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    1. I bet he meant 500 kV, actually. kVa is more a transformer rating than a transmission line rating…..from what I recall as a Mechanical Engineer.

  1. This one always gets me:

    They theorized that by scaling up the renewable energy generation system to the scale of weather systems they can take advantage of the fact that wind is blowing or the sun is shining somewhere in the U.S.

    Nice theory but has it been proven? Jacobson has some computer models but they require breathtaking assumptions to make the claim that indeed 100% WWS is “feasible”. Does this “independent” study have similar assumptions? I wonder whether any competent power engineers have been consulted. Are infrastructure costs “feasible”? Has NIMBY been considered when the word “feasible” is used?

    I rather suspect pixy dust and unicorns would be required to make such a scheme feasible.

    1. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has done some studies that suggest it is possible, however, there are several caveats that people on this site have discussed at length and will continue to point out.

      1) Some people claim wind and solar is all we need according to NREL. NOT TRUE. The NREL study relies on hydro to provide a baseload function and a backup function.

      2) Some people claim that is the least cost way to zero carbon. The NREL study never attempted to quantify costs or claim that their WWS modeling was the least cost method to get to zero carbon, only that it was possible. Aside: I would alter the acronym to WWSS which is wind, water, solar, storage. End Aside.

      3) NREL claims we could get to 100% renewable by 2030. NOT TRUE. NREL never attempted to quantify whether all the transmission, energy storage, supply chains for hydro, wind, and solar, could get the US to 100% renewable by 2030. The chances are slimmer than slim.

      I am sure there are many more ways the NREL research is spun that are not true.

      1. I forgot to address your last comment. NIMBYism is not taken into feasibility. We are seeing wind pushback in my state already.

        1. I looked up Jacobson’s plan for Michigan again. The plan includes 31% of energy from offshore wind. Lakefront property owners are the most vehement variant of NIMBYism that I have ever encountered. Offshore wind in Michigan is either a) going to be fought with every penny lakefront property owners can muster b) will need to be so far offshore as to be cost prohibitive.

          1. I don’t doubt that for a second. We can merely look at the shining example of RFK Jr who is all for renewables because he understands they will be backed up by natural gas. Did I say all for it? Sorry, I meant he’s all for it unless it’s impacting his view. NIMBYism at it’s best!

          2. Kevin:

            I think you are correct. Please see the excerpt from Wikipedia:

            “To compute the greatest distance at which an observer can see the top of an object above the horizon, compute the distance to the horizon for a hypothetical observer on top of that object, and add it to the real observer’s distance to the horizon. For example, for an observer with a height of 1.70 m standing on the ground, the horizon is 4.65 km away. For a tower with a height of 100 m, the horizon distance is 35.7 km. Thus an observer on a beach can see the top of the tower as long as it is not more than 40.35 km away.”


            It certainly makes more sense to re-utilize existing transmission infrastructure, if possible. A lot of this is old and has to be rebuilt, but retaining these facilities is intuitively less expensive than vast new greenfield construction.

      2. @Kevin You’re telling me that NREL is saying 100% WWS may be possible. Are we supposed to bet our future on a possibility? In any case I’m not sure what NREL is spinning or what is being spun from NREL. I’m talking about Jacobson and his claims. His claim is that 100%WWS is “feasible”. And according to his analysis there’s no need for even additional hydro!

        1. @Ike Thanks for the questions/comments. I would need to take another look at the Jacobson and NREL studies to get much deeper into the weeds. Here are some impressions which I was left with.

          1) The Jacobson proposal is based on total energy produced only. It does not factor in when the energy is produced (storage would be necessary), or where it is produced (transmission may be necessary).

          2) The Jacobson proposal is quite light on feasibility. Can states install so much WWS? My example about offshore wind and Michigan fits in quite well here.

          3) The NREL study is very good with regard to timing, in other words when the energy is produced, and does a better job of where it is produced, although may still make some assumptions about transmission.

          4) The NREL study did not rely as much on offshore wind as Jacobson. I much safer assumption in my opinion.

          5) I am not sure of NRELs assumptions for hydro. Can all hydros load follow in their model? Do they specifically model run-of-the-river hydros as constant power only? I would need to dive in for certainty.

          6) I think Jacobson ignored new hydro, which is probably the safe assumption, but I can not remember what NREL did.

          I agree that possible and feasible have different definitions. I have only looked at Jacobson for my state, and feasible is not the word I would use.

    2. Ike, that is an interesting topic.
      One way of getting some clues is by comparing IESO hourly generation data for wind power in Ontario and Alberta (there isn’t enough solar for a meaningful comparison).
      I noticed on numerous occasions that wind power output in both Alberta and Ontario was low — so it would NOT have mattered whether these two widely separated provinces were interconnected with HVDC lines or not.
      You try it yourself.
      Here are the links to the two IESO data sets, as presented by the CNS:

      1. @Jaro That’s the data that Jacobson apparently missed! Or perhaps he’s counting on 2050 weather patterns that have been forced to cooperate by political will and bureaucratic dictate.

  2. The electricity produced from centralized wind and solar facilities should used to produce methanol. Methanol can be used in methanol electric power plants or modified natural gas power plants. Methanol can also be converted into gasoline or used directly in cheaply modified automobiles.

    Methanol could be manufactured through the pyrolysis of urban garbage and sewage and from rural biowaste from farms and forest into syngas which can be converted into carbon neutral methanol and other fuels (jet fuel, diesel fuel, dimethyl ether).

    You could substantially increase the production of biomethanol by adding hydrogen extracted from water through electrolysis. Since a substantial amount of CO2 is wasted in biomethanol synthesis, the addition of hydrogen could at least triple the amount of fuel produced.

    Using solar and wind to produce methanol would be substantially cheaper than trying to replace the entire national grid– especially since the contribution of electricity from solar and wind is currently so meager.


  3. Mark Jacobson’s comments on the MacDonald, Clack, et al paper are inaccurate.
    ‘It shows that intermittent renewables plus transmission can eliminate most fossil-fuel electricity while matching power demand at lower cost than a fossil fuel-based grid ‘
    In fact the paper explicitly says that if allowed to choose least cost solutions, the model would be completely dominated by coal, whether renewables, or gas, were cheap or not.
    Figure 28 shows that with coal included, fossil fuels would produce 65% of the power, wind and solar only 6% each, even if the latter were cheap and gas expensive. With cheap gas, fossils go to 71% and solar to near zero. ( In all cases, nuclear makes up 17% of output – unlike Jacobson, MacDonald assumed that all then-operating reactors would stay in business till 2030.) Since nuclear and coal have similar generation profiles, it can be concluded that if nuclear construction costs could be reduced to near those of coal, nuclear would also leave not much room on the grid for anything else.
    MacDonald et al ran the figures for three years of weather and hydro data, but for the hydro years shown ( 2006 – 2008 ) ouput at peak and trough seasons varied by about 30%, and the timing by about a month. Countries such as Sweden and New Zealand, which normally get a large part of their electricity from hydro, undergo dry years about once in seven on average, during which they have to burn more fossil fuels. Since we’re in a period of climate change ( or the whole exercise wouldn’t be necessary ), there’s no guarantee that wind, which Jacobson and MacDonald rely on for the bulk of their ‘ renewables ‘ portfolio, won’t also become more erratic.

  4. Regarding the NOAA study, I noticed a couple of interesting points. First, they used 1 hour time resolution, which does add significant free smoothing (adding 1 hour of storage to the grid would be extremely expensive).

    One thing that is worth noting is that none of the pricing scenarios they considered drove coal or nuclear off of the grid (the zero-coal cases apparently used a mandate, not market forces); no doubt because these two energy sources have very low fuel cost which competes successfully against the levelized cost of renewables, not their zero fuel cost. In fact, the coal-rich option was the cheapest by far, even compared to the most optimistic low cost renewables. Let us recall that in recent climate negotiations, India has refused to reject coal on an economic basis; this shows that if India chooses to use coal over nuclear (which costs about the same in developing countries), it will be very hard to later displace with cleaner energy.

    For nations who master fossil gas frac’ing (e.g. the US), the lower gas price scenarios seem more realistic. The graph with gas cost sensativity shows that for gas prices in the $4-6/MMBTU range (i.e. 2-3x today’s value), zero carbon sources only reach a penetration of 30-40%, which is very disappointing, given today’s value of nearly 30% (nuclear, wind, hydro, & solar).

    Another important concept to understand from this study is the importance of continent-scale power transmissions for high renewable penetration. This tell us that it can’t succeed in politically unstable regions of the world, i.e. the same places that are poor candidates for nuclear programs, except that stable countries with unstable neighbors could use nuclear, but not continent-scale renewable transmission. One renewable Greece can disrupt a whole renewable EU.

      1. Two referenced presentations are a “Must Watch.” Good analysis of the problems of a massively integrated “Smart-Grid.” The more it gets tied together the harder it is going to be to control the beast. Look at the fluctuations in power and how it ripples in the above two clips. Wind turbines and solar inverters will get their controlling frequency (60 Hz) from the grid. But it will vary and thus the wind and solar systems will vary right along with the grid. Making it near impossible to “push” electricity across the grid. The phase angles of the generators will be fighting the dispatcher who is trying to control it. Think about what that would do to the fluctuating system. There will need to be a direct communications line to each and every source of power like a massive “internet” to control each and every source of power. This will create a gold mine of entry points for “hackers” to play havoc with the “Smart-Grid” and it will end up being a “Dumb-Grid” i.e. a “Brick” and no one will have any power.

    1. Last time I looked at a weather map for Europe, it looked like Greece was in fact the only place in the EU with enough wind to make much power – southern Russia had some too, but with Moscow’s willingness to turn off the gas taps, I don’t think many countries would trust them with the power switch as well.
      The NOAA paper also showed areas with a high grade wind resource. The best area was a discontinuous and quite narrow strip down through Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. This is supposed to be good for a 50% capacity factor ( according to other sources ) but the whole band is liable to be active for the same 50%, so backup from distant areas would have to be from less windy regions. Offshore would be a candidate, but was generally ruled out on cost grounds. Solar photovoltaic of course is useless for baseload – the whole continent shuts down together – and solar thermal was also not included, again apparently due to cost.
      ‘ Continental scale ‘ would exclude India – unless they can mend fences with Pakistan and China – as well as Japan, Taiwan and Korea, if they’re not to rely on China or Russia.

  5. When your Dad was first working on “coal by wire” along Interstate highways, and the cost of solar cells was 100 times or more higher than now, if they even existed yet, it was “probably” hard to imagine the streets would eventually, literally, be paved in solar panels:


    When you were tooling around under the oceans, it was “probably” hard to imagine life where people dried laundry on clothes lines when the sun shined (assuming it was “probably” too rainy and humid as a child in Florida).

    Even now it is “probably” hard to imagine places where people save a few bucks by allowing the utility to reduce their electricity supply when needed, or where people adjust their schedules for heavy loads like washing or drying.

    Regarding, “Electricity flows have to be steady and consistent in frequency and voltage, otherwise many sensitive pieces of equipment and appliances will be damaged.”

    Oh, the good old days of cathode ray tubes, vacuum tube electronics, and vinyl records. Even now it is “probably” hard to acknowledge statements like above are at best half-truths, because of changes in technology. “Steady and consistent” sounds perfect for nuclear missile launches. Today, the majority of devices in most homes or businesses “probably” need zero frequency, and can survive just fine on slowly varying voltages like those provided by batteries, or 6 or 12 volt outputs from solar panels. The question is: Do we plug in dozens of 110-to- 3, 6, 9 or 12 volt transformers because the providers of 110-220 voltage supplies were in a grand conspiracy for us to waste energy and money, or did they not foresee the days of low voltage devices brought by integrated circuits.

    1. If you had the slightest knowledge of the history of electric power networks, you’d know that AC is used because transformers require it and transformers are required to get acceptable impedance characteristics (higher voltage, lower current) over anything more than very short distances.

      These distances are getting shorter all the time.  Even PV farms are moving to 1500 volts DC between the panels and inverters.  But I guess if you were able to calculate the size, weight and cost of a busbar required to carry some tens of kW at 6 volts you would never have written what you wrote.  It requires too much ignorance at the outset.

      1. Elsewhere: “In my experience, about 7.5 kWh is sufficient to de-carbonize 75% or so of ground transport.”

        It’s wasted exercise talking knowledge or ignorance with someone who thinks 16-18 miles range is going to be enough to de-carbonize 75% of ground transport.

        You probably need “some tens of KW” for your home for charging up your over-weight, under-powered car’s little baby, 7.5 kWh battery a few times a day.

        As for me, LED lights are helping reduce my electricity average demand to even farther below the kW level, but it’s unfortunate each one has to come with the expense of a power supply circuit board, including transformer, inside. It’s doubtful the utility has anything but their interest at heart when they consider the options for overall lowest cost, versus their highest profit.

        1. It’s wasted exercise talking knowledge or ignorance with someone who thinks 16-18 miles range is going to be enough to de-carbonize 75% of ground transport.

          Yet here I am, having travelled some 1600 miles since filling my car’s tank, and having used just 2.28 gallons per the trip computer.  Compared to a car getting 35 MPG, that is about a 95% reduction in liquid fuel consumption and a potential 95% de-carbonization.  Reported lifetime average fuel economy is 131.1 MPG, which is a 73% reduction over the 35 MPG baseline.

          It’s wasted time trying to convince a nitwit who claims my experience could not have happened because it offends his personal sensibilities; talk sense to a fool, and he calls you foolish.  I can, however, describe to others just how the nitwit is wrong.

          You probably need “some tens of KW” for your home for charging up your over-weight, under-powered car’s little baby, 7.5 kWh battery a few times a day.

          All of my home charging is done at 120 VAC, 12 amps maximum.  So’s most of my away-from-home charging.  I am pondering a hack of my “convenience cord” to make it capable of running at 240 volts, which will double the possible charging power.

          It amuses me that your response to my personal (and documentable) experience is to claim that I cannot possibly be doing what I am actually doing.  Then again, you think that metals can be evil (actually have intention and agency)… perhaps counselling can help you, though your problem likely stems from a lack of analytical thinking skills which may be due to an incurable lack of ability.

          1. Yawn. Suffice to say, you’re seeing things not written here, or using your own bizarre interpretations. Nobody said you couldn’t limit your travels the way you claim, but 2 responders here told you it wouldn’t work for them.

            Apparently the manufactures are having a tough time convincing others of the worth of similar vehicles too:

            BTW, you might get a smidge better range if you drained the tank down to a gallon or two instead of dragging the extra weight of a nearly full tank. Then drop the gas motor and buy a Leaf. That’s nothing you don’t already know. You also know ground transport isn’t “de-carbonized” even with all-electric vehicles.

          2. Apparently the manufactures are having a tough time convincing others of the worth of similar vehicles too

            Gasoline prices have fallen by half in the last couple of years, and Americans are notoriously short-sighted; UMTRI reports that CAFE of new vehicles sold is down substantially from the August 2014 peak.  OF COURSE the PHEVs are not going to sell as well during a petroleum price war.  That will last only until the weak players are shaken out.  When the N. Dakota oil patch goes bankrupt and most of a million barrels of production goes off-line, THEN watch what people do, and what they regret doing.

            Nobody said you couldn’t limit your travels the way you claim, but 2 responders here told you it wouldn’t work for them.

            I’m playing it as a game, but if PHEVs were even 1% of the vehicle fleet nobody would have to.  240 VAC 30 A charging would be everywhere.  At 300 Wh/mile, that is 24 miles of range for every hour on the charger.  Stop at the store for 20 minutes?  Another 8 miles of EV range.  At the library or a restaurant for an hour?  Pretty much full charge.

            You get other things too.  A pre-conditioned cabin is nothing to sneeze at.

            you might get a smidge better range if you drained the tank down to a gallon or two instead of dragging the extra weight of a nearly full tank. Then drop the gas motor and buy a Leaf.

            A Leaf will not work for me as an only vehicle because I regularly travel much longer distances than its maximum range.  However, I saw a used iMiev for sale a while ago, and kicked myself for not at least test-driving it.  It was cheap enough to have as a second car.

            You also know ground transport isn’t “de-carbonized” even with all-electric vehicles.

            It is as de-carbonized as the electricity which feeds it, whereas with carbon-based fuels the job is impossible.

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