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Renewable Baseload Energy

Posted on 27 November 2010 by dana1981

A common argument against investing in renewable energy technology is that it cannot provide baseload power - that is, the ability to provide energy at all times on all days.  This raises two questions - (i) are there renewable energy sources that can provide baseload power, and (ii) do we even need renewable baseload energy?

Does Renewable Energy Need to Provide Baseload Power?

A common myth is that because some types of renewable energy do not provide baseload power, they require an equivalent amount of backup power provided by fossil fuel plants.  However, this is simply untrue.  As wind production fluctuates, it can be supplemented if necessary by a form of baseload power which can start up or whose output can be changed in a relatively short period of time.  Hydroelectric and natural gas plants are common choices for this type of reserve power (AWEA 2008). Although a fossil fuel, combustion of natural gas emits only 45% as much carbon dioxide as combustion of coal, and hydroelectric is of course a very low-carbon energy source.

The current energy production structure consists primarily of coal and nuclear energy providing baseload power, while natural gas and hydroelectric power generally provide the variable reserves to meet peak demand. Coal is cheap, dirty, and the plant output cannot be varied easily.  It also has high initial investment cost and a long return on investment time.  Hydroelectric power is also cheap, clean, and good for both baseload and meeting peak demand, but limited by available natural sources.  Natural gas is less dirty than coal, more expensive and used for peak demand.  Nuclear power is a low-carbon power source, but with an extremely high investment cost and long return on investment time.

Renewable energy can be used to replace some higher-carbon sources of energy in the power grid and achieve a reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions from power generation, even if not used to provide baseload power.  Intermittent renewables can provide 10-20% of our electricity, with hydroelectric and other baseload renewable sources (see below) on top of that. Even if the rapid growth in wind and other intermittent renewable sources continues, it will be over a decade before storage of the intermittent sources becomes a necessity.

Renewable Baseload Energy Sources

Of course in an ideal world, renewable sources would meet all of our energy needs.  And there are several means by which renewable energy can indeed provide baseload power. 

Concentrated Solar Thermal

One of the more promising renewable energy technologies is concentrated solar thermal, which uses a system of mirrors or lenses to focus solar radiation on a collector.  This type of system can collect and store energy in pressurized steam, molten salt, phase change materials, or purified graphite.  

The first test of a large-scale thermal solar power tower plant was Solar One in the California Mojave Desert, constructed in 1981.  The project produced 10 megawatts (MW) of electricity using 1,818 mirrors, concentrating solar radiation onto a tower which used high-temperature heat transfer fluid to carry the energy to a boiler on the ground, where the steam was used to spin a series of turbines.  Water was used as an energy storage medium for Solar One.  The system was redesigned in 1995 and renamed Solar Two, which used molten salt as an energy storage medium.  In this type of system, molten salt at 290ºC is pumped from a cold storage tank through the receiver where it is heated to about 565ºC. The heated salt then moves on to the hot storage tank (Figure 1).  When power is needed from the plant, the hot salt is pumped to a generator that produces steam, which activates a turbine/generator system that creates electricity (NREL 2001).

 

Figure 1:  Solar Two Power Tower System Diagram (NREL 2001)

The Solar Two molten salt system was capable of storing enough energy to produce power three hours after the Sun had set.  By using thermal storage, power tower plants can potentially operate for 65 percent of the year without the need for a back-up fuel source. The first commercial concentrated solar thermal plant with molten salt storage - Andasol 1 - was completed in Spain in 2009.  Andasol 1 produces 50 MW of power and the molten salt storage can continue to power the plant for approximately 7.5 hours.

Abengoa Solar is building a 280 MW solar thermal plant in Arizona (the Solana Generating Station), scheduled to begin operation in 2013.  This plant will also have a molten salt system with up to 6 hours worth of storage.  The electrical utility Arizona Public Service has contracted to purchase the power from Solana station for approximately 14 cents per kilawatt-hour. 

Italian utility Enel recently unveiled "Archimede", the first concentrated solar thermal plant to use molten salts for both heat storage and heat transfer.  Molten salts can operate at higher temperatures than oils, which gives Archimede higher efficiency and power output.  With the higher temperature heat storage allowed by the direct use of salts, Archimede can extend its operating hours further than an oil-operated solar thermal plant with molten salt storage.  Archimede is a 5 MW plant with 8 hours of storage capacity.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory provides a long list of concentrated solar thermal plants in operation, under construction, and in development, many of which have energy storage systems.  In short, solar thermal molten salt power storage is already a reality, and a growing resource.

Geothermal

Geothermal systems extract energy from water exposed to hot rock deep beneath the earth's surface, and thus do not face the intermittency problems of other renewable energy sources like wind and solar.  An expert panel concluded that geothermal sources could produce approximately 100 gigawatts (GW) of baseload power to the USA by mid-century, which is approximately 10% of current US generating capacity (MIT 2006).  The panel also concluded that a research and development investment of less than $1 billion would make geothermal energy economically viable.

The MIT-led report focuses on a technology called enhanced or engineered geothermal systems (EGS), which doesn't require ideal subsurface conditions and could theoretically work anywhere.   installing an EGS plant typically involves drilling a 10- to 12-inch-wide, three- to four-kilometer-deep hole, expanding existing fractures in the rock at the bottom of the hole by pumping down water under high pressure, and drilling a second hole into those fractures.  Water pumped down one hole courses through the gaps in the rock, heats up, and flows back to the surface through the second hole. Finally, a plant harvests the heat and circulates the cooled water back down into the cracks (MIT 2007).

Currently there are 10.7 GW of geothermal power online globally, with a 20% increase in geothermal power online capacity since 2005.  The USA leads the world in geothermal production with 3.1 GW of installed capacity from 77 power plants (GEA 2010).

Wind Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES)

Various methods of storing wind energy have been explored, including pumped hydroelectric storage, batteries, superconducting magnets, flywheels, regenerative fuel cells, and CAES.  CAES has been identified as the most promising technology for utility-scale bulk wind energy storage due to relatively low costs, environmental impacts, and high reliability (Cavallo 2005).  CAES plants are currently operational in Huntorf, Germany (290 MW, since 1978) and Macintosh, Alabama (110 MW, since 1991).  Recently this type of system has been considered to solve the intermittency difficulties associated with wind turbines.  It is estimated that more than 80% of the U.S. territory has geology suitable for such underground storage (Gardner and Haynes 2007).

The Iowa Stored Energy Park has been proposed to store air in an underground geologic structure during time periods of low customer electric demand and high wind.  The project is hoping to store a 20 week supply of compressed air and have approximately 270 MW of generating capacity.  The project is anticipated to be operational in 2015. 

A similar system has been proposed to create a wind turbine-air compressor.  Instead of generating electricity, each wind turbine will pump air into CAES. This approach has the potential for saving money and improving overall efficiency by eliminating the intermediate and unnecessary electrical generation between the turbine and the air compressor  (Gardner and Haynes 2007).

Pumped Heat Energy Storage

Another promising energy storage technology involves pumping heat between tanks containing hot and cold insulated gravel.  Electrical power is input to the system, which compresses/expands air to approximately 500°C on the hot side and -150°C on the cold side. The air is passed through the two piles of gravel where it gives up its heat/cold to the gravel. In order to regenerate the electricity, the cycle is simply reversed.  The benefits of this type of system are that it would take up relatively little space, the round-trip efficiency is approximately 75%, and gravel is a very cheap and abundant material.

Spent Electric Vehicle (EV) Battery Storage

As plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles become more commonplace, the possibility exists to utilize the spent EV batteries for power grid storage after their automotive life, at which point they will still have significant storage capacity.  General Motors has been examining this possibility, for example.  If a sufficiently large number of former EV batteries could be hooked up to the power grid, they could provide storage capacity for intermittent renewable energy sources.

Summary

To sum up, there are several types of renewable energy which can provide baseload power.  Additionally, intermittent renewable energy can replace dirty energy sources like coal, although it currently requires a backup source such as natural gas which must be factored into the cost of intermittent sources.  It will be over a decade before we can produce sufficient intermittent renewable energy to require high levels of storage, and there are several promising energy storage technologies.  One study found that the UK power grid could accommodate approximately 10-20% of energy from intermittent renewable sources without a "significant issue" (Carbon Trust and DTI 2003).  By the time renewable energy sources begin to displace a significant part of hydrocarbon generation, there may even be new storage technologies coming into play.  The US Department of Energy has made large-scale energy storage one if its research priorities, recently awarding $24.7 million in research grants for Grid-Scale Rampable Intermittent Dispatchable Storage.

This post is the Intermediate version (written by Dana Nuccitelli [dana1981]) of the skeptic argument "Renewables can't provide baseload power". 

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Comments 301 to 301 out of 301:

  1. Scaddenp - if we price fuel accurately (drop all incentives and price in the carbon externalities) - Renewables win by a mile. But our collective governments have all proved themselves incapable of doing that. So what do we do given our broken governments, and a relentless threat to our civilization?
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  2. #297: The claim that the consumer pays much more for renewable electricity suggests that there should be a strong correlation between retail electric costs and renewable generation. Here is a graph for the US retail electric cost vs renewable generation from EIA data: There is no such correlation.
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  3. Peter: You said: "Moore's Law does not apply. These are very high cost systems with long life times and so turn over and learning takes decades." Moore's Law may not apply, but the laws of scaling do. In developing technologies, the rough rule of thumb is that a doubling of production lowers costs by 15%. Solar has been tracking right along this path the last several years, and prices are lower than ever. If we were to scale solar to about one hundred times what it is now, prices would likely fall more than half from where they are now. This would also be enough production capacity to replace every every fossil fuel plant within a generation. The scale of this industry would be similar to that of the auto industry...certainly not impossible.
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  4. muoncounter, I would have to say that retail electric cost isnt entirely correlated to generation cost, especially with the layers of subsidies that apply in US.
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  5. scaddenp, Yes, France is required by EU requlations to build 20% renewable by 2020 (or something like that) despite it already having near zero emission electricity. France is required to buy electricity from the renewables first (obviously - otherwise they wouldn't be built). That shows how dumb all this renewable energy advocacy is. I'm with you regarding dumping subsidies and market distortions. I argue to dump all subsidies, all regulations that favour one technology over another, all tax breaks and remove all market distortions. Once that has been done, and not until it has been done, then consider what else needs to be done. However, I expect if that is done properly, there may be no need to do much more because low emissions electricity would be cheaper than fossil fuel generation and would become even cheaper as time progresses. If we do need to give some extra shove then, as a first step, I favour regulating emissions for new generators, with the increasingly restrictive emissions requirements being phased in between now and 2025. For existing generators I'd advise them they will have to meet increasingly stringent emissions rates from a date to be determined. Once the G20 countries reach agreement on a way to price emissions then we would, of course, be part of that international agreement.
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  6. muoncounter, scaddenp is correct. The relationship between cost and price is extremely complex. For example, in the Australia system coal generated electricity may be around $30/MWh but the price bid ranges from -$1,000 to +$12,500/MWh. The price changes rapidly and by very large amounts. That is the wholesale price. The retail price includes the transmissions and grid operating costs, distribution, retail operating costs (including managing and paying the fees for mandated renewable energy, profit, etc. Price is extremely complicated. Better to stick with Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE).
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  7. Peter, Your claim that renewables must currently generate 24/7 in order to supply 24/7 in the future is absurd. Why should we build expensive storage today when it will not be needed for decades? Demonstration plants have shown that it is possible to store the energy. It is currently not stored because storage is not needed with the current grid. Solar plants generate power during peak demand, why would they store the energy to sell later at a lower price? When you make absurd claims like this no-one listens to what you say and it makes nuclear proponents look bad. I have moved further away from nuclear due to your arguments. If your arguments are the best nuclear can do, nuclear is not worth much. You have made your point numerous times on this thread that you think that renewables cannot supply baseload. You have not provided convincing arguments or links to peer reviewed studies. I suggest you stop posting more of the same, the rest of us know what you think and disagree. If you try to link a new study every time you post you will contribute much more to the discussion. If you cannot link to a new study, you are just repeating yourself and wasting everyone elses time. I am still paying monthly for an unapproved nuclear plant which will not generate electricity for at least 10 years. If nuclear is so good why do I have to subsidize it for 10 years? I pay for renewables only when I get the electricity. We agree that wind generates GWhrs of electricity, without subsidy, economically in Texas using wind. We agree that nuclear cannot be used in much of the developing world. You have made no suggestions of how to deal with the nuclear waste. You are a proponent of thorium reactors that have not yet been built and cannot contribute to electricity generation for at least 20 years. I am not convinced by your repeated rants. Post on the what should we do about renewable energy thread that you previously hijacked for nuclear discussion if you want to continue the debate, not here. I notice that you have stopped responding to the questions raised there. Do you find them impossible to answer?
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  8. Ogemanic, "Solar has been tracking right along this path the last several years, and prices are lower than ever." I see. (sarcasm alert) In that case, why did the cost of solar generated electricity in the USA increase 30% beteween 2009 and 2010 (part of an ongoing upward trend), and why did the cost of Solar Tres / Gemasloar (Spain) increase by 250% from 2005 to 2009? Furthermore, why did the NEEDS analysis project that costs would fall by about 30% (from memory) between 2007 and 2010, yet they have increase by over 100% (in real terms). You might also apply your argument of decreasing cost with increasing roll outs to the unprintable technology. Once we get over the fear factor and remove the impediments in the western democracies, the cost will reduce for this technologuy too. China is now building it NPP's for $1,500/kW in 52 months. Ogemanic, I do no what you are getting at, but it is based on the price of solar panels not the full cost of commercial scale solar power stations (200 - 1000MW) with 24 hour generating capability including through prolonged periods of overcast weather and short winter days.
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  9. muoncounter @392 and referring to my post #297. You are correct in that my statement in #297 is loose and not correct. I should not have said the "consumer pays" 5 to 20 times more for electricity from renewable generators. What I should have said is that the distributor must pay a higher price for electricity for renewables. The LCOE (cost) of electricity is 5 to 20 times higher from renewable generators than from conventional power stations. The cost must be recouped by the power station so, over time, on average, the wholesale price paid by the distributor must be at least that much higher for electricity generated by renewable energy generators than by conventional power stations. The distributors higher cost must be passed on, with profit and all the other costs, to the consumer as a higher price. I hope this clarifies my too brief statement that you so rightly picked up on :)
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  10. People, This discussion is silly. The questions posed in the lead article have been answered - and supported in previous posts. Read back through the posts and the links provided. 1. Yes, baseload generators are essential. (about 75% of our electricity demand is baseload). 2. No. Non-hydro renewables cannot provide a significant proportion of baseload generation (except where there is volcanic geothermal) 3. There is little likelihood that non-hydro renewables (and volcanic geothermal) will ever be commercially viable (at the scale required to make a significant contribution). All the sources to substantiate these statements are provided in earlier posts.
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  11. scaddenp, I agree that wind can make an economically viable contribution where it is matched with large hydro generating capacity. This is the case in Denmark/Norway, New Zealand, China, Brazil and parts of Canada (although they are beginning to realise that it is not economically viable at all even with huge baseload hydro generating capacity).
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  12. scaddenp, I should have explained for others that a small proportion of wind power with a large proportion of hydro generating and storage capacity can work because when the wind is blowing the water stored in the reservoir (stored potential energy) is saved because the hydro generators are turned down when the wind is blowing. When the wind power decreases the hydro power is turned up to meet the demand. In short, wind power avoids using stored hydro energy. Whether this is economic or not, is another question. It can be, in some situations, just! In New Zealand you, like Australia, have a ban on (unprintable), so we have no way of knowing if your generating system is the least cost option.
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  13. Ogemaniac, @ #303, If we were to scale solar to about one hundred times what it is now, prices would likely fall more than half from where they are now. This would also be enough production capacity to replace every fossil fuel plant within a generation. The scale of this industry would be similar to that of the auto industry...certainly not impossible” Several points to make here. 1 You have posed some really big ifs. Do you want to wait in the hope that solar might be able to do the job sometime in the future? Do you want to continue to ban nuclear, or continue to put such onerous restrictions on it that it is uneconomic, so we delay another 20 years or so? Do you want to take the risk? Because that is what is happening as a result of the strong resistance to nuclear as is being expressed on the SkepticalScience web site and other web sites dominated by contributors with similar beliefs. 2 “Scaling solar to one hundred times rimes what it is now” would not make a dent in the amount of generating capacity we would need in 20 or 30 years time. It would be insignificant. 3 If you halved the cost of solar thermal that has sufficient storage to do what the ZCA2020 report assumed (which is totally insufficient anyway), the cost would still be about five times the cost of nuclear. Gemasolar (Spain) Generating Capacity = 17MW Storage = 15h Energy pa = 100,000MWh Cost (2009 €) = €230 million (200 Cost (2010 A$) = $395 million Cost per kW = $23,225/kW Cost per average kW = $34,587/kWy/y For comparison nuclear = $4,500/kWy/y So, the cost for Gemasolar with 15h storage (not baseload) is about 8 times higher than nuclear Halve the solar (and don’t reduce the cost of nuclear) and solar is still 4 times higher than nuclear. Reduce the cost of nuclear over the same period too, and solar would still be around 6 times higher than nuclear. Make solar thermal baseload capable and solar would be probably 20 times higher cost than nuclear (if it is even possible to do it, which I doubt) I am sure someone here will pull out some other figures from another plant. Please do but try to keep a sense of perspective. Differences between plants are not significant unless they are at least a factor of five lower cost per kWy/y, given the size of the discrepancy between solar an nuclear. Please provide the source of your figures, present the equivalent figures to those I’ve shown above and show how you calculated them. By the way, the new solar PV station recently commissioned at Windorah in Queensland cost $4.5 million for 130kW, 360MWh/a, = A$34,625/kW, = A$109,500/kWy/y. Key Point: Solar thermal is totally uneconomic, and probably can never be a viable baseload technology. Even if we halve the cost of solar thermal it is many time more costly than nuclear. If we could make it capable of baseload generation it will be many times more expensive still. This is why I say there is no realistic prospect of solar thermal being economically viable as a baseload technology. Sources: http://www.nrel.gov/csp/solarpaces/project_detail.cfm/projectID=40 http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=BEI/09/224&type=HTML http://www.solarpaces.org/Tasks/Task1/Task%20I.pdf http://ecogeneration.com.au/news/windorah_solar_farm/011780/
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  14. Peter Lang writes: ... the strong resistance to nuclear as is being expressed on the SkepticalScience web site ... I know from previous discussions that there are many of us on SkepticalScience who support nuclear power and who think that investments in nuclear power will need to be greatly expanded in the next few decades. So why aren't any of these people contributing to the discussion? I can only speculate, but here are three possible reasons: (1) Many of us support both nuclear power and renewables. My expectation is that reducing our use of fossil fuels will involve increased reliance on nuclear and hydro and solar and wind and geothermal and tidal power and biomass and ... well, you get the point. But you seem to be at least as motivated by the desire to attack renewables as by the desire to promote nuclear. Your approach, of pitting one against the other, is going to drive away those who support both. (2) On a more personal note, the aggressively combative style of many of your comments here may well to inhibit others from posting pro-nuclear comments (and almost certainly drives fence-sitters away from your position). You ignore and insult those who disagree with you, and convey the impression that you're not willing or able to objectively consider different sides to the debate. Your comments are riddled with absolutist language; there's no recognition of shades of gray or of the possibility that others might have any valid points whatsoever. Again, as someone who wants to build support for nuclear power (and other non-fossil sources) I know we need all the allies we can get. Intemperate outbursts -- like insulting comments about "Greenies" and repeated implications that your opponents are "irrational" -- don't help. I'm pro-nuclear, but I'm also a very committed environmentalist ... why should I participate in this thread when the main pro-nuclear poster is busily insulting people whom I identify with? (3) Although this thread is about energy sources, it's in the context of a site that is primarily focused on the science of climate change. Like others, I've gotten the impression that your knowledge of and interest in climate science is minimal to nonexistent. Your only purposes in posting here seem to be to (a) aggressively promote nuclear power, and (b) aggressively run down renewable energy (not necessarily in that order). This perception naturally further reduces people's interest in joining the discussion. Of course, this is all just one person's opinion ... but I would suggest taking some time to reflect on what you're trying to accomplish here and whether your efforts are likely to be effective in accomplishing that.
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  15. Thank you, Ned. You've said what I would have, had I the wit (and the patience).
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  16. Peter Lang #292: "SEGS is a day time only plant." False. Didn't you read BP's post about how they are evil and dangerous because the heated fluid used to provide night time power caught fire once (though 0 people were harmed by this)? Seriously, if you guys are going to spread nonsense could it at least be consistent nonsense? Also: "This thread is about baseload. SCEGS is not baseload." Yes, it is. No other power plants are required to be 'on standby' to cover for them. They have natural gas power generation on site to make up for any shortfalls... but that's only 10% of total power generated.
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  17. Re: Ned (315) Quality words, ably spoken and spot-on; bravo, sir! More comments such as yours are needed to help maintain the decorum and high level of discussion already found on most of this blog, but lacking to some degree on this thread. On the other thread, being of like mind with you, I reached out to Peter and attempted to find common ground with him...and was rebuffed. The Yooper
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  18. Ned - well put. I've frequently expressed my opinion that increasing nuclear will be part of the forward energy mix. I suspect breeder reactors of some type (including thorium cycle) will be needed. But treating this issue as an Either/Or proposition, ignoring valid and honestly asked questions, pooh-poohing renewable data sources while using nuclear sources uncritically, and denigrating and insulting those you disagree with, well - that doesn't add to the discussion, or to my willingness to put up with such nonsense. Peter Lang - You've made some good points about relative costs. You've made some bad ones about site distribution of renewables and the backup load requirements of uncorrelated sites (if sufficiently uncorrelated sites are available in Australia, which I regard as an open question in the absence of a decent wind/solar survey). I just wish you would drop the arrogance. And actually add to the discussion with what information you have.
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  19. Peter Lang first posted on this thread on post 177. Since that time he has made fully one third of the posts and the remainder of the posts are replies to him. He previously hijacked the "what should we do about renewable energy" thread in a similar fashion. His posts contain many false and misleading assertions. He does not treat others with respect. His posts on other blogs have been linked and shown to be strawmen and trolling. Can anything be done about this type of behaviour? I found this thread useful and enjoyed it (without posting anything myself) until post 177.
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  20. You know, there is one part that I think is missing in the baseload discussion here (it's a long thread so I might have missed something). With large amounts of nuclear providing baseload you end up running spin reserve off peak. You can't just switch off a nuclear power plant when the country goes to sleep. Well distributed wind and solar actually better mimmic power demand cycles. We are, still for the most part, a diurnal species. Nuclear is excellent at producing electricity at a constant rate. Wind and solar are excellent at producing electricity in a cyclical pattern. All of the grid scale storage discussed in the original article here apply equally well to the utilization of nuclear's spin reserve off-peak as it does to mitigate the intermittency of renewables. Again, it's going to require pulling out all the stops to address CO2 and climate change. There is no silver bullet solution.
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  21. @ The problem is that Peter Lang's comments, to casual readers, APPEAR to be valid. Which is why I take the time to debunk his claims. Peter Lang - you have chosen to ignore my posts, which provide rational, fact based responses to your claims. That failure is glaring and speaks volumes as to the credibility of the arguments you present. It is your choice to respond or not, of course. Some people find my in-your-face style of facts and logic to much to deal with. My approach doesn't leave much room for ideology or beliefs, relying as it does on reality, facts and logic. All of that said, as Ned eloquently presents above - both nuclear and renewables have a role in the future, non-carbon baseload supply. So I disagree with the idea that we shouldn't talk about nuclear in a renewable baseload energy thread (tightly interpreted, yes nuclear is not renewable but it is like balancing a three legged stool on two legs, you end up wondering what is going on with the (missing) 3rd leg).
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  22. I suppose that I'm a fence-sitter on nuclear power. It's a matter of cynicism rather "omg teh radiations!", in much the same way that I would be cynical about handing a running chainsaw to a 12 year old with ADHD. In the previous thread with Lang, I presented a "window on government" report to counter his claims about nuclear vs renewable subsidies. I was accused of intentionally misleading and so have had no desire to contribute to a thread that he is a primary participant in. My concerns about nuclear power are that the safety & maintenance protocols will be neglected or outright compromised in the race for the bottom line, and waste maintenance protocols that call for intensive monitoring & military patrol over an initial period of 300 years (hence the ADHD comment). I find it quite ironic that renewable baseload energy is dismissed with "if it's so great why hasn't it been done yet?" by the same people touting spent fuel reprocessing and thorium reactors.
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  23. So on to clarifying claims: Muoncounter points out that in a capitalistic market - higher costs will result in higher end-prices, and demonstrates electricity prices are NOT higher in markets with more renewables. Peter Lang responds that pricing is complicated, very, very complicated. A notable amount of hand waving goes on, and then he concludes:"The distributors higher cost must be passed on, with profit and all the other costs, to the consumer as a higher price." Bravo! Peter Lang in fact, agree with Muoncounter and his graph of real world data invalidates all Peter Lang claims above, with dark mumblings of 5 to 20X the cost and on and on. Peter Lang himself makes this point. Now Peter Lang is right that pricing is complicated, that electricity markets are regulated to a degree (but your local, cuddly monopoly electric company, is, most likely traded on your stock exchange and if you confuse it for anything but a profit-driven corporation, you will be tragically wrong). And, given the rate of increase in renewables, we should revisit Muoncounters chart with in a few years when all the changes in renewables have had time to roll through. And, given the low amount of renewables in absolute terms, it will have a relatively small impact on the final price. But with the data available, and using Peter Lang's own logic - Muoncounters graph stands as a real world counter to the notion that renewables are too expensive to use for baseload power.
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  24. "n New Zealand you, like Australia, have a ban on (unprintable), so we have no way of knowing if your generating system is the least cost option." Commonly believed but I as pointed out on another thread, false. The ban on nuclear-powered ships and weapons, does not extent to a ban on nuclear power. The last ministerial statement I heard on the subject ruled out nuclear on economic grounds, based Electricity Commission research, looking at small scale of electricity requirement compared to infrastructure needed to support it.
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  25. Re: All concerned parties The reason I stepped in and made nuclear off-topic on this thread was to try to prevent what we saw happen on the other thread (and I was asked by a commenter to do so). As has been pointed out, this action (policement by moderation) had only limited effect. If I may suggest a different tactic: the community active on this thread simply ignore any and all comments from Peter Lang that you disagree with. In effect, the problem goes away. This thread belongs to all of you. Unite, and take ownership of it. The Yooper
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  26. On to this post: Peter Lang version 1 "Better to stick with Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE)." But WAIT, read on in this post Peter Lang version 2 "Gemasolar (Spain) ... Cost per average kW = $34,587/kWy/y For comparison nuclear = $4,500/kWy/y" So it seems that LCOE is what one ought to do, but if a particular renewable project exceeds the budget - let's focus on that instead for the rhetorical points. For the record - I've already pointed out why and how the DOE is slanted in favor of existing, polluting industry and against renewables. But even using their data, the results speak for themselves. (no subsidies, no carbon pricing - the free market in its current busted state) [2008$/megawatt hours] least to most expensive: Natural gas (NG) advanced combined cycle 79.3 NG combined cycle 83.1 coal 100.4 advanced coal 110.5 Biomass 111 NG advanced CC with CCS 113.3 Geothermal 115.7 advanced nuclear 119 Hydro 119.9 NG advanced combustion turbine 123.5 advanced coal with CCS 129.3 NG conventional combustion turbine 139.5 Wind 149.3 Wind-offshore 191.1 Solar thermal 256.6 Solar PV 396.1 This is from the DOE, by way of wikipedia - you can trace out the veracity yourself if you want. I trust wikipedia to cut'n'paste the DOE data. clickable link - check out UK and by energy source down below the DOE bit - DOE is NOT the only possible source of credible data I suggest anything within 10% is basically equivalent. I don't know what overnight (OK, now I do $3,902/kW) or all in cost they used for nuclear. So using the cost ONLY, but avoid carbon (and claims about future efficacy are accepted (like advanced nuclear is cheap, CCS works, etc)). We would, as rational optimizers of baseload power avoiding fossil CO2, choose: Biomass 111 NG advanced CC with CCS 113.3 Geothermal 115.7 advanced nuclear 119 Hydro 119.9 Wind 149.3 Wind-offshore 191.1 Solar thermal 256.6 Solar PV 396.1 [As a certified "greenie" I am able to state the obvious - electricity is too cheap because it does not factor in the cost of CO2 - once you do that, you don't just re-arrange preferences on the chart above - the chart itself will change.]
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  27. I looked deep into my crystal ball and determined the following: *In 2011 the levelized cost of nuclear will include a 25% higher overnight cost. *In 2011 the levelized cost of solar PV will include a 25% LOWER overnight cost. You can look into my crystal ball too! http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/beck_plantcosts/index.html (click on the table 2 link) So now we can debate the rate of change and burn up another 200 or so messages. My take away is that DOE is having to eat a little bit of crow for being so far from reality (but all you renewable haters good news for you, too: geothermal doubles and burning methane out at the dump triples!) Beyond the crystal gazing above to support my "doubt the DOE" theme - riddle me this: Why does it cost almost DOUBLE to run a solar thermal plant compared to running a nuclear plant? Yes, we wash the panels (with a machine). Given the downside to things going wrong, wouldn't you almost hope it cost more to run the nuke? What are they doing with all that O&M money down at the ST plant? I might enjoy burger and beer night over at the ST plant - sounds like they have the funds to do it right!
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  28. So, to support my claim that I am a greenie who is just fine with higher electric prices, what happens if we use LCOE's most expensive energy the evil photovoltaics? I live in the state of Arizona. Our warm, fuzzy, lovable profit-driven electric monopoly charges us $.14/kwh (take the bill total, divide by the kwh used). Of that cost, 46% is fuel, the rest is "not fuel". So if my baseload power averages 110/unit (using figures above (mine are probably higher - we are still paying for the Palo Verde nuclear plant built in the 1970s & 1980s - the most delayed, most expensive electricity in the history of the universe (not that I am bitter))). So, using the figures above solar PV* (the most expensive way to get electricity) costs 396.1/unit, then to switch to all PV, my electricity bill would go from 78.78 (typical (and actual) electricity bill) to 127.62 (396.1/110*45%*78.78)/month. $51 a month or 612 bucks a year to avoid climate change. Does anyone else see this as a bargain? I pay more for that to insure my home, health and automobile (each). * Now it is obvious that RIGHT NOW we can't switch to all PV. Both logistically, and due to grid-level storage. And we wouldn't use all solar PV, we would use a mix (including nukes), so while my renewables-only cost is WILDLY inflated, I will leave it as is to easily cover the grid-level storage issue. But that should pretty much kill the solar is too expensive argument. It fails because it isn't true (a painful death, surely). Oh, and the zombie-like follow on argument - energy increases apply to ALL sectors of the economy - everything, everywhere: 78.78 is 2.3% of my monthly budget. So factor in a one time economic inflation of 2.3%. Still cheap by any rational standard.
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  29. Here is an interesting take on the CO2 involved in nuclear energy.
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  30. Money quote from Rob's link: "In the paper "Nuclear Power : the energy balance" by J.W. Storm and P. Smith (2005) download here, the authors calculate that with high quality ores, the CO2 produced by the full nuclear life cycle is about one half to one third of an equivalent sized gas-fired power station. For low quality ores (less than 0.02% of U3O8 per tonne of ore), the CO2 produced by the full nuclear life cycle is EQUAL TO that produced by the equivalent gas-fired power station."
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  31. That's an apples to apple cores comparison unless the same full life cycle analysis is applied to the other electricity generation methods.
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  32. Bibliovermis - Quite true, all power plants will require concrete, raw material mining, and (except for non-biomass renewables) continuing fuel mining/collection, CO2 emission from the vehicles used, etc. But nuclear is definitely far from carbon neutral. Uranium (especially the fissionable isotopes) is a pretty diffuse fuel, and you have to move a lot of rock to get significant quantities.
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  33. Bibliovermis -really? What CO2 intensive activities are associated with: solar thermal wind PV wave geothermal ? The ongoing CO2 comes from fuel processing - none of that is required for renewables. I don't know how the concrete/watt metrics come out. If, as I suspect, nuclear has a huge disadvantage here (more concrete per watt than renewables), then there is only CO2+ for nuclear when you compare them. Maybe apples to apple slices.
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  34. Ned,
    (1) Many of us support both nuclear power and renewables. My expectation is that reducing our use of fossil fuels will involve increased reliance on nuclear and hydro and solar and wind and geothermal and tidal power and biomass and ... well, you get the point. But you seem to be at least as motivated by the desire to attack renewables as by the desire to promote nuclear.
    This nonsense about supporting nuclear and renewables is just that – nonsense. Its been the means used by the anti-nukes for the past 20 years to delay action and put all their effort into arguing for more funding fro renewables. It is simply a delaying tactic. Renewables are totally uneconomic except in remote locations and as a small contribution to grid generation in some locations. Just face up to the facts and stop trying to sugar coat renewables and penalise nuclear. If we removed all the impediments to nu clear and the support for fossil fuels, CCS and renewables, then nuclear would quickly provide most of our electricity as it does in France.
    (2) On a more personal note, the aggressively combative style of many of your comments here …
    Yea. Yea Yea Blah, blah, blah. Address your comments first to the scaremongers and renewable energy zealots who continually make their personal attacks to defend their beliefs, then I may take some notice. Otherwise I see it as simply the bias of the leanings of those who inhabit this site.
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  35. PL #335 "Yea. Yea Yea Blah, blah, blah. Address your comments first to the scaremongers and renewable energy zealots who continually make their personal attacks to defend their beliefs, then I may take some notice. Otherwise I see it as simply the bias of the leanings of those who inhabit this site." I'd be inclined to take you more seriously if you didn't 1. Make the kneejerk accusation that everyone automatically opposes all of your ideas is clearly ideologically flawed. 2. That you'd actually answer the reasonable questions asked of you rather than either ignoring them, or making the accusations as in (1) Assuming that you do have some expertise in this area (and I have serious reservations that you have failed to challenge your own assupmptions properly, but it does appear that you posess important background knowledge about a large proportion of this topic), then it would be nice to be able to make use of them to understand the area properly, but the issues above render this impossible.
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  36. Here is the IPCC AR4 assessment of CO2 emissions by electricity generation source, which we must assume was prepared by means of a comprehensive survey of the available authoritative literature.
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  37. Peter Lang writes: [...] the scaremongers and renewable energy zealots who continually make their personal attacks [...] The lack of self-awareness here is simply mind-boggling.
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  38. $10,000 Electric Car? If Tata can pull this off with the capabilities mentioned at anything like this price, I would rate this as very good news indeed. This is a very good example of why electricity prices need to be kept as low as possible - to encourage migration from fossil fuels. With electricity prices two or three times higher, the running cost advantage of EV would be significantly eroded.
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  39. Quokka - would you pay $50 per month to eliminate global warming?
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  40. Peter Lang - "Address your comments first to the scaremongers and renewable energy zealots who continually make their personal attacks to defend their beliefs, then I may take some notice" Oof. Peter, I suggest you go take a good look in a mirror. Counting posts, the majority of personal attacks in this thread come from you. After 2-3 exchanges you started posting you have done nothing but insult everyone else here. Even when (as I have) some have agreed with aspects of your postings. You may have excellent points in some particulars. But arrogant, insulting, and overall horrid behavior guarantee your input will be ignored. Sometimes the messenger overrides the message - you are succeeding in that. I only hope you are aiming to be tuned out.
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  41. @Peter: I concur with others, here. You are the one who started with personal attacks, by suggesting that anyone who was in favor of renewables was an idiot. Seriously, you are a *terrible* salesman for nuclear energy. You have likely done more harm than good to your own cause - that alone should be reason for you to pause and reflect on what's the best way to sell nuclear to a hesitant public (hint: it's not what you're doing right now).
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  42. My position on nuclear has shifted more negative due to Peter Langs postings. I am still agnostic since I know other people who think it is a good idea. If Peter's arguments are the best nuclear can do it is not worth much. I find Peter's posts to be riddled with inaccuracy and I now presume anything he says is factually incorrect unless another poster supports him. This thread and the "what should we do about renewables" thread both essentially devolved into Peter insulting everyone else after he came on. It is too bad, they were both good threads before Peter came on.
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  43. Here is a more balanced and fact-based overview i found about how renewables are seen in Australia regarding baseload in the Parliamentary Library of the parliament of Australia.
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  44. What this thread shows is the reluctance of people to address co2 emmissions with the tech that is available and proven. Nuclear should be being built in the US. It is not to any scale. While the rest of the worlds large economies are building nuclear, the US languishes in debate. The stupidity of doing nothing but arguing is enough to make a grown man moan and groan with frustration.
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  45. #344 I think there are many posts here contrasting what you said. More important: this thread is not about nuclear in any way. The question raised is the baseload capability of renewables, not the ability of nuclear to reduce CO2. Please.
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  46. Here are some more interesting links of actual projects/studies/companies in the field how to make renewable more reliable. - The first IEEE smart grid symposium - German company "energymeteo" - Australian company CSIRO - virtual power plant - RWE & Siemens effort: review article on VPP - VPP, microgrids, energy hubs: overview (semester thesis by R. Bühler from ETH Zürich, CH) To me it looks like the concept behind distributed energy production and virtual combination to be able to work on centralized offering for customers is gaining more and more attention and is leaving the concept/theory phase, entering in the demonstration/piloting phase around the globe.
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  47. Another irony about people who push nuclear as The Solution is that many of them also argue that there is no problem; references to CAGW are a plain indicator. Lang has provided a good service here though. His posts have been a case study in how not to discuss a contentious topic. This was a thread about renewable baseload & how it could be achieved. Exhortations that such a feat is impossible belong aside those that heavier than air flight is impossible.
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  48. Camburn @ 344... "What this thread shows is the reluctance of people to address co2 emmissions with the tech that is available and proven." This is patently, and utterly false. Virtually everyone here who has posted has stated they believe that nuclear belongs as a solution to CO2. What people here are NOT willing to say is that it is the ONLY solution. Conversely, the the nuclear proponents have been completely unwilling to accept any of the positive aspects of renewables. As I stated previously nuclear does somethings very very well. Stable, level output. If we needed exactly that then nuclear would be the perfect solution. That is NOT what is required. That does not perfectly address electrical demand. I'm sorry if you can't see it but nuclear also has negatives that nuclear proponents like Peter Lang are unwilling or incapable of seeing. And, once again, the grid level storage solutions presented in Dana's original article apply equally well to mitigating the losses of nuclear spin reserve off-peak as it does to the intermittency of renewables.
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  49. Based on this thread, I have come to some conclusions for energy goals in the United States. Currently electricity comes from the following sources: 2005 energy production Source: http://montaraventures.com/blog/2006/10/09/how-does-the-us-produce-electricity/ So, we need a future that is different. Based on the statement that 60% of energy consumption is baseload, we should aim for for a fossil free future that looks something like this: coal 0% nuclear 30% petroleum 0% hydro 5% renewable 65% gas backup (normally not used, but available): 20% This will require an intermediate stage where gas takes on a larger role as we get off of coal and ramp up renewables and supporting technologies.
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    Moderator Response: Fixed image tag.
  50. Rob@348: No one thinks nuclear is the only solution. People who believe in AGW should be shouting from the rooftops for nuclear. It is proven tech. They aren't. It shows the falasy of their arguement. Baseload is extremely important to people. Cost is extremely important to people. I don't believe in the magnitude of GAWG that some do. The error bars, the missing links in the hypothosis all point out that it is not as strong as some would have others believe. I am a conservative, and have not figured out, now that the opportunity has presented itself, why we are not building more nuclear baseload plants to take the place of coal/petroleum/gas power plants. We have a resource that is available for over 1,000 years. Rather than burn a short term finite resource, it makes much more sense to use a long term resource. The cost of implimenting a grid system to try and provide "baseload" ability of solar/wind is huge. We have infrastructure in place to utilize nuclear right now. Reliable, baseload power. The future is in elec vehicles for short spans of travel. Those vehicles will be recharged at night for the most part. Interuptions of available electricity will only slow the advancement of elec propulsion on a large scale. That is why in an earlier comment I stated that CPS makes sense in the southwest, but not really anywhere else. Nuclear can and should be filling that gap. It is a win win for everyone.
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