This is a simplified version of the presentation I will be making this Tuesday morning at the ASPO 7 Conference (the full presentation should be posted on that website in a couple of days). I must admit that I have been a bit nonplussed to see that the peak oil community seems to share the oil industry's dismissal of wind power as irrelevant and useless in the face of the currently energy challenge (maybe I am unfairly judging from a few individuals' comments, but it's definitely an existing undercurrent in the community).

So, in reaction, let me put up here a few arguments that suggest that wind could play a major role in solving our current energy woes - not a silver bullet, but rather more than a side show.



First, the "wind is too small to make a difference" argument: well, so was nuclear, until it got big enough. Wind is following the exact same growth trajectory:

And, as the image show before, wind power has already been a large part of energy investments for a number of years now, at least in Europe (but the rest of the world is now catching up, with the USA and China booming):

Over the past 8 years, wind has represented around 40% of new installed capacity (which, it is true, represents a smaller fraction a new production, in MWh, which is probably closer to 25%). In terms of investment amounts, wind has actually been the biggest business for the power generation manufaturers like GE or Siemens, given that a wind MW costs about double what a gas MW costs (prices per MWh are something else, given that you still need to buy the natural gas to burn to generate using a gas turbine...).

Wind will be a core instrument for the EU to fulfill its stated objectives of reducing carbon emissions and improving energy independence.

So it is simply false to say that wind is too small to matter. It is the biggest power generation industry by turnover in Europe, and it is on a fast growing trend that will quickly ensure that it becomes a significant part of the installed generation base. The industry reached the level of 100 GW ofinstalled capacity this year, as well as the threshhold of being able to produce 1 exajoule per year of useful energy. In fact, wind is reaching the stage where nuclear was when it was hit by the 1973 energy shock (which lowered demand and killed new investment) and the 1979 Three Mile Island accident (which turned the public against the industry) and is unlikely to hit the same snags:

Public opinion, despite persistent anti-wind lobbying by the coal or nuke industries and a few well-funded NIMBY associations, is massively behind wind power:

Under market price setting mechanisms, wind power (which has a zero marginal cost) brings wholesale prices down when it is available, by avoiding the need for more expensive coal-fired or, more usually, gas-fired power plants that would otherwise be required to balance the system.

The overall effect (price reduction multiplied by the relevant volume) now brings savings to consumers in Denmark that are equivalent to the gross cost of feed-in tariffs, and significantly higher than the net subsidy, as wholesale prices are now pretty close to, and increasingly often higher than, the feed-in tariffs guaranteed to wind power producers.

The same is already true in Germany, despite its somewhat lower wind penetration than in Denmark (11 (ed: wrongly used the number for Spain) 7% of electricity produced, vs 25%)

In other words, wind subsidies demonstrably save money for eletricity consumers, ie they are smart regulation.

An another interesting point to note is that wind power costs are now also well understood: industrial-size turbines now have a 15-year track record, and availability has been consistently in the 96-98% range, as shown by this meta study on 14,000 turbines:

And while offshore is slightly more expensive today than onshore wind, we're not about to run out of convenient spots at sea, away from whining onlookers, to continue the development of the industry:

More stories about wind, and more discussion of other issues surrounding wind can be found on this page, of which I select a few noteworthy items:

the real cost of electricityAlternative energies: wind power (an introduction)My job (financing wind farms)No technical limitation to wind power penetration (discussing the intermittency issue)Why wind needs feed-in tariffs (and why it is not the enemy of nuclear)Fierce price - yes it works! (first offshore wind farm to be financed is completed)Gore sets goal of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2020 (how it can be done)

Jerome, Thanks for your timely wind booster. One issue is the operating costs as turbines age. Is it now possible to have a better understanding of the expected useful life of the larger newer designs?

There are gearboxes, bearings, blades, axle and so forth that are subject to quite high stress. Material fatigue eventually wins. You may be able to recycle copper and other valuable materials, but you do have to essentially take the investment cost again, periodically.

Bearings and things like that get replaced as part of normal maintenance. The generator would have to be rewound several times in a 25 year lifetime, again normal maintenance. There are gearboxes on compressors, handling 20,000 hp and operating at 1000's of rpm, that I've seen that have been running for 60 odd years. The big killers of rotating equipment are vibration and corrosion. I'd guess that a modern turbine blade that lasted 25 years without fatigue failure would probably go another 25 easily, as long as it was kept in balance. Unbalanced operation would kill it rapidly.

There are gearboxes on compressors, handling 20,000 hp and operating at 1000's of rpm, that I've seen that have been running for 60 odd years

Isn't it the fact that wind turbines turn so slowly which mean that the gearboxes have to be among the most powerful in the world to be able to handle the torque, even though wind turbines are "only" up to 5MW?

What is notable is how quickly within that lifespan the wind generators tend to pay back the energy invested, so that the net EROI is quite high for a well-sited wind generator.

There are power plants older than 50 years still operating, and their steam turbines experience much worse conditions than any wind turbine. You replace the parts that wear out, like bearings, and keep going. For a wind turbine, short of the foundation failing or a blade failure, I can't think of any reason the thing couldn't run forever with the correct spare parts and maintenance.

But then you are looking at the paradox of the classic car, "I've owned it for forty years, and replaced every part in it at least twice".

Whether the depreciation is made good incrementally or by taking it down and putting up the latest model, it still must be made good, and for the NEROI, it matters little whether the energy cost of that is accounted for as periodic replacement or as investment in major maintenance.

Disagree. The maintenance is always cheaper. You do not have to invest in site prep and a myriad of other things for a new unit. Again, I live twenty miles from Power Vista, which is like a 60 year old hydroelectric generating facility. Nobody talks about replacing that. You replace worn parts and keep on trucking.

Accounting for it as the wind generator lasting forever is not simply saying that the major maintenance is less expensive, its saying that the major maintenance is free.

And if the NEROI is attractive under the simpler complete replacement accounting, then it is clearly still attractive if the average life is extended with incremental rather than complete replacement. So I do not see why assuming away depreciation leads to a more robust estimate of NEROI than making a conservative lifetime assumption and assuming simple replacement at the end of the working life.

What do you mean by "maintenance is always cheaper"? At some point, you have spent as much on maintenance as you did on the original investment. Perhaps in 20-30 years.

Comparing with hydro isn't really fair - site prep and dam building represents most of the cost there. For wind, you are talking about regularly replacing the expensive parts. The logistics is harder, too.

Also, there are multiple large bearings, for instance the one that makes the tower able to face the wind. Forces are applied unevenly as the tower stops some wind at the bottom, btw.

Thanks for highlighting that ... its a critical point. And given that a new wind turbine with the same sweep can use the same site, and that building a new turbine (with the latest technology) will take place in a factory at ground level under cover at a site dedicated to producing turbines, rather than at a remote site, and either at elevation and in cramped quarters or exposed, or at ground level with much of the cost of installing a new turbine required to re-install the refitted turbine ...

... it is by no means automatic that the rebuild/refit versus replacement decision will always go to rebuild/refit.

Meanwhile, in determining the NEROI, it is possible to evaluate the current Full Energy Cost of the current technology, and estimate the expected life under the replacement scenario, and get a conservative NEROI ... the net energy savings for refit/rebuild versus replacement are more speculative, and there is no pressing need to engage in the speculation.

Actually I am questioning exactly that. The most expensive parts of the turbine installation are the foundation, the electrical, and the blades themselves. Bearings are a small part of the project. I do not see much reason why the most expensive parts have to be regularly replaced.

But the foundation won't necessarily need to be replaced with installation of a new turbine, so how does it enter into the refit versus replace decision? Unless, of course, a substantially larger turbine is being installed, and if it is, that would mean that its benefit justifies the extra expense over replacing on the same footprint, and the same benefit would translate to the refit decision.

The installation and transportation of the towers is the largest expense. The 100 m towers are too long to truck in one piece by road or rail. Large, heavy- lift cranes are required to put these and the gyres/alternators into place.

Ironically, wind farms could (and should) be placed in suburbia. This is where the demand is and the towers would add some soul to the otherwise 'soul destroying landscape'.

Given the existing technology that can carry electricity for 1,000km with substantially less than 10% line losses, the wind towers should be placed where the resource is.

Even in the updated Ohio map that showed that there was more onshore wind resource here than had previously been suspected ... most of the core resource area are rural counties. Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Akron, Canton, Dayton are all in low resource areas ... towers in some outlying suburbs of Toledo, maybe, depending on the price of electricity ... but mostly in maize and soybean farm territory.

The 2006 report to the UK government (pdf) that is cited in a discussion below gives installation costs as 1% of capital expenses for onshore wind generators. I have not seen that it breaks down the expense of the wind turbine between tower, nacelle components, and rotor components, or cost at site between manufacturing cost and transport cost, but the installation does not appear to be a massive part of the CAPEX.

This 2004 source (pdf) on the economic impact of expanded wind turbine installation in the US, gives the cost breakdown as:

So if those costs decline roughly in line over the expected life of a newly installed wind turbine, then replacement-in-place would save a little less than a quarter of the original installation costs if the tower is still sound ... given that CAPEX is such a dominant component of cost for a wind turbine, a larger sweep that requires larger towers with different spacing would have to expect a revenue gain of 36% to break even.

Apologies for not coming back to you earlier - I did not have time to re-check my sources. The figure you give for the estimate for off-shore wind of 35% is correct on page 32. It should be noted though that these are early estimates only, and I have also linked to more recent plans to move off-shore turbines closer in to reduce costs, so it is a bit early to work out how all the different factors will play out. This is the reason I also gave the link to 'The Times' article, which although it does not give a detailed breakdown, is based on estimates from EON, one of the major suppliers. Other estimates are readily available by googling which are in the same ball-park.

This link from a specific site in New Zealand may also be of interest to you, as it is both more specific and more current:http://www.contactenergy.co.nz/web/pdf/our_projects/waikatowindfarm/june....

One element which I noted was the high estimates of transmission losses, going up to as much as 15% in the case of transmission between the two islands. (p21)

Of course, both costs and geography are far more favourable in NZ than the UK, with hydroelectricity and geothermal to back it up, plentiful land and high average wind speeds.

One element which I noted was the high estimates of transmission losses, going up to as much as 15% in the case of transmission between the two islands. (p21)

Yes, there is a trade-off between HVAC transmission and HVDC transmission, with HVAC transmission having much higher line losses per 100km, and HVDC having a high fixed cost component in the conversion to AC at the grid feed-in end of the trunk (both ends for a cross-haul trunk). New Zealand is a nation with a relatively small population ... under half the population of my state of Ohio ... with somewhere around 1m in the South Island. At the scale of a continental scale interconnection grid in the EU or North America or even Oz (which for Oz might well be just one or two trunks), NZ would be one grid in the network.

New Zealand is an excellent test site to assess running most of a grid on renewables. With the very small population it would not be suitable for nuclear reactors - if one went down it would take out too much of the grid, although the small floating Russian reactors or the Pebble bed reactor might do. Back up for wind seems to be the chief difficulty, when hydroelectric power is low due to drought.

I have a lot less difficulty in imagining NZ or Iceland being all renewable than Britain or Germany though, and for the more extreme advocates of renewables only it should be noted that neither are anywhere near being able to run everything on them. Hopefully that will change in the next few years, and we can use the experience gained to increase the percentage elsewhere. It's a darn sight easier to run on renewables with a population of 4 million, closer to the equator and with good wind and geothermal resources then in cold and crowded Britain - the land area is about equal.

New Zealand is, wisely, a nuclear free zone. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear-free_zone#New_Zealand

Somewhere in one of these comment threads I make reference to the biocapacity estimates of the Global Footprint Network ... the US biocapacity is estimated at 4.7 hectares/capita (against a footprint of 9.6 ha/capita), and the EU biocapacity is estimated at 2.2 ha/capita (against a footprint of 4.8 ha/capita). Taking that as a rough guide, the same intensity of harvest of sustainable renewable resources that would cover 100% of US electricity supply would cover somewhere shy of 50% of EU electricity supply. Now, that is the roughest of BOTE calculations, given different resource mixes, different electricity share in total energy use, etc. ...

... but it does, I think, give a reasonable ballpark idea of the difference in situation ... the EU has a larger population on a smaller natural resource base.

The "biocapacity rich" countries include many of the ones we would expect ... listing biocapacity first, Australia at 12.4 vs 6.6 ha/capita, Canada at 14.5 vs 7.6 ha/capita, Brazil at 9.9 vs 2.1 ha/capita.

Bruce, just as an update and to show the extreme difficulty of getting accurate figures for wind because costs are changing so rapidly, here are current figures according to 'The Times' -http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/natural_...

This puts the on-shore costs up to something similar to the 2006 estimates for off-shore, so the costs for off-shore would fall into line with EON's estimates of £80 billion for 33 GW nameplate quite easily.

It is also doubtful if these figures include the latest fall of the pound sterling, but recent falls in commodity prices would go in the other direction.

The cost of other energy sources will also rise, but there are very serious questions as to how much off-shore will be affordable, even using ODE's estimate of a 35% capacity factor.

BTW, I believe the figure I was using of 30% was from the BERR estimates, but I did the investigation some time ago when the plans for 33GW of off-shore was first announced, and so now can't be sure. The assumptions behind various estimates is often critical, and since the latest plan is to move them closer in-shore to minimise cost it seems possible that a lower capacity factor than ODE's estimates might be more appropriate.

Overall though, unless we can access up to date figures for specific installations, the estimates are a pretty rough guide.

Dear DaveMart, my apologies if I use this thread that is a bit off-topic but the more on-topic posts are closed already.

I've just noticed that you are a huge fan of KiteGen: perhaps you are the biggest fan of KiteGen on the whole OildDrum! :-)

Once you wrote that financing it is an issue and yes, it is but you might be pleased to know that now there is a small holding trying to finance it... allowing small/medium investors to take part in this project.

Your profile does not give a contact address, so please feel free to contact me at brittanicone2007 at yahoo dot co dot uk

Jerome; Thanks for the post. I might be one of many who are a bit silent in our support of windpower. The opponents have a lot to say, while to me this energy source is obvious enough that I probably don't say enough to help balance out the detractors.

I must admit I don't notice many wind detractors - obviously I'm just filtering them out as cranks or not paying enough attention.

It would seem obvious from present growth rates alone that wind is a serious contender to supply a significant proportion of the world's energy needs - and it will be clean, cheap energy, unlike alternatives that rely on the extraction of depleting and polluting resources.

I just keep hearing the twin complaints of 'Intermittency' and 'Grid Overloading' as reasons apparently not to invest in wind. (Or at least of how 'wind can't do it all, so why bother?') Surely, the turbines are going up despite this ongoing refrain.

And I'd like to suggest the NGK Sodium-Sulfur battery as a solution, or something equivalent. I don't have any connection with NGK, nor any money invested in it, but I like the design.

And only 500 Million per GWh of storage. The cost of 12 hours Sodium-Sulfur storage will probably pay for a brand spanking new nuk. HHHHMMM which is the better deal a 12 GWh Sodium-Sulfur battery or a 1 GW reactor that will pump out power 90% of the time for 80 years? Time's up!

Do you have some um, back-of-the-napkin figures to justify that price? I'd like to see your work. Don't forget to include process improvements; since it's made up of common elements the cost ought to come down with mass production.

And, in a world of rusting hulks I'd prefer that they not be radioactive rusting hulks. Sulfur, sodium, alumina, and structural steel will not be lasting hazards for the next several thousand years.

Modular pumped hydro uses cheap, common elements, has a long life, and is about 85% efficient. Its not got the same power density, but if the equipment is produced in volume to reach scale economies, would have substantially more power storage per dollar capital cost, which is more critical.

Of course, that is more for system of interconnected grids than for free-standing grids, because elevation is such a multiplier of power storage per dollar capital cost, and elevation of very useful levels tends to discourage population, so the most useful sites are more likely to be on the path between two grids than smack in the middle of a grid.

Of course, by the same token, a system of interconnected grids has less need for energy storage per MW capacity of wind or nuclear than a free-standing system.

The Smart Energy Matrix™ is a design concept for multi-flywheel-based energy storage systems that would provide a long-term sustainable solution for frequency regulation on the electricity grid.

There is always an adverse effect to things like this. See "why things bit back" for more examples of the general concept.

We cannot "extract" massive maounts of wind energy and convert it to other forms without some sort of impact, so what is that impact, and is it significant? Perhaps there are many gadzillions of joules of wind energy, and it will be all but impossible for us to significantly affect the wind at any development scale, but OTOH you can't get around thermodynamics altogether, so what are the numbers?

What does wind affect? Well there's weather, bird and insect migration, pollination, pollution distribution, erosion and probably heaps of other things that I can't think of at the moment.

I'd love to be referred to a good study of what the consequences might be, for sea life affected by vibration and noise, for birds killed by blades, and on what else we should expect to change by generating wind shadows.

I have no idea where to start on this stuff, but I do know that the wind will be affected, and this is a form of energy extraction. Perhaps it will act somewhat to counter extreme weather events caused by AGW?

These are all fair questions, which all deserve answers. Some are not relevant today, but might be in the future

- re the overall energy of wind, I have read that the resource is several orders of magnitudes larger than what we could harvest, so this does not seem to be an issue (no sources at hand right now)

- re birds, the impact has been extensively studied, and other than the well publicized case of Altamont Pass, seems negligible

- re marine impact: studies are under way, the studies I have seen so far seem more positive than negative (wind farms offshores could even become havens for various sea species as there is no fishing).

Besides the fact that wind power would be absorbing only a small portion of the wind energy from the atmosphere, there is the possibility that what energy is extracted is a good thing in terms of counteracting global warming and to a greater extent its effects. Too much wind energy in the atmosphere is one of the dangerous effects of global warming. The issue of what happens to the energy extracted and the energy wasted would require some analysis; much of it ends up as heat that just goes back into the atmosphere.

Birds: The impact is negligible, probably even at Altamont Pass. The number of birds killed annually at that pass seem high until you compare it to the number of turbines. And wind turbines pale in comparison to other man made (and natural) causes of bird mortality. Bats have received some attention lately; apparently far more bats are killed then birds for a given amount of power product, especially in the east. This is being worked on.

Wind transfers heat energy poleward from the equator. Large scale wind power build outs sucking this energy will make the equatorial areas slightly warmer and the polar regions slightly cooler. Greenhouse effect warming is expected to warm the poles more than the tropics, and the wind power climate effect is expected to be less than the climate change you would get from the fossil fuels that are replaced. To some extent this can be mitigated by site selection.

I heard recently of an experiment where the wind turbines at a farm were being shut down for a few hours on summer evenings - the most active time for bats, but relatively calm.

Undoubtedly there will be side effects, and they might be serious - I don't believe we really know yet.

For many years the physicist Dr. Howard Hayden has made a strong case against large scale wind power. See: http://www.energyadvocate.com/ or read the second edition of his book "The Solar Fraud". For a different opinion see http://www.pickensplan.com/ I remain skeptical but interested. Here is a windmill from another Amarillo Texas oilman Stanley Marsh, better known for his Cadillac Ranch. http://www.roundamerica.com/images/May/2003-05-07/trip-2003-05-07-TX-Ama... Incidently Boone Pickens has an excellent chapter on peak oil in his new book "The First Billion is the Hardest".

Didn't see anything about geothermal at http://www.energyadvocate.com/ though all sorts of other alternative sources had their spots. Whatsamatta, cause you can use it as baseload?

Dr. Hayden's web site has only excerpts from the monthly subscription newsletter and the books. There is this item. http://www.energyadvocate.com/fw82.htm

If you manage demand then you can deal with fluctuating supply - the problem at the moment is that grids are stupid and do nothing to try to match demand with supply, only the reverse (which is highly inefficient economically because of all the plant that needs to be available for brief peak periods).

People also need to recognise that with a diverse range of sources and a geographically extensive grid, the average power generation levels will tend to fluctuate in a band that doesn't tend towards zero at any point int time - distributed renewables aren't "intermittent" at all.

If you must obsess about "baseload" power with respect to any single power generation facility, any form of renewables can supply constant output if combined with some form of energy storage.

You also need to factor the requirement of how far past peak oil you are. Base load is a 2008 consideration because energy is plentiful. In the future people will adapt to the time of day where energy is available because the alternative will be to do without energy at all.

Yes, windmills and windpumps may also make a comeback, given that direct application of the energy to the task may avoid conversion inefficiencies ... but I argue that for the next two decades, the focus of wind power should be on wind turbines, aka wind generators.

If you must obsess about "baseload" power with respect to any single power generation facility, any form of renewables can supply constant output if combined with some form of energy storage.

The issue of concern is not just baseload power; It is load following in general. This concern is not an obsession. It is a question of what the real cost of renewable electricity will be in a post fossil fuel world when the cost of storage, and super grids are taken into account. Since China is still building coal fired power plants like crazy,I am assuming that the era of really cheap replacements for fossil fuels has not yet arrived. If you know of any detailed studies of renewables electricity costs from a total systems perspective (i.e. supplying power for a wide geographical area on an annual basis rather than the cost of providing summer peaking power to Southern California from the Mojave desert), please give some references.

Since China is still building coal fired power plants like crazy,I am assuming that the era of really cheap replacements for fossil fuels has not yet arrived.

All that is required to make coal fired power "cheap" is to ignore external costs. Since some of the external costs of coal power are more than a decade in the future, an equally plausible scenario that leads to building coal firing power plants like crazy is a regime that is focused on a short term situation that threatens the survival of the regime. Given the massive demographic impact of Mao's pro-population explosion policies and the rate of job formation that the Chinese government needs to maintain over the next five to ten years to avoid a political explosion, that is a perfectly reasonable scenario.

The governments of the high income countries of Europe, North America and the Eastern Pacific Rim are not under that same pressure, and are certainly capable of taking account of the full cost of coal-powered electricity without risking collapse of their current political systems.

And the arrival of sustainable renewable sources of power so cheap that the first party cost, before they have had an opportunity to shed costs onto third parties, is cheaper than the heavily discounted first party cost of coal-fired power, is an absurd hurdle to set to justify a policy of supporting expanded harvesting of wind power. This is especially the case in EU and North American economies, where both economies have substantial energy import bills and rely heavily on non-renewable fossil fuels for domestically generated power. Even if electricity from wind turbines was more expensive than the full cost of coal-fired electricity, it would be worth paying a premium to avoid an equivalent amount of resource depletion and/or import.

All that is required to make coal fired power "cheap" is to ignore external costs. Since some of the external costs of coal power are more than a decade in the future, an equally plausible scenario that leads to building coal firing power plants like crazy is a regime that is focused on a short term situation that threatens the survival of the regime.

I agree that the focus on short term costs is gigantic hole in the sustainability of our economic system. However, I would not just point the finger at China. If we enter a deep energy price induced recession due to declining oil supplies, then the pressure on our governments to focus on short term cheapness in order to 'get the economy going' will be intense. I am not opposed to renewables, but I am highly doubtful that they will allow a growth focused, consumer culture to continue for many decades into the future. I am skeptical of the idea of smooth transition to renewable energy within the context of BAU capital markets.

I was not in fact pointing a finger at China, but responding to the argument that China's decisions in ramping up power generating capacity is a reasonable way to estimate the full economic cost of different sources of electricity.

It is indeed absurd for high income nations to avoid pursuit of a sustainable energy economy on the flimsy excuse that low-income nations should "go first". As a commentator on the parallel diary at Agent Orange noted, low-income nations that have recently expanded their telecom capacity did not buy up "bakelite telephones" abandoned by high income nations ... they installed cellphones infrastructure.

Similarly, our best hope of reducing the emissions of China is pushing our own economies as far up the learning curve on sustainable power technologies as fast as possible.

I was not in fact pointing a finger at China, but responding to the argument that China's decisions in ramping up power generating capacity is a reasonable way to estimate the full economic cost of different sources of electricity.

I was not making this argument. My point is that if we are concerned about maintaining the BAU, capital market driven, grow as fast as you can in the short term economic paradigm, then the short term cost may well be relevant. When you consider how much manufacturing and exporting is done in China and how fast their economy is growing, then their manufacturing costs are of concern to the whole global economy. If they converted from coal to renewable energy tomorrow then we would all take it in the shorts, not just the Chinese government. As I said before, I am skeptical that renewable generation can support the BAU economic model for decades into the future.

You can make an argument that as long as the BAU model is working we should develop renewable energy sources at full speed so that we will have as good a set of tools as possible when the wheels come off of the current economic system. Unfortunately the life expectancy of ‘healthy’ capital markets may be relatively short. People who care about the long term future should probably be thinking about alternative models of infrastructure investment.

My point is that if we are concerned about maintaining the BAU, capital market driven, grow as fast as you can in the short term economic paradigm, then the short term cost may well be relevant.

If its untenable when taking the full economic cost of coal-fired electricity into account, then its untenable in any event.

For the US at least, there are ample opportunities to scale back on energy inefficiency in at least two out of the three highest energy consuming sectors over the medium term, and a serious roll-out of harvesting of sustainable renewable energy sources over the medium term would be putting marginal coal-fired plants out of operation before the opportunities for improved energy efficiency have started to play out.

And whatever the social institutions in place, the country that more effectively harvests its sustainable renewable energy sources will be better off for it as we hit the steep edge of the decline from Peak Oil kicks in.

For the US at least, there are ample opportunities to scale back on energy inefficiency in at least two out of the three highest energy consuming sectors over the medium term,

It is not at all clear that there is opportunity to increase energy effciency and maintain economic growth in the face of rising energy costs. If the oil being using to power SUVs and the natural gas being used to heat poorly insolated homes could have produced more value elsewhere in the economy they would have flowed there naturally. There has always been a strong motivation to utilize energy in a way that maximizes profits. We can afford to use oil to drive SUVs because coal and natural gas are reasonbly cheap energy sources for other important applications. I think that a large opportunity exists to maintain a decent quality of life using a lot less energy than we do today, but I doubt very much that we are going to get there through BAU operation of capital markets if energy costs are steady rising. Dream on, however.

" If the oil being using to power SUVs and the natural gas being used to heat poorly insolated homes could have produced more value elsewhere in the economy they would have flowed there naturally. There has always been a strong motivation to utilize energy in a way that maximizes profits. "

You're making a business argument that doesn't apply: most oil is consumed by individuals, not by businesses. The marginal value of inidvidual oil consumption is very low. Think of driving a Tahoe vs a Prius/Corolla: the marginal value is a bit of comfort, an illusion of safety, additional towing and storage that's rarely used, and a bit of status. The loss of value of moving to something 4x as efficient is very small.

The people who sell Tahoe's use their profits to buy HDTVs and ski vacations. If they sell less profitable cars then the economy will be hurt unless equivalent value is produced elsewhere. It is true that the complete disappearance of Tahoes and Humvees without any substitution would do no real harm from a point of real human welfare, but from the point view that the total volume of economic transactions is a primary measuremnt of economic 'health' (i.e. from a growth oriented point of view) then the disappearance of such profitable form of sales does make a difference.

If they sell less profitable cars then the economy will be hurt unless equivalent value is produced elsewhere.

The point of a pure Green tax that taxes external costs and then hands the purchasing power back to people ... in a Social Dividend, rebate on payroll tax, or feebate, or whatever ... is that it shifts the relative prices of goods without draining purchasing power from the system.

Since after all, even should we wish to drain purchasing power from the system, it seems highly unlikely that the amount that needs to be drained will have any direct relationship to the amount of external costs that buyers of Tahoes and Expeditions and Hummers are imposing on the rest of the economy.

Undoubtedly true. But this is still not economic growth unless the total stuff that gets manufactured and sold in the place of Tahoes and Hummers is worth more (I am talking in pure dollar terms, not in abstract human subjective value) than the discontinued products. I have no doubt that the market will work hard to reoptimize production in the face of new resource constraints. This is what capital markets do. They are a machine for manfacturing and selling as much stuff as possible in the short term. I am just skeptical that the reoptimization that takes place in the face major new resource constraints is going to result in composite growth of the overall economy.

Its economic growth for the country engaged in the substitution if the domestic value added of the goods and services switched into is greater than the domestic value added of the goods and services switched out of.

For example, we know that income levels in urban areas with higher levels of public transit use are higher than income levels in comparable urban areas with lower levels of public transit use, and there is no great stretch required in explaining that, because the local value added of the motor vehicle transport system is lower than the local value added of public transport, and lower than the average for other consumption spending.

Now if you want to say that the net employment gain from not being exposed to a 5% or higher trade deficit if crude oil prices pass from ultra cheap, through the moderately cheap levels of $150/barrel and on into moderately expensive ... is not an employment benefit of transport, residential and agricultural systems with less exposure to crude oil prices, but instead is a foregone employment loss, fine. Its the same substantial net economic benefit, whatever label attached to it.

You did not say that if people stopped buying Tahoes and Hummers and bought other stuff instead, that would not necessarily be economic growth ... you said if people stopped buying Tahoes and Hummers, that would be lost spending in the economy, because those earning profits from Tahoes and Hummers would not be spending on HDTVs and ski vacations.

If the oil being using to power SUVs and the natural gas being used to heat poorly insolated homes could have produced more value elsewhere in the economy they would have flowed there naturally.

There are a great many inefficiencies in the energy markets, particularly for homes.  Insulation has been treated as an afterthought for decades:

If it's true, as some have demonstrated with good evidence, that homes over the last couple of decades could have been built to use little or no heating fuel at little net cost or even a net savings, this proves that the inertia of traditional practices and fragmented building authorities have frustrated that natural flow.

It's hard to see how a 15-MPG, $50,000 SUV creates more value in the economy than a 25-MPG, $30,000 full-size sedan.  Is there an economic value to spendthrift idiocy?

If it's true, as some have demonstrated with good evidence, that homes over the last couple of decades could have been built to use little or no heating fuel at little net cost or even a net savings, this proves that the inertia of traditional practices and fragmented building authorities have frustrated that natural flow.

Quite. Economic institutions represent solutions to previously encountered problems that have become entrenched, and so they are intrinsically past bound. And markets are reactive rather than forward looking.

Planning for the future requires a group of people working together in a going concern. Where most of that planning takes place in corporations focused on returns for the next three months, and that look at a five year outlook as "forward planning" ...

... there is no cause and effect relationship that can drive a flow of resources required to prepare for a problem coming down the track, if the problem is going to hit hardest a decade or more in the future, or if the planning solution requires an investment in infrastructure with a large share of the benefits distributed through the economy.

Planning for the future requires a group of people working together in a going concern. Where most of that planning takes place in corporations focused on returns for the next three months, and that look at a five year outlook as "forward planning" ...

I am glad to hear you talk about forward planning, but I do not know where you expect this forward looking vision is going to come from. If a Democractic administration comes into power they will undoubtedly have a two or three more brain cells working on future energy supply problems than would another Replican admistration, but their primary goal is going to be to relieve the short term pain of our economy, which in a capital market driven system means getting the credit machine rolling and people into the shopping malls buying stuff that they do not really need.

Furthermore, any planning process that is based on the equation growth=health is sooner or later going to fail. Eventually we are going to have to look forward and say: “The era of economic growth is past (though not intellectual and artistic growth). We have to start concentrating on maintaining wealth.”. Given the current state of the earth’s eco systems it is not hard to make an argument that this hour arrived. If we stop planning growth and start planning the efficient production of truly vital goods and services then the leverage we have to deal with energy cost increases will be much, much larger.

.. there is no cause and effect relationship that can drive a flow of resources required to prepare for a problem coming down the track

I never suggested that there was. All I said was that if some other part of the economy existed that could easily have grown by consumng more oil, it would have put pressure on the price of oil that would have driven down sales of gas guzzlers. High oil prices will destroy marginal uses first, but that does not mean that the savings can be used to produce more value elsewhere in the economy.

Of course it is true that the huge sunk cost in existing infrastructure drives certain kinds of manufacturing. Our freeway system, suburbia, poor public transportation, etc. drive automobile sales. However, changing this infrastructure in the face of rising energy costs while simultaneously maintaining economic growth is a gigantic challenge.

Of course it is true that the huge sunk cost in existing infrastructure drives certain kinds of manufacturing. Our freeway system, suburbia, poor public transportation, etc. drive automobile sales. However, changing this infrastructure in the face of rising energy costs while simultaneously maintaining economic growth is a gigantic challenge.

Stated as a dichotomy ... "changing this infrastructure" versus "not changing this infrastructure", yes, its a gigantic challenge.

On the other hand, if addressed on a concrete level rather than in sweeping generalities, not so much. Take the specific US example of electrification of STRACNET. At a ball park estimate of $250b over six years for electrification and double tracking of regular trunk lines (without establishment of Semi-HSR or HSR), that is $42b/year. If 20% of STRACNET is used for an HVDC grid to interconnect out-of-sync AC grids and haul sustainable renewable electricity from excess supply areas to main demand areas, that would add less than $15b to the price tag, based on the cost/mile of the proposed "Northern Lights" project", or a total of $45b/year.

That is not a "gigantic challenge" by any stretch of the phrase, but in a high price oil environment, which we expect to see within another five years, could see 67% of current truck freight carried by rail at an energy saving on the order of 80%.

Including an upgrade of a substantial portion of STRACNET to Semi-HSR for container freight and passenger rail would on Alan Drake's estimate add an additional $200b to the total, and allow a capture of 85%+ current truck freight under high oil price conditions.

And far from being difficult to pursue "and at the same time maintain growth" ... it is failure to pursue the project that would provide the greatest obstacle to economic growth in a high oil price environment.

And far from being difficult to pursue "and at the same time maintain growth" ... it is failure to pursue the project that would provide the greatest obstacle to economic growth in a high oil price environment.

I am not arguing that we should not invest in new infrastructure. I am arguing that we ought to grow up and find some other purpose in life than selling each other as much stuff as we possibly can in the short term. We need to decide what goods and services are really essential and figure out how to manufacture and distribute them as efficiently as possible in a high fossil fuel cost environment, and ultimately in a fossil fuel free environment. Coming up with 450 billion dollars when we are in the midst of a major recession is not going to be trivial. Furthemore the proposals you mention hardly address the full range of infrastructure issues posed by our current heavy dependence on fossil fuels for transporation. Major expansion of public transportation systems is needed in large and medium sized cities. Abandonment of sprawling suburban development in favor of denser urban cores would require major investment in new construction. It is going to take a long time for all of these investments in future efficiency to pay off. However, optimistic you are about the costs of these investment they must place a signifcant barrier in front of short to intermediate term economic growth.

I do not know why you insist that composite growth necesary anyway. Are you one of these people who believes that the stock market will be growing 10% per year 1000 years from now? 1.1**1000=2.47E+41. Not. If you and I are unwilling to think about creating an economic system that does not require composite growth, then there is no reason to believe that anyone in the future will be willing to think about it either. Purusing exponential growth until short term feedback indicates that we cannot do it any more is not a smart strategy.

I am not arguing that we should not invest in new infrastructure. I am arguing that we ought to grow up and find some other purpose in life than selling each other as much stuff as we possibly can in the short term.

That is not the substance of the passage I took issue with, so I don't see what it has to do with the defense of the passage I took issue with.

That is, this much is evidently true, but it does not follow that every argument that includes this as a premise automatically becomes true as a result.

Had I insisted that, I would have been wrong, but since I did not, that would make this a gross mis-characterization of what I said.

It's hard to see how a 15-MPG, $50,000 SUV creates more value in the economy than a 25-MPG, $30,000 full-size sedan. Is there an economic value to spendthrift idiocy?

This comment shows that you have completely failed to understand the nature of modern capitalism. Spendthrift idiocy does equal value in our economic system. The more SUVs, Blackberries, HDTVs, Jet skis, monster homes, MP3 players, etc. that are sold the "healthier" our economy is. All you have to do is listen to the yearly Chistmastime news stories about the importance of 'consumer confidence' to understand this fact.

It is true of course, that from point of view of producing physically and pschologically healthy human beings, a huge opportunity exists to do so with much smaller inputs of energy and other resources that are being used today. But if you want to do so in the context of constant economic growth, then spedthrift idiocy is the order of the day.

Big Gav a smart grid is not smart enough to make the wind blow when it isn't blowing. You need power that is available all of the time, not just when the sun shine and the wind blows. It is cargo cult science to think that a smat grid will provide power when their isn't any.

That is, you need power available all the time. That does not require that any of the power sources in the portfolio to be available all the time. And certainly, when the wind is not blowing in one location, it tends to be blowing in another location, since the sun tends to continue returning each morning to charge up the heat engine that makes the wind blow.

BruceMcF check out seasonal and time of day variations in your wind atlas before you make too many assumptions.

No, you should be chastising me to check out correlation of seasonal and time of day variations in the wind atlas, solar incidence, rate of flow, tide heights, and so on and so forth, before making too many assumptions.

But then, given that we know that the time of day off the coast of Massachusetts is well correlated with the time of day on Lake Erie and in the Dakotas, but offset by one or several hours, even perfect correlation of local time of day peaks and troughs across the two would still give offsets between local peaks and troughs. And of course, the timing and relative heights of daytime and night-time peaks and troughs are different mid-continent from peaks and troughs that are affected by onshore and offshore winds ...

... and of course, the actual variation relative to the average expected wind strength is also not perfectly positively correlated ... and can indeed be negatively correlated across intermediate distances, as a warm front leads or follows a cold front.

None of that, note, is by assumption. We know that the average production peaks of both onshore and offshore installations are affected by both onshore and offshore winds. We know that weather systems pass across neighboring areas rather than appearing and disappearing at random. We know that wind intensity is not perfectly and positively correlated across large areas.

The broader the range of resources harvested, both by type and by geographical location, the less intermittent an interconnected set of equipment harvesting sustainable and renewable power becomes, and the closer the actual performance approaches to the average performance.

The strategic investment there is the trunk line interconnections themselves ... since in the presence of a technology, wind power, that is presently economic, that interconnection network both improves the economic benefit of new wind turbine installations, and improves the economic benefit of other volatile sustainable renewable power sources that have patterns of peaks and troughs that are uncorrelated or negatively correlated with the average performance of the wind turbine system.

Please give us weather data showing a time - say, one single hour in the last fifty years - when it was both overcast and the air was still across the entire US at once. Or even, say, 75% of the US.

Or if not the US, then Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Australia, or any other continent-wide area that we could have an electrical grid across. Nowadays we commonly have grids across half-continents. Stretching them across whole continents does not seem to be a dreadful technical challenge. Already Tasmania and Victoria, or Denmark/Sweden/Germany, or Canada/US share electricity.

So, go look for the weather data showing a single hour in the last fifty years during which 75% of a continent was simultaneously overcast and with still air.

Otherwise, you have to concede that it's extremely unlikely to happen, and that while an entirely renewable system requires enormous redundancy and very smart handling of both supply and demand in the grid, it is not imposssible or even very difficult.

Now add to that hydroelectric and geothermal - the two of which provide more than three-quarters the electricity of several countries - and the task becomes simpler.

Give us the data and we'll believe you. Otherwise, I could as well say (for example), "nuclear energy has killed thirty million people and if we went all nuclear it would kill fifty million more in the next fifty years." But discussions are not very useful when people just plain make shit up.

You can do this two different ways. Build a lot of highly reliable small nuks highly reliability, scatter them all over the country with enough redundancy to take care of peak energy demand. You don't need to invest a lot into the grid. The other way is to build a renewables system with enormous redundancy and an enormous expansion of the grid to capture and rout power from those regions where the sun is shining or the wind is blowing to the places where mother nature has not seen fit to generate electricity. Which system will be less expensive? Which will be more reliable?

You are proposing to build sufficient excess capacity to start up and shut down nuclear power plants in response to peak power demand? Or does this involve the "massive" investment in electricity storage capacity that is supposed to be a disabling hurdle for volatile sustainable renewable power sources?

The cost of a regional distribution grid is substantially higher than the cost of a transcontinental HVDC trunk in either the EU or North America. The fact that a network interconnecting existing regional AC grids allows a system of regional AC grids to act like a single continental-scale grid (but with a more robust system, less prone to failure of any individual grid in the system) may make it a "massive" expansion in terms of territorial extent, but it would be misleading to give the impression that the cost of interconnecting existing grids outweighs the cost of those grids being connected.

Indeed, given a substantial centralization of power generation capacity compared to the status quo, the proposed all nuke electrical system would also be well advised to include a substantial increase in the interconnection of regional power distribution grids. Given the problems of cascading failure when AC grids are directly interconnected, the same HVDC technology would merit consideration.

In other words, a long haul HVDC grid interconnection network would not discriminate between sources of electricity ... it would improve the resilience of electricity distribution for a wide range of power sources.

First, you put the burden of proof on wind energy detractors rather than on advocates where it belongs. Specifically, those who claim that wind + solar can meet power requirements. The AWEA doesn't make claims that wind can accommodate more than 20% of power without there being problems due to variability. The advocates are the one offering a "solution" at the public's expense and have to back that up with hard data.

Second, you have a strawman argument. Who has claimed the entire country would be becalmed at once? That isn't the criteria for it being inadequate. Would wind in one state out of fifty be enough? Certainly not. Ten? No. 25? No. Not to mention that many states shouldn't even be included in the averages because they don't have good average wind resources and are poor locations for substantial numbers of wind turbines.

We know there are wide scale weather patterns affecting large portions of the country; we see it all the time and it is particularly obvious during hurricanes.

Even with a perfect grid that can move huge amounts of power long distances, we don't know what the minute by minute average will be let alone with our current grid that might not handle relatively small regions being becalmed.

And you have confused clouded over with insufficient sun to generate significant power which also happens about 19 hours a day in a given location and about 16 hours a day across the continental US - and in between those two times power capacity can be reduced. Solar thermal with heat storage can help some - if most of our solar is of a form that includes storage.

As I type this, there is an apparent problem with becalming, right now. The USAirNet national countour map of wind speeds shows that wind speeds across the country are low and that the high points are places that do not correspond to where you would put wind turbines according to wind resource maps. Right now (as of 5PM), the entire western half of the country appears to be relatively becalmed with three tiny pockets of wind only one of which is in a potential wind farm location. Meanwhile there is wind up the missisippi river and in the bible belt, locations that don't get wind normally (except for a small portion of the upper missisippi). Another map at weather underground has a 5 hour animation which indicates that this has been a problem for the last 5 hours. Unisys lets us look back 12 hours, still a problem.

Today, it appears wind power would needed to have been shipped thousands of miles from locations that would not even have a significant number of wind turbines in the first place because they have poor average wind speeds. And one can clearly see looking at maps that regional variations are likely to be a significant problem.

On the header page it says it is a 50 meter map:http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/wind_maps_none.asp

He's not presenting comparable data: weather maps are normally measuring at 10 meters, and wind turbines are at 50 plus meters - a substantial difference.

When one quotes Dr Howard Hayden, I would recommend that anyone interested in his thinking actually go to his website:

It is fascinating (perhaps disturbing is a better word) that anyone who dismisses global warming is dismissed here as a crank, unless they dismiss renewable energy, and then suddenly they become a respected authority! It seems that the only credentials you need here to dismiss alternative energy is that you dismiss alternative energy!

It is fascinating (perhaps disturbing is a better word) that anyone who dismisses global warming is dismissed here as a crank, unless they dismiss renewable energy, and then suddenly they become a respected authority!

To say renewable energy can't work is going against decades of experience in a few countries. It's like saying that nuclear or fossil fuels can't work.

The question is not whether these things work, but all the other issues of pollution (from purifying silicon, from in-situ leaching, from radioisotopes, from soot, etc), of climate change, of cost, of scalability and what's appropriate for each region (eg Burundi today might have trouble with a full nuclear programme), and so on.

I think there are very few who are saying that 'renewable energy doesn't work'. But many more that are saying that most renewables (wind included) create electricity, and the credit crisis is going to stop expansion of liquid fuels creating a larger depletion rate several years down the road. Scaling of ecosystem service renewables (wind, solar, geothermal, etc.) will require cheap or at least moderately inexpensive liquid fuels which our current infrastructure rely on - we have to be able to walk before we can run... (note - I am HUGE wind supporter - but we need reducing consumption of liquid fuels while maintaining social fabric is more important and has to be addressed first otherwise wind won't scale in time)

Not ramping up wind power now means less productive capacity and ability to further expand wind power ten years from now, so I don't follow that side of the argument that there is some sequencing requirement that creates a need to wait on ramping up wind power.

Part of the process of reducing our structural dependence on liquid fuel is electrification of continental transport rail grids, and if we took advantage of that process to put long distance cross-hail electric trunks into place to improve the market extent for renewable resources, there's no reason the ramp up of equipment to harvest sustainable renewable cannot proceed apace.

If it comes down to a serious crunch, prudent policy would assure that this is one industry that would receive a ration sufficient to its needs, but even in a bidding war, projects with positive and substantial NEROI are in a position to bid against pure consumption activities.

I just jumped over to the site and read an example Letter to the Editor, and it was laden with rhetorical flourishes, incorrect values, and places tremendous weight on the weakest possible argument, that wind power is volatile.

Wind power at any given wind generator is quite volatile. However, availability in a wind farm exceeds availability at each individual wind generator, availability across multiple wind farms in a region exceeds availability at each individual wind farm, and availability across multiple regions exceeds availability in a given region.

And high voltage DC lines are capable of carrying electricity 1,000km with well under 10% line losses, so the technology clearly exists to connect multiple wind resource regions to multiple power consuming regions.

Set aside the lack of seriousness betrayed by calling wind generators "windmills" and using an argument along the lines of, "windmills have been around for thousands of years, if they haven't become an important power source yet, there's no reason to expect they will be", which collapses at the first brush with the facts of the case ... pencil in an excuse that as empty demagoguery in service of an argument that is valid at its core.

windmills have been around for thousands of years, if they haven't become an important power source yet, there's no reason to expect they will be

I wonder how many of the old Dutch windmills, for pumping water out of fields, it would take to be equivalent to one modern large wind turbine. This would be a good number to know to put to rest the silly argument above.

So c. 1900, that is an average of 12KW peak power per windmill (that is, a device that converts wind power to directly drive a mechanism). Circa 1980 Altamont Pass wind turbines are more like an average 120KW capacity, and modern turbines are up to 5MW (REPower) and 6MW (Enercon).

Given that advances on that particular dimension in less than a century before 1980 gives such a poor indication of progress after 1980, the idea of taking the rate of advance over millenia to predict the rate of advance over the next thirty years would seem to be moronic ... or, more likely, pure demagoguery, intended to give a rationalizing gloss that requires a slight bit of thought and exploration to puncture, to help opponents gloss over the real reasons for their opposition.

Looking at Denmark's emissions report card I'd say they got a score of 'D' or 'must try harder'. Yet Denmark is often cited as the exemplary case of wind power uptake. To me that suggests there is a reflecting barrier of x% wind power penetration in a modern mixed economy. Others have suggested x is in the range 30-40%. If Al Gore's big idea is to take hold maybe today's 30% will have to be tomorrow's 100%.

"Emissions increased significantly [in 2005-6] due to higher use of coal for the production of public electricity and heat production, mainly driven by an increase in electricity exports."

This is really about how we calculate our emissions. Germany and Sweden get lower emissions since they buy some of their electricity from Denmark. But then Australia exports coal to China and Japan and we don't count that against Australia - it would more than double our emissions if we did.

So if a country sends coal overseas to be burned for electricity, that country doesn't count those emissions; if a country burns the coal for electricity and then sends that electricity overseas, it does count the emissions. This is rather like putting my rubbish in my neighbour's bin and then boasting about how little rubbish I have, and scolding him for being so wasteful.

"1990-2006: After a strong increase followed by a strong decrease during the 1990s, emissions have been slowly decreasing since. While emissions from road transport keep increasing, emissions from energy supply are subject to fluctuations and emissions from agricultural soils and households are decreasing."

We also see that from 1990-2006, Denmark increased its total emissions 2.1%, but decreased its per capita emissions by 3.4%. So they have essentially held their emissions steady over the period.

The grading we give them depends on whether we compare to absolute standards, or a grade curve in the class. Most of the world is increasing total emissions, and increasing per capita. By absolute standards, every country is the world has failed abysmally.

But if we grade according to where each stands in the class, a country which pretty much holds emissions steady is doing well.

When we in Australia and the US - who as I understand it make up most of the readership of this site - can keep our emissions within 5% of our 1990 figures, then we'll be in a position to have a go at the Danes as we'll at least then be in the same league as them. Right now we're faaaaaaaar behind.

I think it would be most fair to count emissions where the end consumer is credited with the emissions, while any inputs into producing the energy necessary (like fuel consumption in coal mining or natural gas for oil sands) would be counted to the energy producer. So for the oil sands, for example, the US would be creditied with the oil consumption from the oil, while canada would be credited with emissions from production. Another example would be that when the US refines gasoline and ships it to mexico, the US would be credited with the emissions from the refinery, while mexico would be credited with the emissions from the consumption of the gasoline.

This is rather like putting my rubbish in my neighbour's bin and then boasting about how little rubbish I have, and scolding him for being so wasteful.

It would be more like you sold him a load of your food and he then threw the packaging in his bin, after all you didn't get to use whatever made the rubbish, coal in this case.

The difference here ... between Sweden, eg, buying the coal to produce the electricity domestically, or importing the electricity produced with coal, is the difference between having a caterer use their own kitchen to prepare the food and dispose of the rubbish there, or having a caterer use the customer's kitchen, and dispose of the rubbish there.

Its the same rubbish, its in service of the same customer, we just allocate it to the provider in one case and the customer in the other.

I live in USA. In these international comparisons of which country is to blame for which emissions, my self interest pushes me to choose blaming the emission on the country where the fossil fuel is produced. For petroleum, the emission is all the fault of Saudi Arabia, Russia, etc. Not my fault. It's somebody else's fault. I like that. ;-)

On the other hand, if one is designing a way to reduce emissions by imposing a tax on carbon, why not collect the tax at the mine, or well head? That would capture the tax on fossil fuel, and avoid taxing biofuels.

On the other hand, if one is designing a way to reduce emissions by imposing a tax on carbon, why not collect the tax at the mine, or well head? That would capture the tax on fossil fuel, and avoid taxing biofuels.

If we had an international tax, yes. Absent that, we can look at national taxes. And so I would tax fossil fuels and their products the moment they came into contact with my country's economy. For Australia that would mean - when we dig up coal, when we import kerosene, when we pump out natural gas, when we fell trees, and so on.

If we found that the country we were importing from or exporting to also had a carbon tax, I would look to see if it were lower or higher than ours; if lower, I'd tax the difference, if higher, I'd leave it be and not tax it further.

I would probably tax according to how many carbon atoms were in the substance. This would encourage people to find ways to burn the stuff really thoroughly, if they burned it at all.

If you would also pay according to carbon removed from the atmosphere (CO2 pumped underground, charcoal plowed in as terra preta) you'd essentially have my position.

But then you have a system of a cap and auction carbon permit system, with the permits issued as far upstream as possible and additional permits issued for proven sequestration.

The difference is that with a cap, the price is set in the auction, while with the tax, the price is set after my colleagues in economics have modeled what tax is required to get to the the targeted level of CO2 emissions, and its a behavioral regularity that the modeling that will be used by lawmakers is the modeling that errs on the low side.

And any upstream permit system would be well-advised to require that any imports from countries with less strenuous emissions target also buy permits to enter the country.

Hi, Jerome. Delighted to see you posting another wind diary. I won't have a chance to pour over the whole thing until tomorrow evening at the earliest, but I noticed some serious problems with the first graph.

The combination of these two 3:1 ratios would appear to mean that wind is actually doing about 9 times worse than nuclear over the two timeframes in terms of lifetime power generation from installed capacity to date. The time shift would introduce another factor of 4 or so.

With your connections to the wind industry, perhaps you can light a fire under their asses when it comes to turbine life because that would make a huge difference. Wind should be made attractive to utilities (and society) at the fundamentals, not based on production tax credits which are hidden costs. That would also help with the volatility that prevents more investment in factories. I notice, however, that there have been some significant investments in US factories, just not enough.

Again, I'm nonplussed by the opposition of nuke fans to wind. I'm (mildly) favorable to nuclear, and have written regularly about the french programme, the best exemple of a rationally run nuclear energy programme, and you don't see me tryign to drag down nuclear to prop up wind - in fact, I usually suggest that wind is as good as nuclear, rather than saying that nuclear is worse than wind. It's disappointing that nuke fans cannot do the same.

1) of course it's nameplate capacity. Sure, as we all know, a wind MW produces fewer MWh than an nuclear MW (a quartr to a third of the number), but it's still a relevant number. If you do the graph with MWh, it will follow the same curve, but the point here is to show that investment in new capacity is following the same pattern. 2008 installed capacity is going to be close to double the 2006 numbers, so the trend continues and can certainly be replicated on a MWH scale with a couple more years lag.

2) The first wave of the industry in the 80s died out quickly, so it's not really relevant. You also had a lot of public research into nuclear reactors from the 40s into the 60s. That should certainly count as a head start of sorts...

3) cutting at that point is not deceptive: it's just that wind does not have a long enough track record yet. I certainly hope that we'll be able to update that graph in 5-10 years' time and see how things went then. The 60 year argument is a relevant one, but then you also need to incorporate items like cost of fuel (very low for now, but how long will that be true?) and decommissioning costs. Wind turbines are now all expected to reach a 25 year useful life, and that may yet be pushed when we get closer to that date, ust like happened for nuclear plants; in any case, I'm not sure that the cost of repowering a windfarm is significantly higher than the cost of major maintenance you need to do on nulear plants for them to actually function for 60 years...

Again, what matters is the cost per kWh, and on that basis wind is not far from nuclear - if you look at new-build rather than at the current fully-amortised fleet of plants... PTC is a support mechanism that works, and it needs to be compaed, again, to the impact on electricity prices brought about by wind - it's just that in that case, taxpayers pay for savings going to ratepayers, whereas with feed-in tariffs, it's the same group that pays the tariff and gets the reduced market prices.

I fully agree that the short term nature of the PTC renewal process creates havoc with manufacturign investment.

I think you also can simply put [img src="http://www.example.com/table.jpg" width="100%"] for automatic scaling.

Jerome, I always admire you work and you skill as a communicator, but I often feel that I don't get the whole story from you.

You ask why supporters of nuclear power criticize wind. First many supporter of wind are harsh critics of nuclear power, so the criticism runs both ways. Beyond that, I am more concerned about fairness and accuracy in criticism, rather than the fact that criticism is made. I am by no means uncritical of nuclear power, and make no secret of my view that the light water reactor is overly complex, expensive, waste producing and having relatively poor energy return given the potential of more advanced reactors. I have also criticized sodium cooled fast breeder reactors which I regard as dangerous, extremely expensive and being much less useful than far cheaper thorium cycle breeder reactors.http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/2008/10/is-there-point-to-sodium-cooled...

I criticize wind in relationship to nuclear for several reasons, not the least of which is that nuclear power systems turn out to be cheaper than reliable 24 hour a day reliable wind systems. For example using data on wind costs from ECOWorld:http://ecoworld.com/blog/2008/08/18/californias-proposition-7/ I calculated the relative costs of a wind 50% wind penetration of California verses producing the same amount of electricity by using obsolescent Light Water reactors costing $8 billion a pop.

"ECOWorld estimates a capacity factor of 17.5%, a very problematic figure a wind array equal too 119 gigawatts of wind generating name plate capacity, which would cost $297 billion dollars. Too this must be added the cost of new transmission lines. grid upgrades, and massive energy storage units. ECOWorld estimates the minimum cost for wind to be $300 billion. EcoWorld calculate the cost of energy storage to be $350 Million per gWh, and calculate that 100 gWhs of storage is needed, which would run $35 billion for a total cost of $335 Billion. The 350 million per GWh for storage is probably low but I won't argue. At any rate #335 will get you ate least 42 reactors. 42 reactors with average capacity factor of .90 will produce 900 gWhs of power every day. Since we need 500 gWhs, we only need 24 reactors and that will cost $192 billion, or 57% of the cost of a wind generating system. Thus the Green premium will run 43% of nuclear system costs for wind. The Green premium for solar would be an astonishing 300% of the cost of a nuclear system".

"Google wants to have 380 GWs of wind generators by 2030, how much of that if going to count as wind basic? The answer is 380 x .21 = 79.8 GWs. That seems like a very credible addition to our wind generations system until we realize that there is a serious performance fly in the ointment.

The capacity factor of wind generators drop on hot days. Really drop, and the hotter the day, the bigger the drop. This is a problem because it is hotter during the summer than during the winter. To make matter’s worse, electrical demand goes up during the summer. How bad does it get? In Texas and California on the hottest days, wind capacity factors drop to as low as .02 during periods of peak electrical demand. Thus when the system needs reliable base load capacity the most, wind base capacity is unavailable. If the .02 capacity factor for very hot days held for the entire Google 380 GW national wind system, the combined electrical output of the entire system during the hottest hours of the day would be 7.6 GWs. About the amount of electricity produced by 4 very large nuclear plants.

In order to have its desired wind generation system by 2030 we will have to build 360 Billion GWs of windmill generating capacity. This will cost about $900 billion. The same amount of money will buy 112 reactors. And those reactors will have a .9 capacity factor. Instead of the average output of 79.8 GWs of base power, you will get an average output of 101 GWs of base power from the reactors. But instead of only 7.6 GWs output during the summer peak demand periods, the reactors will and average of 109.76 GWs of output at any given time during the period of summer peak demand.

Summer wind power will never be able to compete with nuclear power as a reliable source of electricity, and any money spent on windmills would buy far more reliable power if spent on nuclear power".

There are clear cost and performance advantages to nuclear as opposed to wind generating systems. Jerome if you included an acknowledgement of this in your essays on wind i would not need to offer criticisms.

Finally, Let me make comment on your subsidies claim. First claims about Federal subsidies to the nuclear industry, usually fail to break out federal payouts that directly benefit the Civilian nuclear power industry from a broader entity "the nuclear industry, which includes research and development for a variety of projects that do not benefit civilian power producers, and cleanups up of radioactive pollution problems left over from World War II and the cold war.

"Only $5.8 billion, was spent on Light Water Reactors, the only civilian nuclear technology used to generate power in the United States. In contrast various research projects related to the breeder reactor received $23.78 Billion and more that $38 Billion dollars were spent on other reactor research projects that were unrelated to the light water reactor. Only Light Water Reactor research benefited the civilian nuclear power Industry, and thus could be considered a subsidy".

Most energy forms have received more money from the Federal "Government than they have paid to it. The one exception is the civilian nuclear industry, which has paid $14 billion more to the Government that it has received. The imbalance came about because the Federal Government has failed to provide waste management services to the nuclear industry, which nuclear plants owners are paying for. Thus far from receiving subsidy from the Federal Government, the civilian nuclear industry has in fact subsidized the Federal Government, and the net value of that subsidy is far greater than the value of all of the benefits that the civilian power industry has received through the Federal Government. If we subtract the $5.8 of R & D expenditures on Light Water Reactors paid by the Federal Government, we find that the Civilian Power Reactor Industry has given the government a net subsidy of $8.2 Billion. In addition unlike other energy technologies including renewables, the civilian nuclear power industry pays 100% of its tax obligations".

As to your exemples discussing wind systems built as if there was not an existing energy infrastructure around, they're just non sequiturs. Any argument that says that because you have times where wind capacity is 0.02% you need to build 5,000 times more wind to count the fair cost of wind is patently silly.

Jerome, you have put your finger on a major difference between wind and nuclear. Since nuclear costs less than wind and will efficiently replace rather than supplement carbon dioxide producing fossil fuel plants, it is clear that nuclear power is a superior tool for fighting AGW.

Charles Barton: - "Jerome, you have put your finger on a major difference between wind and nuclear. Since nuclear costs less than wind and will efficiently replace rather than supplement carbon dioxide producing fossil fuel plants, it is clear that nuclear power is a superior tool for fighting AGW."

I am a fairly rabid opponent of nuclear power for many reasons. One of which is that some nuclear proponent ignore major problems with any rollout of nuclear power sufficient to really make a difference.

First of all there is the huge problem of subsidies. The only way a nuclear plant is going to built in the USA is with loan guarantees and the continuation of the Price Anderson Act that limits liability and makes nuclear plants insurable. With up to 700 billion being spent on rescuing the financial system good luck getting finance for nuke plants. Wind farms by contrast pose far less financial risk and are built in a fraction of the time of any nuclear plant.

Second major problems exist in the nuclear supply chain from welders to forgings. There is only one company left that can forge the required pressure vessels and again in the current financial climate a company wanting to enter the market faces very stiff problems tooling up to produce 600 ton steel forgings even if they could get the staff with the knowledge to do this. So the materials simply do not exist for nuclear in the short term to ramp up to a level that would help.

Nuclear proponent completely fail to mention any costs for waste disposal which in the US approx half the cost of geological disposal is still not funded by the industry and will have to come from taxpayers. Also when Yucca Mountain finally opens it will he two thirds full with accumulated waste and almost immediately will require a second dump to cope with any nuclear program that could make a difference to CO2 emissions. Yes you can reprocess the fuel however there is no facility in the US to do this. And being realistic if it is hard to get a conventional nuclear plant financed how hard would it be to get a breeder off the ground given that all commercial breeders have been financial failures and only are now run by non-profit government programs. I thing nationalising the banks was enough socialism for the US unless of course you want to plunge into a bit more and make taxpayers reprocess your fuel.

Finally nuclear proponent almost always fail to see the big picture. Wind is only one part of the renewable solution not the be all and end all. Wind, solar, geothermal, wave and tide along with cleaner versions of fossil fuels will be integrated into a smart grid where local generation will be used whereever it is possible and electric transport will form an essential part of the grid. If you consider renewables as a total system then it is very very rare when the wind is not blowing, the sun is not shining or the waves/tides are not flowing somewhere in the system and the capacity factor of the whole system will be far greater than the sum of its parts. It will also be far more resilient to natural disasters and not leave a dangerous legacy for others to clean up.

Ender, You recite the usual green litney. Huge problem of subsidies? This is a absurd lie. The Civilian Nuclear power industry gets virtually no subsidies from the federal government, while it is being taxed to pay for services the government does not perform. Price-Anderson basically establishes an insurance pool of $10 Billion that comes from insurers and the nuclear power industry itself. In addition to the $10 Billion pool congress has the right to dun the Nuclear power industry for more money in the unlikely chance that the $10 billion is is not enough. Where is the subsidy. Under price Anderson the government has never paid a cent, and thus there is no subsidy. On the other hand the renewable power industries are collecting billions in tax breaks from the federal and state government.

Supply chain. Over half a dozen steel companies in Japan, China, South Korea, the UK, France and are rushing to add major new new forging capacity in order to build new reactor pressure vessels. Other potential suppliers are setting up shop. The supply chain shortage is a myth.

Alternative to Yacca Mountain exist, and nuclear waste can be disposed of in advanced reactors, that converts waste into nuclear fuel.

Wind and solar are intermittent, and will never solve the problem without continued fossil fuel backup. Only nuclear can stop continued CO2 emissions from power plants.

And you respond with the usual nuclear litany. The objections I bring up are never answered only avoided.

Subsidies are not a problem they just make nuclear nearly competitive whereas without these subsidies nuclear would not even be in the ballpark. The loan guarantees make the cost of money reasonable for a long term extremely expensive project (10yr) like a nuclear power plant. Without them the financial risk of nuclear with its history of cost overruns and delays would hugely increase the cost of money. Similarly from an insurance company's point of view the fixed liability guaranteed by the Price Anderson Act makes insurance premiums a small fraction of what they would be if the entire potential cost of a cleanup after an accident had to be insured. As this cost of this could be in the trillions, despite the very low risk, any insurance company would have to reinsure a liability of this nature as there are not many insurance companies big enough to take a risk of this nature alone. The reinsurance world is already reeling from larger than expected costs from climate change and would be very unwilling to enter into the unsubsidised nuclear insurance field where one disaster, however remote the possibility, could wipe them out.

Are they really? So tomorrow they will be forging 600 ton perfect pieces of laminated steel of sufficient quality to pass inspection? Or are you going to relax the standards so these companies can produce your nuclear pipe dream. It would take at least 5 years and millions of dollars, even if they could find the skilled people who are in even shorter supply, to start producing forgings of this size to the required quality. Again you are avoiding this issue with platitudes.

"Alternative to Yacca Mountain exist, and nuclear waste can be disposed of in advanced reactors, that converts waste into nuclear fuel."

Really - yes lets keep doing what we are doing now and storing out of mind and out of site and fervently hope that nothing happens to it until after I am dead when it ceases being a problem for me. That your answer at the moment - praying for a miracle new technology that the future will magically create that will make the problem disappear.

"Wind and solar are intermittent, and will never solve the problem without continued fossil fuel backup. Only nuclear can stop continued CO2 emissions from power plants."

No really, well so is nuclear. What happens when the plant is down for refuelling? Renewables are intermittent in a different way. Fossil fuels can be always a part of the energy mix. Nuclear is just as reliant on fossil fuel peaking power as wind as it requires peaking power backup because it is only baseload.

Really - yes lets keep doing what we are doing now and storing out of mind and out of site and fervently hope that nothing happens to it until after I am dead when it ceases being a problem for me. That your answer at the moment - praying for a miracle new technology that the future will magically create that will make the problem disappear.

Then bury the thousands of tonnes of nuclear waste that is all monitored under the billions of tonnes of industrial and chemical waste that no one gives a second thought.

Nuclear waste is a nonproblem blown into a political charade. I have no idea what people even think the risks are of it.

Dezakin - "Then bury the thousands of tonnes of nuclear waste that is all monitored under the billions of tonnes of industrial and chemical waste that no one gives a second thought.

Nuclear waste is a nonproblem blown into a political charade. I have no idea what people even think the risks are of it."

Riiight! So that chemical waste can be fashioned into a destructive weapon? Or can it cause death for thousands of years? I think not.

Riiight! So that chemical waste can be fashioned into a destructive weapon? Or can it cause death for thousands of years? I think not.

Ender By the time New reactor licensing applications applications are approved by the NRC there will be several Steel companies ready to forge pressure vessels. It is also to build pressure vessels by welding together two 300 ton half forging, but the anti-nuclear propaganda machine is hidding that fact.

France's Areva SA said it is forming a joint venture with Northrop Grumman Corp. to build nuclear-reactor vessels, steam generators and other heavy equipment at Northrop's Newport News, Va., shipyard.

The deal is a sign that the planned resurgence of nuclear power in the U.S. could help stimulate the country's manufacturing sector.

The two companies plan to invest a total of $360 million in Areva Newport News LLC to build a 300,000-square-foot manufacturing and engineering facility for Areva's nuclear reactor, known as the Evolutionary Power Reactor, or EPR.

AREVA states: "AREVA Newport News s’inscrit dans le renouveau nucléaire américain, a déclaré Anne Lauvergeon, Présidente du Directoire d’AREVA. AREVA s’est fixé comme ambition de construire un tiers du ..".

Nuclear proponent completely fail to mention any costs for waste disposal which in the US approx half the cost of geological disposal is still not funded by the industry and will have to come from taxpayers

Many nuclear proponents do cite waste disposal costs and decommissioning costs, though often these are already bundled into the construction and operating or fuel costs. Your claim that the taxpayers foot half the bill was unsubstantiated. Taxpayers pay 21.8%, because that is the percentage of waste that will come from the DOD, not civilian nuclear. The commercial portion is funded on a "full cost recovery basis". [DOE/RW-0591]

This nuclear proponent certainly doesn't "fail to see the big picture". And you are quite wrong to insist that the capacity factor of the whole system is greater than the sum of its parts. The ratio of faceplate capacity to average capacity does not change no matter how many systems you tie together. Tying the systems together does help with average out the fluctuations but there are still problems. Solar, in particular, has a very non-stochiastic quality in that for many hours each "night" the entire continental US is in darkness. I have suggested load shifting and the use of hydro as a fill-in source rather than a primary source to help with this. And I have yet to see a good nationwide model of solar and wind (and tides if you like) combined production on a minute by minute basis.

http://www.state.nv.us/nucwaste/yucca/loux05.htm "the Nuclear Waste Fund will generate at most $28.1 billion."

"The ratio of faceplate capacity to average capacity does not change no matter how many systems you tie together."

That is true of the individual items in the system however if you consider seperate connected items as a part of a wider system then it can. The best way to illustrate this is say a coal power plant has 4 power generators you don't seperately specify the individual capacity factor of each turbine. For instance one of them may have a systemic fault that causes it to be out of action 50% of the time however the overall power plant's capacity factor would be specified as say 85% instead of 90% if it did not have a flaky generator.

"Solar, in particular, has a very non-stochiastic quality in that for many hours each "night" the entire continental US is in darkness."

Which is convenient as at this time the demand is very low and can easily be met by solar thermal plants with thermal storage.

Ender I am sure that you are an intelligent man, but so far you are repeating abunch of really stupid arguments. Not only do private reactor owners have an obligation to pay into the nuclear waste fund, but the government has obligations to the fund as well, for the disposal of wast from government research and production programs, government owned reactors, and government owned military reactors. The $90 Billion figure you mention includes the cost of cleaning up waste sites, in Hanford, Oak Ridge, and Savanna River, these are government obligations. Clean up and disposal of waste from other production program. disposals of waste from hundreds of Naval reactors, etc. Thus much of the $90 billion figure refers to government obligations. The rest unpaid portion of the civilian nuclear power industry obligation, will be recovered through future waste fund income collected through taxes on power production by civilian reactors. It strikes me that you whole argument reflects either a vacuous ignorance of the true state of affairs or deliberate dishonesty.

Charles Barton - "Ender I am sure that you are an intelligent man, but so far you are repeating abunch of really stupid arguments."

Really I am sure you are intelligent as well however that does not prevent you from repeating really stupid pro-nuclear arguments.

The full cost of Yucca Mountain at this stage seems to be 56 billion and open in 2017. So far the Nuclear Waste Fund that was created to fully fund the civilian waste disposal is running at 25 billion.

"The rest unpaid portion of the civilian nuclear power industry obligation, will be recovered through future waste fund income collected through taxes on power production by civilian reactors."

Really? So when nuclear operators are paying more for money, materials and labor you are expecting them to actually pay more for waste disposal? The industry is already behind and with more reactors going to be built they will never catch up with the rising tide of waste disposal costs. The tax will have to be really increased to get ahead.

And all of this can be avoided just by not doing it. Wind and solar do not need waste disposal facilities.

BTW there is shortage of nuclear certified welders as well - still want to weld together two 300 ton forgings?http://www.usnews.com/articles/business/careers/2008/03/13/a-worker-shor...

And all of this can be avoided just by not doing it. Wind and solar do not need waste disposal facilities.

Maybe not wind and CSP solar, but there is definitely need for some waste disposal facilities for some of the solar photo-voltaic technologies.

Ender, the Federal government has been collecting money from the Civiliam power industry for 25 years and has yet to provide a cent of services to the Civilian Power industry. By your own accounting it will collect tax for another 8 or 9 years before it will begin to provide the services which it has agreed to provide. By its failure to provide the services it agreed to the government allowed the value of the taxes it has collected so far to be diminished by inflation. It has also failed to pay interest on the accumulated surplus of of the nuclear waste fund. Both of these failures short change the nuclear power industry. If the industries contribution to the Waste Fund is adjusted for inflation, and a reasonable interest rate is calculated then the power industry has more than paid the total cost of Yucca Mountain already. Ender your arguments are nothing more than Green flim-flam.

You have to take the time value of money into consideration - that money earns interest and much of it was collected a long time ago and in significant portions of the expense are far in the future. And the biggest portion of the price escalation for the repository is related to keeping it open longer to accept more waste which means that there will be more fees collected to cover the cost. And the $28.1 billion figure was based on the bullshit claim that existing reactors will be shut down rather than new ones being built (even if that occurred, it would also lower the costs of the repository).

Your point regarding the capacity factor was wrong and your contrived example changed the actual capacity factor of the plant rather than address the original issue of the effect of connecting stochiastics systems together.

Demand at night is not necessarily low, particularly in the winter and cannot easily be met by a quantity of solar thermal with thermal storage in the foreseeable future. Consider this graph of New Hampshire electric consumption in the summer. Nighttime minimum consumption is still half of peak consumption. And in the winter it could be worse (and more so when fossil fuel furnaces are moved to the grid). If you had a grid that had 50% (of average electric consumption) solar thermal and 50% wind, the solar thermal systems would need almost all their energy for nighttime use with none left over for the day, except that displaced by nighttime wind which would not be enough to handle the daytime wind shortages or the higher peak loads during the day or outages due to bad weather. Thus, nighttime demand is certainly not "easily met by solar thermal plants" as the total capacity of those plants would need to be enormous and leave no room for other forms of solar.

Solar, in particular, has a very non-stochiastic quality in that for many hours each "night" the entire continental US is in darkness.

Yes, quite ... solar power is strongly correlated with the time of day the sun is shining, and with the strength of solar radiation. Which itself is strongly correlated with electricity demand in the US. Which means that a high share of the electricity produced by a direct CSP solar farm is higher value peak load electricity.

A bigger problem with solar is annual variation. It is relatively simple to hypothesise a system which uses storage to run on the supply of power for a few hours at night, although it should be emphasised that even that is at an early stage of engineering, and many issues are not fully resolved, for instance developing the good practise to prevent molten salts freezing where that is the chosen medium. Considerable progress is being made, for instance in Spain, but that is a rather different matter to being ready to run it out at the largest scale to provide substantial amounts of power, and takes some time, in the years, to test the systems.

It is much more difficult though to make up for seasonal variation in non-equatorial regions. Even at the latitude of the Mohave you get around 25% of the insolation in the winter compared to the summer, so in practise if you wanted to use it for base load you would have to do a massive overbuild, which would ruin your costs. That is without considering truly fantastic schemes to ship power off to the cold north east, where demand would maximise at this precise time.

You can avoid all this, of course, if you use nuclear for baseload and solar for peaking power, where it should be economic shortly. That way you use both where they are most suited.

There are some difficulties with providing the water for reactors in these arid regions, but that applies equally to solar thermal, and the (more expensive) solution is the same, of using dry cooling.

Solar PV does not have the same water use issues, and hopefully might drop enough in price to enable it's use in the 2015 time-frame. You would still need massive overbuild if you attempted to use it for baseload though.

In some areas, particularly rural areas, some combination of solar, wind and biogas might be practical, as in this German experiment:http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/jeremy_leggett/2008/02/renewed_energ...

I would personally favour deploying the solar arrays on the ground in 2-10MW units, which would not need distance transmission or stepping down, and would have easy erection and maintenance, as suggested by Nanosolar:http://www.nanosolar.com/blog3/2008/04/16/municipal-solar-power-plants/

In the case of the US, it doesn't really seem necessary to do anything other than deploy their large resources where it is most obvious and appropriate to do so. I wish that it were so easy in the UK.

Even at the latitude of the [Mojave] you get around 25% of the insolation in the winter compared to the summer, so in practise if you wanted to use it for base load you would have to do a massive overbuild, which would ruin your costs.

That is assuming solar is being treated as a silver bullet, rather than as one portion of a portfolio.

There are certain on-shore wind power locations where very hot days kills the wind ... and even offshore, for example, on the Great Lakes, where that does no occur, wind speeds are stronger during winter than during summer.

Here, solar is strong in summer and weaker in winter, and that is a disabling impediment to solar power.

I suppose if there was a post on run-of-river hydro, someone would point to rivers in some parts of the world that flow the most strongly in spring and second most strongly in fall, with slower flows in summer and very little flow in winter, and that would be a disabling impediment to using run-of-river hydro.

And tidal power, wave power, geothermal, all will have some mismatch that make them unsuitable to be the sole source of baseline power.

And of course, biomass production of bio-coal seems a promising way to provide a fuel source which is easily transported by rail, and which can be stored for long period in piles, without the toxic run-off effects of piles of mineral coal. I'm sure the disabling impediment to biomass would be that it is incapable of supplying anywhere close to 100% of the annual electricity supply of a major consuming region ... except as a greater diversity of volatile energy sources are harvested, the problem is not supplying anywhere close to 100% of the annual electricity supply, but rather the problem of having a back-up energy source that can top up the baseline in a slow period while recharging short term quick dispatch storage buffers.

I would fully agree, and have posted this link elsewhere in this thread showing experiments to integrate solar, wind and biogas:http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/jeremy_leggett/2008/02/renewed_energ...

This sort of system is on the very verge of being practical, and I would suggest that in, particularly, small town America this could be integrated with Nanosolar's scheme for 2-10MW ground based solar installations, where build and maintenance would be far cheaper than on roof-tops and the power would not need transmitting and indeed would not need stepping down:http://nextbigfuture.com/2008/04/solar-thermal-municipal-power.html

I'm just in favour of building what we can as fast as possible, but the fallacy which people like Jerome are not subject to but many appear to be is to equate the problem of energy provision by renewables in hot areas with plenty of land and good wind resources to that of places lke the UK, with 60 million people on a cold northern island.

With current technology or anything like it we need nuclear power in addition to renewables, and the delays in getting on and building it appear to me unconscionable.

I would agree with your ball-park estimate that the US has around twice the potential of western Europe for most renewables. It might all change if hot dry rock geothermal or something is developed, but that is not going to help us in starting a practical build now.

Even at the latitude of the Mohave you get around 25% of the insolation in the winter compared to the summer....

You require constant correction in this point at every location on Earth. I've provided you with links to get this right. Between Dec. and Jun. the Mohave has 70% of the insolation, not 25%. http://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar.html

Please make it a habit to check your figures every single time you want to give a seasonal estimate using one of the many excellent tools available to you. Your credebility is severely diminished by constant repetition of these severe and always one sided errors.

The reason I have not previously responded to your point is that I do not usually read your posts, as in my view they are not impartial. However, it appears that there are serious omissions in your figures: ' the reason I don’t think the proposed storage is going to work for base load power is that the major difference between summer and winter production. Here in the Mojave there is about 4 hours difference between the amount of sunlight between winter and summer. (10 hours verses 14 hours) On its own that doesn’t sound so bad but the amount of solar radiation given off during the winter is much less too. Between the shortened days, less solar radiation, sun angle and general less perfectly clear days the total production in the winter is probably around 25% of the summer solar production.'

This was posted by someone in the energy industry in close touch with it's practicalities. From this it would appear that the variation in day length alone at 35 degrees north or so where the Mohave is located is around 70% which you give as total variability, before you start taking account of strength variations or greater cloud cover in the winter, which particularly affects solar thermal power.

For most if us though who are interested in using different energy sources where most appropriate this is not presently a major concern, as solar coincides well with peak use in this sort of region, and so could be massively expanded to provide this.

There are severe cost obstacles to schemes to use solar for base load though, as in any non-equatorial region you would have to have a very large overbuild.

Contained within this link is an estimate for hourly annual variation in Cairo, which at 30 degrees north has much less variability than the Mohave:http://www.powerfromthesun.net/chapter1/Chapter1.htm

It can clearly be seen from this that the 70% variation figure you give is for maximum insolation, and not for average insolation at different times of the year. In the real world variable cloud cover would also greatly reduce the output of solar thermal installations.

Your partisan and one-sided presentation of data for me totally impacts any worth of your posts, and for me make them not a good use of time to read.

Check the links I have given - the figures you are using of 70% of solar incidence winter vs summer are not even true for 30 degrees north, just for maximum solar incidence, not total for the day.

To reiterate: The links I have given for even as far south as 30 degrees, it is clear that your 70% figure refers to maximum solar incidence winter vs summer, and takes no account of how many hours of daylight there are, or how strong the sun is for how long.

If you take into account greater cloud cover and the hassles of solar thermal, it is apparent that my estimate of 25% winter vs summer is in the right ball-park, and your 70% is entirely unrealistic.

Would you please take notice of the fact that your figures did not relate to total solar incidence over the course of the day and it's annual variation, but referred solely to maximum incidence, and therefore have little relevance to the subject in hand - ie how much energy is available by solar means to provide base load power.

Should you wish to retain any credibility whatsoever on this site, a clear acknowledgement of your arithmetical mistakes would restore some confidence. Otherwise all people need to do is look at the links I have provided to realise that your figures are entirely misconceived.

You are cosistently wrong on this issue. The maps in the link I provided are integrated power over a day. In the past you have acknowledged your error but now you persist. You are incorrect about the Mohave resource.

I acknowledge error when I have made a mistake, which is not the case here. You have not commented on the link I have provided to actual solar incidence at the latitude of Cairo at 30 degrees north, by the hour at different seasons. You have also not commented on the fact that the variation in length of day alone at 35 degree north, the location of the Mohave, is around the same as your suggested figures for total solar incidence variability.

I find is astonishing that an astronomer should be ignorant of these basic figures. You may have been led astray by the fact that present solar plants often produce 70% as much power in winter as in summer. They do it by burning natural gas though to supplement the solar power.

Please review your figures and reconstruct them on a rational basis. Simply persisting in your error whilst refusing to consider data which refutes it is not convincing. This is one of the reasons it is a waste of time to debate with you, as you do not in fact engage in it

I posted a link above with a graph of the diurnal variation of new hampshire loads during june. During midday when the sun is shining the brightest there is a decline in electricity usage which peaks in the morning and evening. New Hampshire isn't exactly a heavy air conditioning state.

Sunny California summer use didn't correlate as well with solar availability as you might think, either. Air conditioning use ran from 8AM (before solar is generating much power) to midnight (when it generates none). The reason is that the heat lingers in the atmosphere and thermal mass and the need for air conditioning continues well into the evening. Solar thermal with short term heat storage could help with that but not PV. Commercial/industrial use peaked at 8AM, possibly to heat things up at the start of the day.

There is a also big difference between being correlated with air conditioning demand and being correlated with electric demand. In hot states, some solar as a supplemental (rather than primary) power source can help with air conditioning demand.

In non-airconditioning regions and seasons, though, the diurnal variation of solar would appear to be poorly adapted to residential loads.

Incidentally, if one is going to use longer term thermal storage to help balance generation with demand, this technology could also be applied to nuclear plants allowing nighttime generation to supply daytime loads and dealing with other fluctuations. Thermal storage can also be applied (long term) to heating/cooling loads at the residential level using phase change thermal storage to average out demand. For example, you cool a block of ice (with a lowered freezing point) or gel in a freezer/fridge when energy is cheap and it keeps the icebox cool.

As for wind, here is a NREL paper which tries to model 20% wind power generation in the US, with a considerable number of new interstate transmission lines required even at that level of wind usage (about half the lines are new rather than existing). Meanwhile, instead of a super duper grid, what we have is a deteriorating grid infrastructure.

As I wrote above, subsidizing the installation of cost inefficient turbines as opposed to R&D may not be working so well as a strategy. Wind generator costs have been declining at only 4% per year. If nuclear gives 3 times as much total power generating capability (adjusted for capacity factor and plant lifetime) per dollar spent, wind will take 28 years to catch up - assuming nuclear isn't a moving target. If the difference is only 2:1, it will take 18 years. If firming costs increase it to 4:1, it will take about 35.5 years.

Interesting cost comparison but are the costs for each an accurate representation? I have generally found that the cost of nuclear only includes the cost of constructing and running the nuclear power station. It very rarely counts the decommissioning costs. I have yet to see any costings for the associated storage facilities required for the waste. These storage facility don't have a 60 year design life and require constant maintenance. Once these costs are added into the total life cost of a nuclear power plant I think you will find that not only is nuclear not a favourable comparison to wind power it may in fact be a net negative for the total life cost.

Shay I used the highest cost estimate currently being quoted for nuclear. My estimate for the cost of California wind comes from a Green source, EcoWorld. I used the same wind cost figure, but a more favorable Stanford estimate of reliable wind base power to figure what how much wind capacity assumed by the Google plan actually could be counted as base power.

I have yet to see any costings for the associated storage facilities required for the waste. These storage facility don't have a 60 year design life and require constant maintenance.

Since nuclear costs less than wind and will efficiently replace rather than supplement carbon dioxide producing fossil fuel plants, it is clear that nuclear power is a superior tool for fighting AGW.

If you include decommissioning and waste storage costs it doesn't cost less at all - nuclear is more expensive than wind or solar thermal if you include *all* costs.

And its a power source based on the extraction of a depleting resource - we all know how that story ends.

If you include decommissioning and waste storage costs it doesn't cost less at all - nuclear is more expensive than wind or solar thermal if you include *all* costs.

Strange that utilities actually have to internalize these costs and still turn a profit. Why decomissioning is seen as incredibly expensive is strange to me. Outside the UK, we haven't observed any outrageous costs related to decomissioning. As for waste storage, parking lots just arent that expensive.

And its a power source based on the extraction of a depleting resource - we all know how that story ends.

In ten million years when all the uranium and thorium is fissioned? Wait a second, the sun is a depleting resource as well...

A detailed look at costs shows that nuclear power has a very high opportunity cost as regards ending global warming. It is so expensive that it hurts other superior solutions. http://www.rmi.org/images/PDFs/Energy/E08-01_AmbioNucIllusion.pdf

I would think that you would support an end to nuclear power until such time as a workable form could be developed.

It would take me a very long time to rebut all the misrepresentations in that paper. Fortunately, others have taken a stab at it.

I had a look at that. Seems a bunch of gassing to me. Lovins and Sheikh address the reasons nuclear power is so expensive very well and look carefully at the relative costs. Nuclear power is not going to get any cheaper, only more expensive, and it is already the most expensive form of new generation aside from solar and oil. You will have to do better than tha link to refute the work.

chris, you have picked out the most Discredited on nuclear power ever written. A Whole Industry emerged among bloggers rushing to point out exactly hoe mistaken earlier Amory Lovins is on nuclear power. David Bradish demolished Lovins arguments, for example here:http://neinuclearnotes.blogspot.com/2008/06/amory-lovins-and-his-nuclear... "Let’s sum up the apparent mistakes evident in just this one graph. First, RMI’s analysis erroneously uses twice the actual capacity factor for “non-biomass decentralized co-generation.” Second, RMI’s analysis distorts the actual contribution from nuclear’s “true competitors" with the use of chartjunk. Third, RMI’s analysis makes selective use of data in order to state that nuclear’s “true competitors” are turning “in a stunning global market performance” when in fact one their own sources actually says the opposite. Finally, RMI’s analysis misleads the reader by not stating that coal is included in this graph, when actually it is."

More here:http://neinuclearnotes.blogspot.com/2008/06/amory-lovins-and-his-nuclear... Here:http://neinuclearnotes.blogspot.com/2008/06/amory-lovins-and-his-nuclear... Herehttp://neinuclearnotes.blogspot.com/2008/06/amory-lovins-and-his-nuclear... Herehttp://neinuclearnotes.blogspot.com/2008/06/amory-lovins-and-his-nuclear... And Here:http://neinuclearnotes.blogspot.com/2008_07_01_archive.html RMI’s second rebuttal to my posts also claims that Robert Bryce, myself, and Dr. Peter Huber and Mr. Mark Mills (authors of the Bottomless Well) are all wrong when it comes to the Jevons Paradox and energy efficiency. RMI should also add Bill Gates, the Wall Street Journal, LA Times and Business Week to that list because they all thought Huber and Mills’ Bottomless Well was brilliant (as stated on the cover of the book). And RMI should also include the IEA, EIA, EPRI, McKinsey & Company and PNNL to their list because, as demonstrated above, they all find that nuclear capacity will likely have to increase in the future.

So what does that say about RMI’s work when prominent writers, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, and institutions all disagree with RMI’s conclusions? Also, how ridiculous is it to accuse the nuclear industry of coordinating an “intensive global campaign” to “spin” the benefits of nuclear energy? RMI is basically assuming that people can’t think for themselves. How insulting is that? Lovins attempted to answer Bradish on Gristmill,http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2008/6/19/9138/54191http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2008/6/19/233234/924 but cut short the debate after two posts despite promising: ""We will address Mr. Bradish's forthcoming posts on "nuclear and grid reliability" and "costs" as they appear."

Actually following Lovins two Gristmill posts, Bradish and others offered spirited response. Loving refused to allow himself to be drawn into internet debate. And of course has never produced promised answers to Bradish's last 4 posts.

In addition to Bradish refutations havebeen offered by the blogger "the Sovietologist" who noted "I still think that RMI's big problem is that their argument is that we shouldn't go nuclear and that we should use fossil fuels more efficiently instead. These days, people like James Hansen are arguing that we really shouldn't be burning fossil fuels at all. It's hard to make a convincing argument for a fossil-fuel future, even one vastly improved on the present. We need a zero-carbon economy, and realistically that means fission. As such, "negawatts" and "micropower" are just obfuscation that only serve to cloud the energy debate".http://sovietologist.blogspot.com/2008/06/misadventures-of-amory-lovins-...

And of course Charlles Barton:http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/2008/06/amory-lovins.html I conclude: "Lovins' anti-nuclear report points to missing links, shallow and hidden sources, and what clearly appears to be outdated information. To say that Lovins had "cherry picked" his information on the PBMRs would appear to be an unwarranted compliment to his research technique. Lovins reports on Nuclear power are written with the sole purpose of hiding the failure of Lovins' decades old predictions on nuclear power to prove true. In his effort to obscure the truth, Lovins has become a fount of disinformation."

I also discussed multiple criticisms of Lovins here:http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/2008/06/dont-pay-attention-to-man-behin... I concluded: "the critiques of Lovins by nuclear bloggers have repeatedly noted the weakness of Lovin's arguments. . . . Lovins arguments tend to become self-referential. Thus Lovins sole source for a claim that nuclear power is in a global market collapse, was a statement that Lovins himself had published twenty years previously. What begins to emerge from behind the curtain then is Lovins' ego".

Well, this fan of nuclear power at least is certainly not against wind power. Just like yourself, the conflict between nuclear and wind seems to me to be unnecessary.

One of the most noticeable characteristics of renewables though is how dependent they are on local conditions, and it is a refusal to recognise this by many who seek to rule out nuclear power which seems to me to be unrealistic.

In the US, the emphasis for me would be on strengthening the grid, and it's excellent wind resources with their quick build times mean that it has a very major role to play, supplemented in due course in my view by solar power, which should be competitive by 2015 or so for the grid. Together with biogas for powering agricultural equipment, one can see the outlines of an energy system for that country. Just the same, even there it would be very handy to have a compact energy source such as nuclear to supplement the dispersed and materials-intensive renewables. Because of it's other resources, the US seems to me to be unlikely to lead in nuclear energy, and the absurd way the regulatory authorities there charge companies for the regulatory staff studying the technologies behind new proposals make innovations all but impossible, so it will be more difficult there than almost anywhere else to introduce more advanced reactors which can burn fuel a lot more efficiently and reduce or eliminate waste.

The situation in Europe is far different, with much less resources than in the US, and lower average wind speeds greatly increase costs. The main thing I have against much of the discussion on renewable resources here is that they ignore scale. Unless we are prepared to let most of the people die off, and believe me if that happens then warfare will reduce the remainder greatly, and likely destroy infrastructure beyond the point where renewables could be run, then we do not currently have anything like the technology to run society on renewables alone:http://www.withouthotair.com/

For cold northerly countries with many millions of people it is not just a technological stretch to talk of renewables as an alternative making nuclear unnecessary in Europe, it is totally unrealistic at anything like present population levels. The real basic choice, as Germany is now reluctantly realising, is between coal and nuclear. I know which I prefer.

Having said that, providing it is regarded as a supplementary energy source and not held out as an entirely impractical alternative, then renewables have a real contribution to make, and in fact would fit in very well with nuclear power generation. One reason for that is that wind power in particular tracks use very well, being much stronger in the depth of winter than in the summer, so if, for instance, it were possible to build the projected 33GW of off-shore wind power in the UK, it's average hourly output would be around 10GW, but that might represent only, say, 7GW in midsummer, but as much as 15GW in winter:http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/publications/downloads/sinden05-dtiwindreport.pdf

The real problem with off-shore as opposed to on-shore though is it's staggering costs. The figures I have are these:http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_/ai_n25141277 In an oil constrained world, I would also be concerned with how much diesel is likely to be needed to run the ships for maintenance.

Some efforts are being made towards cost reduction by moving the turbines closer inshore etc:http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE49D3QM20081014http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/britain-leads-the-...

Just the same, the costs remain vast, for build likely of the order of twice as great as for nuclear power, although the new generation of stations is far from plain sailing:http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/oct/18/nuclearpower

So for me it is all about costs and realistic prospectuses. It seems the pity of the world to me that more resources have not been placed into high altitude wind power, which is a resource of a different order of magnitude to current wind turbines, potentially far cheaper and more widely available here is one promising variant:http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/aug/03/renewableenergy.energy

On a technical note, one of the comments in this thread said that China and India had poor wind resources. At least in the case of China, this is not true, although it is not available in all areas. China is likely to be either number one or two on the use of wind power, but will certainly not be able to do without nuclear power too, and it has the world's most vigorous program to develop it.

More power to your elbow, Jerome, in introducing more wind power, providing the costs can be contained. Nuclear power is also vital for most of the world though, and it does renewables little service when their potential is misrepresented, as it so often is.

For cold northerly countries with many millions of people it is not just a technological stretch to talk of renewables as an alternative making nuclear unnecessary in Europe, it is totally unrealistic at anything like present population levels.

However, the question of the share of the energy budget that can be provided by sustainable renewable power sources cannot be separated from the energy budget per capita. While the US can certainly be powered on sustainable renewable power sources alone, that is not at current US rates of consumption per capita.

As a rough guide, the global footprint network estimate of EU biocapacity is 2.2 hectares per person, compared to 4.7 hectares per person in the US (and footprints of 4.8 ha/capita and 9.6 ha/capita, resp.). So if sustainable renewable energy sources are proportional to that, and the US can just cover its energy needs with sustainable, renewable power (bringing its footprint down to the neighborhood of the current European footprint), that same technology would leave the EU covering in the range of 40% and 50% of its energy needs. If the US is covering its needs with an exportable surplus of 50%, that same technology would leave the EU covering in the range of 70% to 80% of its energy needs.

Now, the world biocapacity is estimated at 1.8 hectares/capita, so "import from the relatively better resourced ROW" is a limited recourse. Obviously, nuclear is preferable to coal as a recourse to cover the balance, both in terms of CO2 emissions and in terms of net resource depletion.

Interesting that you ignore direct solar-electrical generation, particularly concentrating solar-thermal. Photosynthesis has a solar-to-carbohydrate conversion efficiency of "about" <1%, whereas solar thermal plants already operate at "about" 17%. Modify solar-thermal tactics slightly, to distributed combined-heat-power-absorption-refrigeration for residential / commercial, dual-using the space of buildings and parking spaces, and even in "very poor" insolation areas solar-thermal very quickly makes a lot more sense than wind of bio-mass. What we need is heavy research into small stirling engine technology and collector efficiency.

Interesting that you ignore direct solar-electrical generation, particularly concentrating solar-thermal.

I guess this is a rhetorical weakness of supporting a portfolio approach. Silver bullet advocates always have a single energy source to advocate for in whatever context, but portfolio advocates will take about the benefits of windpower and the role it can play when the topic is windpower, the benefits of CPS and passive solar and the role it can play when the topic is solar power, the benefits of bio-coal and the role it can play when the topic is biomass, the benefits of rail electrification and a massive downsizing of the long-haul trucking industry when the topic is freight transport, and etc.

If the vast costs of off-shore wind in Europe can be reduced, then more could be built. That is a very different matter to trying to run the whole grid on renewable power, which we simply have no experience of, and even high penetration rates depend extensively on hydropower reserves in Scandanavia. So even the most strict conservation will not result in the vast urban areas being able to be run solely on renewables - rural areas may be a different matter.

The bottom line is that wind power, at any rate of the on-shore variety, can help, but not solve our problems, at least in Europe. Off shore costs are still huge. We know that we can generate most of our electricity needs with nuclear power, certainly for base-load, as France already does so.

Cite costs. A vague unsourced allusion to vast costs is not evidence for an argument, its a placeholder for where evidence would go.

That is a very different matter to trying to run the whole grid on renewable power, which we simply have no experience of, and even high penetration rates depend extensively on hydropower reserves in Scandanavia.

So even the most strict conservation will not result in the vast urban areas being able to be run solely on renewables - rural areas may be a different matter.

Passing over the point that the argument concedes the point at issue, whether wind power can provide a substantial share of power consumed in economies like the EU and North America, to counter an argument that nobody appears to be advancing for the EU ...

... the fact that nobody has experience in running a large grid exclusively on renewable power is not enough to carry the weight of the argument. We did not have an experience in operating an electrical grid at all before the first grids were established, and that did not prevent us from establishing grids that large urban areas now rely on.

Now, 20% of electrical power can be supplied by wind with no big adjustment required. 100% supplied by wind and other renewable power sources, with a large share of that intermittent power sources (wind, CSP, tidal, run-of-river hydro, etc.) seems likely to require massive changes.

The way to establish the upper limit, if there is an upper limit, is to pursue expansion of the sustainable power share of the energy portfolio, and cope with the technological hurdles as they arise. When there is a technological hurdle that can't be surmounted, that's the upper limit.

But that's a far more plausible binding constraint in the US than in the EU ... if the US is winding its energy efficiency toward EU levels, then the same harvest intensity that would lead to 50% renewable power on the grid in the US would be in the range of 25% renewable power on the grid in the EU, and where the US would be in currently uncharted territory in terms of how to run a grid on 50% renewable power, the EU would be just over the boundary from levels that can be accommodated with no major changes required.

Perhaps if you read the thread you would note where I have cited references to the cost of off-shore wind. Amongst countless other estimates of off-shore costing approximately 3 times on-shore wind, here is the one I have already quoted:

Here are UK Government estimates from 2006 showing clearly the greatly increased costs of off-shore wind:http://www.renewables-advisory-board.org.uk/vBulletin/attachment.php?s=0...

It should be noted that costs have risen considerably since then, although the ratio of on-shore to off-shore is likely fairly constant.

In addition massive new investment into the power grid will be needed, largely due to the dispersed and remote location of wind power sites:

As for the rest of the points you seek to make, I fail to see where we differ in assessing that we currently have experience in providing up to 20-25% of grid power with wind power, and that is in countries which have access to considerable hydro power. I have no problem with the proposition that that may be able to be increased in future, and my point is simply that we do not know what is possible at this time, so we should not count our chickens before they are hatched.

And for the charge that I was countering strawman arguments, in this thread it is certainly true that the proposition that Europe could run on all renewables has not been advanced. However, on numerous other occasions many have indeed sought to argue that this could be done, and it is the proposition that using wind-power would make nuclear energy unnecessary that I am seeking to counter.

The chief problem in Europe is a lack of suitable land-based sites with high wind speed, and the cost of going off-shore and connecting it. It is a different ball-game in the US, and it should be some time before any difficulties arising from generating a high proportion of the grid with wind have to be dealt with.

So the detailed report on which you base a claim that offshore wind is twice as expensive as onshore wind per KWh actually gives costs of £0.9m/MW installed capacity versus £1.6m/MW installed capacity, points out that offshore wind will typically have a higher load than onshore wind, and is early in its development life and can expect ongoing learning curve economies.

is 2, rather than the 1.6 in conventional arithmetic, so an offshore resource on your arithmetic must be twice the quality of an onshore resource, rather than 1.6 times the quality of an onshore resource to be equivalent.

As you note, once the highest quality onshore sites have been built out, there will be many offshore sites that will be 1.6 times higher quality resource than the on-shore sites on the extensive margin of exploitation.

... a planned expenditure of £5b to £9b over twenty years to connected dispersed and remote wind power sites versus £14b to cope with new demand is not "largely" due to the dispersed and remote location of wind power sites, its primarily to cope with new demand.

Indeed, the only scenario in which installed nuclear capacity and installed wind capacity would be in any contention would be if available wind has shut down all fossil fuel generating capacity entirely, because even thermal coal ramps up and down more quickly with more fuel savings than nuclear ... it would be decades of roll-out before the UK could be in that position, with ample advance warning to put trunk electricity cross-haul capacity in place with continental Europe ... given that if the wind is blowing particularly hard over UK wind resource sites, the wind will tend to be light in some wind resource site somewhere else in Europe.

I do wish you would actually read what is written before you reply. In the report you should note that the average capacity quoted for off-shore wind is just under 30%, not the 35% you get from sources unknown, and only just above the figure for on-shore, the reason being that it makes economic sense to station the off-shore wind turbines close in-shore, or the economics become even worse.

Very little allowance is made in these estimates for the additional connection costs of off-shore to onshore, and other more recent estimates are available, for instance in the other source I linked.

The argument you seek to make that much of the cost of the upgrades needed to the grid are not due to the use of renewables also relies on both not having read the quoted source thoroughly and also flies in the face of commonsense. From the quoted source:

Much of this will go on bringing offshore wind farms onshore and managing the spikes and troughs of wind production.

It would also be clearly apparent to many that since new nuclear reactors are to be built where there are existing reactors, and so would require merely some upgrades to previously existing connections, a lot of the wind power is to be built both on-shore and off-shore where there are no existing high power lines at all. Which would you imagine is more expensive, to run lines from one source, or to connect up several hundred wind turbines at sea, transport the power to the shore, and then build lines from Scotland and other often remote areas to the centres of population where it is needed?

In the report you should note that the average capacity quoted for off-shore wind is just under 30%, not the 35% you get from sources unknown,

A review of available literature indicates that a typical load factor assumed for onshore wind farms is 30% and for offshore wind farms, 35% is normal. The 5% difference between offshore/onshore is considered significant.

The 35% load factor is from your source (of course, capacity in percentage terms would be 100%, since the load factor is a percent of capacity).

The other two links you gave were to media accounts. One source gave £80b as a figure for a windpower roll-out over 15 years, with nothing in the way of citation to follow up the details. To give perspective, for a £320b annual economy, investment at the rate of £5.33b/year is 1.7% of GDP. There is of course no way to determine whether the estimated cost is for publicly financed or privately financed projects, where the compound interest on the higher interest rate cost of a privately financed project can easily double the capital cost of a 20 year capital-intensive project.

The other media account gave a figure of £5b to £9b total over 20 years for grid improvements to tap wind-power in remote and dispersed locations. You originally characterized the required upgrade of the grid as largely, which is to say for the most part due to the dispersed and remote locations of wind power sites, but the source that you cited stated that a large investment in the grid is required to cope with increased electricity consumption over the past half century, and the £5b-£9b to tap wind-power at dispersed and remote locations is not the larger share of the amount.

Which would you imagine is more expensive, to run lines from one source, or to connect up several hundred wind turbines at sea, transport the power to the shore, and then build lines from Scotland and other often remote areas to the centres of population where it is needed?

The cost of cabling the wind turbines to shore is already included in the cost estimate you cite of £1.6b/MW ... on the figures from the media accounts that you linked to, once the power is on shore, the cost of connecting to the grid is under 10% as much as the cost of the wind generators.

The "vast costs" of offshore wind are still in the same range as those for nuclear or gas. Most of the cost of nuclear new build is the financing cost; if you're doing offshore by the private sector, then you have to get nuclear done by the private sector too, with the same high discount rates (if you use the French exemple for nuclear, then you have to ajust offshore wind costs to use the same low discount rate of the State).

Another point to note about these "vast costs" is that they apply, right now, to what essentially are prototypes, with no effects of scale on either manufacturing, logistics, installation or maintenance. Once the industry has grown a bit, after a few of the early large wind farms are built, costs will come tumbling down.

I certainly hope that off-shore is buildable at reasonable cost, and in my post I quoted references to efforts to reduce them. In addition it should be noted that decreasing material costs will improve the picture for renewables, as they use a lot more of resources like concrete and steel than coal or nuclear plants.

The estimates I have seen, and referenced, indicate staggeringly high build costs for off-shore wind and connection though. I am aware that you have previously argued that the costs are greatly overstated, but all that I have seen are levelised costs, which are pretty much as long as a piece of string, and reflect very strongly the assumptions put into them.

On the figures I have seen and referenced, the cost to build the off-shore wind for the UK would be at least double the cost of nuclear, and although fuel for the wind power is obviously free the cost of nuclear fuel is a very small part of total operating costs, whilst maintenance for off-shore is likely to be much more expensive than for on-shore.

I would certainly agree that hopefully cost can be reduced, but although your point that amortisation of wind power is easier due to relatively swift build, I doubt that in the UK at least it will be possible to afford to build off-shore in the quantities planned,and we are likely to end up with coal plants.

You would be in a position to correct me on this, but it is my understanding that there is only one ship available capable of erecting the off-shore wind turbines projected, so even the British Wind Energy Association finds the suggested build by 2020 unrealistic.

In the UK we have around 30GW of power due to retire by around 2015, and I don't think it can be filled by wind or nuclear in the time available.

That is a very different matter to trying to run the whole grid on renewable power, which we simply have no experience of,

I assume you must not be counting geothermal or hydroelectric as "renewable", since Iceland and NZ have very high renewable percentages, and most of this comes from hydro and geo.

I may not have mentioned that caveat in this particular posting, but in this thread I certainly mentioned that where a high percentage of renewables are used, for instance in Denmark, then there is a large back up available, and I cited hydropower in Scandanavia but omitted to mention geothermal. That is really my point, that renewables are very location specific, and one of the reasons I have difficulty with those who attempt to argue that renewables can do the job everywhere, all the time.

I don't read every post in the threads here, signal to noise ratio, needless repetition and all that, I just scan over to see what catches my interest, and catch the posts of those who consistently have something more or less intelligent to say.

With some people calling nuclear "renewable", it's obvious the word, like "organic" has a pretty vague definition. Given that geothermal reservoirs deplete over 50 or so years of use, and that hydroelectric uses vast quantities of resources to establish and produces a lot of greenhouse gases in construction (to make the cement and in rotting vegetation), and that issues like silting of the dam lake and climate change affecting rainfall come up for hydro, too... Given all that, if someone wanted to say they weren't truly "renewable", I'd say that's a reasonable position.

But as to your actual point, yes renewables are best chosen for location. Why Germany or Korea bother with solar PV is beyond me, why Australia has so little is also a puzzle. I often come at things from a permaculture perspective, which is that things will work out well for the longest time if you do your best to adjust to the local environment, rather than using large amounts of energy and money to try to make the local environment adjust to you.

So for example we should probably not grow rice and cotton in the savannah of the Malee here in Australia, but sorghum would do well. And countries with long sea coasts and small land area in the middle latitudes would do better with offshore wind than with solar PV - and so on.

There are too many people who haven't learned the lesson of peak oil, that putting everything into just one way of doing things leads to a mess. Whether that one way is oil or coal or wind or nuclear or the Green Revolution or whatever doesn't matter. There are no silver bullets. We're just going to have to think and observe and then think some more and adjust to local conditions.

"On a technical note, one of the comments in this thread said that China and India had poor wind resources." I made that statement based on the Archer and Jacobson paper in Journal of Geophysical Research vo110:D12110(2005). In those countries Nuclear and Solar energy are much better prospects. The fact that Germany and China are developing significant wind power but have relatively poorer resources than say the US, UK or Australia, shows the latter countries poorer commitments to replace cheaper FF.

You have quoted the MacKay book "Sustainable energy without hot air", but at least with assessing UK land based wind resources this a gross underestimate, based on average wind speeds of 6m/sec at 10m height, using a figure of 2W/m sq when in fact at 100m height wind energy is >200W/m sq and if only 10% of land area was being used the average wind speed would be considerably higher than this. One of your points was that land based wind can not be scaled to account for a significant proportion of UK energy requirements. This could be incorrect if you are basing that only on the MacKay book.

Hi Neil, I base my comments on China on these links:http://www.ewea.org/fileadmin/ewea_documents/documents/publications/stat...http://www.all-energy.co.uk/UserFiles/File/2007China.pdf

I'd agree that solar in southern China and India has great prospects, and I believe I mentioned that although wind would help in China, the massive nuclear build will be vital.

Thanks for pointing out the underestimate of wind in MacKay's work - he presents this as early calculations, and in detail there are indeed some errors. Perhaps this FOE estimate is more accurate:http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/factsheets/wind_power.pdf

Taking the moderate estimate of 40% of total electricity capable of being generated on-shore, as the 80% estimate likely includes fairly extreme assumptions, then it would appear that there is substantial room for increase. However, a number of caveats should be entered, and are some of the reasons that the Government is emphasising off-shore wind. The geography of the UK means that by far the greatest part of the wind resource is in the relatively inaccessible north and west, which imposes a variety of practical constraints. Northern Ireland, one of the best areas, is not even substantially connected to the mainland at the moment, and the considerable autonomy of Scotland means that there are severe limits to how much damage to their landscape they are likely to put up with, besides the fact that if energy was short they would be unlikely to permit much export of power to the South, so security of supply would not have been greatly increased for England even after considerable investment.

There is also considerable environmental damage arising from the peat bogs which cover large areas which have the highest wind speeds, and it is even possible that destruction of that habitat would result in larger carbon dioxide releases than if the energy were generated using coal:http://news.scotsman.com/politics/Scientists-agree-placing--.3990531.jp

On top of that, the 40% figure refers just to electricity generation, and most houses are heated by natural gas, which is likely to need to be substituted, so you might end up with a figure, practically speaking, of perhaps 10% of power needs coming from on-shore wind, and to reach that level you would need to build many thousands of wind turbines, and access roads and terminal disturbance to the remaining areas which currently harbour wildlife.

So on the whole I am comfortable with the position that wind can supplement other power sources in the UK, but is unlikely and it would be very expensive to go for a very large share from this source.

It should be noted though that these remarks are based on present technology, as if the new 7.5MW wind turbine for off-shore use works out and material costs continue to drop then the economics of off-shore could greatly improve, but we won't know for some time if it can reliably generate power, and it is equally possible that series production of nuclear power could drop in price enough to make it vast sea borne arrays unnecessary, so I prefer to stay very firmly focussed on what we can do at the moment with current firm engineering proposals.

Hi again Dave, Thank you for your detailed reply. Without knowing the assumptions of the FOE ( except that they are using wind speed at 25m)its hard to know if 80%of present electricity is extreme. From the wind speed map at 25m on the bwea site, it appears that 1-2% of the UK would be capable of producing >20 MW/km sq( >9m/sec at 25m, is equivalent to 1000W/m sq energy at 10m). This is about X10 what MacKay estimates from his 6m/sec calculation. I do not think that if wind farms occupied 2% of UK this would cause unacceptable "damage" to the environment. Since the UK is building an undersea power cable to Europe, another connection to N Ireland would seem reasonable and desirable.

You have expressed concern about declining NG and problems with electricity supply this winter in UK and for the next few years, so whatever the long term advantages of nuclear ( for example price), it seems that only additional wind power is likely to be installed in the next 5 years. If 981MW is approved and 800MW is awaiting planning decisions its not unreasonable to expect 2-5GW additional capacity could be installed within 5 years. What additional nuclear is likely in next 5 years?

Thanks for cheering me up, Neil, as it appears that the potential of on-shore wind is greater than I had believed. I would agree about the desirability of a connection to Ireland, but that is going to take some time. In passing it should be noted that if solid connectors are built, estimates of UK wind of course would not include resources in the Irish Republic, which are very good.

Any reservations I have on the role of wind are purely pragmatic rather than ideological, and I would also be happy to see off-shore resources built to whatever extent it is possible to do so without bankruptcy. The price difference with nuclear is really very important when it is compared to off-shore - things are a lot closer on-shore, and fast construction times of wind on-shore considerable alrter the amortisation.

Perhaps I should comment a little further on why I characterised China's resources as good, but had deeper reservations about the UK. Partly this may be because distance lends enchantment, and I know a lot more about how difficult and time consuming a build will be in the UK than I do in China. A lot of it has to do with relative costs though, as it is far cheaper to build a wind turbine in China than in the UK, and at a guess they may even be able to build off-shore at something not too different to UK on-shore costs, although the prevalence of typhoons may greatly alter that picture.

First, I am not opposed to wind. I like wind. Not sure why you want to take a factual comparison as an attack. My state, unfortunately, has rather lackluster wind resources. You can put a wind turbine in my backyard but it would be a pretty useless exercise, I am afraid. I am supporting nuclear, not attacking wind. What I am attacking is some of the false claims made by anti-nuke folks and some poorly informed environmentalists, including claims that wind is just a drop in replacement that is safer, more ecological, and more economical - which just isn't true. And I am "picking on wind" in particular because it is currently among the best of the renewables. Both wind and nuclear are much better than fossil fuel overall. I have certainly defended wind against unwarranted attacks. And I have suggested load shifting technologies that would make it easier to use a greater proportion of wind and other renewables.

1) yes, they both follow an exponential curve. This reflects business processes more than technology. Such as companies reinvesting profits in expanded manufacturing capability, greater confidence from investors and buyers in proven technology, more skilled people available to do the work, etc. But there is a constant of proportionality as well as an exponential curve. And that is a problem because that effectively shifts your curve by more than a decade.

2) Another commenter has already addressed the subsidies. Only a small portion of the nuclear subsidies (about the cost of one power plant) really pertain to current light water reactor technology and some of that is probably attempting technological fixes for political problems. Also, at the start, wind technology had thousands of years of experience in non-electric generation and more than half a century of experience in airfoil designs for aircraft, etc. Both wind and nuclear drew on existing technologies for converting heat or motion to power. Wind never should have needed subsidies because it was a very incremental, evolutionary extension of older technologies whereas the reactor core and safety systems were very new. I am happy to give wind subsidies but draw the line at economic comparisons based on subsidies that are part of the marginal cost rather than upfront cost which when scaled to massive deployment of substantial portions of our energy production will entail massive hidden costs to the public. There subsidies table you give is complete rubbish. It divides the supposed subsidies to light water nuclear reactor by the amount of power they generated in a 15 year period before they went online. And you will notice that goldberg shows that as you increase the time period until 1999, nuclear subsidies by his calculation were $0.012/KWh instead of the $15.30 number you show (and would be less now). To get that $15.30 number, they divided by 0.297 gigawatt years - the amount of power generated by a single typical modern reactor in a few months. And that number came from the same table you show in truncated form. That same table gives a cost of $0.04 per KWh for wind subsidy but that isn't necessarily fair to wind, either, since it hasn't had time to work off those subsidies (but on the other hand, the bulk of wind subsidies may be ongoing production tax credits that will cause the subsidy numbers to rise as the power generation numbers rise). The production tax credit for wind is $0.019/KWh. And those nuclear subsidies are primarily a sunk cost. We have already spent it and have been paid back in benefits. They are essentially free for future light water plants, with the exception of the insurance subsidy.

3) Cutting there does lead the reader to the wrong impression (as opposed to showing the power generated over the entire plant lifetime s if you stopped building new plants at the cutoff point) , though it is really the issues of capacity factor and lifetime and there can be better ways to address those than changing the cutoff point. A more realistic comparision would be to chart the total power that would be generated by those plants (and ultimate greenhouse gas savings) based on our best estimates now. On my chart, I used the former method and thus it takes both of those into consideration unlike a shortsighted graph but adding a third set of traces on the graph is another way of presenting the information but it can overlook capital cost of rebuilding plants). Wind would thus be about an order of magnitude lower. Some numbers I have seen give roughly equal operating costs (including maintenance) for wind and nuclear (including fuel). On one hand you maintain and operate one 1GW nuclear reactor and on the other 1000 3W (faceplate) wind turbines. Consider, for example, if you had to replace the generators (or their bearings). On a nuclear plant, you bring in one crane and do the job once. On a wind farm, this operation has to be repeated (with a smaller lighter generator but inconveniently located 300 feet in the air) 1000 times. And those maintenance costs for nuclear, I believe, already contain the costs of keeping them operating for 60 years. Rising fuel costs for a reactor have little effect because the mining cost is only 1/4 the cost of a finished fuel rod which in turn is only a portion of the operating cost. Uranium costs of $300 per pound would only increase the fuel cost by 0.5 cents per kilowatt hour. At $300/pound there is much more uranium available on land than claimed reserves and an almost unlimited amount (millions of years) from the oceans.

I don't think that per KWh, the costs of wind and nuclear are yet close even for new build plants (which was what I was comparing in my diary). Capital costs are also as important, since capital is a problem. But since marginal costs seem to be similar for both nuclear and wind, I compared the capitol costs. For the same amount of average capacity (faceplate derated by capacity factor), wind and nuclear seemed to be remarkably similar in capital cost, operating costs, and mining impact. The difference was plant lifetime and that made a huge impact of approximately 3:1, plus baseload quality issues. And a danger of the current production tax credit system for wind is that it does not seem to encourage fixing the plant lifetime problem but rather pays power companies to overlook this fundamental flaw.

whitis - "Another commenter has already addressed the subsidies. Only a small portion of the nuclear subsidies (about the cost of one power plant) really pertain to current light water reactor technology and some of that is probably attempting technological fixes for political problems."

OK so you would support a repeal of the Price Anderson Act and be prepared to shoulder the full risk costs of an accident? What about the loan guarantees for new plants that nuclear is asking for that drastically reduce the cost of the required money - are these not subsidies for new nuclear plants?

"Consider, for example, if you had to replace the generators (or their bearings). On a nuclear plant, you bring in one crane and do the job once."

Not really as while the bearing is being replaced perhaps a quarter of the plant is not producing anything however you are still paying costs for the whole plant all the while selling electricity only into the bottom of the market. A single wind turbine may only be 1/25th of the total and newer wind turbines have drastically lower parts counts and as they are not operating in 950 deg steam environments are far less likely to fail. Also other parts of a nuclear plant may be at ground level however as they are intensely radioactive and can be at extremely high pressures and temperatures the problems of working at 100M on a wind turbine are much easier to cope with. Also the skills required for working safely at heights is quite commonly found as many many industries are required to work at such heights. The pool of workers that can work in radioactive environments is by contrast quite small and much more expensive to obtain. As with everything people make the difference. When you can call on the large pool of riggers that routinely build 100M or more antennas and power distribution feeders the problems of replacing wind turbine bearings are much smaller than replacing parts within the pressure vessel of a nuclear power plant.

Price Anderson simply makes the federal govenment the insurer for the extremely rare larger disasters rather than depending on private insurers who can't handle the statistical outliers. Flood insurance is handled by the government, as well, for the same reason. Whether we pay for this out of taxes or as a fee on the power plants is of little concern to me. In either case, the cost should be accounted for against nuclear power. Taking the cost of chernobyl (which is worse than the typical expected severe accident) at $320 billion (high estimate) and a frequency of 1 accident per 20000 reactor years, accident cost works out to $16million per reactor year or 0.2 cents per KWh.

It is common for nuclear plants to cite the value of the loan guarantees as if they were a direct subsidy in that amount; that simply isn't the case. If wind was getting some loan guarantees and nuclear folks made such claims, wind advocates would scream bloody murder. And the loan guarantees are only for the first few plants to be built, just to get the ball rolling again. And the cost of these could largely be blamed on anti-nuke propaganda.

I doubt that bearings on nuclear turbines operate in the 950 degree steam environment that the turbines they support do. As for the hazards of maintainance, far more people have been killed, per KWh, working on wind turbines than nuclear plants. The size of the pool of workers presently qualified to work on nuclear plants is irrelevant as the construction time for new plants provides ample time for training operation and maintainance workers. Despite your claims that there is a pool of workers who already have the skills for wind maintenance, it has been reported that wind turbines are falling behind on maintenance due to labor shortages. Those working on antennas and power distribution must not actually possess the full range of qualifications or are otherwise occupied doing the aforementioned tasks.

The one wind turbine that is offline for maintainance in your example isn't 1/25th of the plant it is 1/1000th for a farm comparable for a nuclear plant and I will assume that 100% of the nuclear plant, not 25%, is offline during maintainance. However, many wind turbines might need to be maintained simultaneously because doing them all sequentially would take years. Yet, still, those are already factored into the capacity factor for nuclear and I will assume for wind as well.

Both wind and nuclear will face significant growing pains in ramping up capacity. When adjusted for actual average generating capacity, though, if anything, nuclear has demonstrated (see Jerome's graph with my corrections) that it can handle rapid growth provided that there is a reasonable expectation that plants will be built on a consistent basis instead of building them one-off.

And selling electricity into the "bottom of the market" means you can sell it and applies to wind as much as to nuclear.

You are mistaken about flood insurance. The government does it to reduce new construction in flood plains. Too bad Price Anderson is not the same: to reduce the incidence of nuclear power in the US. No, Price Anderson is a subsidy to encourage nuclear power.

You are further mistaken to take property values near Chernobyl as similar to those near Indian Point, for example. An accident there would put the federal government into receivership. After the bank bailout, even a mid-west accident, the basis for NRC modeling, could put us under. The best thing to do about Price Anderson is to give the contract to AIG and reprivatize it. This would let their actuaries come up with risks related to plant location and past safety history. Then insurance might have a beneficial effect. The value of Price Anderson as a subsidy is about $0.08/kWh not counting casualty.

Imagine that the terrorist attack on 9-11 never took place. Instead, suppose that on a busy weekday morning at about 11 AM, a design defect in the floor attach fittings of a World Trade Center building caused a mid level floor to collapse on to the floor below it.

That started a chain reaction collapse that brought the building down. The upper floors tipped into the other WTC tower, triggering the same defect and bringing it down.

A Boeing 747 takes off with a full load of fuel on a long international flight. One minute after takeoff it flies through the wake of another jumbo jet. The turbulence causes an undetected crack in the vertical fin to propagate, and the fin snaps off. The 747 yaws sideways, rolls onto its back and dives down through the roof of a large sports arena holding the national championship basketball game.

200,000 pounds of fuel atomizes on impact with the floor and erupt in an enormous fireball inside the building, consuming all the oxygen and incinerating 40,000 people on live HD worldwide television.

http://yosemite.epa.gov/ee/epa/funding.nsf/ef8d219bc45f0868852564c60072e0ea/d078ad618c325c5b85256c8e00788885!OpenDocument

The WTC did not carry this level of insurance. Should they have been prevented from constructing those buildings without adequate insurance?

The airlines do not carry this level of insurance, should the airlines be grounded for lack of adequate insurance coverage?

Suppose that a biogenetics scientist in a major pharmaceutical industry accidentally develops a virus that is more contagious than the common cold and more deadly than the HIV virus. He contaminates himself and his family, the virus spreads around the world and kills half the population. That would be a twenty five thousand trillion dollar loss. All the money in the world would not cover that loss.

Should we shut down the entire drug industry and go back to life without medicine because it is not insured for all possible accidents?

Dams in the U.S. are not insured for the maximum imaginable loss. Should we tear down all dams and give up our hydroelectric power, or charge much more per kWh to pay for insurance?

Coal plants are killing over 20,000 Americans each year. That is a $175 billion loss each year that the coal plants are not paying for, a virtual subsidy.

You are holding a wedding reception for 150 people in your home. An F5 tornado sucks your home and its contents up to 1,000 feet, grinds it into small pieces, and deposits the mess in a field 2 miles away, killing everybody.

The tornado loss is $1.14 billion plus the property loss. Are you carrying that much liability insurance on your house? If not, should you be denied the privilege of owning a home?

If we required every corporation and individual to obtain insurance coverage for the worst possible event no matter how unlikely, we would have no civilization at all.

The Price Anderson Act requires that the utilities provide $10 billion in insurance coverage without cost to the public or government and without fault needing to be proven.

It was renewed for 20 years in mid 2005, with strong bipartisan support, and requires individual operators to be responsible for two layers of insurance cover. The first layer is where each nuclear site is required to purchase US $300 million liability cover which is provided by two private insurance pools.

The second layer is jointly provided by all US reactor operators. It is funded through retrospective payments if required of up to $96 million per reactor per accident collected in annual installments of $15 million (and adjusted with inflation). Combined, the total provision comes to over $10 billion paid for by the utilities. (The Department of Energy also provides $10 billion for its nuclear activities.) Beyond this cover and irrespective of fault, Congress, as insurer of last resort, must decide how compensation is provided in the event of a major accident.

More than $200 million has been paid by US insurance pools in claims and costs of litigation since the Price- Anderson Act came into effect, all of it by the insurance pools. Of this amount, some $71 million related to litigation following the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island.

American Nuclear Insurers is a pool comprised of investor-owned stock insurance companies. About half the pool's total liability capacity comes from foreign sources such as Lloyd's of London. The average annual premium for a single-unit reactor site is $400,000.

Two teenage brothers are home alone. They break into the liquor closet and find a half gallon of tequila. The older boy challenges the younger brother, “Bet you can’t drink the whole bottle”. “Yes I can” says the younger boy, and proceeds to start chugging. He passes out without finishing it, losing the bet, and within the hour looses his life.

This establishes that 64 oz. of tequila is a lethal dose. The Linear No Threshold (LNT) model says that if 64 people each drink one ounce of tequila one of them will be dead within the hour.

60 years of studying the effects of radiation has still not proven low level radiation to be harmful or beneficial. We can say with absolute certainty that the health effects of low level radiation are very small compared to other risks we accept without much thought.

The Chernobyl accident exposed millions of people to a small dose of radiation. The estimates of the number of deaths from Chernobyl over the next 40 years range from 4,000 (IAEA), to 100,000 (Greenpeace), based on the LNT theory.

If radiation hormesis turns out to be valid the Chernobyl accident may prevent thousands of cancer deaths.

The Chernobyl reactor had design defects that, combined with gross operator error, allowed it to go rapidly to 100 times the design power level, creating a powerful steam explosion that tore the roof off the building and dispersed fuel. It could never have been licensed in the US.

If it had an appropriately designed containment building for that reactor design, the release would have been minor.

Modern reactors have improved instrumentation and control systems, passive safety systems and strong containments designed to contain a full meltdown.

Nobody is going to build another Titanic, or a De Havilland Comet, or a Chernobyl reactor. I cannot think of any industry that is insured as fully as nuclear power.

Price-Anderson contributes to the illusion that nuclear power is extraordinarily dangerous and need special insurance coverage. That illusion is partly responsible for our continued dependence on coal which kills 20,000+ Americans each year, perhaps over a million worldwide, and contributes to the potential climate disaster we face.

Price-Anderson is not a nuclear power subsidy, it is a handicap that does far more harm than good. I support the repeal of Price-Anderson and treating nuclear power like other industries.

An entire comment composed of red herrings and straw men. Lets get to the actual information which is really only one line: "The average annual premium for a single-unit reactor site is $400,000. "

Now this premium price is because the insurance company knows the limit of the liability is a set amount guaranteed by the Government. Nobody really knows the full cost of a cleanup of a major accident of a reactor in an urban environment of a Western Democracy where multimillion dollar lawsuits are won over stubbed toes in a pavement. You cannot use Chenobyl as an example. There have been many aircraft accidents into urban areas so insurers have quite a large data pool of events to draw on to price the risk on an aircraft accident.

Very few events exist to guide insurance companies in pricing the risk of an urban nuclear power accident so they would price on the high side and shift portions of the risk to reinsurers. The final premium would be far higher than this even if the reinsurers wanted to accept the unguaranteed risk of a nuclear accident.

Price Anderson is a subsidy and make nuclear cheaper. I agree get rid of it however with such strong bi-partisen support it seems the nuclear industry want to guard its subsidies.

Ender, does your insurance policy have no cap? Are you insured for the maximum imaginable amount of damage that you could possibly do? Why not?

Of course it does however the cost of even the worst disaster to my house or car are a pretty known commodity with a wealth of statistical information for actuaries to calculate the risk.

How can you cap liability if you do not know what the liability will be? And if you get it wrong who picks up the pieces? The Taxpayer I guess - welcome to socialism brother.

False comparison. Your compare the damage possible to your car on one hand to the damage caused by a nuclear power plant as opposed to the damage to the nuclear power plant. What about the damage that your car can cause? If you cut off a bus and kill 40 passengers, then using the 7.6million per person figure you have caused 304million dollars in damage (plus the cost of the bus). Does your insurance cover that? No? Then get the hell off the road because by your own logic you have no right to drive.

You also act as if the nuclear industry was the sole beneficiary - we all benefit from the electricity - more than the power companies and the nuclear industry combined. And even if you ignore the flaws in the LNT theory, the probability weighted average of the expected distribution of fatalities as a result of a nuclear accident come out to around 0.02 people per reactor year of operation (400 people every 20000 reactor years of operation). Wind power kills 1.3 people per reactor year equivalent from accidents alone - 65 times higher than the accident rate for nuclear. The design of the chernobyl reactor was such that it was orders of magnitude more likely to have a serious accident (by the same methodology used to evaluate US reactors) and would cause much more damage when it did. Three mile island killed nobody; not immediately, not ever - the radiation risk to the population was the same as the naturally occurring radiation from eating 50 bananas.

Insurance is based on the probability weighted average of the expected distribution of liabilities, not the worst case scenario. It has to be. Otherwise, we would have to shut down pretty much every business and industry and no one would be allowed to drive. A single farm, dairy, or food processing plant can kill thousands, maybe even millions. Every hydroelectric dam would have to be drained and demolished. There are single dams whose failure could kill over 200,000 people (more than hiroshima and nagasaki combined). A wind turbine with a warning light failure could take out a fully loaded airliner. A liquefied natural gas facility explosion could kill 200,000 A geothermal plant could cause a major earthquake. A ship collided with the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, killing 35 ($266million). A barge damaged a railway bridge derailing an Amtrack train and killing 47. A Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India killed 16,000. A single prescription or over the counter drug could kill millions. No major industry can be self-insured for the worst case improbable scenario.

Nuclear isn't a privatize the profits/socialize the risks scenario. Nuclear energy is as far from an unregulated enterprise as you can get. Society shares in the risk and the rewards and regulates. The nuclear industry and the power companies get a small portion of the proceeds as profit; the consumer gets more profit - or we wouldn't be buying the electricity in the first place.

You seem to have very odd ideas about insurance. Here is how insurance was paid for 9-11: http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/defenseandsecurity/a/randon911.htm

Let's just repeal Price-Anderson and require private insurance for the full liability. The government is not in the financial shape it needs to be in to back things up now.

Do you really believe that the $38.1 billion paid out is the fair market value of the loss caused by the 9-11 terrorists?

Were these payments made by the terrorist’s insurance company? No, the payments were made by the government and private insurance companies. Do you believe this money will be recovered by suing the estates of the hijackers?

So your recommendation is a totally no fault insurance plan. If a drug company puts out a drug that causes thousands of deaths or birth defects it has no liability, the victims must collect from their own insurance company or the government.

Or do you go to the opposite extreme and require every business and individual to be insured for the greatest loss imaginable, how would that work?

Modern nuclear power plants have a containment building, they have a negative void reactivity coefficient, and they are designed to contain and resolidify a total core meltdown. The worst possible accident is far less severe and more improbable than Chernobyl and other non nuclear potential uninsured accidents and acts of terrorism.

That’s why Price-Anderson is not a nuclear power subsidy, it is a handicap that does far more harm than good. I support the repeal of Price-Anderson and treating nuclear power like other industries.

Again, your notions about insurance seem very bizarre. If a building collapses, the insured party's insurer pays.

You don't seem to understand the risks of nuclear power very well either. Perhaps you should review NRC containment breach scenarios to undestand better the huge devastation we face.

Price-Anderson is one issue, Federally subsidies of capital costs are another. Even if we would wish to change Price-Anderson, it is certainly not on the table in the middle of a meltdown in the finance sector. And if the explicit liability cap in Price-Anderson is seen as an implicit subsidy, well, there are external benefits as well as external costs in a domestically sourced power supply in a country that has a heavy import dependency for power.

I'm not especially keen on directed subsidies of capital costs for mature industries ... the focus of capital subsidies should be on potential infant industries, and the subsidies should be degressive and sunsetted over a reasonable period for establishment of an infant industry, certainly within thirty years.

The case for a capital subsidy ... or, preferably, a public authority borrowing at sovereign rates ... would be stronger in Europe, given a far greater intensity of harvest of sustainable renewable power required to shut down coal without increase in the size of the nuclear power industry.

On the other hand, a serious cap and auction system for carbon emissions will lead to a price penalty for coal-fired electricity that is likely to see the launch of new nuclear power projects in the US.

Obviously, in the US, given the weight of wind-rich states in the US Senate and the likely impact of an increase in size of the wind industry on employment in several presidential swing states, it would be an act of political insanity, if nothing else, for nuclear power advocates to frame the debate as nuclear versus wind.

Heard today on public radio in Canada that Norway was working on a way to use off peak wind power that wasn't being used...to be used for electrolysis of hydrogen. I use Bullfrog Power in Canada & I do hope the project continues to grow.

When I got a solar hot water heater, I started taking longer showers. The cost of a solar hot water heater is supplies/installation, there are no running costs. And if you don't use the hot water it makes, it isn't like you can sell it back to the grid or anything, the only cost for the longer showers is the municipal water, (which is dirt cheap compared to power.)

But given that we are a long ways away from installing so much wind capacity that we are throwing the energy away rather than using it, I expect that this isn't a problem we'll have to worry about...

Great article. Every KwH of wind leaves fossil fuel for another day when we we realy need it. Which would you prefere next to your house A wind farm or a Leaking nuclear waste dump. Waste with half life of 250,000 years stored in drums designed to last 35 Years !http://www.counterpunch.org/stclair10172008.html

I will take a wind farm and a nuclear waste dump (stable underground repository). Throw in a reactor, too. I live 50 miles from two nuclear reactors and about the same distance from two uranium processing facilities and had a research reactor a mile away.

"Waste with half life of 250,000 years" The half life of the civilian waste as a whole is much shorter and after 10,000 years it is less dangerous than the original ore. There are individual components that have longer half lives but any component with a half life of 250,000 years is relatively harmless because the radiation it emits is spread out over 250,000 years. It isn't the long half life stuff that is dangerous - it is the relatively short half lives.

"stored in drums designed to last 35 Years" Bullshit. Civilian waste is stored for long term burial in casks with much longer lifespans.

And the ignorant article you linked to was related to military weapons material (the purpose of which exercise is to kill people), not civilian.

It would have been better had the graph shown the two on the same scale, so that a proper comparison could be made. Then wind would look rather sluggish in growth compared to nuclear, rather than matching it.

Better still would have been a graph of MWh rather than MW. Given that nuclear delivers around 85% its peak capacity year round, and wind 20-35%, it makes a big difference - 100MW of nuclear delivers more electricity than 100MW of wind. This again would have made wind look not very impressive in comparison.

Set against that is the enormous subsidies given nuclear, far in excess of any given renewable energy in almost every country with both built. It's not surprising that an industry grows quickly when you pump hundreds of billions of dollars into it. And we find the same with wind - given enormous subsidies in Denmark and Spain it grows quickly there, given no subsidies in (say) Romania it grows not at all.

So this is not really a question of anything intrinsic to the particular generation method, rather it's a question of money. If you spend money on it then it grows, if you hold back the cash it doesn't.

However, with both wind and nuclear, and any other electricity generation method you care to imagine, something to remember is that what we're looking at in the long run is something new: shutting down power stations - whether because of fossil fuel depletion or wanting to avoid climate change or whatever doesn't matter, either way we'd be shutting down fossil fuel-fired stations in favour of these new power sources.

This very rarely happens. When people build new power stations to replace working older power stations, they find that they just can't turn the old ones off, they've found uses for the extra electricity.

For example Sweden voted in the 1980s to get rid of their nuclear power plants, but have not yet closed them down - despite building enough hydroelectric and wind power to replace them all in the meantime, and despite having the second-highest per capita electricity production in the world at around 25,000kWh per capita (compared with 12,000kWh pc in the US or Australia, 8,000kWh pc in France or Germany, etc).

This question of shutting down power stations is an important one for the wind and other power industries. Is wind an additional energy source, or an alternative energy source? It's not an alternative if we don't shut the old generators down, it's additional. This influences what people are willing to spend on it all.

It's absolutely true that wind power deserves to be taken seriously. But it can only be taken seriously if we present facts clearly and honestly, and lay out the issues properly.

I've responded to the MW vs MWh issue above: it would not look sluggish at all, it would just move the curve by a few years.

Large scale wind will happen without shutting down the existing fossil-fuel power plants - they will just be used less, which is what matters: the problem is not the gas or coal power plants, it' the actual burning of gas or coal. If you use them only occasionally, the benefits will be huge.

As to presenting facts clearly and honestly, can you please point out to where this is not the case? Can you ever point to any article where I was not careful to distingusish between MW and MWh? Where I did not point out the intermittency issues? Where exactly do you see obfuscation or dishonesty?

It does more than move the curve, it stretches out wind so that it looks virtually flat compared to nuclear, so that we're looking at wind taking 3 or 4 times longer to reach the same point in MW, and several times longer to reach the same point in MWh.

You can boldly assert that fossil-fuel-fired plants will be used less as wind grows in availability, but I don't know of many cases where that happened. If people have 100 units of coal power and then add 40 units of wind, they don't change it to 60 coal and 40 wind, they just have 100 coal and 40 wind, and enjoy their extra power. Again I point to Sweden's efforts to replace nuclear with other sources, which have just led to their having heaps of electricity.

Obviously physical limits come into play, but since peaking seems to be happening in the order oil-gas-coal, what we could find happening is that gas will replace oil, and coal replace gas and oil, rather than wind (or solar, or nuclear, etc) replacing oil-gas-coal.

I've already pointed out where things are unclear and not entirely honest, such as in the misleading graph.

I don't even know why you wrote the article, was it to show that "wind deserves to be taken seriously"? All you need to do that is point to Denmark, Spain and Portugal. They tried it and it's doing a lot for them. I'm not aware of any informed person who thinks wind shouldn't be taken seriously. People may argue over whether it could meet 100%, 50%, or 25% of needs, and what exactly our "needs" are; but nobody seriously argues that it shouldn't be taken seriously.

I mean, it's like saying that trains are useful and that we can hang out our washing to dry it. These things are not really in contention. I presume you must be addressing the American part of the readership?

Kiashu, Very rarely is total electricity capacity being used, usually demand is less than capacity and the most expensive sources( usually NG fired gas turbines) and hydro are dropped off first, then the less efficient coal fired generators. Jerome's point is that wind will never be dropped off because its operating cost is essentially zero, and excess capacity can be used for hydro pumped storage. This saves NG and hydro for daily peak demand. Homes can draw on X5-X10 the power they generally use, but they do not because it is expensive. Adding wind capacity reduces somewhat the need for additional coal or nuclear capacity, but more importantly its the saving of NG and coal not needed when the wind turbines are producing at high % of capacity.

And if any solar power technology ... whether CSP or PV, or load-reducing solar-assisted Heating / Air Conditioning ... comes into the frame for peak power, that further reduces the peak load on fossil fuels (the annual capacity of existing dam-hydro will be used, the only question is when is the power most valuable).

And incremental expansion of hydro generating capacity may be available with run-of-river hydro power ... which, like wind, is an infra-marginal supply given its very low marginal cost of electricity produced.

AFAIU ... and I am a development economist, not an energy economist, but OTOH on TOD, I am sure that I will be corrected if this is wrong ... in terms of fixed capital cost / unit production costs, the main sources discussed in these comments line up:

Coal-fired power not as well suited commercially to a role of back-up power for low-impact intermittent power sources as Natural Gas. The big commercial impact of a very large share in the industry for Windpower (and harvesting of similar intermittent renewable power sources), by shifting the balance between fuel cost and capital cost for the share of generating capacity that is primarily acting as back-up power, would be on undermining the economies of operating thermal coal power plants.

And, since coal-fired electricity is by far the worse generator of external costs, that is no bad thing.

If people have 100 units of coal power and then add 40 units of wind, they don't change it to 60 coal and 40 wind, they just have 100 coal and 40 wind, and enjoy their extra power.

Fair point, and I can only underline what I say very often, ie that our energy policy should focus first of all on the demand side, rahter than the supply side. But as we know on TOD, we may not have a choice in that matter in the near future, and in a constrained suply environment, being able to replace increasingly scare fossil fuels by wind will help stabilise supply.

I'm not aware of any informed person who thinks wind shouldn't be taken seriously. People may argue over whether it could meet 100%, 50%, or 25% of needs, and what exactly our "needs" are; but nobody seriously argues that it shouldn't be taken seriously.

You're lucky! I spend my time meeting people in Important PositionsTM that are stunningly dismissive of what role wind can play. Energy executives, politicians, pundits, and just informed bystanders see wind as something generally nice and useful, but not something that will make any kind of difference overall. That's the mindset i'm fighting.

Shouldn't it be a lot easier to arrange financing for wind? Shorter installation times and easier field construction should lead to better ROI. Just being able to do it in small chunks instead of giant multi-billion dollar projects should start being an advantage in the current climate.

One of its main benefits to the wider economy is its commercial Achilles Heel ... it tends to cut the wholesale cost of electric power, which means that in large enough increments to deliver substantial external economic benefits, it undermines its own return on investment.

In an pure-cowboy free market, generators of net positive externalities, like wind power, tend to be under-provided, and generators of net negative externalities, like coal-fired power, tend to be over-provided.

It does more than move the curve, it stretches out wind so that it looks virtually flat compared to nuclear, so that we're looking at wind taking 3 or 4 times longer to reach the same point in MW, and several times longer to reach the same point in MWh.

This is simply incorrect. If you have similar exponential growth, then it only moves the curve by a few years - the difference between MWh and MW being a constant number of years. If the industry growth is 40%, then a capacity factor of one fourth simply means that MWh are 4 years behind what you see for MW. 4 years behind and 4 times longer are not quite the same thing.

Jerome, While you have made a good case that wind energy has been growing at the same rate as nuclear did 30years earlier, its probably more important to know what growth rate is probable when wind accounts for 5% of world electricity production. Nuclear stalled at this level for a number of different reasons; safety concerns, financial problems, nuclear weapons issues. One big issue for wind is the relatively poor resources of China and India, compared with W Europe, N America, Australia. Since most growth for electricity is expected to come from China and India, this may limit wind penetration, unless high wind resource countries expand energy intensive industries such as aluminium refining. The other big unknown is the economic life of newer turbines due to maintenance costs. Presumably, these will last longer than earlier designs. Do you have any figures on these trends?

Fair point on what the trend will be as penetration becomes significant. The European experience suggests that growth can continue for a while.

Re the economic life, the Garrad Hassan study I linked to above provides encouraging data wrt long term performance and costs

An obvious energy intensive industry is ammonia production for nitrogen fertilizers. This has been a focus of Stranded Wind in the US, but is an obvious resource export for Australia to pursue if it develops its substantial wind and solar resources.

In other words, wind subsidies demonstrably save money for electricity consumers, ie they are smart regulation.

I see this statement as a bit odd. If it is true then by adjusting the subsidies to the “correct” amount we could make the cost to the consumers zero! Even if this could be done I don’t think it would be wise for the society at large. Subsidies for development are a very good thing if they produce a product that is then placed into production to provide some good that society can use, but a subsidy for the production of each unit will just distort the economy to use a product or service that could not stand on its own, ie corn ethanol in the US.

The argument that wind turbines have a high Availability Factor is I believe a red hering in that the real problems with wind are Capacity Factor, and Dispachability. The first means that you must install between three and five times the capacity that you will see from the system. Lack of dispachability mean you must build between 80% and 90% of your wind capacity in nuclear, coal, or gas to be able to supply the load in all conditions. This cost should either be assigned to the wind plants, or the wind plants value should be the cost of the fuel saved, (including carbon credits for coal and gas).

1) the gain by wind increases over time - the more wind, the lower market prices are. There is a neutral "subsidy" at any give ntime, but it changes over time. In fact, if you want the feed-in tariff to be neutral, you'd increase it each year...

2) Availability was just provided as an information on the long term reliability of turbines. It has nothing to do with the capacity factor and suggesting that is either disingenuous or insulting. Again, I say this in every post, and seemingly need to repeat it to each commenter individually: what matters ultimately are MWh, not MW.

I did not write about the intermittency issue specifically in this article, but I have in other stories, linked to at the bottom of this story and can only point you to these. The claim that you need to build traditional power at the same as wind is, quite simply, false. It would be true if you started from scratch, but we are working on the basis of the existing system and the reality is that a wind MWh displaces a thermal power MWh pretty much one for one, and thus reduces fossil fuel use by the same.

The cost of intermittency is actually billed to wind in a number of systems (via balancing cost obligations) and is rather low in practice.

Bearing in mind, of course, that the capital and running costs of these displaced thermal kwh are still present - you may, for example, save on natural gas costs, but not on the cost of building and running the plant otherwise. And while it may be true at low penetrations that you don't need to build this dispatchable capacity at the same rate as wind, I suspect that the story is different as penetrations increase. And whilst MWh vs MW is again fine

I do find it a bit strange/worrying with the whole wind vs. nuclear perception - it's a bit like saying that the best way in WWII for the allies to beat Germany would be for the USA and Russia to first fight a war to find out who was strongest, then have them take on Germany..

As far as actually dealing with intermittancy.. the idea, surely, is to build sufficient non-fossil capacity (Wind, hydro and Nuclear) so that we always have a surplus to direct usage, and instead of trying to match demand, build variable load plants - water desalination, ammonia synthesis, waste biomass to methanol, aluminium smelting - all of these processes would (if electrified) be able to 'soak up' spare electricity (hydrogen being a less useful product); and it's this kind of joined up approach that is really needed.

A crucial part of mitigating and dealing with both peak oil and global warming is to electrify everything that can be electrified and then make that electricity non-fossil based; that means Nuclear and Wind, and lots of both.

I see this statement as a bit odd. If it is true then by adjusting the subsidies to the “correct” amount we could make the cost to the consumers zero!

Don't neglect the difference between cost to buy and cost of ownership. The net cost is upfront, which accelerates the installation, and the net saving is down the track, as installed capacity shuts down the most expensive to supply of the electricity generating portfolio.

From a consumer standpoint, they are self-funding investments, but self-funding does not mean zero-cost, it means that the benefits realized equal or exceed the costs.

Of course, for those who take Peak Oil seriously, extra cost now to save fossil fuel consumption down the track is an excellent bet, because it also reduces exposure to fuel cost shocks.

I'm afraid that wind will suffer the partial substitution problem we have seen to date in our energy resources. This means its added to the existing resources resulting more energy not less and you won't see a decline in other sources until forced by depletion.

Do you have examples where the total power usage has remained constant or decreased when wind energy was added.

Not saying its not a important thing to do but knowing humans we will keep using all the other forms as long as possible.

This is wind on its own as opposed to wind in a policy framework that is imposing a penalty on carbon-fired electricity.

Which again only re-establishes that there are no silver bullets ... even the all-nuke panacea falls over in the face of the need to store electricity to meet peak power, if the arguments of nuke-vs-wind advocates regarding energy storage as a crippling problem for wind or solar (or tidal or run-of-river hydro or co-generation of electricity while heating water or buildings or co-generation of electricity while producing bio-coal).

Both carrots and sticks are required ... pushing the market cost of carbon-fired, and especially coal-fired, electricity toward the full economic cost, providing a strong push toward reduction in energy waste, and providing infant-industry support to establish new industries in harvesting sustainable, renewable energy sources.

Thx for an interesting post. No question in my mind that wind has an important part to play in the future energy mix. One thing however that I've found hard to get hold of is an estimate of EROEI for wind if you assume all energy inputs have to be electric - i.e. without the use of fossil fuels (as opposed to a cost analysis based on current methods that use FF's). In other words, if the RM extraction, purification, transport, construction/erection, maintainance, human support/servicing etc were all carried out without FF's.

I'm really not sure energy payback ratios are really that relevant unless you're operating very close to the margin. People are more concerned about capital payback ratios and rates of return. EROEI is at best often a distraction.

NEROI is very important for the question of whether energy cost spikes will disable a proposed "energy source" ... the "Red Queen's Race" that is faced by corn-starch ethanol, for example, when the cost of its inputs rises nearly as fast as the value of its output under an energy cost spike.

Perhaps of more use for modeling the impact on the external accounts would be the energy pay-back period.

Your defense of non-fossil fuel energy production is a breath of fresh air here, and we (by which I mean the modern advanced nations of the world) have moved much slower than we should have in progressing down the advanced path.

Your comment quoted below shows that you are very observant: "I must admit that I have been a bit nonplussed to see that the peak oil community seems to share the oil industry's dismissal of wind power as irrelevant and useless in the face of the currently energy challenge (maybe I am unfairly judging from a few individuals' comments, but it's definitely an existing undercurrent in the community)."

I could make the argument that the "peak oil" community has essentially moved to a philosophical position that will fight any effort at retaining modern methods and the modern technical culture. There is a "neo-primitive" philosophical position that sees any solution to "peak oil" as part of the problem, and it has grown by orders of magnitude since I started coming here two years ago. This is essentially a "deep green" philosophical position, that shares much of the "green anarchist" and "ecological anarchist" position that modern culture is the enemy, with some believing that all development since the birth of agriculture should be disavowed (please read the keypost put on the site by Gail the Actuary on TOD US "Agriculture: Unsustainable Resource Depletion Began 10,000 Years Ago" and the replies to it for example)

If I am correct, this essentially makes the "peak oil" movement of little value to the cause of reducing fossil fuel consumption IF we hope to maintain modern medical care, modern transportation, continuation of science and open democratic systems and avoid massive suffering and possible loss of life (which many in the peak oil movement now seem to be accepting as the only "solution" to the problem of energy through the horrific euphemism "dieoff", tragically some seem to go beyond "accepting" and even "endorsing")

If I am not correct, then those with courage in the "peak oil" community MUST begin to speak up and clarify the goals and ideas of those in the community. We must make clear the overarching humanity of the need for alternatives to fossil fuel, and that the goals of achieving substantial amounts of alternative energy production are indeed humanitarian goals before all other. My hope is great that this will begin to occur soon, and the peak oil community can remain relevent to the cause of preserving a humane and modern world, and will admit that these are indeed the goals. If not, many will have to disavow the community as simply another branch of the "eco-anarchist" community. That is the right of the community if that is what the peak oil community wants to become, but those who consider themselves as associated with the peak oil cause (and I do still consider myself as such) must decide where they stand on these issues.

Jerome, I would greatly appreciate your comments on the initiative by the Club Of Rome linked below, the large scale integrated wind/solar/biomass initiave for Europe/North Africa/Middle East:http://www.trecers.net/

I am more certain each day that it is these type of large scale multi-national initiatives including many nations of the world that have hope of making a real difference and soon. The advanced nations will adapt such advanced technology, but this will do no good if we do not include the poorer nations of the world. With each passing day, the U.S., Europe, and Japan's oil and gas consumption is declining as a percent of world consumption. We must make it a humanitarian goal to continue to bring down Western fossil fuel consumption but also to build the developing nations into future alternative energy programs if they wish to join. Alternative Energy is first and foremost a HUMANITARIAN CAUSE.

The Doomers are more vocal than the semi-cornucopians such as myself! I was doomerish until I started working as a researcher in the renewables field and realised we have basically never really tried to get off fossil fuels in any serious way and that massive advances in renewable technologies are still possible with relatively little effort.

And what form of gentle persuasion do you suppose will convice a few billion quasi inteligent primates to move to Mars? Energy by itself fossil or otherwise isn't the root cause of our problems. The problem is looking for solutions that try to allow for more and more people living on a finite planet. Humans aren't very good at eating electricity. Though they have been know to cannibalize each other upon occasion. [/gloom off]

I suppose I broadly qualify as a doomer - personally I was pleased to see Jerome's article and would be delighted to see major growth in wind capacity, ideally enough to ensure available electricity at reasonably stable cost. I admit, I wasn't aware of a large scale opposition or dismissal of wind, but I'll take Jerome's word for it that this is an ongoing problem, and appreciate his attempt to address it.

That said, however, I have real doubts that we wil, in fact, build up renewable capacity or nuclear rapidly enough to deal with our declining energy availability, for economic reasons. My own feeling is that it is no accident that peak oil and our economic crisis are occurring simultaneously, and Dmitry Orlov and others have made excellent cases why many (not all, but many) major infrastructure projects are likely to be interrupted, scaled down or never occur in the course of an economic crisis.

I do think that the long term question of how we devote our energies does need to be addressed at some point. There are two relevant questions, I think. The first is whether any plan for renewable development is optimized to serve us both if we are able to complete a scaled up, massive infrastructure problem, and if we are forced to pause in the process, delayed, or scaled back. In this sense, wind is ideal - building multiple projects in many sites strengthens the resilence of the grid as a whole. A wind build out that is slow and gradual serves us too.

The second question is the longer term one of how we are to maintain a fossil fuel dependent infrastructure over the long term - as discussed above, wind turbines need regular maintenence and replacement, and the manufacture of those parts, their transport to wind sites, instillation, and backup capacity to handle that maintenence requires a long term investment that will enable us to do all these things *with minimal reserve capacity of fossil fuels* - that is, we have to be able to replace the turbine bearings 10 years down the line (more than decade past the peak) and 20 years down the line...otherwise, we have to acknowledge that we're investing our resources primarily in short term adaptive energy for a generation accustomed to a lot of the stuff, but not to ensuring a long term supply of electrical energy to future generations. My own feeling is that we should be thinking in the longer term here - that given limited resources, both of energy and wealth - starting with the demand equation and strategizing to ensure that we're going to be able to keep those turbines going not just 10 years into teh curve, but 50 years - or that the electricity they produce will help us move towards a still longer term solution.

Again, in this I think wind is superior to nuclear in many ways - the level of technology and wealth required to deal with the disposal and reprocessing of nuclear materials is quite high, one that may be increasingly difficult to maintain 30 to 50 years post peak. The level of energy required to devote to wind turbines comparatively lower.

None of this, to my mind, changes the central issue, which is that we're not going to build out enough wind turbines or nuclear plants in the next 8 years to meet necessary carbon targets - the only way we have any hope (and it is quite a slim one) of achieving that goal is through radical demand destruction - and that means a fundamental shift in the nature of society as a whole. And I don't think that shift can be avoided - that is, if we are using radically less energy, even if some of what we are using is renewable, we will also have a dramatically smaller economy, and our hopes will probably have to be pinned not on a rapid energy shift, but on a gradual slow build out, while we make (hopefully) temporary sacrifices for a greater good (note, I am not holding my breath for this scenario to take place, but I suspect it is the only way that we could manage to deal with climate as is actually required to say, meet Hansen's 350 target in the time given) We will, I hope be using wind generated electricity for a long time - how much of it, how soon is another issue.

That said, however, I have real doubts that we wil, in fact, build up renewable capacity or nuclear rapidly enough to deal with our declining energy availability, for economic reasons. My own feeling is that it is no accident that peak oil and our economic crisis are occurring simultaneously, and Dmitry Orlov and others have made excellent cases why many (not all, but many) major infrastructure projects are likely to be interrupted, scaled down or never occur in the course of an economic crisis.

Energy yielding infrastructure projects might not be pursued, due to a failing of political will or ideological opposition, but in terms of real economic capacity, the current economic downturn makes it easier rather than more difficult to pursue major infrastructure projects.

as discussed above, wind turbines need regular maintenence and replacement, and the manufacture of those parts, their transport to wind sites, instillation, and backup capacity to handle that maintenence requires a long term investment that will enable us to do all these things *with minimal reserve capacity of fossil fuels* - that is, we have to be able to replace the turbine bearings 10 years down the line (more than decade past the peak) and 20 years down the line

At the very least come up with a specific example that is not silly. We do not need fossil fuel now to make bearings, we need electricity. Rail electrification is needed in any event for its energy efficiency compared to truck freight ... which covers the bulk of freight. If we are only using trucks for short distance hauling from the railhead, then either electric vehicles or biofuel powered vehicles are presently available technologies ... it is the long-haul problem where they presently come up against hard limits, but with an electrified rail grid, the long-haul problem is not a problem. Even if it is necessary to bring the nacelle down to ground level to perform a major maintenance task, running the heavy crane equipment on biodiesel or ammonia for a very small energy investment with a massive energy return is no major hurdle.

Hell, warehousing operations are already electrified, for a variety of reasons, including the problems in running combustion engines indoors.

The broad sweeping hand-waving claim is that we need fossil fuels to power our present infrastructure. But when talking about producing energy harvesting equipment with NEROI that is in excess of 300%, there's no difficulty in terms of being able to power the infrastructure required to do major maintenance or replacement, twenty or fifty years down the track.

Evidently, if an economy loses the technological capacity to reproduce the equipment ... the d00m pR0n scenario ... then that economy is in the same situation as the DRC (ex-Zaire) in the last decade of Mobutu, which had collapsed into kleptocracy and did not have the social capacity to perform major maintenance on essential equipment.

But the specific argument "our infrastructure depends on fossil fuels, we won't be able to replace this stuff in twenty five years time" argument, with respect to wind power, is a load of nonsense.

Thatsitimout: Completely agree your position regarding (ir)relevance of theOilDrum. Its loosing fast, sinking into a nutter niche. I'll soon stop following if the present trend to "neo-primitive" philosophical position isn't handled.

I have a question for the anti-doomers on this sub-thread: What reasons can you point to in the current flux of events that suggest that the doomer prognosis is wrong?

Wind, for example, is a nice idea, and it could make a substantial contribution toward meeting worldwide electricity needs - there is no reason to disbelieve this from a purely technical standpoint. But what evidence can you present that a worldwide, coordinated initiative to get as much wind capacity up as soon as possible will actually come to pass? What leads you to believe anything other than that the opportunity that still exists to do this will be squandered?

May I point out that it's not the Richard Heinbergs and Jerome a Parises of the world who are running things; it's the Dick Cheneys and Henry Paulsons.

In less than 90 days Cheney and Paulson will have different employers. The Dems approach to economic and energy problems are very different than the GOP's approach. The Dems intend to create millions of green collar jobs as a long term solution to both problems. This is different than more tax cuts for the rich so they can invest in jobs for Asians. The money that is disappearing from the financial sector can be offset by money created for green collar jobs. The bonds sold for green collar jobs will be paid back through the creation of btus that will power America in future decades. This is very different than the bonds sold to finance phony wars that have actually reduced the amount of oil in the world marketplace.

I must say again that the current financial crisis will not cause a recession. It is a response to a recession that started long ago. Compared to the Clinton years the job creation strategy of the GOP has been shown to be nonsense. The GOP strategy though has been very good at creating jobs in China and India. The workers of China and India have not been very good at paying for the predatory mortgages Americans have been propagandized into taking on. Without paychecks to pay the bills the whole structure of debt upon debt comes crashing down. The high oil prices of the past year just added to the stress on the consumers which our whole economy has grown too dependent on.

I'm a big fan of Van Jones. But, I think you want to watch out for the idea that green collar jobs are long term. We need a rapid build, and, perhaps, we might sell quite a lot of solar and wind equipment outside the US, but the jobs will not be there thirty years from now. The EROEI of renewables is really good. That is very good for society as a whole, but it also means that the energy sector can't be dominant or even close to dominant in the economy in the long run.

The US should step right into the green tech competition, but it is worth remembering that it is going to turn into trying to sell your solar panels because they come in more colors than the competition, just like cars, sooner than most might think.

"The US should step right into the green tech competition, but it is worth remembering that it is going to turn into trying to sell your solar panels because they come in more colors than the competition, just like cars, sooner than most might think."

Well, world consumption of electricity is around 16 trillion kWh annually and in 2007 3.8 GW of solar cells were produced. http://www.earthpolicy.org/Indicators/Solar/2007.htm They'll be producing 0.04% of world consumption in each of the next 25 years. The growth of production in 2007 over 2006 was 50%. How soon before annual production of solar cells produces 10% of annual electricity consumption at that rate of growth? About 13 years. How soon do we expect solar to be cheaper than coal? 2015: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/solar_america/index.html

So, there does not seem to be a barrier to further exponential growth of solar until we get to 10% or so market penetration. But that means we'll have the manfacuturing capacity to replace all generation each decade. This is more capacity than we need, so marketing will shift to trying to get the consumer to buy a new set of panels because they look better than the old set, similar to car marketing today. There is a very good chance that many of the systems being installed in California this year will be sold in India in ten years, long before their warrantees expire, so that those homes can get upgrades to new systems that are more powerful or look nicer. That may keep the green collar job count up for a bit, but it can't last I think. Ultimately, it is going to look like the roofing industry but with more mechanization and thus fewer jobs.

Don't neglect the secondary employment impacts ... eliminating the energy component of the unsustainably high trade deficit (that is, persistently above 4% in a country with real GDP growth averaging below 3% across the last business cycle) would remove a substantial drag. If Peak Oil is taken seriously, economies with structural dependencies on imported inputs, and a current account deficit position, when they are no longer able to attract capital inflows, face alternatives of hyperinflation, or deep recession.

The secondary employment benefits of starting to plug that hole in the current account before Peak Oil blows it much, much bigger could easily dominate the direct employment benefits of employment in the capital equipment industry, as welcome as that employment would be in Ohio and many other likely beneficiary states.

Politicians cannot create jobs, they can only destroy jobs or stop destroying jobs. Sure, politicians can skew the market so that some jobs, i.e. "green collar" are created at the expense of a somewhat larger amount of blue or white collar jobs. But the value produced will surely be less, b/c the market optimizes for value, so any skew will counter that optimization.

Do you have any evidence that spending for public works reduces the number of jobs in other sectors? In every economic recovery in the since 1929 jobs created for public works projects have preceded job creation in other sectors. Jobs are created in the private sector because their is an increase in demand due to the paychecks of public works employees. Why invest into a market where there are no customers? Customers draw investment into a market area in the hope of making a profit from those customers. Where the customer base is losing income investment opprotunities disappear. That is what has been happening since at least last year.

There is no "the market" in the real world. In the real world, there are markets. Participants in real world markets may pursue market value, but it is first party benefits that they pursue, not full economic benefits.

There is no automatic tendency toward full employment in the markets that we see in the real world, though it is not unusual for traditional marginalist modeling to include that tendency as an assumption. When an economy has an unemployed complement of resources, mobilizing those resources will increase real economic activity.

And markets are incapable of designing complex systems. That can be addressed in traditional marginalist modeling by assuming the issue away ... by treating the designs of new complex systems as contained in a pattern book ... but in the real world, we cannot bring complex new systems into existence by simply assuming that they will appear when conditions are right.

Jerome, I really think PHEV's, and their ability to load balance the grid, will be a boon for Solar and Wind Power. 20 million PHEV's on a smart-grid system is equivalent to a 200 billion dollar battery utilities can draw power from at will. It'll change the dynamics of renewable power,because the MW produced in the middle of the night(or middle of the day in solar's case) will be worth as much as the MW produced during peak power. Btw,China has a PHEV hitting the market next month. Buffet bought a stake in the parent company.

Much as I don't wish to sound negative.. just how long is this going to last when people notice that their batteries are flat (again) on a cold, dark winter's morning?

Charging PHEVs effectively substitutes out the most valuable fossil fuel (oil) with grid electricity - this scheme goes the other way.

Utilities wouldn't drain batteries completely. And consumers would be compensated for the electricity somehow. Probably by lower priced power in off-peak hours. Utilities are pretty excited about the possibilities. I can't help thinking it'll be a boon for solar and wind. It's going to be an incredible amount of energy storage.

Yes, but even assuming that batteries are not completely drained, it could easily be the difference between commuting on all-electric or half-petrol.. And if we move to all-EVs (something which I favour in principle) then it could be the difference between getting to work and not getting to work. That isn't a risk people are going to want to take.

I suspect that it would be more efficient in this case just to use gasoline generators to load balance the grid.

As I said in a previous post, if we are going to use sources which are poor at load following then we should look at building out changable demand - and there are plenty of candidates in this area. Large scale energy storage achieves little except for trying to force square pegs into round holes.

However, if you (for example) have a variable-speed waste biomnass to methanol plant - probably just by varying the electrolysis rate - soaking up 'spare' electricity, you would be both overcoming the storage problem AND making a valuable product.

Fluffy,20 million PHEV's can generate 200,000 MW. That's the capacity of 400 average sized power plants. Cars sit idle 90% of the time. I think they'll be used to load balance,and will go a long way in preventing brown-outs. Drivers will get compensated somehow.

If I have an electric car, I certainly would like to have it charged and ready to go. What I wouldn't like is for the grid to drain and recharge it continously, forcing me to replace my battery pack twice as often at a cost of several thousand dollars. The grid would have to (over-)compensate me to be allowed to do that. It simply won't happen using anything that resembles current battery tech.

You are misunderstanding the main effect of a conversion to electricity in transportation. The storage in batteries in cars will be a small fraction of the storage in all batteries produced for use in cars because the lifetime of a battery after it is no longer transportation grade will be longer than its lifetime when it is trasportation grade. This means that we can multiply the grid storage capacity on wheels by a factor of ten or so to account for this and the fact that we could only access a portion of the mobile storage for the grid in any case. The aftermarket use of batteries from cars provides a very cheap and very high capacity (0.5 days of average use) storage solution that allows renewable energy penetration to a large majority of generation. http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/08/roof-pitch.html

Investment in wind and solar makes a great deal of sense today while the horizon for nuclear power appears to be closed with coal doubtful and gas still in the running. Gas has a bit of life left because the capital cost gets repaid fairly quickly and new capacity is built quickly. But, fifteen years on it will be hard for any fuel based storage scheme to compete with batteries on cost.

This is assuming that batteries are not recycled (or used for significantly longer than intended in cars).

As my other posts say, I consider energy storage to be largely a waste of resources - making demand sufficiently variable and generation capacity sufficiently large eliminates the need for storage; in many ways, storage advocates are still thinking in BAU terms.

Rooftop solar is probably the best solar application, although I don't understand why this prevents investment in Nuclear power. Running industrial society takes a lot of energy, not all of which can be electricity.

It is not a choice between recycling or use in storage but rather a choice between recycling right away or recycling later. The difference is how much in the way of materials is in use for storage. Since there appear to be a number of competing materials for transportation grade battery applications, it would not seem as though material shortages would push for premature recycling.

Investment in nuclear power is pretty stognly encouraged because there seems to be no risk owing to federal loan guarantees. Nevertheless, utlities should avoid the trap because they will be saddled with the cleanup costs for white elephants that can't make money even after the loans default. Amory Lovins has had a close look at the cost of nuclear power and it is very very expensive: http://www.rmi.org/images/PDFs/Energy/E08-01_AmbioNucIllusion.pdf

If you don't recycle right away, then the recycle value of the battery, times the discount rate, better be lower than the value of the electrical storage you propose. I don't think the opposite is true, by a wide margin.

Clearly, PG&E is happy to defer recycling in order to get distributed storage into their system at a low cost. Transportation grade batteries are very valuable. That puts a premium on their use in that roll and thus shaves costs in their aftermarket roll.

I invite naysayers above to read my articles on EnergyPulse.com about implementing a new method of selling and billing for electricity. It would resolve this issue, among others.

Jerome Great; positively heartening. (For what it is worth I support your position of being mildly in favour of some French style nuclear, but I see downsides of global issues accompanying big nuclear scale-up). There are still particular big issues, re wind, about revamping grids and selling and buying across national boundaries, but we need benefits of early investment in grids anyway. Is investment for wind and connectors going to be a problem given economic mayhem? (More mayhem to come? as in "... lowered demand and killed new investment ...")

In fact, wind is reaching the stage where nuclear was when it was hit by the 1973 energy shock (which lowered demand and killed new investment) and the 1979 Three Mile Island accident (which turned the public against the industry) and is unlikely to hit the same snags:

Wind will be a core instrument for the EU to fulfill its stated objectives of reducing carbon emissions and improving energy independence.

Actually, regarding energy independence, the opposite is true. We are building windpower and due to its intermittency, we balance this with ever increasing amounts of Russian natural gas. Now when Russia has overlapping spheres of influence with us, we risk being blackmailed or cut off in case of conflict. If we'd invest in coal or nuclear, we'd be much more independent.

Also, Russia is taking advantage of the EU nuclear paralysis by projecting nuclear plants along EU borders for the sole purpose of exporting electricity. Smart of them, but neither safer nor cheaper for us than if we would build ourselves.

Wind is nice in a way - I can live with wind. But nuclear is half the kWh-cost. (I know many don't agree, but I believe current project costs around the world back me up on this.) Since it is half the cost, it is possible to scale twice as fast. Also, it's still unclear if wind scales above 20-25% of grid capacity without really expensive energy storage.

So for anyone that hopes carbon free electricity will help alleviate global warming or peak oil, nuclear should be the preferred tech if you have to choose. But I actually think we should build both for the time being to speed coal replacement up - as both will exhibit production bottlenecks during a scale up-period of perhaps two decades or more.

We are building windpower and due to its intermittency, we balance this with ever increasing amounts of Russian natural gas.

Each MWh of wind replaces a MWh of gas in Europe, andthus reduces our need for Russian gas. Don't confuse the need for gas-fired power plants with the need for gas: the balancing requirements of wind represent very few bcm of gas, even if they can represent significant MW capacity.

But nuclear is half the kWh-cost. (I know many don't agree, but I believe current project costs around the world back me up on this.)

This is only true if you compare State-financed nuclear with private-financed wind. Publicly financed wind costs the same as public finances nuclear, and privately financed wind costs as much as privately financed nuclear... (my personal preference is to make public finance available to the energy sector - this is the best way to support BOTH widn and nuclear vs coal or gas)

In any case, the relationship with Russia is one of interdependence (they can export their gas only to Europe, because that's the only place their pipelines go to, and they need the export receipts for a disproportionate of their government income) and it does not worry me. Don't listen to panic coming from the UK, not from the gas-importing countries of continental Europe that have long had stable relations with Russia on the gas side.

I heard on BBC radio a news blurb this morning that Iran, Russia, and Qatar are in talks about forming a gas cartel analagous to OPEC. Should be interesting for the UK in the future.

Actually it is true. Every megawatt of wind generation connected to the grid needs a dedicated spare megawatt of fast-start dispatchable generation installed to back it up (unless presently costly storage is provided). What most people don't realize regarding this is that THEREFORE new generation connected to the grid will either be (wind + gas-fired) or (wind + coal-fired) or (wind + storage hydro), and NOT (wind + nuclear) or (wind + run-of-river-hydro). Support for wind genration is LARGELY an unholy alliance of religious anti-nuclear groups with owners of natural gas. (Note1: when coal-fired is used for backup, the "backing-down" of the coal plant when the wind starts blowing seriously harms the plants efficiency, to the point where the wind-generated power ACTUALLY reduces plant emissions very little. Note2: for backup on the 99% backup requirement of wind generation, see Ontario, Canada ISO dispatch records which clearly show several days in midsummer 2008 when the 475 MW well-distributed wind generation was operating at <1% output in the middle of midsummer peak business days. Most wind generation happens in midwinter at night. Note3: It's also relevant that the gas generation which gets installed to back up wind generation is not the costly high-efficiency combined-cycle-gas-turbines which have difficulty load-following, but the low-efficiency simple-cycle turbines normally reserved as short-run peakers. The difference in efficiency between these two types almost totally negates the "fuel reductions" claimed by wind generation.)

In fact, installing wind generation is so profitable for owners of natural gas production that it's surprising T. Boone Pickens etc. are not publicly promoting it. Oh, wait,......

No. You do not understand the dynamics involved. Each energy unit of wind power in Germany will be matched by two units of natural gas power to achieve base load generation, since wind gives 33% on average. These three units will allow Germany to decommission (or avoid expanding) the corresponding amount of domestic lignite coal.

This is only true if you compare State-financed nuclear with private-financed wind. Publicly financed wind costs the same as public finances nuclear, and privately financed wind costs as much as privately financed nuclear...

Again, no. As I said, current projects around the world shows that nuclear is half the cost of wind, if we compare apples to apples. I would be absolutely delighted if this weren't the case, but sadly, it is. (And off-shore wind is four times the cost of nuclear, so off-shore is madness.)

In any case, the relationship with Russia is one of interdependence (they can export their gas only to Europe, because that's the only place their pipelines go to

Pipelines to China and S. Korea are under construction, and they have pipelines to former Soviet republics. Also, we obviously need them more than they need us, at least in the short term.

gas-importing countries of continental Europe that have long had stable relations with Russia on the gas side

The Georgia invasion made lots of analysts quite worried about our energy security, actually. Russia is clearly flexing its muscles and has already used gas to put pressure on former Soviet republics.

No. You do not understand the dynamics involved. Each energy unit of wind power in Germany will be matched by two units of natural gas power to achieve base load generation, since wind gives 33% on average.

I don't have to "understand the dynamics involved" - I can give you actual facts as provided by European network operators in their annual reports. I quoted this in this earlier story:

I note that the French grid operator, RTE, long extremely wary of wind power and its unreliability, had this to say in its latest annual report (big PDF, in French, see p.49, [my translation]):

The second point is about wind's contribution to peak demand: despite wind's intermittency, wind farms reduce the need in thermal power plants to ensure the requisite level of supply security. One can speak of substituted capacity. The capacity substitution rate (ratio of thermal capacity replaced to installed wind capacity) is close to the average capacity factor of wind farms in winter (around 30%) for a small proportion of wind in the system (a few GW). It goes down as that proportion increases, but remains above 20% with around 15GW of wind power.

This is not me inventing facts, this is quoting the frigging network operator. Are you also going to say that the network operator does not understand the dynamics involved"?

You seem to think that wind power is built in a vacuum, with no existing power system around it. It's not. It's built into a system that exists, that has reserves that can be mobilized just as easily for lack of wind as they can be for other reasons - but in the meantime, when wind is around, you burn less gas or coal.

As I said, current projects around the world shows that nuclear is half the cost of wind, if we compare apples to apples.

Apples to apples requires using the same discount rate. When most of your investment is upfront, and repaid over 25-40 years, this is, by far, the single most important factor driving levelised costs. Again, show me the studies, and show me the discount rates they use. At least the French government is aware of the issue, and is careful to always give the discount rate it uses when it produces studies of the cost of nuclear.

Pipelines to China and S. Korea are under construction, and they have pipelines to former Soviet republics.

No they are not (I know, I have financed a lot of Gazprom's pipelines) - they are being talked about. And even when they will be built (which is indeed likely in th next 15 years), they will use gas coming from totally different sources than the gas going to Europe - the two markets are physically distinct and will never be connected, because it makes no sense whatsoever to build the several thousand kilometers of additional pipelines this would entail.

The Georgia invasion made lots of analysts quite worried about our energy security, actually. Russia is clearly flexing its muscles and has already used gas to put pressure on former Soviet republics.

Well, I disagree with these analysts, and you can read my past 15 years of writing on the topic of Russia as a supplier of gas, it's all online.

That's true; we'll see if it lasts. It was only a few years ago that the opposite was true (just check in 1998-2000 when Poland used the "energy weapon" against Russia in totally outrageous ways, so outrageous that Germany is willing to bring back references to Nazis and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact rather than let the Poles have their hands on the pipelines, by backing the Norsstream project.

This is not me inventing facts, this is quoting the frigging network operator. Are you also going to say that the network operator does not understand the dynamics involved"?

Well, the operator essentially says that (for fairly low wind penetration,) you can exchange thermal for wind, kWh for kWh, with unchanged supply security. I can only congratulate you on finding such an insane statement.

(I'll leave Walk Over on the other topics for now - I don't have the time to find the information again.)

This is not me inventing facts, this is quoting the frigging network operator. Are you also going to say that the network operator does not understand the dynamics involved"?

Do you have ANY idea how small the GW figures are which they are discussing relative to a) France's total installed nuclear capacity? b) France's large available dispatchable hydro and fossil peaker resources?

That article is essentially a pure condemnation of wind energy regarding grid stability. When it says

Should note also that with a 25% capacity factor for wind, 12.5% nameplate connected will only provide perhaps 4.16% of total energy put onto the grid.

I have no problem with wind generation in rational amounts as economics allows, but those who think it might in ANY way entirely substitute for nuclear / hydro / coal in any realistic time frame clearly need to re-evaluate.

For those interested here is a link to a comprehensive source of free anti wind energy material. I have no information about the origin and funding of this site.

Any discussion of wind will draw the attention of professional anti-wind astroturfers. I met one - a nice guy, a retired utility company now working as an anti-wind astroturf consultant. Nice work if you can get it!

Any contacts for such funding? As you say, "Nice work if you can get it!". As a committed supporter of solar thermal generation, which DOES make sense, I'd definitely be interested.

I'd say contact any local utility company and start ranting about how windmills cause impotence and brain tumors, and I'll bet they hook you up with a PO#.

The two sets of estimates, by SunLab and S&L, provide a band within which the costs can be expected to fall. The figure and table below highlight these results, with initial electricity costs in the range of 10 to 12.6 ¢/kWh and eventually achieving costs in the range of 3.5 to 6.2 ¢/kWh. The specific values will depend on total capacity of various technologies deployed and the extent of R&D program success. In the technically aggressive cases for troughs / towers, the S&L analysis found that cost reductions were due to volume production (26%/28%), plant scale-up (20%/48%), and technological advance (54%/24%).

Given thermal storage, on-peak generation, and cheap natural gas burner backup, solar thermal is far more logical than wind.

1. How much steel and concrete does it take per MW capacity for new wind power construction vs. the new nuclear plant designs?

2. How much more it will cost to deliver a ton of steel beams or a ton of concrete if the cost of fossil energy doubles? What will happen to cost of steel and concrete if we hit $500/barrel?

It is my hunch that total energy inputs required for construction will be an increasingly important factor in the relative economic merits of wind vs. nuclear.

You'l find pretty much everything you might want at the ExternE website, http://www.externe.info/, as unbiased a study and costing of electrical generation externalities as (I think) exists. Some flaws, eg. only studied European countries, most externality costs vary greatly by country based on existing generation mix, but overall about as good as exists. Some religious anti-nuclear groups criticise it for not including the costs of "psychological worry" regarding nuclear, which is funny because they're also the one needlessly creating the worry....

Externe is indeed a good place to start when you look for info on the externalities of power generation.

I don't have the info for nuclear (hopefully someone else can provide), but for onshore wind, you need roughly (ballpark figure) 100 tons of steel and 100 tons of concrete per MW. Offshore, it will depend what kind of foundation you use - the two extremes are monopiles (steel - add roughly 200 tons per MW, but take out the need for concrete) and gravity based (count 500 tons more of concrete per MW, but no additional steel).

Modern nuclear reactors need less than 40 metric tons of steel and 190 cubic meters of concrete per megawatt of average capacity.

To put the figures on a comparable basis you have to allow for utilisation rates, so if you allow, say, 30% for wind. The figures for nuclear quote average output and so presumably allow for less than 100% utilisation. So for the concrete if you take the 190 cubic meters of concrete at 2371 kg per cubic meter:http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_weight_of_concrete_in_one_meter_cube comes out to around 450 metric tonnes.

So the answer on these figures seems to be that wind uses quite a lot more steel and rather less concrete than an equivalent nuclear build.

All of these figures though are not very substantial compared to overall use, and economic recession will free vastly more resources than are needed for either.

The towers for wind may last through many generations of turbines, so one would want to compare the useful lifetime as well.

There are a number of caveats which could be entered on both sides of the equation, but the broad figures make clear that materials resource limits are not going to restrict the build of either, and the present slow down in the auto and construction industry frees ample resources for a build.

I'm thinking you put wind turbines on all the empty financial office buildings in Manhattan and London and get some use out of them.

Your first question is addressed in my diary here:http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/9/10/132856/636/267/593671

Delivery cost will increase significantly if fossil fuel costs double and we rely on fossil fuels for delivery. With rail electrification and carbon free generation, however, there is much less fossil fuels required for long distance transport of steel - just the "last mile" which could be handled with biodiesel or even electric trucks. Concrete is usually local (though portland cement (about 10% by weight) may travel further).

There are many places we use fossil fuels in the manufacture, transport, and installation of steel and concrete but it doesn't have to be that way. But that is another portion of our infrastructure that needs to be upgraded and we do need to consider the costs. In the short term, the impact of fossil fuels on commodity prices (steel, concrete, copper, etc.) could have a significant impact on new energy construction and other construction and manufacture. Wind should be more affected than nuclear in the short term because it takes considerably more steel and concrete to build an equivalent average capacity. While uranium mining requires a lot of ore to be removed (though in the near future considerably less than the mining required for wind), the amount of delivered material to fuel a reactor (and build it) is way less than the amount of material to build an equivalent wind farm.

Some of the mining folk on this forum have informed me that in fact uranium is usually leached out, and so the amounts of materials to be moved is rather small, although of course suitable care would have to be taken to ensure that the pollution is dealt with adequately.

For information, the province of Québec plans to implement 4000 MW of wind power by 2015.They say this is the total potential of wind power that can be integrated with their existing Hydro generation and existing transport network. More wind potential would become available when they expand the base facilities.

They mention a lot of reasons for this plan, including low costs, reducing carbon emissions, renewable energy source, contribution to sustainable development and good complement to hydro power.

According to Wikipedia, Hydro-Quebec has 35,190 MW of installed power, 97% of it is hydro. So their wind power plan will increase their installed capacity by more than 10%.

Quebec has the most favourable conditions for wind generation of any place in the world. 97% of existing generation storage hydro, the remainder nuclear, plus a 1,700 MW intertie with neighbouring Ontaro's huge nuclear baseload capacity which combination makes a perfect match for wind, plus excellent on-shore wind resources in the Gaspe seacoast with prevailing winds descending in valleys from the seacoast mountains. HOWEVER, they also have a proven track record of doing only what makes economic sense. They announced this wind strategy a long time ago, but have made almost zero progress on it so far.

With the economic clout of Hydro-Quebec, if the strategy made economic sense, they'd have done it long ago, though I think they're also having difficulty marketing electricity in the northern USA due to "eco-nutter" opposition to storage hydro and NIMBY resistance to transmission lines. Perhaps they hope the "wind generation angle" will help overcome some of the resistance.

Hydro-Quebec already sells power to New York State. Are the NIMBYites resisting additional power lines or what is the issue here?

Hydro-Québec TransÉnergie has 18 interconnections, most of them with systems in neighboring provinces and states, providing a total export capacity of more than 7,100 MW

That could prove a bad omen for Hydro-Québec's export plans. Back in 1994, it was pressure from American environmental activists that led the New York Power Authority to nix a contract to buy power from Hydro-Québec's proposed (and ultimately beached) Great Whale complex.

Please click on the first of the links I provided. You should find the map of the wind farms. If you clicked on the fist link below the map you will find this:

Following a March 5, 2003, decision by the Québec government, Hydro-Québec Distribution launched an initial call for tenders in May 2003 to purchase 1,000 MW of wind power. Contracts were awarded in October 2004 based on the lowest unit cost, including transmission.

There were two winning bidders: Cartier Wind Energy (six projects) and Northland Power (two projects).

On October 31, 2005, Hydro-Québec Distribution launched a call for tenders to purchase an additional 2,000 MW of wind power. The wind farms will be commissioned over a five-year period, from 2010 to 2015. Bids will be accepted until September 18, 2007.

Projects in any region of Québec will be considered. However, under a Québec government Order-in-Council, at least 30% of wind turbine costs must be incurred in the regional county municipality of Matane or the administrative region of Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

With a little googling, I was able to retrieve this list of projects accepted from this second call for tenders.

PolR, I think what you are saying actually does qualify as "almost zero progress". 3000 MW over 10 years is very little. China builds a coal fired power plant with similar average output every two weeks or so.

The claim of lengould was that there is zero progress on the strategy that was announced a while ago. I wanted to show how much progress on the strategy was actually done. Important keywords are "on the strategy".

Just to summarize the relevant information, the initial plan was 4000 MW by 2015 and we have 3000 MW of awarded contracts so far.

If you explore the map below you will find mousing over the blue/purple(?) squares provide data on installed and running wind farms while the orange ones lead to wind farms under construction.

On top of this you may find a list of the contracts that have been awarded for more wind farms in the PDF below.

So if you keep the stated objectives of the strategy in mind, you can see that progress is matching the plan.

If you want to compare Quebec with China, you may want to consider the Province of Quebec has a population of about 7.7 million persons, it is part of a G7 country and has enough installed electrical power capacity to export a substantial part of its production to the USA. China population is 1.3 billion persons and they are an emerging economy that is aggressively building up its infrastructure at double digit growth rate. It just doesn't make sense to expect Québec wind turbines to compare to the coal power plants build-up in China in any meaningful way unless you do it on a per capita basis.

I didn't check the numbers, but for the sake of the argument I will assume the stated number of one coal plant installed in China every two weeks with about 3000 MW of average output per plant is correct. At 52 weeks per year there are 260 periods of two weeks in a 10 years span. This makes 780,000 MW in ten years. This is 195 times the 4000 MW objective of Quebec. China has 169 times the population of Québec, On a per capita basis, the two rates of build up are comparable.

It happens that China is building infrastructure from scratch while Québec is expanding one of the very best existing power grid with substantial overcapacity to boot. Will China sustain a rate one coal power plant per two weeks for ten years? There are limits to such fast paced growth. However I don't have good numbers on China. This comparison has to be taken with a lot of caution. If anyone has the correct numbers, please correct the calculations.

How about comparing Québec with Denmark? Denmark population is 5.5 millions persons so this country is somewhat smaller than Quebec but it is an industrialized one, so it may be considered a better comparison than China. According to the Danish energy agency, as of January 1st 2006 the installed wind capacity of Denmark was 3135 MW and in 2007 wind was 19.7% of Denmark's total domestic power supply. They provide a graph showing most of this production was built up in the 10 years period ending in 2003.

As of 2003 Québec plan was to install 4000 MW of wind power by 2015 and in 2005 they had 35,190 MW of total installed electrical power capacity, 97% of which was hydro. I would say Québec has a wind plan that per capita is comparable to Denmark, but it is occurring about a decade later. However this plan looks small compared to Québec enormous installed hydro capacity. Still, integrating wind with hydro solves the wind intermittency issue. Denmark doesn't have anything like it.

Once upon a time on a hot summer day there was no wind. In Ontario, only a couple megawatt-hours were generated. Now imagine we had a 50% wind electricity market and one of these days came about. Other infrastructure would need to do double work. These outlier days are one of the problems of scale. It can be done but only with a high premium that finances the solution to this problem. I envisage a grid that is powered solely by nuclear and wind, where nuclear picks up the slack when necessary, but this would take immense cooperation between people who seem like they don't want to cooperate.

Wind generation regularly drops to 2% of capacity during periods of peek demand on hot summer days in Texas and California, and dramatically drops in the Southeastern United States, the Northern Great Plains and New England during hot summer days. II wonder if Jerome would share with us data on the performance of wind during the 2004 summer heat wave in Europe. Of course most Europeans don't have air conditioning.

Well, what you just described is the crux of the problem regarding massive use of wind power, isn't it?

Once wind power grows to become a certain critical fraction of the total grid capacity, then the inherent variability of wind power becomes a major problem, one that could bring the whole grid down.

Now, I'm not saying this is an insurmountable problem, but it IS a very real and serious problem nonetheless. For this reason, energy storage becomes an even more vital issue. And unless the energy storage issue is successfully addressed for not only wind but also solar power, these two renewable energy pathways will get only so far and no further.

Either that, or we're going to have to find a way to live with periodic brown-outs and outright black-outs, both of which are certain to happen once wind power becomes a critical contributor to the grid's total power.

Now, I'm not saying this is an insurmountable problem, but it IS a very real and serious problem nonetheless. For this reason, energy storage becomes an even more vital issue. And unless the energy storage issue is successfully addressed for not only wind but also solar power, these two renewable energy pathways will get only so far and no further.

Wind and solar also happens to be the two power sources that are the most amenable to local production that can be funded with relatively little capital by local authorities and private parties. In a post peak world where capital for large centralized energy production initiatives is sparse or missing, the choice might well be solar, wind or do without energy because the availability of capital is much more of a bottleneck than the variability of power. In such conditions people have the option to just adapt their way of life to the rhythm of energy availability.

This is not an option you would consider in 2008 when energy is abundant. But circa 2030 when you have to make do with what is available, you will be happy to have this option. In hot summer days, you just dedicate the bulk of available solar energy to the heat pump that provide air conditioning, or do like our ancestors did and endure the heat.

Bought my umbrella when it wasn't raining. Got rooftop solar in 2008 so that when they screw up the grid in 2030 or whenever all I have to do is buy batteries.

Recent estimates find that the payback period for solar cells may run as long as 100 years. Solar cell either require grid feed in or battery + fossil fuel powered back up.

Care to post one of those recent estimates? You seem a little uninformed. Perhaps the same could be said about your knowledge of nuclear power?

Chris I forgot where I saw the 100 year figure but Severin Borenstiein says that it takes so long that the solar cells may give out before they are paid for.http://www.ucei.berkeley.edu/PDF/csemwp176.pdf

Borenstein is selling solar power to the grid at the wholesale price of six cents a kWh. The solar panels on my house is replacing retail electricity they'll charge me three times as much for.

For this reason, energy storage becomes an even more vital issue. And unless the energy storage issue is successfully addressed for not only wind but also solar power, these two renewable energy pathways will get only so far and no further.

Well this is why I support solar thermal as FAR more sensible than wind. 1) MOST electricity generated by solar happens on the same sunny days near the daily load peaks. 2) thermal storage of bulk thermal energy to enable coverage of end-of-day peaks is easy, cheap and proven (recent projects use a molten salt thermal fluid and cheap tanks of sand and gravel as thermal storage medium.) 3) unit costs of construction and cost-per-kwh produced can easily be competitive with even dirty existing coal generation given only a production rate which would achieve 8.5 GW operation by 2020.

Solar thermal is a no-brainer immediately and has no limits on percentage of grid capacity given large ratios of collectors to generators, large cheap thermal storage tanks, and a backup natural gas burner to heat the fluid during extended cloudy periods, whereas wind has some insurmountable problems. For Europe, in places where solar resources MAY be completely unusable, then transmission from the Sahara STILL makes more sense economically than HIGH GRID PERCENTAGES of wind generation.

The two sets of estimates, by SunLab and S&L, provide a band within which the costs can be expected to fall. The figure and table below highlight these results, with initial electricity costs in the range of 10 to 12.6 ¢/kWh and eventually achieving costs in the range of 3.5 to 6.2 ¢/kWh. The specific values will depend on total capacity of various technologies deployed and the extent of R&D program success. In the technically aggressive cases for troughs / towers, the S&L analysis found that cost reductions were due to volume production (26%/28%), plant scale-up (20%/48%), and technological advance (54%/24%).

What is really interesting in a NW European context is the interaction between offshore wind, tidal and wave power. Seagen have a 1.5MW turbine on test in Strangford Loch, N Ireland and is basically a underwater windmill. If that works it can be rapidly replicated and scaled up and because tides are predicatble will replace baseload effectively. Wavepower also has large potential and sea swell is less reliant on local weather. Throw these three together then the dynamics with fossil fuel will rapidly change.

The problem with Nuclear in a UK context is that you are still reliant on foreign suppliers. We have no uranium supplies and if the world takes nuclear up on a large scale then the fuel cost is bound to rise.

By recycling presently held waste in Britain several reactors could be run for 60 years:http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/utilitie... Fuel costs for nuclear are also a trivial proportion of costs, and the price of the resource could multiply several fold without significantly affecting total prices.

I have nothing against developing more resources as rapidly as possible, but due note should be taken of how long lead times are in the energy industry, and at the present time the Seagen turbines and others of the same ilk are in very early stages of development, and have many hurdles to overcome, so should not be thought of in terms of supplying substantial amounts of energy anytime within the medium future.

We probably know the most about building a Severn barrage of any of the projects on offer other than wind, but it should be noted that although the less intermittent nature of the tides is better than the capriciousness of wind, it is erroneous to equate a twice a day periodicity with reliable provision of baseload - you may not have power when you most need it, and would need to have a substantial gas burn to make up for it.

Several hundred tonnes have actually been produced; although Uranium occurance is sub-economic in the UK, if we decided to produce our own (in association with Tin, Lead, Copper and other minerals) in order to provide energy security and jobs for the deprived areas where Uranium occurs, we could, and given the quantities involved it wouldn't break the bank, especially with a high-burn/breeder approach.

I can't find anything about Thorium resources but given the geological diversity of the UK I would expect some to be present.

Thats right however it is hot therefore the sun is shining and the solar PVs on everybody's roof will be supplying up to 90% of their electricity demand, their solar hot water heaters will be heating their water and the CSP plants in the hot sunny deserts will be supplying the balance along with wave, geothermal helping along. Finally the PHEV or BEV in everybody's garage will be helping over the hump.

Wind is not the complete answer. Renewables are a complementary system with many different elements. Saying this is like saying coal power is useless because when the generator is broken it doesn't put out any power. When there is no wind another element in the renewable system is very likely to seamlessly take over, often from local distributed sources.

Nuclear is just not necessary. IF we can do without it it will remove one danger from the world and a dangerous future legacy.

Wind reduces the need for fossil fuels if you have backup generation, typically natural gas. Let's say you have 1 watt of NG generation creating 8Kwh in a year, that's 24 Kwh of gas burnt.

You add in 1 watt of wind producing ~3 Kwh in a year. Over a year you end up using 5Kwh of NG generation (or 15 Kwh of natural gas burnt). This way you save over 1/3 of the fossil fuel used each year.

A natural gas plant cost $.60 per watt and the price of gas is around $.05 per kwh. A wind plant cost $1 per watt. Therefore you have (1+.6)+5 x.05 x year=(.6)+8 x .05 x year ie breakeven =6-7 years (If you already have the complete NG backup, the breakeven = 2.66 years) Another way to look at wind NG hybrid is that the cost per kilowatt of fuel drops from 5 cents per kwh to 3 cents per kwh.

Natural gas is already cheaper than nuclear at $2.5 per watt though the fuel at $.05 per kwh of fuel $.02 per kwh for uranium. $2.5 + 8 x .02 x years =$.6 + 8 x .05 x years ie breakeven = 7.9 years. If we look at nukes versus wind-NG we see a breakeven = 11.25 years; $2.5 + 8 x .02 x years=$1.6 + 8 x .03 x years

Conventional coal is $.8 per kw and the fuel is .04 per kwh. $.8 + 8 x .04 x years = $.6 + 8 x .05 x years , with coal beating natural gas after only 2.5 years.

In the case of wind+NG however; $1.6 + 8 x .03 x years = $.8 + 8 x .04 x years, wind+NG wins after 10 years.

But the real story is imminent fossil fuel/uranium depletion with the exception of coal. Obviously the price of all fuels will rise so the best approach is to 'hybridize' fossil fuels with wind/solar. Coal can become a peaking fuel if it is converted to syngas or methanol.

Under that scenario, clean coal could be cheaper than nuclear(using $1.6 per kw for IGCC-CCS) ; ($1wind + $1.7 IGCC) + 8 x (.04-.025?)x years = $2.5 + 8 x .02 x years, wind+IGCCcoal wins after 5 years

What are the chances that fuel costs(uranium, coal, NG)will remain low for the foreseeable future? Impossible. Baseload uclear will never integrate with wind/solar and uranium costs will rise above fossil fuels as more plants are built.

Also, the price of nuclear seems low, might want to go with $6/W or higher: http://www.rmi.org/images/PDFs/Energy/E08-01_AmbioNucIllusion.pdf

You also appear to be forgetting that the N Gas generators needed to back up wind generation (fast-start with high turndown ratio) are Simple-Cycle peakers, not the high-efficiency CCGT units. Given 1 MW of wind generation operating 25% time mostly during off-peak hours means that 1 MW of continuous baseload CCGT 24hrs at 55% (?) efficiency needs to be shut down, saving 1/0.55 x 24 = 43.63 MWhr thermal per day of N Gas, BUT THEN 1 MW of simple cycle turbine 18 hrs at 28% efficiency will need to operate, using 1/0.28 x 18 = 64.29 MWhr thermal per day pf N Gas.

Adding 1 MW of wind turbine to a grid operated mostly on N Gas could likely INCREASE natural gas usage (and CO2 output) by 64.29 / 43.63 x 100 = 147%.

These facts imply that our best bet is wind turbines. Yet, the cost is still huge. Here is my understanding about it:

(1) World power consumption is 15 trillion constant watts. In other words we humans are consuming 15 trillion joules per second.

(2) Wind cost per watt installed capacity is atleast $3. May be it get reduced to $2 or even $1.5 in large scale production.

(3) Since wind is not available 24/7 we on average need 5 watts of installed capacity to get 1 watt constant power.

(4) Once wind energy provide something greater than 10% of energy usage we have to save it somewhere when its available to be used when its not available. The most efficient storage mechanism we have is 85% efficient in storage.

In reply to one of my posts in a previous article Jerome said that his project of wind turbines has availability factor of 50%. I seriously doubt that once large scale wind turbines production start that capacity factor can be maintained due to scarcity of ideal sites. Perhaps a 30% availability factor would be an average.

Since roughly two-third of energy is provided by roughly 40% percent efficient internal combustion engines and steam turbines the real power consumption is:

Assuming 30% availability factor and 80% storage efficiency we get a factor of 0.24 which means we need 4.17 watt capacity installed to get 1 constant watt.

Assuming large-scale no-profit socialist production of wind turbines there is a cost of 1.5 dollars per watt capacity.

Assuming zero maintenance costs, zero wind turbines related machinery costs, zero line losses there is a need of:

The world, at an oil price of $100/barrel, pays more than 3 trillion dollars per year for oil alone. Then there is probably one or two trillion dollars in NG, coal and nuclear. At least 4 trillion dollars in energy costs per year.

So it isn't really unreasonable to expect the world to pay 56 trillion dollars for replacement with wind, if that investment would last 20+ years.

So it isn't really unreasonable to expect the world to pay 56 trillion dollars for replacement with wind, if that investment would last 20+ years.

It is when you consider that the same task could be accomplished by investing 20 trillion dollars in solar thermal. Now. Today.

We still need liquid fuels. The economics of making hydrogen from electricity is well known. Assuming wind power at 6 cents per kWh and 50 kWhs for a kilogram of hydrogen, that is $3 for hydrogen with an energy equivalent of four litres of gasoline.

Now, hydrogen is expensive to handle, so even though the cost seems competitive with gasoline, it really isn't at current prices. Now, there are suggestions to react CO or CO2 with hydrogen to make methanol, which is a much nicer liquid fuel. My google karma seems bad today, though, as I can't get hold of efficiency numbers for this conversion. Does anyone here on TOD know what efficiency/cost you'd expect in going from hydrogen to methanol?

If the conversion is only 50% efficient, you'd have $6 for the methanol equivalent of a gallon of gasoline. Under the same assumption, a 3 MW wind turbine should be able to produce electricity enough to produce 7 barrels of oil equivalent methanol per day. Thus, to replace the entire world consumption of oil, one wind turbine per 500 people would suffice, at a cost of about $8000/capita. This is about the same figure as the current world GDP per capita. So, if we need to renew investments every 20 years, 5% of world GDP need to go into wind powered production of liquid fuels. Not too bad. I'm officially going cornucopian.

CO+2H2 --> CH30H+90.7kJ. The reaction takes place at 400C with a catalyst. My guess is that it can be self sustaining.

Thanks. But ... how do I get CO, then, from non-fossil sources? I should be able to get it from incomplete combustion of biomass, I guess, in some proportion with CO2? CO2 can also be used, but with less efficiency as the extra oxygen atoms should steal one third of the H2 to form water? Like CO2 + 3H2 --> CH3OH + H2O? My chemistry isn't what it should be...

You can get CO from biofuels. There are whole webpages on BTL (biofuel to liquids). If I read my R^2 blog right, the main problem with BTL is the capital cost of the plant. Also finding tons of biofuel per day in close proximity because you don't want to truck around megatons of low value biowaste. None of this requires electricity so we are getting far away from what to do with stranded wind. Iowafarmer, whatever his name is, advocates making ammonia from hydrogen from stranded wind.

You woulnd't get as much methanol as we currently use petrol, but assuming you have a large scale EV rollout as well, you are just looking at Methanol to replace petrol/diesel in trucking and air transport.

As I've mentioned before, if the H2 input to the above is derived from grid balancing - effectively removing the intermittancy problem - then it's probably a pretty efficient process.

jeppen, Make that "extreme cornucopian". I calculate a 3MW turbine achieving 33% capacity will generate 24,000kwh per day. An electric car using 200Wh/mile averaging 30 miles/day(6kWh) will replace 1 US gallon gasoline, so a 3MW turbine could replace 100 boe per day (6kWhx42=245kWh/boe).Thus to replace 85 million boe per day would require 850,000 3MW turbines. This is about one turbine per 6,000 people, a big task, but better than one per 500 people. Replacing 800 million ICE vehicles with EV's is also a big task, but they will have to be replaced over a 20 year period anyway.

Well, we can go hybrid for light vehicles, but pure EV is too expensive if you want any kind of range, unfortunately, barring tech breakthroughs. Also, batteries for non-light vehicles, airplanes and such is out of the question.

Not directly. To make methanol you need carbon. Methanol can be made from coal at the rate of .8 tons of methanol from 1 ton of bituminous coal. Normally it is produced from methane.

If you had a source of CO2 gas there's a new solar cell that can turn CO2-->CO, add in hydrogen gas from electrolysis of water then CO+2H2-->CH3OH and, voila! methanol!

Nearly all charts plot data plate rating, not actual output which is less than 1/3 data plate rating.

It doesn’t talk about the cost of each kWh. Wind produces a few percent of total consumption but the impact on electric bills is spread out over all the kWh’s.

Claims Denmark is 20% wind but fails to mention they export half because they cannot use it all when wind is good.

It does not mention that Denmark has the most expensive kWh's in the world and has nearly stopped expanding its wind capacity.

Existing baseload plants provide free battery service and power conditioning service for wind, and they are at various stages in their lifecycle. If we go with wind they and their fuel supply systems will have to be replaced at some point. Not so with nuclear.

Those free services and replacement costs never appear in wind cost estimates, nor are backup plant emissions attributed to the windmills. The windmills must be replaced twice during the life of a nuclear plant, and that is not included in the price comparisons.

Under market price setting mechanisms, wind power (which has a zero marginal cost) brings wholesale prices down when it is available, by avoiding the need for more expensive coal-fired or, more usually, gas-fired power plants that would otherwise be required to balance the system.

True if windmills were free and could be counted on during periods of peak demand. In reality the money going to wind could be used to build reliable generation.

industrial-size turbines now have a 15-year track record, and availability has been consistently in the 96-98% range, as shown by this meta study on 14,000 turbines:

Here is a sentence clearly designed to mislead the naive reader. Availability will not keep your oxygen concentrator running if the wind is calm.

What are the chances that fuel costs(uranium, coal, NG)will remain low for the foreseeable future? Impossible. Baseload uclear will never integrate with wind/solar and uranium costs will rise above fossil fuels as more plants are built.

The maximum sustainable uranium cost per kWh will not be as high as today’s coal cost per kWh because seawater uranium caps the maximum sustainable cost of uranium to $108 per lb.

Your right that nuclear and wind will not integrate, because the fuel cost of nuclear, (½ cent / kWh) is much less than the cost of wind kWh's.

Shhh! Bill don't you know that, according to Jerome a Paris, supporters of nuclear power are not suppose to criticize wind. power, or at least Jerome's comments on wind? Did you you catch Jerome's response to my comment up the page? After I wiped the floor with him, he pronounced my comment a non sequitur and blew the whole thing off. But in doing so, he admitted that wind is nothing more than an adjunct to fossil fuels power plants.

Charles, The new power capacity figures for EU from 2000-2007 speak for themselves, 5-10GW wind 0-1GW nuclear; doesn't mean nuclear is not cheaper, its just not happening( in EU). Wind isn't competing with nuclear, its competing with FF especially NG.

Neil1947, wind supplements fossil fuels, it does not replace them. If the goal is to somewhat decrease the use of fossil fuels, then wind works ok. If the goal is to stop burning fossil fuels to produce electrical energy, then investing in wind is counter productive. This is the quarrel I have with Jerome and other wind advocates. Massive investments in wind will make us dependent on coal and gas for a long time, no matter what atmospheric scientists tell us about AGW.

As I understand it, Italy just committed itself to a 50 Billion euro investment in nuclear power, and the UK plans a very substantial investment.

What I don't understand is why you see my own article as hostile to nuclear. I say wind is as successful in its early years, as nuclear was. The only thing I say (or imply) about nuclear is that it grew very fast 40 years ago.

Why should I need to say anything about nuclear today, when my point is to say that wind can play a significant role? Note: not an exclusive role, a significant one. If you've read my articles before, you'll see that I have always supported nuclear, at least as done in France, so I don't understand why you feel attacked, or feel the need to dismiss wind so violently.

So if you want conversations to be about who "wipes the floor" with whom, feel free, but I'm not sure it gets us anywhere - in fact, I expect the coal industry is laughing its collective ass off as it reads this.

Jerome, As I explained already, I don't regard this as a wind verses nuclear issue, I also criticized some forms of nuclear power as well. It strikes me that your complaint is a ploy to avoid justifiable criticisms of wind. Nuclear advocates have some Idea about the cost, benefits and disadvantages of nuclear power, and we can compare them to the costs benefits and disadvantages of renewables. When we make comparisons between nuclear and wind, nuclear turns out to be cost competitive and while wind has significant disadvantages. Your view is that advocates of nuclear power should avoid saying anything negative about wind. How does our silence help society make informed choices. Are we here to hype nuclear and wind and scratch each others back, or our we here to judiciously determine facts?

I'm sorry, but I have acknowledged various criticisms of wind, those that you have brought up and others, and I think I have answered them with various facts, so I don't see these as "justifiable."

When we make comparisons between nuclear and wind, nuclear turns out to be cost competitive and while wind has significant disadvantages.

This is, again, simply not correct. The cost of wind today has to be compared to the cost of nuclear new-build today, financed by the private sector, not to the cost of fully amortised nuclear financed by public or quasi-public bodies. On such a basis, the costs per kWh for wind (onshore) and nuclear are essentially similar.

By "significant disadvantages", I gather you are still referring to intermittency, and I don't know what to do beyond repeating again the arguments that I brought forward, ie that intermittency is being dealt with already, in networks operating right now, at a cost which is understood and included in the cost of wind.

Jerome I am comparing estimated cost of wind and nuclear projects. As you are aware there are currently no new reactors under construction in the United States, although an incomplete 35 year old reactor is in the process of being completed in Tennessee. There are, however, recent Asian experiences. The Chinese are building two reactors in Pakistan, and have just signed a contract for two more. The current price appears to be around $2.6 Billion per GW, which will get the Pakistanies considerably more capacity than the same amount of money sp[ent on wind mills will.http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/2066/china-pakistan-nuclear-deal

You rely for your arguments on questionable sources which as Bill Hannahan has pointed out, misrepresent the actual state of affairs as far wind generation is concerned. We all know that name plat capacity is a fiction, and that the reality is the amount of power actually delivered over time. Yet you rely on sources that claim the number of homes served by name plate power rather that actual power delivered. You are making a case for projected projects, and I certainly have a right to compare projected costs of wind to projected costs of nuclear. Wind advocates like T. Boone Pickens have acknowledged that without subsidies the wind business would not be profitable in the United States. Contrary to your argument, The American nuclear Power industry gets only a small fraction fraction of the subsidies given wind projects, while the the same nuclear industry is taxed for services the government does not deliver.

New reactor construction will begin in the United States in 5 years, in the mean time we can only estimate construction costs.

You probably know that I finance wind farms; you may not know that my bank has actually financed a nuclear plant. I can't control every word in documents I link to for specific information, but I dare you to point to anything I have ever written that would have suggested in any way that nameplate capacity for wind means the same as it does for nuclear (or that I have ever mentioned households served)

There's bad PR from the wind industry (just like from any other industry), but would you please o me the favor of reacting to my words rather than on your vision of wind spin?

Again, I have given you numbers and studies by scientists about the fact that wind is NOT subsidized in Denmark or Germany (as in - feed-in tariffs for wind help bting about lower prices for consumers, not higher) - why are you refusing that evidence?

Again, I have given you numbers and studies by scientists about the fact that wind is NOT subsidized in Denmark or Germany (as in - feed-in tariffs for wind help bting about lower prices for consumers, not higher) - why are you refusing that evidence?

Jerome, I missed those references - perhaps you would be good enough to provide ma a link? With thanks.

BTW, Neil has kindly updated me on on-shore wind resources in the UK, which are more extensive than I had believed, so perhaps we can keep a few more lights on!

Jerome I have looked at proposal for fulfilling a proposed California (Proposition 7) Which would require a 50% penetration of the California Grid by renewables in 2025. The cost of doing that with Solar would run to 3/4 of a trillion dollars given todays costs. The cost with wind was $300 billion. With nuclear at $8 billion per GW it would be $192 Billion. Even with nuclear going for $12 Billion per GW, nuclear is still cheaper. In compiling my estimates I tend to give renewables the benefit of the doubt and use high estimates for nuclear.

[quote]The cost of wind today has to be compared to the cost of nuclear new-build today, financed by the private sector, not to the cost of fully amortised nuclear financed by public or quasi-public bodies.[/quote]

What's wrong with say, comparing publicly funded wind with publicly funded nuclear? Or comparing the most rapid and effective strategy for each one?

"that intermittency is being dealt with already, in networks operating right now, at a cost which is understood and included in the cost of wind."

(does this charge the cost of fossil fuels to wind plants at the rate that they don't reach nameplate capacity?)

The problem with big enough scaleup to replace coal (what I think is most important) is that such costs get higher with higher wind penetration.

With nuclear, at least if done sensibly, there are some economies of scale (up to some point) in standardization and production.

As a risk-mitigation strategy---i.e. there are unforeseen problems and uncertainties in our computations---so we ought to be doing both.

Nuclear has the obvious advantage that there is clear empirical evidence that it can scale up to sufficient capacity to support a modern industrial society with little extra help. There is no such example with wind, and all industrial societies generate the overwhelming majority of their electricity with plants which look much more like nuclear w.r.t. intermittency in generation than they do like wind.

Also, wind is more environment sensitive---like with drilling oil, the easiest and most geophysically promising locations are taken first. Of course the wind won't deplete, but this means that past a certain significant scale factor, incremental new wind will be less and less effective as the economically suitable locations have been taken.

I still think we ought to do both because of the existence of bottlenecks in nuclear construction which do not overlap with those of wind construction, and similarly with solar.

I also think that this is a sufficiently important strategic and ecological issue that insisting that everything gets done with the purest of free-market financing is itself a dangerous ideology.

In public opinion in many countries, nuclear is considered as a last resort. You choose it if you think nothing else can work. I mean, just imagine that each region of a country were asked to choose what power generator they'd like in their region:- wind, wave, hydro, geothermal, solar PV, solar thermal, biomass, coal, oil, gas, nuclear or nothing. Imagine they had to rank them. Nuclear would come in the bottom half at best in most places, and usually last.

Thus, if you present anything else as working, you make them worry that nuclear will never get chosen.

Nuclear's just too unpopular across most of the world. Thus praise of anything else is taken by nuclear proponents as an insult to nuclear.

This calculator gives 1.2 cents per kwh for nuclear, not .5 cents you gave and 2 cents I used. Your number has NO cost for nuclear waste/decommissioning and is misleading.http://www.wise-uranium.org/nfcc.html

So $2.5 +8 x .012 x years(nuclear) = $1.6 + 8 x .03 x years(wind-NG) the breakeven is then 6.25 years after which nuclear is better, unless the NG generation already exists in which case $2.5 + 8 x .012 x years = $1 + 8 x .03 x years, breakeven is 10.5 years.

The price of uranium is bound to rise if a large number of new power plants are built, just as it shot up in the 1970s.

Post something to support your insane idea that uranium can be extracted from seawater for $108 per pound.

The actual cost for U.S. reactors was 4.85 mills, $0.00485. Notice that the cost was higher in previous years, $0.00575 in 1995.

Construction cost is high because of the impact of compound interest rates combined with long construction times. Decommissioning and fuel disposal need not take place till end of plant life sixty years later. The money is being set aside and the advantage of compounding makes it a very small cost per kWh.

Over the past 40 years considerable experience has been gained in decommissioning various types of nuclear facilities. Some 100 commercial power reactors, as well as over 250 research reactors and a number of fuel cycle facilities, have been retired from operation….

External sinking fund (Nuclear Power Levy): This is built up over the years from a percentage of the electricity rates charged to consumers. Proceeds are placed in a trust fund outside the utility's control. This is the main US system, where sufficient funds are set aside during the reactor's operatinig lifetime to cover the cost of decommissioning.

Surety fund, letter of credit, or insurance purchased by the utility to guarantee that decommissioning costs will be covered even if the utility defaults. In USA, utilities are collecting 0.1 to 0.2 cents/kWh to fund decommissioning. They must then report regularly to the NRC on the status of their decommissioning funds. As of 2001, $23.7 billion of the total estimated cost of decommissioning all US nuclear power plants had been collected, leaving a liability of about $11.6 billion to be covered over the operating lives of 104 reactors (on basis of average $320 million per unit).

An OECD survey published in 2003 reported US dollar (2001) costs by reactor type. For western PWRs, most were $200-500/kWe, for VVERs costs were around $330/kWe, for BWRs $300-550/kWe, for CANDU $270-430/kWe.

For gas-cooled reactors the costs were much higher due to the greater amount of radioactive materials involved, reaching $2600/kWe for some UK Magnox reactors.

Utilities have paid over $18 billion into the Nuclear Waste Fund for this mostly through a 0.1 cent/kWh levy towards final disposal, so that by mid 2007 it had accumulated almost $30 billion, including interest. The fund is growing by about $750 million per year from utility inputs and $900 million from interest.

Burial under deep sea bed mud would be the best option for spent fuel because the dense mud is excellent for retaining waste and the ocean has vastly greater quantities of radioactive material from natural sources. It would be very inexpensive.

Post something to support your insane idea that uranium can be extracted from seawater for $108 per pound.

“The braid type adsorbent was pulled up after soaking in seawater for 60 days… The lowest cost attainable now is 25,000 yen with 4g-U/kg-adsorbent used in the sea area of Okinawa, with 18 repetitions.

This works out to six 60 day cycles per year. At 4g per cycle that is 24g / kg adsorbent / year. At this rate we only need 41kg of adsorbent to produce 1kg of uranium per year.

To make all U.S. electricity with our primitive steroidal submarine reactors, we need 0.72 pounds (330gm) of uranium / year / person.

For uranium to match the price of coal or natural gas, the uranium price would be $303 or $1,180 dollars per pound respectively. Seawater uranium is already much cheaper than our cheapest fossil fuel.

To produce all our electricity from fission at the U.S. rate (1,550 watts per person), using seawater uranium, our 0.72 pounds per person will cost $77.80 per year. We will need only 13.6 kg (30 pounds) of membrane per person using today’s primitive reactors. Using breeder reactors we need 0.35 pounds (159 gm) / 80 year lifetime.

For uranium to match the price of coal or natural gas using breeder reactors, the uranium price would be $51,500 or $194,000 dollars per pound respectively.

To produce all our electricity from fission at the U.S. rate using seawater uranium in breeder reactors our 0.35 pounds per lifetime will cost $37.80 / lifetime, 47 cents per year. We will need only 83g (0.18 pounds) of membrane per person

These are very modest amounts compared to digging up 14,200 pounds (6,440 kg) of coal, transporting it hundreds to thousands of miles, burning it, disposing of thousand of pounds of toxic solid waste and trying to pump 36,000 pounds of CO2 into the ground for each person each year.”

Your .485 cents doesn't include was expenses as I said and the demand for uranium has been low for 15 years due to a surplus of uranium on account of a moratorium on nuke plants.

Your phoney calculations of $108 per pound are too silly for words; just a year ago uranium cost $95 a pound for yellowcake-unrefined uranium oxide.http://www.uxc.com/review/uxc_Prices.aspx

All modern reactors are premised on at least a 60 year lifespan, though there's no rational reason to limit it to that given reasonable re-furbishments.

Breeder reactors are a key component of the fission bridge to fusion + renewables. 1) they reduce the volumes of spent fuel needing to be handled by huge factors. 2) they reduce the volumes of new fuel required. 3) they can be set up to transmute some of the redioactives in the waste from long-half-lifes to short-half-lifes.

Canada has NO breeder reactors. CANDU reactors are not thermal breeders.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeder_reactor

The 'successful' Russian breeder BN-600(1980)is a small 600MW unit. The technology was sold to Japan which built the Monju reactor(280MW); it ran for a year and a half before closing(1994-1995). The serious breeder, Superphenix(1984-1996) comparable in capacity to a commercial LWR but never worked properly.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superph%C3%A9nix

I propose that fast breeders should not be even be discussed until someone actually builds one that works.

As to fusion, the JET tokamak in Culham has never come close to being net energy positive. The hope is that ITER in Cadarache, France will actually produce power.

How you scale up these tiny 'science projects' to power the economy is left to the imagination. LWR will be the nuclear technology for any future nuke expansion program, the rest is nonsense.

You want breeders that work, just ask the industry for them. And what a CANDU can or can't do simply depends on what fuel loads you put in it. You want better, just finance AECL to do it.

Its high neutron economy allows the CANDU design to potentially utilize a variety of different fuel cycles, including MOX and Th/U233 cycles (the latter, in one particular manifestation, achieving "near-breeder" status).

majorian, you ought to inform yourself better on nuclear energy before you start lecturing others on the topic. First the BN-600 is a mid size reactor, not a small reactor. It has a respectable electrical generating capacity that is larger than many russian coal fired generating plants. The BN-600 is not a toy or a "science project".. Secondly the Russians sold BN-600 technology to the Japanese after thee Japanese had built the Monju reactor. The Monju is based on local technology. The Russians are in the last stage of completing the larger BN-800. At present successful fast breeders are being operated by France, Russia and India. India plans to build several commercial fast breeders by 2020.

Because of the superior neutron economy of the thorium fuel cycle and and the CANDU reactor, it is possible for the CANDU to be a thorium cycle breeder.http://www.aecl.ca/Science/RD/Physics.htm

majorian American nuclear plants are starting to get 20 year life extensions as well as power up rate approval. The up rates will be installed during the refurbishment needed to extent plant life. Research is underway on a further plant life extension of another 20 years, one the initial extension runs out. There will probably more substantial power up rated as part of the second extension.

Does this 20 year life extension cost any money? If so it should be added onto the plant costs. The actual design life of nuke plants is 40 years on the drawings. If they are rebuilt, that's another matter.

majorian It probably runs to a few hundred million and features a big enough power up rate to pay for the who thing over a 20 year period without increasing the cost to rate payers. Most generation III + nuks are designed for 60 or 80 year life spans.

It costs an engineer-year to fill out the paperwork so that the NRC will extend your license another 20 years. If you don't have the expertise in house, you can get consultants to go through the process for you for like ten million bucks.

You have not reviewed the information available on life extension of old plants and the design life of new plants. You should do your homework before you accuse people of making things up, it reflects on you.

Your phoney calculations of $108 per pound are too silly for words; just a year ago uranium cost $95 a pound for yellowcake-unrefined uranium oxide.

Utilities usually buy uranium on long term contracts. For example in 2007 the spot price spiked at $135 / pound, and the average spot price was $88.25. But the average contract price was only $22.45, and the overall average price utilities paid was $32.78. Presenting the spot price as if it is the average price paid is misleading.

The energy density of uranium allows utilities to buy supplies years ahead. The mass of uranium purchased in 2007 was the lowest since 1999.

If my calculation is so bad you should have no problem pointing out the error in my calculation. Show us the correct calculation.

What's the spot price today of oil($70) We're in a depression, Bill! Haven't you heard? Check the prices in 1976 when uranium was at ~$90(2003$). That's what happens if you have a huge boom in nuclear plant construction such as you propose.

The total amount of uranium dissolved in seawater at a uniform concentration of 3 mg U/m3 in the world's oceans is 4.5 billion tons. An adsorption method using polymeric adsorbents capable of specifically recovering uranium from seawater is reported to be economically feasible. A uranium-specific nonwoven fabric was used as the adsorbent packed in an adsorption cage 16 m2 in cross-sectional area and 16 cm in height. We submerged three adsorption cages in the Pacific Ocean at a depth of 20 m at 7 km offshore of Japan. The three adsorption cages consisted of stacks of 52 000 sheets of the uranium-specific non-woven fabric with a total mass of 350 kg. The total amount of uranium recovered by the nonwoven fabric was >1 kg in terms of yellow cake during a total submersion time of 240 days in the ocean.

That's .94 square miles(3 apparatus x 52000 sheets x 16m^2) of uranium-specific fabric gleaned 1 kg of yellow cake after sitting in the ocean for 240 days. A woven polyester fabric goes for $.2 per bolt(35.6m^2) would cost $13932 for .93 square miles. Much cheaper nonwoven polyethylene at $1.5 per 1000m^2 for garden variety visqueen(clear polyethylene) would be $3744 and a special uranium fixing fabric has to be a lot more expensive than that, in a special apparatus,etc.

Burial under deep sea bed mud would be the best option for spent fuel because the dense mud is excellent for retaining waste and the ocean has vastly greater quantities of radioactive material from natural sources. It would be very inexpensive.

It'd be even less expensive to store it in dry storage casks in a parking lot for the next couple of centuries rather than attempting to treat it as pure evil that must be thrown into the heart of Mount Doom.

majorian the problem of nuclear waste can be eliminated by reusing post reactor fuel in other reactors. Post reactor fuel can be used CANCU reactors, It can be sold to India asreactor fuel for indian heavy water or fast neutron reactors, or it can be used to fuel Molten salt reactors. Given these opportunities to make money with materials leaving reactors, they should not be considered waste.

India is abandoning their 40 year commitment to CANDUs and wants LWRs. That should tell you something. Stop daydreaming about CANDUs.

majorian, you did not read the story carefully. The indians are not abandoning their domestic nuclear program, in fact they are dramatically expanding their goals, by doubling the amout of nuclear power they plan to beproducing by 2020 through the use of Light Water Reactors. The Indian plan to build new Heavy Water reactors and LMFBRs still isfirmly in place.

Why should spent fuel be treated as this special evil in the first place? Just seal it up in concrete and steel casks on site and be done with it.

Bill - "Existing baseload plants provide free battery service and power conditioning service for wind, and they are at various stages in their lifecycle. If we go with wind they and their fuel supply systems will have to be replaced at some point. Not so with nuclear."

Really? I thought that they provided spinning reserve and peaking plants for the existing system. If we go with nuclear we will still need the peaking power plants just as much as nuclear is strictly baseload and cannot go much beyond 60% of the total power mix.

"Here is a sentence clearly designed to mislead the naive reader. Availability will not keep your oxygen concentrator running if the wind is calm."

No it won't however neither will a nuclear power plant that is down for 2 months for refuelling and repair. Availability is the measure of how much a power plant is available to generate power. As wind turbines are highly reliable they are 98% of the time available.

"True if windmills were free and could be counted on during periods of peak demand. In reality the money going to wind could be used to build reliable generation."

And neither can nuclear power plants be counted on to supply peak demand. As the take hours or days to vary their output they are completely helpless to assist with peak and are just as reliant on peaking power as wind.

"The maximum sustainable uranium cost per kWh will not be as high as today’s coal cost per kWh because seawater uranium caps the maximum sustainable cost of uranium to $108 per lb."

Seawater uranium???? Didn't I calculate the last time we had this discussion that putting a solar panel over 1 M^2 of seawater would get 10 times the energy available in the uranium in the same column of seawater 1M X 1M X 1000M?

Really? I thought that they provided spinning reserve and peaking plants for the existing system. If we go with nuclear we will still need the peaking power plants just as much as nuclear is strictly baseload and cannot go much beyond 60% of the total power mix.

And neither can nuclear power plants be counted on to supply peak demand. As the take hours or days to vary their output they are completely helpless to assist with peak and are just as reliant on peaking power as wind.

Wind and solar buffs think that a good battery will allow them to be more cost effective, but the truth is reactors can make much better use of storage technology by using the full capacity every night, as opposed to a few times per week.

Seawater uranium???? Didn't I calculate the last time we had this discussion that putting a solar panel over 1 M^2 of seawater would get 10 times the energy available in the uranium in the same column of seawater 1M X 1M X 1000M?

No. Even if it were true it would not change the fact that sea water uranium is cheaper than coal per kWh.

While I don't disagree in principle that nuclear power plants can load follow, the notion is entirely ridiculous. It would be cheaper to build surplus capacity and dump excess power into resistor banks than to try to save fuel on load following. Given we allready have ample dispatchable power capacity allready we dont need to do this of course...

Show us an analysis that explains why it would be more economical to dump power into a resistor bank than to follow load. Does France dump load into resistor banks? They sell excess power at a profit to Italy which is totally dependent on fossil fuel and “renewables”.

Show us an analysis that explains why it would be more economical to dump power into a resistor bank than to follow load.

Because nuclear fuel costs next to nothing compared to the reactor, and reactors are designed to run flat out. Start tinkering with their power output attempting to follow load and you introduce more wear on the system than otherwise, which translates into higher operational costs than you would save on fuel.

Does France dump load into resistor banks? They sell excess power at a profit to Italy which is totally dependent on fossil fuel and “renewables”.

Thats not load following, but demand management, and I was being somewhat toungue-in-cheek. I'm sure if people realized the utility was throwing energy away at off peak hours there would be some form of industrial demand management.

France has experimented with load following reactors by playing around with boric acid concentration in light water reactors. It didn't save any fuel and puts additional stress on reactors that are designed to run flat out. Nuclear fuel is just too cheap for load following to ever make sense, especially given the amount of dispatchable power avaliable on the grid.

Some nuclear power plants (ABWRs and older BWRs) have the capability to go from 100% of rated power down to 50% of rated power in about one hour. This makes them useful for overnight load-following.

If you look at diurnal electricity demand curves (I posted some links in other comments), changing the power plant output on one-hour time scales allows for a fairly good match to the diurnal variation. The downside, though this applies to any carbon-free power plant (and to a lesser extent fossil fuel plants with lower capital costs and higher fuel costs), is that you would need peak capacity power generating ability and the plant would operate at a lower average capacity which increases the amortization costs per kilowatt. But that is always the case and is the bane of power company (and other utilities) existence. Minimizing load changes (through demand shifting) is just good economics.

PWRs are the most widespread design in the world6 and are inherently able to load-follow. [...] For example, most PWR plants are capable to follow loads in a power range of 30-100% at rates from 1 to 3% per minute. Exceptional rates of 5% per minute or even 10% per minute are possible over limited ranges (Germany has particularly interesting load-following requirements [10]). [...] Given these significant improvements, one can therefore state that new build PWRs will offer operational flexibility as good as that of current fossil fuel plants

The AP1000 (one of the popular new designs) is a PWR which can do 30%-100% variation at 2% per minute.

In France, where nuclear load-following is required to ensure supply-demand balance in a more than 80% nuclear electricity system, some additional control rods have also been added to the usual design

However, operating at lower loads increases maintainance costs and unplanned outages (3% unscheduled unavailability vs 1.8% for steady load) and the thermal cycling may shorten the life of the plant (though this has not been a problem in France).

If a simplified demand curve looked like 12 hours at 50% and 12 hours at 100%, then you are using only 75% of the power plant's capability. Thus, amortization of initial capital costs is increased by roughly 1/3. Carbon free sources of power have much higher capital to operating cost ratios, thus this is significant whether you are using nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal, etc.

As for dumping power in a resistor load, it is best if that "resistor load" is located in someones water heater, hot tub, swimming pool, an apartment building boiler, etc. Or charging cars at night.

Perhaps you should check your facts. Yes France's generating capacity is ~80% nuclear however this does not mean that 80% of France's demand is serviced by nuclear. This link provides the facts:

If you go down the pie chart shows that France's energy demand is satisfied only 41% from nuclear the rest is exported. If there was not a Europe wide grid this surplus energy would be result in plants being shut down. France's nuclear plants are just as reliant on a wider grid of peaking plants and energy markets as wind as one commenter here said:

78% of French total generation (549.4 TWH's) comes from nuclear (426 TWH's). But, 76 nuclear TWH's are exported (net exports are 68 TWH's, but that includes a subtraction of 8 TWH's by imports), so 350 nuclear TWH's are consumed by the French, comprising 72.5% of French electrical consumption (482 TWH's).

Further, the average capacity factor for French nuclear is about 77%, with exports. Without exports that factor would be about 63%. Without imports it would be even lower, in order to handle the daytime peak, perhaps around 60%.

French nuclear power becomes much more economical if it's part of a larger system, which can help match it's output to demand. In that way nuclear is quite similar to wind power. May 7, 2007 4:22 PM "

How about you provide one nuclear plant that is operating in load following mode. I can imagine a nuclear operator really wanting the plant idle most of the time and only delivering power for one or two hours per day.

"Wind and solar buffs think that a good battery will allow them to be more cost effective, but the truth is reactors can make much better use of storage technology by using the full capacity every night, as opposed to a few times per week."

"No. Even if it were true it would not change the fact that sea water uranium is cheaper than coal per kWh."

If you can make money from uranium from seawater then I suggest you start with gold and see how you go. As there is nobody extracting even platinum from seawater my uneducated guess is that it is crap economics.

Yes France's generating capacity is ~80% nuclear however this does not mean that 80% of France's demand is serviced by nuclear. This link provides the facts:http://www.industrie.gouv.fr/energie/anglais/politique-energetique.htm If you go down the pie chart shows that France's energy demand is satisfied only 41% from nuclear the rest is exported.

No, nuclear is about 80% of French electrical generation, 41% of total domestic energy consumption including non electrical.

"Total nonsense. Provide a reputable source that shows nuclear plants cannot follow load." How about you provide one nuclear plant that is operating in load following mode.

" France's nuclear reactors comprise 90% of EdF's capacity and hence are used in load-following mode and are even sometimes closed over weekends, so their capacity factor is low by world standards, at 77.3%. However, availability is almost 84% and increasing. "

"Nuclear plants are run at 100% because they have the lowest fuel cost." No they run this way because it is uneconomic to run them any other way.

Why is it that Denmark makes 20% of electricity from wind, exports half of it, and has the most expensive electricity in Europe, and releases 37% more CO2 per person than France according to your reference?

If you are making payments on a quarter billion dollar battery loan you want a reliable dependable supply of inexpensive kWh's to fill it up every night.

Bill Hannahan - "No, nuclear is about 80% of French electrical generation, 41% of total domestic energy consumption including non electrical."

Yes it is however due to the fact that a lot of demand is satisfied by peaking plants, mainly pumped hydro from Sweden, only 41% of domestic demand can be satisfied by nuclear.

"France's nuclear reactors comprise 90% of EdF's capacity and hence are used in load-following mode and are even sometimes closed over weekends, so their capacity factor is low by world standards, at 77.3%. However, availability is almost 84% and increasing."

Yes and how much profit did they make? Again I am heartened by your socialist tendencies. Perhaps I should have said how many purely commercial rather than government reactors are operated in load following mode.

"Why is it that Denmark makes 20% of electricity from wind, exports half of it, and has the most expensive electricity in Europe, and releases 37% more CO2 per person than France according to your reference?"

Because it sources the balance of energy from coal and because it cannot interact with renewables it emits much more CO2 than it really has too. Supply is only part of the equation and even Denmark has not reduced energy use and increased efficiency enough to make a difference.

"If you are making payments on a quarter billion dollar battery loan you want a reliable dependable supply of inexpensive kWh's to fill it up every night."

And if you are making payments on a 4 billion dollar nuclear power plant you need a solid constant demand to keep the reactor in use 24X7. Two sides of the same coin mate.

Why is this sort of question even taken seriously? A 1GW reactor produces some tens of tonnes of spent fuel, about the size of a truck. Its not like anyone is running out of parking lots for dry cask storage over the next several thousand years.

Dezakin - "Its not like anyone is running out of parking lots for dry cask storage over the next several thousand years."

No but we will run out of guards to prevent people in say 1500 years cutting them up and using them for housing after forgetting what nuclear power was. We cannot imagine even a geological short time period like 1000 years that it will not be exactly like it is today. Our civilisation could collapse twice in that sort of time scale. Let alone the 10 000 years that would render them safe.

Space is not the problem just the ethics of potentially killing people a thousand years into the future. I know we need the energy now but if we can do it without polluting the future as well as the present don't you think we should try that first rather than keeping the party going at any cost?

The fastest way for society to get to the condition of "forgetting what nuclear power was" is to listen to nonsense such as that.

Dezakin: Proposing storing in dry casks for thousands of years is ridiculous, almost as stupid as digging a hole and burying it. Spent nuclear fuel is too valuable for either to ever happen, and the US government and nuclear industry know that, hence only doing what is absolutely politically mandatory regarding Yucca (yuck yuck, what a joke). Spent reactor fuel simply needs to be held safely for a few years until the short-half-life actinides decay, making it a valuable energy source easily reprocessed.

I though everybody already knew this. Name any country in the world which is regularly "disposing" of their spent reactor fuel. Not a chance.

Proposing storing in dry casks for thousands of years is ridiculous, almost as stupid as digging a hole and burying it.

Dry cask storage is the most cost effective spent fuel management technique for several centuries. Thousands of years is certainly unnecissary, but you know where these arguments go. As for reprocessing, a fine idea if uranium itself weren't so cheap to make it more cost effective to simply seal it up.

No but we will run out of guards to prevent people in say 1500 years cutting them up and using them for housing after forgetting what nuclear power was.

If society degrades to that point, we have much more existential concerns than people prying open spent fuel casks for some unknowable reason.

Dezakin - "If society degrades to that point, we have much more existential concerns than people prying open spent fuel casks for some unknowable reason."

What??? We are talking about 1500 years into the future. If you think that we will be flying around in interstellar spacecraft and ascended into godhood by that time you have been watching too much Star Trek. All throughout recorded history civilisations have risen and collapsed again - why do you imagine that we will be any different?

I think this is the nub of the problem and why you can so easily dismiss the problems of nuclear power. You cannot imagine that 1500 years in the future that the USA will not exist and be a distant memory like Rome is today. Imagine if we were still required to look after Roman nuclear waste. Do you think that say in 1600 they would have remembered that these grey blocks of concrete held dangerous waste? For god's sake we only rediscovered concrete 200 years ago after the Romans used in 2000 years before.

And this is the main problem with nuclear power. We are creating waste that will still be around in times the people using the power cannot even imagine much less care about.

Actually, to be precise - nuclear plants run at high constant capacity because of plain old physics. It'd stuff up the rods otherwise.

If you raise and lower the output of a nuclear power plant then you're raising and lowering the temperature of the core. Uranium and its zirconium cladding are both metals, if you put a metal through cycles of heating and cooling it becomes brittle and eventually cracks.

This is not good for a fuel rod, and still less good for the safety of the system. Boiling water or liquid sodium creeping into cracks in fuel rods, hmmm.

So they just power it up and keep it at high level as much as they can. The capacity of all plants has to match the highest peak demand, so either your system is partly nuclear and tops up with other sources you can throttle up and down as you wish, or else you export lots of electricity. Places like Sweden choose to be just partly nuclear, places like Germany choose to export the electricity.

Either way, it's not economics that makes the nuclear plants operate at high and constant capacity, it's physics.

No, not physics. Economics. As every large US Navy vessel proves, load following is possible with safety, just more expensive, especially with BWR / PWR types which were never designed for it. The PBR's should resolve this though, and right on schedule.

Actually, to be precise - nuclear plants run at high constant capacity because of plain old physics. It'd stuff up the rods otherwise.

If you raise and lower the output of a nuclear power plant then you're raising and lowering the temperature of the core. Uranium and its zirconium cladding are both metals

Now I know 'kiashu' is guessing. Virtually all reactors now working have ceramic -- uranium dioxide, known as uraninite when found in a streambed -- inside the cladding. Of course it too can crumble, but in a slightly hydrogenated 600-K water environment it, with its melting point above 3000 K, can't dissolve. (A little hydrogen is added to reactor water to eat up any oxygen that is freed by radiolysis.)

Also, in an earlier discussion it seemed odd to me that the temperature couldn't be kept constant while the coolant flow rate changed. I asked the asserter about this, and as is usual here, got no answer. So I asked some people about this elsewhere, people who don't have to guess. They gave me this answer for boiling water reactors and this one for PWRs.

Virtually all reactors now working have ceramic -- uranium dioxide, known as uraninite when found in a streambed -- inside the cladding. Of course it too can crumble, but in a slightly hydrogenated 600-K water environment it, with its melting point above 3000 K, can't dissolve.

1. The cladding is still metal, which becomes brittle with heating/cooling cycles. The cladding is there for a reason.

2. I didn't mention the difference between the metal and the ceramic rods because it makes no difference to my actual point. Ceramics also become brittle when exposed to cycles of heating and cooling, just take much longer than most metals - and also suffer from extremes of temperature; if the cladding were to break, then the ceramic rod inside would develop cracks, too.

3. Dissolving is not melting, if it were then when I put salt in my porridge it would sit there in lumps since my porridge is not above a thousand degrees. And in any case I never suggested that a fuel rod would dissolve, only that it might crack and break.

Thus, my actual point - that plant operators avoid varying production because the heating/cooling cycles would affect the safety of the plant, it's easier just to keep it at high production - is not touched on by your comments.

Your linked comments didn't address my points, but unrelated ones about coolant flow. Naval reactors are as different to commercial reactors as an internal combustion engine is to a coal-fired generating plant; they have different construction, more people maintaining them per fuel rod and no concern about profitability, and so on.

... plant operators avoid varying production because the heating/cooling cycles would affect the safety of the plant, it's easier just to keep it at high production - is not touched on by your comments.

(BWR power adjustment, PWR power adjustment, linked by me but with content by terrestrial reactor operators)

Well, I do think varying power production and varying coolant flow are related. If their variations are nearly in a constant proportion, power adjustment does not entail much heating nor cooling.

The lower the load factor, the higher the capital cost per delivered KWh over the lifetime of the plant ... and if it costs additional capital in order to gain the ability to vary the load factor, that increases the capital cost by two multiplicative (as opposed to additive) factors.

Hello TODers; Heres a little tid bit I found on youtube and wind power. It shows how wind power generation costs can be reduced substancialy. Please let me know your thoughts on this particular application and approach. If its a pipe dream, not practical, pure and utter nonsense. Let me know....Thanks in advance.

I believe the grid must be underpinned by dispatchable power as there is no universal energy storage solution in sight. I kinda like the idea of vehicle-to-grid and building-to-grid as a distributed storage solution. However current batteries are too expensive and limited in capacity and it would be difficult to buffer more than a fraction of daily grid output. PHEV makers are talking about 20 kwh traction batteries costing at least $4000 each. To store a gigawatt-hour would take 50,000 such batteries costing $200m. Same goes for online uninterruptible power supplies used as B2G. Times those numbers by however many hours you want to store then times again by required average output. Post-recession less output may be required for game boxes and aircons but more will be needed for electric transport and osmotic desalination, say 80% of current grid figures. If both nukes and FF fired generators are forbidden to cover the case of a cloudy windless couple of days we might need say 20 hours of storage. Do the calcs and now we're talking hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars. That's bank bailout and foreign war kind of money.

On the positive side X2G grids may need less new transmission. Critical users like hospitals and aluminium smelters could buy their own battery banks and the consumer would just have to pay more.

Boof, "If both nukes and FF fired generators are forbidden to cover the case of a cloudy windless couple of days we might need say 20 hours of storage." Australia and many other countries have a lot more than 20 hours storage, but usually use it for just a few hours a day at peak demand. Hydro pumped storage can be used in a number of different ways; a relatively small pumping capacity, that can recover water over a period of weeks and release it much faster during a few hours of peak demand or when no wind, or a higher pumping capacity that can smooth load at low demand periods(usually 1-4am) and when wind is at 100% capacity, and release over the rest of the 24 hours. Massive low cost pumped storage capacity could be developed in countries that some hydro capacity, limitations are the space for more generators, and more transmission capacity. Tasmania is fortunate in having lots of excess hydro capacity and lots of wind resources near-by, they shouldn't need to use FF back-up. Why would FF fired generators be forbidden to act as back-up power?. In the WA gas explosion, they bought coal fired plants out of mothballs. The value of B2G is that power is taken from batteries used primarily for EV and PHEV's to make very short term adjustments ( minutes) to demand. There is little additional cost, in fact its to save on rotating reserve storage costs.

Thanks for the excellent rundown on where things stand. I know that many here fully support wind - I guess my view is that at the moment wind doesn't directly help replace transportation fuels, but it does replace other fuels such as coal and natural gas, which will also eventually be in short supply.

Personally I like the fact that wind has reached such a level of technical maturity. There really aren't any questions any more - it is really more just a matter of financing and production. Everything else is well understood. Even solar hasn't reached this level of maturity (but solar is also growing up quickly).

Excellent read on wind, I’m curious have we forgotten the main source of FUNDING for alterative energy?

A lot of the government grants and tax credits were derived from the carbon taxes placed on oil and gas producers. That’s great, BUT these companies are in uncertain times, this quarter’s revenues are getting hit hard! But how hard is the real question?

I’ll tell you my strategy. I will focus on the Canadian sector and take advantage of their undervalued mining companies to do more research on the subject.

Then as the wind companies come in to play and make further advancements, I will begin to sell off some portions of my positions, and gradually use the proceeds to invest more in wind.

I believe you are talking about finance rather than funding ... as the diary noted, establishing feed-in tariffs can ensure that the projects are self-funding, as well as reducing cost of electricity over the life of the project.

In the face of a recession, and given the experience of employment-recessions lasting about two years longer than GDP-recessions, and given the positive impact on the external account meaning that these projects have a net positive impact on the current account over the life of the project, there is no reason why finance cannot be provided directly by government.

I think everyone needs to realize that a lot of people are fairly knowledgeable about energy on this site, but we can all agree that the public as a whole has no clue. Is there a case for wind, absolutely. Is there a case for nuclear, absolutely.

Nuclear "supporters" see the masses saying why can't we have only solar and wind. Wind "supporters" see the old industries trying to hold them down with words of base load and intermittent. There's a place for both, but not everywhere.

Can you imagine the disaster that would happen if the US Congress passed a law requiring every state to go 20% renewable power in a fairly short time frame? You would have an incredible discrepancy in the cost of electricity around the country. I would think that the Southeast states would either ignore the declaration or force congress to declare nuclear as a renewable energy.

I live in the Southeast US and I know a wind turbine can't handle a hurricane and a solar panel can't handle some of the frequent summer thunderstorms. I'd love for a "smart" grid to ship some wind power over from the West, but that requires radical infrastructure changes that are frankly very unlikely with the American political system. Build nukes where it makes sense, build wind where it makes sense, build solar where it makes sense, but realize that one solution isn't going to help everyone when you compare and contrast technologies.

If you live in central North Carolina, you face a slightly elevated risk for hail damage to your property, including solar panels: about 10 hundreths of a percent per year. Thus, in 1000 years you face a 10% chance of seeing a total loss on you property. http://ams.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=res-loc&uri=urn%3Aap%3Apdf%3...

Usually, the 25 year warranty on a solar panel will run out long before hail can damage it. But, then, you insurance policy would cover your loss if you had one.

I seriously doubt hail is what would damage most solar panels in the Southeast. I'm thinking tree branches. Cleaning them would be fun too, think of all the leaves, pollen and all the other crap that would get on them.

Panels are typically expected to survive 120 mph winds but very large hail can be damaging. I would say though that if you are worried about tree branches, then you've probably got the wrong roof for solar. In my opinion, with broad adoption of solar, we should just let the pollen wash off with the rain and the leaves blow off with the wind. It does not make sense to have people up on their roof to bother with this. Solar will be adopted broadly when it is as cheap as coal, about $3.50/watt, and at that point missing a little performance in the interest of convenience and safety will not be a big issue. Right now, it still costs too much and people will push for the last electron because they had to be pretty enthusiastic to get the system in the first place. But, there is no reason not to use solar in the Southeast. The resource is pretty good.

The time scale required to build up the renewable energy capacity is longer than the time scale required to build a national grid interconnection network, and a number of states have renewable resources that with current technology exceed their total electricity consumption, so a 20% requirement in North Carolina could well be met with 5% of some in-state renewable resource and 15% imports from out of state.

However, I prefer a feed-in tariff to a portfolio standard, since it provides the assurance to build capital intensive projects that only has a net up-front cost when power is relatively cheap, with the up-front cost going away in the face of a strong increase in the cost of electricity ... so consumers face a cost from the regulation when they can best afford it, and not when they can least afford it.

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