Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Renewable Plan A and the Nuclear Plan B

My anonymous pro-renewables commentator advocated nuclear power as the Plan B for renewables advocates. His argument is in effect that renewable advocates, are betting the farm on low cost renewable generated electricity, unless they have a back up plan. While he and I do not agree about the extent of the risk involved in the renewable gamble, we agree that there is a risk, and the belief that renewables can be both low priced and reliable, and that they can be deployed fast enough to control global carbon emissions by 2050. There are plenty of reasons for skepticism about this belief. So much so that we must ask our energy advocating friends, if they are really interested in a rational approach to energy, or if they wish to resolve energy issues through faith. My view is that faith might get you to heaven, but on Earth it will not provide you with warmth and light on a cold but windless winter night in East Tennessee.

Renewables advocates, like David Roberts of Grist, when challenged with the uncertainties of renewables, have respond with the following dodges:
1. We will get electricity from non-renewable backups on the Grid.
This means of course that we are still going to be burning quite a lot of fossil fuels to keep electricity flowing through what is suppose to be a post carbon grid.

2. We will build pump storage facilities to back up wind generation. Pump storage facilities are expensive, locations are difficult to find in high wind areas, and pump storage may fail with catastrophic consequences.

3. We can use compressed air energy storage with both wind and solar generators. CAES is very inefficient, and current CAES systems require the burning of natural gas. Thus CAES is both expensive and not exactly carbon neutral.

4. We can back up with batteries. But battery backup is expensive,and it would take a huge amount of battery - or for that matter CAES or pump storage back up to tide us over during a worst case renewables scenario. A worst case reneweables scenario for wind be a series of several windless days over much of the United States. The worst case scenario for solar might involve huge multiday dust storms in the Southwest, or the sort of winter storms such as those currently (December 26, 2009) sweeping the American mid-section.

5. We can build lots of windmills over a large area, enough to to compensate for localized wind patterns. But a huge number of redundant windmills will be very expensive and we would end up with a huge and hugely expensive grid expansion to move electricity from the innumerable wind farms required to make wind reliable to the electricity hungry consumers.

6. We could build redundant solar capacity over a wide area. But a huge number of redundant solar facilities will also be very expensive and we would end up with a huge and hugely expensive grid expansion to move electricity from the innumerable solar required to make solar reliable to the electricity hungry consumers. Plus the sun still does not shine at night.

7. Solar thermal advocates will counter that solar energy can be used to heat liquid salt, and that the heat can then be drawn on at night to provide generate electricity. But to provide enough heat to provide round the clock electricity on long winter nights, solar thermal gathering fields need to be tripled or quadrupled. This redundancy will make round round the clock solar thermal power extremely expensive.

8. Renewable advocates point to geothermal power. But natural geothermal resources are limited to a relatively few areas, and the "hot rocks" approach poses an earth quake risk. Furthermore, the "hot rocks" do not qualify under many definitions of sustainable energy, as a sustainable resource.

There is ample reason then to question the possibility of deriving low cost, reliable electricity from renewable sources on the massive scale required by 21st century society. Many renewable advocates argue that energy efficiency, by itself, will so lower energy and electrical demand, that efficiency can will lower electrical consumption demands. But efficiency does not replace carbon based generation capacity, with electricity generated by post-carbon sources. Nor does efficiency compensated for the unreliability of renewable generated electricity. In addition nothing would prevent reaping the advantages of efficiency along side a non-renewable nuclear approach to electricity generation.

Many renewable advocates claim that a smart grid will compensate for the instability of a renewables based grid. But a smart grid cannot solve the problems based on long term wide scale generation outages that are possible with renewable sourced electricity. Smart grids, by themselves are not electrical generators. In addition smart grid management systems are vulnerable to sabotage by hackers. Sabotaging an enemies smart grid, may replace the guided rocket delivered nuclear bomb, as the new ultimate weapon.

Thus renewable generation plans carry with them a high degree of uncertainty. But nuclear power offers the possibility of generating large amounts of low cost, electricity, and given a modest investment would be sustainable for billions of years. Many but by no means all renewable advocates will object to to the Nuclear Plan B on a number of ground.
1. Nuclear energy is too dangerous. Reactors can blow up like bombs and kill millions of people. Reactors cannot blow up like bombs, old reactors have been modified to improve their safety, and current reactor designs are much safer than the modified older designs. Even safer reactors are possible, if we are not satisfied with the safety of current reactor designs.

2. Nuclear reactors create a huge amount of deadly, highly radioactive waste, that will pose radiations hazards to anyone who gets within a hundred miles of it for the next billion years. Nuclear reactors can be designed that will use what is now considered nuclear waste as fuel. The more efficient use of nuclear fuel will solve most of the nuclear waste problem. What is now considered nuclear waste is in fact a potential source of many valuable raw materials, used by modern society. Thus far from being waste, nuclear power holds the potential to become an important source of many increasing scarce materials needed to sustain society.

3. Nuclear power will inevitably lead to a nuclear arms race, and inevitably lead to nuclear exchanges between nuclear powered countries. Terrorist groups will gain control of power reactors and will inevitably use them to build nuclear weapons. But most reactors will be going to nations which already posses the human and technological resources to build nuclear weapons, and the current design of power reactors makes electrical generation incompatible with the production of weapons grade plutonium. The redactor grade plutonium, produced by power reactors, is very radioactive and will not produce large explosion. Although all nuclear armed nations have easy access to large amounts of reactor grade plutonium, they have chosen to not build nuclear weapons with it.

Reactor grade plutonium typically explodes with far less force than weapons grade plutonium, and terrorist groups can accomplish the same effect with conventional explosive with can be obtained with far less effort, at far lower prices, and which would be far easier to manage. Small nations wishing to obtain nuclear weapons can obtain the plans for a low cost, easy to construct weapons grade plutonium production reactor from North Korea, which already attempted to sell one to Syria.

A low or inadequate energy future might well lead to conditions that might well spark a war. In a still nuclear armed world, energy resource wars might well lead to nuclear exchanges. Thus, ironically, one of the risks of a failed renewables future would be the greater likelihood of a nuclear exchange of between energy starved countries fighting over energy resources.


4, Nuclear critics claim that reactors are too expensive, and take too long to deploy. But the projected costs of reliable renewable electrical systems are far higher than the cost of a nuclear dominated system. Nuclear advocates point to numerous steps that can be taken to lower nuclear costs. Building small reactors in factories, and shipping them to be assembled like legos, at reactor sites is one. Recycling old coal fired power plants as reactor sites is a second. Housing reactors underground would remove the necessity of building massive and expensive concrete and steal containment buildings. Small reactors can also be air cooled. Small reactors can be just as safe as large reactors, but would be seen by lenders to be far less risky this would lower construction finance cost. Smaller factory manufactured reactor will take much time to build, and the time between inception of a project and its completion can be greatly decreased.
5. Nuclear critics claim that we are running out of uranium, and thus scarcity of resources will be make long term use of nuclear power impractical. But Generation IV nuclear technology can assure a high energy future for all the people on earth, for as period stretching out for millions of years. If thorium is included in the nuclear fuel mix, the human population of Earth will be assured adequate energy until solar evolution makes the Earth uninhabitable.
6. Nuclear critics claim that it would be too expensive to develop Generation IV, nuclear technology, and that it would take to long to develop it. In fact it would cost far less to develop Generation IV technologies, than the $73 Billion that the German government has already spent on a failed attempt to produce a viable solar alternative to coal, The Manhattan project demonstrated that by abandoning a business as usual approach, and giving priority to energy developments, what would take more than a generation to achieve could be done in as little as three and a half years. Compared to the effort required by the Manhattan Project, and the resources it required, the effort and resources required to produce viable and mass producible Generation IV power reactors would be small. But the potential would be enormous. Reactors like the LFTR would be simple to manufacture in factories. Large numbers of LFTRs could be produced and set up on appropriate sites quickly. In addition LFTRs could be used as an industrial heat source and can produce heat for co generation. Rejected heat from LFTRs could be used for desalinization, or for district heat or even air conditioning. LFTRs, like all Molten Salt Reactors can be designed to achieve high levels of safety at low costs. LFTRs can be used to dispose of the nuclear waste from conventional reactors, thus offering a no cost solution to the so called problem of nuclear waste. Thus for a relatively small research project and development cost, a technological that could solve all of the major problems of nuclear power could be made available, and potentially most of the energy needs of human society can be served by a long term sustainable, low cost, low waste, or no waste, nuclear technology.

The biggest problem with Plan B is that it looks a lot better than Plan A. The Plan B risks are lower. Plan B is likely to cost much less, and Plan B is very scalable. The real question is "why isn't Plan B, our Plan A?"

Post Note: This post summarizes arguments developed over the last two and a half years after an argument on the relative merits of renewable and nuclear power generation systems with David Roberts on Grist. Roberts, a follower of Amory Lovins, exaggerated the liabilities of nuclear power, which he claimed could never be solved. On the other hand, Roberts insisted with 100% certainty that all of the problems of renewables could and would be solved, and that renewables could be melded into a low cost reliable generation system, with sufficient flexibility to provide all of societies post carbon energy needs. At the same time Roberts argued that any any defficiency of renewables could be made up by resorting to the burning of carbon based fuels, appearantly without climate consequences. People like Roberts are beyond rational persuasion, but the issues that emerge in debate with them can be resolved to the satisfaction of more rational people. I have not supplied links to the numerous arguments that lie behind this post, but those arguments are available on Nuclear Green and Energy from Thorium to those who have a seriou interest.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Charles
There are two anonymous posters in the tread you refer to - Me and another guy who you probably already know from one of the pro-nuclear sites. The quotes you mention in this post are the other guys’.

I have never made any comments on heavyweather's posts. If you want to be a wind advocate, have at it. From an integration perspective, the technology is difficult to work with but that's mostly a function of its newness. The US is slowly moving towards sub-hourly scheduling and as this happens we are getting better at shifting generation more regularly. This transition isn’t being driven by wind, but intuitively, I think it will simplify integrating more wind compared to an hourly scheduling format. Personally I figure we’re only at the beginning of the learning curve when it comes to wind integration but I’m no expert on the subject.

Heavyweather is correct if he said Germany is the place to watch when it comes to renewable energy and the smart grid. Germany’s wind and solar modeling is top notch. Their grid operators must be the best in the world. Same goes for their operating procedures. It’s frustrating to hear so little out of Germany concerning their operating lessons learned so far. But don’t worry - We will... I will at least. Never underestimate the Germans.

X was here (part 1 of 3)

Anonymous said...

I'm the anonymous guy supporting PV. I don’t have a Plan B but here are some thoughts. When I visualize a grid with more PV I imagine centralized PV in the near term (noticeably picking up over the next five years) and rooftop PV in the longer term (10+ GW/year in the US within 10 years). I’m generally not a big fan of centralized PV but there are some favourable arrangements that make a lot of sense. For example, if you site a PV farm next to an existing natgas plant you can use most of the existing infrastructure and workforce to run the PV plant. Sempra’s El Dorado PV/natgas plant supposedly has PV generation costs of about 18 cents/kWh. The cost of this type of hybrid plant should get down to the 14 cents/watt range if it isn’t already. At a price of around 14 cents/kWh lots of natgas plant owners in California/Arizona will be looking at putting in an adjacent PV farm. This will be happening in the near term.
I can hear the oft repeated argument now so I’ll pre-emptively address it. You guys frequently complain that the grid needs power 24/7 – PV is a daytime generator so it won’t work without backup or storage. In general, I think this complaint is crap. The grid is a gigantic dynamically evolving machine. PV is just another type of generation pumping power into the machine. Who cares if natgas is used to backup PV. That’s not a ding on PV - it’s the power system shifting generation choices. With so many generation options and so little PV on the grid it boggles the mind that this argument gets traction. Call me with PV farms are effecting N-1 calculations.
The other side of the “PV needs backup/storage to survive” argument goes something like this: What do we do in the future if we rely on natgas to backup PV and natgas runs out or gets extremely expensive. First off, this argument seems to lay the guilt of natural gas depletion at the feet of PV. As if PV can’t go forward until it solves the natural resource depletion problem or comes up with the miracle storage technology. My immediate reaction is, what the hell kind of a futuristic argument is this? There are multiple problems that come into play when you think this far out in the future. If we’re going to use futuristic projection arguments I might as well say PV is going to cost 5 cents/kWh and batteries are going to be $100/kWh. Done, problem solved. Truth is, I cannot predict what the grid will look like in 20 years – nor can anyone else. One thing I’m positive of is that you cannot reasonably use a linear extrapolation of the current situation to predict the future. That’s like being in the middle of a book then going to the last page and expecting to understand the ending. You have to go chapter by chapter. I have certain expectations of what will happen over the next few chapters of the energy story. A five year trend here, a ten year possibility there but nothing farther out than that. Overall, I think the grid will change dramatically in the next 20 years so I find these futuristic arguments particularly bogus.

X was here (part 2 of 3)

Anonymous said...

Getting back to the deployment of PV - Standalone PV farms are less favourable than hybrid plants for obvious reasons. One of these reasons doesn’t need to be transmission. Where possible these stand-alone PV farms should be sited next to existing transmission. There’s plenty of potential for this arrangement. For example, there are 8 GW of transmission capacity running from the desert southwest into Southern California. I could see several gigawatts of PV getting sited along these existing transmission lanes. This potential will only be realized if these PV farms can generate in the 14 cent/kWh range. I expect this will happen in the medium term mostly because of RECs, PTCs, Renewable portfolios and various other subsidies. The problem with this strategy is that you’re sorta threading the needle. If PV became cheap enough to make these farm arrangements competitive with the grid how cheap do you think PV rooftops would be? There’s certainly some economies of scale to be gained with farms but ultimately I see rooftops carrying the bulk of PV on the grid. Rooftop PV minimizes the need for new transmission and distribution. This bypasses the difficulties of siting new transmission.

“Anonymous was extremely well informed, and is an able debater, but I made a number of points to which he did not seem to answer, and he was probably aware of this.”

Thank you. What points did I miss?

“During the late phase of the debate, something unusual happened. "Anonymous" began to argue with "heavyweather."

No... Totally different guy.

“I truly empathize with your point of view, but I think you fall into the same traps that pretty much every single renewables supporter falls into: that of arrogance. That, and the vast underestimate of the engineering - versus the scientific - challenges of things.”

You imagine a future full of silver bullet nuclear solutions and you characterize me (by association) as arrogant. You better not be some arm chair nuclear advocate buddy. I think you use too many STRAWMEN and EMOTIONAL arguments. I consider these methods to be CHEAP and UNINTERESTING.

X was here (part 3 of 3)

Anonymous said...

P.S.

In general, I think PV is going to beat nuclear power, nat gas, coal etc in toe to toe cost based competition. All the other possibilities I see fall out of this condition.

X was here

Charles Barton said...

Anonymous, Time will tell if you are right, but it will sure be a neat trick to produce PV generated electricity from starlight on cloudy nights. If you use someone else's name, people are bound to get confused. And as far as
I know, you are pulling my leg right now, with the story about two guys named "Anonymous." Gee, why couldn't your mothers have been more original when they named the two of you?

DV8 2XL said...

Against the backdrop of the Copenhagen UN climate change conference, governments worldwide are seeking to develop Smart Grids as energy efficiency solutions to reducing their nation's carbon footprint.

The Smart Grid promises to be one of those rare phenomenon that should be beneficial to component suppliers, utilities, industrial companies and even the consumer. However, before the roll-out has even really started to roll there are signs of discontent being raised by the people the governments see as the main beneficiaries of the Smart Grid roll-out. The consumers are starting to murmur the words - revolt.

In the USA millions of households across the USA have already seen their power companies install smart meters that can tell them how much electricity they are using hour by hour - and sometimes, appliance by appliance. Sounds just the kind of service consumers should be crying out for.

It seems that capturing the data is one thing but interpreting the results is something completely different.

Many customers in California are in open revolt with regard to the figures they are seeing on their smart meters. Officials in states such as Connecticut and Texas have begun questioning whether the rush to install meters is actually benefiting the public.

Almost as soon as some of the consumers have been able to monitor their energy usage themselves they have begun doubting the figures they are seeing. Many people are arguing that the meters are logging far more kilowatt hours than they believe they are using. Others say it is unfair that they will begin to pay immediately for the new meters through higher rates, when the promised savings could take years to be realized.

In some cases the US power generation companies have started to call in independent auditors to assess whether the meters count usage properly.

These may be just teething troubles but so far it looks like one of the big winners from the Smart Grid roll-out looks more likely to be everyone's favorites - the legal profession.

However the point that should be taken from this is that the Smart Grid and Smart Metering have been standard articles of the faith in the Church of Renewables - the magic technology that would make all the shortcomings inherent in these modes of generation go away. The Smart Grid was the Second Coming in the renewable theology, but it turns out that as the truth of what this means sinks into the consumer that it is not the miracle solution it was sold as but instead a foretaste of the inconveniences and expenses to come.

The Smart Grid is a fraud: it is quite simply a form of rationing and the public is starting to realize they have been scammed. Wana bet the support for wind an solar will start to melt away as the truth of what it means for each individual comes home to roost.

Charles Barton said...

the SmArt Grid meters will pose a significant security problem. They are an open invitation to hackers, and represent a significant military target. Before you Canadian's invade the United States, you will hack the smart grid, and shut it down. Then we will have no choice but to learn Oh Canada.

Anonymous said...

??? Do you really think I shifted gears from talking about PV and started spouting off about nuclear power and how great it is? ???

Anonymous is a default radio button selection. Sorry for the confusion.

You've got your arguments against RE requiring storage backwards. Storage is the last trick to use. I've told you this repeatedly. Anyone who argues for storage first is a bonehead.

Here's a story for you: Diablo Canyon was built with a complementary pumped storage facility. The rationale for the complementary projects was that there wasn't going to be enough demand for all that electricity at night. Turns out it was relatively easy to change daytime loads into nighttime loads if you offer the right carrot. Diablo still feeds the Helms project excess power but nowhere near what was originally expected.

Point is, all those daytime loads that were easily shifted to running at night could just as easily be moved back to the day if PV power was cheap enough. There are many loads that fall under this category. The debate should be about how far this load shifting can take us. When I think about it I wonder how many extra reactor banks the lines going to need when things get lightly loaded at night?

X was here

DV8 2XL said...

Before you Canadians invade the United States,

Pour me a double of whatever you're drinking Charles, I have to catch up. :)

Soylent said...

What a bizzare series of statements. In particular this one: "Nuclear reactors create a huge amount of deadly, highly radioactive waste, that will pose radiations hazards to anyone who gets within a hundred miles of it for the next billion years."

Do these people inhabit the same Universe I do?

The dirt outside has a few grams per tonne of this supposedly highly radioactive waste that supposedly poses a radiation hazzard to me if I am within a hundred miles of it at any point in the next billion years. The only thing with those kinds of half-lives in spent nuclear fuel are the uranium and thorium isotopes that went through the reactor unchanged, which is the very same stuff I find in the soil and rocks outside my apartment.

Uranium-235, uranium-238 and thorium-232 will if left to their own devices decay in a series of 10-14 decays to stable lead isotopes. They all become at some point an isotopes of the noble gas radon which easily migrates through soil and comes into the biosphere. They produce primarily alpha radiation which has a large relative biological effectiveness of ~20 compared to the low relative biological effectiveness of 1 given to betas and gammas.

Each actinide nuclei that is fissioned instead of going through the usual decay chain loses 200 MeV in the process. The fission products that live long enough to be removed as a component of spent fuel elements have at most a few MeV of betas an gammas(with a low RBE) left to give.

Over billion year timescales nuclear power of course reduces the amount of radiation in the natural environment. The isotopes that are still active in the next billion years are the ones that went through the reactor unchanged. The so called long-lived transuranics are merely uranium-238 and uranium-235 that through repeated transmutation by neutron absorbtion have been coaxed into decaying _much_ faster(at least the first decay) than the natural uranium-235 or uranium-238 would.

Soylent said...

DV8XL, there are many components to the smart grid.

One component is the ability to accurately measure when and for what reason your customers are using the electricty and charge them a different rate depending on the time of day or availability of renewables. Instead of having a brown out or rolling black-out(which will be far more common occurences in a grid powered by renewables), you can give utilities the ability to forcibly shut off dryers or air conditioners. Customers in general find this component of the smart grid objectionable. Most renewable advocates I have interacted with belong to the ascetics who get a raging hard-on inconveniencing or being inconvencienced for some supposed greater good; the idea of making electricity consumers dance in tune to the fickle supply of renewable electricity holds a tremendous appeal to these people.

Another component of the smart grid is to measure when and where a grid fault occurs so that it is possible to rapidly respond. I find nothing at all objectionable about this.

Finrod said...

Heavyweather is correct if he said Germany is the place to watch when it comes to renewable energy and the smart grid. Germany’s wind and solar modeling is top notch. Their grid operators must be the best in the world. Same goes for their operating procedures. It’s frustrating to hear so little out of Germany concerning their operating lessons learned so far. But don’t worry - We will... I will at least. Never underestimate the Germans.

During WWII, the Germmans had trhe best batrtlefield ops doctrine in the world, and were undoubtably superior in that all through the war. Their failure was in grand strategy, economics and logistics.

At the moment (or at least up to the last election) they were doubtless gaining unmatched experience in the field of integrating renewables into the grid, but at the same time they were contemplating constructing 26 new coal power stations to keep the grid running.

The other side of the “PV needs backup/storage to survive” argument goes something like this: What do we do in the future if we rely on natgas to backup PV and natgas runs out or gets extremely expensive. First off, this argument seems to lay the guilt of natural gas depletion at the feet of PV. As if PV can’t go forward until it solves the natural resource depletion problem or comes up with the miracle storage technology. My immediate reaction is, what the hell kind of a futuristic argument is this? There are multiple problems that come into play when you think this far out in the future. If we’re going to use futuristic projection arguments I might as well say PV is going to cost 5 cents/kWh and batteries are going to be $100/kWh. Done, problem solved.

So your plan is to adopt PV knowing full well that there is no sensible plan for it to contribute in a rational manner to the grid, and assert that although no reasonable technical pathway exists to the kind of storage and backup needed for PV to be useful, one will happen along anyway, while simultaneously ignoring that nuclear power is already fully capable of delivering both baseload and peak power in a manner allowing a genuine phaseout of fossil fuels.

You have to go chapter by chapter. I have certain expectations of what will happen over the next few chapters of the energy story. A five year trend here, a ten year possibility there but nothing farther out than that. Overall, I think the grid will change dramatically in the next 20 years so I find these futuristic arguments particularly bogus.

Your argument there is based on ignorance of specific future developments, while the arguments for nuclear power are based on fundamental, well-known scientific and engineering principles.

Charles Barton said...

DV8 2XL, in fact there was a Canadian plan t9 invade the United States in the 1920's.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/29/AR2005122901412_3.html

I have jokingly written about the Canadian threat to the United States, to satirize hostile attitudes towards undocumented Hispanics. Of course a Canadian invasion will be supported by the countless millions of undocumented Canadians, who swam across the Great Lakes in order to gain illegal entry into the United States.

Frank Kandrnal said...

Anonymous

If you are such a firm believer in solar power then why don’t you post under your true identity? I view you as a coward when you don’t attach your name to your beliefs. What are you afraid of? There is always the risky possibility you may get lynched when solar power turns out to be a flop and angry public turns against you. Oh, I see! You are one of those guys who will quickly drop the green coat when things go wrong and dress in whatever will be politically correct at the time.
Nevertheless, I agree with some of what you are saying. Solar rooftop PV will be expanding while the subsidies last. After all it would be sad not to after untold billions of taxpayers money were expended on research and subsidies.
Unfortunately, any system needs servicing and I wonder how the folks, who were conned to pluck down a large sum of money for solar system, will feel when they have to make a few service calls to repair or adjust their system, thus wiping out any savings. As far as I know, the service calls are not free after the warranty runs out.
Personally, I would prefer to plug into nuclear generated utility power and buy electricity for a few cents per kwh.
You may ask how did I arrive at this conclusion? You see, I am trained power engineer and I also play with alternate energy. Yes, I have solar panels, batteries, inverters, back up diesel generator and other gizmos needed to make the things work. The time and money I spent on this nonsense is scandalous and more I play with it more I realize how futile my effort in alternate energy is. The cost and maintenance work just refuses to go away. In other words, I am not a guy whom you will convince that solar generated power will be cheap when everything is accounted for in the system.

DV8 2XL said...

Soylent - I know there is more to the Smart Grid than just load management, however within the context of consumer support for renewable energy, it has been sold as the answer to all the uncomfortable objections centering around the intermittent supply issue.

That is the one hard criticism of renewable energy that the general public instantly understands without a lot of technical explanation; everyone knows the wind doesn't blow, or the sun shine 24/7. The Smart Grid has been used by supporters of these modes to hand-wave these issues away, and the problems that folks are having with the reality of demand-side management as embodied by these smart meters is demonstrating just what this means for the average household.

I don't think, at this point the idea needs any defense from our side of the hill even though things like Flexible AC Transmission Systems (FACTS) technology is a Good Thing and will be needed one way or the other.

Charles - as I recall it was the US that had plans to invade Canada in that era to save us from becoming a problem if the U.K. fell to some hostile European power. I hadn't known that these plans were reciprocal. I am rather astonished that this would have been contemplated seriously, as even then the U.S. outweighed Canada militarily by several orders of magnitude. The only invasion of the U.S by Canada that I was aware of was when we went down and burnt Washington, D.C. in the war of 1812.

David Walters said...

Smart Meters do nothing to alleviate energy shortages, at all. It's a bogus claim. To see what SM do offer, go to any utility site that has a full SM program, like PG&E.

It allows some, very little, personal/residential load shifting but does absolutely nothing to lower usage or gain efficiency.

As I and others have noted recently, just about *every* form of gimmick renewable advocates come up with can be *better* applied to nuclear than renewables: HVDC, SG, Molten Salt Hot Storage, you name it.

Germany. Ah, Springtime in Germany. The 'success' of Germany's very inefficient PV system is based on absurd, 40 cents KWhr subsidy to middle class households. Yet another shift of wealth from working class people to the gilded middle-classes. PV will simply never compete with baseload nuclear *except* in a limited way for every expensive peaker power if they include 6 or so hours of storage so the power can be shifted, entirely, from noon to 1700 hours more or less.

Of course LFTR will end all that with it's "off/on" abilities and rapid load changing.

WHY do you guys go 'anonymous'? What good is it? Why do you hide. I've never seen a pro-nuclear blogger use this.

DW

Anonymous said...

(Part 1 of several)

I guess I stirred the nest. I’ll start with Finrod

“So your plan is to adopt PV knowing full well that there is no sensible plan for it to contribute in a rational manner to the grid, and assert that although no reasonable technical pathway exists to the kind of storage and backup needed for PV to be useful, one will happen along anyway, while simultaneously ignoring that nuclear power is already fully capable of delivering both baseload and peak power in a manner allowing a genuine phaseout of fossil fuels.”

Part One: A rebuttal to the nuclear plan and other random thoughts

The nuclear plan is relatively easy to visualize. The idea is to replace coal plants with nuclear plants right? Voila… 75% of the fossil fuel emissions from power generation go away and power system operations continue as they always have. While I see this possibility as technically achievable I don’t see consumers in the U.S. or Canada accepting the significant extra costs of nuclear power.

Anyone who has looked into the history of nuclear power will run into stories about NPP financial meltdowns. I understand the idea that the nuclear industry just needs to get its foot in the door again for the costs to come down but historic trends don’t support this interpretation. Among energy technologies nuclear has the rare distinction of having a negative learning coefficient. Even with stable/streamlined regulatory processes, simplified designs, mass production, creative financing and all the other tricks I don’t see nuclear competing with coal in the United States. Therein lies the problem for nuclear power. It can replace coal’s energy but it can’t rebate coal’s economics.

X was here

Anonymous said...

Part 1 of several continued

The big shift you (by you I mean the collective Nuclear Hive Mind) are looking for is some sort carbon tax. You’ll need all the luck you can get with that because there’s a long line of countries and companies that oppose regulating carbon. Countries like the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Australia, China and India. Companies like Dow Chemicals, Kodak, Nucor, Lexmark, Lockeed, John Deere, U.S. Steel, Valero, Sara Lee, Sunoco, Coca Cola, Coors, 3 M, and Wayerhauser all have a fuel neutral stance when it comes to generation. The implicit undercurrent of a fuel neutral stance is decidedly anti-nuclear/anti-renewable. Check out ELCON’s website to get an idea of how these companies think. To sum it up in one word: cheap.

I figure we’ll (U.S./Canada) see carbon control measures eventually but the first draft will be weak and loop-holed, the second draft merely loop-holed, the third draft expensive and on and on. Each round of carbon legislation will be opposed with lawsuits and foot dragging. I don’t see nuclear getting any help from carbon legislation in the near to medium term. Nuclear will have to kick coal’s ass in the economic ring if it wants to play. Good luck.

As a side note - If you go through ELCON’s position papers you’ll find out they wholeheartedly support demand response measures. When industrial users support DR you can be damn sure it means DR means cheaper electricity – at least for industrial users. I often see folks of this forum’s bent arguing against DR. That’s nothing but boneheaded as far as I’m concerned. DR is a no brainer – Figure it out once and for all.

ELCON also supports Smart Grid investments if they are cost-effective and have verifiable benefits. That tells me the Smart Grid ain’t all bad. I already knew this but everybody needs affirmation once in a while.

X was here

Anonymous said...

Part Two: PV for dummies

There are exceptions but in general I think that most of you “Nukes” wouldn’t be able to pass a basic PV 101 overview quiz. Perhaps this is because you’ve been reading each other’s slanted info and this tends to reinforce errors – akin to inbreeding I reckon. I get that you guys are nuclear advocates and I don’t mind that. Nuclear is a fine technology. What I don’t get why you guys feel the need to go out of your way to take pot shots at technologies you know little of. The second thing I don’t understand is why the hell y’all need to look at things backwards when it’s perfectly clear what the logical order should be. And thirdly, how the hell can you have such wonderful imaginations when it comes to nuclear stuff but are dimwitted when it comes to all other avenues. Finrod gets the hat trick with the following statement.

“So your plan is to adopt PV knowing full well that there is no sensible plan for it to contribute in a rational manner to the grid, and assert that although no reasonable technical pathway exists to the kind of storage and backup needed for PV to be useful, one will happen along anyway, while simultaneously ignoring that nuclear power is already fully capable of delivering both baseload and peak power in a manner allowing a genuine phaseout of fossil fuels.”

-Germany gets 1% of their electricity from PV. I think this counts as contributing to the grid. Setting economics aside, Germany is technically capable of getting 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 percent or more of their electricity from PV. The question is: Can the economics of PV allow it to achieve its technical potential? I’ll get to that in Part 3. The cliff note answer is: look at the cost trends, they’re obvious at this point.

X was here

Anonymous said...

(Part 2 of several continued)

-Again, PV doesn’t need to provide storage at the outset because PV rolls in gradually and layers on top of the existing supply mix. The positive correlation between PV generation and the daily load gives PV plenty of room to grow before any storage comes into play.

-I guarantee I have never ignored the fact that nuclear can lead to a phase out of fossil fuels. So there… The idea that PV needs to do what nuclear does to compete as part of the solution to fossil fuels is a strawman argument. There are a couple of obvious reasons: #1. Nuclear power is a 24/7 technology whose primary competitor is coal. PV competes more directly with a mix of pricier daytime generators such as NG and hydro. #2. Nuclear is always a utility scale technology but PV can scale from utility sized farms down to individual sites. In the later case PV need only be competitive with retail rates.

-We certainly don’t need to operate the grid in the future the way it’s operated now. There are many characteristics of the current grid that are inefficient and can be improved with the help our wonderful little friend the microprocessor. It’s a big leap but you have to imagine how the grid might evolve moving into the future. For me it’s not about what could change but what’s the low hanging fruit? I take my conclusions from this round of reasoning into another round of speculation: Is the grid of the future more or less friendly to PV? Yep.

X was here

Charles Barton said...

Anonymous reportedly Germany has subsidized its PV industry to the tune of a 73 billion dollars subsidy between 2000 and 2009. If those $73 billion brought 1% of the capacity to power the German grid, how much will it cost Germany to achieve a 10% grid penetration with PV? 20% of German generation capacity comes from nuclear power, but a little over 28% of all electricity produced in Germany comes from Nuclear. Now in order to duplicate the output of its nuclear plants with PV generated electricity, germany might have to spend up to 2 trillion dollars. Germany chose to spend two trillion dollars on nuclear plants, not only could it meet all of its power needs with nuclear generated electricity, to supply not only its own electrical needs, but the entire electrical needs of Central and Western Europe, with a surplus flowing much of the time to Eastern Europe, and Russia.

DV8 2XL said...

This argument that PV is competitive/complimentary with nuclear energy is so transparently fallacious, and so convoluted that I am beginning to question the motivation of the individual championing. Are you 'Anonymous' perhaps involved at some level with rooftop PV financially, or perhaps employed in the sector?

At this point the most telling dismissal of solar energy has been handed the sector by the UAE who with the best solar flux values that anyone could ask for, plenty of room, and deep pockets, are building four reactors instead of solar plants. Don't think for a moment that you won't get that rubbed in your sunburned faces every chance we get.

Anonymous said...

Part 2.5

DV8 2XL

Do you think induction meters are more accurate than solid state meters? Are smart reclosers part of the smart grid fraud? Are frequency responsive devices part of the smart grid fraud? RAS schemes? Just where do you draw the line?

Charles

What in particular make smart meters more hackable than the current devices on the grid? Can you provide a source for this concern? I don't want to get into the subject of grid vulnerabilities but I will say that hacking smart meters looks like a low bang for the buck endeavour.

“Germany has subsidized its PV industry to the tune of a 73 billion dollars subsidy between 2000 and 2009.”

First off, it’s unclear to me whether the RWI study was done correctly. Specifically, it looks like they projected the subsidy costs of PV by comparing the FIT against average wholesale electricity costs. A proper calculation would compare the FIT to time weighted wholesale electricity costs. Perhaps they did the calculation using time-weighted wholesale rates but it’s not at all clear.

Second off, there’s a difference between having committed to spend 73 billion and having already spent 73 billion.

Third off, the RWI study goes from 2000 to 2010. The study says, “Future PV installations in 2009 and 2010 may cause further real cost worth 18.3 Bn € (US $ 25.5 Bn) (Table 4).Adding both figures yields a total of 53.3 Bn € (US $ 73.2 Bn) for PV alone.”

“Now in order to duplicate the output of its nuclear plants with PV generated electricity, germany might have to spend up to 2 trillion dollars.”

Bad math. You can’t use a linear calculation because the subsidy digresses over time. Ultimately, the plan is for PV to reach grid parity. After that PV ends up saving electricity consumers money. The RWI study completely neglects to mention this possibility. Additionally, I find RWI’s failure to mention that PV prices have dropped precipitously in the last four quarters highly suspicious.

Frank

"If you are such a firm believer in solar power then why don’t you post under your true identity? I view you as a coward when you don’t attach your name to your beliefs. What are you afraid of? There is always the risky possibility you may get lynched when solar power turns out to be a flop and angry public turns against you. Oh, I see! You are one of those guys who will quickly drop the green coat when things go wrong and dress in whatever will be politically correct at the time.

Ouch... You're kinda being a dick with all this over the top crap. Privacy is my right - end of story.

Power engineer eh? The degree kind or the steam ticket kind? I assume you're off grid. How large and how old is your system?

D. Walters

“It allows some, very little, personal/residential load shifting but does absolutely nothing to lower usage or gain efficiency.”

Beg to differ. Residential loads are very flexible. If water heaters, AC are used to respond to price signals you can avoid energy shortages. Improving demand elasticity makes the system more efficient by definition. You don’t need to trust theory because there are plenty of real world examples of this. More price signals means more demand response - This if friggin’ obvious. You guys can bury your heads in the sand all you want.

Soylent

"Most renewable advocates I have interacted with belong to the ascetics who get a raging hard-on inconveniencing or being inconvencienced for some supposed greater good; the idea of making electricity consumers dance in tune to the fickle supply of renewable electricity holds a tremendous appeal to these people."

Funny... but complete bullshit.

X was here

Anonymous said...

Part 2.5

DV8 2XL

Do you think induction meters are more accurate than solid state meters? Are smart reclosers part of the smart grid fraud? Are frequency responsive devices part of the smart grid fraud? RAS schemes? Just where do you draw the line?

Charles

What in particular make smart meters more hackable than the current devices on the grid? Can you provide a source for this concern? I don't want to get into the subject of grid vulnerabilities but I will say that hacking smart meters looks like a low bang for the buck endeavour.

“Germany has subsidized its PV industry to the tune of a 73 billion dollars subsidy between 2000 and 2009.”

First off, it’s unclear to me whether the RWI study was done correctly. Specifically, it looks like they projected the subsidy costs of PV by comparing the FIT against average wholesale electricity costs. A proper calculation would compare the FIT to time weighted wholesale electricity costs. Perhaps they did the calculation using time-weighted wholesale rates but it’s not at all clear.

Second off, there’s a difference between having committed to spend 73 billion and having already spent 73 billion.

Third off, the RWI study goes from 2000 to 2010. The study says, “Future PV installations in 2009 and 2010 may cause further real cost worth 18.3 Bn € (US $ 25.5 Bn) (Table 4).Adding both figures yields a total of 53.3 Bn € (US $ 73.2 Bn) for PV alone.”

“Now in order to duplicate the output of its nuclear plants with PV generated electricity, germany might have to spend up to 2 trillion dollars.”

Bad math. You can’t use a linear calculation because the subsidy digresses over time. Ultimately, the plan is for PV to reach grid parity. After that PV ends up saving electricity consumers money. The RWI study completely neglects to mention this possibility. Additionally, I find RWI’s failure to mention that PV prices have dropped precipitously in the last four quarters highly suspicious.

Frank

"If you are such a firm believer in solar power then why don’t you post under your true identity? I view you as a coward when you don’t attach your name to your beliefs. What are you afraid of? There is always the risky possibility you may get lynched when solar power turns out to be a flop and angry public turns against you. Oh, I see! You are one of those guys who will quickly drop the green coat when things go wrong and dress in whatever will be politically correct at the time.

Ouch... You're kinda being a dick with all this over the top crap. Privacy is my right - end of story.

Power engineer eh? The degree kind or the steam ticket kind? I assume you're off grid. How large and how old is your system?

D. Walters

“It allows some, very little, personal/residential load shifting but does absolutely nothing to lower usage or gain efficiency.”

Beg to differ. Residential loads are very flexible. If water heaters and AC are used to respond to price signals you can avoid energy shortages. Improving demand elasticity makes the system more efficient by definition. You don’t need to trust theory because there are plenty of real world examples of this. More price signals means more demand response - This if friggin’ obvious. You guys can bury your heads in the sand all you want.

Soylent

"Most renewable advocates I have interacted with belong to the ascetics who get a raging hard-on inconveniencing or being inconvencienced for some supposed greater good; the idea of making electricity consumers dance in tune to the fickle supply of renewable electricity holds a tremendous appeal to these people."

Funny... but complete bullshit.

X was here

DV8 2XL said...

You're just flipping firecrackers now "X" and trying to twist what others have said, a sure sign of someone running out of rational arguments.

I wrote in response to Craig that I was well aware that the Smart Grid is more than demand management, and certainly Centralized Remedial Action Schemes (C-RAS)are part of that, however you will note that these are implemented to help assure the delivery of power - not ration it, per se.

Frequency responsive devices, IF they are mandated such that early adopters aren't paying a price in performance dragging the dumb loads around, has some merit, it is true. However FRD is envisioned to help with VAR issues, in and of itself it cannot be expected to make loads flexible enough to adapt to fluctuating supplies.

I will give the crack about digital vs induction meters the attention such a question is due within the context of this debate.

The point is not that there is or isn't advantages with implementing a more intelligent grid, the real issue is whether the public wishes to see defacto rationing of electric power to accommodate renewable energy. The early indications based on the current smart metering progams, is that they are not.

That in the final analysis will be the downfall of renewable energy and limit its penetration on the grid - given a choice, people won't put up with the inconvenience, and certainly will not be happy paying a premium to endure it.

Frank Kandrnal said...

Anonymous

How convenient to deny the massive German expenditure for their renewable energy failure by your lunatic ranting. In one of your comments you stated, “Do not underestimate the German ingenuity”? I can assure you those Germans who dream up the renewable energy utopia were not the Germans who put a man on the Moon.
I do not underestimate the Germans at all. Most of them are already fed up with green fanatics and things are changing.
I suggest you go preach your solar energy and smart grid fantasy to UAE. They may charge you with conspiracy to undermine their economy and chop your head off for it.
Please reveal your identity before they slice the sword through your neck so they can chisel out this message on your tombstone.. Here rest in peace “your name”, the solar PV and Smart Grid genius who defended his twisted beliefs all the way to his death.

Anonymous said...

DV8 2XL

“You're just flipping firecrackers now "X" and trying to twist what others have said, a sure sign of someone running out of rational arguments. “

My arguments are consistent and plenty rational. I think your view of the Smart Grid leans on emotionalism and misdirection. Your meandering story about the customers in Fresno and Bakersfield is an example of this. You are well aware that solid state meters are much more accurate than induction meters. Companies like Landis and Gyr didn’t get to their leadership position by building crap. According to the story you refer to, one out of every 3600 customers who have received smart meters have complained. I figure you know that a likely source of frustration for many of these customers is that induction meters tend to slow down over time. If you have a particularly slow meter you're in for a surprise when the SS meter goes in. By my reckoning 1100 mad customers out of four million meter installations is an indication of a successful smart meter roll out. It's also probably an indication that PG&E and other utilities have a spot on meter maintenance programs but that's another matter entirely. I couldn't care less what the Fresno Bee and their ilk think. Journalist have no engineering experience or operational knowledge. So again, the very foundation of these meter complaints doesn't make a lick of sense when you step back and think for two seconds. Solid state meters have no moving parts. Induction meters do. When calibrated correctly solid state meters win any reasonable accuracy argument. So, if you know what I think you know about solid state meters and their accuracy your story about lawyers benefiting from the smart grid is either disingenuous or irrational.

Your use of words like rationing, scam, fraud, miracle, faith, and truth when describing the Smart Grid strikes me as emotionalism. I’d rather you argue the engineering of the Smart Grid. If you know that FRDs can provide VAR support you should also know that price responsiveness can aid in generation scheduling. I think enabling dumb water heaters with frequency AND price responsiveness will make the grid stronger than dumb water heaters with frequency responsive capabilities only. The microprocessors needed to add frequency and price responsiveness are expected to cost about 5 dollars per appliance.

DV8 2XL said...

"You are well aware that solid state meters are much more accurate than induction meters."

So what? This does nothing to stabilize the grid, and for whatever reason customers are irritated by them, it doesn't stop them from being so.

Every single model of demand-side regulation that is strict and aggressive enough to allow anything over a small fraction of variable supply, heaps inconvenience on the consumer - a fact that is glossed over in all of the pitches made that suggest the Smart Grid will be the magic solution to all of renewable energy's shortcomings. Early indications are that those at the cutting edge of this aren't too happy, and that does not auger well for deeper implementations of these programs.

The bottom line is that demand side load management cannot be done transparently no mater how much handwaving supporters do to pretend it can be, and there will be repercussions. Within that context those technologies that can offer a constant supply of low-cost energy like gas and nuclear, will garner greater public support. You guys tend to forget that you have been implying that renewables could pick up the slack seamlessly, this isn't true, and the consumer isn't going to cooperate by keeping still as service declines. That's the lesson that needs to be drawn from this.

Anonymous said...

Happy new years to you too Frank.

Charles

It turns out RWI didn't use a time weighted wholesale electricity value to do their calculation. They also failed to account for the savings associated with reduced network congestion. They also failed to disaggregate the PV FiT costs for rooftop vs. farms installations with are subsidized differently.

Is Germany still subsidizing PV? Yes, but RWI screwed up the calculation.

Taking into account the factors mentioned above the value (at this point) looks more like 50 billion euro. Mind you, this value takes into account extending the FiT schedule out to 2013.

It wouldn't surprise me if Germany installed much more PV this year than has previously been forecast. In this case the subsidy cost will have to be adjusted upwards but that's really not the issue here. The issue is that RWI's calculation of FiT cost was poorly done. RWI is a right wing leaning organization, be careful with their data in the future.

Charles Barton said...

Anonymous, I got a guy who won;t reveal his name, telling me solely on his own authority that RWI got it all wrong. Mind you no links, no contrasting authorities, no facts to back up the assertions. Anonymous, why should I believe you when you won't even back up your assertions with a name, let alone some reputable authority. At least RWI reports are signed, and there is a return address. Sorry, but your statement lacks the mimimal requirements for credibility. .

Anonymous said...

Charles

You miss quoted your own source and you're scolding me?

Here's the source.

http://www.fr-online.de/in_und_ausland/wirtschaft/aktuell/1905473_Sonnenstrom-Zu-hochgerechnet.html

DV8 2XL

"So what? This does nothing to stabilize the grid, and for whatever reason customers are irritated by them, it doesn't stop them from being so."

Dynamic meters allow dynamic pricing. Dynamic pricing allows price responsive loads. Price responsive loads stabilize the grid. Connect the dots. This ain't rocket science.

"Every single model of demand-side regulation that is strict and aggressive enough to allow anything over a small fraction of variable supply, heaps inconvenience on the consumer"

I've already pointed out that ELCON wholeheartedly supports Demand Response. ELCON's position is that its industrial members should be properly compesated for their energy management actions.

Residential users have even more flexibility when it comes to load management than industrial users. I don't see why these customers would balk at participating in DR programs if they were properly compensated.

Anonymous said...

My statements are correct. I read the RWI study page by page. Did you? The reason why I thought they used average wholesale electricity rates vs. time-weighted electricity rates is because the report indicated this. Do I need to provide a source that explains your source? You should have investigated the error yourself. If I tell you you mispelled a word do I need to provide a dictionary?

If you have a minimal understanding of wholesale electricity markets you understand that daytime electricity is generally more expensive than night time electricity. If you want to assign a value to electricity production that is tied to wholesale electricity rates you have to match the time of production with wholesale rates at that particular time. This is so obvious I figured there was no way RWI could have missed it. Why produce a study that is so obviously wrong? Why? There is no good reason.

Finrod said...

Anonymous, if someone presented you with a water tank which could be hooked up to a household tap and had a water outlet at the bottom,and explained that the various cisterns and tubes within it enabled you to get two glasses of water out of your tap for the same amount of water which would normally only fill one glass, would you believe them? Wouldn't you be just a little bit suspicious?

Charles Barton said...

Anonymous, you are attempting to officiate the obvious. You are attempting to avoid powerful evidence of the failure of huge German PV subsidies to replace nuclear power in Germany, with solar generated electricity. 59 cents per kW for day time electricity is absurdly high, and would only be charged in countries where renewables and other politically correct forms of electricity are heavily subsidized. The the question of whether the data should have been aggregated. The fact is that the German people have been forced to pay a huge amount of money because of a failed renewables policy that is leading their nation into economic ruin.

DV8 2XL said...

"Dynamic pricing allows price responsive loads."

First of all "dynamic pricing" apparently means getting less of an increase in the rate, which seems to be the "reward" offered by most of the utilities in their flexible pricing plans. Most people will resent like hell being told that they should shower before six in the morning, cook their dinner after seven at night, and do their laundry at four AM. For most of us it will just mean paying a premium where we didn't have to before and complaining loudly about it, which is exactly what is coming down in those places that put this metering in. Micro. Econ. 101 crap about pricing having a direct effect on demand just doesn't happen in the real world. Things are a bit more messy when real people are involved.

As for the industrial side I have a story that illustrates what can happen when a company tries to save energy without looking at the full impacts of that decision.

The firm in question operated several large very high temperature, very high vacuum ovens for heat-treating aircraft engine parts. Because of these ovens and other loads being drawn by this plant, it was determined that they were going over the maximum power they had contracted for on their existing line. The solution was to bring in another 3KV triple, however somebody looked at the plant's electrical consumption records and saw that there would be available power at night. All we had to do was shift the scheduling around to accommodate this.

Now for various metallurgical reasons the timing of the heat treat cycles had to be done before certain intervals elapsed after other processes, so it was not going to be just a case of placing a hold on the line.

In fact this is why I was brought in, to help determine just how much elasticity there was in the timing. There wasn't much, but they forged ahead with this plan. It was a disaster

The upshot was that to accommodate the ovens the day shift would now have to start work at 0500h, and the afternoon shift would have to start at 1430h. This caused a huge ripple of pain through the plant as people that were using public transit now had to drive, daycare had to be paid at much higher rates, and so on and so on. I remember going back to this place a few weeks after this was implemented to find twice the number of cars in the parking lot, and being told when I got in that the management hopes were that they could get productivity back to what it had been before the change sometime in the next two quarters.

The fact is they had lost their shirts on this plan, lost key personnel and were going to be facing a very angry union at contract negotiations that were going to begin shortly. I was told privately that the whole adventure had cost them three times what the new line would have been.

Now this was years ago, and worker expectations were different and so on, but it does go to show that load shifting can have a huge impact on a company that can far exceed realized savings. In other words, like the home consumers, there isn't as much headroom for load management as its supporters think there is.

"I don't see why these customers would balk at participating in DR programs if they were properly compensated."

What you don't see is that the customer will value his inconvenience much higher than the utility wants to pay. Thus you are not compensating people for changing usage patterns, as much as you are punishing them if they don't and that will not be tolerated.

Anonymous said...

Part 3. The future of PV

I'm tired of you guys and I’m sure you're tired of me so I'll leave you with this.

I figure plant operator's fondness for flashlights is nearly universal. Any plant operator can tell you that LED flashlights have been improving steadily over the last few years in terms of price and brightness - or price/brightness. How much brighter will LEDs get? How much cheaper? How long will it be before LEDs will take over in areas traditionally dominated by bulbs? Much brighter, much cheaper and pretty damn soon in the big scheme of things.

LEDs consist of a semiconducting chip that when fed electrons, pumps out photons. When you think about it, LEDs are basically upside down solar cells. You've got your n-type and p-type layers, your electron/hole pairs, and your circuit.

I hope everyone understands that LEDs have plenty of room for improvement and as they improve they will become increasingly competitive. If you look into the past, LED powered toys and other niche applications. If you look into the future you can see LEDs providing general purpose illumination. It's all about price. That's it and there's nothing more to it. We're just waiting for the price to come down as the manufacturing technology improves.

PV is no different. PV has plenty of room to improve in terms of efficiency, install-ability and most importantly - price. If you look into the past, PV powered specialized "gadgets" such satellites, lighthouses and oil derricks. If you look into the future you can see it providing general purpose electricity. In the big scheme of things this isn't very far away. Again, most of the world is just waiting for the price to come down as the manufacturing processes improve.

Germany's FiT has sped up the progress of PV by over 10 years and you armchairers call it a failure. That's funny.

Markus Gålfalk said...

Anon: "Dynamic meters allow dynamic pricing. Dynamic pricing allows price responsive loads. Price responsive loads stabilize the grid. Connect the dots. This ain't rocket science."

And customers REJECT dynamic meters because they DISLIKE dynamic pricing. "Responsive loads" is a weasel word for bothering your customers and they are very unlikely to put up with it.

This does not in any way help the renewables case. Connect the dots.

Charles Barton said...

Anonymous There are several flaws in your argument. First the Whole sale price of day time power dependes on its source. For example nuclear power wholesales for the same price day and night. Coal fired plants that operate on a 16/7 basis, wold basically be priced as base load power. Load following and peak generation would command a premium, but since solar PV does not have the characteristics of either, it would only command a spot market price. The spot market price would be lower than the average wholesale price of electricity, because spot market prices would have reflected the costs of operating the grid with intermittent sources of electricity. Thus the spot market price for Danish wind appears to average two thirds of the wholesale price of day time non-wind generated electricity in Denmark.

Further more the FIT for renewables introduces a distortion in the electrical that effects the whole sale price of all electricity. Why not base the comparison of the PV FIT to the wholesale price of nuclear which solar PV is meant to replace, or to the wholesale price of new nuclear, which would have been far lower than the solar PV FIT.

Anonymous said...

Charles

I showed you the original quote you're trying to quote. You are quoting the wrong years. Your mistake is fundamental.

Ask an economist how to find the value of PV kWhs. It's been done before. You run a simulation of the generation profile of PV and then compare it against a matching wholesale price (spot price if you wish) profile. This calculation renders a $/kWh that is higher than the average wholesale price.

If the calculation rendered a $/kWh that was lower than the average wholesale price I'm sure RWI would have pointed that out. Think about it. You guys all need to wake up. You're hypnotized and confused.

Speaking of distortions, the annual amount spent on the FiT is less than the amount spent subsidizing coal in Germany. Fancy that.

Every major political party in Germany (including the FDP and CDU), Deutsche Bank, Germany's Energy Consumer Association and the DIW (German Institute of Economic Research) have all come out within the last two months in support of extending the FiT without major revisions.

Soylent

"Responsive loads" is a weasel word for bothering your customers and they are very unlikely to put up with it."

We already have responsive loads. Are you bothered that your refrigerator, AC and water heater cycles on and off in response to temperature? Do you care really care if your water heater turns on at 4 o'clock vs. 5 o'clock? Do you think the average customer would?

Anonymous said...

DV8 2XL

That's a good story. I see what you're getting at. Aluminum smelters are relatively frequency sensitive IIRC.

Some processes have no flexibility and we shouldn't try to force a round peg in a square. On the other hand, some processes are flexible so DR has potential.

I don't think we know how much potential DR has yet. We can only guess. You think there's very little potential. I think there's a ton. Jury is out.

Charles Barton said...

Anonymous, you linked me to something written in German. Since I don't read German, quite obviously, I was not attempting to quote the source you pointed too. Once again you site facts with out pointing to sources that will verify your claims. You say, "Ask an economist how to find the value of PV kWhs," when you should be pointing an economic text that illustrates your point. You have not pointed to any credible source, that demonstrates that what you claim to have been RWI errors were in fact mistakes. You claim that the FIT was less than the German subsidy for coal, but do not include any link or the mention of any verifiable fact to back up your claim.

The energy policy of the German state strikes me as utterly insane, especially when compared to the energy policies of China and india. The Germans, motivated by a crazy anti-nuclear ideology, appear intent on committing national economic suicide. Finally, you refuse to reveal your personal identity, and then turn around and present argument that i must accept solely on your personal authority. Since you are arguing for the rationality of an economic policy which i believe to be insane, you have to convince me that you are not insane yourself, and so far you are not doing a good job.

Charles Barton said...

Anonymous, I believe you enquired about hacking the smart grid:
http://www.internetnews.com/infra/article.php/3831956/Black+Hat+Exposes+Smart+Grid+Security+Risks.htm

Anonymous said...

Use the translate function on google.

DV8 2XL said...

"I don't think we know how much potential DR has yet. We can only guess. You think there's very little potential. I think there's a ton. Jury is out."

The whole point I am making is that the many customers in California that are in open revolt with regard to their smart meters are the jury, and they are rendering judgment. And I'm telling you that almost 40 years of experience in high power use industries that not as much room as supporters of these schemes contend. When it comes down to cases all types of consumers are going to place a higher value on their inconvenience that is assumed by those backing this idea, and very little market research has been done that factors this in.

Ultimately though, the degree of dynamic response needed to integrate more than just a token amount of renewable energy will be far more than will or can be tolerated by the users, and that is where these plans fail. Knowing this, utilities are going to have to turn to gas to provide the missing energy and any gains in terms of GHG mitigation will be lost, or minimized to the point of being trivial. Only nuclear energy meets the requirements of being both clean and dispatchable, and that is why it is the only rational choice.

Markus Gålfalk said...

"We already have responsive loads." - Anon

These belong to either of two categories, they're either _tiny_ or will not shift by more than an hour or two.

"refrigerator"

The refrigerator/freezer is a few hundred watts at most when the compressor is running and you can't shift it for more than an hour or two without either mandating significant phase-change thermal storage or wasting electricity(the freezer is most efficient at the highest temperature that is acceptable for food storage; if you run the temperature down in order to store a little bit more energy you introduce waste)

"AC"

You can't touch people's thermostat without pissing them off. You either have to retrofit a large "thermal mass" into the walls of people's homes or you can only shift by tens of minutes to an hour.

"Do you care really care if your water heater turns on at 4 o'clock vs. 5 o'clock? Do you think the average customer would?"

Do you really think the wind or solar farm operator cares if my water heater turns on at 4 o'clock vs. 5 o'clock?

Nah, of course not. For it to provide even a noticable benefit to renewables producers you need to start dictating at what time of day people may shower(...there's always cold showers), you need to fiddle with the thermostat setting, you need to determine when people can run their dishwasher, washing machine, clothes dryer, stove and oven.

Even with all this you're going to need embarassing amounts of natural gas or energy storage.

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