Welcome to the Energy Blog

  • The Energy Blog is where all topics relating to The Energy Revolution are presented. Increasingly, expensive oil, coal and global warming are causing an energy revolution by requiring fossil fuels to be supplemented by alternative energy sources and by requiring changes in lifestyle. Please contact me with your comments and questions. Further Information about me can be found HERE.



After Gutenberg

Clean Break

The Oil Drum


Blog powered by Typepad

« Ausra Building First U.S. Production Facility for Thermal Solar | Main | 1052 Daimler Orion VII Hybrid Buses Ordered »

December 15, 2007



“The feed-in capacity can change frequently
within a few hours. This is shown in FIGURE 6,
which reproduces the course of wind power feedin
during the Christmas week from 20 to 26
December 2004.



Cyril R.

Wow, you are really hung up on this nuclear peaker argument, which you have made up out of thin air with no references indicating that nuclear power plants cannot follow a load, and ignoring those references showing that they can. - Bill H.



My reasons for being interested in nuclear peakers were stated, as was the fact that their problem will not likely be technical but economical.

Again, commercial nuclear peakers (10-30% load factor) do not exist on planet earth, but are required in a strong nuclear paradigm. The fact that they are technically capable of peaking doesn't mean that they actually do this. Amortizing the relatively high capital costs over so fewer kWh's makes the cost per kWh very uncompetitive even with natural gas peakers. Capital costs could be reduced in the future, hopefully solving the issue, but I fear that, if nuclear baseload power is strongly expanded, we will end up burning more natural gas to compensate such high (but economical and therefore what will happen) baseload with peaking.

Unless a viable nuclear peaker or solar thermal peaker/load follower or whatever is available, large amounts of natural gas with all it's disadvantages is what you're looking at.

Cyril R.

Further, your statement that windpower is only as useful/economical as the cost of nuclear fuel displaced is, right now and in the future, as valid as the portion of kWh's that come from nuclear. That is 20% right now. That implies that your assertion is 80% wrong.

Omitting these facts makes you little more than a propagandist Bill. Sorry, no offense. All I want is a reasonable approach to energy development, and that means considering all ends, as in your paper. However what I disagree with is that you seem to imply, though subtle, that only one type of power source will likely be the winner. While nuclear power could - and should in my opinion - certainly contribute to our needs, it is unlikely to be a complete solution for a very, very, very long time. Maybe in the distant future we'll have decided nuclear power is best and to mostly switch to nuclear. But that is not very relevant for our current pressing needs, in particular GHG emissions, pollutants, and dependency on dubious regimes, with it's own (possible future) consequences, for fossil power.

I share DaveMart's concerns about scalability as well, not just for nuclear but for pretty much all other low carbon power sources. And anyways putting all eggs in one basket may not be the most prudent course of action.

For me, the question isn't so much nuclear vs solar vs wind but how to get rid of FF pollution and GHG's ASAP, without severely damaging the economy.

Cyril R.

Now, it's time to get back on topic.

Jim from the Energy Blog, in your comment you note that CAES is dependent on suitable geology. While that is true, it is also true that a majority of US geology does actually have favorable characteristics for CAES systems.

Also, the idea of combining bio-energy with wind and CAES (e.g. biogas/biosyngas for the turbo-expander in the CAES system for efficient biogas/biosyngas utilization) may have great potential.

Here is an example of this by Denholm 2005. It's an interesting combination I think.

Cyril R.

CAES systems are also interesting as they can provide real long term storage, up to several thousand hours, which is often also more economical. Because resevoir costs are relatively low it makes sense to have large resevoirs.

Cyril R.

And if you read stuff like the Billion Ton Vision, there should be plenty of biomass backup available.


Cyril, you don't have to have a cavern available as they do in Idaho for CAES.
You can build pressure vessels, although what the economics of so doing are I have no idea - we haven't really needed such technology previously as coal and gas can be throttled up and down easily.
Just the same, in principle you could certainly build pressure vessels.

Bob Wallace

Can anyone put numbers to the options?

Commercial nuclear peakers - how expensive per kW?

CAES, both using existing 'holes in the ground' and building containment vessels?

Flow batteries, vanadium redox batteries (VRB). and zinc-bromine (Zn-Br)?

Pumped up hydro, using flooded mines, existing hydro facilities?

(BTW, the argument that we can't create more pump up because none has been created recently is rather weak.)


Bob,I can tackle the the part of your question which deals with nuclear costs:
This is based on current European costs, largely French.
you are looking at around $0.06/Kwh for nuclear.
This does not take into account the bit where you refer to 'peaking nuclear power.
Technically there is no problem in using any nuclear plant for peak power, it is pure economics that mean that it does not happen.
If you did want to you can easily work out what would be the cost, as the fuel costs are trivial, so if you wanted to run a reactor for half the time, you would still be amortising the same fixed costs so the cost per Kwh would rise to $0.12, and so on for whatever percentile of total demand up to capacity, so for instance for the last 10% you would pay around $0.60kwh.
this is based on current generation nuclear reactors, the newer Westinghouse design should turn out power a lot cheaper than this.


Found some figures on Vanadium Redox batteries.
This guy reckons around $0.10Khw
Of course, this is just the storage cost, so the total price would depend on what you were using to charge up the batteries in the off-peak.
So from my previous post if you were using nuclear as base-load you might be looking at around $0.16for using VRB as back-up for peak load - IOW more expensive than running the nuclear plant half the time, but less expensive than if you were only running the plant 1/3rd of the time.
Oliver Twist is on the telly in a minute, so I will leave you to Google some of the other options!


Here's an energy storage suggestion - build an island in a sea, and pump the water in and out of a central lagoon with windmills to have dispatchable flow!
Sounds expensive to me!
The great Lakes would be suitable locations in the States.


There are some levelized annual costs for bulk energy storage in $/KW-yr on Page 23 of
including CAES, pumped hydro, Zn/BR and a half dozen others.
CAES is the cheapest.

Bob Wallace

Thanks for the Sandia chart. That answers some questions.

Notice how close the CAES and pumped hydro lines are?

And how they might actually be converging once you get out around 8 hours. (That might be a reading error on my part. But, ....)

One little confounding variable to pitch in the mix -

"... natural gas prices affect only CAES systems," p.32

If NG prices rise significantly then CAES costs could exceed pumped hydro.

Cyril R.

If NG prices rise significantly then CAES costs could exceed pumped hydro.

That's one of the reasons why it may be interesting to use biogas or biosyngas in the CAES turboexpander. Coal syngas could also be used but that's a bit heavy in GHG.

Have you read the link to the paper about a hybrid wind and CAES with bio-energy scheme?


Cyril R.

Clee points it out, CAES is very competitive as bulk energy storage. Pumped hydro could expand more, yes, but not enough to facilitate fully reliable operation of really BIG amounts of intermittent energies in the gridmix. That is maybe until sufficient biomass becomes available as backup. Compared to flow batteries, CAES also doesn't use rare materials that prohibit large scale deployment.

DaveMart: of course pressure vessels could be used. But that would almost certainly be more expensive, especially in a large scale CAES system. And take up more surface space, although that's not always an issue. And a less efficient use of materials for sure. I've seen resevoir costs estimates as low as ten cents per kWh electrical storage capacity. What would pressure vessels cost per kWh electrical? Maybe it will be competitive in small scale systems, but large scale systems would probably be more cost-effective for the continental US. I really like that hybrid wind plus CAES biosyngas system. Makes wind as reliable as real baseload, while using biomass very efficiently. And allowing farmers a decent income because they can supply the biomass part. So it saves agricultural subsidies as well. Sounds better than corn ethanol for sure :)

Cyril R.

Davemart, flow batteries estimated at 10 cents per kWh added costs? That's very uncompetitive unless in remote locations. For bulk grid storage, CAES is much cheaper per kWh delivered.

That energy island is also a great concept, I've seen it before. Basically a hydro-electric dam in reverse. Scale-up to even bigger size could make the concept very competitive, and would not be dependent on large altitude variations such as pumped hydro today. They say it's a very innovative concept, but the idea has been floating around (not literally) for some time now. It recently got more attention with concerns over sustainability and GHG. The North-Sea is very shallow so could be ideal for this concept. Hmm, reverse hydro-logic...


Even to arrive at 10c Kwh for flow batteries I think the guy has had to pretty much cross his fingers behind his back, and it would be dependent on things like assumed cost reductions for large-scale production.
Batteries are expensive relative to things like pumped storage, and eventually wear out.
They are useful in some systems though.
The figures I gave for nuclear are relatively solid though, and really indicate why you just don't throttle back on a commercial nuclear reactor - you simply continue to turn out the same amount of power, and get the best price you can for it.
These characteristics are unlikely to change much with future reactor designs, as they arise simply from the fact that the costs of nuclear are upfront in construction, and fuel costs are minor.
They also show why natural gas is such a good idea for peaking power.
That doesn't mean that you can't get major GW gas emissions down a lot though for peaking power.
As a thought experiment, imagine a fuel cell in the home, with a feed from the natural/biogas supply, which co-generates heat and power perhaps with a heat pump.
The emissions would be radically lower than from current systems.
I simply do not know what the costs for building containers for CAES would be.
Larger containers should be cheaper to build, but how the figures work is a bit moot at the moment, or how it would compare to, say, Ausra's proposals for storing steam for later generation.


Things are changing so fast in the energy generation and storage field that it is difficult to be too specific about comparisons, particularly since many of the ideas costs are in the early stages and are not fully tested to get firm figures.
For instance if nanoflakes work then it might be cheaper to generate energy from them than solar thermal:
There are a lot of other ideas around too, which if this one doesn't work might still get you a lot lower costs than today's, for instance nanosolar.
For storage, how's this:
This would increase power by a factor of 10, or presumably decrease costs per unit of energy stored by lithium batteries by a similar amount.
If that runs into trouble, there is this:
Again, this would give around a five-fold increase in performance.
Individually, any of these ideas might not pan out, but the multiple advances on many fronts are likely to give you a radically different energy picture within, say, 10 years.

Cyril R.

Yeah flow batteries are just a too expensive for bulk storage. Besides, they use large amounts of stuff like vandadium, which just doesn't scale enough I think.

Pumped hydro (in particular inverse marine dams seem promising) and CAES are better better bets.

Not to bring up nuclear again, but how about combining nuclear baseload with CAES + bio-energy for peaking? Even if natural gas is used as a transitional measure, that saves a lot of natural gas as the heat rate is much lower even than a combined cycle gas turbine. 85% less according to Denholm.

Or just use the (inverse) dams or more regular pumped hydro for peaking with excess nuclear baseload.

Seems doable.

Thermal storage is another option. One possible advantage is that storing heat (in general) requires less volume than storing the same amount of energy in compressed air. Still, IMO it's only a good idea for thermal plants - those that generate electricity from heat. Turning electricity (for example from wind or solar) into heat for thermal storage is very inefficient, increasing cost per kWh a lot and wasting energy is bad anyway.

And of course it also depends on what solar thermal plants with thermal storage will cost in comparison to wind with CAES.


Clee, excellent resource you linked to - thanks!

Cyril R.

Didn't get your second last post (that seems to happen a lot). True, it's difficult to make predictions about what will succeed. It depends on so many factors: politics, commercial savvy of manufacturers, scalibility rate, social acceptance of schemes etc etc.

Still, we can identify some of the more technically promising approaches. Ausra seems to have a good hand. Denholm's idea seems promising. So do those inverse pumped hydro dams. High tech can be appealing, such as nanotechnology related developments, but they can also raise more issues.


Hi Cyril,
No problem SFAIK with vanadium as a resource:
In any case, there are a lot of other possibilities for flow batteries, such as flow zinc-bromide and sodium sulphur.
If unconstrained by political considerations and if you dislike carbon dioxide emissions something like the system you reference, with the use of a lot of nuclear for baseload, supplimented by wind from the most favourable locations and biogas or an efficient use of natural gas via fuel cells would probably be what most engineers would design, if they did not assume radical breakthroughs, at least for northern Europe with it's low solar incidence.
The situation for parts of the US may be different, as it has both more extensive wind resources and more sun, so the balances are different.
Of course, passe the IPCC it is far from solid that Carbon dioxide emission is critical for climate:
All their stuff about 95% probability is twaddle - a fairer statement of the present state of play is that carbon dioxide may, or may not have a causative effect on global temperature, which may be rising, but we don't know for sure whether it does, or by how much if it does, and we don't understand most of the mechanisms of climate, for instance we have a very poor understanding of water vapour, the most important Greenhouse gas, or the earth's reflectivity.
If you assume that it is important to minimise carbon dioxide emissions, there are still lots of things that could be done which would make sense anyway, for instance better regulations for house building, and the specification of solar thermal for all new builds - as a new build the costs should be negligible.
15% of all homes in Austria already have it, and there is a lot less sun there than in most parts of the US.
For further out possibilities, check out the references I gave in an earlier post to Nanoflakes and better batteries.


DaveMart wrote: things that could be done which would make sense [...] for instance [...] the specification of solar thermal for all new builds

That way:

  • When solar goes away, people die.
  • When earthquakes happen, people die.
  • Extended construction-time and expense, so people die.
  • Capital-outlay inflexibly up-front, so people die.
  • Continuous maintenance and repair expense, so people die.
  • Bird collisions, so birds die.
  • Light pollution (which goes both ways; light-pollution from indoors-to-outdoors is a critical issue during extended-blackouts), so people die.
  • Thermal pollution, so people die.
  • Noise pollution, so people die.
  • Burglary insecurity, so people die.
  • Ballistic insecurity, so people die.
  • Blast insecurity, so people die.
  • Heat-flash insecurity, so people die.
  • Vandalism insecurity, so people die.
  • Espionage insecurity, so people die.
  • Mold-promoting (because the inner side of the glazing gets cold and attracts condensation), so people die.
  • Water-leaky, so people die.
  • Heat-leaky, so people die.
  • Air-leaky, so people die.
  • UV-radiation leaky (damages animals and objects inside the home), so people die.
  • Mold-spore leaky, so people die.
  • NBC (Nuclear/Biological/Chemical) poison leaky, so people die.
  • Smoke-leaky (important near forests or wood-structures), so people die.
  • Structurally weak, so people die.
  • Informationally and aesthetically uncontrollable and continuously modulating, so people die.
  • Parochial diurnal time-cycle leaky (local "sun-time" conflicts with world-time, and sunlight-leakage interferes with sleep), so people die.


I have no idea what you are talking about, for instance you mention bird collisions as a critique of solar thermal, when the systems I was talking about are residential, and are simply a panel on the roof of houses, as installed extensively in Austria and Israel - in the latter in almost all new builds.
It is reasonably easy to provide to 50% of all hot water needs by using this, even in the at times chilly climate of Austria, and the additional cost in a new build is minor.
Most of the people in Austria and Germany who also install a lot of these systems seem to be secure enough from all the hazards you mention!

Cyril R.

Nucbuddy, how many rems do you have on you right now?

Bob Wallace

"Not to bring up nuclear again, but how about combining nuclear baseload with CAES + bio-energy for peaking?"

How about looking for ways to solve our greenhouse/GW/shrinking oil supply other than creating more nuclear plants?

The nuclear waste problem is real an hasn't been solved. Leave this one for our children's children?

What sort of people does this make us?

The real cost of nuclear (at least in the US) is never given. The US taxpayer is furnishing the potentially very expensive liability coverage.

If reactors had to pay the premium we wouldn't be considering nuclear due to the real cost.

We speak of nuclear as if nuclear engineers, construction firms, and maintenance crews never made a mistake.

I used to live downwind, and in the "you're going to glow in the dark" range of Rancho Seco. Ranch Seco was shut down due to poor construction. It was a piece of junk.

When I go to town I drive by the Humboldt Bay reactor. Humboldt Bay was shut down soon after it was fired up when it was discovered that the reactor was built on top of a significant fault line.

Do some Googling and see how many problems have occured and how many close calls we experience.

There was the leak unreported for weeks that could have led to container melt. The security crew found to be asleep rather than on guard. And on it goes.

These plants are constructed and run by humans. And humans make mistakes. Often.

If we're going to consider nuclear, then let's put all the cards on the table.

Think about the years that it takes to put a new nuclear plant on line and about how many gigs of wind/solar/geothermal/wave might have been constructed and switched on during that decade with the same money.

A new thermal solar plant has just been initiated in California. It is expected to be producing power in three years. (One year for the approval process, two for construction.)

Three years and it's producing an income stream and nothing nasty.

That makes more sense to me if the (real) numbers pencil out.


Slightly different issue, Bob, and I certainly don't feel that the authorities in either the US or my own country, the UK, have dealt with nuclear issues very well.
It is also the case though that Chernobyl aside no deaths have happened from the nuclear program, whereas the coal industry is a proven killer, with huge numbers of deaths in both mining the stuff and from respiratory ailments from it's releases, including radioactive.
My own position is fairly simple - I don't like coal, and would prefer nuclear, but think that likely if folks really do not fancy nuclear then at least in the States solar and so on can probably do the job.
Things are more difficult in crowded, northerly Europe, and it seems to me that some of the renewables 'solutions' on offer there are very expensive fantasies, and what we are actually doing since nuclear is politically impossible is building loads more coal, just as in the States you are expanding oil from sands, which releases loads of CO2.
It seems to me that CO2 release is sufficiently concerning so that it is daft to make the best the enemy of the good, and that the 'harm' from nuclear is pretty theoretical.


DaveMart wrote: Nucbuddy,
I have no idea what you are talking about, for instance you mention bird collisions as a critique of solar thermal

I mentioned that because I had thought you were referring to this:

...Instead of this:

Cyril R.

How about looking for ways to solve our greenhouse/GW/shrinking oil supply other than creating more nuclear plants?

Well I'm optimistic about the rise of electric transportation which should cover most of that. Corn ethanol is rather a dead end, although when more sophisticated biofuel technologies come on line together with plug-in hybrids we should be alright.


I still don't really understand why you feel any conceivable house design would increase the risk from ballistic missiles!
Can't really comment on the designs you refer to, as I am not familiar with them, but the German/Austrian passivhaus concept seems to me to be a good one, even though it uses mechanical ventilation and relies on making the house airtight - the airflows are pretty precisely calculated, and mould and condensation and so on are actually less than in normal houses - the triple glazing with inert gas does not form a cold-spot relative to the walls in the first place, so condensation does not occur, whereas it would with a double glazed window.
Actually, Britain's attempt to make standards for a low-energy design equivalent are a right botch, as they could not guarantee that the builders would work to the same standards as the highly trained and regulated Germans, so they have to have a whacking great glazed porch front and back to keep the little that remains of the house (houses in Britain are already very small compared to the US, especially new builds) as some sort of standard.
They also specify passive not mechanical ventilation, and rely on air-bricks to keep the air flow going - people often block them up and they could well lead to mould and condensation problems.
So as usual not all designs are good ones, and anything has to be well-implemented, but a simple panel heating the hot water is such a no-brainer that their neglect in the UK and US is almost criminal!

Cyril R.

As Dave said, in the US, nuclear safety concerns are rather exaggerated when you realise it's dirty coal that's being replaced.

Although to be fair I wouldn't attribute every single respiratory disease to coal burning, nor do I really believe the US nuclear industry, which has been pretty much in the doldrums for so long, could scale quickly - in fact even replace current nukes - without massive subsidies. Which, to my dismal, is actually happening now with the Energy Policy Act (of 2005)heavily subsidizing some new projects - suggesting nuclear power is indeed not cheap at all, and certainly not competitive in free markets. And it is an open question whether nuclear fission would be eligible for that kind of subsidies and other alternative power sources would not, and whether or not it will require that kind of subsidies in the future.

All the more reasons to investigate the other options as well - even currently less promising things like 'less dirty' coal with sequestration. Wind for baseload, combined with CAES and some bio-energy could very plausibly provide a big chunk of baseload markets. Solar thermal with sufficient storage and some bio-energy for emergency backup is another very promising development. Plenty of options, and with larger plants being built we'll get some more realistic data on costs and performance.

Cyril R.

I've got a really big window on the east side of my house. There's lots of birds here, and lots of birds crash into my window, all the time. WHAM! But none of them have actually died. They just fly off after being a bit disorientated, and seem fine. You wouldn't tell, but they're tough little creatures. They've got to be, if they're dumb enough to fly onto the window. You know like in that song. If you're gonna be dumb...

There's a big windmill in my neighbourhood as well. Been there several times, but there were never any crunched birds littered around.


The nuclear design by Westinghouse/GE looks really good to me, and relatively easy to build quickly and cheaply.
Of course, licensing issues are another matter, but they should get good experience from the ones being built in China.
Realistically the first reactors would not be contributing either in the US or Britain before around 2017, and some time to ramp up to produce several per year.
That resource would be several orders of magnitude safer than the already very safe current generation, with a lot less waste, and would reduce the areas you would need to cover with mirrors for things like Ausra, aside form the fact that the last time I looked there were not a lot of sun-soaked deserts in the UK.
In the UK if we went for perhaps 30GW of nuclear power we could greatly reduce carbon dioxide emissions with a well-understood technology, and take a more leisurely approach to the development of things like tidal power, and avoid the possible waste of huge sums of money if it doesn't pan out.
That was really the problem with the nuclear program, they developed it too soon and too fast for military reasons - we don't want to make the same mistake with renewables, so all in the world we need to to is follow a fairly natural path of development, whilst enthusiastically supporting things like green roof technology which has multiple benefits, not least reducing heat island effects and so making you need less power for air-conditioning and so on in the first place/

Cyril R.

Yes heating and cooling needs of most buildings can be met virtually everywhere in the world almost entirely with passive solar design (heat input output balanced for specific climates, high quality insulation, proper thermal mass etc etc) and ventilation (active fans with air to air heat exchangers to reduce ventilation losses 90+%) etc.

Even in colder, heavily overcast regions a large chunk of domestic hot water can be met with thermal panels. The Chinese know it well, being the world leader in solar thermal hot water systems, and not just in their arid desert regions. Low wages and manufacturing costs have made such systems very cheap there. I think China has got something like more than 70% of all solar hot water systems installed in the world.

As you've said earlier, adding the cost of solar hot water systems to the mortgage of houses increases total monthly payments for houseowners only a small amount and this is usually offset by the avoided fuel costs. Making it mandatory on all new builds might seem a bit radical, but considering homeowners don't pay all that much more per month (or even substantially less if you live in a good solar climate) this can be justified. Producing and installing the systems in higher volume will drop costs substantially. Lower monthly payments, less GHG and a less atmospheric pollution. What more could you want?

And with recent announcements of PV panels selling for 99 cents per watt-peak, grid-connected PV may not be such a bad investment anymore either.

Cyril R.

Hey Dave, not being fully awake yet, I must be a bit slow, but why would the area covered with mirrors be such a show-stopper? The part about not building them in the UK I get, although in the future there may be the importance of the TREC initiative which can change things and stimulate international cooperation as well.


Nucbuddy wrote:

  • Ballistic insecurity, so people die.
  • Blast insecurity, so people die.
  • Heat-flash insecurity, so people die.
DaveMart wrote: I still don't [...] understand why you feel any conceivable house design would increase the risk from ballistic missiles

"Ballistic" refers to bullets:

In addition to being sensitive to bullets, buildings with glass walls are sensitive to nuclear blast (causing shattering that can injure, and creating a hole in the protective building envelope) and nuclear heat-flash (burning people and objects inside). It is easy to design buildings that are resistant to nuclear blast -- as long as they do not incorporate glass walls. Passive-solar designs require glass walls.

Cyril R.

Of course, licensing issues are another matter, but they should get good experience from the ones being built in China.

Umm, no. Not a good idea. That is if you mean building the plants without all proper licencing/security measures. Sure, that can speed things up but the risk of building/structural/human error doesn't seem worth it, especially if a large number of plants are built. Licensing itself should be less time consuming, that's different from starting construction when all licenses haven't been granted yet!

Remember, even China with it's loose plant licensing has only built a modest amount of nuclear capacity last year. They're scaling up but it's still relatively tiny. Just compare it to the new coal capacity installed last year.

And there is the government layers problem there, the local governments have a large degree of autonomy and they have to be competitive to gain taxes from their companies, so that means fast construction of plants and getting them online even if they're not entirely safe.

I'd feel a lot better about nuclear power in China if there were an influential civil society (to provide regulation/control) and that means democracy. Maybe with the rise of the middle classes there, that could actually happen.

Cyril R.

Something tells me Nucbuddy is one of those people with a fallout shelter in their basement!


Cyril R. wrote: I'd feel a lot better about nuclear power in China if there were an influential civil society (to provide regulation/control)

Why would you say that? Do you live in China?


Cyril R. wrote: Something tells me Nucbuddy is one of those people with a fallout shelter in their basement

The perhaps you should read for content.

Cyril R.

The best way to protect against nuclear blast is not having such blasts in your neighbourhood. If bullets are fired on a regular basis in the neigbourhood, I suggest you move someplace else.

Slums can be quite violent places. But then, people living in slums generally can't afford advanced passive solar design anyway.

Cyril R.

Cyril R. wrote: I'd feel a lot better about nuclear power in China if there were an influential civil society (to provide regulation/control)

Why would you say that? Do you live in China?

No, but I've done some studies there. Not quite finished though. Fascinating country.

Cyril R.

Cyril R. wrote: I'd feel a lot better about nuclear power in China if there were an influential civil society (to provide regulation/control)

Why would you say that? Do you live in China?

No, but I've done some research there. It's not quite finished though. Fascinating country.


I don't personally think that the area covered by mirrors in the Ausra design is a show stopper by anymeans, but some have raised legitimate concerns about their impact on the desert ecology.
Obviously sensitive siting and the allowance of decent spacing between mirror arrays and so on can reduce the impact, but it would be nice perhaps to think that you would not need the full 92kilometers on a side square Ausra suggest would be needed to supply all electric in the States, and reasonably priced nuclear would help towards that, as would the Nanoflake collectors which are around 3-4 times as efficient as the Ausra mirrors for a given area.
As for people shooting bullets through solar thermal panels, they are more usually roof-mounted, so you would need a lift on a crane or whatever before you could blast the inhabitants- there are easier ways to kill people, methinks.


I did not mean that full licensing procedures should not be undertaken for the Westinghouse reactors, but the documentation which they will acquire in the process of running and building the reactors in China will assist them in demonstrating the safety of their design for other countries, especially as they know that such information will be handy so that they will ensure that it is collated in an appropriate form for that use.

Bob Wallace

DaveMart wrote:

"My own position is fairly simple - I don't like coal, and would prefer nuclear, ...."

I like neither coal or nuclear. I'd settle for nuclear over dirty coal, but would rather that we use neither if possible.

Nuclear, if we use its true totally inclusive price, is expensive and does introduce some risk into our lives.

Coal, if carbon sequestering, is expensive. Both in terms of dollars per watt and environmental damage via mining. A recently proposed sequestering plant in the US Midwest is projected to cost around $5.45 per watt for construction. And that's before cost overruns.

With wind, solar thin film, and solar thermal coming to the market at less per watt in construction/installation costs and zero fuel costs why should we be contemplating new coal or nuclear?

We need to get our greenhouse gas emission rates down (20% in 20 years?).

Why not 'cap' our electricity needs (and even decrease them a bit) with conservation and at the same time start replacing our dirtiest and/or most dangerous coal/nuclear plants?

Paul F. Dietz

shortages of some natural resources, such as silicon and vanadium

Vanadium maybe, but silicon?! It's the second most abundant element in the Earth's crust, after oxygen. Processing capacity may be constrained, or it may be too inherently expensive to process, but shortage of raw materials containing silicon itself will never be a problem.


What gets me is that in practise what we actually get is more coal under a light green wash - even Germany has ordered another 6GW of un-sequestered coal, and the ones which are being built are not even able to be adapted when and if the technology to sequester becomes available, AFAIK.
We don't even get the obvious things like solar thermal in new builds in the UK and US.
Also Bob, although things like solar thin-film look hopeful, we do not yet have them operating demonstrably at a lower cost than non-renewables.
Wind is the only exception, and whilst that is economic at favourable locations, at others, particularly in the UK windmills are being sited in entirely inappropriate places, and under costing regimes which mean that sometimes you don't even get much power in exchange for plonking a ruddy great tower in a beauty spot.
Resources and alternatives are much greater in the States than in Europe, so for instance if Ausra works at good costs, great, but even there it would perhaps not be a totally bad thing if the present nuclear power generating capacity were replaced at the same level by far safer reactors producing far less waste than those they replace.
In Britain at present there is no realistic alternative to coal other than nuclear - the cost of the planned off-shore 33GW of wind power in Britain, generating an energy flow of perhaps 10GW, looks to be about the same as to build 33GW of nuclear, giving you perhaps 30GW actual, and greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Of course, the offshore wind is unlikely to be built at that kind of cost - what we will actually get is more coal, as they are building at the moment.
The same thing applies to the oil majors - under the cloak of a few PV panels, they are actually going for a huge increase in the enormously polluting oil sands.
It's a wicked world, Bob!

Bob Wallace

""...shortages of some natural resources, such as silicon and vanadium ..."

Vanadium maybe, but silicon?! It's the second most abundant element in the Earth's crust, after oxygen. Processing capacity may be constrained, ..."

I'm pretty sure that the reference was to production capacity of solar grade silicon wafers limiting massive PV panel production increases.

Demand for silicon wafers exceeded production capacity during the last couple of years and that caused PV costs to rise.

(Similarly, high demand for wind turbines has caused a temporary rise in turbine price.)

A few months ago more silicon production fired up, so this bottleneck is disappearing.

The comments to this entry are closed.

. .

Batteries/Hybrid Vehicles