Finding solutions to Achilles' heel of renewable energy: intermittency

Mar 06, 2012 By Diana Lutz

(PhysOrg.com) -- William F. Pickard introduces the February 2012 special issue of the Proceedings of the IEEE by quoting the Bible: “The wind bloweth where it listeth.” That, in  so many words, describes is the major technological issue with renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind power.

“Wind turbines or solar collectors alone cannot supply baseload ,” Pickard says. “It’s blowing beautifully outside today, and if you had a wind turbine you’d be in fat city. But at sundown the wind could suddenly drop and there’d be no sunshine to replace it. You would freeze in the dark – unless you had stored up .”

Intermittency, sometimes called the Achilles’ heel of renewable energy, has so far limited the penetration of renewable sources in most power grids.

Pickard, PhD, senior professor of electrical and systems engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis and a life fellow of the IEEE, co-edited the special issue, “The Intermittency Challenge: Massive Energy Storage in a Sustainable Future,” with Derek Abbott, PhD, professor in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Adelaide and a fellow of the IEEE.

“Most projections show that late in the 21st century, fossil-fuel shortages are going to bite hard,” Pickard says. “If you’re an optimist, you might say 75 years, and we’re going to be in trouble — real trouble. And once economical sources of fossil fuels approach depletion, we have no certain recourse except to renewables.”

What, then, can be done about the problem of intermittency? The , the most highly cited general interest journal in electrical engineering and computer science, delves into the problem, focusing on schemes for rendering renewable energy reliable and dispatchable, particularly massive storage facilities for energy.

Pickard, who is retired from teaching, is motivated not by his own welfare but by his grandson’s. “In 70 years, he says, you and I will be dead, but my grandson might be left sitting with no energy resources. What benefit has he received from this dissipation of fossil fuels? I got a benefit, you got a benefit, but he gets the ashes.”

Transnational power grids

One of the more ambitious articles in the issue describes a giant power grid, to be called the Pan-Asian Energy Infrastructure, that would encompass China, Japan, South Korean, the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) states and Australia.

Wind energy is abundant in China and Mongolia, and solar energy is abundant in Australia’s interior. Together, the authors say, they “represent Asia’s most plentiful renewable energy resources for which capture technology currently exists.”

With a grid this big, the authors say, averaging effects come into play and uncorrelated intermittencies can partially cancel each other out.

“Northern China’s peak electricity demand occurs in winter because of heating needs. Australia’s Outback solar energy resources are strongest in the southern summer, which is the northern winter. Therefore, Australia’s peak solar energy output is suited to meeting China’s winter heating peaks.”

This is not the only transnational grid either planned or under construction.

A group of European companies and the Desertec Foundation envision that, by 2050, solar power plants in the Middle East and North Africa will satisfy 70 percent of the area’s electricity needs and 17 percent of the electricity needs of the European Union and some neighboring countries.

The solar energy would be transmitted across North Africa and connected to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea. Construction of the Desertec’s first 500-megawatt solar farm in Morocco is scheduled to start in 2012.

Ultrahigh-voltage DC power transmission

But, says Pickard, you can’t ship power over extremely long distances through interconnected synchronous AC systems, because of stability problems. “What you get is sloshing inside the network area and sloshing will begin to take the network down.”

For long-distance transfer of bulk power ultrahigh-voltage (800 kilovolt) DC lines are needed, he says. These lines allow higher transmitted power with the same stability margins and lower losses.

The technical problems with these lines are not trivial, Pickard says, but they’re already being solved: — in China. According to the authors of an article in the Proceedings volume on ultrahigh-voltage transmission, ”China is constructing a number of high-power DC energy highways, superimposed on the AC grid, in order to transmit electric power from huge hydropower plants in the center of the country to load centers located as far as 2,000 to 3,000 kilometers away.”

Massive energy storage

Most schemes for the energy future, including transnational grids, will also require massive energy storage, some scheme to transform surplus grid energy into a different but conveniently stored form and then back-converted and returned to the grid when electric power is needed. Pickard calls them “granaries for electricity.”

By massive, Pickard means storage with a rated output power of at least 1 gigawatt and a rated storage capacity of at least 2 gigawattdays, enough to see a major metropolitan area through most emergencies.

Many of these storage schemes assume the baseload power would be supplied by concentrating solar power (CSP) systems. A CSP system uses mirrors to bring solar radiation to a hot focus that can then be used to superheat steam and run a turbine for power generation.

Surplus energy from the concentrators could be stored either chemically or thermally. Chemical systems might be based on the reversible dissociation of ammonia or on dissociated metal hydrides. Thermal ones might store the heat directly in concrete or in molten salt.

Compressed air and pumped hydro

But, says Pickard, if you look at the web) site of the Electricity Storage Association (www.electricitystorage.org), only two energy storage technologies stand out as truly massive. They are compressed air energy storage and pumped hydro.

Compressed air energy storage is really quite simple, he says. “When you have energy you don’t know what to do with, you simply compress air into a cavity under the Earth and when you need the electricity, you blow this air through a high-speed turbine, spinning a generator, and you’ve got your energy again.”

Of course, there is a catch. As anyone who has pumped up a bike tire knows, when you compress air, it heats up and when you allow it to expand, it cools down. To avoid thermally cycling your storage chamber, he says, you’d need to compress the air in stages, with counterflow heat exchangers between the stages.

“If you believe the design figures, you can get 60 or 75 percent turnaround efficiency, which isn’t bad. The only problem is that nobody has ever built a functioning adiabatic compressed-air energy-storage system,” Pickard says.

Pickard prefers pumped hydro, but with a twist. To achieve the goal of 2 gigawattdays of stored power, you’d need a reservoir that would have roughly the volume of 10 Great Pyramids, and to minimize losses and maximize power, this reservoir would have to be several hundred meters above a lower reservoir and yet close to it horizontally.

“The solution is to excavate an underground reservoir many hundreds of meters below surface level and to exchange water between it and a surface reservoir created immediately above it and diked using spoil from the excavation. This variation of hydro storage is called underground pumped hydro,” Pickard says.

Such a facility could be put almost anywhere that there was low-quality land underlain with competent rock— (in industrial brownfields, for example.

But, says Pickard, “if underground pumped hydro is so great, how come it does not yet exist?” Perhaps because to displace an entrenched technology, the new technology must be clearly superior under present conditions, he says. But the superiority of pumped hydro may become “starkly manifest” only in the future.

Pickard says it is important to remember that there are moral as well as economic and technical dimensions to the intermittency challenge. If our generation lets the matter slide, “our descendants will be saddled with the detritus of a wastrel lifestyle.”

Explore further: Website shines light on renewable energy resources

More information: The entire issue is available free to the WUSTL community at: ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/tocres… 100&asf_sp=&asf_pn=1 . Other readers must either benefit from institutional subscriptions or purchase the issue.

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hb_
3.7 / 5 (12) Mar 06, 2012
First of all, there is an alternative to both wind/solar and carbon based fuels: nuclear power.

There is sufficient uranium - with a moderat price increase - to fuel the energy needs of the entire world for centuries. Add breeding and thorium reactors to the mix, and you have enough for hundreds of thousands of years (if not millions).
nuge
4.1 / 5 (9) Mar 06, 2012
Nothing intermittent about geothermal.
Kinedryl
1 / 5 (12) Mar 06, 2012
Second of all, there is an alternative to both wind/solar, carbon based fuels and nuclear power: cold fusion.
Wolf358
3.7 / 5 (10) Mar 06, 2012
I won't argue the technology, but there's more to it: large scale use of nuclear power assumes a continuity of control; it assumes that there will _always_ and _forever_ be someone in authority over the waste products. History so far tells us that human society doesn't work that way. Civilizations fall.
We need a better answer than nuclear power.
hb_
2.6 / 5 (10) Mar 06, 2012
About the "cheap" energy storage. The reason why nobody has used underground water reservoirs is surely the price. Excavating the equivalent volume of 10 pyramid hundreds of meters below the surface must cost billions and billions.

Iron ore pellets cost somewhere between 97 USD and 113 USD. So, let us assume a profit margin of 100 % - way unrealistic, but let us be generous - then we get a mining cost of roughly 150 USD per cubic meter (3 tons ~1 cubic meter).

This equates to a cavern cost of at least 3.7 billion USD for the cavern alone. Now, think about adding liners to the walls and installing piping, the upper reservoir and pumping equipment. Surely this must cost as much as the cavern itself! At a minimum system cost of 7.2 billion USD you get 24 hours of uninterrupted 1 GW of power.

As usual, the "environmentalists" ignore even the most self evident economic facts.

(1)
http://www.nma.or...mine.pdf
antialias_physorg
3.8 / 5 (10) Mar 06, 2012
The only country that has existed long enough to be in 'continuous control' of nuclear waste is China. And I wouldn't trust them to do a good job at it.

The first storage areas in salt mines (which were supposedly safe and stable for milennia) already need to be dug up and relocated - after barely 30 years.

Then there's the issue of accidents. The usual number given is: once in a million years. Well, after Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Lucens, Mayak and Fukushima we must all be 5 million years old.
Better technology cannot prevent this because some of these were human failures and/or combination of unlucky circumstances. You can't plan such a complex technology for all possible combinations of unlucky circumstances.
Reactors need water. Guess where rivers flow: Earthquake faults. Think that reactors can survive earthquakes of any strength? Think again.
hb_
3.3 / 5 (7) Mar 06, 2012
@Wolf358

Actually, no. The idea that you have to store the waste for hundreds of thousands of years has nothing to do with science nor rational through. 500 years would probably suffice.

Now, to gain public acceptance, the nuclear industry has to play along with the nuclear phobia and design end storage that will last 100 000 years. A waste of money if you ask me. We can discuss the technical and biological risks in detail if you are interested.

Non prolifiration is a relevant issue here, but let's be honest, the geenie is allready out of that box.
hb_
3.1 / 5 (10) Mar 06, 2012
@antialias_physorg

You are aware that the total tally of confirmed deaths in Chernobyl is something like 80, right?

As for three mile island, zero.. Fukoshima 1.

Let us be generous and add all these deaths together (~100), and spread them over the years of operation. 400 reactors for roughly 30 years => 12 000 years of operation => ~0.01 deaths per GW-year.

Note that we are ignoring the fact that reactors are being improved all the time, and that western reactors are safer than the eastern grafite moderated reactors..

Do you seriously think that wind power is safer than this? Also note that vastly more people - a few thousand - are killed in the US trafic alone each year..
deatopmg
2.3 / 5 (4) Mar 06, 2012
"...remember that there are moral as well as economic and technical dimensions to the intermittency challenge."

Who's morals? Who decides?

If it's gov't, not the market, then history shows there's close to 100% probability that whatever the choice it will be wrong, i.e. not in the best interest of the vast majority nor the environment, but only good for the special interest group(s) in power?
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (6) Mar 06, 2012
You are aware that the total tally of confirmed deaths in Chernobyl is something like 80, right?

Yes, but vast tracts of land are off limits for who knows how long. Now the US or Russia or China may have land to spare, but have one of these kinds of accidents in germany and there's no germany left to speak of (and the ramifications of germany dropping out of the world economy you can probably imagine).
That's just not worth it.

Do you seriously think that wind power is safer than this?

Yes.

Also note that vastly more people - a few thousand - are killed in the US trafic alone each year..

Soi? What kind of argument is that.

There are many reasons not to go nuclear besides the ecological. Nuclear is vastly un-economical (massively subsidized - if alternatives got the same money they'd undercut the price of nuclear by a long shot). It also makes you dependent on those who have the fissionables.
Lurker2358
3.5 / 5 (8) Mar 06, 2012
hb:

You're ridiculous. Wind power doesn't fail catastrophically.

And the figures you cite are absurdly low-balled because the governments involved in Chernobyl covered up how bad it has been.
Uzza
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 06, 2012
Better technology cannot prevent this because some of these were human failures and/or combination of unlucky circumstances. You can't plan such a complex technology for all possible combinations of unlucky circumstances.
Reactors need water. Guess where rivers flow: Earthquake faults. Think that reactors can survive earthquakes of any strength? Think again.

You are plain wrong. Technology has everything to do with preventing accidents because it's the actual design of the reactors that influence what can cause an accident, and how severe it can become.

Molten Salt Reactors that operate at atmospheric pressure, 100% passive safety and cooling and without needing any water at all in the entire site, will have nowhere near the same accident scenarios as a conventional, highly pressurized, Light Water Reactors.
infinite_energy
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 06, 2012
Molten salts ( or anything else molten ) could be a viable medium term local storage power plant solution. A big enough pool of molten salts can produce continuous steam for around 24 hours.
You can use this sort of storage power plant as a big UPS system for the whole city/subgrid.
Lurker2358
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 06, 2012
Anyway, the way you deal with intermittency is simple: Hybrid cars and backup power generators.

We mass produce wind and solar NOW, and save the fossil fuels for backup power when wind and solar aren't enough...DUH...

For winter night time heating, people could use vacuum tube solar collectors with highly insulated tanks, with a radiator in your most important living spaces. It could tie into a conventional boiler system. You'd store excess heat as close to boiling as possible in a tank during the day, and this would provide more than enough heating at night. 99C water is 113400 Joules per kilogram of heat above 72C (room temperature). So if you could store about 380 liters (100 gallons) of 99C water from sunlight, which is easy, then you should be able to effectively warm a home at an average rate of 1000watts for 12 hours of darkness.

Alternatively, you could use wind power to drive an electric heater, and store some heat in the water during the day, just in case the wind dies.
Lurker2358
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 06, 2012
The first thing you have to remove in America, after corporate greed anyway, is the "NIMBY" attitude.

People will need to learn that doing what is necessary is more important than the "I don't want a lawn ornament" mentality.

I have seen demonstrations of HOME MADE solar collectors that have cut people's heating bills cleanly in half, even in Pennsylvania! The collector paid for itself in 2 years. The collector is oriented vertically so that snow will not pile up on it, and it wasn't even orientable!

With another collector or two, and a storage mechanism, they could store hot water for night time, and cut their heating bill to ZERO for the entire winter. And the entire system would easily pay for itself within 3 to 5 years, and be "free energy" thereafter.

Most of this is actually cheaper, both mid-term and long-term, and safer than what people are currently doing for water heating and climate control.
SteveL
3 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2012
We have at least 5 HVDC lines in the western USA. One goes through the edge of my property in NW Nevada, so this isn't new technology. Globalizing energy is a great idea - if you can get everyone to play nice. Not much chance of that, due in large part to the "not in my back yard" syndrome.

For nuclear waste disposal consider tetonic plate subduction. Drill big holes in the plate, insert concrete encased and sealed slugs of radioactive material and cap the holes. The stuff goes back where it came from. Deep and technologically challenging? Yes, but to keep the stuff secure you want it to be.

Thermal and water reservoirs are great ideas. Water ones, such as Duke Energy's Bad Creek project have been in use for years. As for sub-surface water storage; there are abandoned mines all over the world, so much of the expense has already been taken care of. With HVDC lines you can put power plants practically anywhere, but they have to be large enough to make it worthwhile.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.7 / 5 (7) Mar 06, 2012
You mean the kind of power that the U,S, and Israel are threatening to go to war in order to prevent Iran from developing?

"First of all, there is an alternative to both wind/solar and carbon based fuels: nuclear power." - nb
ShotmanMaslo
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 06, 2012
Nuclear is a viable green alternative. Modern reactor designs are extremely safe. Breeder reactors could power humanity at current energy levels for centuries, if not millenia, and produce waste that is harmless after only 300 years. Accidents will most probably happen, but in grand scheme of things, their impact in lives and property would be negligible.

Both nuclear and renewables should be pursued, IMHO. Those anti-nuclear people have no real argument except empty fear-mongering.
jet
5 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2012
The Long term nuke-waste issue has been for the most part solved if one wishes to use the right technologist the EBR II / IFR design fuel cycle is far more "green" then LWR designs. Even using LWR waste as fuel.

As far as long term issues.. Solar as now constituted is not free either GaAs is on the lost of "bad" chemicals in California
jet
5 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2012
For a quick read on the IFR
http://www.ans.or...-2-2.pdf
dnatwork
not rated yet Mar 06, 2012
@hb: So the pumped hydro reservoir would cost about 1/3 as much as a single nuclear power plant? Sounds like a deal to me.
kochevnik
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 06, 2012
Add breeding and thorium reactors to the mix, and you have enough for hundreds of thousands of years
First you need to find a cure for radiation and cancer.
ShotmanMaslo
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 06, 2012
Add breeding and thorium reactors to the mix, and you have enough for hundreds of thousands of years
First you need to find a cure for radiation and cancer.


As I said, empty fear-mongering.
Burnerjack
5 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2012
Nuge is right on target. Geothermal is as baseload as it gets. While cost varies with location (as with other energy sources), it is everywhere and awesomely abundant. Due to it's ubiquitious nature, Huge Grid upgrades and long runs connecting source with point of use are largely mitigated. Although, as we move towards an electrical economy, without a distibuted generation system, the Grid will most likely need upgrades anyway. Clean, safe, reliable baseload power. Night and day.
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (6) Mar 06, 2012
Why is Israel planning to murder several thousand Iranians to assure that it is not a viable Iranian green alternative?

"Nuclear is a viable green alternative." - ShotMan
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (2) Mar 07, 2012
Why is Israel planning to murder several thousand Iranians to assure that it is not a viable Iranian green alternative?


Off-topic. But Id say its because it feares that Iranian nuclear is also aimed to develop a bomb, or simply to harm the economy of Iran.
kaasinees
2.3 / 5 (6) Mar 07, 2012
Let us be generous and add all these deaths together (~100), and spread them over the years of operation. 400 reactors for roughly 30 years => 12 000 years of operation => ~0.01 deaths per GW-year.


100 000's people have been murdered with depleted uranium weapons.
Thousands of kids every year are born with defects because of living near radioactive (ex)war-zones.
Germany is still experiencing radioactive soil from Chernobyl.
It is very hard to link deaths and deformities with nuclear reactor accidents but 100 death toll is abusing numbers. Many people have experienced major illness when mining for nuclear fuel. Cancer can take 20-50 years to develop (for instance asbestos poisoning can take ~40 years).

Stop being a little bitch. Any technology that requires non renewable fuel is ancient technology.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Mar 07, 2012
Geothermal is as baseload as it gets.

It is a type of energy worth following up on. The current implementations aren't useful (they tend to produce earthquakes...who would have thought that pumping water into the ground could create a slippery interface?)

We need to do this in closed systems. Even though the efficiency is lower/cost is higher that would pay for itself in the long run.
kaasinees
1 / 5 (1) Mar 07, 2012
We need to do this in closed systems. Even though the efficiency is lower/cost is higher that would pay for itself in the long run.

Open geothermal systems also have the tendency to release greenhouse gasses.

I have always wondered about a closed geothermal system, for instance when it is hot outside lay down pipes where the ground is relatively cold and you have a cooling system.

You can create the perfect equilibrium for house heating/cooling and it requires no open system at all, you dont even need to circulate fluids as it will draw from its own.

Ofcourse for power generation i dont know if a closed system can be efficient enough unless you go deeper and hotter.
jet
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 07, 2012
Vendicar... your bias is showing.

"Our dear Imam (referring to Ayatollah Khomeini) said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map and this was a very wise statement." Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB)

Even LWR's can be made to be much less easy to creat Fissio Weapons. carmel reactor fuel comes to mind.
jet
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 07, 2012


and death of starvation or cold can happen much faster in a ludite world where we rely on wind mills etc....

SteveL
not rated yet Mar 07, 2012
In many areas of the world geothermal heating would be very expensive to install as the depths required are excessive. Open geothermal heating systems can also contaminate drinking water as the water that was intended for deeper depths can leach into drinking water tables.

My father used to have a house in Klamath Falls, Oregon that used a closed loop heating system that didn't require a pump. The well was over 125' deep and the water flowed continuiously without a pump due to heating and cooling of the water inside the pipe and the changing weight of the water from expansion. To heat the house, only a fan came on and blew across the coils in the heating unit. Another set of coils was fed from the cold water line, down into the geothermal well and back up into the house for hot water. No storage required.

Closed geothermal cooling systems can also be quite safe and environmentally inobtrusive if designed and installed properly - especially for new construction.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Mar 07, 2012
I have always wondered about a closed geothermal system, for instance when it is hot outside lay down pipes where the ground is relatively cold and you have a cooling system

You can already buy those. They drastically reduce your heating/cooling bill (depending on type by 66 to 80 percent. Whle you do not require any more fuels the pump does require electricity - so it's not entirely 'free'). The downside is that this is only viable in non-urban areas.

As of 2008 there are about 300000 homes using this type of technology in germany. In switzerland about 30 percent of all new building have them.

as the depths required are excessive.

Low yield geothermal can be had with depths of only 1-2 meters (but you need considerable area if you do that). Savings are still in the 66 percent range.
SteveL
not rated yet Mar 07, 2012
as the depths required are excessive.

Low yield geothermal can be had with depths of only 1-2 meters (but you need considerable area if you do that). Savings are still in the 66 percent range.

I was talking about "geothermal heating" in that part of my post. If you're getting geothermal heating from 1-2 meters, well, I'd suggest you move. ;)
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (2) Mar 07, 2012
It is very hard to link deaths and deformities with nuclear reactor accidents but 100 death toll is abusing numbers.


Yes, abusing numbers. But because actual death count is A LOT smaller.

Any technology that requires non renewable fuel is ancient technology.


Thats illogical. Renewability is not an end in itself. Any technology that is sustainable for hundreds of years is for all practical considerations just as good as a completely renewable one.

There are plausible schemes to power humanity on nuclear for millions of years.
hb_
3 / 5 (2) Mar 07, 2012

@antialias_physorg

"Yes, but vast tracts of land are off limits for who knows how long....no germany left to speak of"

The land you are talking about is allready full of wild life [1], and there are stubborn people that live in even the "red" areas. To answer you question: For Chernobyl we have an area of ~2500 km2 that will be contaminated for ~60 years. The radiation is predominately due to Cs137, which has a half life of 30 years. Now, that's hardly all of Germany and hardly for all time, is it?

"Do you seriously think that wind power is safer than this? Yes."
Let us use public sources of information. According to a very pro vindpower page [2], 120 people have died due to wind power. Then we look at "wiki" to obtain approximatelly 920 GW-years of wind power. Now, since the average output power of a wind turbine is app. 20 %, we have to multiply this by 0,2. We obtian 183 GW-years and 120 deaths. This equates to 0,65 deaths per GW-year. Clearly, wind power is less safe.
hb_
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 07, 2012
hb_
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 07, 2012
@antialias_physorg

"Also note that vastly more people - a few thousand - are killed in the US trafic alone each year.......Soi What kind of argument is that."

The argument is that there is no such thing as a completely safe technology, only more or less safe. As I have shown above, nuclear power is safer than wind power even if you use grafite reactor death tolls for western reactors. Even if you do not like it, there is a price to pay for having working infrastructure. The most dangerous is by far trafic, which kills hundreds of thousands times more people than nuclear power.

Germany has opted to close down it's nuclear power plants. The result will not be more wind power, but more gas power and more coal power. Coal power, even if properly scrubbed, results orders of more deaths per energy production than nuclear. So, in effect, The german state has decided to sacrifice hundreds of lives to pander ignorance and fobia. Sorry, there is no other way to describe it!
thestrategist
3 / 5 (2) Mar 07, 2012
Interesting by all means. I agree with Shotman that nuclear is a necessary component in energy strategy. However Pickard's assessment of Ultrahigh energy transmission is outdated. Take a look at this

genesismorocco.blogspot.com/2011/10/tel-aviv-university-invents-40-times.html
hb_
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2012
@dnatwork

No, 7 billion dollars is not "1/3" of a nuclear power plant. Actually, it is pretty close to the price of a very expensive 1.4 GW nuclear reactor.

About the cost estimate. It is an absolutely low-ball estimate, since I have assumed that companies that excavate iron ore (closest analogy that I could find) have a 100% profit margin. If you assume a more reasonable 10% profit margin, you double the cost estimate.

You should also consider that 24 hours of 1 GW is not enough to back up 1 GW of windpower. 1 GW of wind power has an average output of app. 200 MW, but the hydro back-up would still have to be able to absorb the peak power, i.e. 1 GW. So, the back-up necessary for 1 GW will be (at least!) 5*7 billion dollors, or 35 billion dollars. Even you must realize that this is exorbant.
hb_
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2012
@Lurker2358

There is a cost to battery back-up, and it does not get cheaper just because you put them in cars. What happens, you see, when you use an electric car battery as an energy grid back-up is that the battery is worn down. This diminishes the service life of your wehicle, and you have to buy a new battery much quicker than what you would have had to if you had not used it to balance the infrastructure load.
hb_
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2012
@antialias_physorg

"There are many reasons not to go nuclear besides the ecological. Nuclear is vastly un-economical (massively subsidized - if alternatives got the same money they'd undercut the price of nuclear by a long shot). It also makes you dependent on those who have the fissionables."

Funny you should mention the costs. In germany, the feed-in tarif for wind power is 5-9 eurocents per kWh [1]. Nuclear power has, in addition to the normal taxes that any energy producing company faces, has a "fuel rod tax" that amounts to 2.3 billion euros per year [2]. You do not have your facts straight.

Anyhow, just let the nuclear power companies build nuclear power plants without any intervention, and it will become clear if it is profitable or not.

(1)
http://en.wikiped..._Germany
hb_
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2012
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2012
If you're getting geothermal heating from 1-2 meters, well, I'd suggest you move.

http://www.consum...mal.html

Notice the part about wide area loops. They need to be merely 3 to 6 feet below ground.

Now, that's hardly all of Germany and hardly for all time, is it?

Considering where these reactors need to be located (near rivers) where all major cities are - this is not an option

And the ONLY reason people are living there is because right after the explosion the government upped the allowable 'safe' radiation exposure by 3000 percent.
The result will not be more wind power, but more gas power and more coal power.

Gas (for alleviating short term variability only) yes. Coal: No. If the projections by the most pessimistic parties are correct the energy input currently held by nuclear will be taken over by renewables before the last reactor is phased out in 2020.

So by volume not one ounce of CO2 more will be produced.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2012
Funny you should mention the costs. In germany, the feed-in tarif for wind power is 5-9 eurocents per kWh [1]. Nuclear power has, in addition to the normal taxes that any energy producing company faces, has a "fuel rod tax" that amounts to 2.3 billion euros per year [2]. You do not have your facts straight.

Did you account for subsidies? Did you account fo storage costs of waste? No, you did not.

Nuclear has been getting close to 200bn Euros to date in subsidies. So has coal. Renewables have been getting less than 30bn (which includes the feed in tarrifs) - and for that 1/7th of th subsidies renewables are already providing as much electricity as all of nuclear to the grid.

If you really chalk up ALL the costs of nuclear from builind to tear down to storage to cleanup then you're at a cost of close to 2 dollars per kWh.

So you tell me what is more 'bang fo the buck'.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (1) Mar 08, 2012
antialias:
""There are many reasons not to go nuclear besides the ecological. Nuclear is vastly un-economical (massively subsidized - if alternatives got the same money they'd undercut the price of nuclear by a long shot)"

This is simply not true. Renewables receive far more subsidies per KWh of energy they produce than nuclear energy:
http://www.iisd.o...dies.pdf

Subsidies per energy unit:
Renewables: 5,0
Nuclear energy: 1,7

If nuclear got the same money they'd undercut the price of renewables by a far longer shot as they do now.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (2) Mar 08, 2012
"Did you account for subsidies? Did you account fo storage costs of waste? No, you did not."

Did you account for massive storage and smart grid investments that would be needed to completely power the world with renewables (if its even possible)?

The jump from 0% to 25% of intermittent renewables in a grid is a completely different problem than a jump from 50% to 75% or 75% to 100%.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Mar 08, 2012
Yes we need storage. But in a grid (like the European grid that already exists) such storage can be distributed. It's completely possible to fill a hydro reservoir in Norway with energy produced in northern Africa.

The larger your grid the less storage you need, because variability evens out. For backup (only) you can have gas powered plants which can be switched on at a moment's notice. The number of days you'd need those in a continental grid would be in the single digits per year. The 'storage problem' is really only a problem as long as you think nationally.

The lines needed for these new grids ae being constructed as we type. Testruns with many small alternative plants have shown that base load all year round is no problem without resorting to ANY fossils (not even fossil gas) - using biogas as a means of evening out the odd day without solar and wind.

Birger
not rated yet Mar 08, 2012
Geothermal: It would be nice if someone invested at least one per cent of the cost invested in petroleum infrastructure into creating cheaper deep-drilling technologies for tapping into deep geothermal heat.
Iceland started, but the banking crisis sabotaged it. Then they drilled into a pocket of liquid magma, having to start anew. So what if those countries with more than 200 000 inhabitants started to make a contribution to the research?
hb_
3 / 5 (2) Mar 08, 2012
@physor_alia

"...Nuclear has been getting close to 200bn Euros to date in subsidies..."

Prove it with a quote from a reliable source, or else we just have to assume that you are lying or fantysising.

"...Renewables have been getting less than 30bn (which includes the feed in tarrifs) - and for that 1/7th of th subsidies renewables are already providing as much electricity as all of nuclear to the grid..."

Hydro power do not need subsidies, it is profitable by itself. The rest - wind power and solar - has recieved far more subsidies per TWh than nuclear. This is the measure that counts.

Also, wind power does not provied anything near the energy that nculear provides, and that is true for Germany and the world in general. In 2009, wind amounted to 1.5 % of the german electricity, wheras nuclear provided ~11 % [1]. Please try to google the facts before you make a statement!

(1)
http://en.wikiped..._Germany
hb_
5 / 5 (1) Mar 08, 2012
Let us be generous and add all these deaths together (~100), and spread them over the years of operation. 400 reactors for roughly 30 years => 12 000 years of operation => ~0.01 deaths per GW-year.


100 000's people have been murdered with depleted uranium weapons.
Thousands of kids every year are born with defects because of living near radioactive (ex)war-zones..


Prove your statement with a quote. You didn't just pull that one out of the hat, right? You do have facts to support you claim..?
hb_
5 / 5 (1) Mar 08, 2012
@antialias_physorg

"..If you really chalk up ALL the costs of nuclear from builind to tear down to storage to cleanup then you're at a cost of close to 2 dollars per kWh..."

Did you even bother to do the math? Let us for a moment assume that you are right. Since energy producing companies typically recieve 5-10 eurocents per kWh - and they make a profit - you must be implying that the so called external costs are 1.9 USD per kWh for nuclear power. In Germany, nuclear power provides ~600 TWh of electricity each year.

This amounts to 600 billion kWh. So, if you are right, the nuclear industry of Germany generates 1200 billion dollars worth of external costs each year.

Since the nuclear power has been in place for at least 20 years, the total tally in germany alone would be 24 000 billion dollars. Are you seriously claiming that it will cost 24 000 billion dollars to store the waste and tear down the nuclear power stations? That's 1410 billion USD per reactor in Germany...
hb_
5 / 5 (1) Mar 08, 2012
@antialias_physorg

Yes we need storage. But in a grid (like the European grid that already exists) such storage can be distributed. It's completely possible to fill a hydro reservoir in Norway with energy produced in northern Africa....The number of days you'd need those in a continental grid would be in the single digits per year. The 'storage problem' is really only a problem as long as you think nationally.


Hydro is more or less maxed out in Europe, so any "environmental" expansion will have to come from wind-power (now at least). Norway could provide about 25 GW of back-up power with a massive expansion of both power stations and the power grid. Now, that leaves a gap of ~175 GW. Let us forget storage for now.

Contrary to what you beleive, there are several days a year when there is virtually no wind all over europe (5 days per year?). This means that there are another 25 days when the wind over Europe is diminished. So, linking Europe does not solve the problem

cont
hb_
5 / 5 (1) Mar 08, 2012
@antialias_physorg

cont..

What you have to do, is to match the load to the peak wind power, and provide the difference when it is below maximum. This means - since wind typically deliver ~20 % of the nominal power - that coal/gas has to provide 80 % of the energy.

Consequently, the maximum penetration will be 20%. Try to understand this: replacing one GW of nuclear means getting 800 MW of coal/gas and 200 MW of wind.
ShotmanMaslo
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 09, 2012
Yes we need storage. But in a grid (like the European grid that already exists) such storage can be distributed.

The larger your grid the less storage you need, because variability evens out. For backup (only) you can have gas powered plants which can be switched on at a moment's notice. The number of days you'd need those in a continental grid would be in the single digits per year.



The larger the grid, the less storage? Maybe in relative terms, in absolute terms certainly not.
Doesnt matter if the storage is "distributed" or not, you need the same amount for the same cost.

"The 'storage problem' is really only a problem as long as you think nationally."

So wait, the big selling point of renewables - local energy independence, is actually false? We will be dependant on power plants and storage in unstable north african countries?
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2012
"Testruns with many small alternative plants have shown that base load all year round is no problem without resorting to ANY fossils (not even fossil gas) - using biogas as a means of evening out the odd day without solar and wind."

Yeah, I know those combined plants. 15% renewables and 85% gas. Way to go for "green" energy!
hb_
4.5 / 5 (2) Mar 09, 2012
@StotmanMaslo

Exactly! Germany is now preparing for russian gas. In effect, they will become dependent on the whims of Putin.

I expect that they will change their policies ever so slowly. When Russia threatens to invade any of the baltic states, german officials - and the public too! - will start saying that "they are only trying to protect the russian minority".

I heard the same crap when Russia invaded Georgia...
JRR Polkin
not rated yet Mar 09, 2012
How about using some of the thousands of decommissioned missile silos we have throughout america for pumped hydro systems? I think they could be implemented quick, cheap, and dirty. I'm not sure of the volume, but there's plenty of them.
JRR Polkin
not rated yet Mar 09, 2012
How about using some of the thousands of decommissioned missile silos we have throughout america for pumped hydro systems? I think they could be implemented quick, cheap, and dirty. I'm not sure of the volume, but there's plenty of them.
I got passed the edit time limit, but I could imagine rather then one large system more of a "cloud" system of decommissioned silos, (about 363,032 cubic feet for the Atlas F, and 565,488 combined volume for Titan 1 silos) The biggest problem with the concept is construction of the above ground reservoir, but hey. Food for thought.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (2) Mar 09, 2012

Any technology that requires non renewable fuel is ancient technology.


Actually, nuclear may be even more sustainable than renewables, providing abundant cheap energy long after the Sun goes out.

http://www.sustai...ohen.pdf

Of course, considering these vast timeframes has no practical benefit for us in the present...
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2012
Hydro is more or less maxed out in Europe

Not by a long shot.
- Construction is under way to revamp an existing, old mine into a hydro storage powerplant.
- There is a concept of creating a pressurized hydro storage system by drilling down shafts in a mountain in a circle (eventually creating a 500m diameter cylindrical granite boulder) under which water is then pumped. Two such systmes would be sufficint to take care of all variability if germany went 100% solar/wind energy dependent.
- Then there's the idea to build a system inflatable concrete 'bunkers' (like the inflatable hangar designs used in the Iraq wars by both sides) at the bottom of the sea and use spare energy to pump out the water and re-flood thme when energy is needed (sort of a 'reverse' hydro storage system)

The possibilities of hydro storage are FAR from being exhausted.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2012
Doesnt matter if the storage is "distributed" or not, you need the same amount for the same cost.

No. Think about it:
Location 1 has x days of low sun/wind per year
Location 2 has y days of low sun/wind per year

BUT the low sun/wind days at location 1 are not on the same days as those at location 2.

If they were in separate grids you'd need to have enough energy reserves to cover for x plus y days. But if they are in a joined grid you only need to cover for the intersection of these sets (the only thing that remains the same is the amount of power you draw if the two are inseparate systems or in joined systems at those days where BOTH don't get any renewables - but you need no power reserves for those days where only one location is out of comission).
The power generation capability must be the same but not the reserve (i.e. the amount of gas, oil, coal, nuclear or even pumped hydro you need to hold in reserve)
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2012
So, linking Europe does not solve the problem

The average rainfall in Northern Africa is in the single digit day range. Since we're gearing up to connect those into the grid that is the part that will take over.

Thinking in 'only wind', 'only solar', or 'only hydro' is a strawman argument.

And BTW: this winter France (which is close to 80% nuclear for producing electricity) had to buy electricity off the german grid. We were supplying EXCESS energy - even though most all our nuclear reactors are off line and about 20 percent of the electricity is from renewables. So don't think it doesn't work under harsh conditions and that nuclear is the 'savior' (or even necesary), here.
Eikka
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 10, 2012
And BTW: this winter France (which is close to 80% nuclear for producing electricity) had to buy electricity off the german grid. We were supplying EXCESS energy


The biggest problem of things like wind power isn't actually the lack of it, but the fact that it tends to be "spiked". Most of the energy comes in short intervals of high power, which means you may find it difficult to fit the power anywhere in your own grid as it comes. That's why wind power can't survive without subsidies; any time it makes any serious power, it causes a spot price crash in the market, even pulling the prices to negative sometimes, which means you have to pay someone to use it.

With wind power it is perfectly possible, even common that you have to export almost all of it, and then import energy back and pretend that you are powering your grid with renewables.

The French are just using what comes the cheapest.
Eikka
2.3 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2012
- There is a concept of creating a pressurized hydro storage system by drilling down shafts in a mountain in a circle (eventually creating a 500m diameter cylindrical granite boulder) under which water is then pumped. Two such systmes would be sufficint to take care of all variability if germany went 100% solar/wind energy dependent.


Let's take the straight face test here.

A 500 meter diameter, 50 meter thick slab of granite would have a volume of roughly 10 million cubic meters. It would weigh 26 billion kilograms. Lifting it up on hydraulic bellows by one meter would store just about 71 MWh of energy. That's the scale of this thing. It means you have to make it pretty damn big, lift an entire mountain, and it would still equal to just one single hour of output from a single nuclear power plant.

If you can say with a straight face that it would be enough, I would call you a pretty good liar. There's a reason why pumped hydro dams cover dozens of square miles.
Eikka
2.5 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2012
Thinking in 'only wind', 'only solar', or 'only hydro' is a strawman argument.


Thinking that you could build enough wind power to produce, say, 20% of your energy demand, and then build solar power on top of that is incredibly naive, because when you got wind at 20% you actually have all the rest of the grid already geared up to regulate the output of wind power, and you can't fit any more random power to it without running into serious trouble.

Sometimes it works and the sun shines when the wind dies down, but at other times it doesn't, and you'll be producing much more power than there are users for it, and you're quickly running out of places where to put it.

You have to treat all the intermittent power sources as one and the same, insofar as they behave the same. Once you reach the limit of how much randomness you can handle, adding solar just pushes wind out of the grid, or vice versa.
denial
1 / 5 (1) Mar 10, 2012
The Ludington (Michigan) Pumped Storage facility started in 1973, is a hydro storage system and can output 1872 megawatts. This has proven the concept but far short of the 1 Gig that author says is needed per major city. Size wise it is 1 mile by 2.5 miles.
Au-Pu
3 / 5 (2) Mar 10, 2012
Pickard is correct. All the above posts only show how the overwhelming majority have their heads ostrich like in the sand. They do not want to venture out of their comfort zone. We are a species of environmental rapists. Sadly we seem to see nothing wrong with this. Just how short sighted can you all be?
There are many possible answers but until the people and their governments actually plan and spend for the future we will be leaving a disaster for our children and our grand children. But I gather from many of the posts that most don't care about their future generations they are only concerned with themselves.
If the nuclear proponents are so certain then why do they not build only Thorium reactors? Because Thorium reactors produce little or no Plutonium. Nuclear power is about nuclear weapons. That is why Isreal wants to bomb Iran's uranium nuclear plants. Vendicar you and your descendants may feel the effects of some Iranian fuelled weapon if they don't. Wake up!
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 11, 2012
and you can't fit any more random power to it without running into serious trouble.

Unless - and that is the point of the article
- you have storage. Preferrably decentralized storage. You're always arguing that intermittency is a problem. And you know what? I agree that intermittency is a problem. But it's one that can be solved - i.e. it isn't one that makes 100% renewables impractical, overly expensive or (much less) impossible.

That's why wind power can't survive without subsidies

At current prices NO power source can survive without subsidies. And wind is already competitvely priced with one seventh of the subsidies of nuclear (and nuclear isn't even paying for the waste problem). So if we must have subsidies at all then I'd go for the one with the lowest possible ones - which is wind and solar.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 11, 2012
Let's take the straight face test here.

Hydro storage via granite cylinder:
http://eduard-hei...tem.html
Callippo
1 / 5 (4) Mar 11, 2012
The cold fusion energy doesn't require any storage - it's so abundant and ready to go, it can replace most of alternative ways of energy transport and storage. Why to solve the problems, which actually don't exist? The list of reputable scientific institutions that have done Ni H experiments is quite impressive and includes: The University of MissouriKansas City, the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, University of Illinois, the University of Siena, Italy, the USAF, the SRI, the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (Italy) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Members of these respected institutions have already publicly declared that they have also achieved anomalous heat from the Ni H reaction. On Thursday, March 22nd, the CERN Colloquium held by two successful replicators of cold fusion will be dedicated to overview of theoretical and experimental progress in low energy nuclear reactions.
Callippo
1 / 5 (4) Mar 11, 2012
The prototype version of the E-Cat is a small and smooth device, controlled with an on/off button. On February 20, 2012 Rossi performed a demonstration to show the actual level of development. Among the participants was Roland Pettersson, retired Associate Professor from the University of Uppsala and a former member of Swedish skeptical society, who also attended a test of Rossis E-cat on 6 October 2011. The E-cat was operated without refilling from a hydrogen canister. Instead the hydrogen was supposedly stored in a piece of solid material possibly in a metal hydride. The material contained a few grams of hydrogen gas which would last for six months of operation, according to Rossi. Production is planned to start next winter or at least within 18 months, and a million units should be manufactured per year for a price between 600 and 900 dollars.
Eikka
3 / 5 (4) Mar 11, 2012
Let's take the straight face test here.

Hydro storage via granite cylinder:
http://eduard-hei...tem.html


The stored energy increases with the fourth power of the system radius r. This is, because the possible lifting height H growths proportional to the piston length which is chosen as two times the system radius r.


It seems that they are proposing to lower and raise the rock cylinder by a kilometer, given that their proposed system radius is 500 meters.

I can see how one can get massive amounts of energy stored that way, but I cannot see how it would be feasibly done. 10-50 meters, that I could see being physically feasible, but to make a piston out of granite and move it up and down 2/3 a mile, that's not going to happen.
Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Mar 11, 2012
And wind is already competitvely priced with one seventh of the subsidies of nuclear (and nuclear isn't even paying for the waste problem). So if we must have subsidies at all then I'd go for the one with the lowest possible ones - which is wind and solar.


Wind is technically competitive for its cost and how much energy it produces, but it isn't practically competitive because you cannot control it. You cannot sell wind power at a profit because you're always pushing it when nobody wants it or needs it. Whenever the wind blows, someone else must reduce output, and that causes a spot price crash.

Supply does not meet demand. That's why wind power exists almost entirely on subsidies. It cannot make what it costs unless you force people to pay for it.

And Joule for Joule, wind power recieves vastly more subsidies than nuclear power.
Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Mar 11, 2012
I agree that intermittency is a problem. But it's one that can be solved - i.e. it isn't one that makes 100% renewables impractical, overly expensive or (much less) impossible.


I don't think you really appreciate the scale of this problem.

For example, there's roughly a 30% difference in production in wind power between summer and winter. Depending on how the stars align and how lucky you are, some of that will be covered by correlating consumption patterns, but the problem still remains. It's not just the short term variations, it's the long term that you have to eventually deal with in renewable energy.

Take e.g. the electricity used in Germany in 2009: 555 Terawatt-hours. Take just one week worth of electrical power, and that's 10 TWh or 10,000 GWh that you need to put somewhere for later use, perhaps months later or even next year.

Even if you could lift a mountain a mile up, you'd still need to lift many many mountains to get that sort of capacity.
mrlewish
5 / 5 (1) Mar 11, 2012
How about something that everybody can agree on? More efficient appliances and machines that need less energy to begin with so you don't have to build new plants.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Mar 11, 2012
Already doing that. Subsidies (and laws) were put into place that allow (nd sometimes even force) homeowners to get their homes insulated.

The result? Energy use per capita has dropped by 10% from its all time high in the 1980s. Not half bad.

Take just one week worth of electrical power

The larger the grid the shorter this time is. If we had only a german grid then we'd need to cover for an outage of 2 days at most. For a European grid including north Africa? Less than one day's worth.

Remember that renewables don't go to 0 percent when winds are low or clouds are in the sky. Some renewables (biogas) don't have any outages at all and can be ramped up when needed. Add some strategic gas reserves and you're set.

And Joule for Joule, wind power recieves vastly more subsidies than nuclear power.

No. 200bn vs 30bn. Same electricity output. Add in the waste problem and wind is FAR cheaper.
Shootist
1 / 5 (1) Mar 11, 2012
Why is Israel planning to murder several thousand Iranians to assure that it is not a viable Iranian green alternative?

"Nuclear is a viable green alternative." - ShotMan


The Persians' crazy mullahs are building BOMBS, not power plants, you stupid twit.
Callippo
1 / 5 (1) Mar 11, 2012
We are as crazy as mullahs, because we are still buying their oil, while ignoring cold fusion for decades. One craziness generates the another one.
ShotmanMaslo
3 / 5 (2) Mar 11, 2012


If they were in separate grids you'd need to have enough energy reserves to cover for x plus y days. But if they are in a joined grid you only need to cover for the intersection of these sets (the only thing that remains the same is the amount of power you draw if the two are inseparate systems or in joined systems at those days where BOTH don't get any renewables - but you need no power reserves for those days where only one location is out of comission).


Yes, in relative terms, the amount of storage decreases as the grid increases. Bot not in absolute terms. 20% of 2x is still greater than 30% of x.
Not to mention that you need to build overcapacity for it to work.
adamboyle79
Mar 11, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
wwqq
5 / 5 (1) Mar 11, 2012
Nothing intermittent about geothermal.


That's great for Iceland. But what does it matter for the rest of us that have to drill ~10 km down to pump up energy a fifthieth as dense as oil?
wwqq
5 / 5 (1) Mar 11, 2012
A yes, the desertec project. Look at the list of countries from a few years back; it reads like a who's who of the arab spring.

It's expensive and dangerous. Long power lines are more vulnerable to geomagnetic storms. Solar panels in backward and unstable nations are vulnerable to being nationalized or held hostage; knowing this, it risks recreating the disgusting foreign policy of oil.

wwqq
not rated yet Mar 11, 2012
The Persians' crazy mullahs are building BOMBS, not power plants, you stupid twit.


They SHOULD build bombs; they certainly need a deterrent judging from recent history. They certainly remember, even if you don't, the CIA-backed coup against Mossadegh, the arming of Saddam, the help and military intelligence Saddam was given to aim nerve gas on the Iranians, the disgusting sanctions against Iraq when Saddam was no longer useful/obedient.

There's no evidence that they ARE building bombs; at least that's what top US national intelligence guys say in public.

Their foreign policy looks rational and considered, so there's no basis for calling them irrational or suicidal. With the insane rhetoric and bile gushing forth from the US on a daily basis, and a long record of actual insane actions, I'd feel far safer in a world where the iranians have ICBMs.
wwqq
5 / 5 (2) Mar 11, 2012
[...]because we are still buying their oil, while ignoring cold fusion for decades. One craziness generates the another one.


Cold fusion is fabulous except for one tiny flaw; it doesn't seem to work whenever it is being observed by anyone credible.
bigleagueslider
not rated yet Mar 11, 2012
Pumped hydro or compressed air storage will just make wind energy more expensive. That's exactly what is not needed. A more logical approach would be to co-locate industrial power users near the wind farms. These industrial power users can more easily ramp their demands up and down to meet supply. Moving industrial users to the power supply would also minimize the need for costly new transmission capacity.

A good example of this is that of Iceland. Iceland had massive amounts of excess hydro and geothermal power, so they built new aluminum smelting plants to use that power.
Jeddy_Mctedder
1 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2012
compressed air is totally crap comared to liquified cooled air. way more dense, way less pressure. it has been developed years ago.

the other good one is hight temperature batteries . a guy at mit is working on a battery that operates only at around 600-700 degrees that is basically using electrolytic bulk salts from manganese and a few other cheap industrial metals.

Callippo
1 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
Cold fusion is fabulous except for one tiny flaw; it doesn't seem to work whenever it is being observed by anyone credible
It just demonstrates, the credibility of contemporary scientists isn't very high. I'm sure, the mainstream physics would have a lotta things to explain soon.
kochevnik
3 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2012
@Shootist The Persians' crazy mullahs are building BOMBS, not power plants, you stupid twit.
So why is Iran leading an initiative to ban nuclear weapons in the Middle East? Could it because you're a tool spewing zionist lies and propaganda as a useful idiot?

ALL Abrahamic religions are intolerant, and based on intolerance. MONOTHEISM IS INTOLERANCE. You can't cherry-pick them like a toddler.
Tausch
1 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
The only problem is that nobody has ever built a functioning adiabatic compressed-air energy-storage system, Pickard says.


Nature has. The atmosphere has adiabatic lapse rates. Eventually humans will learn all their wind turbines are on the wrong axis.
So parallel and not perpendicular to the surface is the correction.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2012
it reads like a who's who of the arab spring.

Where's the catch? Sounds like a big bonus if you ask me. Getting investmentsinto nations that are on the verge of transformation can only stabilize things.

Long power lines are more vulnerable to geomagnetic storms.

Hardly. We're talking DC and we're talking sub-sea cables. Other cables of this soptr have been employed for 50 years accross Europe - and no 'geomagnetic storm' has ever had any inmpact on them.

Solar panels in backward and unstable nations are vulnerable to being nationalized or held hostage;

Since they will be nationalized for the most part anyways that's not much of a problem. Most of the energy will go to the country hosting the panels. It's win-win for everybody.

We should integrate with the arab world instead of trying to shun them. Having such a hugely benficial project (for both sides) can only help in that repsect.
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
The larger the grid the shorter this time is.

But the absolute amount of stored energy still has to grow, because the amount of energy used increases as well, and systemic losses in infrastructure increase with size.

If we had only a german grid then we'd need to cover for an outage of 2 days at most. For a European grid including north Africa? Less than one day's worth.


I find that rather incredible considering the huge variations in solar and wind output as the seasons change. Two days is just half a percent of all energy used, while we're looking at variations of up to 1/3 energy produced over a period of 6 months. That is, 2 months worth in a year.

The numbers don't add up.

Add some strategic gas reserves and you're set.


Biogas is produced from a rather limited feedstock, in a process that is highly inefficient, and most of it is spent to daily regulation of the other renewables. It will be a tall order to stockpile it in sufficient amounts.
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2012
Since they will be nationalized for the most part anyways that's not much of a problem. Most of the energy will go to the country hosting the panels. It's win-win for everybody.

We should integrate with the arab world instead of trying to shun them. Having such a hugely benficial project (for both sides) can only help in that repsect.


The point of integrating North Africa and middle east to the grid is, that they get more reliable and abundant solar power to patch the intermittency of the European grid. That stability also means that they don't have such a demand for European power to patch up their own lack of production. They can more easily employ methods like molten salts.

Europe needs the power, but NA doesn't necessarily need Europe.
What if they don't want to? What if they want to use all of the energy to e.g. desalinate water to grow their own food instead of following European energy politics? What if they want to be actually independent and sovereign for a change?
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
The problem is thus: down near the equator, you get approximately the same amount of solar power all year round, so the need for buffering the power is minimal and only necessary in the short term, in days or hours, and the population won't start dying if their heaters fail, whereas in Europe and especially northern Europe the amount of available solar power changes drastically with the seasons, and so does the energy consumption. The effect is, that the regions near the equator will become net exporters, and Europe will be a net importer. That sets obvious political pitfalls.

Not getting power means that people will start to die in Europe, which means that we must install compliant governments in North African and Middle East to ensure that it does not happen, if the plan is to succeed.

antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
But the absolute amount of stored energy still has to grow, because the amount of energy used increases as well,

since you're spreading the amount needed over all of the grid (i.e. multiple countries) the amount needed per country drops (as opposed to insular grids)

Add some strategic gas reserves and you're set.

Biogas is produced from a rather limited feedstock, in a process that is highly inefficient

I wasn't talking about biogas, here. But biogas has proven to be adequate in a distributed test run as a means of getting additional stability into the net. It shouldn't be the mainstay, but for that 1-2 day period it's definitely a source that can contribute.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
Europe needs the power, but NA doesn't necessarily need Europe.
What if they don't want to?

NA is just a ways to tide us over for a bit. The regions that are envisioned have no sunshine about 1-5 days a year (and never at the same time). Once we get adequate storage going then that depndence will decrease. With cheap shingles and windows becoming energy producers (probably by law) the net will be so decentralised that there will be no need for the NA power in the long run. Note also that we're talking about several countries contributing. It's highly unlikley that more than one would suddenly decide to not honor their agreements any more (and why should they? NA doesnt have a history of breaking contracts with Europe - not even under the most oppressive/islamist regimes)

What if they want to use all of the energy to e.g. desalinate water

Which is exactly what the power they get will be used for. Desalination plants are part of the DESERTEC deal.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
he effect is, that the regions near the equator will become net exporters, and Europe will be a net importer. That sets obvious political pitfalls.

Since there have already been plans about expanding the EU to include eligible northern african nations I would see that as the way to go. They can benefit vastly from subsidies as part of being a member and we profit by having a secure (and cheap) source of energy.

As I said: It's win-win.
ECOnservative
1 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2012
Sadly, there is no magic pixie dust that will allow wind, solar, algae or hot air from politicians to replace oil in our lifetimes. An intelligent combination of Nuclear, geothermal, hydroelectric, wind, solar and hydrocarbon energy sources are about the best we can hope for in the near term.
In the longer term (50 years), we need a combination of improved efficiency and new sources of energy.

Intermittency is certainly an issue to be worked on, but even if we could store 100% of the wind and solar energy currently collected, it's less than 5% of our total energy generating capacity.
Eikka
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 12, 2012
since you're spreading the amount needed over all of the grid (i.e. multiple countries) the amount needed per country drops


That goes without saying for the short term variations, but the long term variations don't scale the same way, because winter comes to the whole northern hemisphere, so you have to store enough energy in the summer to use it in the winter when the demand is greater, and that's a truly staggeringly massive undertaking. That's why the DESERTEC system is so important, and why Europe will be so vulnerable while using it.

The regions that are envisioned have no sunshine about 1-5 days a year


Having sunshine isn't an on/off thing. The availabile power changes depending on the seasons, and so does the need for it, and they tend to follow opposite patterns. Again, you don't seem to understand the scale of the issue of storing all that energy.

I wasn't talking about biogas

Surely you weren't talking about continued reliance on fossil fuels either
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
Since there have already been plans about expanding the EU


You mean, like imperialism? Join or else?

Even as a part of the EU, those countries would have an unprecedented stranglehold of the whole Europe because they would essentially control whether the lights in Berlin and Oslo remain on during the February cold spells.

That is, unless the EU keeps a tight stranglehold on them instead.

Opportunity makes the thief. The system proposed would be highly unstable politically, because after the infrastructure has been built and bootstrapped, they don't need the rest of the Europe anymore.
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2012
Can't you see what the DESERTEC really is?

It's like the British East India Company selling opium to China in order to import tea and silk and porcelain that they otherwise couldn't pay for because it was draining the economy of silver (money).

The results of it were very predictable.

Energy is Africa's tea that Europe really really wants, but what is the opium that they could use to balance the trade? And how to stop it from turning into a bloody war once the North African and Middle East nations realize that they don't need it anymore.

antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
You mean, like imperialism? Join or else?

No. Like there are talks with Turkey to include them in the EU (and Serbia...though I'm not too thrilled about that one)

The EU isn't a military union. It doesn't have a unified army. There is no way to be imperialistic. It's an economic union. There is no 'or else'. Countries must apply. If they don't apply they can't join. But until now all countries that have joined have benfitted (even Greece which joined by lying about their economic state - and are now paying the price for it. But even they are getting billions in aid money).

because they would essentially control whether the lights in Berlin and Oslo remain on

As noted: With a strategic gas/oil/coal reserve that's not really a problem. Russia cut down gas deliveries this winter sharply (troubles with the ukrainian government). No outages whatsoever occured.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
Energy is Africa's tea that Europe really really wants

And that 'tea' is split among many countries. Unless they ALL go to economic war with Europe at once there is no problem (and why should they? It is in their interest to trade with Europe. We have stuff they want. We're not like the US which only produces stuff no one wants - unless they want to start a war.)

There have been good trade relations with NA for a long time. I don't see why this should be any worse under democratically elected governments.

DESRTEC is only a mid term solution (and it's only planned to get 15 percent of electricity that way.) So there is no strangle hold - even if all of NA miraculously decided to turn against Europe.

Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2012
As noted: With a strategic gas/oil/coal reserve that's not really a problem.


So you are advocating the continued reliance on fossil fuels for energy security and stability. Do you also realize that it requires maintaining the infrastructure and powerplants to use these fuels, which means that you are keeping e.g. a natural gas operated powerplant on spinning standby? It's not simply a matter of blowing the dust off and turning it on.

Strategic reserves of fuels work when the rest of the grid works on the same fuels so that all you have to do is stockpile them. Here you also have to maintain a shadow infrastructure just in case.

Besides, Europe would still end up losing all their money as the exporting countries develop their societies to the point that they no longer need European goods. That trade deficit would eventually shift economic power to North Africa and put Europe into deep debt even worse to where the US is right now with China.
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2012
We have stuff they want.


Like what?

The plan still relies on the assumption that the North African countries will not, and cannot become self-sufficient with their energy, food, resources and goods, and at the very least that it is possible to develop sufficient energy storage technology and build it before that happens.

Didn't you notice that Africa is practically a cornucopia of resources once you have a society that can take advantage of them?

unless they want to start a war.


I'm not going to say it's Islam, but it's Islam that's going to be causing that trouble.
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2012
it's only planned to get 15 percent of electricity that way. So there is no strangle hold


That's a pretty damn big stranglehold right there, if you happen to remember how large an amount even 10% is out of the current day electricity use, which would surely grow bigger still as more energy use shifts to electricity.

Let me remind you: 15% of Germany's electricity use in 2009 was 83 TWh or 83,000 GWh. Scale that up to the entire Europe, and you'll see how big a problem it is even for the hypothetical hopping mountains to contain that much energy.

And they would have to, so you'd have a year-round reserve of power.
jet
Mar 12, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
So you are advocating the continued reliance on fossil fuels for energy security and stability.

In the short term, as an absolute last measure: yes. In the medium to long term that reserve can be filled with biogas or some other form of hydrocarbons gained from renewable sources.

as the exporting countries develop their societies to the point that they no longer need European goods

That point is still some ways off into the future. Until then we'll either be fully integrated into a common grid or self sufficient.

It's not simply a matter of blowing the dust off and turning it on.

It actually is. As noted: they had a test on this all year round with biogas on emergency standby. It works.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012

Like what?

Hi tech goods. All of them.

I'm not going to say it's Islam, but it's Islam that's going to be causing that trouble.

Radical islam. And radical islam only has a chance when people suffer (much like radical christianity or any other form of radicalism). When NA gets to the point of self sufficiency, prosperity and the ability to make all these goods they will not be goaded into holy wars. People who have stuff to lose don't go to war. Only deperation starts wars. When people are properous religion has nothing left to offer.

Let me remind you

Again: NA is made up of many, heterogeneous countries. There is absolutely no chance that all of them would turn against Europe at once and no chance whatsoever that all 15 percent would drop out at once.

You're painting horror stories which are backed up by nothing - no historical precedent and not even the most crazily dystopian forecast of the future.
Callippo
2 / 5 (4) Mar 12, 2012
In the short term, as an absolute last measure: yes.
Not at all - we simply have not time for it. We are losing time every day. The solution of financial crisis is directly dependent on the speed, in which we reduce the prices of oil, i.e. how fast we will succeed with its replacement. When the prize of oil jumps above 200 USD/barell, we will face new fossil fuel war automatically, if it jumps above 400 USD/barell, this war will become nuclear. The fact, the Earth mantle is still full of fossil fuels plays no role in it - the actual prices at market is what drives the geopolitical situation. Bonus: how prices of oil and food are related
kaasinees
1 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
The EU isn't a military union. It doesn't have a unified army.


I am sorry a_p but I had to down-rate you for this one and rate Eikka up because of his comments on the EU.
The EU has EGF and soon ESM that replaces EFSF, EFSM and maybe even IMF in the future.
NATO is practically coordinated by the EU and they already talked about transfer NATO powers to the EU.

I suggest you do a little digging on these terms.
hb_
not rated yet Mar 13, 2012
@antialias_physorg

Not by a long shot...There is a concept of creating a pressurized hydro storage system by drilling down shafts in a mountain in a circle (eventually creating a 500m diameter cylindrical granite boulder) under which water is then pumped ...


Of course I meant profitable hydro, that is, damming up rivers and harvesting the energy. It is a self evident fact that the potential for very expensive, i.e. utterly uneconomical system, is not exhausted.

But, I would rather like to discuss plans that are feasible from a technical, and above all, economical perspective. Please show that these systems can store energy at a competetive price (less than 1 eurocent per kWh), or please accept that it is a pipe dream.
hb_
3 / 5 (2) Mar 13, 2012
@antialias_physorg
No. Think about it:
Location 1 has x days of low sun/wind per year
Location 2 has y days of low sun/wind per year

BUT the low sun/wind days at location 1 are not on the same days as those at location 2.


We know that linking Europ'es wind power doesn't solve the problem. Can you offer proof that the combination sun and wind has less long term variation than wind alone? If not, you are just engaging in wishful thinking (again!).
SteveL
5 / 5 (1) Mar 13, 2012
The power transmision networks need to be multi-path networks. Otherwise an individual, a radical group or a government could stop regional power transmission in a remote location by cutting down the HVDC distance towers with a portable metal cutting saw and a few battery packs, or even by snipping the support cables with a large set of bolt cutters. These things are very vulnerable.
hb_
3 / 5 (2) Mar 14, 2012
@antialias_physorg

NA is made up of many, heterogeneous countries. There is absolutely no chance that all of them would turn against Europe at once and no chance whatsoever that all 15 percent would drop out at once.


Well, "OPEC" is an organisation that has linked many hetergenous countries in an oil cartel. They caused an oil crisis in 1973 [1] So, all you need for a financial crunch is a new "OPEC" to decide that the energy is too cheap.

But, the argument is anyhow moot. With the prices for wind and solar power as they stand today, there is no way it is going to be implemented at a large scale.

(1)
http://en.wikiped...l_crisis
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Mar 14, 2012
Algiers, Tunisia and Morocco have already signed on. Start of the first building phase will be even earlier than planned (construction for the first pilot project in Morocco will start this year). First energy provided to the grid is planned by 2014 (That's the nice thing about solar power plants: They're far faster to build than nuclear power plants)

The prices fore wind and solar are dropping fast. And even today - counting everything like environmental impact, waste management, and subsidies - they are WAY cheaper than all other forms of energy.
hb_
3 / 5 (2) Mar 15, 2012
@antialias_physorg

The fact remains, that without subsedies neither wind nor solar power plants would be build at all. So, the burden of evidence is really on you to show that despite the fact that no commersial investor would build neither solar- nor windpower without government aid, it is still cheaper.

So, is this another one of your other unsubstantiated claims, or can you offer some proof?
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Mar 15, 2012
The fact remains, that without subsedies neither wind nor solar power plants would be build at all.

neither would nuclear. Your point? (And nuclear has required SEVEN TIMES more subsidies). If we're handing out subsidies I'd rather go for the one that gives more bang for the buck, wouldn't you?

Solar subsides have recently been cut by 30 percent over here. The boom is still unabated. Many solar companies are already talking about that they are ready to go on without subsidies at all.
hb_
5 / 5 (1) Mar 15, 2012
@antialias_physorg

neither would nuclear. Your point? (And nuclear has required SEVEN TIMES more subsidies). If we're handing out subsidies I'd rather go for the one that gives more bang for the buck, wouldn't you?


Wow! Where to begin with all these error and missunderstandings? First of all, you have not shown a shredd of evidence that nuclear has received 200 billion Euro historically. You keep repeating claims for which you apparently have not proof. And, please do not bother to post a link to "Greenpeace" or "Global wind power"...

As for bang for the buck.. Even if you were right about the factor of 7, the argument is moot since the contributions for nuclear are allready done. To get more nuclear, all you have to do is to set the industry free and let the market finance it. Now, to get wind power, you have to give massive subsidaries.
hb_
5 / 5 (1) Mar 15, 2012
@antialias_physorg

Solar subsides have recently been cut by 30 percent over here. The boom is still unabated. Many solar companies are already talking about that they are ready to go on without subsidies at all.


Well, the biggest solar company in Germany, Q-cells, made more than $400 million losses in the second quarter of 2011 alone [1]. It is very close - sadly I have to say - to going bust. "First solar" in the USA made a moderate $68 million losses in 2011 [2]. So no, solar cells companies are not in general healthy..

(1)
http://www.greent...-part-2/

(2)
http://en.wikiped...st_Solar
hb_
not rated yet Mar 15, 2012
@antialias_physorg

...The boom is still unabated....


No, not for the markets where subsidaries has played an important role. The spanish marked has declined strongly after a recession and a cut of the feed-in tariffs. Germany had a peak of installed power in 2010 [1]. In fact, it was half as big in 2011 as in 2010, most likely due to reduced feed-in tariffs.

(1)
http://www.bloomb...ays.html
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (1) Mar 15, 2012
The fact remains, that without subsedies neither wind nor solar power plants would be build at all.

neither would nuclear. Your point? (And nuclear has required SEVEN TIMES more subsidies). If we're handing out subsidies I'd rather go for the one that gives more bang for the buck, wouldn't you?

Solar subsides have recently been cut by 30 percent over here. The boom is still unabated. Many solar companies are already talking about that they are ready to go on without subsidies at all.


Please dont spread debunked misinformation. If we want most bang (TWh) for the subsidy buck, then nuclear is 5/1,7=2,9x better than renewables:
http://www.iisd.o...dies.pdf
Relative energy subsidies per TWh.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (1) Mar 15, 2012
Or to put it better, if nuclear received seven times more subsidies in absolute terms, but produced 20x more power with them, its still almost 3x more efficient use of money.

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