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Best way to produce electricity

  1. Jul 5, 2015 #1

    wolram

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    What is the best way to produce electricity?
    Nuclear : people are afraid of leaks and waste storage problems.
    Coal: People are afraid of smoke pollution, and it may run out soon.
    Oil same as above.
    Wind inefficient and to costly.
    Wave renewable but again too costly
    Solar: it takes up to much land.

    What do you think?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 5, 2015 #2
    Solar orbital is the way to go.
     
  4. Jul 5, 2015 #3
    I think the ideal way to get about it would be to phase out oil and coal, maximize wind and solar, and let nuclear pick up the slack.
     
  5. Jul 5, 2015 #4
    There's plenty of coal left, but emissions are a problem, fusion if we can get it to work would be a great solution but ever since I was a lad it has been twenty years away, and still is, hydro is good but as soon as you suggest flooding a valley eco fundamentalists will find a rare type of frog and put a kibosh on it, so the only solution is millions of hamster wheels hooked up to the grid.
     
  6. Jul 5, 2015 #5

    russ_watters

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    "Best" in what context? It sounds like you mean utility scale. With what constraints? Money? Availability? Pollution? In what country/area? If you have a gigantic river available, it's hydro.

    I do have an aging thread in the General Engineering section on this topic...
     
  7. Jul 5, 2015 #6

    wolram

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    To be specific i mean a small country like England, where we have to import oil and coal and we have no hydro electric plants, and some of our nuclear plants are due to be shut down. one idea is to harvest wave power but this would come at at cost, we have a very small amount of solar power but in this country we can not rely on the sun to shine.
     
  8. Jul 5, 2015 #7
    That leaves out hydroelectric and geothermal.

    Personally I favor:
    Nuclear: new uranium plants are safer. There is still plenty reason to believe an improved thorium reactor might be very safe. Waste storage is solve-able.
    Hydroelectric: Also provides water reservoirs. Does alter natural water flow and it bothers salmon (and any other dumb bass) to run into a dam.
    Geothermal: Needs the right heat sources, and can be expensive to build.
    Solar: Rooftop solar within the grid helps a lot with high load requirements.
    Wind: In the right places it is economical.

    I like the pie-in-the-sky plans for power generation in near-earth-orbit, with transmission down a space elevator to an earth grid. Nuclear fusion has been so technically difficult that it now also has to be in the pie-in-the-sky category.

    I think that the fossil fuels are more valuable in portable power applications, and the greenhouse gas model of climate indicates that electric utility reductions will be ecologically beneficial.

    Generally, the preferred electric power plant is the one that is already built. For nuclear, that is especially problematic, as the last plants commissioned are already very old.
     
  9. Jul 5, 2015 #8

    phinds

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    Do you have any evidence for that or is that just a personal opinion?
     
  10. Jul 6, 2015 #9
    Sorry, I blurted out a global solution as a response to a vague question with a list of environmental difficulties. I forgot what planet I am on.
     
  11. Jul 6, 2015 #10

    phinds

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    I have no idea whether you are being sarcastic, passive-aggressive, or what. So do you or do you not consider your solution to be technically viable and a serious proposal.
     
  12. Jul 6, 2015 #11
    I retract my statement as it does not apply to the OP's situation. I don't care to dredge up an old thread it was discussed in, but I was stating it as common sense that it would not infringe on Earth's natural resources. It obviously has not been accomplished to my knowledge.
     
  13. Jul 6, 2015 #12

    phinds

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    OK

    You think maybe there's a reason for that?
     
  14. Jul 6, 2015 #13
    Because space is almost as ruined as the planet?
     
  15. Jul 6, 2015 #14

    phinds

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    I have no idea what you are talking about. Yes, there's a lot of space junk floating around in near-Earth orbit but what does that have to do with your "solution". Sounds to me like you have an ax to grind.
     
  16. Jul 6, 2015 #15
    The way I look at it I have a planet to save. Not saying I'm any more or less to blame for the reckless abandon that is leading to its demise. Resources are running out. Scientific fact. If science's #1 goal isn't preserving its laboratory what good will it be.
     
  17. Jul 6, 2015 #16

    phinds

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    Sure, but what does that have to do with your "solution"? My point is that idealistic solutions that are not technically and/or economically viable are not actually solutions at all.
     
  18. Jul 6, 2015 #17
    In my opinion then, the "best" in the title should have been stated
    ways to produce electricity.
     
  19. Jul 6, 2015 #18

    phinds

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    Since other ways are de facto useless, I think that it's a reasonable assumption that that's what he meant, and in the post he is clearly addressing real-world issues which also leads to the conclusion that he wants a real-world discussion.
     
  20. Jul 6, 2015 #19
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space-based_solar_power
    Probably not profitable but probable. Junk in space would be the worst unless it had self replicating panels. Perhaps piezoelectric crystalline structures coupled with nano webbing. I don't know what is being worked on specifically but I'm sure it would be top secret, huh?
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
  21. Jul 6, 2015 #20

    phinds

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    Uh ... why would it be top secret?
     
  22. Jul 6, 2015 #21
    Because R&D is expensive.
     
  23. Jul 6, 2015 #22
    As a geologist I'd say definitely what is used today, natural gas and coal. These are going to be the most efficient for the next half century.
     
  24. Jul 6, 2015 #23

    wolram

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    50yrs is a short term fix, one must look to the next generation, building a power station with only a 50yr life is wasteful in my humble opinion.
     
  25. Jul 6, 2015 #24
    Are you from another planet?

    1. Anything remotely defense related, or connected to national security actually might have justifiable reasons for secrecy.
    2. We have a bunch of paranoid nuts that don't require justifiable reasons to demand secrecy.

    The most common reason for secrecy is that anything that large and powerful built for ordinary domestic utility purposes would also make a very fine space weapon.

    Obviously, I have no idea what secrets are being kept ... if I did, I am honest enough that I would not even be posting conjecture. But to ask why governments would keep something secret ... the Pentagon would classify what they had for lunch.

    I'm not sure that the topic of space solar was raised as anything important, and has thoroughly derailed the original post. The idea that in the future, we will be able to collect energy in space, and then get it to earth is one that continues to inspire and continues to be impossible. I'm not sure why this dead horse is getting beat.

    The thread topic is a bit ambiguous. I think best is a vague sort of criteria: cleanest? cheapest capital costs? cheapest operating costs? safest? lowest environmental impact? lowest greenhouse gas? I would say we should mostly stick with the toolkit of available technically feasible options, rather than hypothetical ones that are still unknown.

    I agree with the comment that the situation matters. I put geothermal up in the ranking, but that has to be in the right situation. I was recently in Costa Rica, and they have several volcanoes, but they are all declared as national parks areas. So geothermal is both a practical answer for them ... the heat is right there, and impractical ... the heat is in valuable preserves. People constantly look at Yellowstone and think about the free heat. But the one-of-a-kind free heat is also a one-of-a-kind environmental wonder.

    Environmental impact is one of my highest priorities. Cost would be next. Robustness of the grid would be 3rd (I do hate micro-outages).
     
  26. Jul 6, 2015 #25
    I think 50 years is a pretty good bit of long range planning. Businesses need to apply a life-of-plant number to calculate the economic costs. And things that are 50 years old are often quite out of date. Obviously this is opinion, but 50 years seems long enough. 40 years seems long enough. 20 years is not a bad number for a reasonable replacement time. Shorter times than that seem like they would need some extraordinary circumstances (say power for a World Cup, or an Olympics, or ...).
     
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