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  1. #101  
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    Quote Originally Posted by newolder View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury View Post
    I think the opening post was thinking in terms of central power generation, not individual homeowner installations.
    I think you are correct. My own endeavours to get solar pv installed in the feudal economy around where i live is proving tricky. The details are here 1 mtb per child « newolder@microsoft but progress is slow...
    Welcome newolder. I think I recognize you from a forum far away and long ago.
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    Quote Originally Posted by prince
    Prince takes exception to claim that "nukes" require intercontinental transportation systems as matter of necessity, is perfectly plausible to mine uranium in Canada and consume it to make power in same country. If Prince is not mistaken this is exactly what happens. Nuclear fuel is smaller volume for same output and, if anything, EASIER to transport than coal accordingly.
    You need a lot more than fuel to build and run a nuke - and if you build and run the plant (constructed and maintained with local resources only) near the uranium mine (dug without access to distant resources), you have much worse power distribution problems than you have with hydro or thermal solar.

    Uranium is a sparse and non-renewable resource.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by prince
    Prince takes exception to claim that "nukes" require intercontinental transportation systems as matter of necessity, is perfectly plausible to mine uranium in Canada and consume it to make power in same country. If Prince is not mistaken this is exactly what happens. Nuclear fuel is smaller volume for same output and, if anything, EASIER to transport than coal accordingly.
    You need a lot more than fuel to build and run a nuke - and if you build and run the plant (constructed and maintained with local resources only) near the uranium mine (dug without access to distant resources), you have much worse power distribution problems than you have with hydro or thermal solar.

    Uranium is a sparse and non-renewable resource.
    It is possible and worthwhile to make uranium as needed. Uranium can also be extracted from seawater, this was demonstrated in Japan several decades ago using ion exchangers. Seawater contains 3 parts per billion, so roughly 5 billion tonnes of it is accessible to any country with access to the sea..
    The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.- Thucydides
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    "make" uranium? how?

    the cost of extracting the uranium ions is what?
    If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. -Thorin Oakenshield

    The needs of the many outweigh the need of the few - Spock of Vulcan & Sentinel Prime of Cybertron ---proof that "the needs" are in the eye of the beholder.
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    A passive solar plant devoted to concentrating uranium from sea water might work - I'd just use the solar power directly, though. More efficient, and you don't have to worry about stuff like the latest earthquake under the US east coast - epicenter about ten miles from the North Anna nuke, magnitude 5.9 (the plant design is for magnitude 6 or less, so that was a near miss).

    The cost of upgrading that nuke, to provide a more realistic earthquake handling factor and better safety systems (25% of their backup generating capability failed at shutdown - as with the flooded plant in the Mississippi drainage a couple months ago, the plant was one electrical failure from Fukushima level trouble), will be pretty high - if they do it.
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    At 3 parts per billion how long would the accumulation of a large enough stockpile of uranium take?
    If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. -Thorin Oakenshield

    The needs of the many outweigh the need of the few - Spock of Vulcan & Sentinel Prime of Cybertron ---proof that "the needs" are in the eye of the beholder.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post
    The cost of upgrading that nuke, to provide a more realistic earthquake handling factor and better safety systems (25% of their backup generating capability failed at shutdown - as with the flooded plant in the Mississippi drainage a couple months ago, the plant was one electrical failure from Fukushima level trouble), will be pretty high - if they do it.
    This is false. They shut down one emergency diesel generator, which had a leak in the cooling system, and started up a fifth diesel generator. Therefore they had a full complement of emergency power. If you are referring to Fort Calhoun, they had a fire which interrupted fuel pool cooling for 90 minutes, while estimated time to boiling was 88 hours. To get to Fukushima level trouble, they would have to have flooded out all their emergency switchgear, such that no temporary or alternate power source could be connected, and would have somehow been prevented from flooding the fuel pool with fire hoses or some other source of water.
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    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    "The cost of upgrading that nuke, to provide a more realistic earthquake handling factor and better safety systems (25% of their backup generating capability failed at shutdown - as with the flooded plant in the Mississippi drainage a couple months ago, the plant was one electrical failure from Fukushima level trouble), will be pretty high - if they do it. "


    This is false. They shut down one emergency diesel generator, which had a leak in the cooling system, and started up a fifth diesel generator. Therefore they had a full complement of emergency power. If you are referring to Fort Calhoun, they had a fire which interrupted fuel pool cooling for 90 minutes, while estimated time to boiling was 88 hours. To get to Fukushima level trouble, they would have to have flooded out all their emergency switchgear, such that no temporary or alternate power source could be connected, and would have somehow been prevented from flooding the fuel pool with fire hoses or some other source of water.
    So you agree that 25% of their inline ready backup generating power failed at shutdown - fortunately, even after an earthquake of almost design max levels (no safety margin at all), they were able to tap auxiliary resources. One more electrical failure, a bit of bad luck from a slightly stronger quake, and they would have been unable to cool the reactor core reliably.

    As far as the Calhoun plant, of course they could have jury-rigged something if they had lost power - flooded the fuel pool with firehoses and such - after all, that's what they did at Fukushima, and it's sort of worked so far. That's called "Fukushima level trouble".

    The point was that we have been one major piece of bad luck or bad news away from serious nuclear plant emergency, twice, in the US, within the past nine months. And these kinds of events, or the expense of preventing them, are one reason why nukes can't get private insurance, or survive as an industry on only private development and investment money.

    And that is one good place to begin, if contrasting solar with nuclear power economics.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post
    So you agree that 25% of their inline ready backup generating power failed at shutdown - fortunately, even after an earthquake of almost design max levels (no safety margin at all), they were able to tap auxiliary resources. One more electrical failure, a bit of bad luck from a slightly stronger quake, and they would have been unable to cool the reactor core reliably.
    No, I don't agree. First, I don't know the severity of the coolant leak. It may have been a minor leak that would not have prevented the function. Second, I don't think it is accurate to characterize the fifth diesel generator as an auxiliary resource. It's there for redundancy. The plant could still sustain any single failure and safely shut down.
    As far as the Calhoun plant, of course they could have jury-rigged something if they had lost power - flooded the fuel pool with firehoses and such - after all, that's what they did at Fukushima, and it's sort of worked so far. That's called "Fukushima level trouble".
    No, that's not what Fukushima did. Not until they had already damaged fuel in the fuel pool. Are you referring to the fuel pool, or the reactor? The problem in the reactor was a total loss emergency core cooling due to loss of emergency power. Nothing like what happened at Fort Calhoun at all.
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    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    Second, I don't think it is accurate to characterize the fifth diesel generator as an auxiliary resource. It's there for redundancy. The plant could still sustain any single failure and safely shut down.
    - - -
    The problem in the reactor was a total loss emergency core cooling due to loss of emergency power. Nothing like what happened at Fort Calhoun at all.
    North Anna and Calhoun were both one major problem away from loss of sufficient emergency power for core cooling and spent fuel management.

    So we were lucky. Not very lucky - the odds were still in our favor - but nevertheless within a step of Fukushima level trouble. Twice, in a few months.

    That should be part of our economic calculations - risk is a standard factor of calculation when doing cost/ benefit analysis.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post
    North Anna and Calhoun were both one major problem away from loss of sufficient emergency power for core cooling and spent fuel management.
    Factually incorrect, as I already pointed out. North Anna still had two operable sources of emergency power, per reactor. That's two major problems away. Fort Calhoun had one other available fuel pool cooling pump, plus no doubt other means of cooling the spent fuel pool. Assuming their design is like other plants, they could use emergency power (two available sources) to pump river water into the fuel pool. At any rate, they had 88 hours to figure it all out. Even more, since there would be lots of time between boiling in the fuel pool and uncovering the fuel.
    risk is a standard factor of calculation when doing cost/ benefit analysis.
    This is the first sensible thing you've said. Nuclear power generally comes out quite well when comparing risk to other forms of power generation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    Factually incorrect, as I already pointed out. North Anna still had two operable sources of emergency power, per reactor. That's two major problems away.
    It was one collapsed roof on the generators, one fire in the diesel supply, one large extra demand from cooling system trouble, one aftershock with a worse epicenter, from Fukushima.
    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    Fort Calhoun had one other available fuel pool cooling pump, plus no doubt other means of cooling the spent fuel pool. Assuming their design is like other plants, they could use emergency power (two available sources) to pump river water into the fuel pool. At any rate, they had 88 hours to figure it all out.
    Or one earthquake, one discovery that your "no doubt" was ill informed, one more serious fire, one major power outage in that flood zone (the New York blackout in '03 took out the emergency backup power of more than a dozen geographically separated nukes. None of them were flooded, earthquake damaged, or otherwise further stressed until the power came back on. Once again: lucky).
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChristianHJW View Post

    You are right, rather than looking at the peak or average power, we should be looking at the yearly output of such a device.
    If we back up the solar power grid with hydrogen production and hydrogen burning facilities, then the worst case scenario is that we get 36% of the total energy (40% loss producing it, 40% loss reconverting to electricity, so .6 x .6 = .36 remains). That's if never once does anyone happen to choose to turn on a device while the sun is shining.

    So, if a solar option is devised that is 3x as good as its competitor, ignoring load balancing, then it is good enough to work. I'm really liking the solar updraft option for that reason. If we build enough of them, and they last, then we've pretty much solved our energy problems right there.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    Factually incorrect, as I already pointed out. North Anna still had two operable sources of emergency power, per reactor. That's two major problems away.
    It was one collapsed roof on the generators,
    They are in separate buildings.
    one fire in the diesel supply,
    They have separate fuel supplies.
    one large extra demand from cooling system trouble,
    Huh?
    one aftershock with a worse epicenter, from Fukushima.
    Uh, okay. We lucked out and didn't have an earthquake larger than anything in the history of Virginia.
    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    Fort Calhoun had one other available fuel pool cooling pump, plus no doubt other means of cooling the spent fuel pool. Assuming their design is like other plants, they could use emergency power (two available sources) to pump river water into the fuel pool. At any rate, they had 88 hours to figure it all out.
    Or one earthquake, one discovery that your "no doubt" was ill informed,
    Not likely, as there doesn't even seem to be a licensee event report on this.
    one more serious fire,
    That wouldn't have done it, as the first fire only affected one fuel pool cooling pump, not the emergency busses, fire pumps, or river water pumps.
    , or one major power outage in that flood zone (the New York blackout in '03 took out the emergency backup power of more than a dozen geographically separated nukes.
    It did what??? Said who?
    None of them were flooded, earthquake damaged, or otherwise further stressed until the power came back on. Once again: lucky).
    Okay, once again we were lucky because we did not get an earthquake or flood beyond anything that ever happened in Nebraska.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paleoichneum View Post
    "make" uranium? how?

    the cost of extracting the uranium ions is what?
    Two most excellent questions, answered in order:

    First, when thorium 232 is bombarded by neutrons it absorbs one, becoming thorium 233, half life 22 minutes, then beta decays to uranium 233, which is fissionable.

    Second, seems to depend on method employed:

    Japan's large scale uranium from seawater and superconducting wire plans

    Excellent questions, thank you so much!

    Linked to above link is more, quote extracted from same:

    http://nextbigfuture.com/2008/08/how...r-nuclear.html

    Quote:"It now seems quite certain that uranium can be extracted from the ocean at well below $1000 per pound ($100-800/lb in recent analysis of Japan's extraction process) and there is even some optimism that it can become competitive at current market prices ($65/lb). It is clear, then, that uranium from seawater must be considered as a completely acceptable fuel for breeder reactors, contributing less than 1% to the cost of electricity. In terms of fuel cost per million BTU, even at $400/lb the uranium cost is only 1.1 cents."

    We are digressing but conversation is fascinating!
    The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.- Thucydides
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paleoichneum View Post
    At 3 parts per billion how long would the accumulation of a large enough stockpile of uranium take?
    Would depend on level of investment, but according to at least some sources, cost effective methods are available. Another legitimate concern, naturally.
    The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.- Thucydides
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by newolder View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury View Post
    I think the opening post was thinking in terms of central power generation, not individual homeowner installations.
    I think you are correct. My own endeavours to get solar pv installed in the feudal economy around where i live is proving tricky. The details are here 1 mtb per child « newolder@microsoft but progress is slow...
    Welcome newolder. I think I recognize you from a forum far away and long ago.
    Thx 4 teh welcome. Yes, there was a lot of changing forums around 2007 but things seem to be stable now... [\ot]

    So, 2 remain on topic, 40 of these : 100 watt Solar Panel costs less than £9000 to produce 4 kilowatts peak power (the limit 4 home generation b4 a sub-station needs to b bilt - at an extra cost of £16000). Now, at current HMGUK rates (41.3p per kW hr), the investment would be regained within a few years and after that, all the accrued monies will help to buy mtbs 4 children. It (solar power economics) seems like a no-brainer. :thumbup:
    So it goes. Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
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    Quote Originally Posted by newolder View Post

    So, 2 remain on topic, 40 of these : 100 watt Solar Panel costs less than £9000 to produce 4 kilowatts peak power (the limit 4 home generation b4 a sub-station needs to b bilt - at an extra cost of £16000). Now, at current HMGUK rates (41.3p per kW hr), the investment would be regained within a few years and after that, all the accrued monies will help to buy mtbs 4 children. It (solar power economics) seems like a no-brainer. :thumbup:
    Your analysis does not take into account the main objection to solar power, and that is the unreliable nature of the power. You are assuming that you can sell power back to the utility at retail rates, while the utility must maintain the transmission lines, and the base load generation capability that keeps your house powered up at night and in cloudy weather.
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    Looks like they're DC 12 volt. I wonder how many car batteries it would take to store a day's worth of energy. Clearly we can't just sell back to the utility company, but not needing them is just as good as selling back.

    Also, I wonder how much the energy harvest would go up if mirrors were used to direct more sunlight onto them.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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    The conversion to 240VAC is trivial and is part of the quote i was supplied with earlier this year (see linked blog entries anent winterwarm.com) Also, to arrange those panels in a Fibonacci spiral up a central stem seems to b an improvement over most(all?) other static arrays: Genius 13-Year-Old Has a Solar Power Breakthrough
    So it goes. Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by newolder View Post

    So, 2 remain on topic, 40 of these : 100 watt Solar Panel costs less than £9000 to produce 4 kilowatts peak power (the limit 4 home generation b4 a sub-station needs to b bilt - at an extra cost of £16000). Now, at current HMGUK rates (41.3p per kW hr), the investment would be regained within a few years and after that, all the accrued monies will help to buy mtbs 4 children. It (solar power economics) seems like a no-brainer. :thumbup:
    Your analysis does not take into account the main objection to solar power, and that is the unreliable nature of the power. You are assuming that you can sell power back to the utility at retail rates, while the utility must maintain the transmission lines, and the base load generation capability that keeps your house powered up at night and in cloudy weather.
    You'd have to read my blog for the full analysis but, on average, more than 420 Watts per metre squared of insolation has hit my roof during summer solstices for the last 800 thousand years and is expected to continue thusly until teh chaos strikes again or Sol runs out of hydrogen - whichever is teh shortest.

    Graph wiki
    Last edited by newolder; August 30th, 2011 at 08:16 AM. Reason: image reference provided
    So it goes. Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
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    Quote Originally Posted by newolder View Post
    Also, to arrange those panels in a Fibonacci spiral up a central stem seems to b an improvement over most(all?) other static arrays: Genius 13-Year-Old Has a Solar Power Breakthrough
    It probably isn't an improvement, but kudos to the 13 year old for doing the experiment.

    The Capacity Factor: Solar-panel "trees" really are inferior (or: "In which hopelessly inept journalists reduce me to having to debunk a school science project")
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    Quote Originally Posted by newolder View Post
    You'd have to read my blog for the full analysis but, on average, more than 420 Watts per metre squared of insolation has hit my roof during summer solstices for the last 800 thousand years and is expected to continue thusly until teh chaos strikes again or Sol runs out of hydrogen - whichever is teh shortest.
    How does the daily average over 800,000 years help you at night or on a cloudy day?
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    Build 1 terawatt, Fibonacci, PV trees on a 10 km spacing along an imaginary line called 0 degrees longitude. There's enough Solar power 4 GRID technology let alone the monkeys and their hotel load in teh atmospheric boundary layer below. lol
    So it goes. Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by newolder View Post
    Also, to arrange those panels in a Fibonacci spiral up a central stem seems to b an improvement over most(all?) other static arrays: Genius 13-Year-Old Has a Solar Power Breakthrough
    It probably isn't an improvement, but kudos to the 13 year old for doing the experiment.

    The Capacity Factor: Solar-panel "trees" really are inferior (or: "In which hopelessly inept journalists reduce me to having to debunk a school science project")
    Ah well, but 0 improvement can't b rite can it? Also, they'd look beautiful on aircraft descent, imnsho.
    So it goes. Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
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    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    It was one collapsed roof on the generators,

    They are in separate buildings.
    Which increases the odds of a weak or struck roof.
    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    one fire in the diesel supply,

    They have separate fuel supplies.
    Again, increases the odds of losing one.
    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    one large extra demand from cooling system trouble,

    Huh?
    Valves stick, the control box falls off the wall and crimps the coolant piping, sensors malfunction, the damping rods don't get all the way in due to corrosion or slag buildup, a forgotten tool or lunchbox debris gets stuck in the wrong place, maybe even something completely new and unprecedented happens to this aged and quake-hammered pile of high end machinery, and suddenly you need a lot more cooling in a hurry. These things happen.
    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    Uh, okay. We lucked out and didn't have an earthquake larger than anything in the history of Virginia.
    Uh, you did, actually. What you didn't have was an earthquake one tenth point larger on the Richter scale, and a couple of miles closer to the North Anna plant - that would have exceeded the plant's designed earthquake handling capability.

    We have about a century of reliable earthquake monitoring and measurement, for North America. Earthquakes larger than any measured so far in a given location can be anticipated almost anywhere in the US.
    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    Okay, once again we were lucky because we did not get an earthquake or flood beyond anything that ever happened in Nebraska.
    It wouldn't have taken much of a rise in the river, or much of a quake, or much of a tornado, or much bad luck in some lightning, to put severe stress on that flooded plant and its jury-rigged cooling setups. You wouldn't have needed anything like the quakes of the mid 1800s, next river valley over.

    These risks need recognition, and inclusion among the costs, in any comparison with power supplies that don't run them. Everybody includes the cost of large capacity storage for solar used as base load, for example - because daytime cloudy weather can last a couple of weeks, sometimes. Likewise, nuclear plant disasters can happen, sometimes. The odds are better, but the cost is astronomical.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by newolder View Post
    You'd have to read my blog for the full analysis but, on average, more than 420 Watts per metre squared of insolation has hit my roof during summer solstices for the last 800 thousand years and is expected to continue thusly until teh chaos strikes again or Sol runs out of hydrogen - whichever is teh shortest.
    How does the daily average over 800,000 years help you at night or on a cloudy day?
    If you harvest enough light in total to overwhelm the cost of storage, then it doesn't matter when it's on or off. Just calculate the worst case scenario, and if that is still a preferable scenario over the competition, the fact that even better possibilities exist, but are unreliable should not be used as a basis for objection. The worst case scenario is entirely reliable. Why would the possibility of better outcomes be a bad thing?

    The worst case scenario is that you have to channel every last bit of sunlight into a battery or other storage medium before you get to use it. For hydrogen, that reduces his 420 Watt prediction down to 151 Watts.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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    And.... if we had access to flywheels or pumped storage, that number (151 Watts) would improve substantially. But hydrogen storage requires a lot less infrastructure than fly wheels.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    If you harvest enough light in total to overwhelm the cost of storage, then it doesn't matter when it's on or off. Just calculate the worst case scenario, and if that is still a preferable scenario over the competition, the fact that even better possibilities exist, but are unreliable should not be used as a basis for objection. The worst case scenario is entirely reliable. Why would the possibility of better outcomes be a bad thing?

    The worst case scenario is that you have to channel every last bit of sunlight into a battery or other storage medium before you get to use it. For hydrogen, that reduces his 420 Watt prediction down to 151 Watts.
    Newolder is welcome to include more solar panels and a storage battery in his system. The cost will be a lot different though.
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    You know, I just realized the Pacific NW could become a serious powerhouse for everyone around us if we just shifted from using our Hydro-electric dams for primary power generation, and used them instead exclusively for load balancing, then went hog wild with solar and wind. We'd need some more long range power transmission lines, and we'd need to add more turbines to our existing dams to ensure a higher max hourly output, but it's actually kind of a waste to use those dams for primary power generation.

    Basically whenever the Dam is turned off, the water level behind it simply climbs while we're not using it. Nothing is lost. It's like a big huge 100% efficient battery. The only possible problem is if we let it get overcharged by going a long time without consuming any of the power. But... if wind and solar are as unreliable as people say then that probably wouldn't happen.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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    Pacific Northwest unplugs Windpower when Hydroelectric capacity*peaks - Green (Low Carbon) Data Center Blog - Green Data Center Blog

    BPA managers say near-flood conditions in the Columbia river—and strict laws protecting the river’s endangered salmon—give the agency no choice but to disconnect the windmills as it grapples with a large power surplus. Not making electricity is not an option on the river, the BPA argues, because only a limited amount of water can be kept out of turbines and spilled over federal dams. Too much spill dissolves too much nitrogen in the river, which can kill migrating salmon. There is a particular irony in the agency’s concern about fish, since the development of the hydroelectric system is largely responsible for destroying the Columbia as one of the world’s great salmon highways.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    If you harvest enough light in total to overwhelm the cost of storage, then it doesn't matter when it's on or off. Just calculate the worst case scenario, and if that is still a preferable scenario over the competition, the fact that even better possibilities exist, but are unreliable should not be used as a basis for objection. The worst case scenario is entirely reliable. Why would the possibility of better outcomes be a bad thing?

    The worst case scenario is that you have to channel every last bit of sunlight into a battery or other storage medium before you get to use it. For hydrogen, that reduces his 420 Watt prediction down to 151 Watts.
    Newolder is welcome to include more solar panels and a storage battery in his system. The cost will be a lot different though.
    ??? there are no batteries in the system quoted. The costs are falling as time progresses. To repeat, the 5 billion year expected lifespan of Sol is sufficient for the monkey hotel load on planet earth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by newolder View Post
    ??? there are no batteries in the system quoted. The costs are falling as time progresses. To repeat, the 5 billion year expected lifespan of Sol is sufficient for the monkey hotel load on planet earth.
    ??? yourself, Newolder. If you don't have a battery then you are relying on the grid at night or in cloudy weather. Your quoted cost fails to account for the cost to the electric utility of maintaining the distribution system and the generating stations connected to it. These costs will be passed on to you and other consumers.

    To repeat, the 5 billion year lifespan of Sol is completely irrelevant to the issue.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Pacific Northwest unplugs Windpower when Hydroelectric capacity*peaks - Green (Low Carbon) Data Center Blog - Green Data Center Blog

    BPA managers say near-flood conditions in the Columbia river—and strict laws protecting the river’s endangered salmon—give the agency no choice but to disconnect the windmills as it grapples with a large power surplus. Not making electricity is not an option on the river, the BPA argues, because only a limited amount of water can be kept out of turbines and spilled over federal dams. Too much spill dissolves too much nitrogen in the river, which can kill migrating salmon. There is a particular irony in the agency’s concern about fish, since the development of the hydroelectric system is largely responsible for destroying the Columbia as one of the world’s great salmon highways.
    That article is mean. Dams on the Columbia are careful about Salmon now, and incorporate salmon ladders to ensure they can make it up river, but they weren't when they were first built because people simply weren't aware of the danger.

    As for the surplus, that's why I was mentioning that we'd need more long range lines. The Pacific NW is capable of generating way more power than it consumes right now. Either we need more lines going out, or we need some more energy intensive industries to move into the area and exploit our surplus for us. Either scenario would be a good thing for jobs.
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    anyhoo, solar powered economies r awlreddi here: Solar Energy News & Information | Renewable Energy World
    a
    nd at continued growth rates, the megawatts will bcome giga- and terawatts soon.
    So it goes. Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by newolder View Post
    ??? there are no batteries in the system quoted. The costs are falling as time progresses. To repeat, the 5 billion year expected lifespan of Sol is sufficient for the monkey hotel load on planet earth.
    ??? yourself, Newolder. If you don't have a battery then you are relying on the grid at night or in cloudy weather. Your quoted cost fails to account for the cost to the electric utility of maintaining the distribution system and the generating stations connected to it. These costs will be passed on to you and other consumers.

    To repeat, the 5 billion year lifespan of Sol is completely irrelevant to the issue.
    The GRID haz not an "at night" - all i'm (proposing) to do is dribble-feed 4 kilowatts into our local bits of wire, when teh sun shines. teh math iz eezee 2 scale up and "economies of scale" are all favourable.
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    Quote Originally Posted by newolder View Post
    The GRID haz not an "at night" - all i'm (proposing) to do is dribble-feed 4 kilowatts into our local bits of wire, when teh sun shines. teh math iz eezee 2 scale up and "economies of scale" are all favourable.
    It says in your profile that you are a retired physicist. I call bullshit.
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    The problem Newolder is your own data is working against you. You show an average at 65N latitude for the summer solstice. That average doesn't consider cloud cover. It also doesn't address that at such a high latitude you get almost NO solar energy during the winter solstice. We could go into the anemic output of 4KW as well, which would barely power the most efficient modern homes even under excellent solar conditions such as low to mid latitude sunny places. You pay a lot per KW as well, but that's a local thing; average Americans pay about a quarter that rate while the US army pays something like a hundred times that to power bases once security and fuel transport is factored in. I know a couple folks in Maine who use a combo of wind and solar with batteries which only look favorable when considering running a mile or more of utility poles and wire off the nearest road side power.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by newolder View Post
    The GRID haz not an "at night" - all i'm (proposing) to do is dribble-feed 4 kilowatts into our local bits of wire, when teh sun shines. teh math iz eezee 2 scale up and "economies of scale" are all favourable.
    It says in your profile that you are a retired physicist. I call bullshit.
    I retired from physics more than a decade ago - you can pm me if you want to know more. In my retirement i plan to give away as many mtbs as i am able under the restrictions of the feudal farce i find myself retired in using monies accrued primarily from solar pv - the figures are in the blog post mentioned previously. The only bs around here is from bulls in teh fields outside. Harumph!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    The problem Newolder is your own data is working against you. You show an average at 65N latitude for the summer solstice. That average doesn't consider cloud cover. It also doesn't address that at such a high latitude you get almost NO solar energy during the winter solstice. We could go into the anemic output of 4KW as well, which would barely power the most efficient modern homes even under excellent solar conditions such as low to mid latitude sunny places. You pay a lot per KW as well, but that's a local thing; average Americans pay about a quarter that rate while the US army pays something like a hundred times that to power bases once security and fuel transport is factored in. I know a couple folks in Maine who use a combo of wind and solar with batteries which only look favorable when considering running a mile or more of utility poles and wire off the nearest road side power.
    The blog post referred to earlier contains the relevant figures. In summary, 4 kw is sufficient for 4 homes like mine so, the excess beyond School House use will generate income that buys mtbs 4 children. The only promble is that my landlord's rent-collector wants me to put the panels on the ground rather than the roof for which they r designed. I also live well south of 65 N so those figures are an underestimate.
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    Quote Originally Posted by newolder View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by newolder View Post
    The GRID haz not an "at night" - all i'm (proposing) to do is dribble-feed 4 kilowatts into our local bits of wire, when teh sun shines. teh math iz eezee 2 scale up and "economies of scale" are all favourable.
    It says in your profile that you are a retired physicist. I call bullshit.
    I retired from physics more than a decade ago - you can pm me if you want to know more. In my retirement i plan to give away as many mtbs as i am able under the restrictions of the feudal farce i find myself retired in using monies accrued primarily from solar pv - the figures are in the blog post mentioned previously. The only bs around here is from bulls in teh fields outside. Harumph!
    What blog are you referring to? If it's the blog on this site, that feature has been turned off.

    You know, the grid does not magically appear there all night, for you to dribble feed your power into during the day at retail rates. There are linemen out all night fixing downed power lines, and there are operators and maintenance people working the night shift who keep the power on all night. This is unlike your lazy solar power that has every night off and plenty of holidays as well.

    Those people at the utility company all get paid at the end of the month, with money received from utility bills. The free use of the grid which you are now enjoying is not likely to go on indefinitely.
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    I think he's referring to this blog 1 mtb per child « newolder@microsoft
    I didn't see any detailed calculations in there to answer basic questions: Like an estimate of power use for the "home?" What's the estimated gain from the array during different times of the year considering climate? What's the battery capacity or amount pulled off a grid and how often? What's all this cost to install? What's it cost to maintain? How much time? How does reality compare to these estimates?

    Lots of mountain bike stuff, which is cool in its own right, but not virtually no details that would convince anyone to buy a 4kw unit and try to do something similar.

    I can't follow some of the short hand such as "teh math iz eezee 2 scale up " in the postings either, which doesn't help.
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    Those people at the utility company all get paid at the end of the month, with money received from utility bills. The free use of the grid which you are now enjoying is not likely to go on indefinitely.
    Where I live the grid is paid for by all who connect, a base charge regardless of usage, and was created in large part by government program and taxpayer investment.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post
    Those people at the utility company all get paid at the end of the month, with money received from utility bills. The free use of the grid which you are now enjoying is not likely to go on indefinitely.
    Where I live the grid is paid for by all who connect, a base charge regardless of usage, and was created in large part by government program and taxpayer investment.
    Generating stations are also adversely affected by intermittently operating generators on the grid. They save a little fuel, but have to be ready to supply power when the intermittent sources go away. Efficiency suffers, like a car's fuel efficiency in stop and go city driving. This means rates will go up.
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    Generating stations are also adversely affected by intermittently operating generators on the grid. They save a little fuel, but have to be ready to supply power when the intermittent sources go away. Efficiency suffers, like a car's fuel efficiency in stop and go city driving. This means rates will go up.
    Grid demand is already rapidly fluctuating. If the intermittent generators on the grid lower and smooth the demand peaks at the main plant - such as would have been the case in the recent heat wave in the SW US, with grid solar kicking in - main plant efficiency would be improved, and by your estimation rates reduced.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post
    Those people at the utility company all get paid at the end of the month, with money received from utility bills. The free use of the grid which you are now enjoying is not likely to go on indefinitely.
    Where I live the grid is paid for by all who connect, a base charge regardless of usage, and was created in large part by government program and taxpayer investment.
    Generating stations are also adversely affected by intermittently operating generators on the grid. They save a little fuel, but have to be ready to supply power when the intermittent sources go away. Efficiency suffers, like a car's fuel efficiency in stop and go city driving. This means rates will go up.
    Yeah. Even worse for coal, which doesn't have any quick on/off switch. But, if you've got access to hydro-electric, that's a pretty optimal base load. Unfortunately, places with Hydro also don't need solar/wind very much. The great "catch 22" of the situation.

    How much real potential do you think flywheel tech has? Is that a real possibility or just another pie in the sky make believe thing?

    Flywheel energy storage - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Generating stations are also adversely affected by intermittently operating generators on the grid. They save a little fuel, but have to be ready to supply power when the intermittent sources go away. Efficiency suffers, like a car's fuel efficiency in stop and go city driving. This means rates will go up.
    Studies done by NREL show that up to 20% penetration by wind has minimal effect on the efficiency of coal plants. At 35% penetration the coal plants lose efficiency (due to spilled energy) but this is a small fraction of the energy provided by wind. Coal plants are not shut down during high wind periods, they are turned down. The economic operating minimum ranges from around 50% to 80% of nameplate generation, depending on the particular plant design. They can be turned down much further in an emergency, but then efficiency does suffer, and mechanical issues due to thermal stress on the boilers can result. The scenarios modeled by NREL assumed the operating companies cooperated over wide geographical areas, and that transmission systems were upgraded. This requires capital expenditure and some changes in corporate philosophy, but it is not impossible.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury View Post
    Studies done by NREL show that up to 20% penetration by wind has minimal effect on the efficiency of coal plants. At 35% penetration the coal plants lose efficiency (due to spilled energy) but this is a small fraction of the energy provided by wind. Coal plants are not shut down during high wind periods, they are turned down. The economic operating minimum ranges from around 50% to 80% of nameplate generation, depending on the particular plant design. They can be turned down much further in an emergency, but then efficiency does suffer, and mechanical issues due to thermal stress on the boilers can result. The scenarios modeled by NREL assumed the operating companies cooperated over wide geographical areas, and that transmission systems were upgraded. This requires capital expenditure and some changes in corporate philosophy, but it is not impossible.
    Even if there isn't an actual loss of fuel efficiency, there is a reduction in profitability. If you have to maintain the same number of generating stations but sell less power, your generating cost per kilowatt-hour increases. Fixed costs are typically even more than fuel costs.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    If you have to maintain the same number of generating stations but sell less power, your generating cost per kilowatt-hour increases.
    Hence the cherished free market will further tip us toward renewable clean energy solutions. I see that as a very positive outcome.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    If you have to maintain the same number of generating stations but sell less power, your generating cost per kilowatt-hour increases.
    Hence the cherished free market will further tip us toward renewable clean energy solutions. I see that as a very positive outcome.
    How so? For that to happen the "clean energy" generator has to replace the "dirty" generating plant. It won't work if you have to maintain the dirty - but reliable - base load generating stations in operation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    For that to happen the "clean energy" generator has to replace the "dirty" generating plant.
    Yes, I see that as a very good thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    It won't work if you have to maintain the dirty - but reliable - base load generating stations in operation.
    So, remove them from operation. What's the problem you have, exactly? NONE of the issues you cite are insurmountable. Stop being so defeatist about it, will ya?
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    We are a long ways from the free market for energy in the US. Oil for example, is largely controlled by government owned Middle Eastern companies which cooperate to constrain supplies to keep prices up with releasing supplies when their consumers get interested in other energy sources--they've been playing this game since the early 70s.

    Large parts of the cost are hidden, consumers only paying the front cost directly while the clean up(super fund sites), security to at the source (aka Iraq wars), health cost (lung cancer downstream) and environmental damage are substantial but separate from the direct cost.
    Last edited by Lynx_Fox; September 5th, 2011 at 11:10 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    Even if there isn't an actual loss of fuel efficiency, there is a reduction in profitability. If you have to maintain the same number of generating stations but sell less power, your generating cost per kilowatt-hour increases.
    My local power company charges more, not less, for peak load power. That reflects the higher costs and lowered efficiencies of driving its power plants at full capacity, bringing less efficient plants on line for more of the power, etc.

    If solar were to roll off the peak demand spikes, as would have been the case in the recent SW US heat wave, any remaining coal plants would then operate at higher efficiencies overall.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    For that to happen the "clean energy" generator has to replace the "dirty" generating plant.
    Yes, I see that as a very good thing.
    You don't understand. The technology is just not there today to replace the dirty baseload generators with clean baseload generators. Maybe you think it's all right to have blackouts from time to time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    It won't work if you have to maintain the dirty - but reliable - base load generating stations in operation.
    So, remove them from operation. What's the problem you have, exactly? NONE of the issues you cite are insurmountable. Stop being so defeatist about it, will ya?[/QUOTE]

    Insurmountable, maybe not, given enough time and money put into it. Yet the topic is solar power ECONOMICS. What I am saying is that these considerations have to be factored in. You cannot simply add up the kilowatt-hours per year, like the OP wants to do, and say "yep, this is how much money we are going to save."

    Iceaura

    My local power company charges more, not less, for peak load power. That reflects the higher costs and lowered efficiencies of driving its power plants at full capacity, bringing less efficient plants on line for more of the power, etc.

    If solar were to roll off the peak demand spikes, as would have been the case in the recent SW US heat wave, any remaining coal plants would then operate at higher efficiencies overall.
    Solar power in hot, sunny areas may be one application where renewables could serve a useful purpose. I don't know. If there are hot, cloudy days, I guess you might still need to build the reliable base load plants. Then you would still not be avoiding the fossil or nuclear plant construction.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by inow View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    For that to happen the "clean energy" generator has to replace the "dirty" generating plant.
    Yes, I see that as a very good thing.
    You don't understand. The technology is just not there today to replace the dirty baseload generators with clean baseload generators. Maybe you think it's all right to have blackouts from time to time.
    What I understand is that your comment here is plainly untrue. We don't lack the technology, Harold. We lack the political will. With support, this could be done with today's technology and implemented in a few very short years.



    Can renewables provide baseload power?
    Arguments that renewable energy isn't up to the task because "the Sun doesn't shine at night and the wind doesn't blow all the time" are overly simplistic. There are a number of renewable energy technologies which can supply baseload power. The intermittency of other sources such as wind and solar photovoltaic can be addressed by interconnecting power plants which are widely geographically distributed, and by coupling them with peak-load plants such as gas turbines fueled by biofuels or natural gas which can quickly be switched on to fill in gaps of low wind or solar production. Numerous regional and global case studies – some incorporating modeling to demonstrate their feasibility – have provided plausible plans to meet 100% of energy demand with renewable sources.

    What we lack is not technology, but the ability to reason with people like you who refuse to open your eyes and realize that it's merely a myth that renewable energy sources can't meet baseload demand.
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    Somebody has their rose colored glasses on.
    Secondly, some renewable energy sources are just as reliable for baseload energy as fossil fuels. For example, bio-electricity generated from burning the residues of crops and plantation forests, concentrated solar thermal power with low-cost thermal storage (such as in molten salt), and hot-rock geothermal power. In fact, bio-electricity from residues already contributes to both baseload and peak-load power in parts of Europe and the USA, and is poised for rapid growth. Concentrated solar thermal technology is advancing rapidly, and a 19.9-megawatt solar thermal plant opened in Spain in 2011 (Gemasolar), which stores energy in molten salt for up to 15 hours, and is thus able to provide energy 20 hours per day on average, and 24 hours per day during much of the summer.
    Biomass is a bust. It requires too much acreage and competes with land needed to grow food. 19.9 megawatts is nothing.

    Although the output of a single wind farm will fluctuate greatly, the fluctuations in the total output from a number of wind farms geographically distributed in different wind regimes will be much smaller and partially predictable. Modeling has also shown that it's relatively inexpensive to increase the reliability of the total wind output to a level equivalent to a coal-fired power station by adding a few low-cost peak-load gas turbines that are opearated infrequently, to fill in the gaps when the wind farm production is low (Diesendorf 2010). Additionally, in many regions, peak wind (see Figure 4 below) and solar production match up well with peak electricity demand.
    Last time I checked, gas was a fossil fuel, which lots of the green minded folks don't want to drill for. Biogas in significant quantities is a pipe dream.
    Some more realistic analysis may be found here.

    TCASE 14: Assessment of electricity generation costs « BraveNewClimate
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    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    Some more realistic analysis may be found here.

    TCASE 14: Assessment of electricity generation costs « BraveNewClimate
    The costs there ignore the risk premium for nuclear, the waste and demolition costs of nuclear, the known environmental costs of coal even disregarding global climate effects, the looming costs of things like shale oil exploitation, and the scale efficiencies of integrated solar.

    The costs of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima are mostly ignored, the costs of the Iraq and Afghan wars and other similar nuclear waste and threat expenses not even in the picture.

    Meanwhile, we have no idea how anyone would be confident in their estimates for solar thermal grid-integrated with realistic storage, because nothing like that has been built or even thoroughly researched. The same people who think we can install a brand new generation of nukes without the problems we weren't supposed to have had in the first place, who keep predicting a breakthrough in fusion, who demand of solar estimators that all costs be included (including current research-scale storage and small scale setups, those imposed by grids and setups designed for fossil and nuke, etc) while waving their hands at the externalized costs of coal mining and nuke hazard, are accepting cost estimates for thermal solar already beaten by small scale experience.

    The cost of using thermal solar to charge fuel cells for train distribution to swap stations, where they power city buses and other vehicles with regenerative braking etc, for example, is hard to figure right now. But that solves the storage problem immediately - and ameliorates a host of other US problems.

    Another issue overlooked by the base load discussion is the unlikelihood of replacing current base load setups any time soon. So what we are talking about is actually marginal cost - accepting the current base load setup, and deciding what to build to handle the expected increases, on the margin. Arizona and Texas these past few months have been a lesson in the price of not jumping on some kind of solar bandwagon years ago when the incoming problems began to be obvious.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post

    My local power company charges more, not less, for peak load power. That reflects the higher costs and lowered efficiencies of driving its power plants at full capacity, bringing less efficient plants on line for more of the power, etc.

    If solar were to roll off the peak demand spikes, as would have been the case in the recent SW US heat wave, any remaining coal plants would then operate at higher efficiencies overall.
    Solar power in hot, sunny areas may be one application where renewables could serve a useful purpose. I don't know. If there are hot, cloudy days, I guess you might still need to build the reliable base load plants. Then you would still not be avoiding the fossil or nuclear plant construction.
    Yeah. The cost of solar/wind infrastructure (and maintenance) is best compared only with the cost of the fuel itself over the lifetime of the things we build, rather than the market value of the KwH. However, for solar thermal towers, I think we'd be looking at a very long lifetime. If we're required to focus on the near term, like the next 5 years, solar/wind is a fail. If we get to think of the next 100 years, maybe they do a little bit better? The trick is to build things that don't wear out, not necessarily things that have nice bells and whistles on them.

    Base load infrastructure is a "ceterus paribus" concern, because we're probably going to build the base load stuff either way. Either that, or we'll be building stuff even more exotic, like fly wheel centers, or pumped storage reservoirs. On an individualistic level, looking at it from the perspective of a private entity, that means the base load power plant isn't "paying for itself". That just tells you the limitations of individualistic thinking, and individualistic approaches. The free market isn't going to solve anything unless we help it along a little bit, with some artificial incentives.

    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post

    The cost of using thermal solar to charge fuel cells for train distribution to swap stations, where they power city buses and other vehicles with regenerative braking etc, for example, is hard to figure right now. But that solves the storage problem immediately - and ameliorates a host of other US problems.
    I like where you're headed with this. In the above mentioned case of using solar/wind to create methane, the methane/natural gas could be used to heat people's homes in the winter. If so, then the efficiency is 60% when it's made, and nearly 100% when it's burned (because it's being used to create heat... so there's no need to worry about "waste heat")
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    Lets look at fossil fuel generators. Coal costs approximately 7.85 cents per kilogram, and uses approximately 0.5 kg per kilowatt hour. So in terms of just fuel cost, ignoring infrastructure, the price per kwh should be 3.82 cents.

    Coal - efficiency- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Quote Originally Posted by wiki coal
    The typical thermodynamic efficiency of coal power plants is about 30%, so of the 6.67 kW·h of energy per kilogram of coal, 30% of that—2.0 kW·h/kg—can successfully be turned into electricity; the rest is waste heat. So coal power plants obtain approximately 2.0 kW·h per kilogram of burned coal.
    Coal - cost - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1 Short ton is 907.18474 kg, and costs $71.25, so 71.25/907.18 = 7.85 cents)

    looking at diesel plants.

    Diesel generator - efficiency - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Quote Originally Posted by wiki diesel
    Specific consumption varies, but a modern diesel plant will consume between 0.28 and 0.4 litres[7][8] of fuel per kilowatt hour at the generator terminals.
    1 Liter = 0.264 gallons, so that gives us between 0.07 gallons and 0.1056 gallons per kwh. The price at the pump today for a gallon of diesel where I live was almost exactly 4 dollars, but we can assume there are some taxes included in that price. Otherwise we'd be looking at a price of between 28 cents and 42 cents per kwh, which just seems really high.

    For reference, here is a site with energy costs for the USA. The "all sectors" average is 9.7 cents per kwh.

    Electric Power Monthly - Average Retail Price of Electricity to Ultimate Customers by End-Use Sector, by State
    Last edited by kojax; September 6th, 2011 at 08:02 AM. Reason: changed 0.28 and 0.42 to 28 cents, and 42 cents, for clarity. And changed 2 kg coal per kwh to 0.5 kg per kwh. My mistake.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    Some more realistic analysis may be found here.

    TCASE 14: Assessment of electricity generation costs « BraveNewClimate
    The costs there ignore the risk premium for nuclear, the waste and demolition costs of nuclear, the known environmental costs of coal even disregarding global climate effects, the looming costs of things like shale oil exploitation, and the scale efficiencies of integrated solar.
    All US nuclear plants pay a waste disposal fee to the federal government, which they have put into the general fund and squandered, just like they did with social security. Nuclear plants also are required to have a decommissioning fund. I don't know why you mention coal, they were not advocating coal.
    The costs of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima are mostly ignored, the costs of the Iraq and Afghan wars and other similar nuclear waste and threat expenses not even in the picture.
    How do you know it was ignored? Chernobyl did not affect US nuclear plant insurance rates because the technology is not relevant to US plants. The Iraq and Afghan war have nothing to do with nuclear power.
    Meanwhile, we have no idea how anyone would be confident in their estimates for solar thermal grid-integrated with realistic storage, because nothing like that has been built or even thoroughly researched.
    Do you think this is a selling point for solar?
    The same people who think we can install a brand new generation of nukes without the problems we weren't supposed to have had in the first place, who keep predicting a breakthrough in fusion, who demand of solar estimators that all costs be included (including current research-scale storage and small scale setups, those imposed by grids and setups designed for fossil and nuke, etc) while waving their hands at the externalized costs of coal mining and nuke hazard, are accepting cost estimates for thermal solar already beaten by small scale experience.
    The same people who want to take credit for advances in renewable technology that haven't happened yet, ignore the improvements in nuclear plants that have already been designed and subjected to thorough scrutiny and licensing reviews.

    The cost of using thermal solar to charge fuel cells for train distribution to swap stations, where they power city buses and other vehicles with regenerative braking etc, for example, is hard to figure right now. But that solves the storage problem immediately - and ameliorates a host of other US problems.
    Show me the numbers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Secondly, some renewable energy sources are just as reliable for baseload energy as fossil fuels. For example, bio-electricity generated from burning the residues of crops and plantation forests, concentrated solar thermal power with low-cost thermal storage (such as in molten salt), and hot-rock geothermal power. In fact, bio-electricity from residues already contributes to both baseload and peak-load power in parts of Europe and the USA, and is poised for rapid growth. Concentrated solar thermal technology is advancing rapidly, and a 19.9-megawatt solar thermal plant opened in Spain in 2011 (Gemasolar), which stores energy in molten salt for up to 15 hours, and is thus able to provide energy 20 hours per day on average, and 24 hours per day during much of the summer.
    Biomass is a bust. It requires too much acreage and competes with land needed to grow food. 19.9 megawatts is nothing.
    Your argument is with the various methods used to generate the biomass, not with using it as a power source. Please don't conflate these issues.
    Second, 20 MW is quite good, especially given the location of the example you mock. Spain uses this in conjunction with other sources, not alone. They also use molten salt to store that energy, so your criticism is rather misguided and ignorant.

    As I said before, really the technology is not what's stopping us, Harold, despite your claims to the contrary. The only thing truly preventing this from happening is people like you who prefer to sit here poo pooing ideas instead of working with the group toward improving them.

    Keep throwing your turds, though. The rest of us will keep exploring solutions and mitigation plans while you laugh and point like a boogery snotty child.
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    Looking at the USA power grid. Electricity generation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



    It looks like I left Natural gas out, which is a shame considering its prominent role. I'm not going to bother to do a fuel per kwh calculation for nuclear, because I'm confident the peripheral costs of nuclear power outweigh the cost of the raw fuel/Uranium anyway.


    -------------------------

    For natural gas, the most recent prices I could find, from August 31, are $3.97 per million BTU.(MMBTU, I have no idea why there are two M's). I'm going to round that to $4.00 since it fluctuates.

    Natural Gas Weekly Update

    1 Kilowatt Hour = 3,412.142 BTU, so a Million BTU is 293.07 kwh ( 1 million/3,412.142) The nifty graph on this website also makes it easy to just look up conversions, instead of having to break out the calculator.

    http://www.asknumbers.com/kwh-to-btu.aspx

    Modern Industrial Gas turbines are considered to have ~60% thermal efficiency as long as they incorporate steam production into the cycle (using the waste heat). So, 0.6 * 293.07 = 175.842 kwh of usable electricity in a MMBTU.

    Final price per kwh (ignoring the cost of infrastructure) then is $4.00/175.842 kwh = $0.0227 or 2.27 cents per kwh.

    -------------------------------

    If 60% is a reliable number in gas turbine efficiency, and those German guys are really able to make electric-to-Methane (which is the dominant component of natural gas) at a 60% efficiency, then the combined losses of storing energy in that form and reusing is are 0.6 * 0.6 = 0.36, or 36% efficiency (if you are a "glass 36% full" kind of person, instead of a "glass 64% empty" type.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    Meanwhile, we have no idea how anyone would be confident in their estimates for solar thermal grid-integrated with realistic storage, because nothing like that has been built or even thoroughly researched.

    Do you think this is a selling point for solar?
    It's a selling point for immediate and massive infusions of money into R&D. Meanwhile, the numbers you posted for the relative costs are bs.
    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    Chernobyl did not affect US nuclear plant insurance rates because the technology is not relevant to US plants. The Iraq and Afghan war have nothing to do with nuclear power.
    Chernobyl did not affect US plant insurance rates because US nuclear plants are exempted from insuring themselves against such events.

    The Iraq and Afghanistan invasions were directly and explicitly justified by the existence of nuclear threats, which were derived from earlier nuclear power tech deployments in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and India. The military and other security costs of nukes are very large - trillions, these past few years, for the US.
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    The other peripheral cost of nuclear is educating the American people to the point where they know enough about the process not to be terrified of it. Factor that cost in and it's probably the most expensive power source of all.

    The necessary PR, and ad campaigns would cost many fortunes to implement and might not even work. As for university type education, or education in High School, .... well.... good luck with that. Most HS teachers I met when I was there barely knew what nuclear is, let alone what its strengths and limitations are. All they ever taught be in class was "nuke bad!!" "Nuke dangerous!!!" "You no like nukes!!!" ... and then graded me on it. No matter how smart the kids are, the teachers have to be smart too, and most of the candidates for a HS teaching position are choosing it because they didn't have the drive or money or something to become college professors. They're always going to be kind of amateurish that way.

    -----

    Inverting what I was noting above, about natural gas prices, if solar power could is used to create energy and convert it to methane at today's $4.00 per MMBTU price, with 60% loss, it will be earning 2.27 cents per kwh. That really is the mark, then.
    Last edited by kojax; September 7th, 2011 at 03:40 AM. Reason: added MMBTU thing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow View Post
    Your argument is with the various methods used to generate the biomass, not with using it as a power source. Please don't conflate these issues.
    Second, 20 MW is quite good, especially given the location of the example you mock. Spain uses this in conjunction with other sources, not alone. They also use molten salt to store that energy, so your criticism is rather misguided and ignorant.
    The problem is not with the 20MW, which merely shows that the technology is at an infant stage, not ready to contribute to the solution now. Here is an article which cites the problem of solar thermal.
    A critique of the 2011 IPCC Report on Renewable Energy « BraveNewClimate
    Some expect the capital cost per peak kW for coal and solar thermal electricity plant to be about the same by 2030 (e.g., Jacobson and Delucci, 2011a, 2011b.) However a coal fired power station averages an output that is about .8 of its peak capacity, whereas for a solar thermal power station the figure is around .2. In other words for each to deliver at a constant 1 kW rate the solar thermal plant would have to be four times as large as one capable of delivering 1 kW at peak insolation, so the capital costs in relation to average or constant energy delivery are not well indicated by the commonly quoted peak ratings. They refer to a peak output which the solar thermal plant achieves only for a small fraction of the time, but coal-fired plant achieves it all the time.
    This same article points out the problems with biomass.
    Some studies conclude that the biomass potential is very large, for instance 1548 EJ/y according to Smeets and Faiij, (2007) (reported on p.16 of IPCC, 2011, Chapter 2), but the report points out that these might best be regarded as defining theoretical maxima while achievable yields are another matter. It notes that the total net primary productivity of all vegetation on the planet is only about 1550 EJ/y, so a realistic estimate of the amount that might be harvested for biomass energy is likely to be a small fraction of this.
    Inow:

    As I said before, really the technology is not what's stopping us, Harold, despite your claims to the contrary. The only thing truly preventing this from happening is people like you who prefer to sit here poo pooing ideas instead of working with the group toward improving them.

    Keep throwing your turds, though. The rest of us will keep exploring solutions and mitigation plans while you laugh and point like a boogery snotty child.
    Keep "exploring solutions" while the coal plants continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere. We need something that works now, and that is nuclear.
    Take real action on climate change
    At 650 g CO2 per kilowatt hour, Denmark’s emissions are more than 7 times greater than nuclear-powered France. And remember, no country has done better with wind then Denmark.
    Conversely, in just ten years, France almost completely replaced their old coal-fired power stations with 34 nuclear power plants. Nuclear power currently supplies 77% of electricity to the French grid. At just at just 90g CO2 per kilowatt hour of electricity, France now has the lowest emissions from electricity generation of any non-hydro/geothermal, developed nation in the OECD.
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    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    Keep "exploring solutions" while the coal plants continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere. We need something that works now, and that is nuclear.
    It's too expensive, its politics are centralized and oppressive, it takes too long to implement, and it risks not only environmental degradation and power shortages and the many inconveniences of centralized government control, but large scale catastrophe.

    That is, it doesn't work now. Never has. France has been careful, prudent with conservation and moderation of use, shady with its bookkeeping, and lucky - The US would be dealing with four times the number of plants, minimum, and no such favorable geography etc.

    btw: France's nuclear power industry is responsible for a significant share of the military damage and expense in the Middle East. Are you counting that in?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Keep "exploring solutions" while the coal plants continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere. We need something that works now, and that is nuclear.
    How does something which takes 10 to 15 years to achieve regulatory approvals, obtain the massive amount of funding up-front required, and complete construction constitute something that works "now?" It doesn't. As I said, this is not a technology question, but a question of will and overcoming poo poo-ers.

    I'm okay with nuclear. Let's do it. I just cannot accept your point that it's "available now" when considered in context of actual timing and speed to implementation. Since speed to implement seems to be the core argument you're making against renewables, you can't suddenly ignore it when discussing nuclear which takes a decade or more per plant.
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    Who is the naysayer now?
    Take real action on climate change
    Q3. We need to act fast, aren’t renewables the fastest response?
    Unfortunately, non-hydro renewables are proving to be slow and ineffective.
    For the last 20 odd years, Denmark has been aggressively pursuing wind power, yet it still still only supplies between 5% and 20% of their electricity needs. In twenty years the Danes have been unable to replace a single coal fired power station with renewables.
    At 650 g CO2 per kilowatt hour, Denmark’s emissions are more than 7 times greater than nuclear-powered France. And remember, no country has done better with wind then Denmark.
    Conversely, in just ten years, France almost completely replaced their old coal-fired power stations with 34 nuclear power plants. Nuclear power currently supplies 77% of electricity to the French grid. At just at just 90g CO2 per kilowatt hour of electricity, France now has the lowest emissions from electricity generation of any non-hydro/geothermal, developed nation in the OECD.
    Ten years! Nuclear power is the fastest response we have.
    Comparison of Denmark to France:
    http://www.iea.org/stats/pdf_graphs/DKELEC.pdf
    http://www.iea.org/stats/pdf_graphs/FRELEC.pdf
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    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    Who is the naysayer now?
    Take real action on climate change
    Why are you bothering to compare recent marginally valuable wind power expansions with thirty and forty year old nukes built for security reasons and not paid for yet?

    France's entire nuclear program is of course government run. That saves them a lot of money in efficiency, and probably in mishap costs as well - also, as political actors they haven't had to pay much toward damping down the nuclear threat they helped create in the Middle East and elsewhere. That kind of governmental dominance is inevitable with nukes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    Who is the naysayer now?
    Take real action on climate change
    Why are you bothering to compare recent marginally valuable wind power expansions with thirty and forty year old nukes built for security reasons and not paid for yet?
    Because one has succeeded in replacing a significant amount of fossil fuel generation, and one has not.
    France's entire nuclear program is of course government run. That saves them a lot of money in efficiency, and probably in mishap costs as well - also, as political actors they haven't had to pay much toward damping down the nuclear threat they helped create in the Middle East and elsewhere. That kind of governmental dominance is inevitable with nukes.
    How do you figure they helped create a nuclear threat?
    Q13. What about nuclear weapons proliferation?
    Nuclear power is not a precursor to nuclear weapons.
    Nuclear weapons were developed before nuclear power, evidently nations do not need nuclear power in order to develop nuclear weapons.
    None of the weapons that currently exist will disappear with a dismantling of our nuclear power fleet.
    There are many nations (Japan, for example) who have nuclear power, yet do not have nuclear weapons.
    Nuclear power can replace coal in all nations who currently have nuclear reactors, nuclear power or nuclear weapons without increasing any imagined proliferation risk, and that would take care of more than 90% of our stationary energy emissions worldwide.
    Banning nuclear power because of nuclear weapons proliferation concerns is akin to banning medical research because of biological weapons proliferation concerns. In other words, absurd! The connections are too tenuous and the positives too great.
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    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    Because one has succeeded in replacing a significant amount of fossil fuel generation, and one has not.
    Then make the comparison honestly: the one is a comparatively small investment, new and relatively minor, that has in fact replaced fossil fuel generation in proportion to the scale of its investment; the other is a major investment with large hidden costs that it has externalized unto its neighbors and allies and loaded unto future generations of its citizens, that has also replaced fossil fuel but in lesser proportion to its investment and only as a side effect of other considerations.

    The comparison is not between nuclear power in general and renewable power in general, then. It does not inform future investment in power generation. Agreed?
    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    How do you figure they helped create a nuclear threat?
    By providing the means, the capabilities, the opportunities, and the technological support necessary for designing, building, and stealing, nuclear weapons and threats; providing them moreover to the very countries and other entities that proceeded to design, build, or steal nuclear weapons and threats.

    Which was and is predicted as direct consequence of the spread of nuclear power worldwide. Predicted specifically and accurately. This isn't hindsight - the proponents of nukes were directly warned of these consequences. Security is a major cost of nuclear power, and all the military, police, and authoritarian state apparatus devoted to it needs to be included in the account books - per Kwh, preferably.
    Last edited by iceaura; September 7th, 2011 at 09:14 PM.
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    I'm not sure I see how building a nuclear plant in the USA increases the odds of Al Qaeda getting a bomb. I can see how allowing Iran to develop its nuclear program would, but now how the USA building one would. Is your premise that terrorists would steal nuclear materials? Or is it that the necessary machinery to refine Uranium would become more widely available?

    I can see how a PR campaign to convince ordinary Americans not to run in terror at the mere mention of a new plant would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to implement. TV spots don't come cheap. I Science channel documentaries that reassure people about the safety are less likely to get ratings than a similar documentary about how scary they are. Same goes for ordinary press. Fear sells. still remember when the Trojan plant in Oregon got shut down. Just think what a waste that was! To build a plant, go to all that trouble, and then just turn it off and not use it? That's the degree of paranoia people have, though.

    This all has to be factored in. You can't leave a peripheral cost out of your calculation just because you think it "shouldn't exist", or that it's "their fault for being ignorant". No matter who's fault it is, it still costs the same amount of money to fix it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post
    Then make the comparison honestly: the one is a comparatively small investment, new and relatively minor, that has in fact replaced fossil fuel generation in proportion to the scale of its investment; the other is a major investment with large hidden costs that it has externalized unto its neighbors and allies and loaded unto future generations of its citizens, that has also replaced fossil fuel but in lesser proportion to its investment and only as a side effect of other considerations.
    The French nuclear program has allowed France to have some of the lowest electricity costs in Europe, to export power, to become much less dependent on oil, and to avoid CO2 production. It was a good investment. The Danish wind power program is successful, but is a special case which cannot necessarily be applied world-wide or even much more in Denmark. They have a good supply of wind and can sell power to their neighbors, who have a lot of hydroelectric power. This allows countries like Norway to absorb and level out the power fluctuations to some extent. There is a limit to that, though. Look at Denmark's energy usage. Still lots of coal, not much wind. That's because it makes more sense to export most of their wind power to countries that have hydroelectric plants.
    http://www.iea.org/stats/pdf_graphs/DKTPES.pdf
    The comparison is not between nuclear power in general and renewable power in general, then. It does not inform future investment in power generation. Agreed?
    No. Not agreed. Not inform future investment?? You have to learn something from experience.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I can see how a PR campaign to convince ordinary Americans not to run in terror at the mere mention of a new plant would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to implement. TV spots don't come cheap.
    If the dominant tone of the Fukushima coverage is any indication, purchase of TV spots would be auxiliary: the corporate nuke-proponents have simply bought the TV stations and hired the newsreaders and now manage the journalism.

    That will not be sufficient in itself, because the core group of experts and authorities has blown its credibility over the decades: as usual the legacy of lies and manipulations is not quite what the liars and manipulators anticipated. And they don't seem to have learned anything themselves; the PR mistakes of Three Mile Island - initial withholding of bad news, initially rosy predictions, pretension to certainty of benign outcome and more control than was possessed, all this eroded by a series of unavoidable revelations until official reassurances are doubted by reflex and the impression is one of deliberate concealment by those in charge (and it's accurate to a degree) - were made all over again.
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    Yeah. The nuke guys need to learn the first rule of business (or maybe it's the second rule... or fifth... I can't remember which it is): "Promise little, and deliver a lot. "

    ...Come to think of it, so do the solar people. They should just admit up front that the short term cost-to-kwh ratio is really bad, and not try to butter it up by making unfair price comparisons with other options (by including capital costs in the others' prices when we know all the capital costs carry over anyway.)
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    That's a good poster, but they should correct one mistake. Coal does not compete with steam. Coal is burned to produce steam. Steam is not an energy source (except for very limited geothermal); it is an energy transport medium.
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    Here is a blog that breaks down the numbers in the ad that Inow posted.

    The Capacity Factor: What if the US gave solar the same subsidies as coal?

    It turns out that most of the subsidies to coal companies are not for coal electrical generation, but rather transportation fuels. The blog site comes up with a figure of 1.4 billion per year for electrical generation, a lot less than the 10 billion per year claimed in the ad. Even that number mostly consists of LIHEAP, which is a welfare program for people who can't pay their electric bill. It's ridiculous to count that as a coal subsidy.

    Those numbers are also for absolute amounts, not per kilowatt-hour. Coal in the US generates
    2000 times more electricity than solar.

    The ad mentions the German solar subsidies as if they were actually a good thing.
    Even with their massive solar power subsidies, Germany's solar electrical generation was less than 1 percent of consumption in 2008. It's a waste of money.
    IEA Energy Statistics - Electricity for Germany
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    The biggest subsidy coal gets is free waste disposal - it gets to use the public air and water as a dump for combustion waste, the landscape in general as a dump for mine waste and the effects of mining, etc.

    A fair cost comparison would be with coal matching thermal solar waste outputs, or at least paying for its own.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    The ad mentions the German solar subsidies as if they were actually a good thing.
    Even with their massive solar power subsidies, Germany's solar electrical generation was less than 1 percent of consumption in 2008. It's a waste of money.
    IEA Energy Statistics - Electricity for Germany
    It will take the U.S. people maybe some hundred years longer to finally grasp that you can't leave the planet alone, ruled by money and profit. Having travelled the US substantially on business, i am of course aware that this is your holy grail, believing capitalism will sort everything, and without the need to interfere from the outside. I believe this is wrong, and convinced that time will tell.

    As one of my forespeakers here had mentioned already, almost all relevant technologies needed subsidies at one time, even nuclear power did, and quite substantially.

    When looking down at Germany's solar power program, you forgot to mention that the '1000 roof program' was started in 2003 only, by the red-green government that time, and that Germany - of course - is probably one of the least suitable places to harvest solar energy. It'd be interesting to calculate what the same level of investment could have added to the total power consumption of mankind, if placed in California, Arizona, Texas or New Mexico ?
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post

    How much real potential do you think flywheel tech has? Is that a real possibility or just another pie in the sky make believe thing?

    Flywheel energy storage - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    I will be participating a conference next week of the Hamburg board of Innovation, about the effects of renewable energy sources on grid stability, a big subject here in Germany. This board has millions of government money to spend, to subsidize such developments.

    One item on the agenda seems to be a flywheel device with 1 MWh capacity (standard today are 25 and 50 kWh), they obviously plan to accelerate a 16 tons rotor up to 9000 RPM. There will be no motor/rotor assembly, but the rotor will become a part of the motor/generator, of course all under vacuum. Such a device will be very necessary for Germany, as we don't have enough space to build more hydro power storage units, like Goldisthal . The idea is to have several thousands of these units close to the households, to ensure power stability for several hours, before the stored electrical energy can reach us from Norway and other places.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChristianHJW View Post
    It will take the U.S. people maybe some hundred years longer to finally grasp that you can't leave the planet alone, ruled by money and profit. Having travelled the US substantially on business, i am of course aware that this is your holy grail, believing capitalism will sort everything, and without the need to interfere from the outside. I believe this is wrong, and convinced that time will tell.
    The topic of discussion is the economics of solar power. There is not an unlimited supply of money to be wasted on foolish projects, either in a capitalist system or any other. Get over your unreasonable fear of nuclear power and make some actual progress toward reducing fossil fuel usage.

    A flywheel of 1 MWh capacity will be very nearly useless for leveling out the power from a solar plant. A 1000 megawatt power plant puts out 1000 MWh/hour, or 16 MWh per minute. The flywheel will be run down in a few seconds. It needs to run for days to be of any use. How many of these things do you think you can build?
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    Should read his post more carefully Harold. He said they planned to build "several thousand" with the goal of having them run for a few hours.

    Quote Originally Posted by ChristianHJW
    The idea is to have several thousands of these units close to the households, to ensure power stability for several hours, before the stored electrical energy can reach us from Norway and other places.
    Between Harold and ChristianHJW, I think my question has been answered. Fly wheels are not practical as a substitute for base load energy sources, because the amount of them we'd have to build is just insane. However, a fleet of flywheels might buy enough time for the base load plants to come online so there won't be any brown outs during the transition.

    We'll still end up needing a real power plant of some kind, be it natural gas, hydro-electric (where available), or nuclear or something else like that (coal is probably a poor choice because of the time required to start and stop the boilers). So...we're back to a straight up fuel vs. solar comparison.

    Natural gas plants could burn methane produced electrically from solar (36% overall efficiency), or hydro-electric could take the form of pumped storage (70-85% efficient). Nuclear and Coal would require us to continue buying fuel for the off hours.

    Quote Originally Posted by ChristianHJW View Post

    When looking down at Germany's solar power program, you forgot to mention that the '1000 roof program' was started in 2003 only, by the red-green government that time, and that Germany - of course - is probably one of the least suitable places to harvest solar energy. It'd be interesting to calculate what the same level of investment could have added to the total power consumption of mankind, if placed in California, Arizona, Texas or New Mexico ?
    I don't quite understand why geography matters so much for solar. If the sun is faint, then why not just buy some mirrors instead of more solar panels?
    Last edited by kojax; September 12th, 2011 at 04:56 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    I don't quite understand why geography matters so much for solar. If the sun is faint, then why not just buy some mirrors instead of more solar panels?
    It's not just faint that's a factor. Germany's winter days (I lived there) are not only faint, but also short, at less than 8 hours long, and cloudy indirect light--mirrors can't help either condition.

    Efficient energy transport is another way to compensate for base loading and allow for an increasingly high % of inconsistent renewable power generation. The US doesn't even have a fully connected grid yet.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Should read his post more carefully Harold. He said they planned to build "several thousand" with the goal of having them run for a few hours.
    You're right, I didn't read the whole thing, but let's look at it. You could build 3000 1MWh flywheel generators to replace one (fairly typical size) 1000 Mw coal or nuclear plant for 3 hours. That's 3000 16 ton flywheels with the motor generators connected to them, constantly leaching power from the grid to make up for friction, windage, and copper losses.

    This buys you enough time to ride through a transient on the grid equal to the coal or nuclear plant tripping off. Then you have to hope that you can buy enough power from Norway or one of your other neighbors who had enough sense to build adequate baseload generating capacity.
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    Some fly wheel designs are better than others. Some of them involve magnetic bearings and vacuum sealed containers to cut down on friction. Of course then the price is going to be higher, and it looks like it's already too high to make a practical substitute for base loading.

    The other part of Germany's solution sounds pretty good. Just build a lot of HVDC lines out to regions that have good base loading, especially if that base loading is hydro. The pacific NW in the USA could (and should) provide base load for all of the surrounding region if it had enough HVDC lines going out, and if there were enough solar/wind in place to ensure the dams were only getting used or base load moderating, and never for primary power generation.

    High-voltage direct current - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    We are a long ways from the free market for energy in the US. Oil for example, is largely controlled by government owned Middle Eastern companies which cooperate to constrain supplies to keep prices up with releasing supplies when their consumers get interested in other energy sources--they've been playing this game since the early 70s.

    Large parts of the cost are hidden, consumers only paying the front cost directly while the clean up(super fund sites), security to at the source (aka Iraq wars), health cost (lung cancer downstream) and environmental damage are substantial but separate from the direct cost.
    How so, esteemed moderator? It is known that principal sources of imported petroleum into USA are Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia- only one of which is in "Middle East". Iraqi oil was supposed to pay for decade-long war, so far this development has not materialized. Major source of lung cancer and other pulmonary diseases is NOT petroleum, domestic or imported. Which is healthier, radon in pressure vessel of reactor or radon seeping from not mined ore? Hmmmm...

    http://205.254.135.24/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/data_publications/company_level_imports/current/import.html

    http://www.everydayhealth.com/lung-cancer/why-non-smokers-get-lung-cancer.aspx


    Last edited by The Finger Prince; September 13th, 2011 at 11:13 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    I don't quite understand why geography matters so much for solar. If the sun is faint, then why not just buy some mirrors instead of more solar panels?
    It's not just faint that's a factor. Germany's winter days (I lived there) are not only faint, but also short, at less than 8 hours long, and cloudy indirect light--mirrors can't help either condition.

    Efficient energy transport is another way to compensate for base loading and allow for an increasingly high % of inconsistent renewable power generation. The US doesn't even have a fully connected grid yet.
    Hint, hint, NUCLEAR facilities are independent of weather conditions, which is a good reason Germany IMPORTS electricity from France regularly, HINT, HINT. If Germany had Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors this would be less necessary. There are whacking great reserves of Thorium conveniently located nearby in Norway.

    http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread231659/pg1
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    Finger I'll answer once because this is a severe tangent off the economics of solar power. Saudi Arabia has amazing control of the prices because they hold as much production and nearly as much reserve as all those other nations you mentioned combined AND oil is a global commodity. Commodities are traded world wide with only relatively minor regional distributions to save the dime or two per gallon shipping cost. Saudi Arabia could raise our cost/gallon tomorrow to $10/gallon, or drop it to less than a dollar/gallon just by flexing it's supply of oil to that global market. The whole point of this side discussion is oil prices don't operate under free market conditions--not even close. That makes assessments of solar economics all the more difficult.

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    You really don't need to spam the thread about Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors.
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    I assume you mean to describe the thorium reactor thing as being the part that is a "tangent". The discussion of Saudi Arabia's influence on energy prices is very much on topic. It's likely that if Solar tech reached a point where it could produce energy cheap enough to replace crude with electric, or methanol fuels, the price of crude would suddenly "just so happen" to drop down below whatever new price had been established. And then after the initiative dies off, the price would go right back up.


    Conspiracy nuts sometimes ask "who killed the electric car"? Well, what was the price of oil in the late 90's, while that whole electric car initiative was under way at General Motors? Anyone remember reading about the "GM Impact"?

    General Motors EV1 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    As long as the externalities are not in the equation the relative prices will not tell us which are the best choices.

    With ships plying the Northwest Passage as I type, I'm more than satisfied the world really is warming and I'm satisfied with the mainstream explanation for why. And for how serious the consequences of ongoing emissions at current or higher levels are likely to be. Thinking that climate science is wrong - either outright or by overstating the seriousness of the climate problem - isn't something I can bring myself to do. I think we are very unwise to dismiss and ignore the clear warnings it's giving us.

    So I can't consider entrenching ongoing reliance on high emissions energy to be a good choice. Not even if it's cheap. Despite cheap abundant energy doing people a lot of good. Well, some of it doing many people a lot of good. But if - when - those externalities turn around and bite everyone on the butt the prosperity will be eaten away and then some.

    Poor choices will lead to worse climate change and, should humanity get enough wake up calls that we actually do get serious about reducing emissions, we will be forced to abandon coal and gas plants well before the end of their working lives - a capital cost I doubt gets much consideration when making comparisons of relative costs. I seriously doubt the shift to low emissions will impoverish us even if energy gets more expensive and supply more variable. The collapse of global agricultural capacity from unmitigated climate change - now that is what will result in an explosion of real world poverty of the kind that borders can't insulate from.

    One thing is clear is that PV costs have a sustained record of reduction - give or take a shortage of refined silicon that appears to have passed. Production costs of under US$2/W peak were, IIRC, considered impossibly optimistic not so long ago; they've been passed and there's no indication that this trend is near anywhere near it's end. Of all the energy technologies I believe that none has the potential for ongoing significant cost reductions that PV does. Storage is a serious constraint but it's also been the poor relation in the R&D department and has ground to catch up but should it fail to catch up... it could be a matter of making hay (or steel or aluminium) when the sun shines. Certainly energy prices that are variable due to variable supply would encourage a rethink of how - or where - the most energy intensive processes can most economically be done. The most expensive option of all is, in my opinion is carrying on with dirty energy simply because it appears to be cheaper and easier.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Fabos View Post
    Storage is a serious constraint but it's also been the poor relation in the R&D department and has ground to catch up but should it fail to catch up... it could be a matter of making hay (or steel or aluminium) when the sun shines.
    Why ? If you do have enough space for hydro pumping stations, like this is the case in the US, this is not an issue at all ? The technology is almost a century old and well proven ? We Germans are maybe sometimes thinking too fast for others because we are obviously deeper into the subject, my comments with respect to flywheels were not indicating that those would be able to replace conventional storage technologies, but only supporting them. Germany is well on the way to erect such hydro pumping stations in Norway, connected to mainland Europe by DC power transmission links, the local fly wheel devices will therefore only be necessary to buy us some time, before the energy will be flowing back to us from Norway, that's all, so we do speak a couple of minutes. Needless to say, a 1 MWh unit will have minimal internal losses, of course it is operating under vacuum (standard) and with special, extremely low loss bearings.

    Another idea for the future is to use electric cars, or their batteries respectively, as stabilizers for the grid. I am not overly enthusiastic that this could have a big effect - who wants to have an electric car in the garage which battery is only 40% full if he needs it ? - but with a grwoing number of cars there could be some effect.

    As an engineer i am convinced we have everything today to overcome fossile fuels and nuclear reactors. The rest is only political will, or the question how much garbage we want to leave to our children .....
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChristianHJW View Post
    As an engineer i am convinced we have everything today to overcome fossile fuels and nuclear reactors. The rest is only political will, or the question how much garbage we want to leave to our children .....
    You had better figure the e-waste from the solar panels and the chemicals used to process them in with the garbage we are leaving our children.
    Are solar panels the next e-waste? | Environment | guardian.co.uk
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    Sorry for being OT again, but i stated several times before that from my point of view PV solar panels will not be the answer to our future energy questions. But wind energy and large solar plants like CSP or thermal updraft are, and all of them will not leave any waste problems on this planet. To the contrary, many modern studies have proven that the collector shields of thermal updraft towers do help to (re)moisturize the land below, plants start growing and the area below the collectors will turn green in short time. Experts think it could be possible to use the area for farming, maybe not with all known farmplants, but at least for some. We could thus get a double CO2 reduction, for one by avoiding to burn fossile fuels, and second by greening areas where nothing would have grown before.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChristianHJW View Post

    Another idea for the future is to use electric cars, or their batteries respectively, as stabilizers for the grid. I am not overly enthusiastic that this could have a big effect - who wants to have an electric car in the garage which battery is only 40% full if he needs it ? - but with a grwoing number of cars there could be some effect.

    As an engineer i am convinced we have everything today to overcome fossile fuels and nuclear reactors. The rest is only political will, or the question how much garbage we want to leave to our children .....
    This got me curious. While I'm sure you know the efficiencies, I think that I might as well post them now that I've gone and looked them up. According to Wikipedia, Lithium Ion batteries have 80-90% charge/discharge efficiency, though one has to factor in their life expectancy. Also Nickel-Cadmium batteries are pretty efficient as well at 70–90%. Why not just build a huge fleet of those? I don't think Nickel and Cadmium are exactly rare Earth metals, though it does take a lot of effort to extract them.

    Lithium-ion battery - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Nickel-Cadmium Battery

    Or maybe choose from a wider list of batteries:

    Rechargeable battery - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    By comparison, Pumped Storage is only 70-85% efficient.

    Pumped-storage hydroelectricity - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    Even Lead-Acid batteries still have a decent charge/discharge efficiency of 50%–92%, and Lead and Sulfur (used in the Sulfuric Acid part) are very un-rare materials.

    Lead-Acid Battery

    Would building huge lead-acid batteries be more expensive than flywheels?
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    I may be looking at solar from a local perspective - being Australian the potential for major use of solar here looks very strong but the potential for hydro storage to go with it is limited, mostly due to climatic and geographic constraints - unless we are talking salt water pondage along the coast - which is also fairly constrained by geography. Not technically impossible but I think it would face considerable political and other difficulties, mostly because at this point, like nuclear, it has no serious backing here, political or otherwise. I expect we'd be better developing hot rock geothermal for back-up - a far better use of deep drilling rigs than drilling well holes for carbon capture and sequestration - am I alone in thinking that 3.57 times as much CO2 as black coal burned is strong indication that CCS won't be a viable contender for low emissions energy production? Here it's been used as a kind of ongoing excuse to continue to build and use coal - CCS will be perfected any day now and all will be well. Except it hasn't been and won't be. Whilst big R&D handouts went to the fossil fuel companies for CCS (lacking the conviction to invest their own money on it) the existing geothermal pilot projects got stranded and abandoned by funding cuts.

    The electricity industry here at best will concede that, if absolutely forced to, coal might be dropped in favour of gas, which is being heavily promoted by Coal Seam Gas drillers as The Clean Green Solution despite it being unable to deliver more than the early first round targets for emissions reduction whilst locking in decades more of too high emissions; again this industry is dertermined to resist the shift to renewables and finds that tankthink, PR, lobbying and advertising to convince politicians and voters that fossil fuels are green and good are more cost effective than dealing with emissions.

    Thermal solar has the potential for attached thermal storage but I don't think it has the cost reduction potential that PV does, even if larger scale projects currently look cheaper. PV's simplicity and reliability as well as mass produceability gives it an edge that thermal doesn't have and I think that price trends as well as the current relative cost position need to considered.

    Solar towers - the updraught kind - have yet to be built and proven. Until they are I think they belong with space power satellites as a distraction that allows further procrastination. And why, if they can beam power down from space, can't they beam power up from Australia and beam it back down in Europe or North America? Well, the proponents want to get into space, not solve problems here on Earth.

    I don't know about elsewhere, but in Australia the climate/emissions/energy debate is increasingly skewed towards the crazy as big mining and industry moves from behind closed doors lobbying to PR and direct advertising in a big way; big media simply finds it against their commercial interests to criticise major advertisers and, if they spend enough their editorial position ends up mirroring the views and objectives of their major clients. At their foundation the anti-climate action campaigning encourages climate science denial. Less of outright 'it's a conspiracy and hoax' the view that it's seriousness is vastly overstated is being successfully pedalled. Along with denial of responsibility which at it's core (for the world's biggest coal exporter) it's about denying liability. Climate problem? What climate problem?

    And the reality for Australia is that we are expanding the mining and export of fossil fuels like we have to sell it all before the world opens it's eyes and wakes up to the consequences. I think that most Australians are unaware of just how much and how fast Australia's contribution to the problem is growing. A tripling of export capacity of a nation that is already the biggest coal exporter over the next few years I believe.
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    Goes to show the major problem with the way renewables are being positioned, and the biggest obstacle they'll have to overcome. They have to be able to do more than just undercut coal and NG. They have to be able to replace all of coal's jobs. We've got multi-generation coal miners who are proud of what they do and who don't want to do anything else.

    If we really want political backing for renewables, we've got to be able to show who will be employed by moving in the new direction, and why. Once a large enough group of people equate moving to wind and solar with a promising career (probably unskilled/semiskilled labor that draws a bigger than average paycheck to those willing to do it), then you get the "bread and butter" effect going in your favor. This is probably more applicable to wind and solar convection than PV, because PV doesn't have a danger factor to it, and a danger factor can form a good basis that allows you to justify paying a person a skilled wage to do something that requires minimal training. It allows you to define a new "trade" type profession. Then the public can balance putting out those hard working coal miners against creating a new opportunity for some other group of hard working danger junkies. The "cost of admission" is to not be afraid of heights, and it is justified because there is a real risk of injury when you build wind towers that large.

    The next step is to choose a demographic. Whoever you promise these jobs to will fight tooth and nail for you, especially if you choose someone who doesn't have a lot of other options, like inner city kids from LA, or people in run down towns throughout the US. Might have to offer them some relocation costs, or at least set up on site housing at the construction projects. If they can make/save enough money to impress a girlfriend (maybe get her a nice diamond ring too), they'll dedicate their lives to it. That's why coal miners don't worry about lung disease. They'd rather be dead than lose their identity.
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    The current mainstream thinking appears unable to deal with the climate/energy problem rationally; in Australia it's primarily about avoiding a serious commitment via feel good half measures and by coming up with good excuses.... err.... reasons to keep things going as they are.

    Coal miners jobs can't and shouldn't be a reason to fail to cut back on emissions; a remake of energy supply infrastructure is more necessary than the continuation of coal mining jobs. The atmosphere doesn't care whether the emissions are 'essential' for business or agriculture or to maintain military capabilities or to keep security for existing jobs or to keep energy prices low - fail to cut back emissions and natural environmental capital that underpins much of our food production will be permanently and irretrievably lost and failing to adequately appreciate it's real value is part of the distortion of perceptions around this issue. It's all very well for some coal miners to prefer being dead than lose their jobs and identities as hard working danger junkies but we should sacrifice our future security and prosperity to cater to their need to maintain their sense of self worth? I've never had a job that came with long term guarantees.

    There's not much doubt in my mind that renewables will be more labour intensive than coal; the high pay many miners earn is simply a product of the high productivity and profitability of modern mechanised mining and high job numbers simply reflect the alarming rate of expansion of global consumption of coal. The externalised costs - which look to be very large, growing and beyond our ability to reclaim or recover - are not taken into account and a cashed up fossil fuel industry is determined to have it stay that way.

    The majority of coal miners simply find it simpler and better for their self worth to deny climate change is a problem; they live and work within a workplace culture that encourages that view and are employed by companies that use part of the profits to fund political campaigning against climate policy and climate science. Sorry that climate change makes their jobs more uncertain but their industry's biggest downside, which should not be dismissed, ignored or denied is making our combined future prosperity and security uncertain.
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    Thermal solar has the potential for attached thermal storage but I don't think it has the cost reduction potential that PV does, even if larger scale projects currently look cheaper.
    Stirling cycle generators (thermal solar) with flywheel or fuel cell storage have a lot of room for cost reduction, if the effects of what little research has been done are considered.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Fabos View Post

    Coal miners jobs can't and shouldn't be a reason to fail to cut back on emissions; a remake of energy supply infrastructure is more necessary than the continuation of coal mining jobs.
    The majority of people simply don't think about the big picture. It would be nice if they did. It would also be nice if the tooth fairy were real.

    If we want to see something change, then we have to make it change in the real world we both live in. That real world is a democracy. Not only that, but it's a democracy full of small minded people who just want to keep their jobs, unless a better job is on offer. I don't think they're betting the biosphere won't suffer at all from their efforts. I think they're just betting that the biosphere can afford it. In general, they'd like to keep making that paycheck they got without going to college, and they're hoping the rest of the world (or its atmosphere) will be willing to foot the bill for them to have it.

    It's not a noble desire, but it is a strong desire.


    It's all very well for some coal miners to prefer being dead than lose their jobs and identities as hard working danger junkies but we should sacrifice our future security and prosperity to cater to their need to maintain their sense of self worth? I've never had a job that came with long term guarantees.
    Of course we shouldn't. But, do you have a plan to circumvent the democratic process? Right or wrong, they are numerous, and in a democracy that's all that matters.




    There's not much doubt in my mind that renewables will be more labour intensive than coal; the high pay many miners earn is simply a product of the high productivity and profitability of modern mechanised mining and high job numbers simply reflect the alarming rate of expansion of global consumption of coal. The externalised costs - which look to be very large, growing and beyond our ability to reclaim or recover - are not taken into account and a cashed up fossil fuel industry is determined to have it stay that way.
    So do you think it might be possible to set up the industry so it creates equally high paying, and unskilled, jobs? It will further hurt the cost of solar/wind, but the political benefits are enormous. All those windmills and convection towers will need regular maintenance after they're done being built, so workers in the industry could anticipate long careers ahead of them.

    Also, it's really not just the money. Senators and Reps respond to whatever will get them votes in their own district. They really couldn't care less what would get them votes in any other district. So, if you're a Senator for the state of Kentucky and you know a large number of your constituents work in coal mining, the coal mining industry's money is not what is motivating your decisions. Money is good, but votes of individual citizens is the bottom line of what will get you reelected. The more people you have hoping to make a livelihood from a decision, the more angry voters you will have if you oppose it. The more loyal supporters you will have if you back it.

    It's like selling cars. You can't advertise your way out of a bad product. If your cars get horrible mileage and breaks down all the time, you're just plain not going to make a lot of sales no matter what. If your car gets great mileage, and the reason is because it's slowly knocking the Earth out of orbit and we're all going to die from it someday, then you'll still make plenty of sales, because most people don't like to think about the big picture anyway.


    The majority of coal miners simply find it simpler and better for their self worth to deny climate change is a problem; they live and work within a workplace culture that encourages that view and are employed by companies that use part of the profits to fund political campaigning against climate policy and climate science. Sorry that climate change makes their jobs more uncertain but their industry's biggest downside, which should not be dismissed, ignored or denied is making our combined future prosperity and security uncertain.
    The majority of the rest of us want them to foot a disproportionate part of the bill for our big picture dreams.

    The question is why should they do that for us? Why shouldn't we be expected to work something out where the burden of change is shared equally by all, rather than concentrated largely on the shoulders of a few? If they give up that paycheck, most of them know they're not going to get another one. They'll spend the rest of their lives working at McDonald's or something, because they have no college degree and no experience doing anything else but what they do.
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