Potential changes to nuclear power

by WCE

Compact, prefab power plants may revive nuclear option

Small scale nuclear is advancing, thanks to a combination of private support and government investment. What do you think of the prospects of small scale nuclear?

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69 thoughts on “Potential changes to nuclear power

  1. Hmm…the cost is the same per megawatt if I am doing my math correctly. If you really need 2200 megawatts, you’d need 3 and 2/3 of the smaller “12-packs” or the same $11 billion. So, the real difference is how big the plant is and how fast you can bring it online? I can see bringing 3 smaller units on line makes sense as you can do it over time and increase your production faster. I can also see that if you don’t need that much capacity, you can get nuclear at an affordable price.

    I think my main concern is still the storage of the waste. My state seems to be one where others want to store their waste. I question if nuclear ramps up how quickly that waste will become the bigger issue over the power generated.

  2. Given the discovery of the huge gas deposits in West Texas, advancements in wind and solar technology and reduction in costs for all of the foregoing would render nuclear as not economic. Could we make better gains with improving the infrastructure technology to spread the efficiency of wind and solar?

  3. The challenge of wind and solar is storing the electricity. We could build large hydro storage ponds, but there are environmental concerns with that. Natural gas is cheap as long as we aren’t serious about taxing carbon emissions or reducing our carbon footprint.

    Nuclear waste and security of small scale nuclear plants are the main challenges of small scale nuclear in the U.S. I can see demand for small scale nuclear in developing countries (India, China) where the need for reliable power is deemed worth the risk of nuclear waste/fuel. The real nuclear waste concern is the fuel. “Low level” waste (garb worn by operators, etc.) needs to have its own category and be treated like medical waste associated with radiation, I suspect. (Classes of nuclear waste are not something I’m very familiar with.)

  4. Unless they’ve found a safe way to deal with the waste, I’m not in favor of nuclear.

    They have found a safe way to deal with it – Ciego in France and Yucca Mountain in the US. They are both safe and effective – the hysterical rantings of the NIMBY crowd not withstanding.

    https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cig%C3%A9o

    It’s in french so you’ll have to run it through Google Translate. But, notice how amazing Google Translate is now. The translations are almost flawless.

  5. Rhett, that’s storage, not getting rid of it, just like most trash in the US is put into landfills instead of burned like in Sweden.

  6. Saac, to me that’s using renewable energy to run trains. That’s not storing electricity in the sense I mean. There are many ways to optimize electricity consumption with time and those are great areas of research.

  7. I am in favor of multiple avenues of research across several disciplines. I have no way to be the gatekeeper for good ideas and doubt that others can. Price should be the main arbiter of what is or is not successful.

  8. “Price should be the main arbiter of what is or is not successful.”

    The problem is it is hard to separate current price from (i) externalities that are not fully accounted for, and (ii) the actions of other governments.

    Ex.: NG is now around $3 in the US, due in large part to ample supply, sufficient infrastructure, and minimal government regulation (seen as the “clean” alternative to coal). But some would argue that that price doesn’t include the long-term environmental damage from fracking, GHG emissions, etc.

    OTOH, NG is more like $11-13 in Asia, because they have less NG available, higher transportation costs, and they have chosen to tax it at fairly high rates.

    Results:

    1. We have pressure within US to export NG, because overseas price is high enough to justify it even with transportation costs.
    2. We have had significant rebirth in chemical manufacturing within the US, especially the gulf coast. 20 years ago, everyone outsourced bulk chemical manufacturing due to lower overseas costs; now we are repatriating that work, because it’s cheaper to do it here even with higher environmental/labor standards.
    3. We are sending vast amounts of coal to China, where it is combusted under much less environmentally-friendly conditions.
    4. Environmentalists have identified NG infrastructure as the critical weak spot to attack fracking — if they can’t build more pipelines to get the NG to market, there’s no sense in producing it. This creates incentive to export more (as LNG, by truck) and ignores that most mineral rights contracts require the lessee to produce within X years, or the contract terminates. This also creates a negative incentive for companies to build newer, safer pipelines, because it is almost impossible to get approval.

    I would argue we are over-regulating coal in the US and potentially under-regulating NG — or, more to the point, we are inefficiently regulating NG, because whether a company can get product to market is based in large part on whether they have sufficient existing (old) infrastructure, because it is so hard to get a new pipeline approved and built.

  9. LFB – I agree we are likely under-regulating NG and its effects. Good luck getting more regulations in Texas. One city tried to ban it inside city limits and the state sued the city arguing they did not have authority to ban it.

  10. LfB’s comment is why regulation and regulatory agencies should strive to be nonpartisan. We all want electricity, and creating a structure within which reasonable trade-offs can be made is a key role for federal government, and arguably international diplomacy (because labor and environmental policy are inextricably linked with trade)

    Our current system, where a few protesters could force natural gas to be trucked rather than more safely transported by pipeline, is ludicrous.

  11. I think A Parent is right; the only plausible option is to pursue all avenues of advancement and discovery. We’re not all going to stop using power and go back to the Stone Age even though some extremists seem to want that.

  12. This is an interesting article. I am not anti nuclear power per se, but I think there are serious obstacles. This technology does not appear to address the longterm waste storage issue, nor the complex regulatory process needed to bring a plant online, which are two big barriers. And I don’t think it is feasible to expect that the regulations will go away – this is one technology where average people on the right and left want strict regulations. Meltdowns do happen as we all know.
    .

  13. Nuscale has submitted an application to the NRC which addresses the plant design and has a plan to bring a plant online in Idaho in several years. This doesn’t deal with the waste issue, which has both transportation (you’re transporting waste from more places) or security (from terrorists, etc.) aspects.

  14. “We all want electricity, and creating a structure within which reasonable trade-offs can be made is a key role for federal government, and arguably international diplomacy (because labor and environmental policy are inextricably linked with trade)”.

    Texas disagrees that this should be a key role of federal government….not trying to make a political post about it but the former governor is now slated to head the DOE. I would not anticipate more regulations in energy in the next few years and certainly few that would add restrictive regulations to either natural gas or coal production.

  15. “LFB – I agree we are likely under-regulating NG and its effects.”

    Just don’t tell my clients I said so, I’d get fired. :-) The issue that bugs me is what WCE mentioned: it is illogical and happenstance and thus inefficient, and it forces stupid outcomes that are much more dangerous/destructive in the long run.

    But getting people to agree on a sane, logical energy policy is like Trump vs. Clinton all over again.

  16. LFB – I feel like most of our policies as a country could fall under this umbrella…..

  17. “Price should be the main arbiter of what is or is not successful.”

    As long as “price” doesn’t externalize environmental damage.

  18. “Could we make better gains with improving the infrastructure technology to spread the efficiency of wind and solar?”

    In addition to better technology to transmit energy derived from wind and soloar, there are another couple things that would help:

    -Increased efficiency of consumption, reducing total electricity consumption. We are headed that way, with LEDs greatly increasing lighting efficiency, more efficient refrigerators, AC, etc.

    -Moving from a demand-based consumption model to a more availability-based model. E.g., here, PV panels are widespread, and it would make sense to move consumption to daylight hours where possible.

  19. “Why would you need to get rid of it?”

    The longest-term models don’t come close to the 4 or 5 billion years the earth is expected to last. We can’t piece together the physical artifacts to know what’s happened in the last couple billion years; how would we know enough to know what’s going? 175 million years ago, when Pangea was a continent, continental plates were in a completely different configuration than they are now. They will continue to shift; given the halflife of nuclear material, there is no way our models predict whether Yucca Mtn or any other location will be safe in the future.

    LfB, coal over-regulated? As a response to acid rain a couple decades back?

  20. WCE, “storage” is the excuse for not using wind, because energy needs to be consistent and predictable even though wind is not (even at the coast) The trains run on a regular schedule and are not shut down by low levels of wind. How does the “storage” argument stand against that?

  21. “The challenge of wind and solar is storing the electricity.”

    It doesn’t need to be stored as electricity. As you mention later in your post, there are other ways to store energy.

    How about storing it as hydrogen?

  22. The longest-term models don’t come close to the 4 or 5 billion years the earth is expected to last.

    Are you familiar with the concept of a radioactive half-life? 97% of high level nuclear waste will be harmless in 10k years with the very last of that remaining 3% will be harmless in 250k years.

  23. All radionuclides contained in the waste have a half-life—the time it takes for half of the atoms to decay into another nuclide—and eventually all radioactive waste decays into non-radioactive elements (i.e., stable nuclides). Certain radioactive elements (such as plutonium-239) will remain hazardous to humans and other creatures for hundreds or thousands of years. Other radionuclides remain radioactive for millions of years (though most of these products have so little activity as a result of their long half-lives that their radiation is lost in the background level). Thus, these wastes must be shielded for centuries and isolated from the living environment for millennia.[2] Since radioactive decay follows the half-life rule, the rate of decay is inversely proportional to the duration of decay. In other words, the radiation from a long-lived isotope like iodine-129 will be much less intense than that of a short-lived isotope like iodine-131.[3] The two tables show some of the major radioisotopes, their half-lives, and their radiation yield as a proportion of the yield of fission of uranium-235.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_waste#High-level_waste

  24. “Are you familiar with the concept of a radioactive half-life? 97% of high level nuclear waste will be harmless in 10k years with the very last of that remaining 3% will be harmless in 250k years.”

    Per Wikipedia, the half-life of U235 is about 700 million years.

  25. “If we can’t figure out how to store wind power, why not ask someone who does?”

    SM, that article, and the other article you posted previously on the same subject, do not address the issue of energy (not power) storage at all. What I gathered from reading this article is that enough electricity will be generated from wind to supply the needs of the train, which suggests that there will typically be an excess generated, which I’m guessing will be sold to others.

    This sounds similar to early stages of PV implementation here. Net metering helped lower the cost of PV systems and, in conjunction with tax credits, make them financially attractive. At low penetration levels this worked fine, but as PV penetration increased, to the point where at peak generation times, PV generation amounts approached demand, adding additional PV became problematic.

    BTW, conflation of power and energy is very common; I’ve often seen it within a single paragraph or even sentence.

  26. “using waste from current generations plants as fuel.”

    I’ve long wondered about that.

    For example, after the tsunami that damaged the Fukushima plants, one of the issues was the need to keep the spent rods cool. I wondered why, if they’re that hot, some of that heat couldn’t be captured and converted to electricity.

    Or at least used to de-ice sidewalks.

  27. “LfB, coal over-regulated? As a response to acid rain a couple decades back?”

    That is not the problem — all power plants are already heavily regulated under a specific acid rain program that has been in place for more than 25 years (and in fact proved to be far more cost-effective than anyone ever thought). The issue is that certain groups have very specifically and pointedly targeted coal as “dirty” and made it fundamentally impossible to build coal-fired power plants in the US. So we are instead still mining the coal and sending it overseas, where the Chinese happily burn it to power their cities and factories. And yet the US’s sulfur-removal and efficient combustion technology are far, far more advanced than China’s.

    So if your goal is to reduce global pollution, then, yeah, I’d be looking for incentives to keep some of that coal here, where it can at least be managed more responsibly and reasonably regulated. OTOH, if your goal is to keep the US clean and export our pollution to other countries, then, well, we’re right on track.

  28. Rhett; you’re right, I shouldn’t have gone back that far. But just look at the last 10,000 years and tell me with a straight face that we can predict beyond a shadow of a doubt (remembering who led the Super Bowl until it was over) what will happen that far into the future.
    The last glacial period of the current ice age ended about 10,000 years ago.[28] Ice melt caused world sea levels to rise about 35 metres (115 ft) in the early part of the Holocene. In addition, many areas above about 40 degrees north latitude had been depressed by the weight of the Pleistocene glaciers and rose as much as 180 metres (591 ft) over the late Pleistocene and Holocene, and are still rising today. The sea level rise and temporary land depression allowed temporary marine incursions into areas that are now far from the sea. Holocene marine fossils are known from Vermont, Quebec, Ontario and Michigan. Other than higher latitude temporary marine incursions associated with glacial depression, Holocene fossils are found primarily in lakebed, floodplain and cave deposits. Holocene marine deposits along low-latitude coastlines are rare because the rise in sea levels during the period exceeds any likely upthrusting of non-glacial origin. Post-glacial rebound in Scandinavia resulted in the emergence of coastal areas around the Baltic Sea, including much of Finland. The region continues to rise, still causing weak earthquakes across Northern Europe. The equivalent event in North America was the rebound of Hudson Bay, as it shrank from its larger, immediate post-glacial Tyrrell Sea phase, to near its present boundaries.
    (Wikipedia, geological history)

    There are other ways to provide energy that require no such prediction. By go with nukes?

  29. “all power plants are already heavily regulated under a specific acid rain program that has been in place for more than 25 years”
    That’s what I thought you were referring to. What you say makes sense looking at history. China has recently said it will be forced to lead on global environmental agreements if the US won’t. What do you think that would be like?

  30. But just look at the last 10,000 years and tell me with a straight face that we can predict beyond a shadow of a doubt (remembering who led the Super Bowl until it was over) what will happen that far into the future.

    In terms of geology? Sure. All the issues you mentioned were addressed when they chose Yucca Mountain and the site in France.

  31. Rhett, it really sounds like you’re looking at this as if it had the specificity of a line of code, rather than being a series of predictions based on probabilities, which it is

  32. S&M,

    You’d be the first to decry Republicans for being anti-science for denying AGW. Your being equally anti-science in attempting to find fault with settled geologic science.

  33. Off topic:

    1. I just paid $834 to register the Outback. WTF? Colorado has this bizarre system where the fees are based on the value, age, fuel efficiency and who knows what else, maybe the number of wins the Broncos had. The Highlander didn’t even cost this much new and it’s heavier and more expensive.

    2. One of my FB friends is on a rampage about her DD getting an F on a timed run in 6th grade PE. So far she’s posted about here numerous emails to the teacher and that the grade is based on a time scale, and how unfair it is because the girl is trying really hard, even though the teacher said her times are getting slower, and she’s taking it in 0 period so she can take band, and she’s always so respectful to the teacher and tries really hard…. She also mentioned the girl is she still getting an A in the class. All these people posted that she’s right and the teacher is obviously a jerk and so on. I mentioned that perhaps one grade in 6th grade PE is not a hill worth dying on. She just responded with the latest update from the teacher and a long post about how wonderful her special snowflake is and this is so terribly unfair.

  34. DD, at least the part of your registration fee based on the value of the car is deductible on your fed tax.

  35. I know Finn, but it’s still ridiculous. I was expecting around $400 or so, not $800.

  36. I am surprised about the registration fee for the car because I heard the CO state treasury has extra income due to all of the sales from legalized marijuana. I would hope/think that they could keep fees for some of their other sources of revenue at a lower rate.

  37. Lauren, the Colorado budget is really odd because we have several constitutional requirements for much of the spending. And we have plenty of needs that are underfunded, so there’s no way they are going to reduce a source of revenue just because there is more money coming in from another source.

  38. “settled geologic science”

    You didn’t use sarcasm font, so I wasn’t sure if you were being serious.

    You could say that scientists base conclusions “largely based on an accumulation of data”, (like Trump does according to one of his latest tweets!) but it’s hard to convince me that the science is settled on on some of this stuff.

  39. “China has recently said it will be forced to lead on global environmental agreements if the US won’t. What do you think that would be like?”

    Honestly, I have no idea — I just don’t particularly trust them to do a good job. There is a lot of resentment in the developing world over GHG/carbon constraints, with the theory being “hey, you guys had centuries of unchecked energy use to develop your modern, industrialized economies, and now you want to deny us the same right?” So I don’t believe that asking China to lead is going to make significant progress. Then again, with our current EPA and DOE administrators, I don’t exactly think we’re in a position to lead that particular charge either.

  40. “You could say that scientists base conclusions “largely based on an accumulation of data”, (like Trump does according to one of his latest tweets!) but it’s hard to convince me that the science is settled on on some of this stuff.”

    Well, personally, I never say science is “settled” — there’s always stuff we don’t know.

    I also veer toward this view in certain areas. But I also suspect that thinking is because you and I are not close enough to the real data to judge how small or wide the delta is. E.g., there are certain scienc-ey issues that I deal with in my job, and it is sooooo clear that there is a huge delta between “real” science and “junk” science on some of this stuff. But the junk science sounds plausible to someone who doesn’t actually deal with it every day, which is how you get stupid jury verdicts.

    For me, at least, part of interpreting the science is looking at how many people are on the “majority” side, how persuaded the people who do that every day are by what they are seeing, whether one side or another is pushing a specific agenda that might cause them to view their own data with significant confirmation bias, and where there are significant data gaps. E.g. you are never going to get me to buy “intelligent design,” for reasons that are far too rant-y to go into in detail. I also tend to believe global warming is an actual thing, because my mom works with some scientists in that field who are very, very convinced, and I suspect people contribute to that, because, hello, industrial revolution/energy use/smokestacks/cars/etc. But I think we have a lot more unknowns in the latter than the former, because we are predicting and extrapolating and I think have much less data in general to go on.

  41. “remembering who led the Super Bowl until it was over”

    S&M – I’ve always thought of you as being rather uninterested in sports and pop culture generally, so that’s a nice work-in of the sports angle. Seriously.

  42. I believe the impact of pollution in the developing world will force countries like China and India into action. It is a balancing act between protecting the people and environment while at the same time continuing the path of economic growth. In a country like India where there is not a communist state like in China pushing change through is not easy, though everyone agrees that the pollution is horrible and people are getting sick from it. Cutting pollution requires a how lot of infrastructure from waste disposal, sewage treatment, factory regulations etc. for a population of billions.

  43. I agree with what Laura said about “settled” science. The chance that anthropogenic climate change is not happening are very small. The chance that geologic predictions are wrong is larger (look at the way geologists hedge their own predictions), but still small. The results of ignoring climate change would be catostrophic. The results of being wrong on the safety of extremely long term nuclear storage could be bigger. It’s just not worth it, especially when other, safer forms of energy are being developed so quickly. Take all the energy people put into nukes and apply it to renewables that don’t create long term problems.

    In related news, King Richard’s grave was recently discovered in a parking lot. He was a very famous king who lived a few centuries (not 10x millennia) ago. His death was well documented; and his burial would have been a big deal. Scholars of that period had been trying for years to figure out where he’d been buried. They didn’t know. In just a few hundred years, every scrap of information disappeared. More recently than that, several civilizations in our hemisphere were killed off. They are occasionally “discovered”, like the Mayan ruins near Puerto Escondido. Even in Greece, where we think we know about the last few millennia, and where there has been a continuous chain of culture, a warrior’s grave was recently discovered that changes what we know about Ancient Greece.

    But we’ll make a really big sign with Pictogramms that everybody for the next 10,000 years can understand. Yeah, that’ll do it.

  44. Thanks Fred! I try. Yesterday morning a radio jock had some probability statistic about the 99.9 % chance in the fourth quarter that the Falcons would win, so I had that in mind.

    There were several funny lines about the game on my FB. The only one I remember is that it was a battle between the old secessionists and the new secessionists.

  45. “There were several funny lines about the game on my FB. The only one I remember is that it was a battle between the old secessionists and the new secessionists.”

    Saac, that’s the funniest, and most rational, explanation for the “Big Game” (how do you get protection on “Super Bowl”) that I’ve heard. It makes my morning. Thanks.

  46. The results of being wrong on the safety of extremely long term nuclear storage could be bigger.

    Bigger than AGW? Please explain.

  47. There were several funny lines about the game on my FB.

    Q. What’s the best part about dating a Patriots fan?

    A. They don’t care if you cheat.

  48. The only one I remember is that it was a battle between the old secessionists and the new secessionists.

    Very funny ! I do miss the excitement, the very passionate fans and the trash talk. Here even when we went to the Super Bowl it was not quite the same atmosphere as in Boston.
    I froze my behind off attending one of the past victory celebrations.

  49. NG can’t be trucked unless compressed, but you need additional infrastructure to do so. Most extra NG that can’t be marketed is flared or reinjected. Oil can be trucked/moved by train. Government should step in and stop any unreasonable flaring of gas – for pollution and waste of resources.

    Wind & solar must be developed with NG plants. Its a practical conundrum. Say wind power peaks in the middle of the night, but dies down around dawn (when people are waking up and need more power). Meanwhile, solar plants haven’t had a chance to kick in yet because the sun is coming up. Turn on an NG power plant to make up the difference. Tom Friedman wrote something a while back that said solar would be best and most profitably developed for small scale – street lights, signage, water heating, etc. By taking those items off the grid, power is saved for other uses.

  50. “Government should step in and stop any unreasonable flaring of gas – for pollution and waste of resources.”

    ITA with this, as long as government also provides a mechanism to ensure that pipelines can be built to transport the gas to market instead (or add CNG capability, or some other mechanism to get the gas to market or to a storage field).

    Right now there is a huge push to stop flaring from oil and gas production — there are new regulations from at least two federal agencies that impose significant new restrictions on this, and in fact some of those regs require the feds to write the flaring requirements into their lease contracts. So, yay — good for the environment, good to avoid wasting limited resources. But you can’t just store NG at a well in a big tank — you need pipelines to take it for treatment and ultimately to market. If you prohibit flaring without providing that infrastructure, then the only alternative is to shut in the wells.

    Well, ok, you say, companies shouldn’t produce more than they can ship to market; let’s use the limited infrastructure as a way to slow down the growth in NG production and provide more even pricing instead of this boom-and-bust cycle. Except mineral lease rights are “use it or lose it” — you lease someone’s rights, you have X years to produce, and if you don’t (or if you do and then stop), you forfeit the lease rights — and all of your investment. Added bonus is that many of those leases are on federal land. So one arm of the feds is issuing leases, and another arm is imposing new restrictions that prevent their own lessees from complying with those leases that they keep issuing.

    This is what I mean about a rational energy policy. You can’t just impose new requirements unless you also give people the ability to comply without forfeiting significant assets and in many cases going out of business.

  51. FWIW, ITA with WCE — our system *is* ludicrous (and sorry, love you both, but I’m not seeing how calling a “system” ludicrous is a personal attack?). Modern pipelines are far more efficient, cost-effective, and less dangerous — the pipelines people are installing now have to meet modern safety and corrosion standards, there are new regulations from PHMSA that will require significant inspections and preventive maintenance, etc. Trucks are trucks — you need a whole, huge bunch of them, running all the time, loading, unloading, creating a bunch of emissions unless the loading/unloading is both controlled and properly managed, and always creating the possibility of a spill. Plus many of the oilfield roads they have to drive on are remote dirt roads, which means that they contribute not only to air pollution but erosion, runoff, etc. Not to mention the safety issues associated with all those drivers in all those trucks for all those hours.

    The closest analog I can think of is flying vs. driving — flying is actually much safer, but it doesn’t feel as safe, because when an airplane goes down, it’s front page on the news.

    The reason our system is ludicrous is that there is no actual comparison or analysis of which is safer or more protective. When a company wants to build a new pipeline, there are many, many steps in the approval process that allow for citizen involvement. So when you have people who specifically object to pipelines as a way to attack fracking (which is, in fact, the stated objective of a number of groups), that means that it is very easy to delay a new pipeline for years, if not stop it completely. But companies can always bring in trucks — there’s no approval process for that. So our current system creates a huge disincentive for companies to use the most environmentally-protective transport mechanism.

  52. This is what I mean about a rational energy policy. You can’t just impose new requirements unless you also give people the ability to comply without forfeiting significant assets and in many cases going out of business.

    I would say that you shouldn’t impose requirements on any business unless those conditions are met.

  53. Thank you both for the correction re the use of “ludicrous”.

    LfB, I’ve never seen an analysis of the two side-by-side, or even of just the damage trucks cause.

    Seems to me that Scarlett’s assessment of no perfect method is most correct. Let’s move on to providing clean, safe energy.

  54. “LfB, I’ve never seen an analysis of the two side-by-side, or even of just the damage trucks cause.”

    Right. That’s sort of my point. And WCE’s, I think. A rational policy would do that analysis, and then choose the best overall one for a particular situation. We don’t have that.

  55. Following up on that, we have to accept the long-term negative consequences (and try to mitigate them, accepting that mitigation will be imperfect) of whatever energy source we choose. I live in the land of renewables, but we can’t maximize hydroelectric power or build more because of the effects on wetlands (you have to have a head behind the dam to create power), the effects on migrating fish (salmon). We can’t maximize wave power because the infrastructure ruins the view and the electromagnetic fields may or may not interfere with the navigation of various forms of sealife, especially migrating mammals, and we have to transport that power over high voltage power lines that are NIMBY. We have lots of windmills in the Gorge, but they kill birds, ruin the view and require high voltage power lines to transport the power to where it’s needed.

    I don’t have strong feelings about energy, other than that I’m fond of heat and electricity, but whatever we choose will have disadvantages.

  56. WCE, that’s why reducing our energy consumption, e.g., increasing the efficiency of our energy-consuming devices, should be at or near the top of any energy strategy.

  57. “Wind & solar must be developed with NG plants. Its a practical conundrum. Say wind power peaks in the middle of the night, but dies down around dawn (when people are waking up and need more power). Meanwhile, solar plants haven’t had a chance to kick in yet because the sun is coming up. Turn on an NG power plant to make up the difference. ”

    I think the point you’re really making is the need for firm energy sources in conjunction with wind & solar.

    It doesn’t have to be NG. As the OP suggests, it could be nuclear; or it could be diesel, or coal, or hydroelectric, or batteries. Perhaps in the future it might be hydrogen in conjunction with fuel cells.

    And as I’ve pointed out earlier, changing consumption habits can also mitigate the need for energy storage.

    The local paper recently had an article about one of the first (or perhaps THE first) person to install a PV system under new PUC rules that do not allow his system to inject electricity generated in excess of his own consumption to the grid. One of the things he mentioned that he needs to do to minimize his bills is do his laundry and run his dishwasher during the day.

    The technology to facilitate this already exists; all it takes is for the manufacturers of the appliances to add timers.

    Locally, a lot of electricity consumption goes to running AC units. Ice storage AC units, which have been commercially available for a while, facilitate the storage of energy and thus mitigate the need for firm energy sources.

  58. Finn, agreed. Consumption smoothing/use during natural peak times for renewables is also a good idea. I think South Korea will be a leader in electric cars because of how much research they’re doing and because you never need to drive 700 miles cross-country in a day there. One of the advantages of electric cars is that they can charge during low power demand times.

  59. “One of the advantages of electric cars is that they can charge during low power demand times.”

    Another potential advantage is that energy can be drawn from them during peak demand times.

    Locally at least, peak demand is early evening, when people get home from work and school and XCs. Plug in car, draw remaining energy from battery, then recharge overnight with wind energy. On Maui, they’ve had problems with a mismatch at might of peak wind generation and demand nadir; charging a bunch of car batteries could alleviate that.

  60. Another potential advantage is that energy can be drawn from them during peak demand times.

    Locally at least, peak demand is early evening, when people get home from work and school and XCs. Plug in car, draw remaining energy from battery, then recharge overnight with wind energy. On Maui, they’ve had problems with a mismatch at might of peak wind generation and demand nadir; charging a bunch of car batteries could alleviate that.

    This is the big issue with renewables: storage. Someone is going to figure out an efficient, low-cost way to store electricity, and then we’ll be able to run the world on renewables.

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