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High Penetration Solar Deployment

April 26th, 2010

We’ve had a lot of discussion here of the difficulties of integrating solar PV (and wind) into an electricity network. Even leaving aside some obstinate reiteration of the baseload demand fallacy, I think it’s fair to say that most of us are arguing on the basis of very little information

Here’s a link to a US government agency studying High Penetration Solar Deployment. No results as yet that I can see, but this should prove interesting.

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  1. BilB
    April 26th, 2010 at 15:26 | #1

    Good link JQ.

    The Yanks are finally doing work that Germany began under Schroder prompted by the need to demonstrate how nuclear energy could be abandoned (refer the publications of Dr Franz Trieb). Some of the publications that I have come across from the DOE on CSP are very promising. Belief and confidence in the technology is growing repidly. For PV there is an interesting vector in this, and that is that the US owns the primary ultra high efficiency PV technology, and if they do not deploy it on mass the US will lose out commercially in a massive way. The system that my group is assessing is similar to this and our evaluation points to an explosive implementation capability. It is very exciting. As I have alluded to here a number of times, if you work the numbers on how advanced generation PV can be utilised, the outcome is nothing like what has been previously imagined, and the social, economic and environment impacts will be very significant.

  2. Rob Farago
    April 26th, 2010 at 16:31 | #2

    When I last heard figures from energex, nameplate PV installed in their distribution area (in MW) was around 0.25% of maximum load. PG&E (large northern california electricity utility) was about to hit their regulatory “cap” of 2.5% and needed to get it increased. Some German towns/cities are up around 25% without any major issues. We have a long way to go!

  3. Hermit
    April 26th, 2010 at 18:46 | #3

    Alas I’m not excited by renewable energy even though I use several forms of it. It has cost me tens of thousands of dollars on top of which I have have to make very spartan use of it to avoid fuel, heating and electricity bills. That is I pay more, put up with a lot of inconvenience and get less. It would be a relief if I didn’t have to bother.

    So where in the world is baseload fallacious?

  4. gregh
    April 26th, 2010 at 19:02 | #4

    I thought the ABC science show person talking about using cars as storage was very interesting – in fact the whole distributed systems approach seems consistent with a lot of green tech / values
    http://www.udel.edu/V2G/

  5. cbp
    April 26th, 2010 at 19:35 | #5

    @Hermit I pay a $20 month premium for 100% renewable energy from AGL. Discuss.

  6. Ernestine Gross
    April 26th, 2010 at 20:42 | #6

    JQ, and gregh, thanks for the links.

  7. TerjeP (say Taya)
    April 27th, 2010 at 08:55 | #7

    For a given amount of energy usage moving away from a baseload model means a need for greater transmission capacity and an acceptance of greater transmission losses. Even if we don’t need a flat supply curve we still gain a lot from a relatively predictable supply curve. It the sun was guaranteed to shine every day then the supply curve for solar might be quite tolerable. However as it stands wind and solar are just silly distractions from nuclear.

  8. BilB
    April 27th, 2010 at 09:21 | #8

    Serje, I suggest that you read the DOE linked information and try to understand why they have taken that approach. Some one such as yourself who was brilliant at solar issues when at university and whose wife is even smarter again should be able to figure out that there is an entirely new energy reality dawning. The nuclear window has closed.

    But even if you choose not to accept the changing order of all things energy, try playing the what if game. Experiment with the numbers to see what is possible.

  9. gregh
    April 27th, 2010 at 09:22 | #9

    @TerjeP (say Taya)
    you are assuming centralised generation which is not supported by the evidence nor by a significant research trajectory into distributed generation. Considering solar as just PV is similarly narrow and will also probably lead to other misunderstandings.

  10. Ikonoclast
    April 27th, 2010 at 10:04 | #10

    Economically speaking, pricing is the key to a transition to a renewable energy economy. Physically speaking, resource depletion and global warming are the imperatives. The real barrier to timely action inheres in our political economy. This barrier is an amalgam of ideology, vested corporate interests, physical economy momentum and consumer inertia.

    Technically, we know how to transition to a renewable energy economy. That is to say, we have the scientific, technological and economic expertise to get there. This capability would be unleashed if the political economy problems were solved or at least adequately ameliorated. Physical economy momentum is properly speaking another set of technical problems. This leaves us with the three essential socio-political problems preventing a timely transition to the renewable energy economy; ideology, vested corporate interests, and consumer inertia.

    In terms of popular ideology and general understanding of the issues (that is popular opinion) the battle is won at least in theory. A majority agree that global warming is a danger and that we should, in theory, move to renewables. In practice, consumer inertia means people will not change their habits unless pressured by prices or scarcity. Popular support for action exists and price signals could induce the changes.

    This leaves corporate ideology and corporate interests as the essential stumbling blocks. In times of widespread war popular opinion supports strong government action to create unified national action in order to survive. The currents threats (resource depletion and global warming) present a danger to national survival, civilizational survival and even survival as a species.

    What is required is the political will to take on corporate capital power in a selective manner. The power of the corporates and the capital that supports them is the only significant political-economic power in favour of business as usual. Amongst the energy generators, only big oil and big coal are significant players in this camp. All other industries which are energy users are potentially neutral about the source of their energy provided switching is price-neutral. Remember that price-neutral can be meant in an absolute sense or in a relative sense ie. relative to competitors.

    Essentially, this means a wedge can be driven between fossil energy companies and all other companies which comprise energy conumers and renewable energy generators. A law to ban political donations by fossil fuel companies would break the lobby nexus with government. In the build up to passing this law, political parties could canvass renewables and all other companies to fill the donation gap.

    Once the fossils lobby nexus is broken, fossil fuel subsidies can be done away with, carbon properly priced and the other technical problems tackled.

    I know I have glossed over some hurdles but they could all be cleared with the right political will.

  11. TerjeP (say Taya)
    April 27th, 2010 at 14:54 | #11

    BilB – I already read the link and it didn’t provide any new information.

    Gregh – I was assuming PV but I was not assuming a centralised system. A distributed system is a little less prone to cloud cover but the problem doesn’t go away. In terms of solar thermal I think there are some interesting designs but they are still a distraction from going nuclear.

  12. Ikonoclast
    April 27th, 2010 at 15:33 | #12

    @TerjeP (say Taya)

    You ought to note that nuclear energy is not renewable. The bottom line is that fossil fuels and nuclear fission fuels will all run out. Even if climate change was not an issue we would still have to transition to renewables within a century or less.

    As climate change (including a real possibility of civilization-ending runaway climate change) is an issue, the need to switch away from fossil fuels is imperative. Nuclear power may prove to be a transition solution. The serious caveats I would place on that is that nuclear power should receive no subsidies nor any government provided indemnities and should meet stringent anti-proliferation measures re weaponisation. If those issues could be meet (which personally I doubt) then nuclear power could be part of a transition protocol.

  13. Fran Barlow
    April 27th, 2010 at 16:27 | #13

    @Ikonoclast

    You ought to note that nuclear energy is not renewable.

    The question is moot. It’s not going to run out in any time frame meaningful to us. Uranium is abundant, not only in the earth but in the ocean as well, the supply of which is topped up from deposition from irvers. Thorium is even more abundant and indeed, there may well be 400 times as much thorium as uranium available. In the short term of course we should pyroprocess existing hazmat from LWRs and use materiel from decommissioned weapons. That will get us through the first 200-300 years.

    The serious caveats I would place on that is that nuclear power should receive no subsidies

    I agree with this. No energy source should receive any subsidy, directly or in the form of an externality imposed upon the commons. Every energy source should be required to fully internalise all of its costs. There should be no “mandatory targets” for any energy source. If there are to be targets they should be outcome-based — e.g. a timeline with targets for emissions levels. I’d favour a footprint target. Not only would we aim over time to reduce GHGs and other emissions to the biosphere (and impose a cost for the emissions that were technologically unavoidable). We’d impose a target on land and water usage, usage of steel, glass and concrete per KWe rated.

    The first step would be to reach for a footprint 50% that of coal.

    nor any government provided indemnities

    We could do that, but this would not amount to a level playing field. The airline industry is far more likely to kill people than most energy plants and yet, they are indemnified, for the simple reason that if their insurance falls over, someone has to pay. If they could not get insurance then that cost would fall onto individuals because the company could decalre bankrutpcy — indeed, they’d be forced to in the case of catastrophic damage.

    The Price Anderson indemnity for nuclear has never been approached and as new systems with passive shutdown are rolled out, there is simply no possibility of this limit being tested. Short of some genuinely unforeseeable event, the indemnity will never be called

    and should meet stringent anti-proliferation measures re weaponisation.

    They already do. So far no nation in the nuclear club has moved from nuclear power to nuclear weapons. It has been the other way around for the simple reason that quite specialised equipment is needed to weaponise uranium to the standard needed. It’s very unlikely Australia would want to build nuclear weapons, if we developed nuclear power. And if we did, it would be an entirely separate matter.

    The hard reality is that renewables simply can’t support 9 billion or even 5 billion people in the way we expect to live. The last time the world lived on renewables, life expectancy was in what was the UK was in the 50s, per capita energy consumption was about 1/6th of that at present, and arable land per person was three or four times as great. Todays renewables are a lot more efficient, thanks in large measure to new materials and fossil energy and the capacity to do really brilliant engineering and mass production. Even so, we would struggle in most countries to get half way there even if we accepted intermittency and significantly less energy-intensive lives. How is Japan going to live on renewables? Chi

    They are no kind of solution. They may make us feel good but the heavy lifting will have to be done by nuclear power.

  14. Fran Barlow
    April 27th, 2010 at 16:30 | #14

    I also meant to ask, Ikonoclast, how are China, South Asia and Indonesia, Pakistan and Mexico, Brazil and Africa and Russia and Eastern Europe going to use renewables to live in dignity? Do you think that when fossil fuels become unviable they are going to just accept it or do you think they will use nuclear?

  15. BilB
    April 27th, 2010 at 16:51 | #15

    The world is getting ready for an all electric future and the pace of development is finally up to that which we imagined back in the 50′s and 60′s and this offering from VW is the first vehicle that fully fits my expectations. Albeit a taxi, the performance profile is perfect for medium range family use.

    http://www.gizmag.com/volkswagen-milano-taxi-electric-vehicle/14891/?utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=88dc79d9cd-UA-2235360-4&utm_medium=email

    Terge, I’m amazed. That article is signalling the end for nuclear in the US. It is warning utility operators that the electricity generation system will be dramatically altered with the rapid expansion of a distributed generation system and their turnover will significantly reduce. This change will require a very different mix of generation infrastructure, and the DOE is subsidising their efforts to adapt to the new understanding.

    It is clearly going to be intensely difficult for some to let go of the Nuclear fantasy. I can understand why, as the notion of a low emission facility that uses very little physical fuel stock is very appealing. I was a great fan myself up to the seventies when the plans for the fast breeder reactors started to become public. It was pretty obvious what the shortcomings were, and that has not changed much at all. Robert Merkel pointed to the use of lead coolant in place of sodium, that was a vast improvement. But the reality is that all machines fail, even the most sophisticated machines will have a percentage of failing of the type that puts the insides on the outside, and where plutonium is involved that is the ultimate disaster. It is going to be interesting to see how well the Indian reactors operate. The politicians are already medling in a manner that can only compromise the long term safety of the installations.

    But the US, I perceive, have weighed up the nuclear liability against the benefits in the presence of the rapid improvements in the alternatives and decided that nuclear is just not a safe and viable solution, especially post 9/11 and the subsequent relative ineffectiveness of their security machinery when facing a fanatical agressor.

  16. BilB
    April 27th, 2010 at 17:25 | #16

    Fran @14,

    Your enthusiasm is impressive, but you operate from such a small knowledge base and shallow focus that you would actually be dangerous in a position of power. Asia is far more more resourceful in their way than we are. An example, that we should follow

    http://www.prlog.org/10059319-biogas-digesters-in-china-increase-to-60-million-by-2030-with-35-billion-m3-biogas.html

    On the personal solar front I started today to think out a solar umbrella using the very latest technology. This will be little more than a metre square, portable, stowable, supply 400 watts, have no transmission costs or losses, have the ability to consequtively desalinate a small amount of water each day, and be third world affordable. Such a device will provide 4 Kwhrs of electricity per day per person, a vast improvement on what most Indians and Chinese currently consume. That is what is possible today. What will we be able to achieve with tomorrow’s science?

    You are trying to shape the future with what you understand from the past.

  17. gregh
    April 27th, 2010 at 17:27 | #17

    @TerjeP (say Taya)
    TerjeP – I should have made it clearer that I was chiefly addressing my comment to your claims of increased transmission capacity and losses. I would imagine a reasonably designed distributed system should provide shorter cable lengths between generator and user, hence lower transmission losses.

  18. April 27th, 2010 at 18:54 | #18

    @BilB

    Blockquote>Such a device will provide 4 Kwhrs of electricity per day per person, a vast improvement on what most Indians and Chinese currently consume.

    European consumption? 125 KwH p..,p.d so … about 1/30th of what is needed?

  19. Ernestine Gross
    April 27th, 2010 at 20:10 | #19

    JQ, why are there posts promoting nuclear on a thread which deals with, quote: “High Penetration Solar Deployment”, supported by links worthwhile reading. The promotional material of nuclear is like a verbal crowding out of anything of interest. From a G.E. perspective, the price of fish in Fiji is also related for the price of solar energy. Where is the limit?

  20. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 27th, 2010 at 21:05 | #20

    Gregh – yes okay that is a fair point. A distributed supply system where the power source is closer to the demand will entail less transmission. Of course the same would be pretty much true for nuclear power plants that don’t need to be built remote from our cities in the way that coal fired power stations are.

  21. Ernestine Gross
    April 27th, 2010 at 21:40 | #21

    gregh :@TerjeP (say Taya) TerjeP – I should have made it clearer that I was chiefly addressing my comment to your claims of increased transmission capacity and losses. I would imagine a reasonably designed distributed system should provide shorter cable lengths between generator and user, hence lower transmission losses.

    Good point. For once there is a technological development which starts off with catering for people, taking as given where people live and not imposing any new negative externalities on them or the risk of loss of life or health.

  22. Ikonoclast
    April 27th, 2010 at 22:00 | #22

    For all the nuclear power advocates! There is a completely free, near perfect, self-regulating giant fusion reactor in the sky and it has a projected operational life of another 5 billion years. It’s called the sun. Let’s use it.

  23. Freelander
    April 27th, 2010 at 22:03 | #23

    If Ziggy can’t build it, it is not worth having.

  24. Jarrah
    April 27th, 2010 at 22:33 | #24

    “completely free”

    It is? Well, gawsh, why aren’t we using it? Oh, wait – TANSTAAFL. Turns out we do have to pay for it – to harvest, convert and distribute its beneficence.

    Since it is NOT FREE, that means we have to divert resources from other areas to pay for it. I’ve got a long list of things we don’t really need that can be ditched from the Budget, what about you?

    Then there’s the complicating factor – some other sources of energy are cheaper, either in the short or the long term, meaning less sacrifice in other areas if we go with those instead.

    I guess it’s not as simple as you’d like to think it is.

  25. Ernestine Gross
    April 27th, 2010 at 22:35 | #25

    Ikonoclast :For all the nuclear power advocates! There is a completely free, near perfect, self-regulating giant fusion reactor in the sky and it has a projected operational life of another 5 billion years. It’s called the sun. Let’s use it.

    Spot on. It complies with the only economic principle I have come to accept as generally applicable, namely: Waste not want not. Everything else is detail.

  26. BilB
    April 27th, 2010 at 23:15 | #26

    Terje,

    The whole trans mission argument is a falsehood. Our current system requires long distance connection for its stability. The Snowey is the system “battery” allowing for peak over demand performance, and the spread of the system smooths demand serving to reduce electricity generation costs. Distance transmission is only relevent to wind power where siting is primarily geographically controlled. But the last time I looked the cost of transmission for wind was built into its installation price. So not relevent.

    As for your “nested nuclear” concept, well. This is the worst risk case possible.

  27. BilB
    April 28th, 2010 at 01:17 | #27

    Yes, “nested nuclear”. So the idea here is in order to save some money on cabling, snuggling nuclear time bombs in with our cities makes good sense to nuclear frenetics. And not just any nuclear bomb, Plutonium bombs. They have to be Plutonium because this is the only medium that makes, cutely named Gen IV, Fast Breeder Reactors work, and it is the fast breeders upon which the nuclear fantasy depends for its beyond 50 year life usefulness. With Australia’s geography making a narrow mountain range bounded coastal band the premium population zone and hence the most valuable, the idea that Ziggy’s minions are prepared to put this ribbon of life at risk simply because they “like” the idea of nuclear as an energy source to the exclusion of all else, is beyond belief. So here comes the endless “Chernobyl could never happen again” diatribe, to which I have to remind that despite the mamoth amount of technology applied to preventing aviation accidents big planes still crash due to mechanical failures, environmental effects, and human error. It does not happen very often so aviation is deemed “safe”. The difference between an aviation disaster and a Plutonium nuclear accident is that the nuclear scar will not heal. Nuclear energy provides an unnecessary risk that that this continent will do without.

  28. TerjeP (say Taya)
    April 28th, 2010 at 07:22 | #28

    Sydney already has a nuclear reactor. We ought to build a more serious one.

  29. TerjeP (say Taya)
    April 28th, 2010 at 07:28 | #29

    Chernobyl could happen several times a century in a nuclear powered world and the risk would still be acceptable. Having said that I don’t think the risk is that high.

  30. Ernestine Gross
    April 28th, 2010 at 08:55 | #30

    TerjeP (say Taya) :Chernobyl could happen several times a century in a nuclear powered world and the risk would still be acceptable. Having said that I don’t think the risk is that high.

    This is the most disgusting proposition I’ve read for a long time. It shows a total disrespect for individuals. I am now convinced that your many talks about ‘freedom’ is at best empty.

  31. Fran Barlow
    April 28th, 2010 at 10:09 | #31

    @TerjeP (say Taya)

    Terje … this is a stupid observation. Chernobyl was only possible because of the decrepit state of infrastructure in the USSR, the poor culture at the plant, the willingness to operate outside of design parameters, the poor training of staff and the want of a containment shell for the resultant fire. There will be no more Chernobyls or anything remotely like it as the design will not be repeated, and all will have a containment shell, so your speculation simply invites more disinformation.

  32. April 28th, 2010 at 10:23 | #32

    While I disagree with Terje that about the risks of Chernobyl he is right in a way. The pollution and deaths from the coal industry and coal fired plants every year are more than many estimates of the results of Chernobyl. The difference is that they are dispersed and as a result not highly visible.

  33. BilB
    April 28th, 2010 at 10:54 | #33

    Fran you want to see Nuclear with rose coloured glasses. To say that Chernobyls cannot happen again because “now we know better” is to replace human nature with a god like aura of excellence. That just is not reality. Your every argument proclaims that the nuclear industry will achieve NASA performance on Woolworths budgets with CIA security while handling Plutonium within the worlds most corrupt economies.

    Not credible.

    Fortunately mature world leaders know better and are seeking a nuclear free world.

    AndrewR,

    The most important criteria here is to not replace one poison with a far worse one. Changing Coal for Plutonium is not an improvement.

  34. Fran Barlow
    April 28th, 2010 at 10:59 | #34

    @BilB

    BilB …. that there been an airtight fireproof containment structure around the core the fire would have abated the fire. No matter would have escaped. No first responders would have died. No land or person would have been adversely affected. Human nature has nothing to do with it. This is a simple technological question.

  35. Ernestine Gross
    April 28th, 2010 at 11:00 | #35

    No, Terje, don’t take any note of the spin doctors. To make a statement that is perceived as disgusting is not as ‘bad’ in my books as spin. These spin merchants are so delusional that they seem to believe that any reasonable person with access to a nuclear scientist in their circle of friends would ignore their friend’s opinion in favour of eloquent weasel words. If they only would know how many people giggle every night when watching TV and see a nodding head behind a speaker; some observers have noticed that the number of nodds have decreased – the suspicion is that someone must have told the dummies that nodding too much makes them look stupid.

    What your statement says is that if one were to accept nuclear power then one would accept a risk akin to what you have described. The trouble is that ‘one’ is a weasel word in this context.

    Note, the ‘disgusting’ is only my opinion. Its quite hillarious to observe how quickly the PR perceptions fire brigade came out.

    Who knows, maybe people are prepared to accept the risk you described. But this PR lot don’t want open debate, they want “receptive skills”; ie dummies.

  36. Fran Barlow
    April 28th, 2010 at 11:12 | #36

    @Andrew Reynolds

    The pollution and deaths from the coal industry and coal fired plants every year are more than many estimates of the results of Chernobyl.

    I’ve made the substance of this argument repeatedly myself Andrew. It was really Terje’s form of words that was offensive — that several Chernobyls each century would be acceptable as the price for a nuclear world. No rational society would permit such a thing. It shouldn’t permit the loss of quality life years from coal usage either. This shows me that society is not rationally organised rather than that several Chernobyls per century was a fair overhead to pay, especially when we need not pay it.

    Human lives are not articles of trade — or at least they shouldn’t be. While rational people accept that all life is risky and that even with the best will in the world, there are going to be casualties, it’s no comfort to a victim to tell him he’s an anomaly just before he draws his last breath. Unless everything reasonable that might have been done to make his premature death or his suffering utterly improbable has been done, he’s entitled to be aggrieved.

    In the case of Chernobyl, that clearly wasn’t the case whereas the reactors I’d support clearly would meet the test above.

  37. Fran Barlow
    April 28th, 2010 at 11:18 | #37

    @BilB

    Fortunately mature world leaders know better and are seeking a nuclear free world.

    Who would they be BilB? Noted: Your use of the term “nuclear” to dogwhistle “WMD”

    The most important criteria here is to not replace one poison with a far worse one. Changing Coal for Plutonium is not an improvement.

    Justify your claim that enriched uranium for fast spectrum reactors or LWRs, when handled in the conventional way is “far worse” than coal handled in the conventional way.

    Life years lost per unit of output might be one measure, if you’re not merely handwaving.

  38. Ernestine Gross
    April 28th, 2010 at 11:24 | #38

    Terje, I should get credit for correctly picking that it was your “form of words” (not the truth content) that was offensive. I am not offended by the truth (or something close to it).

  39. Ernestine Gross
    April 28th, 2010 at 11:45 | #39

    The following question remains unanswered from the Thread on “Straws in the Wind”:

    Ronald Brak :Barry, I mean Fran, who uses nuclear power to meet peak demand?

    It is a straightforward question which is amenable to a straight answer. Could we have it please.

  40. gregh
    April 28th, 2010 at 12:05 | #40

    echoing ernestine it is a shame that this thread has been hijacked by nuclear energy spruikers.
    funniest comment – Fran Barlow’s implying that poor training of staff will not happen in the future, this at a time of ‘the batts scandal’ lol

    note also the segue into coal kills too – a common strategy from the nuclear lobby even though utterly irrelevent in the context of a discussion about coal replacement. But of course nuclear is also irrelevent in such a discussion.

  41. Fran Barlow
    April 28th, 2010 at 13:12 | #41

    @Ernestine Gross

    France operates many of its nuclear plants in load-following mode. One consequence of all the resultant cheap power has been to push gas out of residential space heating, which is a benefit all on its own in GHG terms. The French also supply cheap power to the EU as well, reducing the amount of coal being burned.

  42. Fran Barlow
    April 28th, 2010 at 13:17 | #42

    @gregh

    this at a time of ‘the batts scandal’ lol

    Laughing out loud indeed … the scandal was with the ethics of small business.

    note also the segue into coal kills too – a common strategy from the nuclear lobby even though utterly irrelevent in the context of a discussion about coal replacement. But of course nuclear is also irrelevent in such a discussion.

    Or it would be if there were something other than nuclear with which we could ubiquitously replace coal.

  43. Ernestine Gross
    April 28th, 2010 at 13:24 | #43

    @Fran Barlow

    Please send your reply to the appropriate pigeon hole.

  44. Ernestine Gross
    April 28th, 2010 at 13:29 | #44

    JQ, gregh, BilB, I thank you for the information on technological developments in the solar area. Last year I replaced my electric hot heater with solar hot water (tubes). I planned to have PV next year. Lets see whether I can improve on the timing by watching new developments a bit more carefully. Incidentally, my electricity consumption (quantity) in the quater for which I have data is 25% less than during the corresponding period in the previous year. Its not all due to the solar hot water. I also switch off standby functions on all electric equipment.

  45. Michael
    April 28th, 2010 at 13:55 | #45

    @Ernestine Gross
    I’m interested in getting a solar hot water heater. Did you find any useful objective information source when choosing a system? Did you do any cost analysis comparing the systems with instant gas heating? I have also looked at solar air heaters, but it’s difficult to know how effective they are going to be when most of the information available on their performance is provided by people selling the systems.

  46. Ian Wilson
    April 28th, 2010 at 15:55 | #46

    This is such an interesting blog.

    As someone who has always been a bit on the left and totally into renewables, it’s surprising to see someone who is also a lefty favouring nuclear. I always thought that was only for righties and people who were against doing stuff on global warming!

    Until recently, I had no idea coal was that bad (apart from the global warming problem) but if it is I suppose that’s one reason why maybe I should reconsider nuclear. I mean sure nobody likes radiation, but then unless you get exposed to it, it’s not a problem. If lots of people are dying from coal and it is trashing the whole planet then maybe nuclear isn’t so bad.

    I’d rather we used renewables as much as possible but if it’s a choice between coal and nuclear, nuclear might actually be better. I read that coal mines actually put out nuclear waste and nuclear plants put out none! How weird is that?

    Anyway … thanks to all the bloggers for all the interesting text and links …

  47. Ernestine Gross
    April 28th, 2010 at 16:01 | #47

    @Michael

    I’ll reply to your questions on the Monday message board because it goes a bit outside the topic of this thread.

  48. TerjeP (say Taya)
    April 28th, 2010 at 17:16 | #48

    Fran – my form of words seems fine to me. However to be precise I am not claiming we should accept a high risk when at little cost we can have a low risk. Nor am I suggesting that nuclear power is high risk, history proves it isn’t. My point was pretty plain. Even if a nuclear world hypothetically did entail the risk of several Chernobyl style accidents per century it would still represent a very low risk option. We drive cars because it is useful to drive cars and we accept that hundreds of people every year, just in one state alone, will die because of this. To be sure we are so scared of people dieing that we are working on lowering the speed limit to zero, but until then we accept the utility of a non zero speed limit traded off against the risk of death. To suggest that it is somehow wrong to discuss or to accept such trade offs is the emotive garbage of the left that I find so annoying. I’m surprised that you adopt such a posture because normally your brain is somewhat engaged.

  49. TerjeP (say Taya)
    April 28th, 2010 at 17:23 | #49

    p.s. Obviously we could avoid some small number of nuclear deaths by building a future based on pure solar. However I can’t see the cost incurred to save these lives as being worth it. No rational individual would spend so much extra to reduce the risk of personal death by so little. When people give up driving or flying on mass I’ll entertain the possibility that people put such a premium on avoiding the risk of death versus utility that it is worth reconsidering solar. However most people, via revealed preferences, demonstrate that they are not so stupid.

  50. BilB
    April 28th, 2010 at 17:38 | #50

    Good to see your awakening there IanW. So what is it like to be in a coma, I’ve always wondered. While you were asleep, you’ve missed all kinds of interesting Nuclear news. Europe in recent years has been heavily polluted with radiation. There was the Chernobyl accident which contaminated 16,000 square kilometres. Then there was the balkans war where the US flung depleted uranium anti tank ammunition around with gay abandon declaring that it was safe. Now we know differently, alerted by the many service persons who developed all manner of illnesses. And that material is still all there in the soil, fine dust just waiting for the global warming dry winds to pick it up and make available for every one to breathe in. Where you awake for Sydney’s red dust day? That could just as easily have blown in from the desert nuclear testing site. Then there are the nuclear plants leaking in a number of places in Europe and the US. Here is a small selection

    http://www.chernobylee.com/blog/nuclear-accidents/

    and here is a nuclear risk map of central Europe

    http://www.ipta.demokritos.gr/erl/nu_risk10.html

    The really good thing about nuclear radiation is that you don’t know that it is killing you. Your doctor is almost certain to misdiagnose the symptoms and you can die prematurely blissfully ignorant of the real cause. That has got to be a comfort. It certainly would be for the operator of the nuclear whatever who secretly, but accidentally, shared his wastes with you.

    The alternative of course is that you can live equally well using solar energy. But then you would miss out on that “living on the edge of danger” excitement, or being a man of mystery with that deep dirty dark secret, nuclear contamination. If nuclear really gets your heart a pumpin then take a walk with Fran over to BraveNewClimate and let her show you around there.

  51. TerjeP (say Taya)
    April 28th, 2010 at 17:45 | #51

    But you won’t live equally well with solar. It is going to cost you a lot so that you will live less well. And the health benefits are minor and not worth the cost.

    Also confusing nuclear power with nuclear tipped bullets is a bit misleading. A bit like suggesting that solar power causes skin cancer.

  52. BilB
    April 28th, 2010 at 17:50 | #52

    Hey Terje, show us your figures that demonstrate that solar is now and will remain in the future more expensive an energy source than nuclear. The US DOE is saying that solar is cheaper and the way to go. Do you have other knowledge? Please share.

  53. gregh
    April 28th, 2010 at 17:56 | #53

    another aspect of solar that has interest is the use of biological systems – algae being the main one – to convert solar energy into usable power. It seems there are two major strands of research, small scale distributed and plug-and-play large scale replacements for existing large scale generators.
    The work of Craig Venter (with Exxon!?) is particularly interesting given his genuine genius status.
    http://tinyurl.com/mqnu9r
    http://www.syntheticgenomics.com/
    the link with Exxon – initially off putting – makes a lot of sense given their expertise in large scale manufacture adn delivery, and their knowledge of future supply

  54. April 28th, 2010 at 18:27 | #54

    BilB,
    Link please. If solar is cheaper and able to supply all the power demands, great – no problem from me or, I would suspect, anyone else here.

  55. Ernestine Gross
    April 28th, 2010 at 18:37 | #55

    Here we go again. People who are allegedly knowledgeable in Finance and hence could be expected to know about Markowitz portfolio diversification theorem (and its promotion on TV by various bank representatives), don’t seem to understand the idea of a portfolio of energy sources, despite BilB’s clear exposition.

  56. Ernestine Gross
    April 28th, 2010 at 18:43 | #56

    @TerjeP (say Taya)

    “But you won’t live equally well with solar. It is going to cost you a lot so that you will live less well. And the health benefits are minor and not worth the cost.”

    This is a nice example of economic rationalism; the accouting profits of a corporation are confused with the economic idea of individuals’ preferences. The act of corporate profits overriding individual’s freedom of choice is very simple to demonstrate by noting that people pay for medical expenses. Dying would be much cheaper!

  57. April 28th, 2010 at 18:55 | #57

    @BilB

    You might be interested to know BilB that I finally got an answer from Dr Trieb. He declined to answer specific questions but referred me to a “solar paces” paper which made clear that even allowing his “learning curve” savings, his main option was going to cost more in 2050 than nuclear does today.

  58. April 28th, 2010 at 19:21 | #58

    EG,
    Was that one directed at me? If so, I do know about diversification theory and one of the things I would be looking for from BilB was how that could be dealt with through solar.
    It may be possible by using storage or diverse sources – I do not know.

  59. Freelander
    April 28th, 2010 at 19:28 | #59

    @Andrew Reynolds

    Often, the person who a comment is addressed to is the person it is intended for.

  60. gregh
    April 28th, 2010 at 19:32 | #60

    PrQ – I was wondering if at some time in the future you might think of having a thread on solar. Whilst nuclear has its proponents, politically, technologically and economically it is dead in the water and, even though small and easily corrupted countries may commission a new reactor or two, other technologies dominate the research agenda. I think it would be of real interest to anyone with a mind to ‘vision’ to discuss the possibilities of energy developments – even blue sky – that have real chances of providing ecologically sustainable futures.

  61. Alice
    April 28th, 2010 at 19:37 | #61

    @Ernestine Gross
    As usual Ernestine – misinformation takes up the most space.

  62. Ernestine Gross
    April 28th, 2010 at 19:59 | #62

    @Andrew Reynolds

    If ghg emission reduction is a problem and a switch to renewable energy is the objective and there are several renewable energy sources (various types of solar, wind, biomass, hydro, geothermal – I hope I have the major sources) then one can look at all these sources as a portfolio and study the properties of the portfolio, both in terms of technical efficiency (systems analysis) and in terms of monetary variables and in terms of consumer preferences. It is therefore entirely meaningless to compare a non-renewable energy source, such as nuclear with non-renewables (because there are other than ghg externalities which are not priced) and it is even more meaningless to pick one of the renewable energy sources, say solar, and compare it with nuclear and it is misleading to argue for nuclear on production costs only when nuclear pollution costs, including decommissioning costs are not included and, worse still, nobody knows how to estimate these costs. So one gets a little fed up with the nuclear spruikers, particularly on a thread which has a solar technology topic that is of interest by itself.

  63. Ernestine Gross
    April 28th, 2010 at 20:02 | #63

    @Alice

    Careful, Alice, your post may easily be quoted in yet another bit of misleading information.

  64. Alice
    April 28th, 2010 at 20:06 | #64

    @Ernestine Gross
    Im aware Ernestine – I regularly get framed!!!

  65. Alice
    April 28th, 2010 at 20:19 | #65

    As for nuclear spruikers Ernestine – the trouble with bogs is that they dont require any declaration of pecuniary interests…and clearly some in the advertising / business/ commercial world see it as a way to sell. Its that simple. Why wouldnt they avail themselves of the free opportunity? Blogs, JQs bog even – he gets a fair number of commenters and readers, is like publicity. Its free. It only requires a name (some anonymous blogger who never reveals their true objective).
    I didnt come down in the last shower Ernestine. Thats modern advertising. It infiltrates where it can, by whatever means it can.

  66. BilB
    April 28th, 2010 at 20:41 | #66

    That is great Fran, have you a link to the paper? I’ve read some of the early stuff, too. What I am seeing is that the pace of technological change exceeds predictions. It will make a good read. Please share.

  67. BilB
    April 28th, 2010 at 21:46 | #67

    AndrewR,

    Diversification theory used to be called “not putting all your eggs in one basket”. Commonsense stuff really. As a civilisation we have made some bad choices. Choices which seemed right at the time, but once compounded over time have become potentially disasterous. The internal combustion engine is that choice. It was inevitable, and necessary to a large degree as electric batteries where very basic and heavy at the start. Here we are at a turning point in our civilisation, again facing a critical choice. We know that the future will be dominated with electrical energy, but how

  68. April 28th, 2010 at 22:03 | #68

    @BilB

    Try this:

    Solar Paces (770Kb)

    @Alice

    and clearly some in the advertising / business/ commercial world see it as a way to sell. Its that simple. Why wouldnt they avail themselves of the free opportunity? Blogs, JQs bog even – he gets a fair number of commenters and readers, is like publicity. Its free. It only requires a name (some anonymous blogger who never reveals their true objective).

    Pathetic Alice … truly lame. Based on nothing at all, you repeat this imputation.

    Once again, let me make clear that I have no pecuniary interest in nuclear power, nor am I acquainted with any person who to the best of my knowledge has such.

    @Ernestine Gross

    Simple proposition Ernestine. We allow nuclear to compete. Like all energy sources, it gets full internalisation and has to be accountable for its full footprint. Same for coal, gas, and everything else. Full transparency and independent auditing applies.

  69. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 28th, 2010 at 22:40 | #69

    Ernestine Gross :@TerjeP (say Taya)
    “But you won’t live equally well with solar. It is going to cost you a lot so that you will live less well. And the health benefits are minor and not worth the cost.”
    This is a nice example of economic rationalism; the accouting profits of a corporation are confused with the economic idea of individuals’ preferences. The act of corporate profits overriding individual’s freedom of choice is very simple to demonstrate by noting that people pay for medical expenses. Dying would be much cheaper!

    EG – you seem to be deliberately confusing my point. I said nothing about corporate profits. I simply outlined the reality that people rountinely tolerate life threatening risks in order to gain utility. People fly on airplanes and drive in cars in spite of the risks. Yes we will pay for health care services to minimise the risk of dying but only up to a point. If the risk of dieing approaches 100% then most of us would probably unload all our earthly possesions to try and avoid such a risk of death but we wouldn’t unload all our earthly possessions to try and avoid a 1% chance of death.

    Given the choice of a nuclear power station down the road from my place, and cheap electricity, or a solar powered grid and the corresponding expensive electricity, I would personally opt for the former. The risk reduction associated with going solar is not worth the expense. This has nothing to do with corporate profit.

  70. BilB
    April 28th, 2010 at 22:59 | #70

    AndrewR,

    Diversification theory used to be called “not putting all your eggs in one basket”. Commonsense stuff really. As a civilisation we have made some bad choices. Choices which seemed right at the time, but once compounded over time have become potentially disasterous. The internal combustion engine is that choice. It was inevitable, and necessary to a large degree as electric batteries where very basic and heavy at the start. Now, here we are at a turning point in our civilisation, again facing a critical choice. We know that the future will be dominated with electrical energy, but how to produce it. And that is what this Solar/Nuclear debarcle is all about. And for that matter why it is so intense.

    The choice is a simple one. Do we knobble our energy future by tethering it to a complex infrastructure and fuel cycle, or do we set it free by using the one eternal energy source that is delivered to every part of our planet as well as our near space.

    Put another way do we leave our energy production in the hands of a profit taking monolithic corporation, or do we take charge of our own energy destiny. Nuclear means a bunch of highly trained technicians controlling an ultracritical physical process to manufacture electricity, leaving us chained to the corporate structure for everything that aids our existence. Solar means independently collect and convert energy when and where we need it or optionally connect to a corporate supplier when we need more than usual. The nature of the choice should explain why the stakes are so high. The corporate world sees the opportunity to lock up the worlds supply of traditional electricity as well as a substantial amount of transport energy with supply from a process that requires an investment level that limits the number of players to a comfortably sized club. However if solar energy takes hold the club will become broken and command control of the worlds energy will be lost.

    The cost of the energy is not the primary driver here, industry dominance is. What energy can be manufactured for bears little resemblence to what it will be sold for. Keep that in mind.

    Dominance or Autonomy, that is your choice.

    I’ll go through the furphy of the costs later.

  71. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 28th, 2010 at 23:06 | #71

    The cost of the energy is not the primary driver here, industry dominance is.

    What a nice story.

  72. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 28th, 2010 at 23:12 | #72

    Cost is the primary driver. If it were cheap and viable to make your own electricity at home than all the supposed wishing for industry dominance in the world would not stop people making cheap electricity at home. Just as all the desire in the world for the media barons to dominate the media has done nothing to stop the rise of blogs and social media. Cost is the primary driver.

  73. BilB
    April 29th, 2010 at 00:01 | #73

    Fran, the Solar Paces document is pretty clear 4.3 billion euros/dollars per giga watt for a facility that provides rated capacity 8000 to 9000 hours per year. The euro/dollars is about how much of the investment is manufactured locally. There is a fairly well qualified starting figure for 24 hour baseload CSP with dry cooling towers. The 2050 aspect is about investment commitment. That figure is available today where the field commitment justifies full production scale ($/sq m mirror area). And as the document says this figure is dependent on local conditions.

  74. BilB
    April 29th, 2010 at 00:42 | #74

    Well Terje if you have been following the story you would have seen that I am confident of $1.50 per watt in a domestic system that will deliver 19200 kwhrs+ per year in Sydney. Do the numbers on that and you will see that if it is attainable then price will soon no longer be an issue. I see the non distributed industry size being reduced by 40% over the next 30 years. The argument then becomes what form will that surviving 60% take. You say Nuclear, I say CSP and wind. My observation is that the systems are very roughly the same price. Fran’s pet game is to scour the internet for the lowest blogged figure she can find then declare that to be the new international Nuclear pricing standard. You on the other hand lob slogan grenades and offer no substance at all to the discussion while professing to be and expert. So hows about saying something believeable. “cost is the primary driver” is a bumper sticker slogan, not meaningful debate.

  75. Ernestine Gross
    April 29th, 2010 at 01:09 | #75

    @Fran Barlow

    You write: “Simple proposition Ernestine. We allow nuclear to compete. Like all energy sources, it gets full internalisation and has to be accountable for its full footprint. Same for coal, gas, and everything else. Full transparency and independent auditing applies.”

    Full internalisation of what? Full footprint of what?

    Please note that for the case of Germany CO2 emission is the only country wide externality in energy supply and price modelling because they have (and it still is in place) a policy of discontinuing nuclear power generation. Similarly, in Australia as long as there is a policy of no nuclear power then CO2 emission is the only country wide externality that needs to be internalised. The competition bit refers then to the remaining energy supply sources.

    The bureaucracy of an auditing process is not the issue at present.

    I have never found cost estimates of nuclear pollution for the EU. I have found some papers from reputable sources which conclude that the risk is so substantial that no private insurance company is willing to take it on. I have linked to these papers in a post quite a while ago which was on the topic nuclear and not on solar. The word ‘risk’ would have to be operationalised to become meaningful to people.

    For several reasons, your reference to the aviation industry is not credible to brush aside non-ghg negative externalities of the nuclear industry. Without having an airport in the middle of Australia’s largest city and flight path over hundreds of thousands of people, the Australian public could save itself contingent tax liabilities and potential grief.

    I have no questions for you.

  76. April 29th, 2010 at 01:26 | #76

    So, BilB – you propose to implement the “not putting all of your eggs in one basket” by having everything go solar – oops and maybe a little wind.
    Fascinating.

  77. Ernestine Gross
    April 29th, 2010 at 01:31 | #77

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    No, I do not deliberately or actually distort your point. I’ll spell out why. Your proposition is an example of economic rationalism from an individual’s point of view because you assume that an individual, like a corporation, is interested only in mimimising monetary costs. By contrast, in economics concerned with non-dictatorial resource allocation, it is assumed that individuals make decisions according to their preferences, subject to a monetary budget constraint. The outcomes are not identical, even if we would have complete markets, which we don’t.

    “People fly on airplanes and drive in cars in spite of the risks.” But they don’t have to take on the risk. Moreover, the word risk is an ambrella term, which may be sufficient for compartive transport studies. But what about genetic mutation due to environmental pollution? It is also a risk but not really the same as that from transportation.

    “Given the choice of a nuclear power station down the road from my place, and cheap electricity, or a solar powered grid and the corresponding expensive electricity, I would personally opt for the former. ”

    This is one of these treaded talking point sentences. What is ‘cheap’ and what is ‘expensive’? If I would be the only person in a sufficiently large country and close to 90 years and my monetary budget would be close to zero then I would act just like you say (except that nobody would build a nuclear power station for me and I wouldn’t be able to do it).

    As it stands, I am benefitting from lower electricity consumption due to solar hot water and, if I grow to 90 then I expect to keep on benefitting from the technological developments in the renewable energy sector. See study referenced by Fran Barlow.

  78. Ernestine Gross
    April 29th, 2010 at 01:42 | #78

    Terje, I am not sure you are interested in this technicality, but I mention it, just in case: The dual of profit maximisation (cost minimisation) is easier to establish theoretically then the dual for utility maximisation (expenditure minimisation) because in the latter one needs to make a very strong assumption about preferences. Furthermore, it doesn’t work when markets are incomplete. Its not your fault, people seem to have given you very old texts.

  79. April 29th, 2010 at 05:31 | #79

    @BilB

    There are several issues bundled up here that need unpacking.

    Do we nobble our energy future by tethering it to a complex infrastructure and fuel cycle, or do we set it free by using the one eternal energy source that is delivered to every part of our planet as well as our near space.

    Our “energy future” (like all the other things urban society does, is going to be “a complex infrastructure” whatever choices we make. Having a system that load balances the output of millions of rooftops, waste biomass, solar thermal plants, gas plants, coal, hydro, geothermal, tidal, wave by resorting to thermal salt batteries, V2G, demand management and more is not non-complex in system terms.

    or do we set it free by using the one eternal energy source that is delivered to every part of our planet as well as our near space.

    Its alive! Ah … metaphor. I love it. You can have an energy system like a poor tethered animal or one that is set free to wander the plains and realise the dream and enjoy the sunshine. This is not analysis but poetry.

    As has been repeatedly pointed out, the fact that sunshine is delivered free doesn’t make it free to collect or store, and as Trieb notes in that paper I sent you a link to, adequate insolation is not even universal.

    do we leave our energy production in the hands of a profit taking monolithic corporation, or do we take charge of our own energy destiny.

    Poetry morphs into cultural rhetoric. If solar thermal, geothermal, tidal, wave or wind and the systems needed to store and deliver their output turn out to be technically, economically and operationally feasible at industrial scale, the capital involved will utterly dwarf that required for nuclear. At best, lots of monolithic corporations seeking profit will have to run them, or the state will. If you have power from millions of rooftops, then some monolithic corporation or the state will have to buy and reconcile all that output. It’s astonishing you don’t see that.

    Nuclear means a bunch of highly trained technicians controlling an ultracritical physical process to manufacture electricity, leaving us chained to the corporate structure for everything that aids our existence.

    So the energy system is “tethered” and we are “chained”? Again, putting aside the populist rhetoric, this is really an appeal against large scale society in favour of something like the autonomy that comes with being a subsistence dweller. You are a lot more like Terje thhan you know. What bonds us humans is the benefit we get from collaborating. We live better precisely because our existence is aided by a “corporate” structure (i.e one that makes a heterogeneous set of humans and their interests and talents into a single body –a corpus — from which the word corporation derives. Unless we can trade in the things we are good at or which we need or give us pleasure, each of us is constrained by what we personally can acquire or learn. Complex society allows us to benefit from each other.

    Solar means independently collect and convert energy when and where we need it …

    This could be Thatcher talking. A nation of shopkeepers. Again you and Terje are a lot closer than you allow.

    And this is not what Franz Trieb’s CSP entails. He favours massive systems with massive capital, which is what makes his system at least plausible. He wants economies of scale in which growth in investment lowers the cost. It sounds astonishingly optimistic, but whether it is or isn’t, it’s not small scale and if it were a public company (or several or a state business), we would very much be tied into a corporate structure.

    The corporate world sees the opportunity to lock up the worlds supply of traditional electricity as well as a substantial amount of transport energy with supply from a process that requires an investment level that limits the number of players to a comfortably sized club.

    Ah … so now we have something called “the corporate world” existing in some room someplace with a plan based on “locking up” (possibly part of “tethering”, “chaining” — I assume they have shares in ropes, chains and key manufacturerers?) “traditional and a substantial amount of energy” so they can form a club. Gosh, if all they want is a club it sounds like a lot of effort. Ans why only “a substantial amount of transport energy?” Don’t they already have almostt all of it? Who but large corporations or states own oil harvest and refining?

    However if solar energy takes hold the club will become broken and command control of the worlds energy will be lost.

    Really, it’s like Astro Boy or Zorro isn’t it? It’s David and Goliath all over again. Little solar energy battling for you and me with a big sunny face. What a lovely warm inner glow! What a pity it is a fantasy. I was enjoying that.

    The cost of the energy is not the primary driver here, industry dominance is.

    So let me get this straight. They aren’t mainly interested in profit. They mainly want “dominance”. They are cliquey control freaks who want to tell us what to do and how toi live. That is worrying. I imagine them all sitting in a m obscure rooom under the Vatican or the Whitehouse exchanging whiskey and working out how to keep little solar from foiling their plans to decide what energy we will use today.

    Dominance or Autonomy, that is your choice

    We aren’t really talking about energy here are we? Come on BilB. This is a cultural claim. This is the subtext of The Tea Party without the loopy hatred of Obama and foreigners. Big corporations: bad. Little local people: good. Mass production: inauthentic, evil. Local production: authentic, virtuous.

    And here I was thinking this was about which suite of options would work best.

  80. BilB
    April 29th, 2010 at 06:37 | #80

    Fran,

    Some of us can remember legislation that prevented the individual from generating their own electricity. That was a market dominance that concreted our dependence on coal. Had Howard been successful in forcing through an introduction for Nuclear power, government would have been integrally entwined with ensuring its success. From enabling legislation, financing, insuring, through to educational support, port facilities, fuel transport facilities, fuel processing, and waste management. The government would have been unavoidably involved. And there would have been a very great risk of the introduction of such anti-diversification legislation again. And of course the justification would simply be that it was about “saving the planet”. That is how industry dominance comes about, and works.

    Apart from wind energy infrastructure, a very small amount of solar photo voltaic, and some biomass generation capacity there is very little other energy change commitment underway in Australia today. Very little has changed under Rudd and the withdrawal of the ETS, especially the manner in which it came about, signals a “back to square one”status for energy change within Australia. Anything can happen from this point.

    “And here I was thinking this was about which suite of options would work best”…….please.

    Fran, your entire rhetoric is about the wonderfulness of “clean”, “safe”, “cheap”, “eternal”, “the only choice…everything else is an unnecessary distraction”, “I used to believe in renewables but now see how they just cannot work”, Nuclear energy. If people are thinking of your approach as being that of a nuclear industry toady, then you have well and truly earnt that mantle. Go back and read your own writings here and elsewhere for the last year or two.

  81. April 29th, 2010 at 07:07 | #81

    @BilB

    So let me get this straight. You offer no defence to the critique above? The best you can manage is that I am a “nuclear industry toady” and that some non-specified restraints oin generating one’s own energy “concreted our dependence on coal”.

    Really, this is laughable, but what I suspected all along. You are not really interested in energy systems for their utility but for their cultural significance.

  82. BilB
    April 29th, 2010 at 07:35 | #82

    Fran,

    Your critique does not register your understanding the content, and #31 confirms that.

  83. Salient Green
    April 29th, 2010 at 08:48 | #83

    Recent progress in Solar PV is awesome. We now have Triple Junction Thin Film achieving 14.8% efficiency.
    http://www.pv-tech.org/news/_a/silicon_thin_film_triple_junction_cell_boost_efficiencies_to_14.8_for_mitsu/

    Triple Junction Thin Film out performs silicon based cells.
    http://www.docstoc.com/docs/5511536/California-Triple-Junction-Thin-Film-Photovoltaic-Manufacturing-Proposal-Stephen-Heckeroth/

    And some more news on US $1 per watt.
    http://www.pv-tech.org/news/_a/photon_consulting_get_ready_for_us1.00_per_watt_across_all_solar_pv_technol/

    This is all happening without a worldwide carbon price. Not looking good for coal or Nuclear.

  84. gregh
    April 29th, 2010 at 08:53 | #84

    @Fran Barlow
    You keep giving the stock technocratic responses Fran Barlow – in this case energy (any problem) can be considered in isolation from its societal implications. or at best societal/cultural issues are secondary – next you’ll be coming up with accusations of NIMBY-ism and ‘other people don’t count all for the greater good’ sorts of rubbish.

    As with nuclear the technocratic model of govt (the machinery of state needs just a few more levers added for better control ie economy/society is adequately modeled as linear relations) has been superseded. Made sense at the time, nice try and all that, but time’s up, better ideas take over.

  85. TerjeP (say Taya)
    April 29th, 2010 at 09:24 | #85

    BilB – you’re ignoring capacity factor. And I’m not claiming expert status.

    EG – my point wasn’t about corporate profit. Nor was it a pure monetary calculation. So I still feel that you are distorting my point.

    People accept the risk of gene mutation or they would not go out in the sun or watch TV. The question is not whether people accept risk but how much they accept and what will they forgo to avoid risk. Living with a nuclear power plant is an extremely low risk compared to the other risks in life that we contend with on a daily basis.

  86. BilB
    April 29th, 2010 at 10:34 | #86

    Not forgetting capacity factor at all, Terje. The solar paces document covers that with with the SM1-4 configurations, SM4 being capacity output 8000 to 9000 hours per year (8760 being 100%). I suggest that you are entirely ignoring demand factors and capacity factor pairing.

    Sure people accept natural risks. We are talking about Unatural Risk with Nuclear contamination. Natural risk is bad enough but compounding that unnecessarily is a serious matter.

    You did attempt to claim the technological high ground in a comment, now you have to withdraw that or carry the ongoing responsibility.

  87. Ernestine Gross
    April 29th, 2010 at 11:44 | #87

    @gregh

    “NIMBY-ism” has already been tried by the hijackers of threads. I don’t remember the web-name though. The last time it was applied big-time was at the time when the public in Sydney went on the streets in protest against aircraft noise in the mid-1990s.

    My suggestion on another thread to tax this type of public relations activity was not entirely tongue-in-cheek. It is a total waste of resources.

  88. TerjeP (say Taya)
    April 29th, 2010 at 12:36 | #88

    BilB – I’m not claiming high ground. Just keen to point out that I’m not a technological slacker.

    Driving a car entails unnatural risks. Flying in an aeroplane entails unnatural risks. Crossing a bridge entails unnatural risks. People accept unnatural risks all the time. The notion that nuclear is somehow of a different class of unnatural doesn’t hold up. There is a risk that a nuclear power station will melt down or leak and kill you or anybody else living within a given distance. It is extremely small but it is real. However banning buses makes more sense. The risk of being killed by a bus is much higher. It is less likely that we will all get hit by buses on the same day but that isn’t really relevant. The risk that each of us faces due to buses is still vastly higher than the risk each of us would face from a nuclear power plant in the neighbourhood.

  89. Fran Barlow
    April 29th, 2010 at 12:45 | #89

    @TerjeP (say Taya)

    And look at those kids from Newington the other day. They were getting stuff from their lockers when the walkway on which they were standing collapsed. That was the chance they took, on the advice of adults.

    As it goes, nobody was killed but that was mere happenstance. Should they avoid walkways from now on? Should they demand all walkways have been accredited to a higher standard and seek documentation before putting weight on them or walking underneath them?

    Not feasible really. We take risks and hope others have done their jobs professionally. In this case, it seems they had not. When someone suffers as a result of negligence we sue. That’s how it works.

  90. Ernestine Gross
    April 29th, 2010 at 13:03 | #90

    @TerjeP (say Taya)

    “EG – my point wasn’t about corporate profit. Nor was it a pure monetary calculation. So I still feel that you are distorting my point. ”

    Maybe Fran Barlow has a point after all that you have a problem with the choice of words. More seriously, I can’t do anything about your feelings about my motivation. If you wish to resolve this, then I ask you to provide me with an economic reference which you have in mind and which contradicts what I said.

    “People accept the risk of gene mutation or they would not go out in the sun or watch TV. The question is not whether people accept risk but how much they accept and what will they forgo to avoid risk. Living with a nuclear power plant is an extremely low risk compared to the other risks in life that we contend with on a daily basis.”

    1. See BilB @36,p.2

    2. Instead of further clarification or refinement of the term ‘risk’ in context, you revert back to the ambrella term. Not helpful.

    3. Your preferences are your prerogative. Promoting them as if they were self-evident facts about everybody else is neither truthful nor helpful. I take as given the current legislation as reflecting the preferences of the public.

    4. I’d like to note the inconsistency of your policy regarding taxation. You object to taxation of cigarettes while being prepared to argue for contingent tax liability the size of which cannot be estimated with any degree of accuracy.

    To return to the topic of this thread. The 2008 paper by Trieb, linked by Fran Barlows, contains information on the relative suitability of various regions in the world for CSP. Not surprisingly for people with basic knowledge of geography, Australia is heavily endowed with suitable areas.

    I’d like to note that the first and only relevant reference the nuclear power hijackers of this thread have provided supports BilB’s posts, which refute the nuclear support hijacker’s position.

    No irony alert required here. This is the outcome. No need to rubb it in.

  91. BilB
    April 29th, 2010 at 13:28 | #91

    Terje#38,

    Fair enough on the technology item.

    On risk

    http://www.chernobylee.com/blog/2010/03/radioactive-tritium-leaking-fr.php

    Radioactive tritium, half life 12.3 years, leaking from 27 of 65 nuclear sites into ground water. This is the kind of outcome that we just do not need in Australia. And the denials by the plant owners are the type of bare faced dishonesty that makes claims of “safe industry” totally unbelieveable. Australia is the most solar rich continent on this planet, to ignore that resource and pore money into a technology that carries these sorts of dangerous probabilities would be a travesty of lntelligence.

    If solar panels where exuding radioactive chemicals then there would be a balanced risk. But they are not.

  92. Michael
    April 29th, 2010 at 20:32 | #92

    I hesitate to go off topic here and bring solar into the discussion but has anyone here looked into the overhead of the grid? It seems to me that a big part of the appeal of roof top PV’s in the imaginations of many people is the idea of getting off the grid. Whilst this is only economical in areas without existing grid access at the moment I have encountered quite a few people who believe it’s both desirable and feasible to do so in the future. It seems to me to be a little ridiculous in the cities, but the electricity retailers in Victoria haven’t exactly endeared themselves to the public. We get door-knocked at least once a month by a representative of one or other retailer trying to get us to switch and I know plenty of people who have had long running disputes over billing. The other issue is the wastage of converting so much electricity in houses from AC to DC. This presents a technical challenge but if one imagines LED lights and smart switches to manage domestic power you could probably reduce household electricity by at least 50%.

  93. BilB
    April 29th, 2010 at 22:55 | #93

    There is a lot coming along, Michael. It is better to wait for a while. Europe is getting under way with smart appliances. There is a lot going on with lighting. Inverters will be in the 95 to 98 percent efficient soon so running on 240 volt from batteries will not carry losses. Second hand electric car battery packs should start to become available in maybe six or eight years. The real boost will come with much higher yield PV systems. I think that it is a case of dabble a little, look and learn, at this stage.

  94. BilB
    April 30th, 2010 at 08:06 | #94

    The change to electical power offers new energy for all, and it is no longer just boys and their toys

    http://www.evahakansson.se/

  95. BilB
    May 5th, 2010 at 07:43 | #95

    Earlier on Fran Barlow made a comment about using electricity to replace all energy, ie convert transport energy consumed to joules and then to kilowatts, to see how much energy is required for a total transition to electricity. The figure is quite huge. But there is a falacy in the argument and I asked Fran if she could see what it was. I bring this up because a lot of other people have fallen into the same trap.

    The fallacy is in the fact that internal combustion engines are not efficient in the conversion of energy. In fact for a petrol engine only 25% of the energy in the fuel is used to drive the vehicle forward. Electric motors are up to 95% efficient (brushless DC) on the other hand so a direct energy conversion is overstating the energy to travel the same distance petrol to electric by a factor of at least 3.

    That is why this vehicle

    http://www.gizmag.com/volkswagen-milano-taxi-electric-vehicle/14891/?utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=88dc79d9cd-UA-2235360-4&utm_medium=email

    will travel 300 kilometres on a just 45 Kwhrs of energy. And that energy charge (tank fill) at today’s prices will cost just $8.55 instead of $30.00 for petrol. Add that cost efficiency to the greatly reduced serving costs for running an electic vehicle ie no oil changes or tuneup or timing belt changes etc required.

    Just to tantalise, at 2 tank fills per week, to run a small 4 door, petrol will cost $3120 per year against $860 per year for electricity. Over 10 years that is petrol $31,000 against $8,600 for electric. A family cashflow difference of $22,000. In this comparison it is safe to say that the cost of running batteries is balanced against the cost of servicing a petrol engine, though it is probably cheaper to run batteries including several replacements.

    Now if most or all of that electricity comes from roof top solar PV you can see that the real cost of family energy hardware and running costs is not a simple picture.

  96. BilB
    May 5th, 2010 at 08:34 | #96

    I was thinking about the VW Milano formula in the shower, and with its 300 klm range and 120 kph top speed it fits very well with my vehicle useage envelope. It also fits very well with my distant city student daughters needs. It even works well with the intercity 900 klm commute with its 1 hour to 80% battery fill rate. For that trip it means taking two 80 minute stops along the way ie two very good rests which would almost be the minimum adviseable for a long haul trip, and not that much more than would be taken any way with normal tank fill and coffee stops. Speed wise the whole Sydney Melbourne route has a 110 kph speed limit which on my recent trips I found I did not exceed using the cruise control and it was fast enough.

    That brings up the costing flaw in my above argument. The argument is correct for today’s situation, but the costing does not consider road useage charges as electricity does not contain an excise component. Food for thought.

  97. BilB
    May 6th, 2010 at 12:13 | #97

    EV vehicle charging, Telecoms get in on the opportunity in a very logical connection that services credit card payment.

    http://www.gizmag.com/telekom-austria-phonebooth-charging-stations/15002/?utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=9600477ad2-UA-2235360-4&utm_medium=email

    It is the market primarily who will decide what works and what does not.

  98. May 6th, 2010 at 14:53 | #98

    @BilB
    Brisbane to Lennox Head (northern NSW) is about 200km, so the Milano would do that easily.

    Presumably the vehicle uses almost no power while “idling” or stopped – as in slow or jammed traffic. If so, that’s even better!

  99. BilB
    May 6th, 2010 at 15:47 | #99

    I suspect, David, that the vehicle has regenerative braking which means that it recovers kinetic in the braking and downhill situations putting charge back into the battery. The only caution is that open road may use more energy than city so full speed travel may reduce the range. But in principle a 300klm range is very serviceable. I am imagining that it would be possible to have a “stow in the boot” range extender pack for extra safety on long haul trips. And, yes, while stopped electric vehicles use minimal power. I do like the idea of the telephone box charging points. The power is ther, the phone is there for credit card charging. Smart thinking. It is a good way for causing a broad charge point system happening quickly.

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