The Worth-It Threshold - When gas or gas + renewables is as bad for climate as a coal plant 1

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  1. Another “advantage” that natural gas has over coal is very little or no emission of sulfur compounds, on a per kwh basis. That and less CO2 are it selling points. But you still get millions of tons of CO2 dumped into the biosphere even by the most efficient of CCGT plants of moderate capacity.

    But the fugitive emissions is what kills the advantage of natural gas as a tool for combating climate change. I have been concerned about this for years and I’m pleased to see it getting some attention. Just the leakage from the extraction step alone dwarfs the carbon footprint of nuclear plants. Fracking only exacerbates the problem. Everyone knows that natural gas backs up the wind and solar producers. You can’t get by on a 20-30% capacity factor.

    There is an interesting web site that allows you to pull up the locations of gas leaks in major cities and suburbs. I looked it up for Boston and the whole mapped was dotted with leakage locations. I had one in my front yard (not in Boston) for over a year. I had to call the gas company a half-dozen times and finally made enough of a pest of myself that they came out and fixed it after about 12-14 months of leakage. They blamed it on faulty valves they got from China. They said they couldn’t fix it sooner because they were too busy with bigger leaks (!) and also because it was “not dangerous”. But I always wondered how much atmospheric degradation that one leak, one of millions out there, caused.

    1. Not just GHG, but also poison gases come from a turbine fed on pure carbon tetrahydride – a term I use to go with carbon dioxide. CH4 is methane. The “clean natural gas” in interstate pipelines is not what naturally comes out of the well. In most cases it includes sulphur compounds, especially the smelly, poisonous, and pipeline-corrosive hydrogen sulphide. I trust that when that is removed at the wellhead, nothing sulphurous escapes.

      But an efficient air-fed heat engine runs at as high a temperature as the metallurgy will permit. Such high temperatures and pressures activate the chemistry of the nitrogen, and the exhaust includes the acid oxides of nitrogen.

  2. It’s debatable whether the 20-year timescale GWP of methane is the most reasonable to use, since climate is a long-term event and not a short-term one. Climatologists generally accept 30 years as the timescale for climate, which would drop the GWP of methane to about 77. Personally I would choose a 100-year timescale as most appropriate, at which the GWP of methane is 34.

    1. Considerations of short-term effects are what induce many to accept the shorter timescale for methane, even though with a 10-year residence time it is not quite to equilibrium assuming a constant source term. Still, even with a GWP of 34 it is still a potent degrader of the biosphere. Not in the range of nitrous oxides, but certainly higher then CO2, which seems to get a lot more attention.

    2. Keith –

      I take your point, but in our view the next 20 years is the critical window in which we all need to act with vigor (as JFK used to say) to mitigate the worst consequences of serious climate disruption. And the bitter irony is, that’s about as long as the average solar panel or wind turbine lasts.

      Which is actually our overarching point — the future is now. And instead of embarking on a nuclear moonshot (good old JFK…) the world is squandering a ton of time, resources, and attention on something that, in the final analysis, won’t help us get on top of climate change.

      So I’d rather use the short-term number. Not to be more dramatic (though that helps) but more to say, “Now is our time to act, and we’re doing what?!”

    3. It seems to me the GWP of methane only drops after you cut off the source of methane. Over short period of time, say a few months or a year, the warming effect of methane is about 100 or 120 times that of CO2. That’s because the initial charge of methane at t=t0 doesn’t decay much over that short time. But by continuing to add methane, we’re continuing to push back the goal posts by adding more and more methane charges at later and later t0’s. Thus our warming effect remains 100 times that of CO2 if all we do is add methane at the same rate previously emitted methane is oxidizing to CO2.

      That isn’t what we’re doing, of course: methane concentrations are marching upward with CO2. See Arctic News Mean Methane Levels reach 1800 ppb. Question is, when are we gonna stop? What part of “keep it in the ground” don’t we understand?

      On an unrelated nit and depending on one’s definitions,

      To fill the yawning gap between the real and the ideal, methane must generate most of the farm’s “nameplate” power: A one-gigawatt solar farm with a 23% CF is actually a 770-megawatt gas plant enhanced by 230 megawatts of sunshine.

      might better read
      “A one-gigawatt solar farm with a 23% CF is actually a one-gigawatt gas plant enhanced by an average 230 megawatts of sunshine.”
      – depending on how much peak power you expect from the thing, and when.

      1. Thanks for the tip. But our calculations consider the farm’s output over the course of an entire year, CF being a yearly average. While it’s true that solar output will vary  enormously, we’re taking the industry at its word that a 1-GW farm with a 23% CF produces 230 MWavg / yr. from sunshine. So if the 770 balance isn’t generated by on-site gas, or backed up by the grid (which is mostly coal) then it’s not a 1-GW farm and they’ve been blowing smoke.

        1. Did you pick up “bridge fuel to nowhere” from somebody, or did you come up with it independently?  I’ve been using it and I’m fascinated to see it crop up in your paper; this needs to go viral.

          1. Not sure. I’m a sponge for all sorts of stuff 🙂 Like John Lennon said, if you’re gonna steal, steal from the best!

          2. It’s a riff on “the bridge to nowhere” that was built in Alaska a few years back. Apparently some legislator up there got a kickback from the island the bridge went to, or the construction company or some such.

            Yes, it does need to go viral! So please link to it when you’re cruising on the internets 🙂

        2. The 23% capacity factor is a bit of a misnomer.
          1. Solar thermal generating facilities have thermal storage making them essentially dispatchable.
          2. Wind and solar when mixed provide a much more stable generation profile, than either wind or solar without storage alone.

          1. The article doesn’t get into CSP, which does have decent storage. We were specifically addressing PV solar and wind.

      2. As long as we keep substituting natural gas for truly carbon-free generation (nuclear), there will be a more or less constant source term, although it may actually increase over time as more nuclear units are taken out of service and not replaced with other nuclear units. As we all know, a simple relationship exists between production and loss for the time rate of change of methane concentration (assuming a constant source). Eventually you will approach an equilibrium that is a function of the production term, and whose equilibrium timescale is governed by the “decay constant” for the loss term. Since we know the residence time for methane in the atmosphere, unless we cut off the production term (as Ed notes above), we’ll hit that equilibrium in around a hundred years.

  3. Good article:

    I hope the Bernie Sanders people are reading your posts.

    From the article:

    “If that seems like we’re stepping on everyone’s Green Dream, then please understand that when it gets right down to it, Mother Nature doesn’t give a damn about anyone’s favorite technology.”

    The famous Feynmann quote:

    “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.” Richard P. Feynman

    I think the Green Party folks should read that article too. If you could get Bernie Sanders youthful supporters and the Greens on your side, there would be a bounty of new nuclear construction – worldwide.

    1. I’ve been following another (now inactive) thread discussing Alsace’ attempt to woo Tesla to site an assembly plant there, to partially offset the pending economic loss of Fessenheim. Some of the commenters we’re giving a refreshing amount of pushback against the idea of closing Fessenheim at all. Seems that vaunted French pride isn’t entirely dead.

      1. Having had such success with Westinghouse-derived PWRs, maybe some French technocrats will do it again with NuScale-derived SMPWRs.

        1. AREVA is doing the fuel design and testing for NuScale. That part of AREVA will soon be owned by EdF.

    2. Thanks! If you know anyone who can get it to the Bern Squad, or the Green Party, we’d be much obliged 🙂

    3. I nag Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate, when I bump into her. Which has been twice.

      She’ll be at the Left Forum Conference in May. There I’ll hand her a copy of WIND AND SOLAR’S ACHILLES’ HEEL .

      Same to any other Greens in sight.

  4. I agree with the article and advocate for retaining existing nuclear and moving forward with new Gen4 reactors as soon as possible. The article does although lead me to have many other questions. The primary questions is what methane emissions are included in the “nationwide fugitive methane rate”? What is the average amount of methane that comes out of the coal and/or other mining operations? What is the average amount of methane that is flared off instead of just escaping? What percentage of methane is burned via all uses (industrial heat, ammonia production, residential and commercial HVAC) of NG/methane and how much is lost into the atmosphere?

    1. Coal piles at generating stations do emit methane. They may be sprayed down to help alleviate spontaneous combustion.

      Still – I wonder how this methane emission compares with nature. Some swamps can emit a lot of methane via rotting vegetation. And – let’s not forget about cattle being methane emitters.

      1. Methane can come from a lot of sources that may have a substantial impact on overall global emission tonnage. I do agree that the methane concentration in the upper atmosphere must come from human activity.
        https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators/ghg/ghg-concentrations.html
        I am not a climate scientist therefore it is impossible for for me to determine what percentage of this increase comes from what sources. https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ch4.html
        It does seem that methane has a much bigger impact to environment whether it should be multiplied by 25 or 84. (16% x 25 / 84 = 400% / 1344% GWP) https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/global.html
        I notice that the EPA don’t mention any methane sources or sinks from/in the ocean – can anybody help me out? Also, I haven’t been able to find data for the estimated methane emissions over time from each source. Anybody?

        1. Joe:

          Here’s one on the sinks:

          http://worldoceanreview.com/en/wor-1/ocean-chemistry/climate-change-and-methane-hydrates/

          The problem with this one is that it requires cold water. As that water warms up, i’ve heard that the methane comes out. This global warming thing is definitely not a linear phenomena. As the methane comes out, the global warming is supposed to accelerate.

          It could get hot enough where even the most staunch right winger would become a believer.

          1. Global climate disruption doesn’t adhere to any political affiliation. There are skeptics and believers on all parts of the spectrum. One can be skeptical of the human-causation aspect but still acknowledge that climates changes and will always change, being a dynamic, chaotic system of innumerable influences and forces, some which, no doubt, remain unmeasured by scientists.

            This center-right commenter fully supports and defends the use of appropriate technology to deliver abundant, affordable, reliable, predictable energy because that is the best way to lift the billion or more destitute people in developing countries out of their squalor and into a productive life while enjoying the conveniences we take for granted. That the environment is preserved through that approach is a benefit to all now and for future generations.

            I’d like to see Amory Lovins , Bill McKibben or Mark Z. Jacobson respond to this series of articles and studies.

          2. @DocForesite: “I’d like to see Amory Lovins , Bill McKibben or Mark Z. Jacobson respond to this series of articles and studies.”

            No you wouldn’t. Their tactic is always to obfuscate and cloud the issue in order to cover up the weakness of their position from the casual audience. They would not address the issue clearly nor honestly.

    2. Hi, Joe – We footnoted the references on emissions, so dig into those articles to see the details.

      But to the larger point, that methane also comes from coal mines, natural sources, etc. — As we see it, the buildout of CCGT plants and gas-backed wind and solar drives the methane market like drug consumption drives the cartels. Phasing out methane power, and even phasing out coal, won’t halt all methane emissions, but doing both would take the anthropogenic thumb off the scale.

  5. Although mentioned in your lead paragraph the gas turbines will be operated in a simple cycle mode. Is this factored into the “Not-worth-it Threshool?” Yes, it may be a CCTG even the newer Advanced CCTG’s, but when first started there is no heat making steam which will in turn make more electricity from the gas consumed. Drastically reducing efficiency and in effect that solar/wind farm might has well been backed up by a coal plant with the CF reducing scrubbers, bag houses, filters, etc. – Same amount of CO2 will be dumped in the atmosphere.
    My cousin lives near the southern Illinois oil fields. At night or even in the evening, there appears to be more off-gas well flares than Wind turbines in all of Iowa. I question the “Cleanliness” of the NG, in that while driving through that area the odor was rather unpleasant to put it mildly. He worked on the rigs and when asked why they did not use that gas, his response was “It is not worth piping it to a collection tank. He had a well on his property and had this off-gas piped into his house. Used it in a combination Oil/NG furnace. Needed the special furnace as sometimes there was not enough gas pressure to heat the home. I seriously doubt if all of the oil well off gas is being accounted for.

    1. Ted Nordhaus has a piece up, Bill McKibben’s Misleading New Chemistry that cites a study suggesting most of increased US methane emission is probably agricultural. Given the controversy, there will be many more studies, and continued R&D into cheaper-faster-smaller measurement techniques.

      CCGT wind-following emissions aren’t as bad as you think, at low wind penetration and high turbine utilization. In Quantifying CO2 savings from wind power and using real-world data, Joseph Wheatley showed that, with 17% wind penetration, the 2011 Irish grid avoided a remarkable 0.28 tonne CO2 for each MWh of wind generated.

      It’s really not that hard; the trick is to keep those gas turbine spinning…

    2. Yes to your first question. Download the pdf and walk through the formulas (they’re easy and fun) and you’ll see that we took simple cycle vs combined cycle into account.

      In examining this issue, keep in mind that CO2 isn’t the problem, greenhouse gases are, of which CO2 is just one. Unburned methane been getting off scot-free with all the attention on CO2, but hopefully in the wake of Porter Ranch that will start to change.

      1. @Mike Conley
        Thanks. I re-derived Maloney’s Formulae last night. They’re obvious, alright. But not intuitively.

        1. Yeah, I thought Tim was freaking ingenious to come up with those formulas. I hope they become famous, and Tim in the process, because no matter what numbers you plug in, the formulas still work.

          1. An interesting variant is to invert Maloney’s 2nd Formula to yield a “worth-it” capacity factor given an operational emissions density Eop, warming potential Vw, and fugitive factor f:

            Cwif = 1 – Ec/(Eop(1+f*Vw/2.75))

            Consider Ec=900 and a hypothetical wind operational density Eop=500 .lt. Eoc=540:

            f Cwif(Vw=84) Cwif(Vw=100)
            2.2% -7.7% 0
            2.6% 0 7.5%
            3.3% 10% 18%
            4.0% 19% 27%
            6.0% 36% 43%
            8.0% 48% 54%
            10% 56% 61%

            The first line just means that our Eop=500 case always avoids emissions if the fugitive factor is less than 2.2%. At 4% — the Vw=84 “worth-it” threshold of a standalone CCGT — we’ll need Cf=27% for which there’s still plenty of real estate. 6% leakage and we’re going to be scrambling.

            Scrambling just to break even emissions-wise — relative to coal — on a very expensive investment. Sure we don’t wanna just leave the stuff in the ground?

  6. All the overbuilding that is needed means there will be a lot of very expensive assets that sit idle a lot of the time, waiting for a peaking moment. Few investors will want to finance a unit that sits idle most of the time.

    1. Good point. Seems that renewables fans have glossed over that little detail. Not to mention the fact that panels and windmills only lasts about 20 years. Imagine going back to the investors for more dough, to refurbish dozens of farm that have mostly been sitting idle for the last two decades? Which of course would include the cost of recycling all the old stuff . . . What a mess.

      1. Another thing that adds to the mess is the neglecting of baseload cycling for load following of intermittent sources. Many of these analyses seem to simply assume that existing baseload plants can be adapted to load following without considering the damage that does to plant systems, as well as the economic penalty for doing so. If significant baseload cycling occurs to the point of shortening the lifetime of the baseload plants, that cost should be considered in the overall economic analysis of the value of intermittent generation. Would that also change the picture for the desirability of investing in such systems? I would think so.

        1. I’m guessing / hoping that most baseload systems will remain baseload, and that the peakers on the RE farms will be the ones ramping up and down a bazillion times a year. Peakers are made to do that, reactors not so much. In theory an MSR will be able to load follow in seconds, but doing it habitually will most likely heat stress the vessel and pipes.

    1. McKibben is rightly concerned about methane but still opposes nuclear power… McKibben is part of the problem.

      1. Indeed. He recognizes the methane problem but remains seemingly blind to the fact that wind and solar depend on gas — that in fact it can be rightly said that wind and solar plants are a disguise for gas plants that use a bit of wind or sunshine to supplement the use of gas. It makes me wonder how he thinks that the energy dilemma can be solved without nuclear

      2. Be of good cheer. I sent him the article and he said he liked it and would pass it around. So there’s hope… 🙂

  7. The phrase “wind farm” should really be “industrial wind estate”. I am quite certain that Uncle Fred would not have subjected his cattle to the presence of wind turbines. He was a man so courteous to his animals that a Black Angus bull would stand still while Fred scratched its back with a stick.

  8. Power Earth 2050: Is California’s 100% Renewable Strategy Globally Viable panel discussion; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5v-yMFXvdY

    At the 1:12:22 mark of the video, a distinguished member of the audience, Mr. Mike Conley, asked the panel (i.e. Mark Z. Jacobson) about fugitive methane leaks and its mitigating effects on renewables. MZJ responded, at the 1:19:16 mark, that natural gas simply isn’t needed in his WWS plan.

    Renewables advocates can simply wave a magic wand and deflect or ignore the use of FF backup, let alone fugitive methane leaks.

    1. I’m starting to think that Jacobson thinks that everyone lives in California. He does, I don’t. We’re in the midst of one of the coldest Springs on record. Its more like Winter than Spring, and my gas-fired furnace has been running most of the time. The sun is rarely seen, and the winds we have are either too much or too little. I guess Jacobson just writes off people like me and my loved ones.

      1. @Wayne SW

        Jacobson is not the first coastal Californian to forget that their rather unique climate gives them a leg up in keeping per capita energy use down. I am sure he will not be the last.

        The coast of California has a south running current and a nearby mountain range that moderates their temperatures to an almost always comfortable range between 60-80 ℉. I’ve lived in exactly one house out of about 20 during my lifetime where we did not have air conditioning and did not miss it. That was near Point Sur CA when I was attending the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.

        It never snowed while I was there. The only months when I needed to wear a light jacket were August and September, when the fog rolled in off of the bay, bringing a chill to the air in months where most of the country is sweltering.

        1. Of all the times I’ve been to CA I can’t recall a really bad day weather-wise. It was always pleasant and comfortable, except the one time I did the tourist thing to Alcatraz Island and almost got blown off the ground in the exercise yard.

          I just can’t see Jacobson’s WWS scheme working where I live, which is a typical northern US continental climate. Even mid-April its chilly. Today has a raw, wet, damp air and absolutely no wind to speak of. We have little or no hydropower. Solar array output would be near zero. Even if we had storage the amp-hour meter would be ticking down to zero. What would Jacobson have us do when the batteries run down? Just freeze, I guess.

        2. It’s all too obvious. Look at the proposed Tesla Model 3! The poor interior designers forgot all HVAC vents. Not needed when every day is 72 and sunny, but helpful here on the East coast.

          1. While stationed in Hawaii many years ago I bought a car over there. Beautiful 67 Chevy Impala SS convertible. When my tour of duty was over there I got transferred to Groton CT. Several months later,when summer was ending, on a chilly evening, I tried to get some heat out of the “heater.” The only levers I could find were for fan speed and floor/windshield vents. Seems that they did not install a heater coil in cars shipped to HI unless you bought the AC. Never had the need to even try the heater while in HI.

          2. Range and environmental control are what I always thought the questionable points of EVs are. Where I live you need both heat and AC. And I really need the range of an IC when I take my annual vacation, because I can drive 400 miles and refuel in 5-7 minutes vs. waiting overnight for a charge (or a few hours anyway). Until the EVs can get into that performance range at comparable prices I doubt if they’ll see much market penetration.

          3. The range isn’t too bad on AC. Maybe 20-25 miles on a hot day. Heat is harder. It’s around a 35-40 mile range hit on a cold day. Still, the 90 D has a usable range of ~250 miles on a 0 degree day at 70 mph.

            Me? I’m ordering a Volt.

          4. Wayne,
            Not to be a cheerleader of EVs or Tesla, but you could realistically drive 250 miles during the summer, take a reasonable break for lunch at a supercharger, and drive another 200 without issue. They are pretty good even today (and there are quite a few superchargers, even outside of the West Coast).

            With that said, they will continue to improve I’m sure. You know my vote given the aforementioned Volt. Probably still the best solution for most people. Of course they don’t market the car at all, so they hardly sell any.

            1. @Cory Stansbury

              Of course they don’t market the car at all, so they hardly sell any.

              My guess is that their profit margins on the car are either razor thin or non existent, even with the help of the $7,500 federal tax credit.

              Once a manufacturer has sold 200,000 units of any electric vehicle eligible for the credit, the credit phases out during the year following the day that the milestone is reached. One year after the manufacturer achieves a cumulative unit sales total of 200,000 vehicles, the credit disappears altogether.

          5. Sounds like they make money, but I agree…probably not a ton (http://insideevs.com/2016-chevrolet-volt-will-profitable/)

            I just look at Toyota. They started with a poorly selling, expensive-to-make car (the Prius) and built it into the money-making juggernaut we see today. I’m not a huge fan of many Japanese business practices, but I do really like their long-term viewpoint.

          6. They … built it into the money-making juggernaut we see today.

            Witness the power of branding. Toyota’s marketing department capitalized on the “smugness factor.” There’s nothing technically exceptional about the car compared to its competitors. But Toyota chose to make it look uglier than the usual car so that it would stand out. They didn’t want it to be confused with run-of-the-mill compact cars. How would their owners look down on others if people thought they were driving just a cheap import?

            It’s a status symbol. It says of its owner, “I care about the environment more than you do.” It’s like belonging to the Sierra Club or donating to Greenpeace. It gives its owners that warm fuzzy feeling of being holier than someone else.

          7. @Brian Mays.
            Automotive styling is a very personal thing; I don’t criticize your preference. (Unless you prefer Aztec). But form follows function, and the most aerodynamic (least drag) form is a teardrop, rather closely followed by the Kammback (truncated teardrop). Toyota went with least drag to get best mileage; their Prius customers appreciate that.

          8. Sorry, Ed. But aerodynamics doesn’t explain why the Prius was such a huge success over its competitors such as Honda’s hybrid.

            The Prius looked different. The Honda looked like any other car.

          9. @Cory Stansbury

            The other issue I have with the EVs I have seen is interior space. All of them seem somewhat cramped. We have three plus-sized people and a carload of vacation gear to haul and that means either a lot of empty trunk space (no battery back there) or an SUV with movable seats. 450 miles gets us about halfway there, so I guess we’re looking at an overnight stay plus at least one extended stop the next day to finally make it. If I could get a reasonably fast charger at home an EV might suffice for local travel, but the economics of having two vehicles, one for local and the other for extended range, would probably break me.

          10. Wayne,
            I am unaware of any sedan on earth with comparable cargo/passenger space to the Model S. That’s one of its best features. Now definitely, 900 miles in a day (if that’s what you do) is a bit challenging, in that it probably would require 3 charges of something like 40 minutes. If you’re doing it over two days, you could probably get by with one charge each day, which isn’t nearly so bad.

          11. @Cory Stansbury

            I see the Model S has a few more cf trunk space than my Camry. Assuming that is not taken up by the battery then I guess we’re okay on cargo space. Do your range figures include running the AC? Where we go you don’t want to drive without it unless you want to risk a case of heat stroke. For $70K it seems like you should have performance comparable to an IC. If you can get a partial ride off of the taxpayers with some tax breaks and other credits, that probably brings the price into a range comparable to an IC SUV.

          12. Wayne,
            My range numbers do include AC on and running at 70 mph. Cargo space is 5.3 cubic feet front and 26.3 in the rear. That’s a total of 31.6 cubic feet with 5 passengers. That’s more than a BMW X5 and close to as much as an Audi Q7 in the same configuration (5 passenger mode). And, of course, we all know it’s faster than all of those vehicles.

            My main point of contention with the Model S is the interior. The modernist, spartan thing doesn’t do it for me. A Volvo XC90 does that simple, elegant thing much better IMHO.

          13. OK, so you have argued it down to two basic problems. One is price (without subsidies, unless either those can be guaranteed, or the production costs come down so we don’t need subsidies), the other is recharge time. I guess you could include the long-term cost of battery replacement, but maybe that will be (partially) offset by lower maintenance costs. Availability of super-rechargers may also is a problem, unless the penetration significantly increases. If you stop overnight, do you need a super-recharger?

          14. The Supercharger times are 40 minutes for an 80% charge (200 miles real world) or 75 minutes for 100%. I think as long as you’re on a road which has superchargers, it’s not too bad to travel long distances and it will only continue to get better. The overnight thing would need a 240V outlet. Overnight on 110 wouldn’t get you there. You get 29 miles (idea…probably 25 or so real world) per hour on a regular 240V outlet using the portable cord. If the hotel has regular level 2 charging, you’re looking at 58 ideal miles/hour (let’s call it 50 real world).

            Superchargers are plentiful enough this year to allow one to drive in many areas without worry. The central states are harder. If you’re just driving across the country, there are superchargers along the main arteries. However, if you’re just out on a vacation…exploring all day, you’re kinda screwed. I’m ordering a Volt tomorrow, so that tells you that I still like backup to my electric driving. Still, by 2020, the Tesla superchargers will probably be everywhere enough to allow for fairly normal driving.

            Price wise, I don’t really see it as any more objectionable than the other cars in its class. It’s expensive for sure, but so are Audi S7s etc. Model 3 should be down in the BMW 3 series range and offers free supercharging just like its big brother.

          15. How many deep charging cycles will the Volt and Model S batteries take, and how does that translate to battery lifetime for a typical driver? I am retired so I don’t put too many miles on the vehicles, certainly less than the 12,000 per year typically assigned to a normal household. From what I’ve heard, battery replacement cost can be significant, although if you can offset some of that by lower maintenance costs, it may be palatable. About the furthest we go on vacation is from OH to FL, maybe 900-1,100 miles depending on the endpoint. But we try to break it up into 400 mile days (I just can’t do extended travel anymore).

          16. It’s hard for me to comment as much on the Model S packs at ultra high mileage, as I haven’t really paid attention (I’ve heard something like 4-6% over 100k miles). I do know a fair amount about the Volts, given that I’m buying one. Probably the best datapoint is Eric Bremmer, who just rolled over 300,000 miles in his Volt. Around 100,000 miles of those are on pure electric and he’s yet to lose a single mile of range. Note that the Volt pack has extra capacity in it vs. what is used, so it can gradually use more cell capacity as the pack degrades. I’ve seen lifetime estimates from actual pack testing at >300,000 miles. Point is that I don’t expect to ever touch the pack in my Volt. It should last the life of the car and still have a usable purpose beyond that.

          17. So I see the 2016 Volt is a plug-in hybrid when I was assuming it was a pure EV. My bad for not checking. They say it goes 53 miles before you start burning gasoline. I guess that gets you around town between work and home and maybe running some errands. For longer hauls like vacation I guess you are back to burning gasoline, which I do anyway. But the knockout punch was the 34 bills for the MSRP. That is quite a chunk for someone on a pension. Are you counting on the full 7.5 bills tax credit?

          18. As a character says in my novel, “Snow is for people who can’t afford to move.” (She heard it in a Malibu bar.)

          19. I get supplier pricing, a $2000 state tax rebate, and full $7500 federal. So that knocks something like $11k off the price of a fully loaded car (~$42k).

          20. Geez. Well, I’m happy that you get such generous deals. For ordinary schmucks like me who are stuck with the MSRP and don’t have the state credit, we’re SOL, I guess. But, its happened before.

        3. Rod,

          A lot of the intermittent’s supporters forget unique situations. The Danish argument neglects the elephant in the room which is the enormous Scandinavian battery they have in the form of hydro power and the high power interconnect.

          Not a viable plan for the US.

    2. The “moderator” didn’t allow me to rebut Jacobson. I was going to tell him that the road from where we are to where he wants us to be runs through Porter Ranch.

  9. Slightly off topic but has anyone challenged the notion that renewables, and in particular solar is getting cheaper all the time. I recently looked at IRENA own publication on installed costs of solar and it clearly shows that prices have not fallen for about 3 years in both Germany and China (2 biggest markets). It’s something which gets regurgitated every time and just flies in the face of manufacturing practicalities and how things actually fall in price, namely you get all your easy savings first then after that it pretty much goes flat in terms of price. Advocates seem to assume because it fell sharply in price for a short while it will continue to forever.

    link to IRENA doc

    1. @ Jeremy
      Hope springs eternal. And your IRENA doc link appears broken. Advocates also hope chemical storage battery costs will continue to sharply fall indefinitely. “Moore’s Law”, you know. But costs aren’t everything:

      “If avg value/kWh < avg cost/kWh, then a subsidy is still needed." — Karen Street

      Subsidies per se are not the issue. Our markets are rife with them, and depending on one’s terminology, could not long function without. I’m more concerned with how energy subsidies are structured. Can’t speak for China, but in present US and Germany subsidies are structured to encourage deployment of renewables. Some would prefer they encourage decreased ghg emissions instead.

      Though superficially similar, our task — one of them — is to help advocates realize these are not necessarily the same thing.

    2. Even if PV panels come down in price to a dollar apiece, there is only X amount of sunlight that can fall on the thing. So Moore’s Law, often referenced by solar touts, doesn’t really apply.

      1. The same problem comes up with their “efficiency is improving” argument. You can’t get better than 100% efficiency, so if in a dream world the PV efficiency were to reach 100%, there are still two immutable barriers that remain. The first is something called “night”. The second is, as you note, insolation is going to be what it is, paying no mind to efficiency and/or cost of the PV array. Now, we all know that there are limits to any kind of generating system, but I get the impression a lot of times that advocates of unreliables simply blunder along thinking, gee, if we only do this or think that, our problems will be solved. But nature has a way of having the last word.

        1. Even with 100% efficiency the capacity factor will still follow the bell curve of the available energy. It will be less than that because the cost of azimuth/elevation adjusting mechanisms [think of two antenna rotators but with motors at least as big as in a garage door opener] and the control systems needed to track the sun will not only leach off of the increased power, they will use power when there is no sun. And you will need a system for each panel. Would be impossible to get 100% from sunrise to sunset regardless of what they do.

          1. That’s the thing. Efficiency (or cost) improvements on the collection system don’t really help you with the inherent diffusivity and unreliability of the primary energy source. A 100% efficient PV array is still going to have zero output at night, so there goes 50% of the capacity factor right off the bat. Pointing a 100% efficient, cheap solar panel directly at the sun at optimum angle does help when a cloudburst comes by and dumps hail on your PV array. But neither one will bother the nuclear plant down the road chugging out power at 100% capacity.

            A sure way to spin up a renewables advocate is to point these things out to them. They’ll either mumble and walk away or try a Gish gallop with a bunch of unrelated stuff. Either way, you’ll have spun them up good.

        2. There’s a whole other aspect to the thing that nobody ever talks about, “maintenance and repair.” This thing is on the roof. If it moves with the sun, it will most likely need adjusting. It needs to have snow, bug and bird debris cleaned from it. Are you going to have to pay somebody to do this or climb on the roof yourself? You are going to have to drill holes in the roof to mount this. Holes in roofs may leak in the rain. You will have an inverter and batteries. More maintenance and stuff to break down.

          Do you like mowing the lawn? Yes – maybe solar is for you. No – maybe wait and see if something better comes along.

          1. @Eino
            “There’s a whole other aspect to the thing that nobody ever talks about, “maintenance and repair.”

            I sure wish someone would start thinking about this and the added cost impact. I have posted here several times and on another dozen sites, the this is not a trivial amount. The typical response I get is along the lines of “how hard is it to get on your roof and sweep them off? or, Individual parts are not that expensive. You are exaggerating your maintenance costs.”
            Well, the typical billing rate for an AC repairman is $100/hr. Last spring I paid just under $ 900 to have a $35 (if I bought it myself on line) Thermal Expansion Valve replaced on my HP [Only one repairman.]. And that was in the comfort of my basement!. So, for comparison, how much will you pay to have the roof mounted mini-inverter replaced? How much to replace one panel (will require two work men. Don’t for get to read OSHA rules for protecting roofing workers. OSHA3755.pdf I can not imaging the maintenance of a rooftop solar system costing any less than the amount spent on maintaining the typical Furnace/AC system that is in most homes, plus another %50/hr surcharge for working on a roof.
            Try washing your windows with a garden hose or even a High pressure washer. Yes it will be cleaner, but only 85% to 95% clean. That is a 10% loss! That loss is added to the loss from non optimum azimuth/elevation loss, etc. Are you going to do that once a week?
            And I still dont get good answers on two other unspoken hidden costs. Are the Tax Assessors going to add the “appraised” value of that shinny gold mine on your roof to the value of your house? Is the insurance company going to add the Actual cost to the “Replacement” value on your home insurance? I get answers both ways (yes/no) however, once the county assessor/insurance adjuster sees the money they are loosing I guarantee what the answer will be.

            Read https://www.consumeraffairs.com/solar-energy/solarcity.html

            Disclosure statement: I bought and installed a Solar HW heater kit, some 40 years ago, on my home. It only saved me money for the first five years I owned it, and that was in NJ with their atrocious electrical rates, which was the main reason I was sold on that money pit. I performed all maintenance on this system and had access to wholesale prices for repair parts, and still lost money once the components started failing.

          2. The other thing people always neglect is the time value of money. It’s always, “well, spend $30,000 now and in 10 years you will have paid for the system in savings (with subsidies, or course).” Well, in 10 years, if you had invested that $30,000 in a conservative, modest-return mutual fund or even simple compounded interest from things like CDs, how much would you be ahead? A simple calculation assuming a 5% APY compounded quarterly would yield a total just under $50,000, without all the hassle of maintaining a system for 10 years. And your funds would be liquid the whole time, not tied up in real estate improvements that would require you to either sell or take out a line of credit against to access your money. I know it is that way with any kind of home improvement, but at least those don’t dangle the “get your money back in X number of years” bait in your face.

          3. And another thing,……Rich touched on this. That insurance man does not want your solar gadget back-feeding into the power system and posing a danger to the poor lineman or possibly even the meter person. With the abundance of lawyers in the US, how long is it going to be before this thing is subject to regular testing of the disconnect devices. I don’t have a current copy of NFPA 70, the National Electrical Code, but I’ll bet a proper installation will be delineated. This is valid as the solar installation if improperly done can pose both a fire hazard and electrical shock risk to personnel. In more populated areas this will mean work can only be done by licensed electricians and followed up by the local electrical inspector. This may be quite costly. Your investment has depreciated even more quickly.

  10. Mike & Tim:

    I have finally worked my way back to finish reading your piece, and I think you missed something significant:  the CO2-reduction effectiveness of wind and solar is substantially less than 100% per kWh generated.  Joe Wheatley found that the CO2-displacement effectiveness of wind had fallen to just 53% at a mere 17% penetration.

    When the “worth-it threshold” is multiplied by the well-below-unity effectiveness of wind and solar at truly displacing fossil fuel, it’s certain that we’re doing much worse in the short term.  Further, “worth-it” falls as RE penetration increases.

    I hope you can use this in your upcoming book.

    1. @ E-P
      I think it’s apples and oranges. Conley and Maloney look at the “ideal” case when one decommissions a complete operating coal plant, and replaces it entirely with a (gas+renewables) plant. The coal is gone and the emissions one has avoided is

      Ea = Ec – (1-Pf) * (1+f*Vw/2.75) * ((1-Pf/Cf)*Ecc + (Pf/Cf)*Eoc)

      where Cf is the renewable Capacity factor, Pf is the renewable Penetration factor (Pf <= Cf)
      Ecc = CCGT emission density = 405 kg/MWh (approximately)
      Eoc = OCCT emission density = 540 kg/MWh (ditto)
      Ec = coal emission density = 900 kg/MWh (approximately. Or 1100kg/MWh if lignite or peat)
      2.75 = 44/16, and
      Vw = warming potential of CH4 relative to CO2, argued above to be somewhere between 34 and 105. Maloney and Conley chose Vw = GWP(20yr) = 86. YMMV.

      They then look at an ideal solar renewable plant where Pf = Cf = 0.23, and solve for the leakage rate "f" that results in zero avoided emission: Ea = 0. Turns out to be 3.8% if Vw = 86, and 3.1% if Vw = 105. In the Green Dream where f = 0, the same 23% Cf gas+solar plant would avoid Ea = 900 – (1-Cf)*Eoc = 900 – 0.77*540 = 484 kg CO2e/MWh

      In contrast, if one were to pass on the sun and just replace the coal with CCGT, again with f=0, Pf = 0 and Ea = Ec – Ecc = 900 – 405 = 495 kg CO2e/MWh which can't possibly be correct as if it were, where would the solar industry be?

      Solar industry is doing just fine, thank you, so this "paper result" must certainly be wrong. I'd guess that even high-penetration solar isn't completely replaced by OCCT, that grid operators can reasonably predict cloudiness and nightfall, and schedule lower-emission generation accordingly.

      The avoidance result can also be fixed with a bit of wind. Wind may be less predictable than sun, but it's Cf = 0.35. Then Ea = 900 – 0.65*540 = 550 kg CO2e/MWh, a comfortable improvement over CCGT's measly 495. Avoiding 55 kg CO2e/MWh is definitely Worth It.

      As leakage increases from 0, OCCT+wind's advantage over CCGT only increases. At Vw=84 and f = 1.2%, the benefit of OCCT+wind over CCGT alone is 422-349 = 73 kg CO2e/MWh; at f=4% when the benefit of CCGT is nil, OCGT+wind saves a whopping 120 kg CO2e/MWh. Are we really sure we want to capture all those fugitive methanes? The implications are clear…

      In contrast, Wheatley was looking at real-world grids with coal, lignite/peat, OCCT, and CCGT that could operate in Open Cycle mode. The coal and peat plants were there: they are a Fact of Life and weren’t going to Go Away. When wind showed up they still didn’t Go Away, and coal and peat being cheaper than Irish gas, they didn’t exactly shut down, either.

      In his Irish grid study linked above, Wheatley found a real-world avoidance of 280 Kg CO2e/MWh wind with 17% penetration factor for 53% effectiveness. If you plug Pf = 0.17 and Cf = 0.33 into the above formula, you’ll get Ea = 506 kg CO2e/MWh, and 280/506 = 55.3% effectiveness, well within our approximation since Cf and Ec will vary.

      Maloney and Conley’s formulas appear superficially consistent with Wheatley’s empirical observations. It’s probably worth a deeper dive into Wheatley’s more detailed emissions models.

      1. @ E-P, Ed Leaver, Tim & Mike
        As a footnote to my previous comment, the formula for avoided emissions density Ea might more correctly read

        Ea = Ec – (1-Pf) * (1+f*Vw/2.75) * ((1-Pf/Cf)*Ecc + (Pf/Cf)*Eop)

        where Cf is the renewable Capacity factor, Pf is it’s Penetration factor (Pf <= Cf)
        Eop = operational emissions density, Ecc < Eop < Eoc
        Ecc = CCGT emission density ~= 405 kg/MWh (approximately)
        Eoc = OCCT emission density ~= 540 kg/MWh (ditto)
        Ec = coal emission density ~= 900 kg/MWh (1100kg/MWh if lignite or peat)
        2.75 = 44/16 kg CO2 / kg CH4, and
        Vw = warming potential of CH4 relative to CO2 ~= 84 (34 < Vw < 105)

        Here I've replaced Eoc in the original formula with Eop, the operational emissions density of the plant. Eop varies between the Ecc, the best efficiency of base load CCGT, and Eoc, the worst-case efficiency of a fluctuating peaker. I doubt either of these extremes will be realized in the real world; it might be worth it to consider why.

        Eop will depend on the predictability of the unreliable generation, and the amount of available energy storage, either local or someplace else. Wind is pretty stochastic and does not correlate with load (Wheatley), but calm and windy spells can be predicted about as well as any other weather, whatever storage considered, and some degree of combined cycle operation scheduled accordingly. Eop (wind) Ecc, but possibly not much greater.

        This article was about solar’s “worth-it” fugitive fraction wiff, or ff for short. Setting Ea = 0 and solving for f in the Ea formula, we have three limiting cases:

        1. Cf = 00%; Eop = Ecc = 405; ff = 4.0% (no renewables, CCGT base load only)
        2. Cf = 23%; Eop = Eoc = 540; ff = 3.8% (worst-case completely stochastic wind)
        3. Cf = 23%; Eop = Ecc = 405; ff = 6.2% (completely predictable best-case solar)

        …and several other cases:
        4. Cf = 23%; Eop = .5Ecc+.5Eoc = 472 kg CO2/MWh; ff = 4.8% (actual worst-case solar)
        5. Cf = 23%; Eop = .6Ecc+.4Eoc = 459 kg CO2/MWh; ff = 5.1%
        6. Cf = 23%; Eop = .7Ecc+.3Eoc = 445 kg CO2/MWh; ff = 5.3%
        7. Cf = 23%; Eop = .8Ecc+.2Eoc = 432 kg CO2/MWh; ff = 5.6%
        8. Cf = 23%; Eop = .9Ecc+.1Eoc = 418 kg CO2/MWh; ff = 5.9%

        Case 2 corresponds to Maloney’s Second Formula; arguably overly pessimistic for solar. Case 3 assumes sunshine is completely predictable and CCGT can ramp with it. Case 4 is roughly equivalent to predicable darkness and stochastic daytime solar. Cases 5 — 8 correspond to increasing degrees of daytime predictability.

        1. Whoops! HTML fail, my bad. Above Eop description should read

          “Eop will depend on the predictability of the unreliable generation, and the amount of available energy storage, either local or someplace else. Wind is pretty stochastic and does not correlate with load (Wheatley), but calm and windy spells can be predicted about as well as any other weather, whatever storage considered, and some degree of combined cycle operation scheduled accordingly. Eop (wind) is less than Eoc, but possibly not much less.

          “Solar Eop has other considerations. Solar does have positive correlation with load, and is only as stochastic as the clouds. In the desert southwest cloudless days and complete overcast are pretty predictable, its the “partly cloudy with afternoon and evening thunderstorms” one has to worry about. Size of the solar farm relative to an average cloud might be a scheduling consideration. Nightfall can be predicted with some accuracy. Eop (solar) is greater than Ecc, but possibly not much greater.”

          etc.

  11. Great post. First I’ve heard of the fugitive gas issue.

    The issue of the intermittent’s (wind/solar) needing 100% back-up almost always by natural gas is still hidden to the laymen who are the majority of the voting public. They just don’t understand, and most don’t have the attention span to dive very deep into energy issues. That’s why nonsensical policies like Bernie’s gain traction. A whole bunch of voters. unfortunately just go , anti-nuclear, check! The other candidates really don’t emphasize it much with the possible exception of Trump who at least mentions it every once in awhile. Its come up in New York because of the Indian Point debate so Hillary has had to talk about it.

    There is some backlash (see this):

    http://dailycaller.com/2016/04/09/media-and-progressives-turn-on-bernie-over-nuclear-power/

    Some points that a pro-nuclear stance could use to their advantage:
    1) Nuclear generates 67% of the CO2 free power today
    2) Wind/solar are intermittent and cannot replace nuclear.
    3) Supporting operating nuke plants is the single most important effort in the fight against climate change

    God I hate to say it but only Trump or Hillary would probably go with that. But a short and sweet like the above may get some traction

  12. Prepare for the increase in Electrical Energy prices. Nuclear Town hall has a link – http://www.gallup.com/poll/190355/opposition-fracking-mounts.aspx – for a Gallup Poll detailing the fact that the pendulum has swung against “Fracking.” New regulations to follow (IMHO) and then all of the utilities with new CCTG power plants will start jacking up their rates/surcharges, and you get to pay more. Makes me feel that the administration knew this would happen or was part of it. Hopefully it might save a few NPPs.

    1. Your link also had this statement:

      “Lower oil and gas prices may also be the reason a majority of Americans are opposed to nuclear energy for the first time.”

      Why would one lead to the other?

      As with most technologies, are there safeguards or means at the gas supplier’s disposal to make fracking safer? One of the criticisms is the chemicals used. Are there alternate safe chemicals which may, for example, biodegrade with time?

      1. @Eino

        The majority of the public is quite comfortable with using fossil fuel as long at it is cheap, especially since the visible and immediately obnoxious pollution that used to be associated with those fuels has largely disappeared from the public view as a result of the improvements of several decades under the Clean Air Act.

        They understand the fuel is not 100% safe or environmentally friendly, but it keeps their homes at a comfortable temperature, powers almost vital conveniences like refrigerators, ovens, water heaters, and laundry machines, gets them where they want to go, and ensures that their tap water is almost universally potable – with one or two highly publicized exceptions.

        Cheap fossil fuel gives the impression of virtually unlimited quantities, so they stop thinking about how nuclear energy can improve safety and security — largely because the industry spends no money at all reminding them of the value of the product. In fact, the industry messaging to the public over the past several years has been about how expensive it is to keep nuclear plants running, and how important it is for the government to live up to its obligation to take possession and responsibility for “nuclear waste.”

        No wonder support is down.

    2. @Rich

      Several years ago, I made some comments somewhere with a prediction that the environmental movement with its antifracking, anti coal, antinuclear and pro-renewable components would eventually be the scapegoat when the long range plan of the major oil and gas producers succeeded in creating a new high price cycle. The plan included a period of excess production and low prices, often received by bit players.

      The strategic plan included driving out competitors like coal and nuclear, capturing new gas customers (vehicles, exports, industries, residential), and eventually ratcheting down the aggressive drilling campaigns run by upstarts like XTO, Range Resources, Chesapeake Energy and dozens of other smaller companies.

      I’ve been searching to find those predictive comments or passages in Atomic Insights blogs, but so far, I’ve been unsuccessful. I’ll keep looking so I’ll be able to smugly write a few “I told you so posts.” Of course, I would have much preferred to have been wrong.

  13. The major problem is subsidies to wind/solar not natural gas. Subsidies to wind/solar artificially drive down the cost of power especially at non-peak times sometimes even driving it negative. Natural gas is just really cheap due to new supplies, meets EPA clean air requirements (unlike many coal stations) and is lower than CO2 than coal.

    In an un-rigged market prices would never ever go negative just like in an un-rigged financial market interest rates never ever go negative. But when you are required to pay feed in tariffs and must accept power from certain sources whether you need them or not you get negative pricing. That is not a natural gas problem its a wind/solar problem.

    Demonizing natural gas is a losing proposition. Attacking the unfair subsidy to wind/solar is what we have to work with.

    Reducing wind/solar subsidies to be less porky while giving some reward (it would be very modest) for nuclear’s CO2 free-ness would save all of the operating plants.

    1. I have been told, by fellow utility workers that would know, that the reason the price is negative is that the utility will only take the electricity from the company selling the unreliable “wind” electricity if they pay them. It is literally that disruptive to the grid. They are willing to pay for the utility to take the electricity because the subsidy agreements include clauses on actually producing electricity. The majority of these wind/solar farms are not owned by the utility or are incorporated as a subsidiary, etc. for better tax/subsidy purposes. Look at the numberBerkshire Hathway owns. Why does BS own them instead of AEP. They bothe ge benifits and WE pay. And the liberals talk about Wall Street Capitalists ripping us off.
      Look at the AWEA Cost of Wind Energy. http://www.awea.org/Resources/Content.aspx?ItemNumber=5547#CostofWindEnergy
      Notice the low prices that are providing. Looks great doesn’t it – $0.02 per kwHr. Unbelievable right! Well that is the Contract price for taking the electricity off of their hands. And the reason it is so low is because that is the most any utility would pay for it – no subsidy involved. In other words they do not want the Unreliable energy but because of RPS requirements they have to have a certain percentage of their electricity from Renewable. The USA is not Denmark or Norway with an overabundance of Hydro-power to act like a giant battery. The USA has 50 – 100 times the service area. what works there is never going to work here. Can you imagine putting 1,000 more dams on the American rivers? Doubling the number of HV Transmission lines? Never going to happen.

    2. @Jim Doyle

      Do you think it’s accidental that the EPA chose an approved CO2 emission figure that efficient gas fired generation meets with a little room to spare, but which coal cannot meet? I suspect some cronies or shekels were involved in making that particular choice.

      Negative pricing isn’t catastrophic if there are sufficient hours where prices are high enough to provide sufficient revenues.

      The massive wind subsidies, more so than solar, have helped drive the oversupply of natural gas by displacing a substantial portion of the burn over the course of a year.

      I like natural gas. I like cheap natural gas even better and think it’s great for consumers and great for people with the foresight to use cheap gas and other cheap commodity prices to build as many nuclear plants as possible.

      I’m just not a fan of natural gas company marketers and strategists. Their behavior demonstrates a high level of selfishness and short sightedness.

      1. Rod

        I’ll bet you are right regarding the CO2 limits and natural gas.

        Realistically you can’t completely phase out coal and gas and keep the lights on,

        I think negative pricing is a problem because it tells the market to reduce supply which in this case is a false signal.

        The negative pricing pricing is caused by subsidy.

        That being said there is no political will to stop subsidizing wind/solar,

        Changing how we subsidize is maybe more realistic.

        If we subsidize CO2 free generation including nuclear and cut the construction subsidies for wind/solar I think problem solved as best can be.

        That actually may be something that could be bipartisan.

      2. Do you think it’s accidental that the EPA chose an approved CO2 emission figure that efficient gas fired generation meets with a little room to spare, but which coal cannot meet? I suspect some cronies or shekels were involved in making that particular choice.

        I recall someone mentioning that the NRDC was intimately involved in the authorship of the CPP in closed-door sessions, and the NRDC is the creature of its donors, so we can be assured that it was written to the specifications of the natural-gas industry.

    3. I partially agree. I think natural gas (the polite term for methane:) is doing its own demonization quite well in the wake of Porter Ranch. And even as it fades from the news cycle, it can be referenced in the future and will be recalled by the public. Which I think we should keep on doing, because we need to expose the downside of methane as thoroughly we expose the downside of wind and solar subsidies. The combination of “cleaner” methane as backup or as a substitute for coal, coupled with the subsidies, consolidates RE’s position in a non-carbon energy portfolio, when the focus should be on a non-GreenHouse Gas portfolio. Because carbon per se isn’t the problem; GHGs are, of which CO2 is only one, and nowhere as powerful as CH4.

  14. The Conley and Maloney paper claims the Caitness Moxie Freedom
    (what a strange moniker) CCGT power plant is costing 592 million.
    From the press release, this appears to be the loan package for the plant.
    Do the authors know that the plant is 100% debt financed?

    1. Hi, Jack – It’s the only price we could find, so we went with it. If you have a more accurate price, please let us know.

      And by the way, very well done on ThorCon! Kudos to you and your team.

  15. This article is objectionable.

    ” A one-gigawatt solar farm with a 23% CF is actually a 770-megawatt gas plant enhanced by 230 megawatts of sunshine”

    It’s not the solar farm that’s backed up by gas turbine, its the NEM. Coal plants and other gas plants also rely on gas peakers to fill the gap between supply and demand. The comment above is from somebody still stuck in a “baseload” mentality and one who has completely ignored all the developments in storage in the last few years.
    It also ignores the report from UNSW which modeled a 1.3 times overbuild – not a 6x overbuild. Which study are you quoting? I could not see any in your PDF.

    Glad that your bringing gas leekage into this though. I remember reading the city of Melbourne estimate its leekage could be up to 10%. Ta