The 2013 update to the Australian Energy Technology Assessment has the potential to generate breathless headlines in favour of renewable technologies and downplaying the potential of nuclear. The truth is a good deal more complex. This valuable resource is imperfect and evolving. This update provides important improvements and highlights areas of ongoing deficiency in comparisons. It needs to be applied in an informed way to promote good decision making on energy and to deflate the techno-triabalism that is hampering our move away from the most polluting fuel sources.

 

The Australian Energy Technology Assessment (AETA), published by the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) provides near-to-medium term forward cost estimates of the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) of a wide range of electricity generation technologies in Australian conditions. This is a valuable service, so the 2013 update is therefore of considerable interest. Here is a link to the document.

Aside: LCOE is, simplistically speaking, the price at which electricity can be sold by a generator into the market. The lower the better. It’s a very useful  source of comparison of the economic competitiveness of different electricity generating technologies and a decidedly imperfect one also. It only accounts for the marginal cost of new generation. Admirably, the AETA is upfront about this limitation, with ample discussion on page 13See further discussion here for how over-reliance on LCOE can generate conclusions that are precisely wrong. End aside.

The update provides, superficially speaking,  a poorer cost outlook for nuclear power and a better outlook for renewable technologies. It has the potential to generate fairly breathless headlines along these lines. Indeed, it already has.

A cooler reading of the update suggests a more complex picture. The report provides direction on where efforts are best directed in building a case for a fuller, more rapid decarbonisation using all technologies including nuclear power.

This post addresses four important discussion points for nuclear power:

  1. First year of available construction
  2. Revised FOAK and NOAK costs for nuclear
  3. Forward cost trajectories for nuclear
  4. Overall message from outputs

1. First year of available construction

Where previously nuclear power was shown as an available technology now, in the update it is not shown as available until 2020. The justification is as follows (page 16):

Additionally, it was submitted that the first year available for construction of nuclear technologies be extended. In support of this the submission argued that nuclear technologies are examples of generation technology where legislation, regulation and public policy planning is highly region-dependent and must therefore precede deployment by several years. This was considered an appropriate submission and therefore the first year available for construction in the model has been changed from 2012 to 2020.

This is a disappointing and poorly justified change. AETA 2012 was a breath of fresh air among documents from Government and Government-owned corporations in Australia for its impartial and disinterested inclusion of nuclear power in energy considerations. Most often, nuclear power is simply left out as though it were never invented, perpetuating ignorance and dearth of discussion.

As a technological assessment, the original judgement of the readiness of nuclear power for construction now was completely correct. Nuclear power is mature technology, providing around 10% of global electricity, in over 30 nations, with about 50 reactors under construction and a competitive market of suppliers.  There is no technological barrier and in preparing AETA that is what BREE should be principally concerned with. Otherwise the document is on the slippery slope of politicisation of energy. Were knee-jerk planning regulations to come down that effectively shut the door to further developments of wind or utility solar, removal of their consideration from AETA would be entirely inappropriate.

The fact that nuclear is technologically mature and we refuse to use it for political reasons is important knowledge. The simple inclusion of nuclear as ready to go now makes this statement in simple and powerful terms. It should be retained.

2. Revised FOAK and NOAK costs for nuclear

There are been a substantial increase in both FOAK and NOAK costs for nuclear in this update, shown in the table below:

 

Source: AETA Model Update 2013, BREE
Source: AETA Model Update 2013, BREE

The justification is as follows:

Although there are cost adjusting factors used for other technologies studied in the AETA 2012 report, there is no adjustment of the US cost base for Australian labour costs and for adjustment of Australian equipment costs. Submissions indicated that an adjustment to costs should also be used for nuclear to ensure there is commonality in the comparison.

This suggestion was considered appropriate and adjustment to the costs for nuclear technologies was made. Based on the factors to convert US rates to Australian rates used in the fossil fuel technologies, i.e. the factors from the Thermoflow software, the new nuclear capital costs were calculated. The multiplier from Thermoflow for labour costs is 2.05 and the factor for equipment costs is 1.3, both US to Australia.

I find little to disagree with in the above  and, to be honest, I welcome the update. The costs in the 2013 update represent a more realistic cost starting point for Australia and, if nothing else, a much better base from which to manage expectations. Those costs may be bettered in the eventual process; I believe they could be. There was nothing to gain by published estimates that were not a true comparison.

3. Costs trajectories for nuclear and renewable technologies

While the starting point for nuclear cost is now more realistic, the trajectory reveals something curious. It’s perhaps best expressed in a graph showing the low end LCOE estimates for a few technologies over the modelled period.

 

Source: Data from AETA 2013 model update, chart by me
Source: Data from AETA 2013 model update, chart by me

As you see, the low end LCOE for nuclear is virtually flat, from now to 2050, similar to the 2012 modelled outputs. That’s a heck of an outcome, especially for SMR nuclear. It would appear these talented designers have exhausted every opportunity for learning before commercial manufacturing has even begun!

The high end of the estimates provides a more mixed picture. While it’s all good news for fixed solar PV, otherwise it seems the BREE model regard all as susceptible to upward price pressures.Note particularly the 2050 high estimate for solar thermal with storage of $260, giving a range of $210 from the low estimate! I suspect the output for this technology is highly sensitive to some key assumptions.

Source: Data from AETA 2013 Model Update, chart by me
Source: Data from AETA 2013 Model Update, chart by me

These forward LCOE findings for nuclear need to be treated cautiously. The raison d’etre of SMR nuclear is to take advantage of the well-known cost lowering potential of standardised, factory built manufacturing. Even for GW scale nuclear, we are only relatively recently into the period where novel design is no longer the norm, and great learning is being seen where nuclear is being built in committed programs like China and South Korea (which has exported these excellent prices as a turn-key solution to the UAE).

So what is going on? I suspect it’s pretty simple based on this passage of the report:

As part of the Model Update, special emphasis [highlight added] was placed in this report on the Operational and Maintenance (O&M) costs and O&M improvement rates for all wind, solar thermal and solar PV renewable technologies covered in AETA 2012. As mentioned earlier, this took into account relevant Australian and international reports, public domain information, private sources as well BREE and WorleyParsons’ in-house experience.

This emphasis is evident in the extent of the evidence and literature review cited above, the bulk of the update report being committed to this purpose, and the list of references and stakeholders consulted in this review. It seems pretty clear that wind, solar thermal and solar PV had the vast bulk of the focus in this review, with little attention paid to nuclear beyond the recalibration of pricing described in point 1.

It’s awfully difficult to find what is not being looked for. An effort to seriously review the forward LCOE of nuclear power would require a similarly exhaustive literature review. An effort at SMR costing would, at the minimum, take in consultation with the US Department of Energy, the International Atomic Energy Agency, GE-Hitachi, Babcock and Wilcox and NuScale. It is certainly regrettable that in Australia we lack an official domestic presence to advise on matters nuclear.

On the basis of this report and model being reviewed on an annual basis, which appears to be the case for now, this is all forgivable provided it is addressed adequately in future.

4. The overall message of the costs

The further downward revision of costs across the renewables technologies has pushed modelled LCOE outputs for both on-shore wind and fixed solar PV into some seriously low territory. That passes the sniff test for me. These technologies are increasingly mature, globally very popular, growing very quickly and factory made.

From a planning and decarbonisation point of view, it would seem to me appropriate that from here Australian Governments plan, as dispassionately as possible, for the successful integration of larger amounts of these two renewable technologies. Unless direct barriers are erected to suppress their deployment, we should expect more of them and while install rates for solar may have peaked, there will be more installations. Whether it is a success or not depends how smart we are about it. Variable output is nothing but downside in my opinion. However, we are learning to manage it. We should be planning our network to accommodate more, and our market designs to allocate costs sensibly and minimise disruption for other generators whom we need for reliability of supply. There is a great deal more uptake of these technologies that can be intelligently integrated before system costs become overwhelming.

However that all reaches its own limit in time. Wind and PV are subject to variability and short-term fluxuation of supply and the tendency of it all to come at once, wanted or not. This makes the penetration of these technologies into networks economically self-limiting, provided we intelligently measure and publicise total system costs of including variable renewable energy at rising penetrations. This is no secret. You cannot build and run a reliable network on these sources of supply alone. If it were so, no renewable advocate would care much about solar thermal with storage, offshore wind, batteries, demand shifting, biomass, geothermal, ocean power or expanded transmission networks. All of the above is in the name of achieving the stability and reliability provided a priori by fossil fuel or nuclear generation.

The message here for the nuclear advocates in Australia is to maintain reasoned criticism but essentially let these markets run their course, as they are not competing with nuclear in any serious way, and one may argue a complimentary relationship. If policy is relatively technologically neutral we can expect at least one large generation of this technology in Australia. Whether it will be replaced like-with-like at end of life is, for me, the next interesting question.

Nuclear is reasonably compared with other large, dispatchable generation sources. That being the case, it’s important to see how nuclear fared alongside other large dispatchable zero-carbon generation in this update. Even out to 2050, and even with the conspicuous lack of research attention,  AETA ranks gigawatt scale nuclear as the cheapest dispatchable zero-carbon generation on offer in Australia (with the exception of landfill gas and sugarcan waste, with obvious scaling limitations).  SMR Nuclear is faring less well, but remaining in the second approximate bracket of generators along with the solar thermal, off-shore wind and hot sedimentary geothermal aquifers.

AETA 213 update technologies

 

It is important to note at this time that the default energy storage assumption of the AETA model is currently 6 hours. This is decidedly inadequate for making a genuine comparison of reliability between solar and nuclear. The model remains a little dumb in this regard. Storage is a major element of cost in these systems however at this time BREE considers the addition of variable storage levels “is likely to add significant complexity to the report and to the model, the benefit of which at this stage does not warrant the changes” (pg 23). It is also important to note that all costs in this study have been amortised over construction+30 years. After 30 years, a nuclear plant will be paid for and cheerfully ready to give another 30 years of rated service. It is likely that solar thermal will have met its expected lifespan of 25-30 years, and must be built again. The other inarguable advantages of land utilisation, and flexibility in siting close to networks and load remain exclusively that of nuclear generation.

In summary, the AETA report and model remains an important enabler of informed discussion for upcoming energy choices in Australia. It is limited by the limitations of LCOE itself as a metric and the report is admirably transparent in that regard.

BREE need to be cautious to maintain the purity of the AETA lest its usefulness devolve. Removal of nuclear as a “now” construction option is a good example how this may occur. The regular reviews must also be sure to spread the research effort priorities and broaden the stakeholder consultation if readers are to maintain confidence in the outputs for all technologies. The lack of focus on SMR nuclear in this review, evident in the static forward LCOE, gave an outcome that defies credibility. This can and should be redressed in future. It is inevitable that these outputs will be leveraged to argue the case for certain technologies. As such more transparency and visibility is required regarding the default energy storage assumptions for solar technology. In the long term the model should include this flexibility. In the short term indicative cost multipliers should be provided for additional hours of storage.

Like what you see here? Please subscribe to the blog, Like Decarbonise SA on Facebook and follow @BenThinkClimate on Twitter. Read more about the potential for nuclear power in Australia at Zero Carbon Options

 

 

 

 

29 comments

  1. As Ben and AETA stress, over-reliance upon LCOE can lead to marginal thinking. I’d suggest another, complementary metric: Levelized Cost of Reliable Energy (LCORE, not as simple as it sounds). For instance, what would be the marginal cost of adding an additional kWh dispatchable on-shore wind in 2050, assuming (for example) that onshore wind already provided 70% of grid energy production (not capacity) at that time?

  2. I’d point out two oversights in the BREE analysis. omission of renewable energy certificate cost and no allowance for low capacity factor and integration cost. I do believe BREE has assumed future CO2 pricing. If I’m mistaken on the other points let me know.

    A favourite line of those proposing 100% renewables is to point out the RET may have depressed the wholesale electricity price. Fair enough but the retail customer or end user has to pay for transmission, retail margin, GST and REC cost. The other costs are not set in stone, for example transmission costs depends on the length of wires but the REC is included. For large generators the REC (called the LGC in their case) has been in the range $30 -$40 per Mwh in 2014. Suggestion; add $35 to claimed LCOEs for commercial renewables.

    I also think dividing by capacity factor is a useful metric. It is a proxy for the amount of overbuilding (on a ‘nearby’ site) required to get up to 100% capacity, The UK Academy of Engineers adds the cost of open cycle gas to get to 100%. That ignores ancillary costs like spinning reserve, frequency control and new transmission. From the low end table I’ll take $90 and $60 as mid range LCOEs for large nuclear and onshore wind. I won’t add $35 to the $60 to get $95 though I think we should. I suggest a capacity factor for large nuclear is 0.9 and for onshore wind 0.3. Some will say they get 41% on Knob’s Peak or whatever but I suggest prime wind sites will be harder to find in future despite the larger turbines. Dividing to get capacity adjusted LCOE we have
    Large nuclear $90/0.9 = $100
    Onshore wind $ 60/0.3 = $200 .
    Whaddayaknow it isn’t cheaper after all.

    1. The published LCOE will be exclusive of the REC cost.

      The price of RECs is basically set by wind, being the price difference between wind and the grid at large.

      Add the price of a REC to the price of the overall LCOE of grid electricity and you have the price of wind shown in the report.

  3. I was also interested to see the ‘additions’ to the nuclear option considerations.

    Listening to an older Atomic Show, specifically http://atomicinsights.com/atomic-show-156-ans-annual-meeting-platts-smr-nrcs-shrinking-budget/ it was interesting to hear Mr Adams off-handedly predict that the first SMRs would be built by 2014-15, and on the grid by 2017. I’d like to think that without the sensationalised events of May 2011 and since, we wouldn’t have to wait instead till 2022 to see this awesome technology in action http://www.ect.coop/emerging-technologies/r-d/small-reactors-on-fast-track/65526

  4. @John Newlands:
    Not certain “dividing by capacity factor” is appropriate, as that has already been done in the LCOE estimate. Rather, I think one is best off admitting up-front that LCOE is the marginal cost of adding a kWh energy onto a pre-existing grid, under the assumption that marginal kWh can be used. The UKAE “add the cost of open cycle gas to get to 100%” capacity is merely a sop to their customers — that would be you and me. An alternate advocated by some U.S. utilities is to assume some form of load-following gas generation is required to keep the lights on, either OCGT, or CCGT, whether the wind blows or not. Therefore the actual marginal value of wind (or solar) generation is just the cost of the gas fuel displaced.

    I’m using gas in this example because coal (and to an extent CCGT) runs into the same CAPEX/CF problem as nuclear. Although on the margin it doesn’t really matter, in many wind markets we’re no longer really on the margin.

    That assumes gas load-balancing rather than storage, which is good if you can get it but not so good as is commonly assumed. Over at BNC John Morgan has an informative review of Graham Palmer’s Energy in Australia which touches this topic, and upon which Peter Lang has left a useful comment.

  5. We need some kind of killer smackdown for those who say wind and solar can replace coal, oil and gas. At this point in the debate EROEI >7 doesn’t resonate with the public. From comments on other forums it’s clear many of the public have a religious belief that wind and solar can save the day. What will it take to change that belief?

    Perhaps Mother Nature will take her own action. As we speak a fire is bearing down on the 1600 MW brown coal fired Hazelwood power station
    http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/fires-cut-hazelwood-power-station-output-20140210-32bcy.html
    If climate change is worsening fires it’s a kind of blowback for the 14 Mt of CO2 Hazelwood spews into the atmosphere each year.

    The Chernobyl mutant catfish episode was on ‘River Monsters’ last night. I’ll take the catfish over brown coal burning anytime.

  6. Feel free to get in touch with the boffins at BREE who develop the ATEA model. They are quite open to suggestions and constructive criticism. I’ve dealt with them in the past and are quite happy to answer questions, take suggestions, and be pointed to some good data to develop the model.

  7. From what I can work out the AETA report does not use capacity factor as a divisor for the final cost as I proposed above. In a number of places the report says average O&M (operations and maintenance) costs were based on capacity factor. I presume that means nameplate Mwh per year X c.f. is the estimated Mwh sent to the grid. Annual O&M costs are then divided by sent out Mwh to get that unit cost component.

    I’m suggesting if Technology X has 33% c.f and there are no auxiliary costs then you build 3 MW capacity side by side for every 1 MW desired output. If c.f. is 25% then the overbuild is 4X. That’s obviously not right (eg PV at night) but it is a quick proxy for the ‘real’ cost.

  8. I fully agree with John Newlands about integration costs. The BREE update clearly states “many technologies involve integration costs in addition to the LCOE, to be able to reliably supply to the system.” As far as I can see, BREE has not included these integration costs in its analysis (Ben please correct me if I am wrong here).

    These integration costs can be substantial. A Potsdam-Institute paper titled “System LCOE: What are the costs of variable renewables?” suggests that these integration costs could double the wind System LCOE at 40% penetration. If this is shown to be true this is a major flaw in the BREE analysis.

    http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/media/weowebsite/2013/iew2013/presentations/parallelsessions/e/4E1Ueckerdt.pdf

    1. A simple way to improve the relevance of the findings might be to provide all costs compared as they have now, then in addition provide groupings of LCOE costs based on further criteria such as:
      – Low carbon (85% perhaps)
      – Load following ability

      The reader could then educate themselves a little more and think ‘Ok, what’s the best price for something low carbon, highly dispatchable with load following?’ In fact, a searchable tool of this nature would be pretty handy.

      Just a quick way to impart that LCOE is important but certainly not the only consideration.

        1. I’m currently exploring the methodology in a paper published to Energy called “System LCOE: What are the costs of variable renewables?” Would be interested to hear your thoughts sometime.

  9. Can we tell workers at a coal/nuke/gas plant to go home when the wind’s blowing? What about at corporate? The bankers to stop accumulating interest? Long term fuel supply contracts to be temporarily suspended? Escalating the above, once reliable forms of energy start becoming more expensive per kw/h, all of the above costs start increasing, and it’s all factored into their costs, not renewables. I’d say that’s pretty politicised.

    On another note, I used ‘ http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/tech_lcoe.html ‘ to try determine nuclear’s LCOE by myself. Inputs were: Term 20 years, discount rate 10%, Capital cost AU $5000 (based upon korea’s $3600/kw to UAE * .85 for AU-US currency, times inflation rate of 3%/y to 2020), capacity factor 90%, fixed OEM $20kw/y, Variable $0.01/kwh, heat rate btu/kwh 10,000, fuel cost $0.8/MMbtu equals $95 per MW/H, the same as the report for the low estimate.

    Are these all valid assumptions? Do they roughly align with the report’s assumptions for nuclear? What Finance terms do renewables generally get in the market place?

    Also, thanks for your commentary on the report, Ben. I will definitely browse through it this arvo.

    1. You are welcome.

      Interesting estimate! The amortisation for all technologies in AETA are 30 years plus construction, giving 36 years for nuclear.

      Other than that I believe BREE are kind enough to provide the model itself if you ask them. They offered it to me when I asked them to fix the link to the report.

  10. It’s good to see some analysis based on Australian conditions. Unfortunately with all LCOE analysis it’s disappointingly general and it’s hard to get detail of the realistic costs of incorporating all this into a grid.

    With nuclear they seem to be very generous with not including decommissioning and insurance costs. Perhaps estimating these was just too hard? I’m not sure but they’re real and significant costs that must be considered with nuclear. At the same time they were pretty harsh with not considering the longer plant lifetime of nuclear plants. Limiting to 30 years when 50 years is a likely plant lifetime seems unfair. It’s not like that’s a hard thing to put in the analysis either.

    The overall outcome seems to promote onshore wind and rooftop PV in the short term. Wind is cheap and rooftop PV gets around transmission costs so they’re cheap clean options. This is the cheapest way to displace CO2 emissions until grid stability is a major cost issue.

    In the meantime look at getting rid of the political roadblocks to nuclear (whether or not that’s the road we eventually go down) and watch closely how technology costs change with clean dispatchable power. This would include battery storage, solar thermal with storage and nuclear. Then once we hit the point where wind and rooftop solar is maxing out, look at what’s the best option of these to replace dispatchable power.

    1. It’s not that hard to estimate. It’s just not that much.

      Decommissioning, and waste management, is a large sum of money, yes, however per Mwh over the life of the plant, it’s 2/5 of bugger all; perhaps $2-$3 per MWh tops. They make mention of this.

      Insurance is paid for by the vendors and would therefore be included so far as I can tell; their estimates would be based on plants that are insured. As to the low-probability, high-cost event that scares the shit out of everyone being meltdowns with uncontrolled release, it’s nationalized, no way around it. I think that’s perfectly acceptable given the record of all technology in play right now and what Australia would conceivably build. Others may disagree. I also regard the ‘high-cost” as being a largely voluntary outcome. We don’t need to run from radiation. We often run to it after a visit to the GP.

      I agree, some recognition of the lifespan advantage of nuclear must be incorporated otherwise, from a cost perspective, it’s warped. One reason out current power is so “cheap” and everything new is “expensive “is that so much of the old stuff is already paid for, and just won’t die!!!

      “The overall outcome seems to promote onshore wind and rooftop PV in the short term. Wind is cheap and rooftop PV gets around transmission costs so they’re cheap clean options. This is the cheapest way to displace CO2 emissions until grid stability is a major cost issue.” I agree, providing at the same time we prep the ground for nuclear, otherwise decarbonisation will come to a standstill. Storage and solar thermal are big maybes, nuclear is not. It’s a known. They ought not be compared. We have to get ready to deploy the solution that works.

      1. Good point on insurance. Thanks for that. You’re right that decommissioning isn’t a major impact on cost but putting it in would still be nice and make the analysis more accurate.

        On your last paragraph I really don’t know how you can “prep the ground for nuclear” in Australia right now. To me it’s a bit of a catch-22. Currently a nuclear power plant couldn’t be built in Australia without significant subsidies and guarantees. But the only way I see the political roadblocks being taken away is the prospect of cheap clean power. I don’t see any politician copping the heat from allowing nuclear and then following it up with copping more heat for offering big subsidies to nuclear. Those are two big hills to climb in Australia.

        What I think is more important is what happens internationally. If nuclear becomes a genuinely cheap option in Western economies then it will be far, far easier to implement it in Australia. Realistically that’s only going to happen through a significant technological advancement like SMR considering the recent cost issues in western countries. I don’t think getting nuclear going to any significant level in Australia in the near future is realistic. What’s important is getting it restarted in a big way in current nuclear nations so that it becomes a realistic option for Australia in the mid-term future.

        So I disagree with your last part. Nuclear might be more of a known but right now it’s also not a solution that is going to be implemented in a widespread manner. With electricity demand dropping, political obstacles and cost issues there’s just no way nuclear power becomes widespread in its current form by say 2030. As far as I can see, nuclear right now isn’t a “solution that works” for Australia due to cost compared to incumbents.

        So we do need to find a solution that works. That’s likely to be either cheap renewables (which we have to an extent and they’re getting cheaper) along with cheap storage (which we don’t have) or cheap nuclear (which we don’t have). So I think it’s all about that comparison and what can become the cheapest in the short, medium and long-term. Saying we already have the solution in nuclear misses the clear point that in its current form it’s clearly not a realistic solution. The failure of the “nuclear renaissance” in the US, a nation with a similar economy and without the political obstacles, shows that clearly. So all possible technologies need to improve and a solution should be implemented when possible but we shouldn’t pretend that nuclear in its current form is a complete solution when clearly it isn’t.

        1. Arbitrary obstacles can be dismantled because they are arbitrary.

          Regulatory and licensing bodies can be developed, such as expanding the remit and resourcing of ARPANZA.

          Potential funding models can be developed and explored. Waste management strategies can be developed and agreed.

          None of that costs very much money, but it does take some time. The mistake would be leaving all that work to be begun once we have decided we want to buy and build a reactor.

          Furthermore, we don’t really know what the economic reality of nuclear in the near term is. Australia presents a closed door to the world on that front, so consortia do not approach us, sharpening their pencils, to find a way of creating a good proposal. We need to open that up.

          Yes all of that get’s politically easier when it is cheaper however that presents no argument for delay.

  11. See the contribution graph in this link of SA heatwave electrical demand
    http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2014/2/5/energy-markets/aemos-verdict-wind-solar-and-boiling-hot-weather
    To me it proves SA needs a gigawatt of nuclear baseload, more if steady interstate exports are anticipated.. The coal+gas contribution only fell below 1000 MW on Monday 13/1/14 with peak demand rising to about 3,300 MW on Thursday 16/1/14. For 1.65m people that peak demand works out nicely at 2 kw each.

    Not only will Moomba gas get double the price sent east to Gladstone Qld for LNG rather than west to Adelaide SA but I see they will use coal power to run the liquefaction plant. So as not to waste precious gas. Then the tanker ships can scrape their way through the newly dredged Great Barrier Reef. Our energy policy is in good hands.

  12. In panic mode go back to what you first thought of. With a state election looming the large wind farm on Yorke Peninsula has been undisapproved.
    http://www.businessspectator.com.au/news/2014/2/13/wind-power/giant-sa-wind-farm-approved
    Previously the project was not approved now it is. Evidently most locals don’t want it as it’s too big. This time there is no mention of the proposal to burn hay as backup power. The similar sized King Island wind farm proposal will also need underwater cable but the developer says it’s not going ahead without the federal RET being extended. With election fever in SA all such doubts disappear. Maybe it’s the consolation prize for no solar thermal at Pt Augusta. Let’s hope unit cost estimates include the underwater transmission and novel backup.

    The link I gave previously suggests that about 500 MW or 15% of SA’s peak power demand of 3,300 MW on Thursday 16/1/14 came from wind, or 2,800 MW not from wind. That’s actually quite good for heatwave conditions representing over 40% of around 1,200 MW installed wind capacity since heatwaves are usually calm. Evidently SA politicians think more wind power wins votes while talk of pesky dispatchable power (most of the other 85%) is of no interest. SA politicians are light years away from even thinking about nuclear.

    1. Well, the Trans Atomic molten salt design is intended for thorium as well as uranium. But its neutron spectrum is unique: moderated with zirconium hydride to soften the spectrum enough to mitigate some materials issues, while still leaving enough fast neutrons to burn U238 and the trans-uranics. So while the design is capable of burning thorium, here in the United States it won’t need to burn even mined uranium for a very very long time — we’ve a millennia’s worth of SNF just being passed around as a political football that really does need a good home. 🙂

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