Similar Posts

Recent Comments from our Readers

  1. Avatar
  2. Avatar
  3. Avatar
  4. Avatar
  5. Avatar

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Comments:

93 Comments

  1. Also keep in mind that any battery storage system will have a limited number of deep charging cycles. That is probably the reason for the eight year lifetime of the Tesla S batteries. It is why you periodically have to replace your lead-acid car battery. The battery replacement cost often wipes out any gain you may have incurred from avoiding use of grid-based power, or gasoline in your automobile.

    Yet another reason why I don’t understand why a lot of people are down on the grid-based power system we have today, a system that delivers a vital product (service) at reasonable cost, on-demand, with high reliability. I don’t know what more you could ask for.

  2. It would probably resonate more with the public to substitute or add a calculation of the cost of the storage and inverter system using today’s hot product, the Tesla Powerwall.

      1. Willem Post had an excellent comment that also mentions these hidden costs of the Powerwall, in addition to estimated ~$7,300 price tag stated in the IER link:

        “The cost of financing, PLUS any costs for O&M and disposal, PLUS any capacity degradation due to cycling, PLUS efficiency reductions of part-load operation of AC/DC or DC/AC inverters, PLUS the cost of depreciation are all ignored.”

        He calculated the minimum energy loss per cycle was 24.4% (for 10 KWh unit):
        “Assuming a 65% charge/discharge, and a 90% AC to DC inverter efficiency, and allocating half of the 8% DC-to-DC loss to the charging side (the unit has a round-trip DC-to-DC efficiency of 92%, per spec sheet), it would take 0.65 x 10/(0.9 x 0.96) = 7.523 AC kWh of off-peak grid energy to charge up the unit. During on-peak hours, one would get back 0.65 x 10 x 0.96 x 0.90 = 5.616 AC kWh to use in the house, for a minimum energy loss per cycle of (1 – 5.616/7.523) x 100% = 25.4%!!”

        http://www.theenergycollective.com/jayirwinstein/2279921/who-s-reserving-all-those-tesla-batteries-and-what-do-they-plan-using-them#comment-213920

        1. Some problems with the Willem Post story & calculations:

          He doesn’t account for the continuation of the strong price decreases of batteries during past decades while those are widely predicted to continue and even accelerate.

          His turnaround efficiency assumptions are much lower than those reached in reality. E.g. DC=>AC conversion occurs nowadays with >98% efficiency (>99.5% if it is a bigger installation).

          If the volume is lower (eg 10% of max) a different (lower capacity) circuit does the conversion, so the efficiency is hardly lower. Often more parallel circuits opera
          He assumes a ridiculous low efficiency then.
          Etc.

  3. Excellent explanation of the extreme expense of reliable solar PV power, even in a niche application. However, within this calendar year, a new solar-thermal system for such micro-applications as homeowners, will be commercialized. What enables “something new” is the invention of a thermodynamically efficient and durable Rankine cycle steam piston engine. It overcomes the problems of turbines in micro-applications. Having studied this emerging technology for years, I am confident that by utilizing their reliable, new Thermal Storage Unit (using molten salt as the heat storage medium), as well as having an auxiliary burner that can utilize any liquid or vapor fuel without modification, it will provide a much better and cheaper solution to off-grid electricity needs than solar PV, including the inherent problem of… “nightime”, clouds, snow, etc. See: http://cyclonepower.com/about-cyclone-power-technologies/solar/ (Of course, the engine can also run on synthetic fuels derived from nuclear heat, such as methanol and ammonia.) And of course, this is not a substitute for baseload electricity that nuclear power excels at.

  4. Thanks for publishing my email so that a large group could respond to it. In summary, to make intermittent sources such as solar and wind comparable to nuclear, there needs to be a large energy storage system powered by the intermittent source. For solar, with a typical capacity factor of 20%, the large energy storage system will produce on a 24/7 basis slightly less than 1/5 of the solar “nameplate” capacity. That means that solar and wind are extremely expensive means to produce power compared to nuclear.

    One utility that has taken the first step is the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative http://website.kiuc.coop/ in Hawaii. The utility faces very high carbon-based energy costs as essentially all of that energy must be imported. Here’s their 09 September 2015 news release regarding the first dispatchable solar energy system – which includes energy storage. http://kiuc.coopwebbuilder2.com/sites/kiuc/files/PDF/pr/pr2015-0909-solar.pdf
    On 02 November 2015, the utility dedicated a second solar power system with a 6 Megawatt battery system to maintain grid stability when cloud cover interferes with power production. http://kiuc.coopwebbuilder2.com/sites/kiuc/files/PDF/pr2015-1102-Anaholadedication.pdf

    Thus, solar and wind only make sense in isolated locales that have either abundant sun or wind. The power produced actually has a high cost. Here’s the energy cost of the first project: “Under the 20-year power contract, KIUC will pay SolarCity 14.5 cents/kWh, less than the cost of conventional generation in Hawaii, and slightly more than the cost of power from the co-op’s other existing solar farms.” http://www.utilitydive.com/news/hawaii-co-op-solarcity-ink-deal-for-dispatchable-power-from-solar-storage/405408/

    Compare 14.5 cents/kWh for KIUC (a cooperative) with the roughly 4 cents/kWh for the 18,000 giga-watt-hours typically generated each year by the Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP) for PG&E (a for-profit public utility.)

  5. It’s my understanding that manufacturing costs for Lithium Ion batteries have dropped dramatically in the last 4-5 years in terms of $/kWh, but hold on…

    A) the limiting factor for many applications is actually volume/weight per kWh. There’s been limited progress on this front.
    And
    B) the price of lithium ore has rocketed upward in the last year after remaining stable for the better part of the decade. Check out this Economist article on the Worldwide Li supply crunch.
    http://www.economist.com/news/business/21688386-amid-surge-demand-rechargeable-batteries-companies-are-scrambling-supplies

    @swainscheps

  6. Maybe I’m just a simple-minded ex-physicist, but the thing I keep coming back to with any kind of storage system is that if you start drawing on the stored energy, in the event of absence of or limited resupply, eventually you deplete it. So it becomes a nervous balancing act between hoping your primary energy supply rate will keep your storage system “topped off” enough, at all times and under all conditions, so that you don’t eventually end up with an empty tank because your depletion rate exceeds the recharge rate. You might say, well, you do that anyway, your coal plant needs a storage pile of coal, your car needs a tank full of gas, your reactor needs a fresh supply of fuel now and then. But the way things are now, you can go out and get those things when you need them. You can’t go out and get more sunlight or wind if Mother Nature isn’t providing them. It would seem undesirable to have a society waiting with collective bated breath, hoping and praying for adequate gusts of wind or a stretch of sunny days to replenish its supply of stored energy when the needle is touching on Empty. Better to have a reliable and sustainable supply of available fuel that is there when you need it.

    1. @Wayne SW

      You touched on one of the primary reasons I am so adamant about the need for reliable power and so focused on trying to help people pay attention to the limitations on batteries with which they should all be familiar.

      Several times, I’ve been in a room packed full of people, all waiting with bated breath to hear the start of a diesel generator as a battery amp-hour meter ticked closer and closer to the rated limit of a large, multi-cell battery system. It’s pretty nerve-wracking, especially when there are environmental conditions that restrict the ability to start the diesel. Fortunately for my own sanity and the safety of my shipmates, I also had the authority to halt the drill and restart the reactor.

      1. Rod, yes, I was pretty sure you’d appreciate the concern for limited storage capability. When those batts are ticking down to zero, you have no ability to get the ED air to combust the diesel fuel, and the reactor is shutdown, you’re looking at a pretty grim situation. Same deal with civilian electric supply that has gone all-in on unreliables. They’ve thrown away their reactors, can’t use fossil fuels, and the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing in the middle of a sub-zero winter in any Northern or Midwestern state and people are huddled in their rapidly-chilling homes while their vaunted storage systems drain away to zero output. Maybe their last thoughts will be, gee, if we’d only kept the grid with all those reliable reactors.

        1. Wayne SW, You are missing the main lesson to be learned. Current energy storage technology (batteries) is sufficient to restart a reactor after a reactor trip; if the reactor is the right size. You don’t HAVE TO “throw them away” in a case of extended widespread grid power loss. You restart them using the current size of batteries, as the navy does. Virtually no reactor of the current commercial fleet can do this, much less survive (remain operating with the reactor supplying its own power) the initial grid disturbance that results in the reactor trips.

          “They” haven’t thrown anything away, “we” have. By a collective mindset of using 70 year old “demo project” reactor technology, combined with a belief in the textbook myth of economy of scale. The current fleet of commercial reactors are simply too expensive to walk away from. And there is no shovel ready replacement for them.

          If nuke power is going to survive in the US, SMR technology must target two design goals. The first is a reactor restart (after a trip) with out off-site power. The second is the core can’t melt and be released over the site boundary. Both of these design goals are already do-able, but there is apparently no will to “get-r-done.”

          1. No, I wasn’t referring specifically to the black start issue, and I certainly don’t advocate throwing them away (the unreliable advocates do). My comment was more about storage systems in general, which seem to be held up by advocates of unreliable energy generating sources as the cure-all for the intermittency and low availability weaknesses of the unreliables. Any kind of utility-scale storage system is going to have limits on how much can be stored, and how long that will last, even at reduced demand. Like with submarines, which go to a “rig for reduced electrical output” mode, a regional utility grid can’t do that for very long, with any kind of reasonably-priced storage system, and even “micro” systems (e.g., rooftop solar) won’t have adequate storage capability when there is an extended cold snap with little or no sun and little or no wind.

            I have noticed in debates with renewable energy advocates that they say three things to cover the weaknesses of their proposals. The first is that somehow, magically, “storage systems” will become available to make up the difference between when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. The other is that the majority of “energy” we will need in the future is in the form of “negawatts”, as Lovins likes to say. That is, somehow, magically, “efficiency” will fill the gaps between current demand and what unreliables can provide. Finally, when all else fails, there will always be “backup power” available to make sure we don’t freeze in the middle of winter when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow and maybe our storage batteries have run down. But there is always a lot of hemming and hawing when asked what the nature of that “backup” is. So, IMO, “storage systems” in general are just another charade played by those who have nothing of substance to offer.

          2. As a hereditary student of English, I must object to the term “baited breath”.  It is “bated”, as in “abated”.

            Baited breath is when my cat eats limburger and sits in front of the mousehole.

          3. “As a hereditary southerner, I must protest. The correct vernacular is “git-r-done” vice “get-r-done.”

            As I live and work in the only existing redneck enclave in the liberal state of California, I must interject with my knowledge on this subject.

            Your hyphens are confusing the issue.

            The correct way to say it is……”gitderdun”.

            The proper way to underscore your intent to “gitderdun” is, (after muttering “gitderdun”), is to turn your head to the right, and spit chew exactly six inches from the left shoe of your listener. Then, without further ado, you turn to your left, and walk away, apparently, to “gitderdun”.

            (Or, if the nearest bar is to your right, its ok to turn to in that direction while doing your walkaway).

  7. @Wayne SW January 18, 2016 at 9:55 AM
    Sorry I addressed my comment to “you”. We are on the same page. I agree with your discussion of unreliable advocates, who’s position is simply based on a pure anti-nuclear ideology at its base. As for the arguments about off grid energy storage to back up the unreliables, the most convincing proof is… try it (I have). People will not like the way they have to live or they will not be able to afford a system that can change the way they have to live. I think most of us here agree we don’t want to have to learn that lesson the hard way; by trying it.

    I still think the best way to remove the anti-nuke’s most powerful argument against nuke power is to have cores that can’t melt and go over the site boundary, and we have the knowledge to do that. It is a far better approach than arguing, after the fact, “but it won’t hurt you” (even if it is true). That is arguing from the position of a liar, because you started with “they are safe.” We have the tech/knowledge to build melt proof reactors, start doing it. Remove the fear argument. Saying that is the easy part.

    1. You’re a braver man than me. I don’t think that I could do it (physically, I’m too old) even though I have the knowledge of what it would take. I spent some time with my cousins who live on Kauai having moved there from Salt Lake about 10 years ago. They put in a PV solar array and supplementary solar thermal for hot water. Seemed like a good bet, a sunny, tropical climate, expensive imported energy (fuel oil for generators) in a lush, beautiful place. The law was laid down when I took my first shower: use cool (cold) water, and turn off the shower while lathering up. The others were, when it gets dark, think about going to bed. Want to watch TV at night? Do so in a darkened room. Small things, for sure, but widespread dependence on unreliables will do nothing but increase and magnify the deprivations in more consequential ways.

      1. I wasn’t exactly suffering. I was living on a sailboat, commuting to and anchored in the Bahamas for the winter. Currently bouts of RVing off the grid in a self contained 20′ motor home. Both are lives of constant energy (fuel oil and DC power) and fresh water supply management. With constant maintenance of electric generation equipment. Interrupted by short periods of beach combing, snorkeling, search for fresh produce, etc. Not to mention periods of being terrified by the weather. Even though my boat had double the tankage of most cruising boats for fuel and water, after about a month you are “trucking” 5 gal jugs of fuel and water, by dingy so now you also need gas, to resupply. Even with today’s advances in marine solar and wind gens, nobody is running a heat pump, making fresh bread in an electric oven, and keeping a 5 cu-ft freezer at zero with them on small cruising boats. But my diesel gen could do all that, twice a day.

        Admittedly there are applications for renewables, and those are fine within that application. Like a third world location with no availability of electric power is vastly better off with a small solar or wind source than nothing at all. But sooner or later, they will want uninterruptible power. The reason I camp in a motor home is because I’ve camped in a tent.

        1. Sounds stressful enough to take some of the fun out of it, anyway. But I (and perhaps you as well) have stood on the shoreline at Locust Point in early January and looked across a frozen-solid Lake and had the thought occur that there is nothing really between me and the North Pole except a railroad grade and a barbed wire fence, and those were over in Canada. And the only thing that made life possible for the 99% of the people in Toledo and Sandusky and Lorain was the availability of electricity from the grid. I wonder how many of those would survive an off-grid lifestyle in such a locale? Probably not many.

  8. Rod – can you expand on this thought?

    Though there is room for improvement in battery technology and there may be room for lowered costs with even larger scale manufacturing, the asymptote is not far away. Highly motivated engineers and scientists have been working on chemical storage batteries pretty steadily for more than a century.

    What evidence do you have that the asymptote is close? It sure looks to me like the $/kWh of Lithium Ion batteries has been dropping steadily and significantly in the last decade. I’m reading an MIT survey that shows that today’s prices are about half of what they were In 2004, and they estimate anywhere from a 20-50% drop again by 2020. Not saying that will continue forever, but $100/kWh seems within our grasp in the next decade or two.

    (As I type I am reading an article in The Economist that says the spot price of Lithium ‘ore’ has doubled in the last year after many years of stability – I expect that will slow the $/kWh gains.)

    Anyway I agree with the rest of the post: storage can’t take the place of reliable grid power. There’s 99 reasons why, but I just don’t think – in the long run – direct cost is one of them.

    @swainscheps

    1. @swains

      I believe you meant $100/MWh, or 10cents/kWh. Anyway, even if this number is true, batteries are storage, not an actual source of power. The net result is this is not a true cost, but rather an arbitrage number. In other words, if I can charge my batteries for $50/MWh and then discharge them at $150/MWh then I can make enough money to cover the fixed and operating charges of my $100/MWh batteries.

      I know in Michigan, the normal difference between on-peak and off-peak electricity is nowhere near $100/MWh so the amount of arbitrage is not significant enough to drive a battery market. I say normal difference, because there may be a couple of days a year where the arbitrage is significant enough to sustain batteries, but if you use them only a couple times a year, then how do you recover the capital cost?

      1. Kevin – Just to be clear, I was making a pretty narrow point, which was simply to refute Rod’s assertion that the asymptote for battery storage is almost upon us. I was just asking why he thought that given the prices for Lithium Ion batteries have been dropping steadily for 20 years.

        And I submit you probably know 1000x more about this subject than me, but no – I did not mean $100/MWh or 10cents/KWh…Wherever I look, battery manufacturing costs seem to be commonly expressed as a price/KWh – – as the breakeven price for replacing peak plants on the grid with battery storage, and in conversations about home battery storage.

        I don’t doubt your point that arbitrage possibilities for peak/offpeak are probably over-rated. Nor am I disagreeing with the larger message of the article, I’m just saying that battery prices have been, and still are, dropping.

        @swainscheps

        1. @swainscheps Just make sure you are comparing apples to apples. If you have a $100/MWh peaking plant, and a $100/MWh battery, the peaker will generate electricity for $100/MWh, while the battery will provide you with power for $100/MWh PLUS the cost of the electricity you charged it with in the first place.

  9. The best energy storage AND production method currently available and available for the foreseeable future is the core of an LWR. Also the safest and MZuCH cheaper than batteries.

  10. The German solar battery program is quite a success. The program subsidizes 30% of the investment in the battery.
    German government expects that the price reduction of solar batteries will continue, so they can reduce the subsidy gradually to zero in 2020.

    Most house owners will then buy rooftop PV-solar with batteries without subsidies as that will then be more economic for them (battery capacity enough to cover the evening).

    Main solar inverter producer SMA has inverters which also manage the battery. So it takes hardly any extra attention. Their main solar battery producer is now starting with export to USA.

    1. That 30 percent subsidy does make a difference.

      From the Wikepedia article:

      “Although Germany does not really have a very sunny climate, solar photovoltaic power is used massively (4% of annual electricity needs).” This was for 2011.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_Germany

      Maybe a 30 percent subsidy to build nuclear plants would make a difference too. This would enable another non greenhouse gas power source. If the plants could load cycle, you may not even need any storage batteries and inverters.

      1. That 30% subsidy concerns only the one time battery investment for rooftop solar installations smaller than 10KW. It will decrease in coming years with the decrease of solar battery costs.

        Of course it makes a significant difference. That is the intention of the
        German Energiewende authority’s and scientists. They intent to create a real mass market for solar batteries in the expectation that that mass market will speed up the ongoing price decrease greatly. Similar as they did with PV-panels.

        Since 2011 there has been a considerable PV-solar boom in Germany. So now the share of renewable in their electricity is ~30%. You can get more detailed report presentations at the WEB site of the Fraunhofer ISE institute.

        BTW
        The Germans created a Feed-in-Tariff mechanism adaptation, such that big PV–solar booms are no longer possible and the installation rate will fluctuate around 2.5GW/year. Which implies that their PV-solar capacity will be ~80GW in 2030 (it’s now 40GW, German consumption from the grid is ~70GW).

        1. @Bas

          There is already a mass market for batteries. The fact that you call them “solar batteries” is immaterial. Their manufacturing and chemistry is identical to batteries in hundreds of other applications. If the subsidy will only fall as the cost of batteries falls, then I predict it will fall very slowly. There is no much room left for battery costs to decline; they are about as close to the cost of materials as they can be.

          1. Thank you for your comment.
            It’s clear that German authorities have different idea’s about what a mass market for solar batteries is (combined inverter-battery, etc) as well as its price effects.

            Remember that similar was stated about solar panels in ~2005. Those existed then already >20 years and were anyway far to expensive to be taken seriously.

    2. So, the battery capacity will cover an evening’s worth of demand. And what happens the next day if you wake up and it is a miserable, cold, cloudy day? What carries you through the day? What carries your load into the evening of the next day if you have not had enough sunlight during the day to recharge your batteries? Does the thought of lacking electricity cause you some measure of concern? If you have people in your household whose health depends on having and adequate electricity supply, does that cause you any anxiety? How many deep-charging cycles will your batteries tolerate? What happens to them when they no longer “hold a charge”? How much will it cost to replace them. Does that prospect cause you any worry from a financial planning viewpoint? Can I get a 30% subsidy on my existing electricity supply, one that puts 30% of the cost directly into my pocket? What’s that you say? No? Why not? Why is it fair that some outside agency (the government, most likely) is picking winners and losers?

      Contrast all that with what is likely the current situation. You are drawing your energy from a utility grid that has a robust mixture of generating sources, maybe hydro, some fossil plants, a few nuclear plants, maybe a smidgeon of renewable energy sprinkled in. Because of the high availability of the baseload units, your grid-supplied energy has a 99.9999999999999999% reliability. Do you give any thought to whether or not when you flip the switch your lights will come on? Probably not.

      1. Outages are a non issue in Germany.
        The av. consumer hardly ever experienced an outage. The German SAIDI figure is 8 times better than that of USA (15minutes/year total versus 2hours) while USA excludes outages due to extreme weather in the calculations and the Germans do not.

        German baseload capacity is going down and down since the Energiewende took steam as baseload plants cannot compete in a highly renewable grid.

        You may assume that German consumer union did the detailed tests and calculations regarding the economics of adding a battery. E.g. with combining models from Sonnenbatterie and SMA inverters.

        1. They cannot compete when you have other sources that can tap a 30% subsidy for various things. Would you be willing to make the playing field fair by granting a 30% subsidy to nuclear plants? How profitable would that make them? How about a 2.4 cents/kwhr (you can convert that to euros if you want) production tax credit like unreliable energy sources get in this country? How about allowing nuclear plants, as a carbon-free energy source, to sell carbon offsets? If you build a breeder plant, would you allow them to sell RECs? All of those things would remove the unfair advantage that unreliables have now.

          1. @Wayne,
            That 30% investment subsidy is temporary. The Germans expect that it will be reduced in coming years and will be zero in 2020.
            It is meant to create such a mass market that the price for the combination PV-panels/inverter/battery will go down with >30%.
            So then most new small rooftop PV-solar installations will be equipped with a battery as it is economic even without subsidy.

            I don’t see a price decrease of 30% for new nuclear within e.g. 10 years when it gets a similar investment subsidy.
            The total of the subsidies for new NPP’s, such as Hinkley C, is already far more. But no evidence that we can expect such price decreases.

          2. You don’t think a 2.3 or 2.4 cent/kwhr PTC for nuclear, which is what windmills and solar arrays get here, would help their bottom line? Do you have any idea how much energy is produced by a NPP in a year? As an example, the Diablo Canyon station (two units) produces about 18,000 GW-hr of energy per year. If you allowed them the 2.4 cent/kwhr that windmills get, they’d have another $400 million in revenue. They’d get more if you allowed them to sell carbon offsets, like windmills and solar panels get.

            As far as “temporary” subsidies go, we have had “temporary” subsidies here for decades that were supposed to be phased out years ago and never were. Every time the expiration date for the subsidies loomed, the owners and builders of windmills went hat in hand to the legislature with doom and gloom stories about how the subsidies just HAD to be extended to keep them in business, and if they weren’t it would be The End Of The World As We Know It. Once they stick their fingers in the government subsidies pie, its hard to get them out.

        2. If the Poles are to be believed, outages are a non-issue in Germany because when German generators don’t generate they draw a lot of power across the German-Polish border. It is nice to be able to rely on your neighbors, except when you are no longer able to.

          1. The Poles draw even more power across their border with Germany!
            Just check the im-/export balance for electricity between the two countries!

          2. The Poles draw even more power across their border with Germany!

            You mean, the Germans dump more unreliable power across the Polish border.  Warsaw has been objecting for some time now.

          3. @EP,
            The Poles buy that German power as it’s cheaper, just as NL does.

            NL, Poland, Germany, etc. are in the EU which is created to improve crossborder trade in order to make products cheaper.
            And that’s happening, thanks to improved interconnections with electricity too now.

            Cheaper also because each country needs less spare capacity thanks to the interconnections.
            NL is busy too triple it’s interconnection capacity with Germany.

        3. Outages are a non issue in Germany.

          OK. But not because of batteries. The reason? Coal.

          German baseload capacity is going down and down since the Energiewende took steam as baseload plants cannot compete in a highly renewable grid.

          You say that as if it’s a good thing. Of course they can’t compete if subsidized renewables have priority.

  11. I work with renewables and interconnection here at the Michigan Public Service Commission. There are so many issues here that I am not sure where to begin.

    Let’s start with interconnection. When you self-generate, your generator cannot backfeed into the grid during an outage. This is a safety issue because you don’t want lineman getting electrocuted. So there are basically two options, one is your generator goes down during an outage, the second is your interconnection automatically disconnects during an outage so that you can run your own load on your generator. The first form of interconnection is cheap, the second is more expensive. If you use the cheaper form of interconnection your solar PV inventor will automatically shut off if it does not see a grid signal. Here in Michigan, most people opt for the cheaper interconnection, so during an outage, their generator will go down automatically.

    While Michigan’s interconnection rules are not clear, we believe that storage would need to comply, again for safety. In other words, if someone interconnects in a way that does not cutoff from the grid, they would not be able to use their batteries during an outage due to backfeeding.

    Older, mostly diesel, backup systems use what we refer to as a “throwover” switch. You are either connected to the grid OR you are connected to your backup generator. Never both. The interconnection is not designed or intended for parallel operation. Solar PV is usually wired for parallel operation because you almost always find yourself in a situation where you either need to import or export some power to/from the grid.

    1. I don’t see your problem.
      Here the lineman shortcuts both sides of the line before he starts.

      What if a PV invertor is faulty?

      1. I agree that the lineman shortcuts both sides of the line, but does the lineman also need to shortcut the drop to the PV generator in order to ensure safety? If he shortcuts the line, but someone’s PV energizes it they could still be harmed.

        If a PV invertor is faulty and a lineman is injured, I presume the PV invertor owner would be responsible to the full extent of the law. See my comment below about whether inspections should just be at installation, or ongoing.

        1. I estimate that your linemen are at least as smart as those here.
          So they shortcut all possible power sources.
          Which prevents that they can be harmed due to any technical failure, or e.g. a stupid consumer who connects his emergency generator to the grid, etc.

          1. But what if someone has a generator no one knows about and then kills someone? Kind of makes people look bad. Then the result could end up being making self-generation illegal.

    2. You will note that in my comments contained within the article that I stipulated that if you own a PV system that stores energy, you *must* include an automatic transfer switch. This device will automatically disconnect your solar PV and energy storage system from the grid when the line power fails. This safety system is clearly necessary to protect the local power company linemen from electrocution via backfed power from your system while they are working on grid restoration following an outage. Automatic transfer switches are subject to inspection both by a local government’s building inspector and by personnel from the local power company.

      1. There may be states that require an automatic transfer switch, however, I know that mine does not. I am not sure why, but it is considered to be a significant cost, significant enough that some people would prefer to go off-grid rather than pay for an expensive interconnection.

        Another interesting question from my perspective as a regulator would be who bears the cost of the inspection by the local power company? Is it all ratepayers? Is it the customer who installs the solar? How does that happen? Are the inspections just at installation, or should they be ongoing? Many interesting issues here.

        1. Here the local power company does no inspection if the installation is done by a recognized installer. In the eighties they still did, but it was stopped as being rather inefficient. Now the installer may loose his licence if he doesn’t install according to the standards.

          If the house owner installs himself, he has to declare that the installation is according to the security standards on the connection application form.
          If the installation causes damage and it turns out that it’s not according to the standards, the insurance company won’t compensate the costs of the damage. So people want a safe installation which meets the standards.

  12. The second issue has to do with the diverging requirements of cars and utilities, which you can also think of as the portable versus non-portable argument.

    Cars and portable electronics care about bulk and weight, in other words, energy density. Utility applications are stationary and therefore do not care about bulk or weight, they instead care about cost and, as mentioned previously, number of charge and discharge cycles. Bulk and weight are items down the list of concern for utilities. For these reasons I expect the battery market will eventually diverge down two distinct paths.

    Why haven’t the battery markets diverged yet? I believe the reason is that most of the R&D has thus far been focused in the car and consumer electronics segment. Once people realize that the utility segment with be better off going in a different direction I believe that will happen.

    Why is Tesla entering the home battery market? There are a few reasons. One is that they are trying to leverage their battery R&D into a market beyond their vehicles. The other is that they built so much capacity into their battery factory, more than their vehicles can provide right now, that they are trying to leverage that capacity into different markets. I would expect that if Tesla vehicle sales grow they will dedicate more factory production to their cars and less to home energy storage. If the car segment succeeds, then the home energy storage will eventually be phased out.

    1. Batteries for utilities, as installed in the German grid, are flow batteries which contain pumps to transport the battery fluid from one tank to the other via the space between the plates. The fluid is (un)loaded when it passes between the plates.
      Those are much cheaper per MWh stored than the solar batteries for home owners!

      Solar batteries for home owners are still rather conventional, similar to those in EV’s.
      However that may change also soon.

      1. The flow battery systems I have seen are basically bridge systems for covering the gap between a fast crash of the primary energy source (e.g., the wind stops blowing) and the ramp-up of a conventional peaker unit fueled by, you guessed it, natural gas! The size of the flow battery was huge when you folded in the pumps, piping, (sophisticated) electronics, and storage tanks! That was for a 4 MW capacity system, IIRC. Cripes, for that size, you could have a 1200 MW LWR core with tremendously large energy capacity! It’s that darn energy density thing again (you can’t beat Mother Nature). And in any case, the flow battery system seemed to be just another enabler for natural gas-fired generation. So all of these things, windmills, solar arrays, flow batteries, have something in common underlying them all: natural gas. And that is what gives them the illusion of overall system reliability. Without burning fossil fuels, all of the unreliable energy systems would suffer the same fatal flaw: intermittency. But those of us who have spent our careers in the generation business already knew that.

      2. Flow batteries are much better for stationary applications. Better charge/discharge cycles, better lifetimes, and with more R&D, probably lower long-run cost for application. Other battery technologies also show a lot of promise for stationary application. Part of the issue is that the focus remains on portable application in the consumer electronics and automobile industries.

        1. But if the argument comes down to storing energy, I don’t know much better energy storage system than the core of a LWR. You’ve got tremendous energy density, no intermittency, no need to cover square miles of ground with solar panels or hundreds of linear miles of ridgelines with windmills, no need to thrash around with bridging fast crashes with things like huge assemblies of flow batteries, no need to worry about whether the sun is going to shine or the wind is going to blow. Sure, you have downsides, like a small amount of waste to manage, vanishingly small chance of consequential damage, and the need for a larger compliment of operating staff, but we know how to deal with those, and we aren’t butting our heads against limits imposed by Mother Nature which, wish and hope as we may that it were otherwise, aren’t going to budge.

          1. @Wayne I agree with what you are saying. However storage is usually thought of as saving electricity for later use. Since you can’t use electricity to recharge a LWR core, it is not usually mentioned as a storage technology. Likewise, a coal pile could be looked upon the same way, but not typically.

            One area where storage performs better than the LWR is in ramping. LWRs can only increase or decrease in power so fast. I am not saying they can not load follow. They certainly can escalate to account for the solar and the sun going down, but can they follow a wind farm as the wind unexpectedly dies off?
            Throw in physical nuclear issues like Xenon transients and it becomes clear there are limits to what nuclear can do. Nuclear is an important part of a system, but other parts of that system will provide key elements.

          2. I like to call it “stockpiled energy”, whether stored or mined.

            Water behind dams, coal piles and natural gas reservoirs are all stockpiles.  Resefvoirs in flow batteries are very small stockpiles.  Reactor cores are incredibly dense stockpiles.  PV panels and wind farms have no stockpiles whatsoever.

            1. @E-P

              On the vessel where I cut my nuclear teeth, our fuel stockpile was ready to last another 10 years after having already provided power for about four years. Today’s Virginia class subs have no refueling equipment installed because their cores are expected to last as long as their hulls – 33 years.

          3. Kevin, I guess I was thinking of the aspect of the very high energy density of nuclear fuel, which allows you to get a lot of power production for a long time. This more or less negates the need for a storage system. It seems to me to be better to go with a primary energy source that is high capacity, reliable, dispatchable, has some measure of flexibility (load following), and uses proven technology. The alternative of using an inherently non-dispatchable primary energy source (wind and solar), then going through the hassle of converting it to a marginally dispatchable system by implementing various storage schemes, along with their costs and inefficiencies (energy losses), seems less desirable. Has anyone built a utility-scale flow battery storage system? I’m not talking about a hundreds of KW or a few MW-sized facility, I mean one where you are approaching the capacity of a utility-scale generator, on the order of hundreds of MW or a GW. I looked at the Dynapower website, and it talks about systems in the range of 100 KW to a few MW, and has 320 MW of capacity installed worldwide. So their worldwide capacity is about a third of the capacity of a single LWR. Doesn’t seem like a lot to me.

          4. The only reference I have found is that Younicos claims to have “almost” 100 MW capacity installed but that is made up from 23 separate “projects”. So they needed 23 separate facilities to accumulate a combined storage capacity of 1/10th the size of a typical NPP. Again, it doesn’t seem like a lot to me.

        2. I do not know of any large scale flow batteries. My impression is that they are in the pilot stages. The best large scale storage is pumped hydro.

          Here is Michigan we have a 1.8GW pumped hydro that is being upgraded to 2.1GW. When full it will run for 8 hours until the reservoir is empty, roughly 17GWh of electricity. It takes about 16 hours to refill.

          The upgrades will take the efficiency from around 70% to approximately 74%.

  13. I still remember the day the power went out at the Aspen headend and I was outside making sure the 500 KW generator was happy. A couple walked up to me and asked me why I was running this thing that was “sucking up all the power for the area.”

    I laughed. Then I realized they were serious.

  14. We should also consider the Virtual Power Plant (VPP) developments in Germany.
    Those are driven by German companies such as Lichtblick (in English roughly; ‘look at the light’) and by research from institutes such as Fraunhofer.
    Navigant research expect that the market for VPP’s will be ~5billion in 2023.

    The core is software which allows to combine the information from many thousands of (different kind of) small generators, storage units, consumers, whole sale price developments, adaptive demand, etc. and to regulate those in such a way that it generates highest profit for all participants.

    These and similar developments played a role in the key decisions of the biggest German utilities, E.on and RWE, to move away from the traditional power plant business. They see no profitable future with those.

    1. Yes.  They move toward a more costly and less reliable grid, because the politicians have demanded that the most costly and least reliable generators be given starring roles.

      This will end in tears.

      1. German grid is >8 times more reliable than USA grid.
        The reliability improved significantly in the 2004 – 2010 period when the Energiewende took steam and wind and solar became substantial in the German grid.
        No sign at all that it is or will detoriate.

        1. German grid is >8 times more reliable than USA grid.

          You’ve been told time and time again that this is a lie.  US customers experience more outages because of above-ground distribution lines.  This is a consequence of (a) American customers being spread out, and (b) the high cost of underground lines.

          The reliability improved significantly in the 2004 – 2010 period when the Energiewende took steam and wind and solar became substantial in the German grid.

          In your mind, the addition of large resources which go off-line in relatively close synchrony makes a grid MORE reliable than resources in which most un-scheduled outages are stochastic.  Whatever you’re smoking, I’m staying the heck away from it; it obviously rots brains.

          1. The a.o. SAIDI figures show I’m correct.
            (distribution) lines are part of the grid.

            Reliability of electricity supply in dense populated areas of USA (eg new England) is also inferior compared to Germany. Only Denmark, where wind delivers ~40% of the electricity consumed, has similar supply reliability.

            Predictability of generation is important for reliable supply.
            Big power plants fail in a second, but that will never occur with the thousands of geographical distributed small generators.
            Their supply is also faster adaptable by present computerised grid manageme.

        2. German grid is >8 times more reliable than USA grid.

          And why would that be Bas? Perhaps something to do with imports from friendly neighbours, the coal plants they can’t seem to rid themselves of, oh and let’s not forget about the nukes that remain in service. Energiewende will not achieve it’s goals. I’m just waiting for the bubble to burst.

          1. @Ike,
            Especial the improvement in reliability when the Energiewende (with its many thousands of highly distributed renewable generators) became significant, shows that the Germans know quite well how to handle their migration towards 80% renewable in 2050!

            Neighbours are not friendly or helping.
            There is trade in electricity between the utilities in different countries in Europe, as far as possible as the interconnections capacity is low, and as long as the utilities in both countries can earn money with it.
            Electricity is fully privatized in continental NW-Europe.

            Recently one of our major utilities (Dutch Delta which also operates our only NPP) ran in financial trouble as it cannot compete on our competitive electricity market with its low prices (though less low than in Germany). So they may go bankrupt or be sold to a more successful competitor.

            BTW
            The role of the nukes is dimishing since ~2004. Their share is now ~40% lower. So they didn’t contribute to the reliability improvements since then.

          2. @Brian,
            I know the huge differences in electricity (supply) structures between different parts of the USA. From the backward monopoly structures, mostly in the south, to the somewhat more up to date structures, mostly in the north-east. Including the different major grids, such as ERCOT, and their weak interconnection.

            People in USA would benefit greatly if governments would:
            – fully separate the grid from electricity generation;
            – stimulate full free competition regarding electricity supply (generation and sales).

            The grid is a natural monopoly, while generation (and sales) is much cheaper if that occurs in a free market with full competition as shown here in continental NW-Europe.

            1. @Bas

              Can’t speak for Brian, but I’m quite happy with the regulated monopoly integrated power company that provides both of us with reliable electricity at a delivered retail price that is less than 1/3 of the price that similar customers pay in Germany.

              Maybe I’m just a backwards Southerner, but I like some of the old fashioned ideas that marry government oversight with regulated rates of return and an obligation to serve. It results in an excellent product planned by professionals. Not surprisingly, our local utility and the government regulating body that oversees it haven’t done much more than experiment with unreliables. One of the other regulated monopolies in Virginia, unfortunately not my specific provider, supplies about 40% of its power with emission-free nuclear energy and has plans — which are still tentative — to increase that portion once it received the COL for North Anna unit 3.

          3. A few facts:

            Electricity prices in the US are lower than electricity prices in Europe.

            The parts of the US that have some of the lowest electricity prices in the US are those so-called “backward monopoly structures” in the Southeast.

            The parts of the Europe that have some of the lowest electricity prices are places like France, were the state-owned utility (EdF) has a monopoly on electricity production in the country.

            The parts of the Europe that have some of the highest electricity prices are places like Germany, which you, Bas, champion ad nauseum as the model for “clean” energy.

            Where I live, electricity is produced by utilities. The grid is controlled by PJM, a regional transmission organization (RTO) that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in an area larger than most European countries or regions. It is a neutral, independent party that operates a competitive wholesale electricity market and manages the high-voltage electricity grid to ensure reliability for more than 61 million people.

            In other words, the “grid” already is separate from electricity generation.

            Bas – You are the last person who should be giving anyone advice on how to generate electricity, because your ignorance of this topic is … frankly … breathtaking.

            I would accuse you of being mentally deficient if I didn’t already suspect you of being a plant and a professional troll trying to push a predetermined agenda.

            For what it’s worth, I agree with Rod. I too am quite happy with the regulated system that provides us with reliable electricity at a competitive retail price. Deregulation of the electric utilities is what lead to the abuses of Enron in gaming the system in California. This is the kind of thing that you are asking for.

          4. @Rod,
            Nice to read that you are happy with a monopole situation.

            Why don’t we implement that much more?
            E.g. for (air-, mail-)transport, for telecommunications services, etc.
            But we ended the existing monopole situations in those branches because they hinder substantial progress. Such as increase in productivity.
            And we need real progress in order to earn more, while working less.

            Realize that your monopoly structure highly resembles the situation in the communist countries (except China) before the fall of the Berlin Wall in ~1990. It delivered USSR and the communist E-European countries a stable situation with little progress, while the western countries with free competition made substantial economic and technical progress, becoming much richer and powerful.

            Up until the end, most leaders in those communist countries were convinced that they had a superior structured economy while the west wasted huge amounts in senseless competition fights…
            Despite inferior living standards for their population.

            As a young guy I travelled through E-Europe, Russia and Siberia. I was shocked. Concluded that living in e.g. India, where I travelled earlier, would be far more enjoyable for me

          5. In the US, mail service is still provided by the Federal Government. Until 1982, one US company had a government-tolerated monopoly on telephone communications. There would be no Internet and no World Wide Web today without large government programs (in the US for the Internet and internationally for the Web) that developed and sponsored the technology in its early stages. America Online was a latecomer to the game.

          6. @Brian,
            The World Wide Web is invented by a scientist who worked at CERN in Geneve (where they create high speed collisions between nuclear particles in order to find the fundamentals of material).
            It was an immediate success. US Government was not involved.

            Regarding internet technology you are partly right.
            It is roughly identical to the once secret (D)ARPA net, which was a military (Dept of Defense) project (aim: a network which would continue to operate even if part of the nodes are destroyed, hence it is based on datagrams).
            It was developed by US university’s.

    2. Sure, they have no profitable future if the politicians pass laws that run them out of business, and give favorable treatment for the most unreliable and more costly generators, which is precisely the opposite of what any sane person would want. It is truly a world gone mad when a mostly land-locked country throws away an entire industry because of (irrational) fear of an event caused by a tsunami.

  15. There are no German laws which take traditional power plants out of business. Such a law would be against the EU competition rules, so the high Court in Luxembourg will destroy the law and order that the power plants (and others, if they are hurt) get full compensation for the damage caused by the law.

    German electricity is fully liberalized. It’s a free market. German consumers can choose one from >100 utilities for their electricity supply.
    Anybody can start a power plant, get the connection to the grid he wants, and sell electricity at the whole sale market in Leipzig (av. whole sale price last year: 3cent/KWh), and/or sell directly to customers. So you see e.g. steel producers who sell the electricity they generate but temporarily don’t need, etc. Electricity is traded in chunks of 15 minutes.

    One of the issues is, that utilities which deliver 100% renewable are getting more and more customers, especially consumers. While utilities which deliver traditional generated electricity (RWE, etc.) are loosing market share all the time despite being somewhat cheaper. So those utilities either have to shrink and become very small or change their business. RWE and E.on chose for the last option.

    The Energiewende started in 2000 (legally in 2001 when the EEG, which target a.o. 80% renewable in 2050) became law.
    That was a decade before the Fukushima nuclear accident after the tsunami.

    You may not realize it fully yet, but there is a paradigm change going on regarding electricity generation. It’s spreading around the world gradually because it doesn’t have the issues of traditional power plants (CO2, radiation, centralized hence vulnerable, waste, no perspective for significant price decreases, etc.)

    1. @Bas

      As you say, Germany’s Energiwende began in 2001, nearly 15 years ago. Can you name the rest of the countries that are pursuing a similar path? The “temporary” shift to burning more coal and lignite (we’re still a little puzzled by the choice to consider those two separate energy sources from a statistical reporting point of view) troubles many.

      1. @Rod,
        Germany is not leading the paradigm change. The leader is Denmark which is ~20years ahead. They will have 100% renewable electricity in 2040 and target to be 100% renewable regarding all energy (so incl. heating and transport) in 2050.

        BTW
        Denmark’s people are estimated by the UN to be one of the happiest in the world. Though I believe the people in New Zealand, through which I’m cycling a few months may also score very high.

        Followers are a.o. countries such as Austra and a number of other EU countries (eg Italy). Though it goes slowly. France made the first moves only recently.

        It’s a pity that the country I admire so much lags so far behind. Only New York and California seem to move. Though in some mid western states wind supplies a major share in electricity supply.

      2. @Rod,
        Sorry I forgot to answer your second question.

        The main differences between coal and lignite for Germany:
        – German coal is subsidized greatly (the coal is mined ~1000meters below surface). Government wanted to end coal in 2000-2005 (again) but had to give in to the miners unions (the Rheinland culture is not to play it hard as Thatcher did in UK in the nineties). They made an agreement with a closing scheme; the mines will all be closed before ~2019 in line with that agreement from ~10 years ago.

        All these (political troubles) give coal a special status; you could say that it’s a social provision for the miners who kept the lights on in Germany for such a long time in the past (I apologize to Germans who read the last sentence. Don’t know how to state it better).

        – The cost price of electricity produced with coal (incl. imported coal from USA) is ~>3cent/KWh (without the coal subsidy of course much higher).

        The cost price of electricity produced with lignite is ~2.5cent/KWh (unsubsidized! With plants that use the flexible modern low temperature burning circulating fluidised bed process). Note that that is lower than the marginal costs of almost all nuclear power plants (despite the CO2 tax for the lignite electricity).

        So coal will be ended soon anyway as German wholesale prices will decrease further towards ~2.5cent/KWh. As the closing scheme of German NPP’s is also fixed (no politician will change that after last elections which whiped FDP out of parliament. It would be suicide), German Greenpeace now concentrates on lignite out. That implies a great increase of the Energiewende speed which would increase the Energiewende levy also greatly (now ~6cnt/KWh).

        However Merkel and Gabriel promised that the Energiewende speed would continue to stay the same and that the levy won’t increase significantly and will gradually decrease after 2022 (then lot of wind & sun run out of their guaranteed price period; one of the reasons for the virtual power plant developments). Gabriel defends himself by statements that the Energiewende costs already to much, presenting the highest numbers he can find.
        I’m not sure about the outcome, also because the Germans note the faster progress in Denmark.

      3. @Rod,
        Your remark:”… “temporary” shift to burning more coal and lignite …”
        doesn’t fit with the figures.

        There are fluctuations in year on year but long term coal + !ignite burning went down significantly. Especially when you also consider that the new lignite power plants are ~30% more efficient (~44% vs ~33%).

        Oil and gas burning for electricity went down much more as those are more expensive. Remember that electricity is a free market there with fierce competition between hundreds of utilities.

        The big progress in the reduction of coal+lignite etc burning will come after 2022 when all NPP’s are closed. As that is priority number one of the Energiewende.

        1. There are fluctuations in year on year but long term coal + !ignite burning went down significantly.

          Long term, the gap between the carbon-free base load provided by nuclear and the wildly-varying output of the unreliables must be filled by combustion.

          Especially when you also consider that the new lignite power plants are ~30% more efficient (~44% vs ~33%).

          Which lowers their CIPK from what, 900 gCO2/kWh down to 675?  When the UK CCC says that emissions must go down to no more than 50 gCO2/kWh, why is lignite in the running at all?  All but a few would have to be gone in just 14 years.

          The big progress in the reduction of coal+lignite etc burning will come after 2022 when all NPP’s are closed. As that is priority number one of the Energiewende.

          The only existing non-nuclear option to replace lignite is natural gas.  You peak out at about 60% efficiency and 330 gCO2/kWH, which means only 15% of total generation can come from this … and it has to be the only fossil-fired generation remaining or 50 gCO2/kWh is exceeded.

          The priorities of the Energiewende are insane, as is anyone who understands what they mean and still supports them.

          1. @EP,
            That gas combustion concerns more and more renewable gas, which is a.o. gas produced by unmanned power-to-gas plant.
            Those plants operate primarily when the electricity price is very low as the costprice of the gas they then produce from the electricity (and CO2) is then below the price of natural gas.

            The decrease of lignite+coal and other fossil fuel burning for Germany’s electricity, is caused by the expansion of renewable and the energy efficiency targets of the Energiewende. Renewable expansion include the expansion of wind and solar generated electricity!
            Nuclear decreased since 2001, so nuclear contributed zero to the reduction of fossil fuel burning since then.

            The Energiewende targets 80% renewable in 2050 which is better for the climate than the plans of almost all other big industry countries (most even don’t have a scenario for the future until 2050!)

          2. That gas combustion concerns more and more renewable gas, which is a.o. gas produced by unmanned power-to-gas plant.

            My search for “Germany “renewable gas” production 2015” came up with little related to Germany save the Wikipedia biogas page (FWIW, the total biogas-related generation of 12.8 TWh in 2010 was about 2.5% of Germany’s 547 TWh consumed; it is hopelessly inadequate to buffer variations in wind and solar).  Tellingly, the section immediately above shows that the biogas from the sewage of 30,000 homes can provide the fuel for all of 200, about 0.7% of the total.

            My search for “germany “power-to-gas” production 2015” also came up with scant results, but Wikipedia again makes telling admissions including “It can produce 60 cubic metres of hydrogen per hour and feed 3,000 cubic metres of natural gas enriched with hydrogen into the grid per hour.”  In other words, injected hydrogen is 2% of the gas by volume and about 0.7% by energy:  the “renewable gas” is Greenwashed fossil fuel.

            The gushing articles on these “renewable” projects almost never mention what the product costs.  I have seen figures around $15/kg for “renewable” hydrogen.  Given your globe-trotting lifestyle, Bas, I would like to see you offset your air travel emissions by paying others to use only hydrogen and synthetic methane made from wind and solar power.  If you actually walked the walk that way, I doubt you’d be able to afford to leave your house.

            Nuclear decreased since 2001, so nuclear contributed zero to the reduction of fossil fuel burning since then.

            And Germany contributed about zero to any serious reduction in CO2 emissions since 2011, when the nuclear shutdowns commenced.  This is no coincidence.

            You really don’t care about the environment, Bas.  You are happy to burn natural gas and jet fuel so long as nuclear power goes away, and all your snow-capped mountains with it.  You are worse for the environment than anyone, because you deceive others into thinking you’re for it—maybe even yourself.

    2. Sure, anybody can a power plant, but if the market is skewed to favor particular forms of generation, they will choose those. In this country you have foreign windmill vendors going crazy proposing wind farms not because they will fairly compete with other forms, but because there are laws that provide them an unfair subsidy to produce power that must, by law, be purchased by the local utility. They can also sell RECs and carbon offsets, plus get a PTC that gives them an additional margin of “profit” almost 50% more than the going wholesale rate. Those are the laws I speak of. So you’ve got a windfarm pulling in maybe 15 or 20 cents/kwh effective rate with a PPA and mandated subsidies while down the road you have a nuclear plant trying to compete with that and getting maybe 4.5 cents per kwh with no mandated subsidies like PTCs and carbon offsets.

      I’ll ask you again, would you be willing to level the playing field for all competitors? Allow nuclear plants a retroactive 5 year depreciation write-off like windmill builders get. Grant nuclear plants a 2.3 or 2.4 cent/kwhr PTC. Pass laws mandating that utilities must take the output from nuclear plants, sometimes at rates two to three times the spot market price. Provide construction incentives so builders of nuclear plants can get a 30 or 40 percent rebate from the government on their capital costs. Allow nuclear plants to sell carbon offsets equal to the amount of carbon emissions they avoid. Allow nuclear plants to negotiate a PPA with utilities without protests and intervenors and interference from government agencies. Do all that and then I’ll believe it might be a fair market.

      1. @Wayne SW

        I wouldn’t be willing to provide all of those transfers from the public purse into corporate hands. The only reason the taxpayers put up with it for wind and solar is that, until now, the total transfers have been relatively invisible in the federal budget because the enterprises were very small in comparison to real electricity sources.

        It’s changing and people are getting energized to oppose the continued payments. It’s not happening as rapidly as I would like, but the answer is to level the playing field by cutting off unreliables, not by subsidizing nukes. We have a product that can compete rather well, especially if we can help people understand how much cost is added by a broken regulatory review process that inserts huge, costly and unpredictable delays construction schedules. It even impacts operational planning, but that is somewhat less of an issue because the industry has been resisting those impositions.

        1. Well, do one or the other, how’s that? Either eliminate the subsidies for The Chosen Ones, or allow subsidies for those who don’t have them. Put everyone on an equal footing. Also, impose the same regulations on everyone. Right now nuclear takes care of its waste. Natural gas just dumps it and no one says anything. Make the windmills and solar arrays escrow funds for their decommissioning. In many locales there are no laws on the books for cleaning up abandoned windmill sites, which are more of an eyesore than they are when they are running, if that’s conceivable.

          An alternative would be to grant the subsidies to the nuclear plants and put those funds into “corporate hands”, but attach some golden handcuffs. Grant them the subsidies with the understanding that the funds will go towards keeping existing plants operating in the face of the unfair competition from the sources that either have subsidies or are not required to manage their waste and decommissioning. IOW, make it an “internal subsidy” that allows profitable operation of plants that would otherwise be shutdown. That way we avoid the tragedies of things like Kewaunee, Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim, and Fitzpatrick. Of course, that would take some measure of corporate commitment and responsibility, and that might be enough to derail the whole idea.

          1. Subsidies should be temporary, max 7 years or so.
            E.g. to help with (the introduction of) new products (such as solar batteries) & creation of a new mass market.

          2. If you really believe that, you should use your globe trotting lifestyle constructively for a change and come over here and go after companies like Iberdrola and other foreign entities that roam the country agitating to build monstrous wind farms that don’t farm the wind so much are farm the subsidies that are available. In my state alone we had Iberdrola going nuts lobbying for extension of subsidies for windmills which were scheduled to expire. They stated flat-out that the survival of the wind farms they had built depended on those subsidies. In almost every case like this the politicians caved in to the demands of the windmill builders and extended the subsidies. This was just done at the federal level for national subsidies at taxpayer expense. Like I said in another post, once you put those subsidies in place, it is very hard to dig them out. In the rare cases where they do expire, the windmill operators so after other things like long-term PPAs or PTCs at outrageously inflated costs, and they still get accelerated depreciation over the first five years of operation, again at taxpayer expense.

  16. The grid isn’t going to change soon. As a person who has generated a lot of energy, I like my power on demand. I own a 20kW generator and Auto Transfer Switch.
    I still have power outages, except they’re over in 10 seconds.
    The fuel is from a 500 gallon propane tank.