# Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence

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sketchtrack
As to making hydrogen and using it in gas turbines, you will then see that this lowers seriously the overall efficiency of the alternatives (so that you have to install more of it), increases also the cost (you have to have your hydrogen factory, and your turbines).

Their is so much wind in the mid west, that a very large amount of hydrogen could be generated just out of waste energy. Since there is so much wind energy, more than the mid west needs, why not use the extra to generate hydrogen, then with the massive stores, gas turbines could run on it just to stabilize the flow through the grid.

mheslep
Gold Member
Natural gas is a fossil fuel. If the exercise is to get away from fossil fuels, then that's not acceptable, is it ? If the exercise is not to get away from fossil fuels, then what's the problem with coal ? Now, of course, if you'd only need natural gas for say, 5% or 10% of the time, I wouldn't mind. If you need natural gas 50% of the time, then there is a problem: you have designed a system that relies for a serious part on fossil fuels. You only diminished its consumption, but you didn't solve the issue...
I think the exercise is to a) lessen energy dependence on bad actors and b) keep some reasonable lid on the pollutants from fossil fuels until technology provides something better. Neither of these goals requires the elimination of fossil fuel use in the near future. In the meantime, per unit of energy natural gas used in CCGT is much more efficient that coal, releases much less carbon, and is much cleaner (mercury, radioactivity, etc).

vanesch
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
I think the exercise is to a) lessen energy dependence on bad actors and b) keep some reasonable lid on the pollutants from fossil fuels until technology provides something better. Neither of these goals requires the elimination of fossil fuel use in the near future. In the meantime, per unit of energy natural gas used in CCGT is much more efficient that coal, releases much less carbon, and is much cleaner (mercury, radioactivity, etc).

It is true that natural gas is not polluting. On the contrary, the CO2 exhaust per KWh is about half of the CO2 exhaust per KWh for coal.

Problem in Europe: the gas comes from Russia, and it is sometimes used as a political lever. Gasprom is not immediately your most attractive business partner.

WarPhalange
Can't you just do what we did and invade Russia? I mean, in their case, they really have WMD!!

mheslep
Gold Member
Just getting back to this ...
My numbers of total capacity and average consumption were off, but they were just there to illustrate the point. The point is that intermittent sources are sometimes at 0%. I'm not talking about peak demand by these sources, I'm saying that peak demand can coincide with them delivering 0%. So you have to be able to cope with peak demand exactly at the moment when your renewables are at 0%, in other words, you have to have a fully operational grid that can work without the renewables, concerning capacity. If you have in your grid enough buffer capacity to take over peak demand with 0% from renewables, then that means that that network can work entirely without renewables. It can maybe accept input from these renewables, but it can work without.
At the large network scale were discussing here it never goes to zero. Denmark's wind never goes to zero. Denmark's wind w/ Scandanavian hydro (both renewables) never goes anywhere near. The larger the network and the more diverse (different renewables) the less variable is the entire system.

Moreover, even with renewables, it WILL still take over the majority production.
Thats counter to the trends. Small, diverse renewable is growing faster than big centralized anything else.
So my question is now, why would we then annoy ourselves with these renewables ? If we have a clean way (say, with biofuel) to have an entire grid functioning without it - and as we have seen, that's necessary - why don't we simply stop there ? Why go bother with intermittent things ? The only thing they will contribute is a lowering of the average load factor of the rest of the network, and a lowering of the consumption of biofuel, but it will still be a minority contribution. So why go through the investment, and the pain of regulating, those renewables in that case ?
Because its cheaper. The cost of firming up a renewable like wind by contracting with other suppliers like hydro or idle gas turbine is known, it adds 10-20% to the overall cost of wind per kWhr. The firmed up wind is still cheaper than fossil + carbon tax, and in the US in 2008 its a lot cheaper than nuclear if one has the wind:

In October, Moody's Investor Service estimated total overnight costs of a new nuclear plant, including interest, would be between $5,000 and$6,000 per kilowatt
from here
http://www.energycentral.com/centers/energybiz/ebi_detail.cfm?id=525 [Broken]
and many other places quote the Moody's report.

These nuclear costs may indeed be needlessly inflated by US regulation. If someone can show a viable political path for getting the cost of US nuclear competitive, I'm all for at least some percentage increase in nuclear capacity. For now, the costs are what they are and dismissing them is hand waving.

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OmCheeto
Gold Member
vanesch
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Just getting back to this ...
At the large network scale were discussing here it never goes to zero. Denmark's wind never goes to zero. Denmark's wind w/ Scandanavian hydro (both renewables) never goes anywhere near. The larger the network and the more diverse (different renewables) the less variable is the entire system.

Ok, but if we now take Denmark + Sweden as a single "grid entity" which we should, then the wind fraction drops down to less than 10% in the grid (I didn't take the pain to look up relative contributions). Also Sweden is exceptional (a bit like Canada) with a geography extremely favorable to hydro, and Denmark is exceptional for wind (it's one of the best places in the world for that). So the Denmark-Sweden couple is about the utmost top quality you can find.

And it's not running smoothly:
http://www.saveoursomerset.com/windturbinefacts.htm [Broken] (ok, this is an anti-wind activist cite, I just found it by googling a bit) and
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf99.html

In fact, the Danes now plan to have electric cars on wind:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23832749/

where they plan to use the excess electricity to charge cars. On windless days, it will be on coal.

Not that there ARE days without wind power in Denmark.

Thats counter to the trends. Small, diverse renewable is growing faster than big centralized anything else.
Because its cheaper.

I wonder whether it is REALLY cheaper, or that there are just so many regulations (like the utility having to buy your wind power back at 2 am when they already have a surplus at a high price, and installation subventions etc...).

The cost of firming up a renewable like wind by contracting with other suppliers like hydro or idle gas turbine is known, it adds 10-20% to the overall cost of wind per kWhr. The firmed up wind is still cheaper than fossil + carbon tax, and in the US in 2008 its a lot cheaper than nuclear if one has the wind:

Well, that Belgian offshore project already came to 8000 Euro per KW (it was 800 million Euro for 300 MW installed / 100 MW hoped for effective) and that didn't include any buffering. So adding ~20% and we're almost at the double of that expensive nuclear.

And let us see how much a series of EPR reactors will cost.

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mheslep
Gold Member
Ok, but if we now take Denmark + Sweden as a single "grid entity" which we should, then the wind fraction drops down to less than 10% in the grid (I didn't take the pain to look up relative contributions). Also Sweden is exceptional (a bit like Canada) with a geography extremely favorable to hydro, and Denmark is exceptional for wind (it's one of the best places in the world for that). So the Denmark-Sweden couple is about the utmost top quality you can find.
Ok, though the US midwest Texas to the Dakotas corridor is very similar to Denmark w/ average wind speed > 7M/sec (80M)
http://i.i.com.com/cnwk.1d/i/bto/20080304/3t_global_wind_540x420.jpg [Broken]
The US has 70GW (average production) of hydro to Sweden's ~8GW. To use US hydro to firm the wind would require some large investment in transmission, so perhaps compressed air storage or the like would have to help out.
And it's not running smoothly:
http://www.saveoursomerset.com/windturbinefacts.htm [Broken] (ok, this is an anti-wind activist cite, I just found it by googling a bit) and
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf99.html
I see 'problematic' and 'difficult' used often in connection w/ wind variability. Regards reliability, at the end of the day all that really matters is whether or not the user is experiencing outages or brown outs. If nothing else, one can can on agenda sites to report loudly on a case; I see none reported for Denmark here.
Not[e] that there ARE days without wind power in Denmark.
No I think that was only for the W. Denmark case, not for the entire nation.
I wonder whether it is REALLY cheaper, or that there are just so many regulations (like the utility having to buy your wind power back at 2 am when they already have a surplus at a high price, and installation subventions etc...).
As I say, I am happy to support the politician who can rationally clear away the dead weight, meanwhile Im using the reported costs.
Well, that Belgian offshore project already came to 8000 Euro per KW (it was 800 million Euro for 300 MW installed / 100 MW hoped for effective) and that didn't include any buffering. So adding ~20% and we're almost at the double of that expensive nuclear.
Yes that offshore appears very expensive, if there's not some other economic reason in there sounds like they should have gone another way.

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The US has 70GW (average production) of hydro to Sweden's ~8GW.

Yes, but US power consumption is roughly 30 times that of Sweden, so we'd need to expand our hydro production by a factor of almost 4 to reach a comparable figure. This is never going to happen, as essentially all of the stuff that should be dammed in the US has already been dammed.

mheslep
Gold Member
Yes, but US power consumption is roughly 30 times that of Sweden, so we'd need to expand our hydro production by a factor of almost 4 to
reach a comparable figure.
This is never going to happen, as essentially all of the stuff that should be dammed in the US has already been dammed.
Yes I know, but that is not quite the scenario, as we're looking at 3.13 GWe nameplate wind in Denmark backed up elsewhere by hydro and others. In any case in the world-nuclear piece I overlooked Norway and its 27GWe of hydro, even though Denmark imports the most power from Sweden (hydro and nuclear). The five international transmission links total 5.4GWe to export or import as necessary. Perhaps something like 2:1 (hydro backup:wind) is reasonable, accommodating 35GWe wind in the US. For wind under production all other energy sources on the grid can help out, fossil (especially quick on/off gas turbine), nuclear, whatever.
Edit: there's also Compressed air storage to hold excess wind energy in reserve for when its needed. Two of these facilities already exist.
http://www.seco.cpa.state.tx.us/re_wind-reserve.htm [Broken]

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vanesch
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Perhaps something like 2:1 (hydro backup:wind) is reasonable, accommodating 35GWe wind in the US. For wind under production all other energy sources on the grid can help out, fossil (especially quick on/off gas turbine), nuclear, whatever.

That sounds indeed reasonable, but it would then mean that one would have about 3.5% of wind energy in the US. I even think that you can get more without problems. I'm not saying that one cannot have wind energy, I'm only saying that to go beyond something like 20% of consumption is difficult.

Art
Yes, but US power consumption is roughly 30 times that of Sweden, so we'd need to expand our hydro production by a factor of almost 4 to reach a comparable figure. This is never going to happen, as essentially all of the stuff that should be dammed in the US has already been dammed.
Some hydro plants get more peak time output by using excess electricity on the grid to pump water back into the dam during the low demand periods. Perhaps the US could increase hydro power this way both by greater utilisation of existing plants and by allowing for hydros to be built in places where the natural supply rate of water wouldn't currently justify it. Or perhaps they already do this??

OmCheeto
Gold Member
http://www.salon.com/comics/opus/2008/07/06/opus/index.html [Broken]

Did I watch too many x-files?

I believe.

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mheslep
Gold Member
Some hydro plants get more peak time output by using excess electricity on the grid to pump water back into the dam during the low demand periods. Perhaps the US could increase hydro power this way both by greater utilisation of existing plants and by allowing for hydros to be built in places where the natural supply rate of water wouldn't currently justify it. Or perhaps they already do this??
Hydro can used to store energy primarily in two ways.
1. Dedicated pump storage projects, a small portion of the over hydro capacity, that use over capacity typically at night to store power to be later released in generation during high day light demand.
2. Traditional hydro generation only projects run at an average of ~50% annual capacity in the US due to variable river flows. Wind and other variable sources combine with hydro by simply allowing wind to service demand during high output, allowing hydro dams to build up water levels, which can then back up wind when it is low. This is main wind backup used by Denmark/Norwary/Sweden, and to some small degree in the US now, principally by North West hydro generation. Bonneville Power Administration (for instance) charge 0.6 cents/kWh to back up wind.

mheslep
Gold Member
That sounds indeed reasonable, but it would then mean that one would have about 3.5% of wind energy in the US. I even think that you can get more without problems. I'm not saying that one cannot have wind energy, I'm only saying that to go beyond something like 20% of consumption is difficult.
Agreed. 20% is the plan on the table now from US DoE and T Boone Pickens, Esq. I believe one gets the rest by wide geographically diverse turbine location and a good mix of generation sources.

Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
Energy Independence may be a worthwhile goal.

It seems to be working for Denmark.

Flush With Energy - Thomas Friedman, NY Times, 8/10/2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/10/opinion/10friedman1.html?em

. . . .
Unlike America, Denmark, which was so badly hammered by the 1973 Arab oil embargo that it banned all Sunday driving for a while, responded to that crisis in such a sustained, focused and systematic way that today it is energy independent. (And it didn’t happen by Danish politicians making their people stupid by telling them the solution was simply more offshore drilling.)

What was the trick? To be sure, Denmark is much smaller than us and was lucky to discover some oil in the North Sea. But despite that, Danes imposed on themselves a set of gasoline taxes, CO2 taxes and building-and-appliance efficiency standards that allowed them to grow their economy — while barely growing their energy consumption — and gave birth to a Danish clean-power industry that is one of the most competitive in the world today. Denmark today gets nearly 20 percent of its electricity from wind. America? About 1 percent.

. . . .
There is little whining here about Denmark having $10-a-gallon gasoline because of high energy taxes. The shaping of the market with high energy standards and taxes on fossil fuels by the Danish government has actually had “a positive impact on job creation,” added Hedegaard. “For example, the wind industry — it was nothing in the 1970s. Today, one-third of all terrestrial wind turbines in the world come from Denmark.” In the last 10 years, Denmark’s exports of energy efficiency products have tripled. Energy technology exports rose 8 percent in 2007 to more than$10.5 billion in 2006, compared with a 2 percent rise in 2007 for Danish exports as a whole.

“It is one of our fastest-growing export areas,” said Hedegaard. It is one reason that unemployment in Denmark today is 1.6 percent. In 1973, said Hedegaard, “we got 99 percent of our energy from the Middle East. Today it is zero.

. . . .

mheslep
Gold Member
Energy Independence may be a worthwhile goal.

It seems to be working for Denmark.

Flush With Energy - Thomas Friedman, NY Times, 8/10/2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/10/opinion/10friedman1.html?em
All credit to the Danes for their wind energy, but they are hardly energy independent. They're tightly coupled now to Norway's hydro, Swedish hydro and nuclear, and German coal fired energy during wind lulls, as they've foregone new local fossil and nuclear. Also, unless one has a completely local supply of oil, it is misleading to say the Danes are independent of mideast oil even if not a single drop of middle east oil arrives in Denmark. The oil market and price is global, as Mr The World is Flat should know, and getting oil from the Norway's North sea instead of Saudi Arabia will not insure ample supply or low price.

OmCheeto
Gold Member
My brother was telling me about a portable nuclear power plant being developed by Toshiba. I read about it about 6 months ago and thought it was just one of those little wish list things that companies advertise. It looks as though it may be economically feasible. $25M for a 200kw plant that lasts for 30 years I think he said. hmmm....... 200kw*24hr*365*30 = 52.6M kwh$25M / 52.6M kwh = $0.475 / kwh Well. Maybe not. But he said they were installing one in a small town in Alaska. Might be something to watch. vanesch Staff Emeritus Science Advisor Gold Member My brother was telling me about a portable nuclear power plant being developed by Toshiba. I read about it about 6 months ago and thought it was just one of those little wish list things that companies advertise. It looks as though it may be economically feasible.$25M for a 200kw plant that lasts for 30 years I think he said.

hmmm....... 200kw*24hr*365*30 = 52.6M kwh
$25M / 52.6M kwh =$0.475 / kwh

Well. Maybe not.
But he said they were installing one in a small town in Alaska.
Might be something to watch.

I think that's a hoax.

Toshiba DID design a "small" nuclear power plant, but of 10 MW or something, with about 30 years of autonomy. It was a small fast breeder reactor, the Galena reactor, the Toshiba 4S: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshiba_4S
I don't think it went beyond the paper stage.

I guess it is from this that the urban legend of "your nuke in your garage" came.

Current (and foreseable) regulations make such a device impossible. It is simply legally impossible to operate a nuclear power reactor without a huge amount of procedures, safety checks, etc... which would render such a project economically totally impossible.

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OmCheeto
Gold Member
I think that's a hoax.
Just because something does not come to fruition, does not make it a hoax.
Current (and foreseable) regulations make such a device impossible. It is simply legally impossible to operate a nuclear power reactor without a huge amount of procedures, safety checks, etc... which would render such a project economically totally impossible.

Have you ever operated a nuclear plant?
Once you tell them what to do, they pretty much run themselves.

The only thing I didn't like about the Galena-Toshiba reactor was the fact that Galena sits along the Yukon river. And they want to sink their liquid sodium cooled reactor into the ground. Ice water flood + kilo degree liquid sodium cooled nuclear reactor = not such a good idea. Perhaps they should put one on the top of the hill in Ruby instead. Maybe the Galenites could move. Ruby is so much more picturesque.

mheslep
Gold Member
...Have you ever operated a nuclear plant?
Once you tell them what to do, they pretty much run themselves.
.
If you mean they run independently, they do not. For instance, the NRC gets detailed operation reports from every plant in the US which they review every morning. Not much chance an individual could comply with that kind of reporting for a garage reactor.

OmCheeto
Gold Member
If you mean they run independently, they do not.
Doesn't mean they couldn't. They are incredibly simple devices.
For instance, the NRC gets detailed operation reports from every plant in the US which they review every morning.
Looking for what? Have they seen anything out of the ordinary since, say, 1979?
Not much chance an individual could comply with that kind of reporting for a garage reactor.
From what I recall, if the operators at TMI had not been there, there would have been no accident.

But this is just hearsay. I'm old, and can't remember all the details.

To get back to the orginal topic though; If I'm not energy independent by this time next year, I'd like to be banned from the forum. I spend too much time arguing about trivialities when there are things to be done, researched, and actually created, to prevent this from being a delusion.

With the possibility of not seeing a renewable fuel source in a couple of years, what can we see from this outset?

OmCheeto
Gold Member
With the possibility of not seeing a renewable fuel source in a couple of years, what can we see from this outset?

Well Superman, I'd say right off the bat, that you have not been paying attention. Energy is all around us, and has never been, and has always been, renewable.

Energy either came, or will come from the sun, or one of it's satellites.

......

sorry......

and, I am, still, not, william shatner.......

vanesch
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Just because something does not come to fruition, does not make it a hoax.

The hoax is in the "Toshiba is planning to commercialize a garage reactor". It is very well possible that some of their engineers had fun in adapting the design of the S4 to even smaller power just to have a good laugh with his buddies, or for any other fun reason. But for sure, Toshiba doesn't commercialize or doesn't plan to commercialize private garage reactors - they would have filed a demand for approval (like they did for the S4) and they didn't - and they'd know it would never pass.

Have you ever operated a nuclear plant?
Once you tell them what to do, they pretty much run themselves.

I work in an institute that has a reactor. They really don't "run by themselves" :-)

And really, you don't have an idea about the regulations. A private basement reactor is simply so remote from anything that could ever pass regulations that it isn't even thinkable to ask.

The only thing I didn't like about the Galena-Toshiba reactor was the fact that Galena sits along the Yukon river. And they want to sink their liquid sodium cooled reactor into the ground. Ice water flood + kilo degree liquid sodium cooled nuclear reactor = not such a good idea. Perhaps they should put one on the top of the hill in Ruby instead. Maybe the Galenites could move. Ruby is so much more picturesque.

So you worry about a professionally guarded reactor somewhere in Alaska, but you wouldn't worry about your neighbor Joe Sixpack running his basement reactor ??