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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Viva La Revolucion!

I read Solar Revolution this weekend. I strongly recommend it for two reasons.

First, with all the doom and gloom and growing concern about energy security and the global environment in the news, in the movies, and in the world, this book projects a down to earth, conservative optimism that is sorely needed (plus he shows how solar is going to take over the world).

Secondly Travis Bradford, the author and founder of the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development, systematically deconstructs the notion that solar can't compete economically with existing power generating technologies. In performing this analysis he does not assume massive government subsidies for solar, the elimination of massive subsidies to competing technologies, radical technology breakthroughs in solar, a carbon tax, or even high and rising fossil fuel prices (although this seems almost certain to me).

He simply assumes that as the volume of solar panels made and installed around the world continues to increase the cost of solar will fall. His basis for this assumption is 1) economies of scale--making almost anything in higher volumes reduces the per unit cost and 2) economies from the technology learning curve--as any new technology matures and more players enter the growing field, costs fall in a predictable fashion.

Moreover Bradford explains how distributed generation, solar is different from nearly all existing commercial scale utility plants because the electricity is generated at the location that it is used, offers unique advantages in terms of energy cost and security. He looks at ways governments have and can continue to cost efficiently stimulate/accelerate the shift to a solar future. In about 30 years, according to Bradford, the majority of new power generation will be solar.

Whether you are a believer in solar or a skeptic (especially if you are a skeptic) you should grab a copy and look at one person's view of a a brighter future powered by the sun.

18 Comments:

At 2:20 PM, Blogger Lisa Stiles-Shell said...

Hi Daniel. I noticed that you left a comment on my post at NEI Nuclear Notes. You mentioned there that the nuclear industry must address the issue of waste. Is there a reason you don't mention the same issue when writing about solar? Per kilowatt-hour produced, solar panels and their production generate about the same amount of toxic waste as nuclear power--waste that never decays or becomes less dangerous. It needs to be monitored and sequestered, something that the nuclear industry already does with its used fuel. I'm not against solar at all, but we need to evaluate all energy technologies by the same set of objective criteria. If we do that, I'm convinced that we'll find that there is a proper time and place for all of our generating methods including solar and nuclear.

 
At 8:33 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Welcome Lisa S-S,

Wow! you are the first person I've encountered who has tried to make generating nuclear waste sound better than producing industrial/toxic waste.

Also it might be more useful to talk about waste per kW-hr delivered, because kW delivered is what the customer ultimately cares about.

However, I do appreciate the point that the industrial processes used to make solar PV cells create toxic waste. I don't actually know how much or what kind of waste each power source creates (cradle to grave). But I would very much like to minimize any hazardous waste creation.

I did find this EERE website (http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/man_pro_implications.html) which gives an overview of the kinds of waste generated in making PV cells/panels. It represents the sum-total of my solar waste knowledge at this time.

I am working on (I recently file a US patent for) an improved module design that uses 30% less silicon than standard industry practice. This should result in an equivalent reduction in per kw delivered waste streams.

 
At 6:08 AM, Blogger Lisa Stiles-Shell said...

Toxicity is toxicity. What does it matter if it is radioactive, hazardous or mixed? The injested lethal dose for pure caffeine is about the same as plutonium (15-20 grams). For inorganic mercury it is 1-4 grams. Which is "better?" Or put another way in honor of Bernhard Cohen, if you had to eat 10 grams of caffeine, plutonium, or mercury which would you choose?

The nuclear industry is also considering ways to reduce the amount and toxicity of its waste.

Which brings me back to my original point, if we evaluate all energy technologies using an objective set of criteria, we'll find that there is a proper time and place for all of them.

 
At 10:23 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Give me 10 grams of caffine! The devil that you know and all that...

You and the NEI website seem to like making this waste is waste argument. I don't really get it.

There are significant differences between 10 grams of caffine and 10 grams of plutonium. The plutonium can kill you without your even touching it.

Ingesting 10 grams of fecal coliform would likely kill you too. Yet I'd rather hold a cake of steaming pucky, than a puck of yellowcake.

Toxic means poisonous and deadly, and there are lots of kinds of toxic. But radioactive waste is still a special class of toxic waste.

Once the nuclear industry finishes "considering ways to reduce" its waste and finds/settles on a viable long term solution, it will find much more public support.

Objectively speaking, the world has had 30 years of nuke power, and on balance the costs have been higher and the risks greater than nuclear proponents told us they would be. If I appear skeptical of new claims, it is only because of this 30 year track record.

 
At 12:11 PM, Blogger Lisa Stiles-Shell said...

No, plutonium can't kill you without you coming in contact with it. Unfortunately, you've bought into the propaganda perpetuated by antinuclear extremists that plutonium is "the deadliest substance known to mankind." Plutonium is an alpha emitter and has to be *ingested* in significant quantities for it to kill you.

For the same reason, I would definitely take the yellowcake.

Yeah, the "too cheap to meter" thing was stupid, but objectively speaking, I can't think of one technology that has lived up to all of its original billing. But the fact is that nuclear has the lowest production cost of anything but hydro in this country and that includes the cost of waste remediation and decommissioning, something for which no other energy technology accounts.

And truly, the risks have been found to be *less* than predicted. Using the ultra-conservative linear-no-threshold model on which radiation protection regulations are based, there should have been many times the number of deaths that there were from Chernobyl. And at TMI the industry did the worst it could possibly do, they melted the core, and nobody died or was injured. And the resulting changes the industry made after TMI and Chernobyl made the industry safer. According to Department of Labor statistics it is safer to work in the nuclear industry than in almost any other, including steel manufacturing and chemical processing (which will build the windmills and solar panels).

In contrast, the chemical accident in Bhopal killed 3000 immediately with tens of thousands still suffering from it it today. Yet, I've heard no one suggest that the chemical industry should be shutdown.

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will reiterate: If we evaluate energy technologies with an objective said of criteria, and use facts, not propaganda, we will find a place for nuclear AND solar, and plenty of other methods as well.

 
At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

I'm a big fan of all the non-fossil energy sources for two major reasons:

1. We're going to deplete the fossil resources soon; even coal will hit a production peak before the end of the century if it remains our primary source of electric power, and especially if it takes up the slack for declining oil and natural gas supplied via coal-to-liquid and coal gassification processes.

2. The fossil resources, especially coal for electricity, produce a lot of greenhouse gasses, for which no scalable solution exists (sequestration is unproven, and won't work in many areas due to geologic constraints).

Renewables have a couple of problems that people always seem to overlook when they do calculations of how much energy we could theoretically get from them. The problems are that the ones we can scale are (a) intermittent and (b) diffuse. The wind doesn't always blow when you want it to, the sun doesn't always shine when you want it to. Solar power requires enormous land areas to be covered to produce the power of a fossil or nuclear plant. Hydro and geothermal don't have these drawbacks, but won't scale - we can and should build what nature has made available to us, but we've already largely done that in the US, and it doesn't meet more than a fraction of our needs.

Absent a scalable solution to storing power from intermittent sources, we can't meet more than 1/4 to 1/3 of our needs from solar and wind. The limit won't be running out of sites to build them - the limit will be intermittency. The limit is not affected by conservation; even if you could conserve the entire "missing" 2/3, you still can't get the rest from renewables without power storage, because whatever you're still using will not be 100% correlated with the renewable output. After this limit is reached, we will need power plants that can deliver steady baseload power and that can be switched on and off to deliver load-following power as necessary.

We should get what we can from renewables. Denmark gets as much as 35% of its electricity from wind (though this may be due to using other parts of the European grid as a virtual power storage bank). Utility experts have stated that the grid could accept as much as 20-25% from intermittent sources. Possibly a bit more for solar since the "intermittency" is more predictable and follows the load pattern. The baseload should come from nuclear power - we should be switching off coal plants or relegating them to use as peaker plants. Fossil power should be used only for load-following needs. Any technology that might eventually enable us to store power should be used first to eliminate fossil peaker plants.

In sum, nuclear energy and renewables are complimentary technologies. We need both.

 
At 6:21 PM, Blogger Randal Leavitt said...

Solar Power is really useless in many places. Consider Canada where I live - 24 hours of darkness in the winter. I guess I use the solar panels as snowshoes then. And imagine the effect of an eclipse on a world wide solar grid. Or suppose there is a large volcanic eruption - what then - freese in the dark until the sun comes back? Talk about asking for trouble - solar power is a non-starter.

With uranium and thorium fission in fast reactors we can have all the energy we need to be the gardeners of the Earth, and restore it to paradisical splendor. That is where our actions should be taking us.

 
At 6:34 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Doug,

Actually one thing that you state as a problem, solar being diffuse, is actually a strength...solar works anywhere. Moreover distributed generation saves on transmission and distribution charges. Solar will probably require a lot of roof space, but hey we got lots of roof space in this country.
And while I can't point to a nice neat solution to the intermittancy problem you mention, batteries are improving (albeit slowly) and there are many storage solutions that just haven't been tried yet.

I prefer solutions that don't create clear and obvious problems at the outset. Nuclear does not qualify in my book because of the radioactive waste thingy I've been going round and round on with Lisa...

And speaking of Lisa:
It strikes me that you are speaking of one type of plutonium (weapons grade) which is primarily an alpha emitter. I do believe that other types (I can never keep the isotopic numbers straight) of plutonium emit gammas. In any event, radioactive waste contains many other nasties besides plutonium and uranium, such as cesium, strontium, iodine, and americium (a whole mess of radioisotopes). I shouldn't have to explain why radioactive waste is harmful, IT IS! I freely admit that we have been using nuclear power for 30 years and the country hasn't imploded (yet). Of course cancer rates do seem to be on the rise...coincidence? lol just joking.

I'd like to point out that I ingest about 1 gram of caffine per week, maybe 40 grams a year...just FYI

 
At 6:42 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

OMG Randal, you are funny.

Tell me, what percent of the world's population lives in the way north of Canada where it is dark 24 hours a day? Or even the % that lives north of the arctic circle...
As I understand it eclipses are very predictable and short-lived. LOL, well I do appreciate the laughs.

 
At 9:06 AM, Anonymous Doug said...

Hey Daniel, thanks for the response. Some further comments here:

Moreover distributed generation saves on transmission and distribution charges. Solar will probably require a lot of roof space, but hey we got lots of roof space in this country.

Yep, that makes total sense. However, let's be clear that PV is the most expensive commercialised renewable power source we have - it's way worse than the next-worst, which is solar thermal.

And while I can't point to a nice neat solution to the intermittancy problem you mention, batteries are improving (albeit slowly) and there are many storage solutions that just haven't been tried yet.

Well, this is my point. We need to get moving now on reducing CO2 emissions, doing what we know will work today. Waving hands about possible technology improvements is IMO waiting for Godot. Look at how long a breakthrough in fusion technology has been "30 years away".

I've reviewed all the known storage solutions and none of them will scale, while all of them add to the already high cost of renewables and all of them lose quite a bit of energy in conversion. I won't belabor them here but there is a good paper on this from Lawrence Livermore labs you can google. The short summary is that the best storage techniques are site-specific (e.g. pumped hydro). Things like batteries have limited charge-discharge cycles and must be replaced every 3-5 years at very high costs, plus it's by no means clear we even have enough materials to build the enormous number of batteries that would be required. Other techniques e.g. flywheels etc. are discussed.

Nuclear does not qualify in my book because of the radioactive waste thingy I've been going round and round on with Lisa.

I suspect you closed your mind to nuclear power based on this a long time back. So have a lot of people, unfortunately. All technologies have drawbacks. Compare the mass of nuclear waste for a given amount of power versus the mass of CO2, even if rendered into a liquid form. There just is no comparison. There was a PBS special on the French nuclear program that may be on the web somewhere.

There's no perfect solution to our energy needs. People aren't going to say "OK, no perfect solution, let's just go back to living like the Amish." Instead, they are doing the opposite - people in China and India want 21rst century lifestyles. If we don't weigh the options objectively, including costs (esp. for developing countries) we will just burn more coal. That is what the last 30 years has shown us.

 
At 10:05 AM, Blogger GRLCowan said...

There's nothing tricky about burying nuclear waste, as e.g. the Finns plan to do. When it is buried a few hundred metres down, anyone to whom good nuclear news is good news can readily understand that it's no threat, by the following reasoning:

There is more natural radioactivity, at lesser depths, less well contained, than the manmade.

Thus, Daniel's "Once the nuclear industry ... settles on a viable long term solution, it will find much more public support" is multiply misleading. No-one in the industry has ever seen the waste as a real problem, for the very good reason that it's not; deep burial is what they always recommend, and will do as soon as it is allowed.

And there's plenty of public support. The public has noticed that nuclear waste fatalities and injuries are analogous to carbon monoxide deaths and injuries, with the very significant difference that carbon monoxide harm actually occurs, and nuclear waste harm never does.

The difficulty with nuclear waste disposal is getting government consent. Government profits heavily from fossil fuel, which nuclear fuel replaces at pennies on the dollar, so they'll footdrag this as long as possible.

--- G. R. L. Cowan, former hydrogen fan
Boron: internal combustion with nuclear cachet

 
At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

O.K. Daniel I don´t believe I can leave the things as they are right now.

Lets see: you want to know who lives even further up north than the population centers of canada? Take a look at the globe then look at Europe and compare the latitude of St. Petersburg, Oslo, Helsinki, Tallinn and Stockholm with the latitude of Anchorage in Alaska and Toronto or Vancouver or even Seattle (it is further up north than toronto although it is just on the border to Canada).
If you realy propose to evacuate all those Citys around 60 Degrees latitude than it is you who is trying to be funny. (Btw. the northpolar circle is at something like 67° latitude).

Now the thing about all the Solar power or the windpower is that that they are energy sources of low capacity factors. That means that if you compare their energy output per year to the energy output they could potentially give if they would run a year 365 days 24h a day they have a very low percentage. In Germany where I live the capacity factor for windenergy is 20%. The capacity factor for photovoltaicpanels is even lower than that. The capacityfactor for photovoltaic panels is around 10%. Now what does that mean in the real live? It means to substitute a NPP of 1200MWh that runs at a capacity factor of 85% (90-95% is more common among the newest plants) you have to substitute the net powerout of this plant. 0.85*1200=1020MWh. Now if you try to do the same with Windenergy you will need the following amount of 1 MWh Windenergy plants. 0.2*1000MWh=200kWh. 1020MWh= 1.020.000kWh 1020000:200= 5100 Windenergy plants. So you have to do the following: Buy 5100 Windenergyplants at 1 Million USD per piece and (and buy another batch in 20 year when they reach their technical live span.) This costs you around 5 billion USD. Then you will have to find a way to save the energy produced because you can not plan when the wind blows. This again costs a lot.

Now lets look at solarpower shall we?

capacity factors of about 10% in Germany. In general you cannot produce electricity at night. Prices per installed kWh that are about 10 times higher than windenergy. Do I really have to do the math?

The point is that the renewables are astronomically costly. They are even on a resource level not really compareable to NPP because you need such massive amounts of them - 5100 windenergy power plants and a 1000 Mw energy storage facility (72h*1000MW=72000MWh storage capacity) compared to 1 NPP - which concept will need more concrete more aluminium and steel more transmission lines more energy to build?

Photovoltaics are not usefull as long as they are based on silicon. It is just to costly and energy intensive to use highly highly refined silicon as a base material. And you still do not get a sufficiently high capacity factor.

Photovoltaics are great in remote locations without grid access - but they are bad compared to big energy sources like fission or even clean coal.

Now even if you propose something like TREC you will still be worse than NPPs. If you compare the costs.

The only thing I can have some sympathy with is the passive use of solarenergy. Yes a good insulation and if possible a good construction and placing of the house can help your heating bill substantially. Do that - thats a good thing to do.

About the dangers of Nuclear waste - take a hard look at the waste that will be produced by using a substantial amount of refined Silicon for photovoltaics. This is hightech stuff - it is compareble to the purity grades needed in electronics. Now about the nuclear waste - you can recyle most of it. You can even transmutate the waste you did not recycle. And that means that the waste problem is basicly solved. (At least you could do those things the principles have been tested) Try the same with fossil energy.

And about your fear of radioactivity - It is time you educate yourself. Check out what milisivert really means - take a look at becquerel and than take a look at natural occurences of radioactivity and the effects of the cancerous byproducts of the less well regulated industries. It is a save bet that you are in greater danger of beeing affected by these kinds of toxic byproducts than by the radioactivity released into the environment by NPP´s

Here are some Websites you might want to visit:

To check out the capacity factors of any NPP world wide visit: http://www.iaea.org/programmes/a2/

To check out the relative effects of energy production visit: http://www.externe.info/

To check out the costs of generating electricty take a look at the following paper which lists and compares all the recend studies: http://www.world-nuclear.org/economics.pdf

This seems to be the japanese point of view: http://www.nifs.ac.jp/itc/itc12/Okano.pdf


Greetings from Germany

Roland

 
At 2:05 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Doug:

However, let's be clear that PV is the most expensive commercialised renewable power source we have - it's way worse than the next-worst, which is solar thermal.

This is the last significant hurdle for solar to overcome. Two things about solar make it less expensive than it first appears: it is distributed power and it is peak power. As a result solar PV is only about 2x as expensive on average(less at certain times) as fossil fuel energy. Also solar is coming down in price ~5% a year so it should be equal in price in about 10 years.

Solar thermal is actually competative (in the US southwest) with natural gas peaking power (~$0.15/kWh), you may have seen that 800MW of (central/utility plant) solar thermal is being installed in the southwest right now.

I've reviewed all the known storage solutions and none of them will scale

You sound very certain of this. Right now intermittent power is under 2% of US capacity. When we get to ~10% of capacity (which will occur in 6-7 years at current rates) I suspect some options will be found that scale nicely. At this point I don't think enough people have looked at the problem to decide scaleable options don't exist.

There's no perfect solution to our energy needs.

This I can certainly agree with. We do need to weigh all our options and keep in mind there are many hidden/external costs in most of our existing energy infrastucture.

GRLCowen:
No-one in the industry has ever seen the waste as a real problem

Ah so true. It is the many people outside the industry (especially in the vacinity of Yucca Mountain) that are concerned by the mess of radioactive elements that make up nuclear waste. There are the staggeringly long time scales involved before the stuff is safe and the risks inherent in transporting radioactive waste like spills or theft. At least as viewed by the non-plutonium eating public.

Roland:
Lets see: you want to know who lives even further up north
About 2 million out of 6+ billion people live N. of the arctic circle (0.03%) and would see 24 hours of dark in winter.

If you realy propose to evacuate all those Citys around 60 Degrees latitude than it is you who is trying to be funny.

I said no such thing! Evacuate indeed! Don't put words in my mouth. I simply asked a question of Randal (which I answered myself just above).

The thing is that the artic gets the same amount of sunlight as the equator across a year, it just gets a whole lot more in summer.

In Germany where I live the capacity factor for windenergy is 20%. The capacity factor for photovoltaicpanels is even lower than that.

Actually what matters is the average cost per kWh of your generator (which already factors in the capacity factor). Solar PV costs around $0.2-0.25/kWh. Despite the 10% capacity factor that you cite, Germany installed the most solar PV capacity in both of the last two years. If solar works in Germany it can work anywhere.

The point is that the renewables are astronomically costly.

Solar PV costs about 2-3 times the average cost of delivered power in the US. Since that is an average cost, there are places where solar costs less than 2x and places where it costs more than 3x. I have already stated that cost is the last hurdle left for solar to overcome. Nevertheless 2x does not strike me as "astronomically costly" (and I do expect PV to be adopted in 2x or lower places before 3x places). Maybe we will just have to disagree on what is meant by astronomical costs...for the next decade anyway :)

Photovoltaics are great in remote locations without grid access - but they are bad compared to big energy sources like fission or even clean coal.

"Bad" strikes me as odd word to use when making a fine economic distinctions. Perhaps you mean that PV is not economically attractive to you at this time. Fair enough. I do wonder what is meant by the oxymoron "clean coal"? I guess you mean coal power generation with carbon sequestration (CCS) or IGCC. In fact I am anxious to see either of these technologies adopted by industry (beyond pilot plant scale).

And about your fear of radioactivity - It is time you educate yourself.

I will continue to learn more about radioactive materials. I used to work for a DOE fusion facility for a couple years and I have to admit it totally freaked me out when I had to wear a dosimeter (to measure exposure to tritium) around. As I understand it tritium is one of the least hazardous radioactives...but I was still freaked.

 
At 10:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay prompted by the remarks that you made I started some back of the envelope calculations:
assumptions:
- We want to make as much electricity as a 1200 MWh Plant with a 85% Capacity Factor per year.
- We will use the following Module: http://shop.fotovoltaikshop.de/939_mitsubishi-pv-mf-130-ea2lf.html
- 1 m^2 costs 556.1 Euros.
- 1 m^2 has a W peak of 130 W
- we assume the highest capacity factor that is known in germany - 1200 kwh per kw per year = 13,7% (about 750 kWh are lowest) (Source: fotovoltaik german wikipedia)

Now how many modules do we need for 1000 W peak? 1000/130= 7,6
Therefore we need 4226,36 Euros for 1000 W peak.

Capacityfactor was 13,7 % (best case scenario)(1200h/8760h=0,1369)(365x24h=8760h)
100/13,7 = 7,3
7,3 x 4226,35 = 30852,42 Euros to get 1 kWa (1 kw per year)
7,6 x 7,3 = 55,48 m^2 = 1 kWa

1kWa x 1000 = 1MWa = 55480 m^2
1MWa x 1000 = 1GWa = 55,48 km^2

the price for 55,48 km^2 is with those modules 30,8 billion Euros.

Now because of the EEG law (Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz) in germany every kWh from a photovoltaic-panel installed and hooked up to the grid in 2006 has a price guarantee of 0,406 Euros which lasts for 20 years. (The law has a sunshine provision - every year the guaranteed 20 year kWh-price drops by 5% for a newly installed plant)
A 1 GWa photovoltaic-plant produces every year 8,76 billion kWh.
8,76 x 0,406 = 3,556 billion Euros per year.
3,556 billion Euros x 20 = 71,12 billion Euros.

If you split 55,48 km^2 up into 246577,7 x 225 m^2 plants which have a kit price of 147552 Euros (installation not included!) You get a total price of 36,38 billion Euros.
(See "Photovoltaik-Anlage 29,25 kWp vom 03.08.2006" http://www.fotovoltaikshop.de/photovoltaik_angebote.php)

Now about the 5 percent decrease in the price of modules per year. If you take 1 GWa at 30 billion Euros it takes about 45 years to decrease the price tag to 2,98 billion Euros. (Thats about the time when comercial fusion becomes available ;) )

So to reiterate: to make a 1000 MWa plant you need about 30 billion Euros for photovoltaic-panels or you need a nuclear plant with a price tag of around 2 billion Euros per 1000 MWa... (1850 USD per kWh (SWR-1000?))

On the other hand I forgot - you actually also need a plant that can store electricity for your cloudy days and for the night. Hm - how much would such a plant cost? Now just to be mean lets say you built your photvoltaic plant in Murmansk. He he - you would need a lot of storage capacity... And I don´t know about the capacity factor per modul - probably a lot worse than in germany.

I guess I made my reason to call PVs bad compared to big (baseload) sources like fission or even clean coal (yes, CO2 sequestration) clear.

Now about the cities at 60° latitude - yes I know you did not say that - but you still cannot use photvoltatics in these citys. You cannot for economical reasons even if it could be a technical possibillity. Well the russians build a greenhouse in one of their cities beyond the polar circle - just to test it... You can do it - but in reality you know the results in advance.

About you working in a DOE fusion facillity - thats very interesting. What kind of dosimeter was it? Film, analog or digital? What did it say at the end of your work day? What was the reasoning about using a dosimeter? I have read that in Germany you have to use them when the possible exposure is more than 6 mS/a (inside the so called "Kontrollbereich")
"Sperrbereich" (closed space) starts at more than 3 mS/h... And you can have up to 20 mS/a effective dosage as an occupational exposure.

Greetings
Roland

 
At 10:37 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

&^$*(*%*#@!

Sorry Roland that was addressed at my computer/internet connection/website which just lost my previous response.

Your example is a bit unfair because the 1GWa requires 7.3 GWp of PV.
The total world production of PV is now under 2 GWp. It will be about 6 years before production ramps to the point that more than 7 GWp is made per year. By that time because of learning curve and economies of scale in production the price per Wp should be ~3 Euros rather than the 4.2 Euros now (assuming past trends continue).

As for your arctic circle objections: please, don't put solar where the sun doesn't shine! I hear geothermal works well way up north. I am not claiming that solar PV is the answer to every energy problem (yet). I'm claiming that in 20 years solar pv will be the answer to the majority of energy problems.

In any event if your 1 GWa plant could be built today, by your own calculations an investor would make more than 2 Euros for each Euro invested. How is that bad?

Meanwhile it is also unfair to campare only the construction cost of nuclear, to the construction plus twenty years of operating costs of solar. First of all I don't accept this 2 billion Euro estimate of the construction cost of a 1000MWh nuclear plant (does this include subsidies?). Such figures are easy to through around, but rarely reflect the actual costs. In the US the plants we built 30 years ago nearly cost that much. And they indisputably did cost several times what we were told they would cost (hence my skepticism of the 2 billion Euro figure). Second you should tally up at least 20 years of annual fuel and operating costs for the nuke and add that to the construction cost before we start trying to make the comparison you did.

As for the dosimeter: it was film. I am not sure why I "needed" a badge, mostly because this was a DOE facility. But I did occasionally work around/on/under machine parts that were salvaged from a previous machine that ran many fusion shots with tritium. I am sure my exposures were very low, although I cannot recall what they added up to annually.

 
At 8:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Daniel: "An engineer/scientist/mba/inventor stuggling to understand where the world is headed. Experimenting with a blog as a way to learn from others."

Well it sounds like your experiment is an utter failure. "Others" have provided you some very valid arguments, yet you seem to already have your mind made up on nuclear energy.

I would suggest you open up your mind a little. We need energy solutions right now, today.

 
At 11:30 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

To anonymous: Wow that is incredible! You can read my mind now?

I have and continue to ask questions about the cost of nuclear energy. Two things stand out as big unknowns: cost of radioactive waste disposal and the cost of decommissioning nuclear facilities. I consider these costs "unknown" because of limited data about their full costs thus far.
Until these two unknown cost factors are more clearly established, I have some reservations about widespread use of nuclear to replace other fossil fuels.

Could you remind me which of the very valid arguments I missed?

Lisa SS says that per kwh produced nuclear creates as much waste as solar. (And then she implies that radioactive waste should be considered equivalent or better to other waste.)

Doug argues that because of intermittency and diffuseness renewables can only supply a fraction of our future energy needs. And there is not a good established storage solution (other than the grid). He believes that nuclear should supply the majority of our power to eliminate/adjust to a lower carbon future.

GRLCowan: ok to be honest, I'm not quite clear what he was attempting to add.

Roland believes that solar and wind are bad compared to nuclear and coal because the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow. Especially in the arctic circle. Plus solar and wind the cost too much. And there is no good storage solution (other than the grid).

My replies to these attacks on renewable sources have focused on the objections raised and pointed out that as solar installations grow, the cost of solar will continue to fall. In 20 years or less (if current trends continue) solar will offer the cheapest energy solution per kwh delivered in many markets in the US and abroad. Once renewables make up a significant portion of our power generation, I believe affordable storage solutions will emerge.

I'm sorry if current trends in solar energy industry costs and my belief in greater energy efficiency along with emerging storage solutions lead me to advocate a different energy solution than nuclear today.

 
At 9:04 AM, Anonymous Envirogreen Technologies said...

We must make sure we have the necessary safeguards in place so we don't harm the environment, while trying to save it. Solar seems the safest as wind needs to come up with a design or method of keeping bats and birds away from the turbines. I know this will all get worked out in the end, we just need to make sure it doesn't get left out.

 

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