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Old 11-17-2012, 02:07 PM   #41
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Joe, at the risk of sounding totally ignorant and arrogant, do you really feel electric cars are a net win environmentally over fossil fuel cars? Aren't we trading one thing for another, or worse.
If the electricity being used to charge the cars comes from zero-emission sources, then yes. I'm not sure what you mean by "trading one thing for another, or worse."

So for a country like France, this is an absolute. 78% of all electricity generation in France is from nuclear fission, with hydro comprising an additional 12%.

In 1974, France embarked upon an ambitious energy-independence program, as a result of which they now have 58 operating reactors (the highest number per-capita in the world), with one new reactor presently under construction and a second in the planning stages. As a result of this, France has the lowest consumer electricity cost in all of Europe, and they are a net exporter of electricity to neighboring countries. They are, in fact, the largest energy-exporting nation in the country (by capacity) and electricity is France's fourth-largest export by value. France also exports both nuclear reactors and nuclear fuel.


If we presuppose an electricity infrastructure of this nature, then electric cars are absolutely a net win. The contents of present-day Lion batteries are mostly recyclable, and the environmental impact of manufacturing an EV is not significantly greater than a traditional fossil-fuel vehicle.


In the US, only 30% of total energy generation is from emissions-free sources (19% nuclear, 8% hydro, 2.8% wind and a negligible amount from solar), with the remainder being from fossil-fuels, mostly coal (43%) and natgas (24%).

Canada, incidentally, is much better off in this regard. 75% of energy in Canada comes from emissions-free sources (15% nuclear, 60% hydro). This is a good thing, as while the population of Canada is rather smaller than the US, Canada has the third-highest energy use per capita in the world, at 14 MWh per person per year. (The US is in seventh place, at 12.3 MWh.)


For the US, then, the equation therefore becomes more complex. Certainly, the 30% emissions-free contribution is immediately beneficial, and if current trends continue, the total percentage of energy derived from nuclear sources should rise in the coming years.

When looking at the coal / gas contribution, things become more complex. One thing which is often overlooked is that even though EV charged by fossil-fuel plants to effective move pollution "somewhere else", this is not to be dismissed easily. Fossil fuel plants tends to be located away from areas of high population density, so their contribution to smog formation and other localized health hazards is considerably less than the gasoline-powered vehicles which they can effectively replace. Additionally, the very simple fact is that for a great number of reasons, a large power plant, even one fueled by coal, tends to operate at much higher efficiency (watts-per-btu) than a gasoline engine, and its emissions are much more easily controlled, catalyzed and sequestered, principally because it's a big thing that sits there running at the same speed all the time and has a team of engineers monitoring it constantly.


Additionally, coal and natgas are principally domestic products (produced and consumed within Canada and the US). This fact keeps getting stated and forgotten about.


So, yes. I think it's pretty clear that that EVs are a net win overall.
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Old 11-17-2012, 02:07 PM   #42
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The measurement for "net win" will be in what's called "well to wheel" efficiency.
The very notion of a "well" in this statement presupposes that all power (electrical or traction) must ultimately be derived from fossil-fuel sources. This mentality, of course, is one of the problems which afflicts meaningful comparisons of transportation and power in the 21st century.



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BTW I just had an interesting conversation with a guy who was planning to get into the businesses of planting thousands of acres of Acacia Mangius trees to be turned into wood chips for a new wood-burning power plant, in Southeast Asia. He said you harvest and replant them every 4 years, and 200 hectares (500 acres), will can be burned to generate 1 MW worth of power continuously.
A quick first-order sketch suggests that his numbers in within the boundaries of reality.

We probably can't grow Acacia Mangius here in SoCal, but the southeast has a climate that would be conducive to them. The mean average capacity of a current-gen reactor in the US is about 1,000 MWe. If 500 acres yields 1 MW, then to replace the generating capacity of a typical two-unit nuclear site, you'd only need a million acres, which is 1,562 square miles. Or, put another way, an area 29% larger than the entire state of Rhode Island.

To replace one, single nuclear plant.

Cost is also a factor. In the US, a good long-term average for the commercial cost of electricity is about $100 per MWh, of which the fuel cost is typically 15-25%. So to generate 1 MWe continuously for one year, that's roughly $130-$220k in fuel cost.

To be competitive in a western market, your friend would need to be able to run his farm for less than $700 per acre annually.

I can't find any data on Acacia Mangius farming, but there is a hell of a lot of agricultural data available on other types of tree farming in the US. Walnut production, for instance, costs around $2000-$3000 per acre annually, depending on the size of the farm. Apples and Peaches also vary around the same range, tending towards the higher end of the scale.

These are obviously just operating costs- they ignore the price of the land itself. I have no idea how much it would cost to purchase the entire state of Rhode Island, plus an additional 350 square miles of Connecticut. Probably more than the $10-20 billion that a typical two-cylinder nuke plant costs to build in the US these days (and that's the high-side price, after factoring all of the cost overruns, delays due to hippies with law degrees, etc.)


On the plus side, it's net carbon-neutral.
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Old 11-17-2012, 02:45 PM   #43
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The trade I speak of is in the battery itself. A Lion baterry may well be recyclabe but dont they produce a rather nasty gas, hydrogen or something? I dont know what several hundred million batteries would do to the environment but one catching fire that cant get extinguished by normal means isnt good. You save the environment but at a greater risk to human life. Plus since we arent getting any new nuke plants, how much better off are we going to EV cars before becoming more electric fossil fuel free?
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Old 11-17-2012, 03:19 PM   #44
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A Lion baterry may well be recyclabe but dont they produce a rather nasty gas, hydrogen or something?
No.

Lead-acid batteries produce hydrogen gas in normal operation (hydrogen, incidentally, is not toxic or harmful to life), however rechargeable lithium batteries are completely sealed and produce no outgassing in normal operation.



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I dont know what several hundred million batteries would do to the environment
The same argument might hypothetically have been put forward in the mid 1910s when lead-acid batteries were introduced to automobiles, particularly as lead is moderately toxic to life. But today, we have nearly 100% recycling of lead-acid batteries, and recycling processes already exist for lithium-ion batteries in cell-phones and laptops. Compliance is not high, however that it because it's easy to throw a laptop battery in the trash. With a large car battery, recycling compliance will be 100%, as the swapping of the battery will tend to be performed at a licensed servicing station.


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but one catching fire that cant get extinguished by normal means isnt good.
That didn't prevent VW from selling 22 million Beetles. Their engine blocks are made of magnesium, which cannot be extinguished except by digging a hole and buying it. Add to this the fact that EV batteries tend to be encapsulated within the most well-protected sections of the chassis, and you see why even with 2.5 million EVs already on the road in the US alone (mostly hybrids), we do not find ourselves in an armageddon of burning batteries.

(Additionally, newer battery technologies such as LiFePo4 do not exhibit the same tendency to flame out as early Li-Po batteries did. You can literally drive a nail through them and they won't catch fire.)



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Plus since we arent getting any new nuke plants, how much better off are we going to EV cars before becoming more electric fossil fuel free?
Huh?

There is one reactor under construction right now at Watts Bar, TN, scheduled to come on line in 2015, two more under construction at Vogtle, GA scheduled for completion in 2017, and two more under construction at V.C. Summer in SC for 2018 completion.

Those are reactor plants which are actually under construction right now. Additionally, plans and licensing applications are in process for new two reactors each in Levy County FL, William States Lee SC, Shearon Harris NC, and Turkey Point FL, plus one new reactor at Bellefonte AL.


It's true that after the incident at TMI-II in 1979, the nuclear industry pretty much halted in the US. Fortunately, we are finally seeing the light and getting back on track.

Just as the manufacture of gasoline-powered cars in the early 1900s drove the construction of new facilities for petroleum refining and distribution, as the number of EVs grows it will tend to drive infrastructure improvements and additional generating capacity in the electrical sector.
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Old 11-17-2012, 03:46 PM   #45
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Inductive pickup/charging on the freeways would also be nice (probably similar efficiency to charging/discharging of the batteries).
Big Rigs etc would be better served by direct pickup than batteries I guess.
Diesel between the electrified parts of course.
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Old 11-17-2012, 03:51 PM   #46
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however rechargeable lithium batteries are completely sealed and produce no outgassing in normal operation.
Well I guess there must be some misinformation going around as UPS and/or USPS wont ship Lion baterries or have some type of restriction on shipping them. My friend bought one for his 997.2 GT3 and after it got sent back for some type of shipping mislabeling or missing labeling he went out and tried to find out what was up. He was told Lion batteries produced hydrogen or some other gas that was rather volatile and shipping them was problematic. He also was told that a few cars that had that type of battery had caught fire when the battery exploded. I dunno, maybe just misinformation.
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Old 11-17-2012, 05:49 PM   #47
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Really? I just bought a Makita drill and impact set from Amazon, and they had no problem getting them to me.
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Old 11-17-2012, 07:03 PM   #48
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Yeah well taking this thread of course so let me just say that I researched it a bit and it seems there is some kinda restriction from the USPS on international shipping of Lion batts. Maybe since the battery was from Porsche and it was shipped from Germany? Or the fact that its a larger than normal battery? I dunno but apparently there is some issue with the current Lion batts that shipping them internationally is a problem. From just a quick Wiki read, the generally used lithium ion battery is the most tempermental and using some other chemical forms of it helps with the volatility. Anyhow, back to the independence of foreign oil thread.
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Old 01-11-2013, 11:06 AM   #49
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It sort of depends on your definition of "clean".

NatGas is a vastly cleaner than oil and coal in terms of the production of soot and other fine particulate matter.
[...]
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Related to the OP, the USA's CO2 emissions are now at its lowest due to the wider use of natural gas. Just happened, without fiat or force. Now why aren't the environmentalists celebrating?

Thanks to fracking, U.S. carbon emissions are at the lowest levels in 20 years. - Slate Magazine
Shale will change the US, not the climate - FT.com

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High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email [email protected] to buy additional rights. Shale will change the US, not the climate - FT.com


Even if China and eastern Europe started fracking in a big way, the world would not reduce actual emissions – just the rate of emissions growth. That would delay the worst climate scenarios by only a decade. True, wind and solar power are gaining, but they provide less than 3 per cent of global power today; even in 2035 they will probably supply well under 20 per cent. Coal remains the fastest growing world fuel by volume. In 2011, coal use climbed seven times faster than wind and solar, and three times faster than gas. Thankfully, there exists technology to cut greenhouse gas emissions steeply from all fossil-fuel power plants – coal and gas alike.

Carbon capture and sequestration involves the capture and concentration of carbon dioxide from large industrial plants and its injection deep underground. This takes the gas out of the atmosphere indefinitely.

The US leads CCS research and development, and the Department of Energy’s sustained investments have created a global knowledge base. Norway, the UK, France, China, Canada, Australia, and Japan are supporting and building large-scale demonstrations, and companies such as General Electric, Siemens and Schlumberger have the requisite commercial equipment and practices.

TL; DNR: Discussion of "zero-carbon" gas plants using carbon capture and sequestration. The switch from less coal to more natgas has already reduced US CO2 emissions growth significantly. Adding more carbon capture and sequestration capacity could reduce CO2 emissions that much more.
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Old 02-08-2013, 04:49 PM   #50
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Oil Exports Trim U.S. Trade Deficit as Fuel Gap Shrinks: Economy - Bloomberg
The jump in fuel sales to overseas buyers, combined with purchases of the fewest barrels of imported crude in almost 16 years, led to the smallest petroleum deficit since August 2009, the trade data showed.

A surge in U.S. oil production has made the nation the world’s largest fuel exporter. Petroleum-product exports to Brazil grew by 59 percent in the first 11 months of 2012, to 255,000 barrels a day, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. Venezuelan imports from the U.S. rose 56 percent.

The U.S. met 84 percent of its own energy needs in the first 10 months of 2012, on track to be the highest annual rate since 1991, according to data from the EIA, the statistical arm of the Energy Department. The country’s crude output grew by a record 766,000 barrels a day last year to the highest level in 15 years, the biggest annual jump since the first commercial well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859.
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Old 01-13-2014, 07:57 AM   #51
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[Posting this here because it ties into the "USA energy independence" theme.]

So I read some interesting ideas on the spread of solar energy, and how its adoption may end up being much quicker than most people (even solar optimists) are anticipating.
SolarIndustryMag.com: California More Than Doubles Solar Power Market In 2013
In the past 12 months, California more than doubled its entire rooftop solar installations from 1,000 MW to over 2,000 MW.

To put this in perspective, it took California over 30 years to build 1,000 MW of rooftop solar, hitting that landmark in early 2013. Today, California is closing out the year with more than 2,000 MW of rooftop solar systems installed statewide. The California Public Utilities Commission's (CPUC) latest figures report 1,917 MW of rooftop solar, but those numbers exclude basically all of Pacific Gas and Electric's 2013 installations, by far the largest market in the state, as well as a significant number of installations in other utility territories.

By comparison, California added 500 MW of distributed solar in 2012 - also a banner year. If California continues to grow its rooftop solar market at its 2013 pace, the state may very well top 5,000 MW in 2014 - far exceeding the goals of the Million Solar Roofs Initiative, which aimed to install 3,000 MW of rooftop solar by the end of 2016.

When utility-scale solar projects are added in, California’s total solar power picture well-exceeds 4,000 MW today - nearly twice as much installed capacity as exists at California’s last remaining nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon.
Longer read:
The Solar Powered Death Spiral For Utilities Begins – In Hawaii | Monetary Realism
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Old 01-13-2014, 02:15 PM   #52
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Interesting.

When I read things like that, I have to wonder whether the authors genuinely do not understand the differentiation between continuous generation vs. intermittent generation, and how availability factor drives the differention between base-load and peak-load generation.

Or, put another way, why "5 GW" of (solar / wind) power is not even remotely comparable to "5 GW" of base-load (fossil / nuke / hydro) power.

In regions where the demand for energy to provide air-conditioning tends to reliably track the output of solar-electric arrays, then solar is indeed a viable alternative to peak-load generation, which is commonly nat-gas. In other words, solar is a viable alternative to the least-polluting fossil fuel which we have, provided that you don't live in the southeastern US where it is commonly both hot and raining at the same time.
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Old 01-13-2014, 02:23 PM   #53
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We seem to have a difficult time understanding what happened to oil prices and production six months ago (or five years ago, or whatever.) And yet by the same token, we feel that we can confidently predict 20 years into the future, with a high degree of accuracy, what will occur on both the supply and demand sides of the oil equation across several dozen different countries.

If you'd have asked any qualified expert in the 1920s whether they predicted that the average fuel efficiency of all passenger cars would be significantly improved by the year 2000, they'd probably have all said yes. Presupposing, that is, that they didn't believe cars would be obsolete and we'd all be flying around with personal rocket-belts or using Futurama-style pneumatic tubes.


In the 1960s, we all figured that oil would be worthless by now, since nuclear energy was going to be too cheap to meter.

And who predicted in the 1970s that China, India, et al would be simultaneously building more nukes than the US and Europe while also consuming more oil and coal than us?
Well said. This is exactly why I always chuckle when people talk about the future of ______ (any technology in general) like they have some sort of crystal ball.

I hate seeing projections of fossil fuel use that is 20 or 30 years out. Hopefully we can get away from them by that point. If not, we aren't trying or caring enough, and should all just leave our car running in the garage with the door closed and die.
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Old 01-13-2014, 02:50 PM   #54
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Well said. This is exactly why I always chuckle when people talk about the future of ______ (any technology in general) like they have some sort of crystal ball.
The problem, of course, is that there are a lot of people in the world who claim to be futurologists. And if a large enough number of people make a large enough number of predictions, then the laws of probability alone dictate that a few of them will emerge as being "generally correct" about predicting the future. And suddenly, they become "credible experts."


The same logic, of course, is commonly used to justify systems for predicting the performance of the stock market, justifications for why the second-coming of Christ will occur in the next (xx) years, etc.
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Old 01-13-2014, 02:57 PM   #55
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Joe - Did you read the longer article linked at the bottom of my post? If not, I'd be interested in your take. This is not an area of expertise for me at all.

I do think it is worth noting the pace of expansion. In that second article, the author makes note of "Swanson's Law" which is similar in principal to "Moore's Law." Recent trend data in some locations appears to actually be ahead of that curve, but obviously growth rates from small numbers are easier to make seem larger.

I'm personally ignorant on the storage capabilities of solar energy for electricity supply, but I imagine there must be (or will be) some innovation that will work for the Southeast USA where it tends to be hot and raining for relatively brief time periods but is sunny before and after.

I would think someplace like the Pacific Northwest where it's grey all day for weeks would be more of a challenge, but - again - I have not educated myself on solar very much.

I'm much more comfortable talking fossil fuel related topics.
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Old 01-13-2014, 05:26 PM   #56
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I'm personally ignorant on the storage capabilities of solar energy for electricity supply, but I imagine there must be (or will be) some innovation that will work for the Southeast USA where it tends to be hot and raining for relatively brief time periods but is sunny before and after.
The only real methods of storing electricity are in huge, industrial style batteries, or in pumped-storage facilities. A pumped storage facility is essentially a dam that pumps water uphill when demand is low, and generates power by letting the water run downstream. Neither of which are a good fit for solar. Solar generates the most when demand is high, so there is not sense in storing it for use later, except perhaps in the very late evenings and pushing it back onto the grid during peak hours the next day.


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I would think someplace like the Pacific Northwest where it's grey all day for weeks would be more of a challenge, but - again - I have not educated myself on solar very much.
All generators have what is called a "capacity" rating. This is the rating that the generator can be relied upon to supply under all conditions. For renewables, this varies geographically. I am not as familiar with solar, but wind farms in the Allegheny mountains are typically assigned a capacity rating of 15%. I saw an article around a year ago that suggested the rating for wind in texas was around 9%. I would suspect solar panels have smaller numbers.

This concept of capacity makes the authors theory of competing with Peaker plants idiotic. A peaker's value is more than the sum of the energy it generates. Having 60 megawatts with 100% capacity that can be online almost instantly is what makes them worth having.

as cool as solar power is, there are some problems that arise when your power generation becomes as distributed as solar generation tends to be. The first is that it raises the available fault currents in the area, which tends to drive up utility equipment costs. A single solar panel does not make much difference, but when thousands of panels start to be installed in an area, the effect becomes significant.

Another problem is from the solar inverters. Solar cells generate a DC voltage, which needs to be inverted to AC. The AC inverters can typically not provide much more current than their nameplate rating. This makes setting your protection relay very difficult, because the amount of current you see in a short circuit condition is not much more than what you see under normal operating conditions.

While the article talks of a solar "death spiral" I imagine that solar installations will eventually hit a wall when all of the excess transmission capacity is used up on the grid. Eventually there will come a point where no more panels can be installed without some sort of major transmission upgrade being required. Because solar installations are much smaller by nature they will be unable to pay for the electrical upgrades that their addition to the grid requires. As an example, It is entirely feasible that a solar farm addition could overload a high voltage transformer at a local substation. Realistic cost for upgrading it would be around 2 million dollars. Joe's nuclear plants probably spend more than that on red and green pencils, this is a significant percentage of the total cost of a solar farm.


The author does not seem to consider the impact of tax credits on the construction of solar panels. You could probably operate a railroad consisting entirely of steam locomotives if you had the same incentives that solar panels get. While it is possible that the renewable market energy market may become self sustaining, I would wait to see if it could survive on its own before proclaiming that fossil fuels are in a death spiral.


As a neat fact, according to the author, solar costs about 57.9 $/MWH, and coal is 50$/MWH, which sounds reasonable to me. On 1/7, when it really cold, energy was trading at 1800 $/MWH during peak times.
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Old 01-13-2014, 06:38 PM   #57
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While it is possible that the renewable market energy market may become self sustaining, I would wait to see if it could survive on its own before proclaiming that fossil fuels are in a death spiral.
Thanks for the feedback. I'll re-read the article, as I skimmed it quickly, but I don't think Sankowski was talking about the death spiral of fossil fuels.

As I recall, he was speaking specifically of the current business model of utility companies that involve very expensive infrastructure burdens.
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Old 01-14-2014, 01:31 AM   #58
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Preface:

It occurs to me that one of the biggest obstacles to really understanding the challenges posed by grid-level generation is the ability to truly appreciate the scale of the problem. This type of question was recently covered in the XKCD comic "Lethal Neutrinos," in which the author analyzed, among other things, the question of which would appear brighter: A supernova, seen from as far away as the Sun is from the Earth, or the detonation of a hydrogen bomb pressed against your eyeball?



(It turns out that the Supernova wins by nine order of magnitude, which illustrates why it is hard for us puny humans to comprehend problems at extremely large scale.)




I will be speaking on such matters of scale in the points which follow.




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Joe - Did you read the longer article linked at the bottom of my post? If not, I'd be interested in your take. This is not an area of expertise for me at all.
Not as comprehensively as I should have. I read the first, and sort of skimmed the second.

Upon a re-read, it is in fact kind of interesting.

On the one hand, it's one of the extremely few pro-solar articles which I have read that acknowledges the difference between base-load and peak-load generation, and I applaud that.

On the other hand, I'm having a very hard time rationalizing some of the conclusions which it draws.





Observation the First:

For one, the author states "And how big is the peaker market? It’s about 5% of the total electrical market," and he even provides a source, albeit one published by a solar advocacy group. The problem I'm having is that THAT highly biased source does not, in turn, cite a source, and the claim which it makes does not appear to be supported by actual usage data.

For instance, here is a fairly ordinary daily power-demand-curve for one 24 hour period from the California Independent System Operator (the agency with coordinates power distribution and generation across all utilities):




And the same data from Ontario, Canada:



Both of these datasets were taken from 09 Jul, 2012, and I chose them simply because I used them as an example in another post a while back. (At the time, they were the current data from the day in which I was writing the post.)

Now, you can see pretty clearly that in both charts, the highest point is 60-80% higher than the lowest point, so I'm not sure where this 5% number comes from.




Observation the Second:

Then, they spend a *LOT* of time focusing on cost. And while economics is certainly a highly important factor in power generation, it isn't the limiting factor in the adoption of solar (and other non-nuke/fossil/hydro) technologies at any meaningful scale. If you only want to displace 5% of fossil-fuel generation, then be my guest. But that's kind of a pathetic goal, and it certainly does not justify the investment which it would involve. (To provide some sense of scale, all of the billions of dollars in public subsidies spent to date on solar installation have, by the admission of the author, displaced one-fourth of one percent of "legacy" generating methods. So we only need to spend twenty times as much as we already have in order to displace one-twentieth of legacy capacity. That's an interesting coincidence.)

But, again, cost isn't really the *biggest* problem here. The big problem is that the sun doesn't always shine (from the point of view of an observer located on the surface of the earth.)


See, it doesn't really matter if you have an installed base of solar and wind generators whose peak capacity is equal to the peak demand capacity of the whole country.

Hell, for that matter, you could have an installed capacity which was ten times peak demand. Again, as Davezorz pointed out already, the availability just isn't there.

You'd still have to deal with the reality that sometimes the sun isn't out. And then you have to ask the tough question: how many times per week are we willing to deal with rolling blackouts lasting for hours or days at a time?

(Answer: people went totally apeshit when the southwestern US was blacked out for a little under 12 hours back in September 8, 2011. That event even merits its own Wikipedia article under the title "Great Blackout of 2011."* Imagine that happening 2-3 times per week.)





Observation the Third:

The question was asked, and Davezorz touched on this, how do we store energy, at grid-scale, and then release it gradually? Davezorz mentioned battery technology, but this isn't really practical- it'd be like using a teacup to transfer the contents of the Atlantic ocean into the Pacific. The only really practical means for doing this is pumped-hydro storage, where you basically use the energy produced during peak generation time to pump an entire lake's worth of water up to the top of a mountain, and then let it run down gradually while turning a generator.

Now, pumped-hydro storage is a real thing which actually exists. Worldwide, roughly 130 GWh of pumped-storage capacity exists, representing 99% of all grid-scale energy storage capacity. Quick primer: Pumped-storage hydroelectricity - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia




But the storage question presents its own challenge as well, and for this, I'll focus strictly on the US here. Pumped-hydro electrical storage, when you really strip it down to the barest fundamentals, requires only two natural elements to work properly: A huge amount of surplus water, and a large mountain to pump it up.

Sadly, these are the two specific things which those parts of the US that receive the maximum amount of solar energy do not have. The south-east is completely lacking in tall mountains, and the south-west is completely lacking in huge quantities of surplus water. (Seriously, in CA / AZ / NM / NV / TX, water-rights are a bigger issue in local / regional electoral politics that gun control, abortion and welfare all put together.)



The southeast:





The southwest:








Observation the Fourth:


Of course, even if we were to hand-wave over this, you still have yet another scale problem to contend with. This one, I promise, will be easy to comprehend:

The largest pumped-hydro plant in the entire world is the Bath County Pumped Storage Station, located in north-western Virginia. Built at a cost of $1.6 BILLION dollars between 1977 and 1985 (remember that number for later), it has a storage capacity of 2.1 GWh**

Now, by comparison, the V.C. Summer nuclear plant #1 was built between 1974-1984, and it continues to operate to this day at a rated output of 966 MWe with a capacity factor of approximately 100%. Cost to build? $1.3 Billion.

So, the Bath hydro storage plant cost 23% more to build than the V.C. Summer nuke plant, and it has 9% of the daily output capacity.

And remember, that money is just for STORAGE. The actual generation cost is above and beyond these figured.

Remind me again how they're trying to justify the costs here?






Observation the Fifth:

Let me put this another way:

The Niagara Falls flow about 150,000 gallons per second. The output of the Niagara Falls Generating Station is about 2GW on the Canadian side and 2.4 GW on the American side, or 4.4 GW total. This represents about 0.4% of the combined generating capacity of the US and Canada.

13 billion gallons per day, for 0.4% of the combined electrical needs.


Remember the Bath County station I referenced earlier, the highest-capacity pumped storage station in the world? When operating at peak output it consumes 13.5 million gallons PER MINUTE.




Scale is a bitch.






Observation the Sixth:

And that's where the whole argument crosses into the realm of the absurd. I mean, the very title "Death Spiral For Utilities Begins" suggests that the role of the utility company is coming to an end. Far from it, in order to implement the sort of generating and storage technology suggested in the article would require the direct involvement of traditional utility companies (or their nationally-subsidized equivalent) on a scale unprecedented since the original nuclear revolution of the 1960s/70s.


I just can't see it...





Observation the nth:

This isn't to say that I necessarily refute all of what is written in that article- indeed, I acknowledge much of it as truth. I merely find the totality of it difficult to grok in fullness.





* = True story: at the time, I thought I caused this blackout. I didn't appreciate the magnitude of it immediately, but it literally happened about half a second after I switched on the big heat gun in the lab. At first, I assumed I'd just popped the breaker in the room, which happens from time to time. Then I thought "****, did I blow the main breaker on the building?" Then I noticed that people were milling about in the whole office park, which was about the time that someone turned on the radio and we figured out what was happening.

Fortunately I had ridden my bike into the office that day, as ALL of the traffic lights were out around town. I made it home in the usual 30 minutes, while the cagers were doing about 1 MPH the whole way. Later that night, I burned the **** out of my right hand while using the MAPP torch to cook a hamburger in the garage. I set the torch down after cooking the burger itself, went inside to fetch a bun, brought the bun out to the garage to toast, and then picked up the torch by the tip without even thinking. I still have a scar from that.


** = the present-day capacity of Bath is actually 3.003 GWh, however this is the result of a complete overhaul and rebuild performed in 2004-09. Unfortunately, I can't find any hard data as to what the cost of this overhaul was, so in the interest of fairness I am using the original construction numbers for both cost and capacity. This also scales well to the V.C. Summer comparison, as both plants were constructed at about the same time, and under similar regimes of environmental regulation. The cost to construct either in the present political climate would be disproportionately higher relative to generic measures of inflation / CPI.










I'm kind of tired. I think I'm going to go to bed now.
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Last edited by Joe Perez; 01-14-2014 at 08:31 AM.
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Old 01-14-2014, 10:10 AM   #59
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I really think that both you and Davez missed that the article was much more about economics of the utility company business model than it was about displacing fossil fuels with solar power, but maybe I read my own economic/financial bias into it.

Unfortunately, for some bizarre reason, the site is blocked from my current location so I can't re-read it.
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Old 01-14-2014, 12:05 PM   #60
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We can discuss the business model of utilities too, I don't get the impression the author understands how utilities work,

In markets that are deregulated, the classic "utility" is generally split up into 2 or more companies. One company owns all of the generation assets and participates in the local energy market. The market is what the California ISO Joe mentioned operates.

The other company is responsible for Transmission and distribution of electricity to customers. The idea is that the T&D utility treats the Generation utility the same as any other generator on the market, and does not provide them with an unfair market advantage.

Since generation is subject to competition, their focus is on $/MWH. typically they are very profitable when the economy is good and there is a lot of growth. in recent years, they have been marginally profitable, or not profitable at all. This is who solar competes with, they must keep their price per KWH low enough for the ISO to be able to select them to generate.

The T&D side of the company is a monopoly. They must serve all customers in their service territory regardless of how hard it is for them to do so. With the local public utility commission's blessing, they are free to raise rates in order to keep themselves profitable. There is no competition here. The T&D company gets its cut regardless who makes the electricity, or who buys it. There is nothing that solar or any other generator does to effect the bottom line of the T&D company.


Quote:
Now, you can see pretty clearly that in both charts, the highest point is 60-80% higher than the lowest point, so I'm not sure where this 5% number comes from.
typically a "Peaker" refers to single cycle gas turbine or a diesel generator that operates around 60 MVA. these are very uneconomical to run, the thermal efficiency of a turbine is around 15%, and while a diesel can be as high as 50%, the huge fuel costs and emissions controls make them uneconomical. These sites can be started in less than an hour (I have no idea how quick they can start cold, I imagine they typically have some warning they might be needed and can start the warmup process ahead of time) and are a last resort before the utility starts to shed load. This is where the author is getting his 5% number. You can see why having solar compete with these is nonsensical, their entire reason for being is you can call on them when you are on the ragged edge. Using solar, which has no capability to throttle itself, and can only be counted on to provide less than 10% of its rated capacity at all times in place of a Peaking turbine is stupid.

The 60-80% you are seeing is taken up by larger more efficient plants. I am not sure of the exact terminology, but I think spinning reserve might be correct. Essentially you have a coal plant, or a combined cycle gas plant, where the furnace is fired and the steam turbine is spinning, but providing no real electricity. As grid demand starts to rise, they throttle up to take up the slack. When you run out of capacity from these types of plants, that is when you call on your peaking generators.

It is my understanding that it takes a supercritical coal plant 24 hours to start from a cold state. I think the number might be closer to 8 hours for combined cycle gas. So if you get into trouble, plants like this in a shutdown state are not going to help you.
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