Credibility of Influential Paper On ‘100% Renewables’ Challenged by Peer-Reviewed Critique 1


  1. Rod, Peer reviewed no longer means respectable and responsible science. Many renewables advocates, such as Jacobson, are unwilling and appearantly unable to answer science based criticisms of papers that support 100% renewables claims. Thus Jaconson may have passed a peer review test, with peers who acted like cheerleaders, but he failed to pass an open science test. See the following discussion of Jacobson’s work in the BraveNewClimate blog.

  2. Charles: Thank you for the reminder of one of the earliest challenges to Jacobson’s 100% WWS quackery.

    I’ve added links to it and several other challenges to the post.

  3. Rod This these two posts by Bill Hannahan to questions the peer review of a Jacobson published papers. We have to ask if “peer review” means “Cover up.” Hannahan’s Response to a Jacobson’s paper (link here):

    Hannahan’s attempt to get his response published by the peer reviewed journal:

  4. I googled around to see if I could find any examples of a 15 X dam uprate just by adding new turbines to an existing dam, as Jacobson’s paper envisions doing at a low cost. I couldn’t: the uprates I found were marginal affairs of a small fraction of existing capacity, usually on the order of a few tens of megawatts.

    I did find one uprate that’s almost in Jacobson’s ball-park: the 3-fold uprate of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia, from 2,280 MW to 6,180 MW in 1967-80. But to add more turbines they had to lengthen the dam by 1700 feet, requiring huge excavations and civil works–essentially building a second dam. They also had to do hydrological projects in the upstream watershed to create enough flow to the reservoir to feed the new turbines.

    So Jacobson’s hydro schemes are certifiably insane. There’s no way to expand capacity 15 times, or even a fraction of that, without colossal new civil works (assuming dam sites accommodate that, which many won’t) and extensive reengineering of river systems, at a cost of trillions of dollars. It ain’t gonna happen.

    And without that mythical hydro capacity, Jacobson has to hugely expand his solar thermal capacity to balance huge swings in wind and PV, again at a cost of trillions (without securing balancing power that’s reliable).

    It’s really shocking that anyone swallows Jacobson’s stuff.

    1. Add to that the ecological impacts of such increases in dam power capacity. That is, suddenly having massive water flow through the dam, over short time periods (when the wind isn’t blowing or sun isn’t shining). What would the downstream ecological impact of that be? (Hell, it would basically wash away all downstream life.) I thought that we had been going down the path of having ecological concerns govern the allowable flow profiles of our large dams, to some degree. Well, this would be a massive step in the other direction.

      1. Right.

        In Grand Coulee’s case, Jacobson’s 15X scale-up implies 105 GW of turbine capacity, (almost five times China’s Three Gorges dam).

        Currently Grand Coulee’s generators have a maximum flow of 280,000 cuft/sec, and the spillway can do 1 million cuft/sec for a total of 1.28 million cuft/sec. Scaling up 15 times would give a maximum generator flow of 4.2 million cuft/sec, 5.2 million cuft/sec with the spillway–so three to four times the maximum flow that the downstream watercourse currently handles.

        And those deluges last up to 13 hours in Jacobson’s model. 105 GW maximum turbine flow would drain Grand Coulee’s full reservoir in 16 hours.

        So, not too good for the river. But nothing like Jacobson’s lunatic scenario could even be built in the first place.

        1. I believe that the flows on the Columbia River are controlled by various EPA restrictions. Do not know which dams, however, the Columbia Generating Station (nuclear) needs to restrict power generation so that water can be released to maintain these river flow requirements. Would be impossible to drastically increase this flow for short periods of time.

          1. We call it economic dispatch, which usually results in us reducing reactor power to ~70% during weekends (sometimes, although rare during the work week) and is always during spring runoff.

            Being a BWR, we can easily accommodate simply by reducing recirc flow. Still, these plants were built to operate at 100% and reducing power for an extended period is not ideal for system health and fuel burn up.

  5. My favorite part is how Jacobson is accusing this guy of being an anti-environmental hack:

    Daniel Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley

    IMO, this whole affair illustrates why we must put in place market-based, technology-neutral policies like carbon fee and dividend (or a carbon tax, or even cap-and-trade). Tax or limit CO2 emissions and air pollution and let the market decide how to respond.

    That as opposed to having competing “studies and analyses” (many of them biased) trying to convince the govt. that this way or that will be THE best way of achieving the goals. The goal of the “study” authors (such as Jacobson) being to have the govt. declare their preferred method the winner, and enforce the adoption of that method by fiat. The best policy example of this? The egregious Renewable Portfolio Standard policies that are in place in many states (an approach devoid of merit, from any rational perspective). Literally mandating a specific winner, regardless of cost or practicality. All other approaches to be given no chance to compete.

    Under a market-based policy, if solar and wind can solve their genuine technical problems (intermittency, storage, huge transmission demands, perhaps land use), those sources will flourish. If they can’t, they will not. If they are actually more expensive than other means of emissions reduction (all things, such as grid costs, considered), they will not get that far.

    One of the best features of market-based, technology-neutral policies is that the truth automatically comes out. They are an antidote to BS (such as this). The beauty of it is that we do not have to figure out what the future will bring, in terms of technology developments, future costs, which sources will succeed, etc.., in order to put the correct policy in place now. It’s simple, limit or correctly cost the tangible negative impacts (health effects, global warming emissions). The market will find the best way to respond, and will automatically adjust to any changes in the future due to various technology advances or changes in market conditions.

    The resistance to such simple, correct approaches by so many people is a sign that they have other agendas.

  6. Everytime I drive through the Mojave from Lancaster to the Highway 5 Grapevine on my way to the coast, the wind farms and solar farms have expanded. The speed of these expansions is astounding. Voila, they appear as if by magic. Who can doubt they are far cheaper to construct, with a far greater energy yield, than they were a decade ago? How many years, decades even, does it take to do a ground up NP build?

      1. Will,

        KEPCO is building four nuclear power stations for the UAE over the span of about 8 years. That’s an average of about one every two years.

    1. @Jon Hall

      There is no doubt that wind turbines are a better financial investment under current market rules and subsidy schemes than nuclear power plants. The question many of us have – and have answered – is whether or not this turbines are a good energy infrastructure investment that will provide the kind of power that society needs over an extended period of time.

      Take a drive past Diablo Canyon someday. You will be surprised how tiny the facility is that likely produces more electricity each year than all of the wind turbines you see during your drives through Mojave. That facility was completed >30 years ago and could easily operate for another 30-50 years if not being forced to shutdown by an unholy alliance of a rate based utility, a state government run by renewable and gas interests, a union that speaks for only a small portion of the work force and professional antinuclear activists.

        1. Rod…regardless of which is a better use of our resources, which is a political result rather than one based on science…

          13.5 TW-hrs produced in 2016 hardly seems “worthless”, as Jeff opines, below.

          As I have been doing here for a number of years now, I am pointing out the futility of “business as usual” in the manner that NE attempts to market itself with this “us against them” attitude. Obviously it ain’t working. And until you guys find a sensible marketing strategy, with a very loud voice,you are going to watch NPPs close. If theres anything I’ve learned here, (besides that fact that NE is a very feasable and desirable solution to a very serious problem), its that you guys are expert marksmen at shooting yourselves in the foot. And now you are seemingly embracing an administration that is going to taint anything and everything it touches. Suicide.

          1. @Jon Hall

            Worthless might be a slight exaggeration, but what I asked you to do is to compare the resources occupied by building wind compared with those occupied by a nuclear plant and to recognize that a single old nuclear plant produces about 50% more electricity each year than ALL of the wind turbines spread across your very large home state.

    2. It will be interesting to see what the capacity factors are for the windmills in SoCal during this latest heat wave. The last one they had a few years ago the wind farms were producing in the range of 5% capacity factor. Both DC and SONGS were running at the time and were pushing their usual 99-100% CF. Hard to beat having power when you need it, especially in 120 deg. peak temperature.

      1. Hows that attitude working out for you Jeff, as NPs are shutting down, and wind/solar farms are growing exponentially? Seems there are big money interests willing to invest in “useless” while balking at putting their money in nuclear. So all these spinning turbines, and huge acreages of solar panels are “useless”? Well, seems to me they’re producing more than SONGS is, eh? Now why could that be? Do you own a mirror?

        1. @Jon Hall

          As noted here many times before, closing SONGS was a terrible mistake. The fault for the decision is widespread and includes a wimpy owner, political pressure (some funded by replacement power generators), an NRC chairman who exceeded his authority without being questions by the wimpy plant owner and illegal collusion between the owner and the state utility regulator.

        2. Jon, so what? You are not making any thing resembling a logical point. The fact that large amounts of money are put into wind and solar and that folks are willing to build lots of them is not a point in their favor, if they do not contribute to reducing CO2 emissions.

          All they do, in fact, is cause rate payers bills to rise. No matter how much the pundits prattle about “low cost” wind and solar, the facts are that wherever they are installed, the rate payer sees substantial bill increases. Worse, even in places where consumers “subscribe” and in theory, non-subscribers are not paying for wind, the non-subscribers still get hit with a share of the hidden costs of wind in the form of transmission line build and the cost of high priced peaking gas power to maintain grid stability in the face of intermittent wind. The cost of moment to moment gas backup is not allocated to the subscribers, as it should be.

          All this, and it does almost nothing to reduce CO2 emissions on a reliable grid.

          So again, how exactly is building a lot of wind generators better than simply sticking one’s head in the sand and ignoring the problem?

          How is wasting a vast amount of resources, driving down grid stability, and driving up consumer costs, while not reducing CO2 emissions in any meaningful way, a better choice than the status quo?

          Building wind and solar are not the goal. Reducing CO2 is the goal. Have you lost sight of that? I know most of the world seems to have.

          1. “So again, how exactly is building a lot of wind generators better than simply sticking one’s head in the sand and ignoring the problem?”

            Sometimes, the mindsets here overpower their holders the ability to read. Care to show me, now, or in the past, where I have made such an assertion, that it is “better”.

            I have formed an opinion anout renewables, and nuclear. I see both in a favorable light, and firmly believe both can be key players in our energy future, IN A POSITIVE WAY. I believe solar and wind will continue to evolve, and will only do so through application. If we didn’t have Model Ts in our past, we wouldn’t have Ferraris in our present.

            You can continue this “us against them” BS until the last NPP closure, or you can change tactics, and work towards a viable and mutually beneficial partnership. Your choice. It won’t be easy, but its essential. Whether you like it or not, renewables are here to stay, and no matter how long and hard you wanna snivel and paint NE as a victim, that fact ain’t gonna change. Either you change your messaging and your alliances, or you go under. Thats just the way it is.

          2. “Sometimes, the mindsets here overpower their holders the ability to read. Care to show me, now, or in the past, where I have made such an assertion, that it is “better”.”

            You have repeatedly asserted that Trump’s denier stance is somehow worse than the embracer stance of those who see wind and solar as the only solution to CO2 emissions.

            I am no fan of Trump. Must get that out of the way. My hopes pretty much died when he appointed Perry. I live in Texas.

            In the real world, no matter how much energy wind and solar generate, their intermittent nature mean that putting that energy on a reliable grid does not reduce CO2 emissions in any substantial way. Oh, it might spark a conversion from coal to wind/gas and reduce CO2 that way, but the reduction is no better and often worse, than just converting to gas alone would have been, and gas alone would have been vastly cheaper than the redundant generating capacity of wind/gas.

            The only place wind makes even a modicum of sense is as an (expensive) supplement to existing hydroelectric power, where is might stretch the hydro capacity by 15%, maybe.

            In the real world, wind has not lowered anyone’s CO2 emissions in any meaningful way. In the real world, adding wind to the grid has made electricity for consumer’s much more expensive. Here in Austin, my electric rates are 20% higher than they were before they started adding wind at a foolish rate, this during a time when natural gas prices have fallen to historically low rates, and 27% of our electricity comes from a reliable nuclear plant.

            All our rates are 20% higher. Not just the wind subscribers.

            So again, how is adding energy from wind to the grid helping to reduce CO2 in any meaningful way.

            Sure, you can generate energy with wind, but on a grid that must remain reliable, it is a costly and useless exercise, except in a few very exceptional situations.

            This isn’t about us vs. them. Even if nuclear didn’t exist, wind would still be a foolish waste of resources and a dangerous distraction from finding solutions that might actually work.

    3. Every time I drive through Palm Springs I see numerous wind turbines, most of which are….idle. Some are turning (maybe 20%), so lack of wind is not an excuse. This is during daytime when power demand is greater.

      1. Fermi….I notice, too, turbines that are idle while the wind is blowing. Often, one hillside will have them spinning, while they are idle on another hillside. I assume this is a matter of logistics or power distribution, rather than one of disfunction. Thats an assumption on my part, but its the only one that makes sense.

        1. @Jon Hall & FermiAged

          Wind, especially in hilly areas, can be extremely localized. I’ve often been in a sailing race in which boats separate by only a few hundred yards are in completely different wind conditions. That has been even more true than usual when sailing on the nearby Smith Mountain Lake.

          I suspect that you see turbines spinning while others are not because of variations in wind speed and direction. If turbines have enough wind to spin and generate power, it is very rare for them to be curtailed for logistics or power distribution reasons.

          1. Of course, Rod. I’d like to have a five dollar bill for everytime I’ve tacked to chase a windline seen in the distance.

            One thing I have noticed is that the huge blades now being used require very little wind, barely a breeze, to rotate. As I’ve said here many times, the technology is obviously and inevitably evolving. And it will continue to evolve, as all technologies do. Both in energy generation, and in energy storage. Often here I see wind and solar presented as being static, at the end of its evolutionary progression. Thats BS, just as it would be if the same claim was made about NE.

            1. @Jon Hall

              I’ve noticed through my reading that some wind turbine designers are now oversizing their blades in order to extend their ability to generate power at lower wind speeds.

              I hope they have made some provisions for the equivalent of reefing or shifting to smaller headsails in the event of storms that affect even areas where average wind velocity is below the norm. Huge sails that can make a boat hum in light air can be deadly in a blow if there’s no way to strike them. Even if there is, they can be blown out in the time it takes to recognize that the wind is cranking up and then to take appropriate action.

          2. Rod, the presence of these huge blades in areas like Tehachapi, Willow Springs, and this end of the Mojave is proof positive that the engineers have designed for extremely high winds.

            I have had sails blown out, and been knocked down. Not my favorite part of sailing, to be sure. I’m sure the engineers designing these humungous blades are cognizant of how quickly winds can accelerate. Common sense tells me that wind speed must be recognized by the computerization of these turbines, and that a safety net of some sort is designed in for wind bursts and extended periods of strong winds.

            1. @Jon Hall

              I’m pretty sure you are right about the foresight of the wind turbine engineers.

              One of the frustrating aspects of energy conversations for me over the years is how many nuclear opponents fail to recognize that nuclear plant engineers might be just as foresighted and cautious as wind turbine engineers.

              My experience in observing nuclear engineers up close and personal for so many years is that they are the kind of people who use belts, suspenders AND snug pants to prevent the unlikely problem of their pants spontaneously falling down in public.

          3. Hmmm….”nerds”, in other words. I know a wind farm engineer, and he too, is a nerd, exactly as you describe. But, nerd or not, he has a good marketing rap. Too bad your army of nerds don’t pay as much attention to their message as they do to making sure they don’t expose their privates to the public.

  7. I live in the Pacific Northwest and have either visited or driven by almost all of the dams on the Columbia River and tributaries. There is no possibility of adding additional generators. Previous comments amplify.

    Further it is proving to be exceedingly difficult to obtain right of way for transmission lines. For example, Idaho Power has been trying to build a Boardman, Oregon, to Hemingway, Idaho, AC interconnect since the early 2000s; still doesn’t have all the permits.

    1. “I live in the Pacific Northwest and have either visited or driven by almost all of the dams on the Columbia River and tributaries. There is no possibility of adding additional generators. Previous comments amplify.”

      Maybe they could be added, but f they are like other parts of the country, there will only be water to run them for a few weeks of the year. Really big capital cost for little result.

      “Further it is proving to be exceedingly difficult to obtain right of way for transmission lines. For example, Idaho Power has been trying to build a Boardman, Oregon, to Hemingway, Idaho, AC interconnect since the early 2000s; still doesn’t have all the permits.”

      Pretty amazing. It’s not a heavily populated area. I couldn’t even fine Hemingway, Idaho. I assume it is near Ketchum.

      I think people are going to look back at the so called boom in wind and solar in a few years and realize that they’ve been somewhat conned. Wind and solar are solutions to energy problems in some situations but cannot be considered the universal solution that is being touted.

      1. @Eino

        “I think people are going to look back at the so called boom in wind and solar in a few years and realize that they’ve been somewhat conned.”

        I’d eliminate the extraneous modifier before “conned.”

      2. Hemingway is a short distance southwest of Boise. The major substation for Boise distribution is there.

  8. Barry Brook with co-authors, maybe the first author is Tom Blees, have a rather new paper taking apart several papers by the renewables utopianist. Sorry I have neither a title nor a link.

  9. Jacobsen is a buffoon. And he’s taking quite a bit of flack which is earned. But the problem is the general public doesn’t understand electricity and the power grid.
    Thus the fact free political news stories which proclaim the wonders of wind or solar are not challenged. The stuff we read John Q Public doesn’t. I did get in a little debate with my neighbor on this (who knew I worked in the industry and thus admitted to be over matched) but I think I succeeded in explaining in laymen’s terms what really is obvious. You can’t power the grid reliably from weather driven intermittent power sources. But most folks don’t take the time to learn this.

    This link is great. Its an instantaneous CO2 output map by country. Countries that are always deep green (low CO2) are either blessed with loads of hydro or are heavy into nuclear, i.e..e France and Ontario

    1. @Jim Doyle

      I’m happy to hear that you took the time to talk to your neighbor and that he was patient enough to listen.

      If the public does not know what it needs to know about electricity and the power grid, it’s not their fault. It’s the fault of the professionals who haven’t figured out how to explain their product and the fault of the companies who don’t bother to talk to the public about their product unless there is a crisis.

      Since nearly everyone has substantial exposure to rechargeable batteries and their limitations, it should be relatively easy to help them realize they are being over sold. Since most people outside of urban islands spend time in the weather and understand how it is always changing, it shouldn’t be difficult to help them understand why weather dependent power systems cannot provide the reliability and quality that they expect from their electricity systems without a lot of help from other kinds of generators.

  10. The burden of proof is squarely on MZ Jacobson, a real world demonstration of his project still awaits. Although several countries manage to satisfy demand for electricity via massive hydropower resources (combined with mostly small populations) such as Iceland (also massive geothermal), Norway, Uruguay no examples can be cited of nations lacking such native hydro resources installing sufficient wind or solar-electric generation to satisfy even a majority of their needs; Germany’s disastrous multi-billion Euro Energiewende boondoggle project is a notable example of how WWS fails to match the (ostensibly low CO2) results of similar, or less sums spent on national fission-electric programs of France, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, and Switzerland. Germany continues to burn just about as much coal as ever and is paying ~35 cents for the privilege, as much as the outer Hawaiian islands. Denmark is paying >40 cents.

    AES & SolarCity are installing a >100MWh battery grid storage systems on Kauai with AES agreeing to a power purchase agreement supplying customers electricity for 13.9 cents a kWh. Musk’s SolarCity agreed to build a similar smaller battery storage system a few years ago. This should prompt the question: why aren’t AES and SolarCity offering to supply similar battery storage PPAs to Germany and Denmark?

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