Here is an outstanding graphics video for illustrating some points I have sought to make repeatedly with regard to wind power. I see no need to rule the technology out. I gladly acknowledge the positive impact it has made in decarbonising South Australia where we have put in a lot of it. I am as annoyed by spurious and idiotic objections to wind power as I am by spurious and idiotic objections to nuclear power.

BUT…

… if we are really wanting to displace fossil fuels entirely from our energy supply, then forming strategies that arbitrarily exclude nuclear power and glossing over the problem of scaleability of technologies like wind and solar is terrible mistake. It will only extend the window in which fossil fuels will continue to dominate.

15 comments

  1. Who’d thought that Germany with it’s current energy policies would end up being a poster boy for this sort of argument. Great penetrations of Wind and Solar, a bit of Nuclear still running, the graph in your previous post and this one (https://twitter.com/CambridgeSolar/status/305286364415541248/photo/1) highlight the perfect roll out of each technology. Wind and Solar chase the peaks (through both demand and supply side management), and Nuclear takes the base.

    I understand the premise of the video it misses the point of the overall argument (which you covered in your intro). If that was one of a coal plant that was shown to be replaced by Nuclear, Wind, and Solar technologies it would be a powerful argument.

    Imagine if the Renewable and Nuclear lobbies joined forces under a common goal to reduce CO2 emissions (or pollution in general)….

    1. Current nuclear technology can’t compensate intermitency of wind and solar due to slow responsiveness. Maybe in the future with LFTR this will be possible.

      1. That is not the case and never has been as it happens. Nuclear is far more flexible than popularly appreciated. But with all the money spent up front and minimal marginal costs of operation, it is certainly economically preferable to run them full speed all the time. But technically, load following is not a big barrier within some degree of constraint. Please read this report http://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/reports/2011/load-following-npp.pdf and this one http://www.oecd-nea.org/nea-news/2011/29-2/nea-news-29-2-load-following-e.pdf

    2. Nuclear and Renewable lobbies — the thing is, that the LFTR and the IFR descendants are the ONLY renewable energy technologies that are sustainable. The energy resource being renewed ifs of course the stock of fissile nuclides. The traditional 18th century sources of energy were supplanted by the huge growth of fossil carbon, with has presumably been the reason why the planet now support seven to ten times as many humans as it did back then.

  2. I am a lifelong environmentalist. But I’m also a mathematician, a physicist, and have more than high school chemistry. But I did not know when I retired from employment I had begun with the US Federal Power Commission, that the obvious renewable version of nuclear power technology had succeeded a week before Chernobyl, and been canceled in a fit of “green” idiocy by the Clinton administration. Uranium is not terribly rare, and if you have to watch out for radon in your basement, there’s some of it nearby. A microgram of radon is three times as radioactive as (24,000 times 365 divided by 3.8), micrograms of plutonium. That is the ratio of their half lives, multiplied by the number of immediate emissions of radon and its first two short-lived descendants.
    But fissile isotopes in nature are exceedingly rare. You need a thousand kilograms of uranium to get seven kilograms of its isotope 235. However, the USA developed, at Argonne National Labs, a reactor that not only safely produced the fissile isotope of plutonium, butt in ordinary operation made it unsuitable for weapons manufacture. It also was designed and proven immune to meltdown, and its waste was about a kilogram of short-lived fission products, per ten million kWh.
    So it’s not just a renewable technology, it’s a low-waste, very sustainable technology.
    Wind, solar, biomass, are not sustainable at even France’s demand rate. And per gigawatt-year, if you had a technology to “sequester” carbon dioxide, I think it’s about 30 million tons per gigawatt-year. More than three times the mass of carbon burned, because
    C + O2 => CO2; C=12, O=16;

  3. The overwhelming objections to wind power are :
    * It is utterly immune to demand,
    * It tends to be built in previously wild scenery, and to dwarf whatever vista one might be looking at.
    * Its construction requires quite massive amounts of earth moving and concrete manufacture.
    * A mere 5 MW turbine (the largest), requires a helicopter pad at the nacelle.
    * The death toll of offshore wind turbines is hard to ascertain, although big seabirds tend to be the most vulnerable. The bodies sink, or get eaten.

    1. In the interests of quality, you need to provide references for some of those statements. As far as wild scenery goes that has never been my experience… heavily modified agricultural land more like.

  4. The other major shortcoming of wind power is that the CO2 displacement is only about half that expected from the Mwh displacement. That’s due to reserve requirements and stop-start fuel use from backup sources [Moderation: this is unreferenced. Provide some sourcing for statements like these]. It puts the cost of CO2 saved well over the $23 per tonne of carbon tax. Example if wind power costs $110 per Mwh (including the LGC payment) but saves 0.4t of CO2 the cost of CO2 displacement is $275 per tonne.

    To be fair we should really look at increments in the total cost of a combined system of wind and dispatchable power. As the gas price rises some wind displacement may work out cheaper provided reserve requirements are met. We should assume nuclear will eventually displace most coal. Let the players work out the mix based purely on costs and the CO2 target. This won’t happen while nuclear is prohibited and wind is given preferential treatment by the RET.

    1. I very much agree with the thrust of this comment. Please support statements with referencing, you will find plenty who will dispute the point made in the first paragraph about. I dislike unreferenced ambit claims for nuclear, same goes for wind or anything else.

      1. Alas on this topic it seems possible to find a link that supports any position. What I’ve said is supported by this article
        http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/89476/wind-energy-co2-emissions-are-overstated
        A key problem is comparing like with like. For example some analyses (correctly IMO) factor in the CO2 embodied in the steel and cement of the turbine and others omit this.

        I’ll be honest; I have a gut dislike of wind turbines not because of aesthetics but because they are near motionless in heatwaves when most needed. Perhaps that means I seek analyses that are somewhat negative and dismiss the upbeat ones.

        1. Well, I appreciate your candour. But the upshot is you are ok with making unsupported statements based on a gut dislike unless I call you on it! I must ask for better, the comments on DSA are for good discussion, not an echo chamber for already-held views. I trust you will respect that to maintain the value of the site. Thanks in advance.

  5. To explain where I’m coming from I’ve tested the waters so to speak of renewables and found them wanting. That includes spending $20k on PV, driving a car mainly on biodiesel for 5 years, helping construct microhydros and cooking anything too big for a microwave on a wood stove. My conclusion is none of the above will make a serious enough dent in fossil fuels.

    My view is that the French model is best for electricity. A government controlled entity generates and distributes reliable affordable low carbon power from centralised sources. Wind hot spots that don’t need subsidies get a look in, as does solar at near giveaway prices. Just today this opinion was echoed by some people in the district who are off-grid but they are now facing a battery bank replacement. At some point the alternatives just get too hard.

    1. Points very well made. I fundamentally agree on all fronts. It’s really just a tactical matter than nuclear proponents simply must be better than the other guys when we argue, we are held to a higher standard.

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