The Myth of Energy Storage vs Baseload

July 19, 2014

Great graphics to describe why renewables are inevitable, and taking over now.

From Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute.

176 Responses to “The Myth of Energy Storage vs Baseload”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Can’t resist—-some of the “dancers” that will need to be choreographed have two left feet, no sense of rhythm. and a bad attitude—-and only want to stand in one spot and shuffle from side to side while humming a one-note tune. It’s going to be like teaching pigs to whistle (or am I mixing too many metaphors here?)

    • ppp251 Says:

      Nuclear fan, right?

      • dumboldguy Says:

        No, actually. Although I was strongly anti-nuclear power in the ’70’s, I have come to agree with Hansen and the others that nuclear power needs to be part of the mix if and when the AGW SHTF and Gilding’s Great Disruption forces the world to embark on a WW2-Manhattan Project level response.

        The dancers I see as the immediate problem are the fossil fuel folks and the mindless capitalists that put profit above all else. If we can go to renewables fast enough to cut CO2 without resorting to more nuclear power, that would be fine with me, but every time I look at graphs of worldwide energy sources and see what a large part of the “wedge” is made up of fossil fuels (and how slowly that usage is declining), I become more convinced that we won’t get there in time—-prepare for the Great Disruption.

        • I think that this is the one thing that Dr. Hansen is wrong about. Trading one problem for another is not a solution that we should try. Long term storage of nuclear waste makes it a non-starter.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            The “problems” of nuclear power are ones that we may be forced to live with if CO2 levels rise to the disaster level, as Hansen et al seem to think is approaching certainty, and that is something I think Hansen is 100% correct on. Have you read Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren?. In it, Hansen makes the case that we must move soon to stop the rise of CO2, and sees nuclear power as just one part of that effort.

            And the “problems” of nuclear power are not that great when compared to the global impact of AGW due to the burning of fossil fuels. Future generations won’t need to care about nuclear waste if there are no future generations, and nuclear waste is a far smaller part of the problem than the types of things we saw with TMI, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. New reactor designs, better reactor siting, and better operating procedures can mitigate those things, and we can always store the waste in concrete casks as a stopgap—-they are quite compact and low impact actually.

          • kap55 Says:

            It’s not waste if we don’t waste it. The current US stockpile of “spent” nuclear fuel contains enough energy to power the entire US electric grid for 150 years fossil-free, if only we have the intelligence to use it.

            Burying it is completely safe, and just as stupid.

          • Long term storage of nuclear waste makes it a non-starter.

            Then you should be in favor of either fast-spectrum reactors or Transatomic Power’s epithermal molten-salt reactor.  Both of them consume the transuranics (Np, Pu, Am, Cu, etc.) which makes the “long-lived nuclear waste” issue largely moot.  The fission products become less radioactive than the original uranium ore (including its decay products) within 500 years.  You are left with a few things like technetium, which can either be isolated or transmuted to stable isotopes.

            The threat from these things is vastly overblown.  Studies of people contaminated with even “deadly” plutonium in accidents show that they live normal lives unless they get enough to be chemically toxic.  The UPPU group had 7 deaths compared to the statistically expected 19.8 over the same interval.  Clearly, this is something we worry about far more than the actual threat warrants.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            It’s about time you checked in on this thread. I don’t have the patience that you do to fight the detailed battle with the motivated reasoners. This comment of yours will likely not be accepted by them, but it’s nice to see someone speaking truth to ignorance.

          • Patience, me?

            Sort of surprising to have anyone say anything appreciative here.

        • ppp251 Says:

          All right, that’s fair enough, but what makes you think that nuclear would be any faster?

          There are a lot of things that go in favor of renewables – cost reductions, growth rates, public acceptance, private investment.

          It seems to me that switching to nuclear wouldn’t do any better.

          • Jason Says:

            Safe storage of waste isn’t an insurmountable problem. You do some math and dig a deep hole.

            The problem with nuclear is that it’s a huge, high risk investment. In a liberalised market private investors don’t want to go there, public purse holders don’t want to shoulder the risk for private firms to reap the potential profits.

            Getting new nuclear built is hard work. Installing solar / wind is easy.

            Otherwise nuclear ticks all my (don’t look Peter) low carbon boxes. It’s just a shame you can’t build the things for love or money.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Never said it would be faster, although it could be ramped up a lot faster than the detractors would have you believe and thereby make some big contributions fairly quickly. It’s “better” in the sense that a nuclear plant does generate a lot of electricity without producing any CO2. If we are forced to cut CO2 virtually overnight, it may be a good part of the mix. Actually, improved efficiency on top of renewables is probably the quickest way to go.

            As far as: “There are a lot of things that go in favor of renewables – cost reductions, growth rates, public acceptance, private investment”. If and when the CO2 SHTF, all that will go by the boards and become largely irrelevant.

          • what makes you think that nuclear would be any faster?

            You mean, besides the fact that multiple countries more or less de-carbonized their electric grids in just 11 years using nuclear power?

            I admit, it was an political/economic threat (getting rid of dependency on OPEC) instead of a climactic threat, but we ought to be taking the latter even more seriously than the former, right?  Right?

          • ppp251 Says:

            Yes, should take climate threat more seriously.

          • andrewfez Says:

            =The problem with nuclear is that it’s a huge, high risk investment. =

            That’s because its support infrastructure no longer has economy of scale working for it. Some parts to construct the plants are only made in Europe. Some parts just have one manufacture that can charge whatever it wants and can bottleneck the entire process.

            It will be interesting to see how China develops its fleet and what costs will look like. I saw plans last year they’ve drawn up to have complimentary reactors to take the fuel through the full ‘cycle’ of use.

          • Its also because safety matters when the source requires an evacuation zone and no fly orders or it becomes a national security risk and has to be guarded. Yes, safety does cost. The industry is still learning that lesson.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Typical anti-nuke BS. How much are you willing to pay to preserve the biosphere?

        • anotheralionel Says:


          Have you come across the book:

          ‘Nuclear Renaissance: Technologies and Policies for the Future of Nuclear Power: Technologies and Policies from the Future of Nuclear Power’ by William J. Nuttall

          I found it an illuminating guide into the many aspects of nuclear power including the fact that creating a nuclear power infrastructure need not risk weapons proliferation.

          This book will clarify many points of contention created in the media by those with hidden motives.

          But of course since that book was written there was Fukushima which caused many wobbles.

          However, a renaissance is not necessarily dead.

          David JC MacKay has a chapter on the topic in his informative book ‘Sustainable Energy-Without the Hot Air’.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Excellent links in this comment, but those folks who suffer from cognitive dissonance regarding nuclear power will reject all of the info there.

            After all, if one can utterly dismiss James Hansen because he dared to say something positive about nuclear power, why should one listen to the FACTS put forth by a rational pro-nuclear power group or the admission by a Greenpeace leader that they may have made a mistake in their anti-nuke campaigns?

            I haven’t read Nuclear Renaissance, but have seen excerpts and read much related material. You are correct in bringing up the FACT that “creating a nuclear power infrastructure need not risk weapons proliferation”, and should add to that the FACT that nuclear waste disposal is not the problem some would make it to be, certainly not compared to the waste problems from fossil fuel use. The only real arguments against nuclear are economic ones, and they can fade quickly if it becomes obvious that we must pay the price to save the planet

          • McKay is a nuclear supporter that disparages renewables falsely, hiding his bias while cloaking himself in a shield of imaginary expertise and fallacy of appeal to authority. He claims wind farms use all the land between turbines and makes the mistake of equating ICE engine efficiency with electric vehicles operating at three to four times the efficiency. He is not peer reviewed. More like more hot air from a nuclear supporter. And yes, the renaissance is dead. Read a professors paper instead. Try Cooper. So far, his predictions about which reactors are losing money and are about to shut down or have been, is accurate. All the ones recently shut down are on his list.

            Click to access RenaissanceinReverse7.18.2013.pdf

            Excelon is threatening to shut more down and claims it’s losing money on several reactors.


          • dumboldguy Says:

            Still wandering on the road to cognitive dissonance? Attack McKay, post an alternative from a “professor”, ignore Nuttall?

            I am still amazed about how we can get so deep into the workings and economics of the energy world in the U.S. and Germany with their 400 million people, and ignore what’s going on in the rest of the world with its 6,600,000+ million people.

            I will bore everyone yet again with CHINA, INDIA, COAL, FOSSIL FUEL, CO2, GREENHOUSE GAS, GLOBAL WARMING. Thanks for not listening.

          • No need for caps. And no, I haven’t ignored China. And yes I will persist with this lets go with professional peer reviewed science over opinion. See my comments elsewhere about China. I am just swatting flies replying to comments about so called experts that are in their own way, every bit as much a sham as Monckton. Btw, McKays views about nuclear infrastructure not creating proliferation problems are at odds with the US gov official stance and not least with the reality of Iran today not limited to the US view, but to an international view. That’s today. Let’s deal with now before we go down the path of the oft repeated nuclear daydream that never turns out like reality.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Don’t need caps? Once again you ignore all the 800 pound gorillas lurking in the corners as you prance around searching out tidbits of meaningless “professional peer reviewed science” and present them as proof of something. You most certainly ARE just “swatting flies” by MAKING comments attacking those whose views do not suit you (such as Hansen).

            If you were educated enough about the newest ideas regarding nuclear power, you would know that we can in fact use it to generate electricity without the old “proliferation problems”, and in fact might even be able to burn up some of the old “nasty stuff’ that so worries some folks.

            Iran has NOTHING to do with those facts—-it is a POLITICAL “now” that has nothing to do with the SCIENCE of nuclear power OR the realities of CHINA, INDIA, COAL, FOSSIL FUEL, CO2, GREENHOUSE GAS, and GLOBAL WARMING. And all those words in caps now have huge “political” meaning as well.

            There are many reasons for the fact that the “nuclear daydream never turns out like reality”, one being that otherwise intelligent people like you reject it under all circumstances. When the SHTF, we will need nuclear power to survive, and we should be taking the steps to be ready, not mindlessly attacking any mention of it. It’s bad enough that the fossil fuel interests fight it for their own “hidden motives” and that the nuclear power industry itself has vested interests that hold back progress.

          • If we need nuclear to survive we are already doomed. We can’t pay for it. Send your donations to save the nuclear whale, care of ,

            We are building a nice outdoor refrigeration system. It will be going for decades. That might stop all the groundwater flowing to the ocean. We have run out of storage space. The chemical separators are not working.

            Oh. That bright side.

    • andrewfez Says:

      There’s one about don’t hatch all your chickens from one basket…err…don’t count all your egg baskets until you’ve flogged your horse…err…a chicken in the basket is worth two bushes (and a peck). Or, regarding energy baskets, diversification lends resilience to the system.

  2. jimbills Says:

    I kind of grow weary of the ONLY renewable vs. ONLY nuclear debate. It’s pointless. Humanity is clearly going to do both options – not just one.

    We’re currently building 60 reactors worldwide:

    Nuclear is projected to continue to supply 12% of the world’s electricity until 2035, which means we’ll be building nuclear at a level equal to growth (the same projection has renewables rising from 20% to 31% by 2035):

    Click to access WEO2013_factsheets.pdf

    “Fossil fuels continue to dominate the power sector, although their share of generation declines from 68% in 2011 to 57% in 2035. Coal remains the largest source of generation, with strong growth in non-OECD countries far outweighing reductions in OECD countries. Natural gas expands the most in absolute terms of any source, increasing in most regions. Coal-fired generation rebounds in the short term in the United States, reversing the recent coal-to-gas switch, as gas prices recover from very low levels. In Europe, gas-fired generation regains favour versus coal gradually on rising CO2 prices and the need for flexible capacity, but only gets back to 2010 levels after 2030. Beyond fossil fuels, nuclear power maintains a 12% share of electricity generation globally, with expansion mainly occurring in Asia.”

    I know Cy is a thorium guy. Thorium would be great, but governments (mainly the U.S.) made a decision to pursue uranium instead of thorium because uranium tech was slightly more advanced at the time and because it had the added ‘benefit’ of supplying fissile material for nuclear weaponry. The main two problems I have with uranium nuclear are nuclear proliferation and human error leading to accidents. Both of those issues are virtually solved with thorium, but the tech is a way from being perfected and implemented.

    I think we’re focused on only one part of the solution with energy replacement, anyway, and pretending it’s the whole ballgame. I’m highly skeptical renewables, nuclear, or both, really do enough to adequately prevent major climate change or other significant environmental and resource management issues.

    • Jimbills – you are right. The current problem has nothing to do with nuclear or renwables or whether they can do the job. Its China. And growth. China has gone from half the carbon emissions of US to double since 2000. US was the largest CO2 emitter, now its not. China’s staggering growth rates are the other hockey stick no one is talking about. And it was and is a choice. No amount of low carbon tech is going to stop the burning of fossil fuels unless low carbon tech is chosen. If growth is the only goal, it becomes all of the above. At some point, growth has to stop or we are past our sustaining point. The whole game is one of choosing to change before nature and math take over the matter and force the issue. Its step on the brakes before we hit the wall, or hit the wall.

  3. We will be building NPP at a..
    Projections are….
    Yes, the IEA and EIA say that. Now back to reality. I wouldn’t want to be bright- sided. Looking at NPP lately, … Nuclear has been in decline for some time.
    Doesn’t look like help to me.
    Meanwhile, the cost and development time are problematic. Very few are built in the west and the few that are run into delays and cost over runs. Most of the developed countries NPP are old and increasing O and M costs and repairs are shutting them down.

    Click to access RenaissanceinReverse7.18.2013.pdf

    Recent closures like Kewaunee have set prospects back. The US is unable to build new reactors as fast as old ones are shut down.

    Hansen is not an energy expert.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      “Hansen is not an energy expert”?

      Would you grant that he is perhaps a CO2 expert? And perhaps an AGW & climate change expert? And a realist? And that he sees CO2 concentrations and temperature rising to a level that spells doom if we don’t get moving?

      His projections lead him to think that we will need nuclear power, and that’s an “expert” opinion, IMO.

      • ppp251 Says:

        Hansen is very dismissive of renewables. I’ve read his pieces on his web page. His main objections are that renewables are costly, take a lot of land and are intermittent. These are common objections.

        He’s wrong about costs. Renewables have become competitive and that’s just a fact. As far as land use is concerned I don’t think it’s that much of a problem. Farmland happily coexists with wind turbines and solar PV even if it’s put on grassland it preserves soil quality. But I recognize that some people prefer less land use anyway. The intermittency is a valid objection, but it can be greatly alleviated by using combination of different renewables (as in video) and when batteries become cost effective completely dealt with.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Hansen is “very dismissive of renewables”? Do you read the same Hansen that I do?

          As his top priorities, my understanding is that Hansen advocates increased efficiency, renewable energy sources, a smart grid, and carbon capture and sequestration for fossil fuel power plants more than utilizing increased numbers of the new designs of nuclear reactors.

          IMO, it is not that he dismisses renewables so much. He boosts nuclear power, because he sees the CO2 released from burning coal as the big problem, and one that can only be dealt with in time if nuclear power is in the mix.

          • ppp251 Says:

            Hansen said that “believing that renewables can solve the problem is like believing in easter bunny”. He then goes further and he accuses that small group of anti-nuclear people are responsible that coal plants are being built. This is his attitude towards renewables. You don’t need to argue that it isn’t, because I can see right through it. He IS dismissive of renewables.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            I’m glad that you can “see right through it”, because I sure can’t. Are you sure that he didn’t say renewables “ALONE” couldn’t solve the problem? And did he really say that the anti-nukes “ALONE” are responsible for coal plants being built?

            Context matters, and I do believe you’ve used Omnologic on those two and moved them far out of touch with Hansen’s position. Do you have some links or references? If not, I would suggest that you have an unwarranted hard-on for Hansen and are yourself “dismissive” of the truth.

          • ppp251 Says:

            “NASA Climate scientist James Hansen has said that while it is conceivable in places such as New Zealand and Norway, “suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.””


            “People who entreat the government to solve global warming but offer support only for renewable energies will be rewarded with the certainty that the U.S. and most of the world will be fracked-over, the dirtiest fossil fuels will be mined, mountaintop removal and mechanized long-wall coal mining will continue, the Arctic, Amazon and other pristine public lands will be violated, and the deepest oceans will be ploughed for fossil fuels. Politicians are not going to let the lights go out or stop economic growth. Don’t blame Obama or other politicians. If we give them no viable option, we will be fracked and mined to death, and have no one to blame but ourselves.”

            Click to access 20140221_DraftOpinion.pdf

            His attitude towards renewables couldn’t be more clear.

            “not a viable option, that’s why we’re fracked and mined to death”

          • dumboldguy Says:

            You are a motivated reasoner. You obviously don’t want to understand Hansen’s position, or you wouldn’t misinterpret it so badly with these “quotes”

          • ppp251 Says:

            You are the one who doesn’t want to understand. The statements that Hansen repeatedly made are very clear. He believes that renewables cannot solve the problem.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            I am sorry that your cognitive dissonance (or reading comprehension deficit?) makes it impossible for you to integrate the meaning of “only” and “almost” into the greater context of Hansen’s remarks.

            He simply does not say what you maintain that he does.

          • ppp251 Says:

            Yes he does, he said it many times on many occasions but you are willfully blind in the face of factual evidence.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            You are as bad as Omnologos. I will waste no more time on someone who needs to take a reading comprehension class. Enjoy your ignorance.

          • ppp251 Says:

            Well I don’t know why are you so dead set that Hansen isn’t dismissive of renewables when his comparisons with tooth fairy make it clear that he is.

            And it is kind of ironic that it’s the nuclear advocates that talk about tooth fairy and at the same time simulations and real world countries prove them wrong.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            One last try—-take a reading comprehension class and try to understand how the two capitalized words in the quotes below totally defeat your illogical argument. You have to understand the language before you use it, and you need to understand that one or two small words may change the meaning of many many words that are perhaps not located in the same sentence BUT are part of the same “train of thought”.

            “ALMOST the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy”.

            “People who offer support ONLY for renewable energies”

          • ppp251 Says:

            Comparing renewables with easter bunny and tooth fairy is an exaggeration. The word ‘almost’ doesn’t change much. It’s still an exaggeration.

            Hansen’s comment about supporting ‘renewables only’ goes like this: “supporting only renewables guarantees we’ll be fracked and mined to death, because renewables are not a viable option to replace fossil fuels”.

            This claim that ‘renewables only’ means that we’ll be ‘fracked and mined to death’ is again an exaggeration.

            Given that he repeatedly makes these exaggerations I think that that’s what he really thinks of renewables.

            He thinks that something like 80-90% of solution will be nuclear, maybe 1-2% renewables and the rest efficiency and CCS. This I interpret as being dismissive of renewables. I think it fits quite well with his comments.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Forget the reading comprehension class—-you don’t WANT to comprehend. I’d recommend reading “Logic and Argumentation for Dummies”, but you don’t want to think logically and make logical arguments either, as proven by your AGAIN misusing Hansen’s words and following them to your predetermined “given (misinterpreted horsepucky)……that’s what he thinks” conclusion.

            You ARE a motivated reasoner that looks through the wrong end of the telescope and “interprets” words like “exaggeration” and “interpret” to suit yourself and can’t seem to connect up “almost” and “only” with the rest of Hansen’s comments. It’s also called “tunnel vision”.

            And this one is a real beauty.

            “(Hansen) thinks that something like 80-90% of solution will be nuclear, maybe 1-2% renewables and the rest efficiency and CCS.”

            PLEASE give us a citation for the 80-90% figure.

          • ppp251 Says:

            It’s not a quote, it’s a numerical figure. Just ask any nuclear proponent to put some numbers on how big part of a solution is nuclear and how big renewables.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            It’s NOT a quote you say? Then WHO is the HE in “HE thinks that something like 80-90% of (the) solution will be nuclear, maybe 1-2% renewables and the rest efficiency and CCS”. If it’s not the Hansen you’ve have been so mindlessly attacking, who is it? The Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny?

            It is a “numerical figure” you say?(whatever that is) And where did it come from, pray tell? It looks it’s PFTA (plucked from thin air) to me.

            “Just ask any nuclear proponent to put some numbers on how big part of a solution is nuclear and how big renewables”, you say? Have YOU done that? can you give us a name or a citation to ANY “nuclear proponent” who has ever said that? Otherwise you’re just spouting more meaningless horsepucky. And I’m not talking about someone from the 1950’s, when nuclear energy was going to generate electricity so cheaply that we’d simply give it away—-cite someone from the near past—-the last 30 years will do.

          • ppp251 Says:

            As a matter of fact I have done that, but I cannot find an appropriate quote at the moment.

            Nuclear and variable renewables are incompatible on the grid. My guess is that you haven’t really thought about it and that’s why you mistakenly think that we can just do 50-50 of each. We can’t. Grid doesn’t work that way. Renewables are incompatible with baseload power.

            Because of this fundamental incompatibility nuclear proponents want to scale nuclear to 80-90% with the rest being dispatchable hydro or whatever comes in handy.

            The model for this, and I’m sure you’ve heard it many times, is France. Hansen too gives it as an example.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            It’s becoming clear to me now. In addition to your language comprehension deficits, you are one or more of the following:

            A) A high school kid on summer vacation playing on the internet
            B) An adult troll playing on the internet
            C) Seriously science-ignorant.
            D) Somewhat delusional

            If it’s A) or B), I’ll play a while. If it’s C) and/or D), I can’t do much for you.

            “As a matter of fact I have done that, but I cannot find an appropriate quote at the moment”, you say?. So GO FIND IT! We will wait as long as necessary. Take your time.

            “Nuclear and variable renewables are incompatible on the grid”, you say? Purely and TOTALLY incompatible? Somewhat incompatible? Under what conditions and to what degree? You are spreading horsepucky again. Naughty-naughty.

            “My guess is that YOU haven’t really thought about it and that’s why YOU mistakenly think that we can just do 50-50 of each”, you say? Am I the “YOU” that you refer to here? If so, I have NEVER said “we can just do 50-50”. Or are you talking about those imaginary “nuclear proponents” you are so fond of “quoting”. AGAIN, give us a citation! We will wait as long as necessary. Take your time.

            You finish by again stating the horsepucky about “nuclear proponents want to scale nuclear to 80-90% with the rest being dispatchable hydro or whatever comes in handy”. YET AGAIN, I will ask for a citation, some proof, some evidence that ANY “nuclear proponent” has said that. Please DO find us that “appropriate quote”. We will wait as long as necessary. Take your time.

            You are certainly full of biased and half-assed OPINIONS, which show up as misinformation and misinterpretation of fact in your comments. You are short on real FACTS—on PROOF that any of your opinions are anything but the talk of someone who is “All Hat, No Cattle”.

            Please stop wasting our time. Either come up with some “cattle” or take your oversized hat and go away. We have other things to do than play with you.

          • ppp251 Says:

            Feeling frustrated? Don’t take it to your heart.

            Incompatibility of nuclear and variable renewables is nothing new and let google be your friend with this one. Or, for that matter, you can take a look at the video that Christopher Arcus has posted here in the comments.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Frustrated? Not me. I’ve dealt with fools like you before, and I will spend the time needed to help you shoot off your toes.

            You have exposed yourself for what you are, and I have nothing more to say to you until you provide the citations for your “80-90%” idiocy.

            And it’s a rather feeble and transparent attempt to deflect by saying “go google” and “look at what Arcus says” The ball is in YOUR end of the court, not mine.

            We are waiting for you to deliver. PUT UP OR SHUT UP AND GO AWAY.

          • ppp251 Says:

            You can be as militant as you like, but it won’t make nuclear any more compatible with renewables.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            An admission of defeat on your part, since you can’t seem to come up with the “quotes” to support your demented horsepucky. All your toes have now been shot off—–by you.

            I’m now truly done with you.

            You lose, we win, go away.

        • kap55 Says:

          Renewables are cheap only if market penetration remains low. As penetration increases, renewables compete against each other to bring wholesale prices down (even to zero!) during windy/sunny periods. So renewable generators are always selling into a buyer’s market, and never selling into a seller’s market. The economics quickly become dismal for the renewables owner as more and more competition comes online. Meanwhile the dispatchable sources are making money hand-over-fist because they respond to the market instead of responding to the weather.

          And if market penetration increases to the curtailment point, renewables owners may be forced to shut down their generators entirely during peak production periods. Try making a buck under those circumstances. That’s why renewables will *always* require subsidies, no matter how “mature” the market becomes. Owners just won’t be able to break even otherwise.

          • ppp251 Says:

            Renewables will not always require subsidies, because they’re already being built in lots of places without them. Negative prices are an oportunity for demand-response and storage.

            Heat storage, ice storage, electricity storage, heat pumps, EV charging,.. That’s what’s coming.

          • Gingerbaker Says:

            More good arguments for why renewable energy needs to be a public utility rather than a for-profit enterprise.

      • We have been down this road before. Don’t ask a dentist about climate change. Don’t ask a climatologist about energy. End of story.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Yes, we have been down this road before, and it always leads you into a state of denial about your cognitive dissonance where nuclear power is concerned. You talk about dentists and climate change as an answer to my comments about Hansen? Lord love a duck, but that’s a lazy and weak comment.

          Don’t climatologists (especially those with doctorates in physics like Hansen) know about “edgerny”? (as my 5-year-old granddaughter might call it)

          Isn’t “energy” that stuff that’s involved in increased radiative forcing due to rising greenhouse gasses due to the burning of fossil fuels? Don’t physicists understand “energy”?—-where it comes from, how it’s stored, and how it’s transmitted? Aren’t they qualified to form sustainable opinions about “energy”?

          “Don’t ask a dentist about climate change”? Only a fool would do that.

          “Don’t ask a climatologist about energy”? Only a motivated reasoner would say that,

          End of story.

      • Actually no, it doesnt. An emergency does not make a dentist into a barber. It just makes a very bad barber.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Why do you bother with such weak comments? Barbers and dentists? You are evading the issue.

          • Because it was funny and your position is weak, but you are in no mood for humor being on the wrong end of an argument. Sorry. I was just trying to imagine a dentist giving a haircut.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Funny? Like fart jokes are funny to 12-yeqr-old boys?

            As Yoda would say in that faraway time and place:
            “Ah, the cognitive dissonance force is strong in this Arcus”.

            You’re still evading.

  4. Now back to topic. The myth of base load power. This is an old hoary beast.
    It should be a dead beast. Debunked countless times by scientific peer reviewed papers, it continues to rear its ugly head.
    This is not a mystery to power system engineers familiar with renewables. The so called “base load” thermal PP we have today cannot follow the demand that changes daily. They are too slow to follow daily demand and running them less than 24/7 ruins their economics. So peaking gas turbines are needed. Some renewables are like base load, i.e., geothermal, hydro, biogas. Some are variable like wind and solar. So what do wind and solar need but the same kind of peaking plants base load thermal PP need.
    Another confusing subject for some is reserves. Reserves are practical and regulatory requirement to ensure reliable generation. Different subject. When renewables are discussed, the conversation starts weaving wildly into backup or storage. This makes no sense. Nobody says we need storage for when existing PP fail. We don’t need storage for renewables either. In fact, PV solar has reduced the pumped storage market in Germany. Why? It has dramatically reduced the daytime peak demand. Pumped storage plants pumped up by night with cheap rates and generated during the day to make a profit. Gone. Storage is not needed as much.
    While there is much talk of grid defection and going off line, there is no doubt that grids will be very useful in the future, and that they will help deliver the most reliable and lowest cost.
    Here is a nice source that can show how demand works and how renewables interact with demand. Its for Colorado, and other areas have similar load profiles.

    • kap55 Says:

      Thanks for that vid, Chris. It makes my point.

      As more renewables come into the system, the demand for dispatchables increases in direct proportion, because renewables add to the variability and volitility of load/demand matching.

      So, what kind of dispatchable generator do you want?

      Lovins’ vid (see the OP) lists four possibilities:
      1. geothermal
      2. small hydro
      3. solar-thermal electric
      4. feedlot biogas

      Geothermal and small hydro are both geography-limited, and small hydro is not truly dispatchable (seasonally limited).

      Solar-thermal electric is actually storage, which means it’s either too small to be truly dispatchable, or large enough to be considered baseload (which implies that yes, we do indeed need baseload).

      And feedlot biogas? If we captured all the biogas produced by every single dairy cow in the country, we could generate 16,000 MWh of electricity — a miserable pittance.

      And then there’s fossil gas.

      And then there’s cheap, non-CO2, fully dispatchable, nuclear.

      What’s your choice.

      • MorinMoss Says:

        I would say nukes are “fully dispatchable” in theory.
        If you actually tried to treat them the way you would a gas, hydro or even a coal plant, on a regular basis, you’d probably have quite the reliability mess on your hands.

        And that would also make the electricity generated by nukes much more expensive.

        • ontspan Says:

          Not to mention that with lower capacity factors the price per MWh of nuclear power rises proportionally as their capital costs are spread over a longer period. New nuclear is already expensive as baseload, as a flexible it will cost even more.

        • I would say nukes are “fully dispatchable” in theory.
          If you actually tried to treat them the way you would a gas, hydro or even a coal plant, on a regular basis, you’d probably have quite the reliability mess on your hands.

          You mean, the way France has been managing its (Westinghouse-designed) plants since the 1980’s?  They designed them with a set of “gray” control rods that allow power to be reduced without adding boron to the coolant.  France’s plants have been quite reliable.

          that would also make the electricity generated by nukes much more expensive.

          France has the lowest electric rates in Europe.

          One of the things we are going to have to do to cut CO2 emissions is to electrify the bulk of road transportation.  This is going to mean a LOT of EVs, most of them charging at night.  Filling in the overnight demand slump with EV charging gets rid of a fair amount of the daily demand cycle, eliminating the need to turn plants down in the first place.  However, you can’t make EVs work without base load generation; if you can’t charge them every night, they quickly become useless.

      • MorinMoss Says:

        How many cows are you counting? If it’s just dairy, that’s about 9 million but beef cows are 3x that so you’re looking at 35-40 million total.

        I think your numbers on biogas generation are off by 2 orders of magnitude.
        This link claims 38000 MWh from 1/4 million cows.
        So 9 mil dairy should produce 1.4 TWh and 30 mil beef about 4.5 TWh so the total from cattle alone is ~250x what you estimated.

        Let’s move on to pigs – the Blue Mountain Project estimates 25 million kWh for a million pigs so the erm, output of the ~60 million country-wide should give 1.5 TWh annually.

        And not to be, well, chicken – there’s great potential in poultry droppings which, I was surprised to learn, can generate ~1.5x the amount of biogas per kg waste as cow dung. There’s a large egg-laying plant in Karlam, India that carts away 100 tonnes of chicken manure daily to be processed into biogas, the output of 1 million chickens.
        Purdue University estimates 8 billion chickens are consumed annually in the USA so a daily manure potential of 100,000 tonnes. Extrapolating from the numbers from the Indian site, I get a potential of 29 TWh of energy from US chicken droppings.

        Let’s not leave out the 300 million humans either – frankly far too many produce nothing else of potential value. More extrapolation based on the chicken numbers and the 30% lower conversion to biogas of human waste vs chicken manure, I estimate that the 40000 tonnes of daily waste would produce 8 TWh annually.

        So a grand total of ~45 TWh from biogas but I doubt we’ll ever get close to 100% capture and I may have misinterpreted some of the numbers so let’s say a max potential of only 15 TWh annually.

        That’s only slightly less than the annual output of the SONGS nuke plant between 2002-2010, or about 17% of SoCal’s electricity requirement.

        • MorinMoss Says:

          Looks like my own numbers for generation from human waste might be too low.
          This SciAm article cites a study that estimates 70 to 140 GW from 6.8 billion people.

          Taking the lowball estimate and assuming a 50% capacity factor, that’s 306 TWh globally or 13.5 TWh for the USA, which would require everyone to get their sh*t together.

        • So 9 mil dairy should produce 1.4 TWh and 30 mil beef about 4.5 TWh so the total from cattle alone is ~250x what you estimated….
          So a grand total of ~45 TWh from biogas

          Annual electric generation of the USA in 2013 was 4058 TWh.  A 1% contribution from anything is down in the noise of variability of hydropower from rainfall.

          I keep trying to tell you folks that you have no grasp of the sheer magnitude of this problem.  Do you get it yet?

          • dumboldguy Says:

            “I keep trying to tell you folks that you have no grasp of the sheer magnitude of this problem. Do you get it yet?”

            I do. So do some others here. So does Hansen.

            The “bright-siders” are apparently just going to wish their way out of the problem.

          • MorinMoss Says:

            4000 TWh is a big number, indeed and 1% of that is still pretty darn big but it can easily be offset with efficiency.
            No reason for North Americans to consume 2x per capita as the advanced Euro nations. What’s encouraging is that per-capita electricity usage has been declining in the USA given that the total consumption has been fairly flat in the past 10 yrs while population has grown by 5%.

            Cutting US per capita usage to the level of Australia would save 500-600 TWh yearly, the equivalent of 30 – 35 SONGS nuke plants which would cost hundreds of billions just to build. And that would STILL be a 30% higher per capita electricity usage than the French, Germans & Swiss.

            But let’s get back to the 1%. With over 7 billion people and all the attendant livestock to provide meat & milk, that’s a lot of crap that would otherwise go to, well, waste.

            What’s wrong with turning it into fuel? Consider that this would be a boon for rural communities & underdeveloped countries and would lead to much less contamination of water sources.
            Cities would also benefit, given that some of them now have populations equivalent to countries of moderate size.

      • No it doesn’t. You use the term dispatchable. What is needed is not dispatchable, but fast ramping power sources like gas peakers. Thermal power plants need them because they can’t change quick enough to follow load. Like nuclear. Demand variation requires peakers. Baseload plants require peakers. Variable renewables require peakers. This is part of the myth of baseload power that nuclear fans are stuck on. I am tired of explaining it. View peters vid and see the other refs to myth of baseload. Note that Lovins shows how easily renewables are integrated without much storage. Then read the part of dailykos where they talk about where did the baseload go. Then ponder all the regions with high renewables nutmeg ration today and how they just couldn’t do that because there isn’t enough baseload, or storage, ….

    • andrewfez Says:

      Can someone explain the the cost of over-generation (exportation of electricity)?

      The closest I’ve come to understanding the cost is that it is an accounting ‘trick’ that causes a grid to sell excess to another grid at a heavily discounted price, so that there is an ‘apparent’ opportunity cost (price of domestic grid power minus discounted price of export).

      I’m assuming this then causes the wind turbine set that was responsible for the over generation to take a lower reimbursement for the over-gen than what they originally bid, which could be lower than what their monthly or quarterly payment to stakeholders and loan holders should be.

      The video here and some statistical data I’ve seen from Germany both show as renewables increase their penetration, export of electricity rises. Lovins seems to think <5% export is ok.

      • Andrew. Hi. The simple explanation is this. Energy is bought and sold on a day ahead basis. It’s a market. All the generation sources bid their best at what they can deliver and what price. Some markets may bid hourly, not just day ahead. The lowest bidders selected win the right to generate. That is one way the regulated monopoly is supposed to keep electricity rates low. The ISO, or system operator, gets a day ahead load curve estimate, and tries to balance the forecast hourly load demand with a mix of sources so that the demand is met as cheaply as possible and schedules reserves in case there are outages. All this is regulated. When solar and wind produce large amounts, agile, fast ramping gas generators are turned off. When wind and solar produce more than that, it becomes a question of which gets turned off, the renewables or the slow ramping thermal power plants. In the Midwest coal PP operators have learned how to vary output somewhat. There is a limit. Nuclear and coal are a real headache to shut down completely and that is avoided. So when wind and solar produce a lot, and they have near zero running costs because of zero fuel costs and low maintenance, the large thermal PP bid lower to avoid shutting down.
        That’s why daytime wholesale rates sometimes go negative in places with high renewable penetration. Speaking of myths, that’s another one. Renewables lower electric rates.

        • Renewables can only bid negative because they receive money from subsidies.  Such markets also place zero value on capacity, which is another effective subsidy for the renewables.  If renewables had to pay others to provide capacity and did not receive subsidies, they’d never bid less than zero and they would be curtailed before other generators providing capacity and spinning reserve to the grid.

        • andrewfez Says:

          Hi Christopher – thanks for the info. It almost sounds as though they are going to have to implement some sort of ‘minimum wage’ to continue to encourage more renewable providers to come online after 40, 50, or 60% penetration.

          • Andrew – Yes. They make it sound that way. The reasoning gives me a headache. When renewables get to x% generation the sky will fall. FUD. The opposite of cheerleading. Unreasonable doubt. Its not too hard to look around and see the same arguments made about some other upstart companies that some people said could never succeed. Tesla? But I think you recognize whats going on. Competitors are complaining for a reason. They are losing. Meanwhile, bright people are watching the markets….

        • Everywhere you look you find FUD about renewables raising costs and needing storage. The reality is that costs are lowered, there is excess supply, and storage and reserves are reduced. In fact, the big topic already mentioned is who pays for oversupply? That does not sound like the same problem the detractor had in mind.

      • Thats the short explanation, here are a couple more that get into the reality of day to day operations.
        One thing you have to learn is the merit order effect. All the energy producers bid their prices. The the system operator uses the resources bid until all the demand is met, starting with the lowest price provider.
        Here is where it gets interesting
        “The price received for the generators who find their bid accepted is not the price they each bid, but the price of the highest bidder who was accepted for that block of time. Any higher bids, that are not found to be needed, do not sell their energy for that time period.”
        So a bidder can get a higher price than they bid. Much higher during times of peak demand. Thats where especially solar comes in, but also wind. When those peak times are filled in by sources like solar that have no fuel cost, the bottom falls out of the price structure. That lowers costs.
        “It has long been recognized that fossil fuel generators make a large part of their revenue and profits during those peak events, when expensive peaking plant is brought into production. Prices can soar above $10,000/MWh, and even the “cheap” coal fired generators get that price.

        The university research shows that these peak event prices have been sharply reduced by the impact of wind energy.”

      • Heres a deeper dive into the electricity markets and how they are run.
        Its a crazy hodge podge. The Pacific Northwest is vastly different from the rest of the country.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      While there is much talk of grid defection and going off line, there is no doubt that grids will be very useful in the future, and that they will help deliver the most reliable and lowest cost.

      Amen and Hallelujah.

      I would go further. The Grid is the KEY to our renewables future. Once we move completely away from all carbon burning (no wood stoves, no ICE’s for transportation, no natural gas fueling your furnace) very very few home and business owners are going to have the ability to go completely off-grid.

      Energy needs to move from (hopefully optimal) generation points and distributed to where it is needed. The beauty of HVDC grids is that the generation site can be thousands of miles away from the point of use and still the system operates with acceptable efficiency.

      You can put a gas-fired power plant anywhere you want. But you need to put solar where the sun shines, and wind where the wind blows, and tidal on the seashore.

      • Yes. Yes. Yes. There will be some off grid away from civilization. But integrating low carbon sources means adding and bolstering the already neglected grid.

      • HVDC lines have their good points, but they’re not cheap and my understanding is that they are generally operated as point-to-point transmission rather than as a “grid” per se.  I have also read that they don’t like non-steady-state operation—I don’t know why, and I’m suspicious of this claim unless it is about control systems rather than the essence of DC technology.  However, that would make it difficult to feed them from conventional RE supplies.

        A 2-circuit HVDC line has only 2 conductors, compared to 3 for a single-circuit 3-phase AC line.  This reduces cost and visual impact.  However, I doubt very much that it’s going to be easy to site HVDC rights of way any more than new high-tension AC lines.  Thousands of miles of HVDC is going to mean thousands of legal contests, meaning nothing can possibly happen quickly or cheaply.

      • If you are interested in the public aspects of renewable energy and grids, take a look at this. BPA has been frustrating efforts to bring reliable Montana wind into the Northwest. So much that a senator is appealing to the president to get BPA to cooperate. BPA has a history of this. The had to be forced to accept wind power after they cut wind power off for days at a time. They should stop fighting and start building more transmission to load centers in California and elsewhere. How about Southern Cal where SDGE just lost SONGS. There is already an existing HVDC and it has been upgraded. It really does not have to go that far. It has to transmit to Northern California. There are existing HVAC lines there.

  5. It almost seems like there is no awareness of GHG in many circles. Consider Kewaunee, just shut down. Ok, its old, O and M is high, losing money. But then MISO goes and supports the Presque Isle coal plant to keep it from shutting down because of reliability requirements. The problem there has less to do with the nuclear plant, and more to do with the sparse grid in Upper Peninsula Michigan that would not benefit from Kewaunee anyway. Meanwhile, SONGS, (San Onofre Nuclear) is shut down, but what does SDGE want to replace it with but gas. 600MW for 2 billion which is a ripoff and it won’t be available until 2022, seven years from now. We don’t even know if we will need it then. Its called rate basing. Its a perverse part of the publicly regulated utility system. As long as the utility can convince the public utility commission they need to build a power plant, they can justify being paid a guaranteed rate of return on whatever they pay for the plant. That is their bargain for being a publicly regulated monopoly. Its just that concerns like GHG and concepts like demand management don’t play properly into this scenario. The utility is looking for something to replace the guaranteed income they had from the previous power plant which is gone. The system rewards them for replacing it with another power plant rather than conservation, demand management, or renewables, especially ones not owned by them. Thats good for them, but bad for everyone else.

    • Hey Chris glad to see you rebutting a lot of the FUD surrounding renewable energy, but I have to ask if you know why Dominion Energy is totally unwilling to sell their Kewaunee plant to RGA Labs? I only discovered this last night when I typed in to google ‘Kewaunee’ and the first thing that came up was several articles about the group trying to buy the plant (even without an NRC license to operate) and Dominion rebuffing them saying that it was not for sale.

      • Patrick – Don’t know. Kewaunee is already over. You get my drift about the almost random nature of the deal. As if nobody was even paying attention to GHG.
        Here is more on why Kewaunee shut down. There was just a power glut in Wisconsin. There is another NPP nearby, also. This is the problem all large central thermal PP face. But lets not pay to keep coal going and shut down an already built and paid for NPP that otherwise could be doing its job (providing it really is safe). The remedy with Presque Isle is to build more transmission from Minneapolis, for example. I hope keeping the coal plant alive is just a stopgap until they can do that. Are we trying to bake the planet or what?
        Here is more on base load power and Wisconsin. Digs a little more into the dynamics of public utilities and why we see this stuff in Wisconsin.
        Thanks, by the way, for keeping the conversation on topic about base load. I stray also, but I try to stay on topic.

  6. […] Great graphics to describe why renewables are inevitable, and taking over now. From Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute.  […]

  7. […] Great graphics to describe why renewables are inevitable, and taking over now.From Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute.  […]

  8. […] Click headline to watch the video presentation clip from Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute and access hot links to great graphics to describe why renewables are inevitable, and taking over now.  […]

  9. greenman3610 Says:

    the biggest myth is that nuclear has not been built out due to pressure from greenies. Wish that were so – but the truth is, greenies were about as effective in stopping nuclear as they’ve been (so far) in stopping climate change/fossil fuels i.e. not very.
    Truth is, nuclear was dead in the water economically years before TMI, when the johnnie-come-lately swell of anti-nuke celebs came around.
    That’s the simple fact, nothing has changed since then.

    • jimbills Says:

      We tend to forget the reasoning behind protest movements as time passes. Someone today might look at a green 40 years ago protesting nuclear and think they were dumb for opposing clean energy. However, the world still had fresh memories and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, plus the worldwide testing of nuclear weaponry spread radiation across the globe. Additionally, climate change wasn’t considered a primary worry at the time – nuclear proliferation and fears of an exchange were much higher on most people’s radars.

      The U.S. military and government (and the rest of the world afterwards) chose to pursue uranium instead of thorium for nuclear energy, mainly because uranium produced nuclear weaponry as a by-product. In many people’s minds at the time – the two different uses for nuclear technology were directly tied to each other, and justifiably so.

      Nevertheless, despite protests from greens, the United States built far more nuclear power than every other nation on Earth before Three Mile Island. Even after 30-40 years of a virtual halt in production, we still have almost double the amount of nuclear energy than the closest nation (France).

      It wasn’t until TMI that the halt in production began. The government started regulating nuclear much more heavily, which caused construction prices for nuclear to double to triple. The greens had ‘some’ influence here, but it wasn’t until TMI that the regulations and construction holdups really took place. Chernobyl backed up the justification for these regulations, at least in the public’s mind. Before the regulations, nuclear still struggled with costs to match fossil fuel energy economically. Afterwards, it was game over.

      One can blame the greens for all this, but maybe we should look first at the military’s decision to pursue the warfare uses for nuclear instead of its peaceful uses. If TMI had been a thorium plant, it likely wouldn’t have had a problem, the general public would have continued supporting nuclear, we would have double to triple the amount of nuclear energy we currently have in the United States, and the greens themselves would likely be focused on other pressing environmental issues.

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