in the Pacific Northwest the wind can essentially cease for 4–6 weeks in the 4th and 1st quarters of the year when prices are high.

    Even ERCOT Texas with all the West Texas wind farms backs it all with natural gas burners. It is easy to go find out what happened last summer when the reserves ran quite low; note that the large thermal generators met their commitments.

    Planning a grid cannot be done by “feel goods”. Power grid economics is a learned speciality. Try it.

  8. 508

    Al Bundy teases @489:

    I’ve solved the olivine issue. It solves several other critical issues as well, all while saving lots of effort. Care to learn

    Why didn’t you just post your solution (what exactly NEEDED to be solved anyway)?  Nobody’s stopping you.  People will either read it or not, and those who read it will either learn or not.

    What they learn may be that you made a mistake or ten, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

  9. 509

    Al Bundy bloviates @490:

    For example, in the 100,000,000 words he has spewed exactly 0 have answered “renewables can provide spinning reserve via direct air capture curtailment”.

    Except they can’t do that when there is nothing to divert to DAC (or electrofuels, or anything else).  That’s quite a bit of the time.

    Cue “if I’ve told you once I’ve told you a million times, I DO NOT EXAGGERATE!”

  10. 510

    Al Bundy gets selective amnesia @498:

    Nuclear provides no spinning reserve and EP doesn’t care. Why?

    It can, depending how you do it.  LWRs can’t without ancillary equipment, but Cal Abel’s molten salt battery scheme for a PRISM-based plant would have everything between the immediate output and the maximum steam turbine output power available as fast as you could open the turbine throttle.

    He’s definitely too smart to not be able to understand the inability of nuclear to provide spinning reserve.

    In an all-nuclear economy you have a chronic excess of generation that’s going to things like electrofuels for the stuff you just can’t electrify, and those are interruptible loads which become part of your spinning reserve.  EV chargers are another big part of it.  Why do you tout such loads as reserve only for the unreliables, when they work as well for nuclear?  They’d actually work better for nuclear, because the much smaller difference between maximum generation and minimum load allows the dump loads to be smaller and cheaper and operate at a higher duty cycle.

  11. 511

    This is an interview with a guy who shows every sign of getting it.  His name is Gregg Kresge and he’s been working to make RE work better in Maui and on the island of Moloka’i.  He’s not a rah-rah believer, he’s a hard-headed techie and it shows.  I know I like to talk smack about “ruinables” but for small communities with no industry and costly imported fuel they are just the ticket.

    Sample quote:

    Importance of EV Innovation on the Island of Moloka’i

    “If done right, EVs can play an important role in incorporating more renewable energy on Moloka‘i and further cut our dependency on imported fossil fuels. In serving about 3,200 customers on the island, the average minimum daytime load is about 1.6 megawatts (MW), peak load is about 5.6 MW between the hours of 5 PM and 9 PM, and private rooftop solar installed or approved is about 2.7 MW.

    This exhibits a perfect example of a “duck curve,” with higher demand in the morning before the solar peak, then dropping drastically in the middle of the day, and finally soaring to even higher in the evening. What drives the middle daytime demand down so low is the large amount of uncontrollable PV coming onto the grid from private rooftop installations.

    With such an abundance of solar energy during a time when the island’s energy demand is fairly low already, if EV adoption is increased on Moloka‘i and more EVs are charging during the day then it’s a perfect marriage of displacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.


    Note that BEVs as a way to absorb surpluses of PV generation at noon are equally applicable to absorbing surpluses of nuclear generation at night.

  12. 512
    Al Bundy says:

    EP: decommissioning; leaving the unit for a few decades allows

    AB: I don’t see much use in decommissioning a nuke until said decommissioning is profitable. Let them sit until security + labor + tipping fees + incidentals – scrap value – avoided interest starts to rise. A hundred years or more?

    I think the nuke-supplied district heat concept you mentioned would work well with solar. Three seasons solar and one with solar plus an inefficient nuke (since waste heat isn’t wasted efficiency concerns evaporate). Note that inefficient design can be more durable and less expensive.


    David B: The ramp rate is sufficiently fast.

    AB: IIRC Michael Sweet posted the opposite. Regardless, a nuke can incorporate a battery that provides quickness when needed while also providing emergency power for a scrammed nuke.

    This whole spinning reserve thing is moot in a world with significant batteries. However, intermittency, whether with notice (REs and nukes) or without (nukes and the grid) is a vital concern.

  13. 513
    David B. Benson says:

    Kevin McKinney @504 — That quotation is largely aspirational. Been tried. Instead, solar and wind farms are increasingly bid with an attached battery with a power rating the same as the farm’s nameplate rating and of at least one hour nominal duration. The battery is kept partially charged so that it can instantly either up-regulate by discharging or down-regulate by charging. No stress on rotating equipment that way. Increasingly flow batteries are preferred.

  14. 514
    nigelj says:

    Al Bundy @492

    “You are conflating “spinning reserve” and “intermittency”. One needs precisely zero spinning reserve to handle intermittency. Spinning reserve is all about getting cold-cocked, such as when a nuke scrams. Renewables are protected by their vast numbers. When a turbine fries the grid barely burps because 999,999 other turbines don’t care about the failure.”

    Ok I was a bit, but the ultimate issue is about costs. Nuclear power needs some spinning reserves for the reasons you state, but solar and wind at full scale require either massive levels of storage or a massive overbuild due to intermittency, which will cost far more than the spinning reserves that nuclear power requires. In other words a renewables system at full scale is more expensive at todays prices than a nuclear power system, emphasis on the word system.

    Just look at the costs per kw/hr of storage just to provide one hours storage and it doesn’t come cheap. This might change a lot, it might not. But it does show that not many generating systems can stand alone without ancillary services.

  15. 515
    nigelj says:

    Michael Sweet @483

    “The nuclear thread at Skeptical Science at post 67 (since you read SkS you should have read this post) has a copy of the Lazard graph showing that the cost to run most nuclear plants is greater than the cost to build and run a new renewable plant..”

    I KNOW THAT AND ACCEPT THAT. But this is the raw cost of solar and wind versus nuclear power. Once you factor in the amount of storage required to make a stand alone fully scaled up solar and wind power grid work, the costs change dramatically (assuming hydro power and lithium batteries). I have said this several times but you seem determined to miss the point, and you harp on about other unrelated things.

    “electrofuels are methane (natural gas), gasoline and diesel fuel (made form renewables). The fossil fuel industry has built out storage for terrawatts of storage of all these materials. I have referred you to Connelly et al Smart Energy Europe many times but you have chosen not to read it”

    I thought you said the study was offline or retracted so I didn’t follow up on it. My bad perhaps. I’ve found it below:

    However bear in mind according to the abstract it’s a design for a multi faceted system and the costs are just ESTIMATES. I would be interested in what other people think of the study particularly the workability and costs for this biofuels energy storage system.

  16. 516
    Killian says:

    I suggest you all watch this.

  17. 517
    nigelj says:

    Engineer Poet @484
    “Killian keeps going on about the carbon-sequestering potential of soils. Well, man, MAKE IT HAPPEN! ……It’s not like nuclear power keeps you from rebuilding soils, and neither does any accelerated weathering scheme….These things can all be done in parallel”

    Yes I agree and would say they actually HAVE to be done in parallel because although soils can be made to sequester more carbon by things like no till agriculture and rotational grazing but the best science based field trial data suggests you can sequester only rather limited amounts of carbon. One of the big problems is that as soils warm it causes carbon to also be lost from soils.

    For rotational grazing plus cropping I have read it can potentially sequester 10 – 20% of yearly emissions, providing most of the planets agriculture is converted. But these rates of sequestration drop as soils warm. On that basis you need other schemes as well like rock weathering or whatever.

    Although imo rates of 10% sequestration will still add up nicely in the very long term. This is where such soil schemes have merit, but they are not quick fixes so you need other negative emissions strategies.

    Relevant research for anyone interested: “Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory’s grazing method”


  18. 518
    nigelj says:

    Sorry I provided wrong link for “Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory’s grazing method”. Here’s the correct link, and the pdf is free to download.'s_grazing_method

  19. 519
    nigelj says:

    Al Bundy @492, Im not conflating spinning reserves and storage for intermittency in ways that matter. Read EP @505 last paragraph.

  20. 520
    Al Bundy says:

    EP: Why didn’t you just post your solution (what exactly NEEDED to be solved anyway)? Nobody’s stopping you.

    AB: Geez, guy. You KNOW that posting something puts it in the public domain. How many times are you going to ignore that fact? Yep, I wish that IP law wasn’t so evilly designed, that inventions were treated like copyrights, but the law is what it is. Thus, I can offer private communications AND NO MORE. I respect you so I reach out to you. But please stop chastising me for following the law.

    EP: In an all-nuclear economy you have a chronic excess of generation that’s going to things like electrofuels for the stuff you just can’t electrify,

    AB: Why is “massively overbuilt” a feature in a nuclear-only system and an insurmountable bug in a mixed nuclear and renewables system? Note that inverters are becoming a grand way to provide reactive power. Those solar farms can and are starting to support the grid at night.

    It seems that you start with your preferred solution and work backwards while studiously ignoring anything that supports other solutions, generally by holding up the most extreme cranks’ blithering as the only alternative to your plan.

    Nuclear-only requires sharing nukes with everyone or genocide, either of the biosphere by Others who will strip the land of trees and spew ever more carbon, or of Others. You have to choose one genocide or the other or give an alternative that fits within your model.

    I have no doubt about your choice. My only question is whether you have the balls to voice it in a post. After all, a smart guys once said, “Why didn’t you just post your solution (what exactly NEEDED to be solved anyway)? Nobody’s stopping you”

  21. 521
    Al Bundy says:

    EP: Why do you tout such loads as reserve only for the unreliables, when they work as well for nuclear?

    AB: I’ve repeatedly posted support for nukes using such loads. But in my juvenile mind your comment deserved a mirrored comment, a “I know you are but what am I?” thing. Kind of like you and Michael Sweet dissing each other’s pet power generating system as unreliable.

  22. 522
    David B. Benson says:

    Al Bundy @512 — Micheal Sweet is wrong. France daily demonstrates that nuclear power plant ramp rates are adequate. After all, these are primarily constrained by the Rankine steam turbines, these traditionally being powered by coal burners and in use already at the end of the 19th century.

    It helps to learn some power engineering basics…

  23. 523

    E-P 505: Nuclear plants are upwards of 93% reliable, including scheduled outages.

    BPL: But every nuclear plant ever built has plenty of “unscheduled outages.”

  24. 524

    E-P 506: Germany’s attempt to go that way has resulted in extremely high electric rates, vast changes in the landscape yet a massive failure to meet 2020 emissions targets.

    BPL: German emissions were down last year. Want to bet on whether that will continue or not?

  25. 525

    #513, DBB–So you’re debunking your own source now? :-)

    Seriously, at this point we’re running in circles behind some excessively mobile goalposts. So let me make an attempt to pin them down. What I’ve been (mostly) concerned to debunk is the set of assertions that RE “can’t” do this, that, or the other, and consequently we should make the future all-nuclear.

    It’s been abundantly shown by the preceding disucssions, IMO, that none of the following needs form some sort of prohibitive condition for the useful deployment of greatly increased amounts of RE:

    –the need for reactive power
    –the need for frequency support
    –the need for load following
    –the need for any other ancillary service
    –intermittency itself

    All of these issues are real and deserving of proper consideration, but all of them are addressable, and increasingly addressed in the real world. And yes, the increasing use of wind/solar plus storage that you discuss is definitely a big part of that. (BTW, thanks again, this time for the bit about flow batteries; they’re one of those technologies that seems to have great potential, but also has taken quite a while to start gaining real-world traction.)

    RE is going to be the workhorse form of electrical generation over the coming decades because it is affordable, clean, and highly scalable. It is not a silver bullet, because there is, in fact, no silver bullet; it will work in concert with other forms of generation, including nuclear power, in the context of a diversified, responsive grid structure. Or so it seems to me.

    Debates about purely nuclear or purely wind/solar grids are, IMO, of very limited utility. (Pun intended.)

  26. 526
    David B. Benson says:

    Kevin McKinney @525 — The typical electric power grid runs about 70% of maximum, or more, all the time, 24/7. The majority of the power is provided by so-called baseload generators, thermal with some hydro in lucky locations. The remaining 30%, or so, is only required between 6:30 am and 11 pm. So solar power can assist. Wind power elbows out the thermal generators on price when the wind blows. But it may cease for weeks, depending on the progress of the atmospheric Rossby waves. So the baseload generators have to be kept around. Various uses for the low priced power when there is excess generation have been discussed. Here is one:

  27. 527