1. “It is the only available power source that can function reliably despite the weather and despite geographic location without producing any CO2”

    There is an island off the coast of Spain, El Hierro, (sp?), that is now powered 100% by renewables. The system utilizes 5 large wind turbines, that supply the energy to the islanders during favorable wind conditions. At altitude, there are two lakes, that are fed by pumps powered by the energy produced by the wind. At the times that wind conditions are not favorable for energy production, water is released from the lakes, feeding a hydroelectric generating plant.


    Once again, expending very little effort, one can find a practical model that demonstrates that renewables have a place in our energy future. This is not to say that NE doesn’t. But this “our way or the highway” kind of advocating just seems to be hurting the attainment of goals we all should share, a clean and plentiful supply of energy that weans us off of fossil fuel dependence.

    1. Rod Adams said:

      Anyone who is serious about climate change should also be serious about using nuclear energy as a tool in the battle; it is the only available power source that can function reliably despite the weather and despite geographic location without producing any CO2.

      How does this read “my way or the highway”? How does El Hierro affect that? How does El Hierro’s $20 million/MWe make their’s a widely applicable model? It’s by no means “one size fits all”. But it does mean the huge size of the carbon problem requires contribution from all low-carbon resources — even those that are most economic. Was nuclear an economic choice for El Hierro? No: their small population (10,000), modest power requirement (48GWh/yr), and isolated location would require some sort of (quite) small power reactor. At present there aren’t any. Why is that?

      1. @Ed Leaver

        I’m beyond an “every little bit helps” argument. Supplying the world’s energy needs is a 6 trillion or so per year business. It currently requires about 90 million barrels of oil per day, 7 billion tons of coal per year, and 100 trillion cubic feet of gas in addition to the 15-20% of non-fossil fuel energy.

        No one taught me to be warm and fuzzy in leadership classes. It is not a suitable technique for making big changes in the world.

        1. Rod……

          El Hierro will not be expending the fossil fuel it previously required for its energy needs. No doubt there are other island communities watching the El Hierro project to see if it may be an environmentally friendly solution to their energy needs as well. This is somehow a bad thing? The fact is that a lot of small renewable energy solutions scattered over the globe, where practical, add up to a large solution. Theres a lot of small inhabited islands on our planet Rod. Which would you rather they be doing, importing fossil fuels, or utilizing projects such as El Hierro’s??

          Yes, I understand that you think small reactors are a much better solution. But that option does not currently exist, does it? So, what do you suggest communities such as El Hierro do? Burn fossil fuels until they do have a nuclear option?

          1. @poa

            Actually, small reactors have been technically proven power generators since 1951. They’re only “not available” due to political decisions and the fossil-fuel funded myth that there is something especially risky about radiation.

          2. “They’re only “not available” due to political decisions and the fossil-fuel funded myth that there is something especially risky about radiation”

            Yes, Rod, you have driven that point home here. In spades. So, that being the reality, should FUD, and an uncooperative political structure, (towards nuclear), slam the door shut on utilizing, (where practical), systems such as the El Hierro system?

            You’re kinda hard headed, Rod. But thats ok. I get my helmet on, quite often, too.

            1. @poa

              The El Hierro system would not be “practical” today under current Spanish energy rules. It only made financial sense under the exceedingly generous FIT construct that contributed to the near bankruptcy of the country.

              The Spanish government, a local university and a Spanish power company all collaborated on the project. Gorona del Viento is one of the last major efforts the Spanish government approved before the financial crisis forced it to cut all subsidies for renewable energy.

              “We’re lucky the crisis came when the project was almost finished,” says Alpidio Armas, president of the El Hierro cabildo, a role roughly equivalent to that of a U.S. governor.


          3. Jumping in here to add my thoughts.

            The El Hierro situation does meet the question: “Show me where a community can run on renewables” However the original question to the wind/solar folks was show me a where a community is running solely on a wind/solar system.

            Then Jacobson came along and changed the model to a WWS system (water/wind/solar). And then everyone assumed that was the answer to all the problems. As now shown in the isolation of the Canary Islands, water and wind can work together but with fossil fuel backup for maintenance and emergencies.

            However in the US most large hydro sites have already been utilized. And in the US we need large pumped hydro sites to provide adequate power if we were to proceed down that path similar to the El Hierro situation.

            There is another problem though. Large hydro is not part of the Renewable Portfolio Standards that at least 34 states have enacted since the laws cap hydro at 30MW. And the anti-nuclear, “pro enviro” groups have resisted raising that cap because it will take away from their desire to have the US powered by the sun and wind.

            So there is a double whammy for this type of plan in the US. Not many sites left and the legalities/enviro groups have stopped access to the tax credits provided by the RPS’s so banks won’t be inclined to fund pumped hydro projects.

            Then there are the technical issues of the pumped hydro reservoirs themselves.

            As the linked article discusses, the reservoir sizing had to be downgraded due to less then optimal soil conditions. The local soil conditions prevented them from building the size of reservoirs they wanted which means compromises had to occur. That resulted in the lower reservoir being sized smaller then the upper reservoir. Not an optimal situation, workable but not ideal. It would have been better to have the two reservoirs equally sized in this type of situation in my opinion.

            Additionally, the soil conditions required a polyethylene geomembrane liner to prevent loss of water into the soil. This geomembrane will require O&M support including equipment that can remotely inspect/monitor the liner for excessive deformations or holes. (At least I hope they included remote sensing equipment to monitor for potential leakage) Loss of the liner will lead to loss of the water into the ground thereby requiring makeup. This makeup could become considerable, or only obtained at considerable cost, especially if salt water adversely affects the geomembrane. And it isn’t like geomembrane liners have never failed.


            There are several facilities in the US though that are going to try to make this type of system work. They were installed decades ago so are not faced with the legal and financial challenges that new pumped hydro would face. One such project is the Ludington plant in Michigan that might be paired with local wind resources. However it is being upgraded at a cost of $800 million minimum to extend the life and perform a plant uprate from 1.8GW to 2.1GW. So not exactly cheap.

        2. @Rod Adams. Perhaps it wasn’t clear; I was replying to poa, who brought up El Heirro as an example where wind+pumped hydro+standby diesel actually does make sense. Actually, I’m not sure what the three of us are arguing about. Or if we’re arguing at all.

          So let’s change topic and run some numbers. ABC News and Wall Street Journal report an $8.1 billion proposal to transmit Wyoming wind to compressed-air storage in Utah, from which it will be dispatched (mostly) to California:

          Chugwater Wyoming: 2.1 GW wind farm, $4.0 billion, figure 35% capacity factor for Wyoming.
          Delta Utah: 1.2 GW capacity, 60 GWh CAS, $1.5 billion
          Chugwater->Delta: transmission line, $2.6 billion

          Estimate 2.1 GW * 35% = 740 MW average. Assuming 100% efficiency (??) 60 GWh will store 740 MW for a mythical 3.4 dead calm days in southern Wyoming. (Perhaps these folks are looking ahead for a total of 4 GW wind capacity to be balanced at Delta.) Either way at $1.5 billion that storage is the cheap end of the project, which comes in at $8.1 billion/0.74 GW = $11 billion/GW dispatchable. Pricey, but wind is free.

          Consider an alternative use for 60 GWh compressed air. According to California ISO, California is today drawing 20 GW base load and 32 GW peak. The fluctuation isn’t sinusoidal as the afternoon-evening peak is broader than the wee-hours trough, but for simplicity assume a sinusoidal fluctuation of 6 GW with 24 hr period around a 26 GW average. Assume the 26 GW average was supplied by base load generators.

          It isn’t, as California has a fair bit of hydro and gas. But as an approximation California would then need to store 6 GW distributed as half a sine wave over 12 nighttime hours in order to meet the late-day 32 GW demand from the 26 GW base. Which comes out to a bit less than 50 GWh storage delivering 6 GW peak.

          That 60 GWh to be stored at Delta could balance California’s entire variable load.

          1. @Ed Leaver

            Sorry. Not interested in a fanciful project reported in the news media with rough calculations that include an assumption of 100% efficiency using air compression as the energy storage method.

          2. @Rod Adams. Neither am I, particularly. My point is it would take roughly forty such projects to run California this time of year assuming no extended wind breaks. (But we got gas!!!) Whereas nuclear could do the whole job with just the one (or two or… depending on efficiency) of the proposed CAS system, with fewer emissions, and pass on the gas.

            No. The proposed Wyoming Wind+Utah CAS system is neither scalable nor economic. But Californians have mandated 33% renewable electric and are eager to pay for it. I’m not; the wind PTC can’t be terminated soon enough.

            1. @Ed Leaver

              Where do you get the idea that Californians are “eager to pay” the real costs associated with their 33% renewable energy mandate. My contention is that they have been lied to by people that they should never have trusted in the first place, but I don’t hold that against the average voter. It is not much fun to become an energy expert and it is not something we should require of average people.

              The answer is for those of us who see through the sales pitch to loudly and regularly point out that the systems being proposed are inherently unreliable and that collecting “free” but diffuse and unpredictable energy costs a LOT of money. By the way, oil and uranium are just as free as the wind and sun. They are resources that exist and are there for the gathering.

          3. A note on efficiency. I haven’t figures specific for the Delta Utah facility, but at its size it might approach adiabatic compression (minimal heat transfer to cavern walls relative to stored energy). Adiabatic CAES have theoretical round-trip efficiency limited by turbine efficiency to about 70%, but the energy loss is all taken by the input source, in this case wind (or nuclear) and required additional gas heating is minimal. See Wikipedia Compressed air energy storage. Such a system (ADELE) is being built in Germany but again, I don’t know just how Delta will work.

            1. @poa

              Do you think that the island leaders were so short-sighted as to send their already installed diesels and fuel storage tanks back to Spain on the hope and prayer that their Rube Goldberg system will always provide all of the power they need?

              What if there is a drought and they run short of fresh water? Do you think the lakes used in the system might be useful as reservoirs instead of as working fluid? What if a large storm damages a few of the 5 wind turbines? What if they have maintenance challenges with the pumps that push the water back up hill or the valves that control its flow?

              People writing articles don’t bother to talk about all of the details that underly systems that many people simply take for granted, but I sure hope the system operators are more foresighted and responsible.

            1. @poa

              Don’t be absurd. I’m an operator. The scenarios I mentioned are relatively predictable weather events or mechanical issues. I hope that people who operate the power system on an island with 10,000 residents who have nowhere else to turn have considered them likely enough to determine that it makes sense to keep the diesels as backup power supplies.

              1. @poa

                You might want to know that all nuclear plants have a number of installed backup power systems. We generally don’t talk much about them but the regulators make sure we include them in the design and the financial folks make sure that we include their costs in our estimates.

                Maybe that is one of the many sources of angst from nuclear professionals with regard to our competitors who tout the price of solar panels or wind turbines without discussing the system costs associated with using those power sources.

          4. Rod…..

            Is Rube Golberg really a good analogy to use while presenting your argument? Seems I recall that his machines ALWAYS managed to get the job done, even if they did take the long way to get there.

            1. @poa

              In this case I think the analogy is fine. The wind/water combination should get the job done at first. Rube’s machines generally worked for a while as well. No one ever did any long term follow-up or reliability studies of those either.

          5. “Don’t be absurd”

            What is “absurd” about pointing out that some areas of the globe are as prone to earthquakes as other areas are prone to drought or weather calamity?

            Predictability IS a factor, is it not? Hardly absurd to recognize that fact. As you point out, the absurdity is failing to plan for predictable events.


      2. Ed……

        Where do I say “widely applicable”?? My point is that there are areas of suitability for wind energy. El Hierro is one such area. No doubt, there are locales equally as suited, scattered over the globe. When I brought up the hawaii wind project, one of the commenters here asserted that ALL wind projects fail. I am merely trying to find, through real example, successful renewable projects, in the hopes of tempering some of the blindly negative attitudes towards renewables that is so prevalent here. I am not slamming NE, nor am I claiming, (if in fact a small reacter existed that could serve the needs of El Hierro), that it wouldn’t be an option.

        1. @POA:

          I think you’ve provided some good evidence that renewables can work for some groups of people. Can they be scaled up to meet the full needs & wants of the world’s population? I don’t think so. In Northern climates people cannot tolerate intermittent power. That furnace must run when needed or the pipes and the people are going to freeze.

          1. “I think you’ve provided some good evidence that renewables can work for some groups of people”

            Egads, Atomic Insights blasphemy.

            “Can they be scaled up to meet the full needs & wants of the world’s population? I don’t think so”

            Nor do I. I think renewables have a place, as does nuclear. Doubtful either option will enjoy wide scale success if the two sides continue bickering like schoolgirls.

        2. It’s not the windiness of Hierro that makes it suitable, it’s the steepness. The centerpiece of the project isn’t the wind turbines, it’s the pumped hydro facility used to store wind energy. But that kind of geography — very high and steep grade, combined with flat areas for water storage both at the top and at the bottom — isn’t easy to find. Hierro is a volcanic island and is geographically lucky in that regard, but this technology would never work on an atoll. Having said that, I”m all for what Hierro has done. But I also understand that this technology is not widely applicable.

    2. Then, on the other hand……..



      Expected tax revenue from wind farms in Tehachapi and East Kern will be less than expected. According to the Kern County Assistant Assessor Tony Ansolabehere, the wind farms have been less productive than predicted. Photo by Jack Barnwell/Tehachapi News

      A sudden and dramatic drop in the value of Kern County’s massive wind energy farms will strip millions of dollars out of government coffers this fiscal year.

      The Kern County Assessor-Recorder’s office has warned county officials that they expect to drop wind energy property value by $777 million less than three months into the fiscal year.

      County budget officials estimate that will strip $1.8 million from the county’s main operational fund and $900,000 from taxes used to run the Kern County Fire Department.

      Other governments — cities and schools and special districts — could also lose revenue.

      The impact on local districts whose territory includes wind farms — including Tehachapi Valley Recreation and Park District and Tehachapi Unified School District — was not immediately available before deadline.

    3. For smaller areas, individual sources can suffice, such as the renewables/PHS setup. However, for the planetary civilization, we need to develop the intrinsically least expensive, most abundant source (and be able to integrate it with all the other sources that people wish to utilize) by standardizing deployment, maintenance, reprocessing and final onsite storage of the fission products. Only in this way will we have a chance to truly transition from hydrocarbons.
      There is, however, a basis for “not liking” renewables. If solar was to kick butt to the point of powering everything, then baseload sources will cease and quit. Germany is building more coal because they are shutting down their nuclear plants (I presume that these dirty things are somewhat load following?). Thus, when all of the nuclear plants get shut down because of the lowering of the baseload threshold, guess what has to happen at night?
      Of course, the fossil industry must like the renewables.

      1. There is no question that for small-scale (individual) applications wind and solar can have some impact. For the majority of the 1800s and 1900s rural areas used windmills to pump water. My Mom used to tell me about visiting her grandfather’s farm in then-rural NJ and seeing his windmill. He also had a solar heater of a kind where he built in a south-facing room a kind of greenhouse (glass) wall that put out some heat when the sun hit it. But in winter he always closed off that room because it made the rest f the house too cold. And he was always worried about having water in the house when the wind died and his cistern ran dry. So when rural electrification came in the first thing he did was tear down his windmill and put in an electric pump for his well. Had to pay a monthly bill, but never having to worry about running out of water again after that was worth it. I think she said he eventually tore down his “solar wall” and put in bricks for the wall and a couple of radiators in the room using heated water from his gas furnace. I guess they learned their lesson about unreliables back then. Perhaps it is a lesson for today as well.

  2. RFK jr sees nuclear energy as a bigger problem than the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. He would rather see Indian Point shut down, which would undoubtedly be replaced with fossil fueled baseload power plants. Rod has previously posted the video of RFK jr promoting the use of natural gas to provide back up to solar and wind farms. The same mentality exists with people like Sigmar Gabriel, the Economy and Energy Minister in Germany. He continues to promote the mining and burning of lignite in his country, so they can shut down their nuclear power plants.

    From the link:
    Sigmar Gabriel, Chancellor Merkel’s Energy minister, claims that more lignite mines are vital: “We need strategic reserves of gas and coal power for the times when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine,” he said.

    It makes me wonder just how much of a problem this CO2 issue really is? But, there are also people like James Hansen, who actively promote the use of nuclear energy to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. If CO2 really is a big problem, then Hansen and others (Patrick Moore?) need to somehow convince the environmental community that nuclear needs to be a big part of the solution. Such a mentality change is not going to be easy.

    1. I know Rod is interested in the confluence between the interests of the fossil fuels promoters and the anti-nuclear zealots, so I must point out there is such a connection in the case of Robert Kennedy Jr. and his family. And that is, Robert’s older brother, Joseph P. Kennedy II, is founder and CEO of Citizen’s Energy Corp., which supplies heating oil at (relatively) low cost to low-income families in the Northeast, where home heating using fuel oil is somewhat common. You may remember that the older Kennedy’s company was offered a boatload of free or greatly-reduced cost oil by the Marxist Venezuelan tyrant Hugo Chavez when he was still alive and dictator of that country. The company claims to be non-profit and altruistic but the fact is that they deal in a commodity the use of which is condemned by RFK Jr. Maybe he should direct his protests towards his own family. IIRC the Kennedys also opposed the Cape Wind project on the grounds of visual pollution of their seaside estate. So the hypocrisy goes beyond cell phones, private jets, and yachts.

    2. Below is a youtube link of a portion of RFK jr’s talk referenced above. The talk is to a group of natural gas suppliers. (3 minutes long)

      The article below describes how a concentrating solar facility in California has a significant carbon footprint, as well as a huge physical footprint.

      “The wind plants and solar plants, are gas plants.” – RFK jr

  3. It’s rather interesting that “we won’t actually have to DO anything because it will all happen automagically” is essentially the same meme being pushed by Amory Lovins: no laws need to be passed because it will all be so darned economical.

    Even Paul Krugman, who recently opined that saving the climate would be surprisingly cheap, recognizes the need for urgent action, specifically a carbon price.

    Meanwhile, the Earth warms and the frogs continue to sit in the pot.

    1. Find that hard to believe, as it was Lovins who was most vocal in getting the unreliable subsidy laws passed in the first place. [/irony] Similarly, the U.S. is on verge of becoming world’s largest oil producer and — oh noes!!! — is facing an impending glut. So first thing we wanna do is repeal our no-export laws that were originally passed, with some modicum of foresight, against precisely this eventuality.

      Of course, the worlds current petro champs, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, China, and UAE, can’t use their gains to save for a rainy day and build nuclear fast enough.

      1. Impending oil glut, the USA?  What planet are you living on?  The USA has just barely pushed oil extraction (NOT production; oil formation is negligible) above half of consumption.  There’s a net surplus of exported FINISHED products over imports, but that excess is coming from imported crude (and cheap local natural gas for e.g. hydrodesulfurization; US-made ULSD is a hot product worldwide).

  4. More triple digit temperatures are predicted for southern CA. Is it part of global warming? If the cost of power transmission could be reduced by an order of magnitude then north and South America could be connected by HVDC and “renewables” could be made to work on a large scale but I don’t think that is going to happen.

    1. But look on the bright side: as oil is eliminated all the unemployed Marines guarding our supply can be re-stationed to maintain (our) order in the Bananna HVDC Republics.

    2. I used to think that solar could “do it all”. Then I realized that all the moving parts and the reflectors of a CSP farm could be trashed by a single dust storm. So then, I figured, just deal with the lower EROEI of PV. But then I realized that in order to store it, we would waste a lot of that energy in the not so good ESOI of batteries (and also that not all countries will agree to buy solar from other countries). Pumped hydro is the best storage however, there are too many nimbys against that (or not enough mountains).
      Finally, I gave up on the “renewables must do it all” trek and started to actually learn about various different reactor designs, what radiation is and why nuclear power is not the primary source, many decades later.
      I know that Nixon nixed the MSR due to political reasons (in favor of another technology). I know that Carter did something to the effect of banning the closed cycle, and I know that Clinton stopped support for any new research.

      Seems to me that these oil loving presidents did their political homework, and cast aside, the science homework necessary for securing transition from fossil fuels (and to make it cheap and reliable 24/7).

      1. @fireofenergy:

        I think you are seeing it right. LFTRs and HTGCRs could be our future, but the door has been slammed in the the face of progress.

  5. @John Galt,

    If you want to be taken seriously on a serious topic, cite something peer-reviewed, not a website.

    The consensus scientific view is that over 100% of current warming is attributable to greenhouse gases. That’s because the net of other (non-GHG) anthropogenic forcings is negative (i.e. cooling), and the net of natural forcings is virtually zero.

    See IPCC AR5, figure 10.5, page 884.


    1. @Keith Pickering

      I see nothing wrong with using a credible web site as a reference worth citing and discussion. As is the case in any good discussion you are free to find other sources and to make the case as to why you think they are better or more accurate.

    2. So – There’s been global warming from 1951 to 2010. So you figure about half of this is caused by people. What has caused the other half of the warming? Have there been more than the normal amount of volcanoes in this time period producing greenhouse gases? Is there another mechanism causing the warming? I’ve read that the sun has not done anything unusual to cause it.

  6. That would be 50% to much.
    The reason why there is such a climate change debate is because one side recognizes that the science is fact and the other side recognizes that the solutions are indeed fallacy. Neither (for the most part) will support nuclear.

    1. Nicely stated.

      I’ve been asserting for a long time that many folks who reject the reality of climate change are actually rejecting the “solutions” which are always presented along with it in any public media. Stop associating climate change with ridiculous, unworkable solutions and more people will acknowledge that it is real.

      1. That’s a very pithy observation.  It’s consistent with my observation of the division between the “conservative” ACC deniers and the “Progressives”:  the former say that humanity isn’t changing anything faster than Nature is/would, and the latter cleave to the climate science on the change… and to an unacceptable political policy on the response to it.  Thus is the situation stalemated, to the satisfaction of the fossil-fuel interests.

Comments are closed.

Recent Comments from our Readers

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

Similar Posts