Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jacobson and Delucchi, Half baked at best

Some of my readers are aware that I have in the past addressed flaws in the work of Mark Z. Jacobson. Jacobson is a Stanford Professor, and normally I would expect that appointment to the Stanford faulty to carry with it the suggestion that the individual involved does good quality work. But my reviews of two of Jacobson's papers raises serious concerns about the quality of Jacobson's research. In "A Review of Mark Z. Jacobson's Review" I noted a number of major flaws in Jacobson's paper, Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security, which seemed to both over hype wind generated electricity and perform an absurd hit job on nuclear power. I was harshly critical of this Jacobson essay, and was hardly the only one to do so. Last December, Renewable Energy World.com published a Stanford press release on Mark Z. Jacobson's paper, Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security. Numerous readers responded on line. "stop killin our wilderness" provided a devastating critique of Jacobson on Wind and Solar Thermal Power
obviously this person [Jacobson] lives in NORTHERN california, not southern california, or they would have a clue about how these technologies are vastly different here.

CSP uses nearly 90,000 gallons of water a year, just for rinsing mirrors (from a diesel truck), per megawatt - and that's for the inefficient air-cooled ones. water cooled use an additional 2,000,000 gallons of water/year per megawatt. 2 million gallons per year per megawatt!!! and the output declines as the temperature rises outside, right when we need the power most. idiotic. how can we justify these levels in SoCal, which is already on water rationing?

the land (10 acres/mw) is also permanently destroyed, and lengthy transmission means another 10% is lost.

to say "leave the rest as open space" around massive, inefficient wind turbines is also misleading. dynamiting, boring, trenching (so the turbines can pull power from the grid), concrete, roads, powerlines - all of these things add up to near-total devastation of the entire region when they are in SoCal deserts (which is usually where they are sited in SoCal). that means 45 - 70 acres per megawatt that is permanently decommissioned for all other uses. oh, and these turbines operate at roughly 16% of rated capacity, lower than rooftop solar, especially after transmission losses.

so, in terms of wasting HUGE amounts of water, killing habitats, destroying our carbon sinks (like the Mojave, which is a fantastic carbon sink, equal to temperate forest), massive roads and powerlines, and eminent domain, i beg to differ that these are reasonable solutions in SoCal. they are insane.
Other writers were nearly as harsh in their criticism of Jacobson. The most unfortunate Scientific American has further disgraced itself by publishing another deeply flawed Jacobson paper, A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables. Jacobson's Scientific American paper, coauthored by University of California-Davis researcher Mark A. Delucchi, is unfortunately behind a subscription wall, Jacobson and Delucchi have provided a parallel paper available by pdf download, Evaluating the Feasibility of a Large-Scale Wind, Water, and Sun Energy Infrastructure. This paper, however comes with the label, "INCOMPLETE DRAFT FOR REVIEW – DO NOT CITE, QUOTE, COPY, OR DISTRIBUTE." That I have access to is apower point presentation that is linked to the Scientific American announcement. That presentation is titled, Powering a Green Planet: Sustainable Energy, Made Interactive. In addition Scientific American has posted a number of comments on the Jacobson-Delucchi essay.

We have then a [aper behind a wall, a paper we are told to not use, a power point and a number of second hand comments. Not really a substitute for the actual paper, but hay this is a blog, and like a good blogger, if I don't have the actual facts, I can always put something together.

The graphic presentation tells us that the maximum amount of energy in use at any one time on earth is 12.5 terrawatts. The US EIA estimates that the energy demandwill rise to 16.9 TWs by 2030. With the US demand rising to 2.8 TWs. The authors tell us that there is an abundance of potential wind and solar resources to provide energy. The authors believe that by harvesting that energy in the form of electricity and electrifying surface transportation, and other aspects of the economy, the greater efficiency of electricity will reduce world wide energy demand to 11.5 TWs by 2030. The authors asdsume that all energy in 2939 will come from Three sources, Solar, Wind and Water.

Secondly the authors call for the use of clean technology only. They call for the use of technologies what work on a large scale today, and produce limited CO2 over their entire life cycle. They tell us that nuclear power results in up too 25 times more CO2 emissions than wind energy when reactor construction, uranium mining and refinement and transportation are considered. The authors then rank energy sources, using Jacobson's highly controversial ranking system, and of course wind and solar are ranked at the top. The authors conclude that 11.5 Terra watts can be provided by 3.8 million large wind turbines, 89,000 large photovoltaic and concentrated solar power plants, each rated at 300 MWs, and 900 hydro stations. The authors believe that this goal is possible to accomplish by 2030.

In addition to their very optimistic assumptions about the potential for overcoming materials parts shortages between now and 2030, the authors suggest that the cost of renewable generated electricity will drop dramatically during the same time span, with wind generated electricity dropping to as little as 4 cents per kWh, by 2020, and solar generated electricity with 24 hour a day storage dropping to about 10 cents per kWh. The authors estimate that the global cost of this system would be about 100 trillion dollars exclusive of the cost of transmission. Not all comments on the Power Point presentation were effusive with praise. Skeptic wrote"
I find your estimates for the costs to be extremely optimistic. I assume the wind estimate is for on-shore wind, as the costs for off-shore are much higher. Additionally, there is the question of the intermittent nature of both wind and solar. Without a reliable storage mechanism, they would need some sort of back-up for reliability. Finally, as very briefly mentioned in your final paragraph on page 8, there is the question of the transmission of these new energy sources to the demand. This would add significantly to the cost of this proposal and yet it is being downplayed here.

"hkulper" wrote
I'm sorry but your plan is merely a dreamy-eyed sketch that has not yet been pulled through a reality filter. I recommend you read Prof. David MacKay's publication "Sustainable Energy without the hot air" at www.withouthotair.com and learn how a realistic plan should be constructed. Also note that he arrives at much more modest results.

Comments on the scientificAmerican story, were equally harsh. "dwbd" wrote>
Pure garbage. Jacobson has written similar trash in the past. Charles Barton rips Jacobson's previous work to shreds:

"dwbd" continued
Tom Blees has just written a devastating analysis of Danish Wind energy, that just blows away any dreams of Wind becoming an effective substitute for fossil fuels. Denmark is going to have to start PAYING its neighbors to accept its produces-the-most-when-needed-the-least Wind Energy:


Peter Lang has done a solid analysis of running Australia (certainly one of the best locations on Earth) on Solar Power:



His conclusion:

"…The capital cost would be 20 times more than nuclear power. The least-cost solar option would require 400 times more land area and emit 20 times more CO2 than nuclear power.
Conclusions: solar power is uneconomic. Government mandates and subsidies hide the true cost of renewable energy but these additional costs must be carried by others…"

Peter Lang shows that just the power transmission trunk lines to support a Wind & Solar strategy in Australia will cost 50% more that the Nuclear option:


And Peter is using a pricey $4,000 per kw for Nuclear Power. Whereas ABWR’s built in Japan in the 90’s cost $1400 per kw, Chinese recent estimates for the final cost of their first two AP-1000s at $1760 per kw. Before the Coal Lobby had the NRC (Nuclear Rejection Commission) instated, Nuclear Reactors in the USA were coming in at an average of $1100 per kwe with Quad Cities 1800 MWe coming it at $680 per kwe, that’s in 2007 dollars!!

Depleted Cranium has a couple articles about how the pro-fossil-fuel NRC Scam was used to cause Nuclear Costs to skyrocket in the United States:



Edoates summerized the problem which lies at the heart of what I call the Era of Confusion:
The article is in direct conflict with David JC MacKay's book: "Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air" (which is available free online). He does a detailed analysis of many renewable and not-so-renewable sources of energy, and the basic conclusion is that without nuclear, it doesn't work.

My question for the authors and SciAm editors, is "what are we poor non-scientists to make of all of this?" We don't have the resources or time to compare these conflicting books/articles head to head. You could do us a tremendous service, and help the public debate along by doing so.

Reading the SciAm article, a bunch of folks are going to say, "peachy: we're done. All the world has to do is spend 5 trillion a year for 20 years." Those reading MacKay's book will say, "Peachy: bring on the nuc's and we're all set."

We are inundated with conflicting information that we cannot verify, so each faction picks the data that serves its ends, and blathers away on some TV show, then some politicians simplify it even more, and use it to push an unknown agenda.

Please, so a comprehensive survey of the numbers and claims, at least from these two sources.
"sethdayal" added
This paper is an irresponsible piece of nonsense that would generally be found for order in the back pages of some pulp fiction magazine. The sad part is the editors for some reason chose to not only publish the claptrap but to endorse it.

How about the authors' 7 cents a kwh current cost of wind energy. Horns Rev 2, the world's largest offshore wind farm cost $1 billion for 209 MW = $4800 per kw peak.

Add extra transmission lines, storage, a capacity factor of 25%, finance it at 5% and we get 20 cents a kwh - Germany's and Ontario, Canada's feed in tariff.

So where did that absurd 7 cents a kwh come from?

Jacobson rejects nuclear power because he claims it puts out 25 times as much carbon per unit energy as wind, based on the astonishing claim that nuclear power plants lead to one nuclear bomb attack every thirty years, resulting in enormous amounts of atmospheric soot. While this argument in itself makes one wonder about his sanity, nuclear bomb material is not made in power reactors.


Big Oil has been putting out anti nuclear propaganda since the oil crisis they engineered in the seventies - that almost no nuclear plants have been built since is evidence of their success.

Mass produced nuclear power is expected to cost $1 billion a gigawatt and 2500 gigawatts would displace all $900 billion a year in American fossil fuel purchases wiping out Big Coal/Oil with a three year payback. Call it the Nuclear Picken's plan. They know renewables are a joke and will have no effect on their profits.

James Hoggans new book Climate Cover-Up shows how Big Coal/Oil finances global warming deniers. One of their tactics is planting denier pieces in main stream media. It isn't a stretch to think they are doing the same thing with Nuclear deniers at Scientific American.

Author Mark A. Delucchi from is UC Davis and his work is brought to you courtesy of Chevron.


The world is maybe ten years from a civilization destroying climate and peak oil disaster and only nuclear power can save us in that short a time frame. China and India have taken the lead with proposals for 120 and 450 gigawatts of new nuclear.

This sort of renewable nonsense from Nuclear Deniers and this magazines irresponsible editors bring us that much closer to the edge.

Dr. Michael Briggs wrote:
As a physicist focused on energy research, I find this paper so absurdly poorly done that it is borderline irresponsible. The authors cherry-picked highly inaccurate claims from other papers solely because those were the only claims that could support their pre-determined conclusion (that we can meet all of our needs purely with renewable power).

The fact that they think hydrogen fuel cells and tidal power have any value in the energy future is enough to illustrate that they either did not spend much time analyzing the actual technologies they are promoting, or are intentionally duping readers (as many in the energy field do).
What of the dismissal of nuclear power? First Jacobson and Delucchi claim that studies show that the nuclear power life cycle produces 25 times more carbon emissions. What studies we must ask? Not even the notorious "stormsmith" study comes anywhere close to concluding the 25 times figure, and "stormsmith" is an outlier among life cycle nuclear CO2 emission studies. That leaves us with only one study that would support the 25 times range, Jacobson's own study that based its nuclear emission totals on on the assumption that there would be a nuclear exchange between nations every thirty years, and that the spread of nuclear power would be the cause of exchange. This claim is based on very flawed reasoning.

Thus the Jacobson and Delucchi assumptions on nuclear power are not backed by serious research. Other Jacobson and Delucchi arguments appear to be based on questions that should receive further research and debate before a determination of facts is possible. Thus it seems reasonable to characterize the Jacobson and Delucchi, November 2009 Scientific American essay as half baked at best.


DocForesight said...

The fact that these "researchers" or college professors have published articles in established magazines or journals adds the well-deserved "grain of salt" axiom to the warning about "appealing to authority" - real or perceived.

Additionally, shall we return ten years hence and test the results of "sethdayal"s cataclysmic predictions?

Anonymous said...

Holy cow, you've gone all out with this post. "...but hay this is a blog, and like a good blogger, if I don't have the actual facts, I can always put something together."

Why bother with facts at this point right?

Charles Barton said...

Anonymous, nothing I wrote contradicted available evidence. I was careful to lay out the limitations of what I could say, I would prefer actual quotes from the authors, to second hand quotes. But if authors do not make their quotes available, what am i to say? Should I be consigned to silence? In the case of scientific discourse, I would have no choice. But as a blogger I do have options.

Atomic Khan said...

Jacobson and Delucchi are two insane guys. Unfortunately there is a lot more like them walking on Earth.
People like these spread only BS around. By doing so they don't contribute anything positive to humanity. My hat goes down to Charles Barton who takes the time to expose these academic failures and their pathetic knowledge.


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