Replacing nuclear power with wind power doesn't make sense in Sweden, study shows

June 13, 2016
The figure shows the reduced load along with the original nuclear power, the contribution of which is halved. It also shows the increased contribution from wind necessary and that from a backup system. Credit: SciencePOD

The Swedish power supply is largely free of carbon emissions. Indeed, it is mainly based on a combination of hydroelectric and nuclear power combined with power exchange with neighbouring Scandinavian countries.

A study published in EPJ Plus investigates the possibility of replacing with wind power, which is by nature intermittent. According to the study, this, in turn, would finally lead to a reduction in the use of hydroelectricity if the annual consumption remained constant. The authors of the study conclude that a backup system, based on fossil fuel, namely gas, would be required in combination with wind power. In such a scenario, the CO2 emissions would double. Fritz Wagner from the Max Planck Institute for Plasmaphysics, Greifswald, Germany, and Elisabeth Rachlew from the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, therefore conclude that it would not be a viable option.

The study is based on data from 2013 pertaining to the load and the various sources in Sweden. To represent constantly available wind power, the original 2013 data has been corrected for the increase in wind power during the year. The authors investigate the extent to which the required capacity of the installed together with hydroelectricity reduce the nuclear share of their overall power generation. They also look into whether a backup system is necessary and at what power capacity.

Going a step further, they also examine the dynamics of its operation to determine the type of system required for back-up. In addition, they analyse the amount of surplus produced when the wind contribution is in excess of the reduced load, and whether the surplus energy can be stored to supplement the back-up power supply. Finally, they look at whether the operational conditions for hydroelectricity are acceptable. They conclude that this scenario would double the specific CO2 emissions, which would not make sense.

Explore further: Vestas in $1.2B deal to build huge wind power farm in Norway

More information: F. Wagner et al. Study on a hypothetical replacement of nuclear electricity by wind power in Sweden, The European Physical Journal Plus (2016). DOI: 10.1140/epjp/i2016-16173-8

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34 comments

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WillieWard
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 13, 2016
Replacing carbon-free nuclear power with lignite coal and other fossil fuels made sense in Germany, natural gas/fracking also makes sense for pseudo-environmentalists in order to compensate fluctuations of wind/solar bird-choppers/landscape-destroyers.
gkam
1.4 / 5 (9) Jun 13, 2016
More stuff from Chernobyl Willie?

There are at least three nuke plants here ready to close, which you can buy really cheap. Put your money where your mouth is, Willie, and you can have your own nuclear waste generators, . . plus the liability.
antialias_physorg
4.5 / 5 (8) Jun 13, 2016
There's a couple of things that don't seem to be covered in the report:
What of other renewable sources? (OK, solar is hardly applicable, but wave energy along the coast should be)
Unfortunately the article is paywalled, so it's unclear what non-fossil fuel storage methods they looked at. H2? Batteries? Pumped hydro?
What of increased exchange with neighboring countries?

They conclude that this scenario would double the specific CO2 emissions, which would not make sense.

Since they say at first:
The Swedish power supply is largely free of carbon emissions.

Doubling next to nothing is still very little.
WillieWard
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 13, 2016
..waste generators..
antinuclear arguments fall into three main categories:
1. waste - exaggerated to the point of absurdity by pseudo-environmentalist groups;
2. safety - it's a statistically undeniable fact that nuclear is the safest carbon-free eco-friendly source of energy;
3. cost - the German experiment has demonstrated that renewables are proving to be outrageously expensive and problematic, no meaningful CO2 reduction, ecologically a disaster for mother nature.
Nuclear power is the humankind's best carbon-free option to fight climate change.
gkam
2.1 / 5 (7) Jun 13, 2016
"Nuclear power is the humankind's best carbon-free option to fight climate change."
-------------------------------

Then go buy the Quad Cities Nuclear Powerplant. Or arrange to buy your power from Vogtle.

I believe in alternative energy and power my house with PV solar. Why don't you man up and do your part?
Eikka
3 / 5 (4) Jun 13, 2016
Doubling next to nothing is still very little.


But it still makes no sense to do it. You're just trading nuclear power in for more climate change - which is worse? Remember that the same criteria applies not only in Sweden, but in principle anywhere.

What of other renewable sources? (OK, solar is hardly applicable, but wave energy along the coast should be)


Wave energy is stupidly expensive. It's a lot of hoo-hah over nothing, and, it's also basically wind power so the output coincides with wind power and doesn't help with the variability.
Eikka
2.2 / 5 (5) Jun 13, 2016
Then go buy the Quad Cities Nuclear Powerplant.


That's a stupid argument. Why would you buy old ailing nuclear powerplants when you could build new ones?

Btw. one of the reasons why the Quad Cities plant is running unprofitable is because the state policies cause a $11/MWh fee to the plant owners in the form of "congestion charges" on the grid thanks to insufficient transmission capacity.

Or arrange to buy your power from Vogtle.

What's the problem with that? Would if I could.
Eikka
2.2 / 5 (5) Jun 13, 2016
https://en.wikipe..._Station

In 2016, Exelon distributed charts showing it's nuclear plants earning revenue of $19,40/MW·h from Quad Cities to $27,80/MW·h from Dresden. Other values shown were: Braidwood $26.1, Byron $22.2, Le Salle $26.5 and Clinton $22.6.

In 2016, Exelon also got a $5.60/MW·h additional revenue following agreements for high-demand periods delivery and in investor presentations, Exelon stated that about 90% of 2016 revenues are locked at more than $34/MW·h. Summing all together, it appears that almost all Exelon power plants, except Clinton, would break-even at $35/MW·h.


So basically, the net revenue the Quad City plant is getting after all the extra fees and costs is 1.9 cents per kWh while it would need 3.5 cents to break even.

Again, the problems ailing nuclear power are political, not technical or economical. $35/MWh is cheap.
greenonions
2.7 / 5 (7) Jun 13, 2016
Eikka
the problems ailing nuclear power are political, not technical or economical

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 provides loan guarantees of up to 80 percent of a project's cost and a production tax credit of 1.8 cents per kilowatt hour for new nuclear capacity beginning operation by 2020. The tax credit is specified for the first 8 years of operation and is limited to $125 million per gigawatt per year. This act has spurred applications for new plants to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. However, their high capital cost is still an impediment to the deployment of these plants.
From -http://institutef...nuclear/ Sigh - so much bias in your comments Eikka.
aksdad
3 / 5 (4) Jun 13, 2016
A study published in EPJ Plus investigates the possibility of replacing nuclear power with wind power, which is by nature intermittent

That sums up the drawbacks of wind and solar nicely. They are good sources of power to offset demand but until inexpensive, high-density electricity storage becomes available they can't replace base load power plants that can be throttled up or down at any time to meet demand. Among base load power plants, nuclear is by far the cleanest option.
greenonions
3.7 / 5 (6) Jun 13, 2016
I totally get todays article - to close down the nukes - and immediately replace with wind - would add to the carbon emissions - due to the need for back up. Probably put electricity rates up big time too. Retiring good plants before their time is expensive - ask Germany. The bigger question for me would be regarding new build energy - as their needs expand, or as their nukes age out. With the price of wind projected to keep dropping - http://phys.org/n...ble.html playing the long game - would agree that the future belongs to renewables.
greenonions
3 / 5 (6) Jun 13, 2016
aksdad
but until inexpensive, high-density electricity storage becomes available they can't replace base load power plants
The old baseload meme again. http://www.skepti...hp?r=374
WillieWard
2 / 5 (4) Jun 13, 2016
The old baseload meme again.
Connect to the power grid to hide intermittency and/or to save batteries/energy storage, let fossil-fuel plants to stabilize the system.
I wonder if there is a country or at least a megacity 100% wind/solar-powered? Excluding hydro, renewables is just a lure to take money from taxpayers to ruin natural landscapes.
aksdad
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 13, 2016
greenonions
The old baseload meme again

Ha ha! Read the conclusion of the link you provided.

The intermittency of other sources such as wind and solar photovoltaic can be addressed by interconnecting power plants which are widely geographically distributed, and by coupling them with peak-load plants such as gas turbines fueled by biofuels or natural gas which can quickly be switched on to fill in gaps of low wind or solar production. Numerous regional and global case studies – some incorporating modeling to demonstrate their feasibility – have provided plausible plans to meet 100% of energy demand with renewable sources.

It's an exercise in self-contradiction. If you're using natural gas power plants to mitigate the load, you're not using renewables 100%. And "interconnecting power plants" thousands of miles apart is massively expensive. In other words, not economical.
aksdad
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 13, 2016
And FYI, greenonions, skepticalscience.com is devoted to the proposition that human CO2 emissions are the main cause of global warming in the last 50 years, a hypothesis that has not been proven and is the subject of much study and debate. They are hardly unbiased and their analysis of the ability of renewable energy sources to provide 100% (or near that) of baseload power is full of flawed assumptions.

For one, they cite Denmark's use of wind power which is the highest per capita in the world. That's great, except most places in the world don't have winds that blow as reliably as Denmark. Same with photovoltaics. Every place on earth experiences darkness up to 12 hours a day (or more). To mitigate intermittent power production you need storage, like I pointed out. That storage (batteries) is extremely expensive.

Until it becomes cheap, base load power will be produced by fossil fuels, hydro or nuclear. Nuclear is the cleanest. I feel like I'm repeating myself.
greenonions
2.3 / 5 (6) Jun 13, 2016
I wonder if there is a country or at least a megacity 100% wind/solar-powered?
Why would you wonder that? Don't know how to use google? look up Denmark, Portugal, Masdar, Burlington VT among others - to see places that are on their way to 100% renewables. We keep telling you Willie - Rome was not built in a day - but there are plenty of examples to show us - that whole countries can and will be run on renewables.
aksdad
3 / 5 (3) Jun 13, 2016
look up Denmark, Portugal, Masdar, Burlington VT among others - to see places that are on their way to 100% renewables

Certain kinds of energy production make sense in places that have an environment favorable to their use. Denmark and Portugal have access to consistent winds that are economically close to large population centers. Most places don't. Denmark is one of the very few countries that could potentially rely 100% on renewable energy but it's also very expensive. They have the highest electricity rates in Europe, and high energy taxes to subsidize electricity production.

http://www.eia.go...id=18851
greenonions
2.2 / 5 (5) Jun 13, 2016
Denmark is one of the very few countries that could potentially rely 100% on renewable energy but it's also very expensive
Rubbish. You don't know what you are talking about. The whole world can run on renewable energy - and there is loads of research out there to support that - just use google. And it is not expensive - it is actually coming in around the world at very competitive rates - and projections are that the costs will keep falling.
Da Schneib
4 / 5 (2) Jun 13, 2016
Sweden's not the problem.
aksdad
2.8 / 5 (4) Jun 13, 2016
The whole world can run on renewable energy

Sorry, greenonions, I should amend my statement to "Denmark is one of the very few countries that could potentially rely 100% on renewable energy WITH CURRENT TECHNOLOGY".

Who knows what the future will bring? I am optimistic that technological innovations will make it possible for most of the world to be powered by extremely efficient and/or renewable energy sources in a hundred years.

it is not expensive - it is actually coming in around the world at very competitive rates

Reality check:
https://www.eia.g...tion.cfm
https://en.wikipe...y_source

The only renewable source that is currently competitive is wind turbines on land. Offshore wind is almost 3x as expensive. Thus Denmark's high electricity rates. And that's not considering the cost of having to use reliable base load power to take over when the wind isn't blowing.
greenonions
2.6 / 5 (5) Jun 13, 2016
aksdad
The only renewable source that is currently competitive is wind turbines on land.
So - if I can show you - with solid references - that you are wrong - will you stop being such a know it all - and learn. I am so sick and tired of ignorant people - making it their occupation in life to spread lies, and hold up the progress of the human race.
WillieWard
2 / 5 (4) Jun 13, 2016
look up Denmark, Portugal, Masdar, Burlington VT among others - to see places that are on their way to 100% renewables
Portugal not 100% renewables, oops intermittency of hydropower.
"In 2015, 50.4% of power produced in Portugal came from renewable sources, a drop in comparison to the previous year due to low productivity in the hydroelectric sector because of a dry year."
https://en.wikipe...Portugal
I am so sick and tired of ignorant people - making it their occupation in life to spread lies, and hold up the progress of the human race.
Yeah! me too.
greenonions
2.5 / 5 (4) Jun 13, 2016
Wille
Portugal not 100% renewables, oops intermittency of hydropower.
You don't know the meaning of 'on their way to' http://renewecono...ys-29784
If you want to insinuate that I have lied - show an example.

Here is one example of you lying
but it is all right if millions are slaughtered in midair by eco-friendly choppers that also cause massive destruction of Galapagos' natural landscapes.
On the exact article that said
its license requires it to follow an Environmental Management Plan, a set of measures to protect unique bird populations, in particular the Galapagos petrel, which exists only on the archipelago and is listed as "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
"massive destruction of Galapagos natural landscapes" Liar.
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
5 / 5 (2) Jun 14, 2016
This concerns Sweden, with its current constraints and the recent political energy deal which likely will last for decades. The deal removed the idea of a retirement of fission with an energy subsidy of wind power that may force it anyway. Else it lets the current 10 plants modernize, even rebuild, as necessary.

Sweden uses very little fossils for electricity, but a lot for industry and vehicles. So every little fossil use counts, especially since electric vehicles now seems technically and soon economically feasible. Meanwhile Sweden is a net exporter to the continent, and mountainous (water powered) Norway is planning to connect their two subnets through us, which means some "off site" storage (dynamic but also distributed).
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 14, 2016
@aksdad: "skepticalscience.com is devoted to the proposition that human CO2 emissions are the main cause of global warming in the last 50 years, a hypothesis that has not been proven and is the subject of much study and debate."

There is no scientific debate on this matter, and the uncertainty is such that it is well tested ("proven"), as we all know [ https://en.wikipe..._warming ]. (But some public do not agree with for social reasons.)

FWIW, AGW is tested back to the industrial revolution, so it is rather, what, 150 years now.

The new scientific debate is whether AGW started when we entered the agrarian revolution 8,000 years ago - the new consensus seems to be we did! We'll see how long the debate lasts. [ http://www.realcl...-update/ ]

Since you are a fringe in matters of the science, you lost the trust of the scientifically educated public you may want to reach.
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
5 / 5 (3) Jun 14, 2016
I meant _it_ (AGW) likely started 8.000 years ago.

It is really interesting that so little could do so much, mainly by deforestation (CO2) and a bit later by Asian rice plantations (CH4) 5,000 years ago. The debate is mostly on what baseline interglacial to use, but there is a clear candidate which is why there is a changed, more informed, consensus. [ibid]

But that is a *real* science debate, with climate scientists slugging it out, paper result by paper result , conference by conference, community consensus building. Fun to follow (except that it is hard to know the consensus outside the type of review I linked to), if someone is interested in real climate science.
WillieWard
3 / 5 (2) Jun 14, 2016
You don't know the meaning of 'on their way to' http://renewecono...ys-29784]http://renewecono...ys-29784[/url]
I'd like to know if exists a country or a large city running 100% on wind/solar (24/7/365) i.e. not intermittently?
There are just sensationalist headlines: "Portugal runs on 100% renewables", "Renewables peak at 95% of German electricity demand"
In truth, it is just intermittent energy sources causing instability on the grid that requires a lot of fossil fuels to stabilize it.
"Portugal runs on 100% renewables for 4 days"
http://renewecono...ys-29784]http://renewecono...ys-29784[/url]
"95% of Germany's energy was provided by renewables last Sunday"
http://www.scienc...newables
"Renewables peak at 95% of German electricity demand"
http://www.pv-mag...0024484/

greenonions
3 / 5 (2) Jun 14, 2016
I'd like to know if exists a country or a large city running 100% on wind/solar
Again - do you not know how to use google? Here is a list for you - https://en.wikipe...e_energy Again - what do you think it proves - if you cannot find one example of a large system running on 100% renewables? The transition to renewables is a process. We are in early days. Examples like Costa Rica, show us that it is possible. There is massive amounts of research out there to demonstrate that it is possible. http://knowledge....-energy/ So what is your point Willie?
WillieWard
1 / 5 (1) Jun 14, 2016
Here is a list for you - https://en.wikipe...e_energy
Again, the "renewables" term can either include or exclude hydropower to show more appealing results.
"renewables (excluding large hydro) accounted for more than half of new power generation capacity for the first time last year.Including large hydro, renewables' share of all global electricity generation rose to more than 20%."
https://en.wikipe...ctricity
greenonions
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 14, 2016
Again, the "renewables" term can either include or exclude hydropower to show more appealing results.
Hydro is a renewable power source. So what? You still have not made a point. Denmark does not use any hydro power - and are on target to get 100% of their power f rom renewables by 2050. It is you who cares about appearance - we are interested to watch the world do what it must do - and that is wean itself off fossil fuels. We are all playing the long game - but it is happening. You still have not made a point - just pointless obfuscation.
WillieWard
3 / 5 (2) Jun 14, 2016
Denmark does not use any hydro power - and are on target to get 100% of their power f rom renewables by 2050.
But by now, more than 50% fossil fuels: oil coal and natural gas.
http://www.worldw...fuel.png
http://www.worldw...20dk.png
https://en.wikipe..._Denmark

So it can be inferred that there is no country or large city running 100% on wind/solar, because batteries/energy storage would be so immensely costly; in this way, fossil fuels are a blessing for renewables to obfuscate intermittency, forever, the world will not wean off fossil fuels. Nuclear power is the world's best carbon-free option to get rid of fossil fuels and fight climate change.
greenonions
not rated yet Jun 14, 2016
So it can be inferred that there is no country or large city running 100% on wind/solar,
So what? You have examples of systems that are using 100% renewables. I keep asking you what your point is. It is like this - we are on a journey. It is early days on this journey. You keep saying "But we are not there yet." We keep saying "No - we are not there - but we are making good progress" You reply "But we are not there yet." So what is your point? We will get there. Why are you so willing to like, and obfuscate - in your endeavor to hate on renewables. All info at this point says renewables are the future. Who knows what science will cook up down the road. Maybe fusion. It is a really good bet that it is not coal, oil, or gas.
WillieWard
3 / 5 (2) Jun 14, 2016
The point is: there are examples of systems that are using 100% renewables(which includes hydro) but there is no country or large city running 100% on wind/solar(no hydro); its Achilles' heel is energy-storage/batteries so the fossil fuels are to fill the gap left by carbon-free nuclear power, forever as hydro is not to grow so much, aside environmental impacts of dams.
greenonions
1 / 5 (1) Jun 14, 2016
fossil fuels are to fill the gap left by carbon-free nuclear power, forever
Completely false. You think you know the future? So how is Denmark going to do it? The intermittency problem is addressed in different ways. Transmission will be a big part of the puzzle - which is why Europe, China, the U.S. etc are all engaging in very large transmission projects. Storage technology is getting a lot of research. In some parts of the world - solar plus storage is already cost competitive. Here is one example - http://www.pv-mag...Bb4VbFQ7 Ever heard of geothermal? - http://www.ladwpn...-to-L-A- What about CSP with storage? No Willie - we are not there yet - but we are well on the way. Stop your lying.

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