Dr. Eugene Preston explains why 100% renewable energy is unlikely to the point of impossibility
“Is having 100% renewable energy for a country feasible?”
This question was recently posed on Thinkable.
Dr. Gene Preston, a man who has been professionally specializing in grid reliability studies since his 1997 dissertation on the subject, answers “Exceptionally unlikely.” He doesn’t stop there; his answer includes enough detail to persuade all but the most fervent believers in the fantasy.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have been reading Dr. Preston’s thoughts and professional investigations into grid reliability planning for a number of years. We communicate via the same closed email list that includes members with a variety of professional backgrounds who share technical interests in electricity production and distribution.
It’s obvious to members of the list that Gene really knows his stuff when it comes to accurately modeling the variables in grid reliability predictions.
It would be useful for more people should have access to his information, so I obtained his permission to republish his detailed answer explaining why it isn’t feasible to attempt to provide 100% of a modern society’s energy demand with power sources that have been branded as “renewable.”
The below is a slightly edited and reformatted version of Dr. Preston’s answer on Thinkable.
100% means all the time, every hour, through good weather years and bad ones.
I do reliability studies that simply ask the question, is there enough capacity every hour to meet the demand. I recently gave a talk to ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, that included scenarios pushing renewables to as high as 75% penetration.
I gave the same talk to some university students on the same day. That talk was recorded and archived, so it includes more details than the slide outline.
ERCOT has quite a lot of wind power and energy, 20,000 MW in a 70,000 MW peaking system with about a 40,000 MW average demand for the year. We are just now beginning to add a lot of solar to our system.
The simulations show that somewhere around 7000 to 14000 MW of solar we will have excess power. We will begin dumping excess energy at times, much as California is having to do right now.
This is wasted energy. And we begin to waste this renewable energy at an early point in the conversion to renewables, maybe around 20% to 30% penetration. I haven’t checked the exact value. In order to stop dumping this valuable energy we will need to store it.
So I add storage to the model and it works fine. There is a table at the end of the presentation showing scenarios of different penetrations and how much storage is needed. At first the storage is useful for just moving energy to peak shaving.
But as renewables pick up more and more of the load the peak shaving is satisfied and now renewables begin to pick up more hours. As you keep on adding more renewables and more storage pretty soon you are seeing renewables picking up nearly all the energy all the time.
But there is a problem. Every once in a while you see energy shortages in renewables production. This is because the wind and solar just have low production days in energy. You already have enough storage to distribute the energy to when its needed. That’s not the problem. The problem is that wind and solar and hydro unavoidably have times when they don’t produce much energy across the entire state.
If you miss a day of production in renewables you have to fire up the gas generators to fill in the demand. So when you run the reliability program I call RTS3, the program forces you to not retire all the gas. In fact you have to keep most of your fossil fuel capacity in standby to fill in when renewables fail to produce enough energy.
So this right here prevents 100% conversion to renewables.
What if we had really long term storage, like the equivalent of a grain silo? Suppose we could create some form of liquids, such as a flow battery, where we could store large amounts of energy in these liquids? We might even store them for years. We could ride through the low production years with enough storage.
But that technology is not yet invented. So until we invent long term storage for electric energy we are not going to be able to achieve 100% renewables. You can download my RTS3 model and run your own scenarios. I could even prepare for you the CAISO data from public sources.
I intend to do just that as soon as I finish my NERC study on the CAISO. They want to finish their report first before we go public. By the way the CAISO has a terrible reliability problem if there is an extended drought which reduces hydro production for years at a time.
Hydro is a blessing and a curse. Its a blessing during rainy years and a curse in dry years. California had the driest years in 2013 – 2015 in the past 1200 years. When is the next drought? What kind of resources do we need to keep working so we can insure the lights will stay on during severe droughts?
Having some nuclear in the mix would make the system more reliable both capacity wise and energy wise. It will also reduce CO2 emissions.
So those are my comments. Please contact me at any time for modeling how we get off fossil fuels. We all have the same goal of getting off fossil fuels. My web page is http://egpreston.com .
Gene Preston, PE PhD
Pretty much anyone that’s done serious, systems/engineering level analysis on this topic has come to the same conclusion. Can’t power a country with energy sources that have 10-30% capacity factor, powered by a resource that ranges from random availability (wind) to total common mode failure (solar at night, winter). People don’t understand that it’s the resource that’s the problem – not the technology. Solar panels are perfectly reliable, more so than a coal plant that has lots of moving parts to break down and cut reliability. It’s the sun itself that is not reliable enough to power countries. So it’s not a technology problem – it’s a resource problem and therefore inherent. Wind and sunshine are not getting any more reliable no matter how good the panels and turbines become. If anything, with climate change, we can expect greater variability and unexpected extremes (lulls or hurricanes).
Storage is the theoretical solution, but simply is not feasible on the scale required. Even a week or two – grossly not enough for a reliable carbon-free grid – is way outside the bounds of resource and economic viability. A great example of this is Professor Tom Murphy’s article, “a nation sized battery” :
And this from Bloomberg
“An 85 KWh battery used by Tesla requires some 8 kilograms (17.6 pounds) of cobalt. Bloomberg Intelligence predicts that growth in EV sales at currently projected levels will drive up cobalt demand by 9,300 percent by 2040, and the car industry will require about three times the 2016 total mined production that year. Given that cobalt is also an important element in the production of industrial alloys, massive production growth will be required.”
Seems like the idea of cheaper batteries has problems in the future.
No mysteries here. It’s only what everyone who isn’t a snake-oil salesman has been saying for the last 4 decades.
Which raises the question: why does the public in all Western countries have such a voracious appetite for snake oil?
Politicians have to listen to the people to get votes; people get most of their views from mainstream media which is 75% funded by advertising; oil and gas companies buy ads in the paper, which gives some degree of editorial control, nuclear power companies don’t. Politicians in the west also receive more campaign donations and lobbying from oil and gas companies.
Why does the public in all Western countries have such a voracious appetite for snake oil?
I read a lot of fiction. I notice that hard science fiction takes up a much smaller part of the library. Fantasy is now much bigger and “end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it” books are also now bigger than hard science fiction. My interpretation is that the general public believes that our way of life cannot become better. Why try or even think about fixing a system that cannot be fixed?
It is interesting that the grid is considered as the most important part of civilization because when the grid goes down, its time to head for the hills. When that EMP hits, the fragile grid will go down and never come up again.
I don’t think the public has a voracious appetite for wind and solar. I think most of the public thinks there is no solution and does not vote or contribute in any way. The remaining small active population votes for wind and solar.
I have just the cure for that: swimming-pool reactors using something like propane-vapor engines to drive their circulating pumps and providing heat and a bit of backup electricity from any power that’s left over.
Something that’s as reliable as a stone axe and doesn’t care what happens to the grid, it just keeps cities heated and a wee bit of backup power that’s there no matter what.
People seeing something so simple, so reliable, so hard to break (even EMP wouldn’t take it down) they’d relax a little.
I like engineers. Optimistic doers.
Your reactor will be so reliable and safe that 2 or 3 can be scattered within a city. Real distributed power requiring little grid upgrade.
Yes, people seeing it will relax. Not seeing the design but seeing the actual installations work for 5 or 10 years. Hope they get the chance to see it.
That’s what the Chinese are thinking about. They hope to replace coal-fired furnaces (like the ones which created the deadly London “fogs”) with nuclear hot water to clean up the air (link).
The pipes for district heating are a whole new grid, requiring the streets to be torn up. Not cheap, but almost certainly worth it.
Now we’ll have to see if China can get its notorious materials quality problems under control. Selling bad pipe parts to the US can be ignored, burying them under the streets of Beijing and Shanghai where repairs require excavation hits home.
The issues are very different here. A country full of condensing natural-gas furnaces doesn’t have the public pressure to switch fuels that China has. There’s no huge impression of a need to clean up when the issues are creeping, long-term and spread world-wide vs. acute and local.
…because the ruling elites in the USA (at least) have dumbed-down the population for the last 40 yrs, while vulgarizing the culture, as they used “consumerism” as a method of control.
“you always get more of what you incentivize”
We’ve been practicing dysgenics for 60 years. Subsidizing the less intelligent to reproduce, penalizing the intelligent from reproducing plus opening the doors to people from around the world, many barely out of the stone age.
Representative government assumes an electorate that has the capability for rationally evaluating issues, a future-oriented time horizon and an understanding of the past. We increasingly deviate from these assumptions each year.
Even when these assumptions are met, there are limits to what representative government can handle. We had a bloody civil war when the nation was predominately white and Christian with voting limited to white males. Today, with a government involvement in nearly every social and economic sphere and with so many dividing lines we have certainly passed beyond the capacity of representative government.
The ultimate outcome could result in a far more authoritarian system or a far more decentalized system than what we have now.
I read that akaline electrolysis can have ~70% electric to hydrogen conversion efficiency and co2 can be extracted from sea water with 242 Kj electrical energy per mole. If one assumes no waste heat recovery from the reactions to convert co2 and h2 to synthetic fuels other than to drive the slightly endothermic reverse water gas shift reaction, enthalpy of combustion for octane is ~5300 Kj per mole, and 25 moles of h2 and 8 moles of co2 are needed to produce one mole of octane and 16 moles of water, these assumptions lead to ~44% electrical to fuel conversion efficiency. Assuming ~167 w/m^2 land area (average solar irradiance in North Carolina), eroei of 6 for solar PV, and 13% sunlight to electricity conversion efficiency, I come up with a land area requirement of ~12e12 m2 to supply 10 billion people with 7 Kw average octane consumption; this is about 86% of the land area used world wide for agriculture. If the solar power costs 8 cents per KWh, the cost of electrical energy to produce a gallon of octane, which when burned releases about 34 kwh, is 34/0.44*0.08 or $6.18. These numbers are improved slightly if ammonia substitutes for octane and substantially if gasified biomass substitutes for seawater as a source of carbon for octane, high temperature electrolysis is used for h2 production and waste heat from biomass gasification or gas to liquids process is used to aid in electrolysis, or solar pv is in more sunny areas. Obviously substituting biomass for seawater as a source of carbon increases the land area requirement, but it’s much easier to cover land with crops than solar panels. I think one gal of gasoline in Europe is or has been over $6 in the past. So while nuclear energy is obviously a much better option, and these high prices would at least cause fuel poverty for many, I’m not convinced that renewables can’t allow for the survival of industrial civilization.
You don’t see how covering an area equivalent to 86% of the world’s farmland with high-tech solar panels is an issue??
Or keeping solar panels on an area that large clean…
I thought it might be remotely plausible for something like that to be built and maintained over the course of a century even if the panels need replacement every thirty years or so, but keep in mind, the solar panel land are required is reduced substantially if biomass substitutes for seawater as a carbon source for synthetic fuels or electrolysis of water is done at higher temperature aided by waste heat from another process. Maybe brushing and occasional rinsing of the solar panels to clean them could be automated or rain might come frequently enough to keep them adequately clean. According to this report, http://prod.sandia.gov/techlib/access-control.cgi/2016/160649r.pdf, and assuming a 20% capacity factor for single axis tracking solar panels, the operation and maintenance cost for utility scale pc is only 1.3 cents per kWh. If panels have 20% capacity factor, last 30 years, have eroei of 6, and cost $1.9/ watt(peak), and fuel production from electricity efficiency is 44%, the annual capital replacement cost is for the pv system that produces enough power for both it’s own replacement and synthetic fuel production at a rate of 7Kw is $6219 or about 15% of the per capita GDP of Germany. Per capita power consumption is about 7 Kw in Sweden and South Korea, 5 Kw in Germany and France, 4 Kw in Israel and Switzerland; these are all developed countries. I’m not saying this wouldn’t be horrible for people’s standard of living or the environmentor only that it’s remotely plausible that an industrial society could survive off of renewable energy. Fortunately, a more concentrated source of energy exists that could comfortably power the world for thousands of years or more.
> eroei of 6,
That’s garbage. Chances are good that it physically cannot happen, e.g. that’s not good enough to power or society. Optimistically, that number means we need many times more people in society to work in energy production, e.g. like how subsistence farming used to be, with no spare labor to do other useful things.
Your money analysis does not look at the labor analysis, which is one of the more important consequences IMHO of low EROEI numbers. I don’t know of a proper study, but I’ve been meaning to look for it, or to half-ass my own spreadsheet with proper sources.
People who oppose something always say it’s impossible, until someone does it. You have no problem accepting fuel storage sufficient for natural coal, gas and oil to last for days or months, but cannot imagine how it could be possible for synthetics. Or advanced flow batteries, which do exist, and are improving. It’s like you are all selective Luddites. Assume the best for your favorite tech, but the worst for your competition. Having Dr before their name doesn’t make it any better.
I believe in the seriousness of global warming. That’s why I want to fix the problem now, with technology that exists now. Conventional nuclear can do it now, and stuff like ThorCon uses no new technology and could be ready in a couple of years.
What makes you think that Gene Prestion is opposed to a 100% renewable future, if possible? He is a grid reliability and planning expert who is concerned about climate change.
He’s also a licensed professional engineer who provides advice for which he is legally and ethically responsible. He is swayed by facts, math, and real constraints that are not obscured by hand waving.
He not only admits the existence of flow batteries, but he included a generous assumption for their future capability in some of his model scenario runs. Reread his answer.
> What makes you think that Gene Prestion (sic) is opposed to a 100% renewable future, if possible?
The video of his presentation at UT appears to conclude that 75% energy from solar and wind is feasible, with a cost on the order of rebuilding a major city, but you and he instead choose to emphasize how 100% is not possible.
His presentation on Decarbonizing the Grid concludes with a wishful thinking slide, “Nuclear is also an option,” that stray far outside his expertise, and includes unsupported overly optimistic claims that are contradicted by recent attempts to build new nuclear plants. Everyone who says used nuclear fuel is worth a lot of money, as he and you do, should be fined for perjury, because nobody is seriously willing to buy it.
> He not only admits the existence of flow batteries, but he included a generous assumption for their future capability in some of his model scenario runs.
He says the technology is not yet invented, so that makes it sound like he’s including something hypothetical. Really, it seems he is not interested in the detail of that technology. I do give him credit for mentioning, in the video, the idea of building new lakes, essentially, for creating pumped hydro storage in Texas, using ocean water to avoid droughts. However, his written answer emphasizes droughts, so again, the written answer is being pushed in a more biased direction.
Bingo, Pu239. They naysay through the vibrant evolution of a technology they fear as a competitor. Its actually kinda comical, because they claim an altruistic concern for our future. Its BS. If theirs was an altruistic pursuit, they’d seek to join the renewable community in research and development, rather than blathering a constant litany of derision.
Jon, there are a number of problems. One of these is that people typically use the solar/wind powered world argument to not build more nuclear plants. That makes no sense at all. another problem is that wind and solar powered worlds have never been proven to work. Countries that have tried in earnest, such as Germany, have only succeeded in locking themselves into using fossil fuels indefinately.
“If theirs was an altruistic pursuit, they’d seek to join the renewable community in research and development, rather than blathering a constant litany of derision”
This is another misconception people just refuse to understand, even though it is obvious to even the most casual researcher and observers.
The problem is not to do with technology. Solar panels work fine. R&D can make them more efficient, but it can’t make the sun shine at night, in winter, or through heavy clouds. It can’t make a 10-20% capacity factor PV system (in far northern climates you get even less than 10%) into an 80% capacity factor system. In Germany, typical winter capacity factors for all the solar panels in the entire country range from 0.1% to 4%. Typical december/january capacity factor averages are around 1-2% for the entire fleet. R&D won’t make the sun shine in winter. Energy storage doesn’t help, all that can do if you have loads of it (which would be economically ruinous) is give you enough power to keep the lights on at Christmas, then still no power for the country the rest of the month (december). Energy storage doesn’t work on the scale required, it’s a resource problem not a techology problem. See link above to the Do The Math article on batteries.
What’s not altruistic about demanding that we do the math before we commit to a societal grand resource path? Time is running out on climate and energy solutions, so putting us on a false trajectory – a dead end locking us into fossil fuels forever – would be disastrous. It would be quite altruistic, in my mind at least, to avoid such a collision course of commitment to false solutions.
I’ve been called a lot of things but “selective luddite”
is a new one. It may surprise you to know that
quite a few of us have worked on renewables.
I’m a sailor I love the wind. The ThorCon team is
rife with sailors. One of the key guys
on the ThorCon team was instrumental in establishing a small windfarm in Maine. I helped my brother, the chairman of ThorCon International, put in an off grid PV system in the Bahamas which at the time was one of the largest private PV systems anywhere. Our friends at Google struggled hard for 4 years to make renewables work in the Re<C program. They had immense brainpower and nearly unlimited financial resources.
They went in convinced they could and came out
convinced they couldn't.
So yes. I will cop to the "selective", but "luddite" is crazy talk.
Yeah , Jack, I recently moved the traveler for my boom vang on the yawl. Funny, but I’d swear I picked up a knot or two. Sounds ridiculous, I know. But not really, because single handing, it made trimming the main easier. So, I’m more prone to make the effort. So, I probably am realizing a bit of increased boat speed. Funny how things evolve as time goes by. Solutions present themselves, better hardware becomes available, better ideas take form…technology begets technology, knowledge begets knowledge, and open minded thought begets new ideas and solutions. No science, no technology, no ideas, no dreams, are static. If they were, we’d still be chipping flint.
Luddites? I don’t know about that. But closed minded and adversarial towards technologies that are PROVING to be a positive PART of our energy and environmental future? Absolutely.
Who here is “closed minded” about any energy source that’s playing a part in our energy future? You will find science and math supported resistance to any energy plan that says any one source or small group of sources can supply 100% of the needs & wants.
As a sailor, do you ever depend solely on the wind to supply all your energy demands without any other system standing by?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Rod.
Thats where it always ends up…”But they say it will provide 100%.”
But theres plenty of informed people, and renewable advocates that DO NOT make that claim. In fact, I’d hazard to say the majority do not believe that renewables can provide for 100% of our needs. They realize, as I do, that ALL our energy sources have a place in our future. But you guys wanna cherry pick your argument to make it credible, and thats your fall back position…
And, its hurting you. Renewables have successfully sold themselves to the public as a viable cleanalternative to nuclear and fossil fuel. So when you deride renewables, you put yourself in the fossil fuel big corporate polluting monster camp in the public’s eyes. I’ve never seen sn advocay group work so hard to step on their own…
And here’s the rub with your argument – you say we should make friends with renewable advocates, yet you also note that they have “successfully sold themselves to the public as a viable clean alternative to nuclear and fossil fuel.”
Speaking solely for myself, I have no interest in making friends with liars just because they have proven they are successful snake oil salesmen. Wind and solar may be occasionally useful supplements to nuclear and marginally reduce the need to consume fossil fuels, but they are NOT and never will be a “viable alternative” without steadfast support from the reliable sources they tell people they can replace.
Most renewables advocates may not specifically claim that their goal is a 100% renewable energy system, but I’d bet you’d be hard pressed to find any that will admit there is a strong and growing need for additional fossil and nuclear contributions to help lift billions out of the dire poverty in which they now reside.
If they admit publicly that there is a continuing need for nuclear and fossil fuel, they grudgingly label those technologies as a bridge to a utopian future powered mostly by renewables.
Who needs friends like that?
“People who oppose something always say it’s impossible, until someone does it. ”
Come on now. This type of flippant argument (if you could call it an argument) could be used to justify the most ridiculous of ideas.
For instance I could say we should power the world with hamsters in treadmills attached to dynamos. Then most would say it can’t be done. Then I would say “people who oppose something always say it’s impossible, until someone does it”.
Please. Let’s be reasonable. The truth is most ideas don’t work, sadly. We don’t have cold fusion, we don’t have global hydrogen energy economies, we don’t have a cheap quick cure for all cancers, old age, cadiovascular diseases, HIV-AIDS etc. etc.
The merits of an idea still need to be evaluated before we can commit to it. Because most ideas don’t work, or are dead ends. In case of solar powered economies, it is pretty obviously a dead end that leads to using fossil fuels forever.
“We don’t have cold fusion, we don’t have global hydrogen energy economies, we don’t have a cheap quick cure for all cancers, old age, cadiovascular diseases, HIV-AIDS etc. etc.”
Did you even bother to think before typing that idiocy? You shoulda stopped at “cold fusion”.
Cancer treatments have progressed at an amazing rate, with many cancers becoming on the high end of statistically being survivable, where not so long ago, they meant death. Life expectancy continues to rise in years, thanks to medical innovation and evolution. Need I point out there are now people amongst us, leading fruitful and healthy lives, with another person’s heart beating away merrily in their chest? And, having HIV-AIDS, not very long ago, was a death sentence. Now, it is treatable, with victims living long lives.
Think before you blather nonsense. It might be a good idea.
Please read more carefully. Cyril’s words included cheap, quick and all. Do any of your counter examples qualify?
Another renewable proposal is to use a space elevator to put solar panels in space. There might be a case for building a space elevator however I don’t see a space based system as being a major source of energy. It could be another subsidy dependent program.
That long-term grid-scale energy storage is an unresolved resource problem doesn’t mean renewable energy other than nuclear cannot contribute: Breakthrough Institute has an article up on large-scale hydro’s untapped potential, particularly in the developing world.
Mr. Shome uses Costa Rica as a case-example, and stresses the absolute reliance of hydro on forest conservation and land management. The tragedies currently unfolding in the Amazon Basin and the American West do not fit well within that paradigm, but rather are part of Dr. Preston’s admonition that hydro reliability is more weather and climate dependent than one might otherwise wish:
Record Amazon fires sign of sick, degraded forests.
Looks Like Australia threw in the towel –
Now all we need is for Germany to follow suit and France to turn back to nuclear, and we can write off MZJ’s credibility completely.
Soon they will know – even in Germany.
But in the meantime it is a political secret.
What are the chances that Greenpeace was actually founded by Royal Dutch Shell? I keep seeing reports of Shell’s involvement in the most insidious anti-nuclear actions and it would be consistent with the atmosphere.
In particular, I keep remembering one Shell representatives comments about adding nuclear to the brand of “renewable”. He claimed that agreeing on what “renewable” meant had taken a lot of work at Kyoto (implication, that he was heavily involved), the result was good, and he saw no reason to undo that good work.
“renewable” is, apart from being scientifically incorrect, not a particularly useful term. We’re not going to run out of coal in any timeframe that is remotely useful for energy policy or technology planning, and many renewable forms of energy are very polluting indeed (burning homegrown wood in a stove might be renewable but not clean combustion at all).
The focus should be on clean energy – energy that doesn’t generate air and water pollution as the main criterion.
This would logically include nuclear, being very clean. It would exclude things that are “renewable” such as burning wood chips in a coal plant, which are basically greenwashing and not even clean. Combusting stuff is dirty and has various non pollution safety risks as well (fires, explosions).
Basically anything that doesn’t involve combustion is a huge step forward, in exactly the right direction. Hydro, solar, wind, geothermal (if you take care of sulphur and heavy metal emissions!), and nuclear are the way forward.
But some sources won’t work well on their own or even in a mix. You can power countries with hydro-electric and nuclear plants, but a solar-wind mix doesn’t work at all on this level.
System based, holistic, lifecycle assessments are the only way to compare apples to apples on environmental footprints. The environmental footprint of a powerplant is not relevant, instead the entire system needs to be analyzed. Looking at the emissions of a solar farm you might get the idea that there are no emissions, but when you look a the emissions from manufacturing everything, transporting, installing, plus the added grid infrastructure and energy storage to meet the same reliability levels as grids currently have, things don’t look so good anymore. When considering the emissions of the “backup” plants that need to burn fossil fuels when the sun isn’t shining (basically all winter) makes an ostensibly solar powered grid look very dirty, with many times the emissions of a nuclear powered grid system.
So long as people don’t do this type of systemic assessments we will continue to be fed snake-oil. People will talk about their 20% renewable energy targets and forget about the other 80%. Since when does not solving a problem 80% by 20xx count as good policy?
I agree. It is bizarre how focused people are on building wind and solar with not a thought to actually measuring grid-related CO2 emissions.
If reducing CO2 is the goal, shouldn’t folks focus on measuring CO2 emissions as a success metric, rather than how many windmills have been built?
I don’t know about Greenpeace, but check this:
& click on the name of the guy who funded it.
Good article with a link to the report it was based upon about the impact on Minnesota spending $15 Billion on Green Energy (Wind).
How much less CO2 would there have been in Minnesota if they used that $15 B to build two Nuclear Power Plants? Instead they are talking about shutting shut them down.
Jack Devanney: “…PV systems anywhere. Our friends at Google struggled hard for 4 years to make renewables work in the Re<C program. They had immense brainpower and nearly unlimited financial resources.
They went in convinced they could and came out
convinced they couldn't."
The authors of the IEEE spectrum article explain it better.
What It Would Really Take to Reverse Climate Change
By Ross Koningstein and David Fork
Posted 18 Nov 2014 | 20:00 GMT,
I strongly encourage reading the whole thing, but here is an excerpt near the conclusion,
"But with 20/20 hindsight, we see that it didn’t go far enough, and that truly disruptive technologies are what our planet needs. To reverse climate change, our society requires something beyond today’s renewable energy technologies. Fortunately, new discoveries are changing the way we think about physics, nanotechnology, and biology all the time. While humanity is currently on a trajectory to severe climate change, this disaster can be averted if researchers aim for goals that seem nearly impossible."
As I understand, they did not have "nearly unlimited" finances, focused on Concentrated Solar Power, and ran into materials problems with their brayton cycle system (sound familiar?).
I'd like to know more about this Tim Allen, but couldn't find a biography.
"They dedicate this article to the memory of Tim Allen, who led the project. Allen inspired them to question their assumptions about what it would take to reverse climate change. “He wasn’t married to one approach,” Koningstein says. “He was intent on solving the problem.”
Lastly, Google did not give up:
"in 2017 Google will reach 100% renewable energy for our global operations — including both our data centers and offices. "
“in 2017 Google will reach 100% renewable energy for our global operations — including both our data centers and offices. ”
This is not actually true, just an accountant’s trick. They’re planning to buy as many kWhs of renewable power in a year as they are using with their datacenters. The datacenters themselves aren’t actually powered by 100% renewable energy, they’d be powered by a mix of gas, coal, hydro and nuclear typically.
This little accountant’s trick is a very unfair one, since datacenters require constant, baseload power.
If you used 10 MWh of electricity per year in your house, would you be happy if you got 9 MWh in the summer and 1 MWh in the winter? On random days? None in the evening when you are home and want to watch TV? You’re getting 10 MWh per year, so why is this not acceptable?
Can you figure it out?
Austin Energy, Austin Tx’s utility company, uses the same lie. They claim that they’re “green choice” customers are getting 100% of their electricity from “renewable” sources, when this is clearly impossible. The city of Georgetown is using the same lie, for the whole city.
I like your quote from Ross Koningstein, but I’d like to offer some clarifying information. Last Saturday evening, I was fortunate enough to have sat next to Koningstein during a dinner party that he hosted following the world premier of a movie called The New Fire.
Ross was the Executive Producer for the movie. That title means he provided a substantial portion of the money needed to write, record and edit the final production.
Ross was also an Executive Producer for Pandora’s Promise, another movie that attempts to reintroduce a set of “truly disruptive technologies” that are “beyond today’s renewable energy technologies.” His communications efforts are aimed at helping to change “the way we think about (nuclear) physics, nanotechnology and biology (specifically the health effects of low level radiation.)
During dinner, Ross entertained the table with stories about his experiences as one of the lead engineers for Google’s abortive attempt to create renewable energy technology that was cheaper than coal. (RE < C) He learned about the limits of systems powered by diffuse, variable and uncontrollable energy flows from the wind and sun. The materials issues that you mention were specifically associated with the heat exchangers and salts required to collect and transfer concentrated solar heat. They had nothing to do with the Brayton cycle machinery itself. Koningstein was an early Google employee and has broad engineering education, skills and experience. He remains a Google Director Emeritus. He is also a philanthropist who is using part of his hard earned fortune to share valuable information in ways that speak to larger audiences than typical "educational" efforts.
“A distributed, dispatchable power source could prompt a switchover if it could undercut those end-user prices, selling electricity for less than $0.09/kWh to $0.20/kWh in local marketplaces. At such prices, the zero-carbon system would simply be the thrifty choice.”
Utilities already have technology to remotely cut “demand” by shutting down A/C units at homes, but they say accommodating distributed solar generation to assist small producers in maximizing their financial return is too expensive, or not feasible. So, they invest in large solar farms, knowing the costs are higher, and of course controlling their market/monopoly.
These people would rather sue a small company working with a church to finance their solar PV, than find ways to solve the problems. (Google Duke church solar, for more). Which is to say they are about as far from altruism or concern about CO2 as the guys who will knife you for your wallet.
Can you provide a source that supports your assertion that large, utility-scale solar farms have higher costs than rooftop, distributed, small scale PV?
You could start with the above quoted ieee spectrum article, and the excerpt above. It’s the avoided costs of long-distance transmission. The paragraph quoted above starts with,
“…Distributed power, generated close to the electricity meter, can also be worth more, as it avoids the costs and losses associated with transmission and distribution. Residential customers in the contiguous United States pay from $0.09/kWh to $0.20/kWh, a significant portion of which pays for transmission and distribution costs. And here we see an opportunity for change. “
That’s an author’s opinion with generalized guesses, not specific data on actual costs.
It ignores the fact that transmission and distribution line costs are nearly 100% capital investments. Once built, the capital must be repaid and actual costs are not affected by how much the lines are being used.
If owners of distributed power were independent of the grid, there might be a little more truth to the assertions made.
> That’s an author’s opinion with generalized guesses, not specific data on actual costs.
It’s the same authors who you and Jack Devanney would like to use to support your inevitable, never changing, bottom line, when you think they align, as demonstrated by your earlier anecdote.
It’s your kind of thinking that puts a strangle-hold on the very real possibility of using solar to good advantage. It seems obvious that putting low voltage PV nearer the loads, and skipping the high voltage transmission costs should be cheaper than treating PV like a conventional power plant. In that regard, Preston’s February 2016, Microgrids Can Play An Important Role In Reducing ERCOT’s Fossil Fuel Dependency, seems to also agree; however, his bullet “Nuclear? Yes, directly financed with crowd source funding” is baffling without further explanation.
Anyone know why Texas’s nuclear generation went down 24% between July 2016 numbers and July 2017 numbers? I was browsing EIA after a coworker claimed Texas was getting more electricity from wind than from coal. As I suspected, wind is about 1/3 of coal generation. But the generation capacity of wind slightly exceeds the generation capacity of coal. Another common lie.
I should probably avoid these conversations at work. I get too passionate. I really want to help stamp out these lies and the misconceptions they foster.
‘Residential customers in the contiguous United States pay from $0.09/kWh to $0.20/kWh, a significant portion of which pays for transmission and distribution costs.’ The capacity of a distribution network is determined by the peak load. When the peak load is for summer air conditioning, that can overlap with peak rooftop PV output, but the ac load usually continues on into the evening, while PV drops to nothing. So unless those with rooftop solar want to invest in battery storage as well, they’ll need just as much capital and maintenance on their power lines as their neighbours do. If the power companies end up selling less power overall, they’ll raise the line charges to cover the difference.
The A/C load is not like most, as it lends itself to the cheapest mode of energy storage: ice. Running the chiller unit flat-out from morning to mid-afternoon, ramping down to feed other load that’s heading towards peak, and then coasting off stored ice through the early evening would shave the A/C demand peak pretty well and wouldn’t cost much.
A 1-ton A/C unit able to run 50% off storage from 2-4 PM (ramp period) and 100% off storage from 4-8 PM would need less than 600 pounds of ice. That’s a large-ish water heater worth.
Of course, having a big manageable load that’s also available all night improves the economics of base-load a lot. Between ice-storage A/C and heat-pump water heaters, a whole lot of fossil fuel could be replaced by uranium.
At least there is some good news for nuclear power in Korea. It seems the people are not on board with ditching nuclear power.
The Korean public is more sane than their pols? An amazing thing to see.
Wait, that’s true here too. Then again, our pols are more purchased than elected.
Our “information” is bought and paid for too. Thats how idiotic conspiracy theories take root, EP. And that greases the skids for corrupt and despicable governance. Things like Pizzagate deflect from things like russian meddling in our social media and our electoral process. Things like sensationalizing Fukushima deflect from the utility and wisdom behind utilizing NE. But you gotta have a public ignorant enough to swallow a doomsday scenario about Fukushima, or stupid enough to buy into Pizzagate. When that happens, things like a russian attack on the very foundation of our republic gets ignored or discounted. And REAL NEWS, such as the MAJORITY of our media attempts to give us, gets pushed to the background. I’m curious who you think bought the Trump Administration. Big oil, who ain’t NE’s friend, or Russia, who ain’t America’s friend? Or, both?
And after they completely and utterly distroy the credibility of the entire 4th Estate, how you’re gonna know anything other than what tyrants and dictators tell you to”know”? Oh…I forgot, you’ll still have Fox to fill your head with nonsense.
From my point of view, there isn’t much difference between Big Oil and Russia.
Roughly half of Russia’s government revenue comes from exports of oil and gas.
And Russia is also known for giving large sums of money to the environmental groups, both US and EU. Think about why they would do that?
Rich…do you have sourcing for that claim? Apparently they sank a large sum of money into helping install this oil soaked batch of gangsters into power here, and our own intelligence agencies are the sourcing for that claim. So, I’m curious what sources you have seen fit to trust enough to make such a claim.
Yes, those trustworthy “mainstream” media who work hand-in-glove with institutions like the UN, which just appointed Robert Mugabe a “World Health Ambassador”.
I agree. Refusal of the media to properly analyze and report on both the Clintons and Obama allowed them to get away with a host of crimes. Maybe not for much longer, though. The networks which protected and are protecting them are being dismantled.
Funny, for something you claim isn’t a fire there’s an awful lot of smoke. The FBI just busted another 120 traffickers and rescued 84 children, one as young as 3 months. This is on top of 474 busted in California in February, 238 arrested in Hollywood in June and literally thousands overall.
There are other unsavory associations. Islam sanctifies child marriage because of the profit’s example with Aisha, and a CAIR leader was busted for sex with a 10-yr-old a couple years ago.
(part 2… part 1 stuck in moderation)
Yes, Russia interfered… with about $150k of Facebook ads which mostly supported Hillary. Oh, and let us not forget the Russian corruption of a uranium trucking firm during HIllary’s tenure as SoS, which the FBI knew about but failed to stop. Russians donated quite a bit to the Clinton foundation.
You know, for someone who ought to have learned how corrupt our lying liberal media is and has long been from things like Walter Duranty’s boosterism of the Soviet Union while the Holodomor was in full swing, and the NYT’s refusal to return his Pulitzer as the Pulitzer committee has failed to rescind the award, you are way too credulous. What we’re seeing now is the breakdown of the lügenpreße’s effectiveness as gatekeepers and thought-leaders, and the collapse of its ability to protect the criminals behind it. Bezos owns the Washington Post outright, and Carlos Slim and Saudi Arabia own major chunks of the NYT. If you think ANY of those “news” papers publish anything seriously contrary to their interests, you’re too short for this ride.
“Yes, Russia interfered… with about $150k of Facebook ads which mostly supported Hillary”
Thats, BS, and if you don’t know its BS, you’ve proven my point.
Do you have trouble using GOOGLE? I do not keep a set of pages, and index or glossary of articles I have read. So to support your question, since it appears you have trouble verifying your suspicions, I googled the phrase “Russian Involvement In Environmental groups.” this resulted in numerous pages including several from the NYT’s Newsweek, and other reputable publications supporting my assertion and recollection. Both Left and Right leaning/biased. If you search on “Russian anti-fracking” the number of articles greatly increases. Again for both US and the EU.
Do you think the NYT’s B/S (I think it is)
But they printed an article that Russia bought over $100,000 worth of political ads. LINK
Fake Russian Facebook Accounts Bought $100,000 in Political Ads …
Sep 6, 2017 – Facebook to Deliver 3,000 Russia-Linked Ads to Congress on … to the political skirmishing in Washington over Russia’s role in the election.
Fascinating that the left used to tolerate Russia when it was part of the USSR empire with far more weapons aimed at us is now seeing Russians under every bed. And no one says a word about Israel’s far more influence over our politics and government to the point where there is legislation that would make any practical criticism of Israel illegal.
Fermi, you know better than that, at least as it applies to me. As POA many times here I criticized Israel, only to be accused of anti-semitism. Meanwhile, not a word about EP’s racist crap from the spineless here.
And Rich, you haven’t answered the question. Where did you get your “info” that russia was pouring vast amounts of money into the environmentalist factions?
And it is OUR INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES that are seeing a “russian under every bush”, rich. Are those the “leftists” you’re blathering about? For a site that seeks to be found credible on energy issues, there sure is a surplus of ignorant jackasses here. And EP’s premise, that russian meddling was designed to aid Clinton is absurd to the point of laughable nonsense. But of course, no one here speaks up. This site is a JOKE, Rod. Wise up.
The joke I’ve been watching is the incredible number of paid pundits who apparently believe, and expect all of the rest of us to believe, that $150K can buy an influential ad campaign on a national level.
If that naive assertion were true, there’d be a run on the unemployment lines full of people from ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, Madison Ave, Google, Facebook…
Changing people’s minds isn’t anywhere near that cheap. If it was, I’d be investing $150K in a Facebook campaign to sway the public to support nuclear energy.
And Jon you haven’t read my post ” …. numerous pages including several from the NYT’s, Newsweek, and other reputable publications ” WAPO was also in my results.
Or do you bother even reading posts you troll on?
Simply search on “Russian Involvement In Environmental groups + NYT, or WAPO” or any publication you trust. Use “fracking” instead of “environmental” then NYT, WAPO, Newsweek are all on the first page or two.
The intelligence agencies also saw WMDs in Iraq. They are worse than useless.
I noticed during and following Fukushima that RT (which I assume is controlled or heavily influenced by the Russian government) was very disparaging of nuclear power while the Russian government itself was pursuing a domestic and export market. LewRockwell.com frequently posted RT radiation scare stories to the point that I would ask how a site that is so skeptical of government power can give credibilty to RT given its relationship to the Russian government.
Most of which were being blocked, no doubt. Any time an anti-left meme or hashtag starts to trend, Twatter likes to remove it from view.
I’m amazed that Jonny here thinks that less than $500k overall could change the outcome of an election where Hillary raised and spent $1.2 billion. It’s like he attributes magical powers to Putin. DEMONIC powers, perhaps. Spooky action at a distance.
Dude, I’ve never even had a Twatter account. I last posted on Gab months ago. I have no time to do the energy coverage I wanted to do.
Chesapeake Energy contributed to the Sierra Club to promote US natural gas over nuclear power, and you’re okay with that?
Compared to US foreign policy for sale on Hillary’s watch, Lois Lerner’s IRS blatantly tampering with the tax treatment of right-leaning groups, and the Obama/Holder/Lynch effort to persecute police officers for shooting Black perps no matter how well justified feeding a de-policing that has spiked murder rates in several major cities and already accounted for more additional fatalities than the entire history of lynching in the US?
I’m still holding my nose, but I’ve been able to get rid of the bunny suit and air pack.
Fermi…you know better. A healthy section of the intelligence community disputed the Bush admins claims of WMDs in Iraq. Just ask Valerie Plame and her husband how dissenters were treated. Or Scott Ritter.
And the NYTs, of the so called liberal media, was one of the loudest purveyors of the BS. Just recall Judith Miller’ hysterical misrepresentation of reality.
Rod deleted my post pointing out the reported 274, 000 bucks spent on twitter by the russians, or the countless thousands of russian bots placing anti-clinton premises in feeble minds such as EP’s. A large portion of trumps,supporters on twitter, even today, are known bots. Its a sad state of affairs when a president relies on idiots and bots to create the impression of widespread support. Mark my words, he will crawl out of the White House in disgrace.
This comment is off-topic, but I can’t find a post on hormesis that still accepts comments.
How quickly does the body respond to a change in radiation dose rate? Everybody knows weightlifting within reason builds muscle mass. I would undoubtedly hurt myself if I tried to lift a 100 kg load, though, while a veteran weightlifter legitimately might be able to lift such a load in specific exercises.
Also, at high doses and dose rates how well does LNT fit the data relative to supralinearity, a quadratic model, etc?
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