By Chris Nelder
Posting in Architecture
The 100% renewably powered grid is coming sooner than you think. The only question is whether grid operators will be ready for it in time.
One day in the not-too-distant future -- probably sooner than many expect -- some parts of the world will have power grids that are completely powered by renewables. Eventually, the entire world could be powered by renewables.
These are not green pie-in-the-sky fantasies, but the conclusions of recent research.
There is no doubt that renewable resources are positively vast. Solar alone could power the world: The solar energy that falls on the Earth every minute is more than the amount of fossil fuel the world uses every year. Wind alone could provide about 15 times the world's energy demand. The recoverable geothermal heat under the U.S. is about 140,000 times its annual energy consumption. Wave power alone could supply twice as much electricity as the world consumes.
Capturing that energy, and being able to use it to power everything, is the hard part.
Probably the most ambitious attempt to quantify that challenge to date has been done by Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi of Stanford University, who have published a series of papers over the past several years outlining how it could be done. In 2010, they published two papers (Part I and Part II) estimating how the world's energy demand for all purposes -- including electric power, transportation, heating and cooling -- could be met with renewables by 2030, and replace the existing energy generation mix by 2050:
- 3,800,000 5-MW wind turbines
- 49,000 300-MW concentrated solar plants
- 40,000 300-MW solar PV power plants
- 1.7 billion 3-kW rooftop PV systems
- 5,350 100-MW geothermal power plants
- 270 new 1300-MW hydroelectric power plants
- 720,000 0.75-MW wave devices
- 490,000 1-MW tidal turbines
- Storage in grid-connected electric and hybrid-electric vehicles
- Increased grid transmission capability
(A quick word on units: A kilowatt, or kW, is 1000 watts. A megawatt, or MW, is 1000 kW. A gigawatt, or GW, is 1000 MW.)
Surprisingly, Jacobson and Delucchi found that this power generation infrastructure would actually reduce world power demand by 30 percent, using only 0.41 percent more of the world's land for footprint and 0.59 percent more for spacing, at a similar cost to what we pay today. The main barriers to the transition, they concluded, "are primarily social and political, not technological or even economic."
So we know that, at least in theory, a global energy transition to renewables could be done.
Important questions still remain, however. Could the variable generation from renewables, including intermittent ones like wind and solar, meet fluctuating hourly demand within a single transmission region? And what would be the lowest cost mix of technologies that could achieve that?
A real-world model
A new paper from researchers at the University of Delaware attempts to answer these questions. They developed a model of how the PJM Interconnection (the RTO that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia), constituting one-fifth of U.S. electric power demand, could be met using only wind, solar, and storage.
The researchers ran a simulation program which evaluated 28 billion combinations of wind, solar and various storage technologies against four years (1999 to 2002) of historical grid load and weather data to determine the least costly solution that would meet the actual hourly demands on that grid. The total power capacity on the PMJ RTO during the simulation years was 72 GW.
The researchers estimated the total generation needed for each type of resource, and did not specify the number and size of generators. But based on the information in the paper and its summary in ScienceDaily, I find that one of the model's solutions could be met with roughly:
- 4.25 million 4-kW (residential) rooftop solar systems
- 13,600 5-MW offshore wind turbines
- 38,000 3-MW onshore wind turbines
- No more than 72 hours' worth of distributed hydrogen storage
Some of these numbers may seem impractically large at first blush, but they're useful for imagining what the system might look like, and they're feasible. A real-world generation mix would involve fewer and larger generators, including offshore wind turbines twice as large, larger onshore turbines, and commercial rooftop solar systems up to 500 kW in size, like those installed on Ikea and Walmart buildings over the past two years.
Including utility-scale solar PV and solar thermal systems in the mix would sharply reduce the number of rooftop systems needed. Adding geothermal and marine energy generation into the mix -- a reasonable bet by 2030 -- could sharply reduce the number of wind turbines needed. Finally, eliminating 30 percent or more of the load through efficiency improvements, which is certainly possible, would further reduce the system size.
If tens of thousands of wind turbines still seems unrealistic, consider this: Everyone now seems convinced that the U.S. will drill another 12,000 (or if Continental's CEO Harold Hamm is to be believed, 39,000) tight oil wells over the next decade, at $10 to $13 million each, which will become marginally productive "stripper wells" after 10 years or less. Is it so hard to believe that we could put up 50,000 wind turbines (at $1.3 - $2.2 million/MW capacity, or around $5 - $10 million a pop for a 5 MW turbine) in 20 years, which will produce energy for 20 years or longer?
Several remarkable conclusions emerged from the Delaware study.
Consider this graph of the simulation:
Over four years, generation from fossil fuels would have been needed only five times in summer months, at only about one-third of the total system generation capacity. That fossil fuel capacity would be met by natural gas.
This renewably-powered grid could meet 99.9% of the demand hours in 2030, at a cost comparable to today's grid power, without subsidies.
Due to the high cost of storage with today's technologies, the researchers found that it was cheaper to build almost three times the generation capacity needed to meet demand than to build exactly the generation capacity needed with more backup. However, based on the enormous amount of research and development going into storage technologies worldwide, I am confident that significantly better and cheaper storage options will be available by 2030. Better storage would reduce the number of generators needed to meet the Delaware researchers' model, substantially reducing the cost of their solution.
Briefly, let's review.
We know that the renewable resources are orders of magnitude larger than what we need to run the world.
We know that the grid can be almost completely powered by renewables, with a small amount of natural gas standby generation, using a reasonable and feasible number of collectors.
As I detailed in March, we know that renewables now provide up to 30 percent of the power on well-managed grids in Europe, and could do the same in the U.S. Indeed, the German experience has shown that renewables tend to push nuclear and fossil fuel capacity off the grid.
As I wrote in October, we know that a renewably-powered grid is actually more stable than a conventional fossil fuel-powered grid, and can accommodate an even larger percentage of intermittent renewable power. All it takes is good grid design and planning. Those who argue that the grid will always need 100 percent standby capacity from conventional fossil fuel plants because renewables are intermittent are simply wrong. It's like saying that because removing one leg of a three-legged milking stool will make it fall down, all chairs must have exactly three legs. Building the grid for distributed renewables is like building a chair with 50,000 legs -- it's inherently more stable than the centralized generation architecture of today.
We know that storage is advancing rapidly, and will enable very high penetration rates of renewables in the coming decades.
And we know that by 2030, renewably-generated grid power will be no more expensive than the grid power we have today, using very modest assumptions about the future cost of fossil fuels. In my expert opinion, nearly all of the comparative cost studies I've seen are far too conservative on that point. By 2030, the cost of fossil fuels will be far higher than historical trends suggest, making renewable power competitive with conventional power much earlier than anticipated.
In fact, recent studies show that unsubsidized solar generation could be cheaper than conventional grid power within a decade. Following current cost trends, solar is already competitive with regular grid power in sunny regions like the Southwest United States, at $0.12/kWh, and will be the cheapest way to generate power in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, India, and much of Asia by 2018, as I wrote last November.
A new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance finds that 300 GW of unsubsidized solar power will be competitive with conventional grid power in the U.S. by 2022, meeting 9 percent of the nation's electricity demand. As the report's author John Farrell observes, the challenge is no longer how to build renewable power cheaply enough; it's how to prepare for it.
Even in the laggard U.S., despite the high-profile troubles of some manufacturing companies, solar is powering ahead. A new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research finds that third quarter solar installations jumped 44 percent over the previous year. The U.S. will install a record 3.2 GW of new solar capacity in 2012, bringing the national total of solar PV to nearly 6 GW. And that growth rate is expected to continue, with 7.8 GW of new capacity installed in 2016.
Meanwhile, the list of countries aiming to supply most or all of their grid power from renewables continues to grow. The most recent is Australia, which recently released a white paper outlining how the country could meet 40 percent of its power from renewables by 2035, and 85 percent by 2050.
To repeat Jacobson and Delucchi: The barriers to a totally renewably-powered world are social and political, not technological or economic. And those barriers are falling fast.
So get ready, grid operators. The energy transition juggernaut is coming. The only real question now is whether you'll be ready for it in time.
Photo: BrightSource's 377 MW Ivanpah solar project, the world's largest solar thermal plant, now under construction in California's Mojave Desert. Image from Brightsource.
Update, Dec. 13: After soliciting feedback on this article from the principal author of the University of Delaware paper, I should clarify a few things.
First, the simulation modeled the PJM grid load in 1999-2002, but with 2030 prices. They did not try to predict the grid composition or load in 2030. Partially, this was to simplify the calculations they needed to perform and stay within their computational constraints.
Second, the lowest-cost solution they found used grid-connected vehicles for storage, not the hydrogen solution I described in the article, although hydrogen was a close second (and the researchers may have overestimated its cost, so it might in fact be the cheapest of the storage technologies they used in the simulation). The generation and storage capacity for the grid-connected vehicle solution is shown in the following table.
That solution could be satisfied using:
- 4 million 4-kW (residential) rooftop solar systems
- 17,940 5-MW offshore wind turbines
- 41,333 3-MW onshore wind turbines
- No more than 72 hours' worth of distributed vehicle storage
The authors also point out that at 90 percent penetration, there was no solar in the system. Only when the penetration of renewables was increased to 99.9 percent did the solar portion rise to around 30 GW, with the inland wind generation staying roughly the same.
The authors acknowledge that other technologies, like demand response, could lead to even cheaper systems, and could be incorporated into future simulations.
Dec 11, 2012
The Govenor of Virginia has just propsed an extra tax for those of us responsible enough to pay more for our vehicles to lower CARBON in the atmosphere and our dependence on fossile fuels. This is the most regressive tax ever proposed! Hopefully, he will come up with another way to pay for roads that is not going to charge HYBRID owners only.
We have been passive solar since 1987. We built a Deck House with passive solar features. We estimate that because of the design for both heating and cooling, we have saved approximately 40% of utility costs for electric for the same square footage. We orientated the home for solar gain with low E argon filled windows added eaves of 2 ft and it protects the heat from enetring those windows in the summer, air locks for entering the home, placement of the garage on the north side of the house, also few indows on the north. We want to go active and be off the grid completely as our ultimate goal. Think of what we saved since 1987!
Nothing can stop the march to renewables for energy security on our planet. Economic, commercial and availability indices all point towards this ultimate reality of energy security Any amount of vested interests on the part of political leaders, industrial cartels and powerful lobbies can only delay it maximum for another decade or so. http://veekay-indiandreamsvsreality.blogspot.in/2012/12/energy-security-through-renewables-only.html
Hi Dr. AlexC with his post entitled 100% Renewables gives the real dirt on this possibility. The infrastructure costs for the windmills and panels are likely to be prohibitive on the real planet we live on at this time. Do read it if you want a stark reality check. It's just above or below this one I think; so new I couldn't reply to it. TheAutomaticEarth site too contains essential imho "smart" stuff about energy and finance. The bottom line is that we should prepare for less energy use, personally and socially, rather than fantasize continuance of our mega-habit.
The article indeed seems to ignore realities, like assuming existence of... 13,600 5-MW offshore wind turbines 38,000 3-MW wind turbines No more than 72 hoursâ worth of distributed hydrogen storage Reading data sheets for windmills reveals they demand about 700 tons of resources per MW peak (333kW average). Those materials must be processed via fossil fuels -- each 1000 cubic meter foundation for a 5MW Siemens windmill requires gas/oil fired kilning of limestone, mining & crushing & transporting of same; mining, crushing & transport of aggregate to make concrete. Mining transporting & forging iron, plus coal to make steel at the rate of about 100 tons per 333kW -- steel requires coal to make coke, etc. and at the rate of 1-4 tons of coal per ton of steel (reduced by scrap use). A 5MW Siemens tower weighs 400 tons; Then the generator, convertor, transmission lines and roads must be made& laid -- all requiring fossil fuels and expensive materials, like rare earths, now sourced from overseas; Finally, each windmill operates only within a certain windspeed range, so not only do wind 'farms' consume land at great rates, they waste power and miss power opportunities when winds are too slow or too fast -- this cost is usually ignored by promoters. Imagine Sandy's effect on the large offshore wind installs assumed in this piece. Insurance cost? Maintenance & repair cost? Cost of outage? Cost of maritime collisions -- the Coast Guard estimates that just the planned wind farm off MA will experience 1.23 vessel collisions per year. The wind promoters follow subsidies, not environmental concerns, so this article is off the mark. As for solar 'farms' like Ivanpah, we in the Sierra Club opposed that, because it's also gas fired -- yes, to keep the salt warm and selling power, they must have a gas line out into the desert and so emit even more GHGs than their thermal inefficiency and transmission losses cause. All the while the windmills are becalmed or feathered, all the while the solar farms are burning gas, local solar delivers peak needs, while nuclear just keeps on delivering, 24/7, at >90% capacity. And they even do it with much less construction emissions than wind.
Why does no one point that out? Good bye recession. The first power grid was fully subsidised by tax payers so why shouldn't the second be. Private industry hasn't kept up our current one so they've shown themselves deficient to this task already.
VERY IMPORTANT to note the comment at the end of the story, "The authors also point out that at 90 percent penetration, there was no solar in the system. Only when the penetration of renewables was increased to 99.9 percent did the solar portion rise to around 30 GW..." In other words, the study in question shows that WIND energy is almost cost-competitive with natural gas and nuclear fission, but solar energy is not cost-competitive now and is not expected to be cost-competitive by year 2030. I attended a conference by the leaders in USA solar energy companies and another conference by the leaders in USA nuclear energy this year. The most optimistic statements by the CEOs of solar energy companies (solar thermal generation, which is projected to be more cost-effective than photovoltaics) put the current cost of solar energy at 3x the cost of wind or natural gas or nuclear power, and projected that it might come down to 2x the cost in another decade. So the study basically says we can derive most of our electricity in North America from 14,000 offshore wind turbines and 38,000 onshore wind turbines, IF the American public switches to running more than half of the cars on the road to battery-powered electric vehicles (by plugging 50 million electric vehicles into a vast smart grid you can achieve the energy storage scale needed to balance wind fluctuations.) The wind turbines would be the very large 5 megawatt wind turbines (400 feet tall). It is not clear at this point what would induce 50% of Americans to buy an electric car in the next 20 years but it seems likely that the price of gasoline would have to go much higher. At best this projection of energy storage is very optimistic. Also consider the environmental impact of 52,000 wind turbines 400 feet tall. This is not a small impact on the American landscape. In my opinion, this would in fact be an improvement over the carbon-dioxide induced climate changes that we are causing now with our coal and natural gas providing 70% of our electricity. but when the American public is given a visual impression of the environmental effects of the 52,000 wind turbines vs the 200 nuclear power plants that could accomplish the same thing (at equivalent or lower cost, since nuclear plants will not require the massive energy storage system)-- I think Americans would choose the smaller environmental footprint of the nuclear plants rather than the wind turbines. Just ask the good folks of Nantucket... the Cape Wind project there was supposed to begin building ten years ago... but the project is still tied up by legal challenges from local environmental groups. Does that sound familiar, Diablo Canyon?
Great article, as usual from Chris, but one caveat is that including geothermal based on the amount of heat in the earth is naive. As he well knows, what matters is not gross amount of energy available, but EROI -- energy return on energy invested. EROI on geothermal remains extremely uncertain -- even the most favored locations (ie The Geysers) have long-term EROI's that may not be workable, that is >3. As for the usual nuclear ranting, its all just moonshine. The current generation of nuclear reactors have an unknown but small EROI, and we still haven't figured out what to do with the wastes, or who will pay for the occasional catastrophic accident. Next generation reactors are just now being built, and as learned from the current generation, the up-front claims turn out to be wildly optimistic. Plus Thorium and Uranium are finite resources. Solar and wind are now in operation, and costs and EROI figures are based on real experience. Ten years from now we may have similar numbers for 3rd generation nuclear reactors, but until then, and until underground waste repositories are up and running, projections about nuclear are just fantasy-land.
Why do renewables boosters go through such contortions to avoid considering the advantages of nuclear power? Of course you COULD run a modern industrial society on 100 percent renewables, but it doesn't make any economic sense. Studies consistently demonstrate that above a 20-30% contribution the unit-cost of renewables escalates due to the construction of extra units that will be producing wasted power when production exceeds demand. Combined with the extra costs of storage, which can never be as cheap as production from plants which can adjust output in response to demand unless they and all their supporting infrastructure and grid connections are free and the storage is 100% efficient , the required overbuild of alternatives significantly raises required investments. Generation three nuclear plants are being build now all around the world and will produce energy reliably at a cost lower than wind (considering winds' required overbuild) and way less than solar is ever likely to cost. Small modular reactors are in advanced stages of development along with breeder designs that will simultaneously solve the problems of waste disposal and future fuel shortages. Thorium reactors will be on the scene too in a decade, and will be able to provide a reliable and cheap source of power for millenia to come. Build more wind and solar now, but the bulk of the investment should be directed down the nuclear path if we are to make the deep cuts in CO2 which are necessary to stop anthropogenic climate change.
Find the way to stop your own footprint as much as possible hard but doable!!! Just gotta get the head right. We can get all of these money grabbers off our backs with a little outside the BOX thinking.
If this is so great why has 75% of the companies Obama gave Millions too filed for banckrupcy>/ Every month they come out with a big and better not thinking right now is the time to invest in that. Suggest for cost of this power if your in your 50's or 60's you won't live long enough for the return on your investment. natural gas has gotten really cheap. Pay backs of 35 years are not a good investment.
"4.25 million 4-kW (residential) rooftop solar systems" Data was from the largest commercial grid in the world. One fifth of the US. 60 million people. Figure four people per household. 15 million houses. One out of every 3.5 houses with solar panels. That sound doable?
Mr. Neider talks about 99.9% reliability from renewables, but the standard today in first world countries is something like 99.99% or even 99.999%. A standard of 99.9% is almost 9 hours of power outage per year. That may not sound like much, but many large scale industries can't tolerate anything but the briefest interruptions. It shuts down industrial processes which can take days to restore, and creates other problems starting up again. And how many residential customers will put up with nine hours of power outage a year? Outside of natural disasters (which will still strike the power grid whether we use renewables or not), how many years have you seen a total of nine hours of outages? Mr. Neider points out a study that says we can provide backup with a huge system of fossil fuel plants and that in the study "Over four years, generation from fossil fuels would have been needed only five times in summer months, at only about one-third of the total system generation capacity. That fossil fuel capacity would be met by natural gas." Oh, really? And who's going to build and maintain natural gas plants equivalent to 1/3 of our total generating capacity? That's a HUGE investment, roughly equivalent to 1/3 the cost of all the renewable energy on Mr. Neider's shopping list. It's probably in the tens or hundreds of billions of dollars price range. Nobody's going to finance that. We'll have to maintain today's natural gas plants and then replace them as they grow old, even as they sit idle 99.9% of the time. Then you must also have massive reserves of natural gas on standby for use at a moment's notice, which also costs money. Storage is the single biggest issue blocking renewables today, and Mr. Neider only gives it a handwave ("We know that storage is advancing rapidly, and will enable very high penetration rates of renewables in the coming decades."). Where are the details? Until we figure out cost-effective storage, the more we depend on renewables the more expensive maintaining rarely-used backup fossil fuel plants becomes until it kills the whole deal. We see that today. Renewable energy above a 20% mix starts to become more expensive instead of cheaper because you have to maintain more idle fossil fuel plants as backup (see http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/eper_10.htm ).
In celebration, I turned on every light in my house, started the car, lawnmower, leaf blower, dishwasher, fans, AC, space heaters.
"The main barriers to the transition, they concluded, are primarily social and political, not technological or even economic. That means too many of the populace are refusing to bow to things lik ethe FORCED Smart Grid/Smart Meter intiatives because they know that all this talk about renewable & sustainable living is NOT about renewable energy and sustainable living but is instead about the elite few using the power of government and the power of gult to get the masses to hand over every liberty, right and freedom that was afforded to us by our Constituition. Striving to end dependence on fosil fuels is a nobel and worth whiel effort but NOT if its being managted/lead by those who work under the control of government and the powerful. Everything must be fully open and nothing can be kepty from the pybcli because government CAN NOT BE TRUSTED.
As said to a friend who reads this site... I looked at the article and it indeed seems to ignore realities, like assuming existence of... 13,600 5-MW offshore wind turbines 38,000 3-MW wind turbines No more than 72 hoursâ worth of distributed hydrogen storage Reading data sheets for windmills reveals they demand about 700 tons of resources per MW peak (333kW average). Those materials must be processed via fossil fuels -- each 1000 cubic meter foundation for a 5MW Siemens windmill requires gas/oil fired kilning of limestone, mining & crushing & transporting of same; mining, crushing & transport of aggregate to make concrete; Mining transporting & forging iron, plus coal to make steel at the rate of about 100 tons per 333kW -- steel requires coal to make coke, etc. and at the rate of >4 tons of coal per ton of steel; a 5MW Siemens tower weighs 400 tons; Then the generator, convertor, transmission lines and roads must be made& laid -- all requiring fossil fuels and expensive materials, like rare earths, now sourced from overseas; Finally, each windmill operates only within a certain windspeed ranger, so not only do wind 'farms' consume land at great rates, they waste power and miss power opportunities when winds are too slow or too fast -- this cost is usually ignored by promoters. Imagine Sandy's effect on the large offshore wind installs assumed in this piece. Insurance cost? Maintenance & repair cost? Cost of outage? Cost of maritime collisions -- the Cost Guard estimates that just the planned wind farm off MA will experience 1.23 vessel collisions per year. The wind promoters follow subsidies, not environmental concerns, so this article is massively off the mark. As for solar 'farms' like Ivanpah, we in the Sierra Club opposed that, because it's also gas fired -- yes, to keep the salt warm and selling power, they must have a gas line out into the desert and so emit even more GHGs than their thermal inefficiency and transmission losses cause. Look at the Ivanpah photo -- sun is setting, gas is on! All the while any windmills are becalmed or feathered, all the while solar farms are burning gas, nukes just keep on delivering, 24/7, at >90% capacity. And they even do it with much less construction emissions than wind. The 'renewables' hawkers get FIT, but don't seem to get "power density". Too many folks are tricked by 'green' promoters aiming to get taxpayer $ via various subsidies. We can choose to be careful & think, or to be suckers! -- Dr. A. Cannara 650-400-3071
The study cited suggests that the renewable generation be 'oversized' wrt the load because that minimizes storage requirements - all well and good. But if we make this reasonable design choice, it would seem to open up an opportunity for adding useful, but discretionary loads to the grid that could make use of the excess generation that will be available most of the time, but that can be shut down when demand is high and production is low. In particular, desalination plants in the southwest (essentially California) could usefully absorb excess generation most of the time, but go off-line during peak demand / minimum production conditions. The fresh water produced might then be 'wheeled' via existing irrigation infrastructure to arid inland areas (Colorado, Nevada, Arizona) where, in turn, large amounts of solar generation might be sited on available federal lands and the generated power sent west...
but, when it comes to "renewable", why are not fossil fuels also considered "renewable"? It makes no sense. The only reason would be that, it's all mostly about an agenda from the environmentalists and the "liberal" ideology which seeks to enslave the world.
That is called a make work program, dig ditches and fill them back up. It would be far better to have a rational energy policy and start building nuclear power to offset the CO2 industry and worry about employment later.
Dr David MacKay pretty much says the same thing in his book "without the hot air" where he analyses every imaginable power source with the help of hundreds of scientists. He lets people draw their own conclusion though for the UK perspective. Solar and wind, tidal, algae, all are hopeless for the energy demands of small densely populated countries. We only have to look at Germany and Denmark to see how bad these policies can get and see France for all the CO2 they didn't produce. Germany is replacing 17GW of nuclear with a similar amount of new coal and gas plants. German new CO2 emissions will now cancel out all the efforts of the UK and others to reduce theirs.
[i]If this is so great why has [sic] 75% of the companies Obama gave Millions too filed for banckrupcy [sic][/i] Do you have a cite for that 75% figure? Seems to me from what I've heard the rate is less than 10%.
we also need to interconnect this households with a good wire infrastructure so any leftover power would move into the grid to be used where needed.
99.9% reliable means that, on average, .01% of production capacity will be offline at any given time. You've calculated as if each customer would be getting power from a single production facility.
"And who's going to build and maintain natural gas plants equivalent to 1/3 of our total generating capacity?" They're pretty much already built. First half of 2012 we got 31% of our total electricity from natural gas. They'll be maintained the same way that we now maintain gas peaker plants that we use only a few hours each year. With people. Over time we'll probably develop better/cheaper storage and phase out that last little bit of fossil fuel. Storage? Check out Ambri's liquid metal battery. It's a very interesting technology that seems to be making its way to the grid and should provide very inexpensive storage.
We have no control (not even the power to avoid paying corporations who sell us necessities) over what corporations do, but we do have the power of the VOTE to control government if corporations are not permitted to control the process through bribes and lobbyists who write regulations that are self-serving.
There is a report "metal and concrete inputs Petroski" that compares steel and concrete use of wind vs nuclear. Wind uses about 10x the concrete and steel of nuclear. And those turbines face real wear and tear and have 15 year rated lives while nuclear plants may run up to 60 years. That would make the materials advantage 40 fold and they are base load. Add the fossil backup to wind and the advantage increases further. Just for the illustration see images "toronto nuclear plant" at Pickering. You can plainly see 1 isolated wind turbine that towers over the nuclear plant yet produces peak 1.8MW at 18% capacity factor while each of those 6 working reactors can produce 1GW, If you replaced those reactors, I think you would need well over 20,000 times more turbines and a vast area of land, and obviously far more steel and concrete. Question is the Sierra Club now fully on board with nuclear, or just some?
But throwing the baby out with dirty water isn't the answer either. WE KNOW oil and gas pollutes and is not renewable in our lifetimes. Thousands of years ago COOLING TOWERS were low tech solutions. Solar COLLECTORS for hot water and HEAT EXCHANGERS for cooling are other examples. DC power is much safer than AC power. PHOTOSYNTHESIS could be harnessed or ALGAE POWERED fuel. All of these make more sense than continuing to waste oil and gas reserves to promote people driving around long distances to "go to work" at jobs that don't need to be done in the first place. REDUCE CONSUMPTION first!
Yes, wind turbines require loads of energy to me made and erected, but a well sited turbine returns ALL the energy involved in its manufacture in about six months.....
[i]Imagine Sandy's effect on the large offshore wind installs assumed in this piece.[/i] According to reports I've seen Sandy caused little or no damage to the existing wind turbines which it's path crossed. I don't think hurricanes are an issue for wind turbines although tornadoes might be a different story.
Best way to look at this study, IMO, is that it gives us a 'worst case' answer. It tells us that we can build an almost fossil fuel free grid using technology we have and it would be affordable. Further inventions and smart ideas will work to make it cheaper. For example, GE is working on wind turbine blades which consist of lightweight metal frames covered with fabric. They are predicting a 25% to 40% decrease in blade cost. That brings the cost of wind electricity down from what the study uses. Dispatchable loads, as you suggest, can be another way to lower costs. We now know the worst. We know the cost of dealing with long windless, Sunless stretches and we know it's a price we can tolerate. Now we work to make things sweeter....
Another use for the extra energy from overcapacity would be to use the power to extract CO2 from the atmosphere (or the ocean). It would be a small but positive use of the energy.
And remember, we can never hope to achieve energy independence with solar power because ALL of our sunlight is imported and there never will be ANY domestic sources. So, "Drill baby drill!"
Most of the fossil fuel we consume today was formed during two epochs of extreme global warming 90 and 150 million years ago. So yes, if you're willing to wait millions of years, they are "renewable."
For solar, almost all the help Obama gave to solar has been for nothing because China has every advantage, cheaper coal power, cheaper labor, poor environment rules, supportive gov and use of automation and a few more things too boot. One of those solar companies was in my town, it didn't even want the money since they always planned on relocating to China. It was pushed in their face so they took it from the state, when they moved as they said they would it was lost. The non solar may have done better, but the battery money for another company near me A123 has also just gone. China again, same as above.
The low tech stuff is good in some situations but it is mostly low energy value. Solar water heat, heat pumps are good too as those dramatically reduce electrical power use, perhaps 3 fold. Algae farming is going to be the next big thing right after corn ethanol, big net negative energy, it is just a form of solar power with too much high tech for too little power output. Liquid fuels can also be produced by nuclear power esp when you go to very high temps, split water directly and convert the hydrogen to Ammonia, Methanol, DME etc, far more efficient and not much land needed. But they would need some carbon feed stock.
And so would nuclear by a large margin, about 10x for same MW produced. Add in 4 time life advantage and add in fossil fuel support to wind and you have 40x advantage and the land footprint is about 1000 times better. See "metal and concrete inputs Petroski" Wind power is really indirect solar power, and wind and solar overall produce avg power close to only 2W/sq m, sometimes much more, but mostly zero. See "without the hot air", this free book by Dr David MacKay compares all energy sources in depth with some sobering conclusions for the UK.
Extracting CO2 from the air is a very energy expensive idea, forget it. Only plants and trees can do that without any tech and only very slowly. If adding O2 to C releases energy (by splitting the CC or HC bonds), then splitting the CO2 back into C and O2 will need more power than was generated. That is an oxymoron, it leads to perpetual machines. Sequestering CO2 from coal or gas plants is also difficult, since combustion gives CO2 that is 3.5 times heavier and needs more volume, where to put it back, and why would it stay there. If it ever leaked out of a store, it would kill all life around, see "Volcano CO2 kills in Africa" Lake Nyos.
There are people who won't understand the humor and use you as a source to "PROVE" that it is okay to drill and frack up our water supply.
the article, but, be prepared to use half your earnings (or the majority of your government handouts), to pay for them, because, it's going to be a very expensive proposition. But, energy independence for the U.S. can EASILY be attained. All we need to do is to, like you said, "drill, baby, drill", and that would be to drill for oil and coal and natural gas. The U.S. has enough natural resources underground to makes us energy independent for 100 - 200 years. But, the madness that comes from the government regulations, don't allow us to gain that independence. We could have been energy independent 10 or 20 years ago. Now, we are dependent upon foreign energy sources from countries which hate us, and which take a lot of our wealth away with the cost of that oil, and who also are known to not care about polluting the environment. It's a hypocritical set of regulations which have us offshoring our energy requirements. The hypocrisy is what leads many to believe that, the problem is not about protecting the environment, but about having the government take over more control over our lives through control of the resources we all need so much.
Its not just the wait time, its the production rate, the earth doesn't produce fossil fuel fast enough to be of any consequence, it needs to be a million times faster, and that has to do with the inefficiency of solar to plant at 1%. Also since white fungus evolved, no new coal in 200M years either, trees rot and go back into the carbon cycle. Still we have plenty of fire ice or methane clathrates at the bottom of the oceans and tundra, shame we can't switch to nuclear instead.
most of that fuel is created below ground and with the help of the underground forces, which forces are also moving the tectonic plates as we speak, and creating volcanoes, and changing the weather as we speak, for the short and long terms. But, "fossil" fuels may be a misnomer, since, there are indications that, the planet creates that fuel without there having to be dead life, or organic, material available. Science has discovered methane and other "fuel" type material on other planets, so, what created that up there? There are no cows or dead organisms out there that we know of. Oil and natural gas may be as plentiful today as they have always been, and they many continue to be "manufactured" by the natural forces, no matter what we do, and no matter how much organic material is available on the ground. There is much more organic material being deposited on the ground than ever in the history of the planet, but, that's not to say that we need to wait 100 or 200 million years before we get to use the "energy" created from that dead material.
Even if we can be energy independent today, WHY do it that way? Those hydrocarbons can be better used than burning them up! Also, your logic would say that if the rest of the world is willing to use up their resources when prices are low, we should let them use theirs now, and save ours until prices are higher. PLUS we can do a better job of making sure that extraction won't have unintended consequences if we are patient! Until you realize that the people who write those accursed REGULATIONS you hate so much are the CORPORATIONS and LOBBYISTS (for their own benefit), you will be a SUCKER for the GOP LIES. adornoe, if you are really concerned about reducing regulations and energy independence get on the bandwagon for low cost renewable energy and you will find that REGULATIONS will be reduced when lives are not threatened by irresponsible corporations.
I checked your link, 2nd para "I've had a conspiracy theory" and so it goes, you are part of the fringe that believes that all science that doesn't fit your world view is nonsense, there is no arguing with that. Sir Fred Hoyle was a great man in his time but he also didn't believe in the big bang even though he named that as an insult to the new idea. He was wrong though, the science is well done on that. Issac Newton was an alchemist too, but we set that issue aside because the rest of his work still stands today. You know if you cook animals in their own fat, you can render them into something, maybe oil.
All fossil fuels are solar power converted to life, that died, got buried, got cooked etc all over hundreds of millions of years. Coal is dead trees from over 200M years. Then white fungus evolved to allow trees to rot, there is no new coal since then. We started using fossil fuels in anger 200 years ago about the same same as CO2 started rising, they have gone hand in hand. We will use up the easy fossil fuels in a total of 250 years that took many hundreds of millions of years to produce, no amount of wishful thinking can change that. We need energy sources that are more energy dense than fossil that can last for thousands of year, only nuclear can do that.
where, there is more plant and animal life than ever before in earth's history, which means that, there will be a correspondingly equal amount of dead material being deposited. Dinosaurs might have been huge, but, the totality of life on earth now, is much bigger than in prior epochs. But, petroleum or oil, may not have depended on dead organic material to be created. "Everybody seems to believe in Hubbert's Peak Oil Theory. Why do you believe in this theory? Within this article I present fairly convincing evidence that Peak Oil is a theory based on a false premise - that oil is a finite resource." "The suggestion that petroleum might have arisen from some transformation of squashed fish or biological detritus is surely the silliest notion to have been entertained by substantial numbers of persons over an extended period of time." Sir Fred Hoyle FRS 1982. "The general concept of petroleum formation by biogenic mechanisms has been firmly entrenched for a long time, but there has been no accumulation of convincing experimental evidence in support of this belief." -- Charles E. Melton and A.A. Giardini, 1983" Peak Oil, just like the junk of global warming, are very flawed theories, and not provable in any real scientific manner. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/18.353778-Peak-Oil-is-a-false-hypothesis-as-oil-is-not-a-finite-resource
Boy, I never pegged you as someone who believed in abiogenic generation of fossil fuels. Just further evidence of your disconnection from reality. I will allow that methane can be produced by non-organic processes but that's not common on Earth. As far as "much more organic material being deposited ... than ever in the history of the planet", you must be kidding.