All megawatts are not equal

by Planning Engineer

Some of the Climate Etc. denizens have requested a post on the generation planning process to help them better understand cost issues surrounding the large scale addition and integration of renewable resources.

The major takeaway is that differing types of generating resources bring diverse sets of costs and benefits to the power system so that they cannot be compared solely based on a cost per Megawatt (MW) produced basis. As this post will conclude, it matters very much when energy is generated, where the energy comes from and how well it works to support the system. For large scale bulk projects, the average cost of solar and wind will need to be significantly below the average cost of conventional generation well before wind and solar can begin to approach general competitiveness on a cost basis.

Generation Planning 101

Traditional Generation Planning starts with a Load Duration Curve (LDC) as illustrated in the accompanying figure. The plot is made by sorting hourly load/demand levels from highest to lowest as you move across the graph from left to right. In the graph below the peak demand is just below 70,000 MWs and the minimum is above 20,000 MWs. It cannot be seen from the chart, but the highest values will occur during the peak daily hours concurrent with extreme temperatures. The lowest values usually occur at night during mild weather. Values from peak hours with mild weather and night hours with more extreme weather get mixed in the middle. The curve below is fairly typical for most large power systems. Energy is the most valuable during hours on the left side of the curve and the incremental costs generally decreases with lower load levels.

Slide1

A generation planner needs to make sure that there is enough generation capability on line to meet thepeak demand and provide for reserve margins under forecast growth conditions. The limited peak hours account for a significantly disproportionate share of power system costs.  The peak demand hour(s) on the left side of the curve drive the need for new generation. Once the need level is established, generation is selected to work with the existing system resources to provide for economics and reliable operation across all hours and load levels. The best resource mix will have a balance of baseload, intermediate and peaking generation resources. The balance is needed for the system to work effectively in the differing parts of the load duration curve. Typically baseload plants have higher fixed costs and lower incremental costs, so they are operated around the clock. Peaking resources typically cost less but have high incremental costs. If you don’t have to run them very often the extra incremental fuel costs are made up for by the savings in fixed costs. Intermediate plants take the middle ground. Generally it costs more per installed MW for a more efficient plant. The more a plant is expected to operate the more those dollars can be justified. For illustration purposes the chart below illustrates hypothetical cost distributions for potential peaking, intermediate and base load plants based on the percentage of the time they operate (capacity factor).

Slide2

The average cost per KWH varies for each resource type by capacity factor. In this hypothetical example it would not make sense to compare peaking, intermediate and baseload resources at any single specified capacity factor. It would make even less sense to compare their average costs when they areoperating at differing capacity factors.

Depending on the system they will supplement, any of the three might be the best choice. Put simply if you have a lot of low variable cost generation sitting idle, peakingresources will likely be justified. If high variable cost generation is running too frequently, your next additions should likely be baseload or intermediate. For this chart, if the new resource is going to run at less than 20% of its capability, a peaking plant will provide the best economics. If the plant needs to run full load around the clock, investing in baseload generation makes sense. At moderate levels of operation the intermediate resource provide better economics.

Traditionally generation was added to meet peak demand (left side of the load duration curve), but theresource type was selected to optimize energy costs across all hours of the curve in concert with existing generation mix.

The above tools give help us sort out options, but don’t have sufficient complexity to evaluate the multiple factors affecting economics over a generating plants life. After looking at the options with the above tools, the potential “best” generation additions are identified through detailed computer modelling. The models included system hourly loads, existing generation costs, fuel costs, operating limits and capabilities (ramp rates, heat rates…), maintenance, outages and so on extended out as muchas 30 years out into the future. This is done on an hourly basis across multiple scenarios varying factors such as fuel cost escalations, regulations changes, the availability to purchase or sell energy to other system and alternative growth scenarios. Generation resources are typically selected to operate the most economically with minimal risk across the range of scenarios judged most credible. The goal is to achieve reasonable costs, hedge risks and provide flexibility. The selected plants may not be the optimal choice in any given scenario, but rather the selected plants are “best” because they perform well across a diverse mix of potential scenarios.

Operating the System

As the future often doesn’t correspond to our best guesses, generation often does not operate as projected. Fuel costs change and the actual operation of plants may be much different from what was forecast. When dispatching plants, sunk costs are ignored and dispatch is driven by incremental costs.

Power systems operation can depart from planning expectations. For example, natural gas costs now are much lower than in many past forecast and costs associated with coal generation have risen above projected levels. Thus in many areas coal plants are functioning as intermediate plants, while combined cycle plants natural gas plants function as base load units. Alternative scenarios studied through planning models will mimic these sorts of transitions in future years as new resources are added and alternative fuel projections are modelled.

Providing Value to the System

Of prime importance is the ability of proposed resource is its ability to increase the system capacity so that peak load requirements can be met. Ideally you will increase the system capacity with resources that balance fixed costs and incremental costs in an appropriate manner for the system demands and existing resource mix. The value of any particular addition will be highly dependent on the existing resource mix in a given area. There are times and areas where baseload additions are needed and times and areas where peaking or intermediate generation is needed. Finally generation resources can add value through the provision of system services, such as load balancing, var support, inertia and frequency regulation.

Below is a sample table for various resource types highlighting the value they bring to a power system. Some of the characterizations are vague and most could be argued. As this is a “101” level positing, I’m not trying to resolve the issue of what resources are best, but rather setting up the framework for how they should be compared. Greater specificity would be warranted when looking at real choices for actual areas.   This is a conceptual presentation and for space reasons I limited my column selection to major drivers and factors which tend to be overlooked. However, the table below could be expanded to include an additional columns showing “fuel escalation risk” and “carbon impacts” which would highlight benefits of alternative generation. In the final analyses we need to consider all significant factors.

Slide3

Fitting Wind and Solar in with Traditional Generation Planning

The greatest challenges in fitting wind and solar resources within the traditional generation planning framework revolve around their limited ability to increase system capacity and provide support to meet system peak demand load levels.   Intermittent resources are not dependable on the left side of the load duration curve.

Various formulas and approaches have been taken for deriving a “firm” capability contribution based on the installed wind or solar capability. At the high end, solar resources with tracking capability can in some areas approach capacity values of 75% of installed capacity. Near the lower end ERCOT derates wind to 8.7% of installed capacity. For systems with a winter morning peak, solar may need to be derated to near 0.

Assuming an intermittent alternative where a 30% derate would provide sufficient assurances of on-peak availability you need you would need an installed capacity value more than 3 times as high as the target for conventional technology. Another alternative would be to use the target addition for the renewable resource and then add an additional 70% of the target value in backup combustion turbine resources. The savings from the low incremental cost wind and solar resources however, are not usuallysufficient to justify the large construction cost for so many additional MW of capability (but not on-peak capacity). The ability to serve peak load and increase system capacity has been essential for project justification in traditional planning justifications.

The next challenge in justifying solar and wind projects is that their intermittent operation cannot be concentrated in the left hand side of the load duration curve for maximal economic and reliability benefits. Comparing the average cost of wind to the average cost of another resource, ignores the fact that the other resource can generate almost exclusively as needed in the left most part (where displaced energy prices are the highest) of the load duration curve. Even when intermittent resources generate on the left side of the chart, they do not have the same value as other concurrently operating resources because the intermittent resources cannot be fully counted on as being dependable.

On the right side of the load duration curve intermittent generation can cause problems. While generally it is desirable to back down costly generation and replace it with renewable resources, that is not always the case. There are times when generators must be kept on-line to meet upcoming daily peaks or avoid costly shutdowns and startups. Operators struggle at times backing down plants to minimum operating levels to make sure they have enough capable resources for the coming daily peaks. Intermittent energy generated during these periods can impose negative costs on the system. It makes sense for renewables to operate when they are displacing more costly resources, but not when they are contributing to system problems. Such counter-productive generation however, works to lower the average cost for solar and wind.

Between Average Cost and Detailed Studies

For completeness I should mention that there are other methods to compare generation resources that are more sophisticated than average cost and less cumbersome than detailed area by area detailed analyses. Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) was developed to allow differing competing technologies to be more easily compared.   While LCOE is a better measure than average cost, it is vulnerable to serious criticism as to its appropriateness for comparing dispatchable and intermittent resources.

I’ll leave it to those readers who may be interested to investigate further. See the references via hyperlinks provided earlier and here, here, here and here. My perspective is that measures such as LCOE are flawed but may be suitable to encourage the consideration of options and drive study work.   However by themselves they can be misleading and do not give sufficient system specific guidance to support the adoption of programs, mandates or targets on their own. In any case the results of detailed modeling should be expected to be more accurate and appropriate.

Conclusions

Determining the value of various potential generating resources is significantly more complicated than comparing the costs of MW production by various technologies. Average cost comparisons can be very misleading.   Electricity value varies by time of day, whether it can be scheduled or not, how it ties to other resources and a host of factors which cannot be accounted for in “average cost” calculations. Itmatters very much when energy is generated, where the energy comes from and how well it works to support the system. The average cost of solar and wind will need to be significantly below the average cost of conventional generation well before wind and solar can begin to approach general competitiveness on a cost basis.

Traditional generation planning studies can and have been run with various future renewable scenarios.As opposed to comparing “average costs” these studies can provide reasonable expectations for system costs and performance. I do not know of any detailed studies (even with highly optimistic assumptions around renewables and pessimistic assumptions for conventional technology) showing competitive costs from the the large scale integration of today’s renewable resources into any US power system. To date, most such studies overwhelmingly show significantly higher costs associated with high penetration levels from wind or solar resources. (Please share if you know where I can find studies that show widespread intermittent penetration scenarios that have feasible cost differences.)

We need more dialogue on the true costs associated with increased renewables. When renewable resources are mandated and the detailed published studies only examine “compliant” alternatives and scenarios, the true “extra” costs of renewables will be hidden.   Without proper detailed alternative studies, we can’t really begin to estimate the costs of a transition to renewables. Projections, based on average costs, that suggest we can transition to renewables at reasonable costs are worthless if they do not address the many ways in which MWs are not equal.

JC note:  Planning Engineer has posted two prior essays at Climate Etc.

As with all guest posts, please keep your comments relevant and civil.

409 responses to “All megawatts are not equal

  1. Great title. I haven’t read the post yet. Last week the Australian Senate voted (barely) to establish a ‘Select Committee on Wind Turbines’. Submissions close 27 February and Committee delivers its final report by June 2015.

    This is a fantastic opportunity to make a submission that could be influential globally. I encourage all interested to do so.

    • Thanks to Judith;’s influence on me, I with some others are focusing on the credibility (uncertainty) of the estimates of emissions avoided by wind power. We know from other studies, such as Ireland, ERCOT and a multi state study for the US, that the effectiveness of wind at reducing emissions is much lower than claimed, and it declines as the proportion of wind generation increases. In Ireland in 2011, wind was just 53% effective at reducing emissions.

      Unfortunately, Australia does not have the detailed emissions data needed to do a thorough study like Ireland and USA. Therefore, what I want to do is to try to define the uncertainty in the estimates of emissions avoided by wind generation.

      If anyone would like to have a go at this, independently and make a submission, let me know here and I’ll post relevant links to the publicly available data.

    • Empirical studies shows wind power is less effective at reducing CO2 emissions than commonly claimed. Here are three:

      example of some relevant publications:

      Joseph Wheatley (2013), ‘Quantifying CO2 emissions from Wind Power’
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421513007829
      Free. pre-submission version (2012) of ‘Quantifying CO2 emissions from Wind Power: Ireland’
      http://docs.wind-watch.org/Wheatley-Ireland-CO2.pdf

      Daniel T. Kaffine, Brannin J. McBee, Jozef Lieskovsky (2013). ‘Emissions Savings from Wind Power Generation in Texas’
      http://www.iaee.org/en/publications/ejarticle.aspx?id=2509

      Daniel T. Kaffine, Brannin J. McBee, Jozef Lieskovsky (2012). ‘Emissions savings from wind power generation: Evidence from Texas, California and the Upper Midwest’
      http://econbus.mines.edu/working-papers/wp201203.pdf

      • The link below indicates how the emissions abatement effectiveness of wind power reduces as the proportion electricity supplied by wind increases. It is a somewhat out of date now, and overstates the rate that the effectiveness declines, but is still useful for gaining some appreciation of this effect:

        CO2 avoidance cost with wind energy in Australia and carbon price implications (by Peter Lang)
        http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/05/21/co2-avoidance-cost-wind/

      • In the 1990s I worked on a systems dynamic model to perform Arctic system ship navigation simulations. I wrote the code for the first model and later we created a company consortium to finance a sturdier computer program. When I was working on this problem I sketched the flow charts and data requirements for a second generation version. I believe this was shared with our engineering consultants and they committed to work on a generic version. I think the logic we used would be very useful for electric grid and power generation design. But it needs a lot of data. In our case it became impractical to launch ice expeditions to gather the data we needed, so that whole effort was shut down.

    • “Great title”.
      Might not
      “Some megawatts are more equal than others”
      have been a bit better?

  2. Put to the test in the real world it is interesting to see this interesting case study, especially given that there is an equal access to the technologies involved (where power is oftentimes measured in kW): the EU subsidized diesel fuel to increase its use in for automobiles whereas the US and California subsidize battery-driven automobiles, going so far as giving special privileges, such as access to special diamond lanes on crowded freeways and tax credits to millionaires who purchase $100K Teslas.

    • The EU did not subsidise Diesel
      Some countries in the EU reduced tax on Diesel relative to Gasoline for a short while.

      • The momentum of long-standing preferential conduct by the state will not easily be turned around as the recent European Commission’s proposal to harmonize fuel excise duties has revealed, yet not only private customers’ inertia is at stake. Small Member States’ budgets accustomed to reap wind-fall profits from the so-called ‘fuel tourism’ could not easily give up preferential diesel fuel policies. It will have to be seen whether imbalances in the world’s fuel markets and more competitive powertrain strategies of other global players might in the end show European carmakers the way forward

        The above is from a study by Cames and Helmer in Environmental Sciences Europe 2013. Even as current as the paper is, these authors are amazingly unaware of DEF technology (i.e., a relatively inexpensive solution comprised of 32.5% high-purity urea and 67.5% deionized water that is injected into the exhaust to eliminate NOx emissions).

    • “the EU subsidized diesel fuel to increase its use in for automobiles”

      There is a considerable difference between a reduction in tax and a subsidy.

      How many times has this to be explained?

      • All selective tax legislation that is intended by government to benefit particular people or industries is a subsidy, aka, loophole.

      • Wagathon is correct here. A selective tax preference is an effective subsidy in economic terms and is normally treated that way in economic analyses. It is the selectivity of a tax or benefit difference that makes it a subsidy, not its size or whether it comes from a “discount” on taxes or a direct cash payment or even a lower-than-market interest rate on a loan.

        This issue comes up repeatedly in comment threads, so perhaps we need to call it Subsidy Fact #1 to save time.

      • Even patent protection is a subsidy, of sorts.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        Oh I know, the taxed money is money you once had, whereas the subsidy is money others once had. This may seem like an important distinction, but it’s not. If not for depletion allowances the public’s taxes could be lower, so in effect my allowance is giving me money others once had too.

    • I saw a Tesla getting a free charge and a convenient parking space the other day. It must be nice.

  3. While I found the table quite interesting, I have a question: why are batteries and solar listed as “No” under frequency control? Both can certainly provide frequency control; is it just that they are not being used for that purpose now?

    • Planning Engineer

      Frequency control is used to match generation to load in real time. I don’t know how PV solar could be set up To function that way (unless a portion of the energy output could be diverted from the grid so it could ramp up or down in real time. That does not seem like it could be practical). If I’m missing something here, please let me know.

      I don’t know that battery storage is expected to be used for frequency control in any applications – but perhaps so. If you don’t have conventional units to do that job, battery storage would be a candidate to take it over.

      Here’s some info on frequency control. – http://texasre.org/CPDL/Frequency%20Control_operations%20seminar%20%282%29.pdf

      • Planning Engineer

        Short answer is, yes I chose no because they are not used that way now, but you made me think.

      • As I understand it, with frequency control a power source pushes against the phase of the grid. It’s a very effective way to extract power from a physical generator rotating at a constant speed. Most of the wind generators in my area work that way; they all rotate synchronously.

        The effective inertia of the grid has to be quite large in order for those generators not to affect the frequency, which (it turns out) is used in some applications. And there my knowledge runs out. It just seems to me that a circuit could be designed to transfer power to a grid in a manner directly analogous to the generator pushing against the phase. And the solar/battery power has the potential to keep the grid frequency much more precise…

      • Planning Engineer

        Fizzymagic – Load Frequncy Control (LFC) is tied to automatic generation control (AGC) whereby you have feedback between load and generation levels. We use phase a few different ways when talking about the power system (bulk power systems are three phase generation and transmission systems – each 120 degrees apart, plus phase refers to voltage and current lags, and also refers to the relative generating cycles of one unit related to the others). I’m not sure what is meant by “phase of the grid” but I could be misinterpreting or overlooking something.

        In any case I don’t want to be dogmatic about what’s the “correct” characteristic description for any cell. Opinions may vary and it’s good to discuss. Plus technology may change and so might the characteriizations over time. Wind can provide a sort of pseudo inertia and (also some form of Frequncy control). But it’s not the same, it’s not automatic and it comes with extra costs.

      • When the load exceeds the supply, frequency drops. Spinning devices help automatically in smoothing the drop as generators release part of their rotational kinetic energy as electrical power. Similarly electric motors take less power from the net during the time their speed goes down. These effects help for a very short time. Beyond that something else must be done to either increase generation or reduce load.

        The reduced frequency is a signal for units dedicated to perform frequency control. These units are often generators operating below their maximum (short term) capacity. Such units can increase their power most rapidly. Another alternative is a hydropower station equipped with an appropriate regulator. Dispatchable loads are a further possibility.

        Batteries are a very natural source for the additional power needed to maintain frequency. In a sense we could count every UPS device as performing that task for the devices it’s supplying, but the technical details are different for batteries that support the power system..

        As Fizzymagic wrote, generators and also electric motors operate typically automatically synchronized to the grid frequency. Both have a small phase difference, generators are a little ahead and motors a little behind the grid. That difference reacts automatically to the torque on the axis of the device increasing, when the torque is increased.

  4. Is nuclear power intrinsically only for base load of can it function as intermediate generation?

    • It can function as intermediate generation, but with current designs is more expensive.

      The 1600 MW European EPR is designed to ramp at 5% per minute, which is 80 MW per minute.

      • Curious George

        If I remember correctly the problem with nuclear is not the ramp up but the ramp down. In a steady generation regime the products of a fission (many of which trap neutrons) are balanced by an ongoing chain reaction. Shut the reactor down fast, and the core becomes “poisoned” by these products, and you may be unable to start a chain reaction again for quite a while.

      • The EPR ramp rate I gave is for both up and down. The French ramping of nuclear the linked chart shows has been going on for the life of the plants. Nuclear subs stop and start whenever they want to.

      • Curious George

        Peter, thank you. I did not know that. Still, it is only between 60 and 100% of nominal power, limiting an intermediate generation capability.

      • No. Not limiting intermediate generating capacity. But yes to limiting peak generating capacity. But by the time any nation wants to use nuclear for either intermediate or peak capacity, we’ll be designing and building the type to do that job (like the ones that have been powering subs for nearly 60 years). That’s many decades away

      • I think you are referring to xenon poisoning. You can Google it. It is why the nuclear plant I worked at was essentially a base load plant.

    • Planning Engineer

      Peter you are a better expert here than me, so please correct me if I go astray. Inthe US nuclear is run exclusively as base load. Once nuclear is up and running, then incremental costs are so low that you want to keep it at maximum output. It’s not a stretch to envision that Nuclear plants “could” operate between their minimum and maximum output capabilities to provide load following and frequency control. Some intermediate plants shut down at night and restart the next day. I don’t see nuclear plants being used that way in my lifetime.

    • http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/111111111/15308/1/reqno_jrc60700_ldna24583enc.pdf%5B1%5D.pdf
      http://www.templar.co.uk/downloads/0203_Pouret_Nuttall.pdf

      Most nuclear power plants can load follow in the 60%-100% power range.
      Some plants can do more, some of the graphite and older technologies can do less.

      The problem is that you aren’t saving anything. The PWR nuclear power plant running at 50% costs just as much per hour (if not more) than the PWR running at 100%. The fixed cost (80% of plant operation) still has to be paid off, the O&M (mostly the staff) is as bad or worse, and the fuel cost (about 5% of plant operating cost) doesn’t change much.

      So producing power at 50% costs twice as much per kilowatt as power produced at 100%.

      http://www.energy-tech.com/article.cfm?id=32781
      There is additional down time that in the European experience was about 2%, Thermal cycling a large generating facility stresses everything including the turbines and generators. The huge size of these components means speed change generates huge rotational torques not encountered in steady state operation.

      There is additional O&M since you have to do activities like tinker with the chemistry. Since the staff is on-site anyway this cost doesn’t seem to be tracked.

      • Curious George

        The fuel should last twice as long at a 50% power, so there should be some savings – definitely less than 50%.

      • Huh?

        1. The fuel fraction of cost (5%) for nuclear reactors is so small that the 2% increase in downtime (and the cost of the repairs) would far exceed any potential savings.

        2. These are stats for nuclear reactors load following for 100 hours a year or less. There are 8760 hours in a year so talk of fuel savings period is a little silly.

      • Curious George

        You are very knowledgeable .. can you please tell me how much down time it takes to change spent fuel?

      • Curious George | December 12, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
        You are very knowledgeable .. can you please tell me how much down time it takes to change spent fuel?

        This is a “how high is up” sort of question. CANDU and some other reactor types refuel on the fly.

        A PWR/BWR can’t do that because the core is in a pressure vessel (at about the pressure of a scuba tank in normal operation).

        Comanche Peak Nuclear takes 3 weeks every 18 months. They do a lot of their preventative maintenance during the shutdown. The standard PWR refueling cycle is 1/3 of the core every 18 months.

        The NRC thinks a PWR takes 20-30 days to refuel. The plant has to be in cold shutdown prior to start of work, for one PWR (see below) the work takes 266 hours (1368 man-hours) to complete, so about 21 days is reasonable.

        Here is the owners manual for a PWR if you are really interested. It has time estimates for the reload maintenance activities:
        http://www4.ncsu.edu/~doster/NE405/Manuals/PWR_Manual.pdf

      • PA,

        I second the comment you Are very knowledgeable. I really appreciate your contributions.

        You said:

        So producing power at 50% costs twice as much per kilowatt as power produced at 100%.

        I agree that it makes no sense to use the current nuclear designs for intermediate load following. There are cheaper ways to do it.

        However, I think your quote is not a strong reason why not. Gas turbines averaging 10% capacity factor are also very high cost per MWh. The Australian Government AETA report, Table 5.2.6, summarises the projected LCOE figures. Central estimate for nuclear is $98/MWh and OCGT at 10% capacity factor and no carbon price is $211/MWh. So nuclear at double the LCOE is cheaper than OCGT at 10% CF. (Australia’s gas prices are higher than US and heading up, they’re projected to double or triple in the next few years.)

    • It could but there are also some pragmatic considerations…nuclear units have many more automatic trip features than their fossil counterparts – even on the non-nuclear (turbine) side of the plant. But this is good – the emphasis is on nuclear safety, protecting the core. But it also means you have a little more risk of losing the unit when ramping up or down on a nuke. What might be an alarm on a coal burner might trip the turbine on a nuke and if you’re anywhere near full power, a turbine trip results in an automatic SCRAM on the GE plants.

      Of course, you can also argue that the larger the unit (regardless of fuel source) the less you want to use it for load following. The load dispatcher really hates to see a large unit go off-line unexpectedly.

      PS. Thanks for the article Planning Engineer – very interesting and informative.

      • Steve,

        You clearly know much more about the details of the operation of nuclear plants than I do. Can you comment on

        1. whether the higher probability of trips with a nuclear than a coal unit of similar size is because of engineering safety due to regulatory ratcheting over the past 50 years?

        2. Would the risk be as great in the passively safe SMR’s and Gen IV designs?

        3. Why is this a problem with land based NPP’s bu apparently is near zero risk for submarines? They couldn’t possible have that risk given they have to be able to run away and hide from a threat.

  5. We have those that can provide the baseload and those that can follow the load. Then we have wind and solar that can do neither. I suppose it’s like staffing a diner that has variable traffic. Some employees agree to work an 8 shift, and others to work a peak demand 3 hour shift. Then we have employees that show up and leave at random. We know which employees to keep at the diner.

    • May I suggest you target customers who are willing to wait for several hours until a waiter shows up? You could feed them self serve pop corn and beer while they are waiting.

      • I worked in a Restaurant that did such a thing. During peak demand unseated customers could wait in the bar. They could order appetizers only there. Which is another subject, paying customers to wait could be more efficient than using more batteries to help level the load. I suppose whatever happens, customization of electricity supply times should be a growth sector.

  6. The average cost of solar and wind will need to be significantly below the average cost of conventional generation well before wind and solar can begin to approach general competitiveness on a cost basis.

    So if fossil fuels incorporated all of the external costs relative to renewables, how would that change things?

    • Many external costs are estimated ones or even ones people don’t agree on (like future climate damage). And renewables have a few of their own externalities, again that people don’t agree on and the costs would be estimates for those as well.

    • “In a new study, The Positive Externalities of Carbon Dioxide, Idso estimates that rising CO2 concentrations boosted global crop production by $3.2 trillion during 1961-2011, and will increase output by another $9.8 trillion between now and 2050.” – http://www.globalwarming.org/2013/10/22/social-cost-of-carbon-do-the-monetary-benefits-of-co2-emissions-outweigh-the-costs/ Admittedly a skeptical leaning quote.

    • Planning Engineer

      Joseph – Bill and Ragnaar bring up good points. I don’t know that we can ever incorporate “all” of the external costs. I don’t think it’s humanly possible to identify many of them, understand most of the them, let alone agree on a small subset of them.

      That said – You can and we do incorporate some external costs within planning models. My opinion is that when you incorporate such external costs (i.e. high carbon penalties for example) at levels that most people could consider reasonable, wind and solar still do not “approach general competitiveness on a cost basis.” Of course if the penalties are ratched up high enough you can generate any results you want. However at extremely high penalty values, you have to ask if there are their better (more economic and efficient ways) to achieve carbon reduction. My opinion (non-expert) is at those high penalty levels there are better ways to reduce carbon. If there were not better options – I don’t think we would have seen carbon markets fail in the ways that they did.

      • If the past is any indication the costs should drop for both solar and wind.
        (See my post below too)

        See ():

        https://handlemanpost.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/up-to-date-cost-curves-for-batteries-solar-and-wind/

      • Planning Engineer

        Joseph – I’d like to see those concrete numbers as well. I have not been in the right place or time to ever be part of a study that found that renewables could be justified based on a carbon tax or anything similar. From my memory the all the studies I’ve seen (like studies for the proposed BTU tax under Bill Clinton, and scenarios with large SO2 emission costs) may have raised overall costs a lot but as far as impacts just shifted generation marginally between conventional technologies. Overall new alternative technologies could not be justified because the fixed cost deltas are large relative to the minimal capacity benefits and the limited energy savings from displacements. From my experience (and someone may have a much better experience and greater understanding and I would defer to them) I think if you took the maximum numbers projected for carbon prices under the market scenarios and added a good margin and used those to determine penalties – you could not find many places that renewables would win out. I’m no expert on markets, but I understood those could not support anything like the prices projected.

        I think the burden of is on those who would change how we are doing things in order to get a carbon benefit to provide some idea of the costs they would impose and would not impose. Utilities should not spend incredible sums under mandates to achieve something that will not be measured. Reasonably the costs incurred should have some relation to what carbon offsets might be or the cost of reduction under other activities that could be regulated.

      • PE –

        => “You can and we do incorporate some external costs within planning models.”

        You say that you (plural) do incorporate some external costs. Which costs would those be?

        ==> “My opinion is that when you incorporate such external costs (i.e. high carbon penalties for example) at levels that most people could consider reasonable, wind and solar still do not “approach general competitiveness on a cost basis.” ”

        What are the numbers you’re basing that opinion on?

      • PE –

        ==> “Utilities should not spend incredible sums under mandates to achieve something that will not be measured. ”

        How does that apply to your evaluation of the environmental costs of fossil fuels? How about the geo-political costs of keeping fossil fuels flowing? How about the health costs associated with fossil fuels?

        Aren’t we, as a society, effectively spending incredible sums to achieve something (energy derived from fossil fuels) w/o measuring the societal costs?

        It’s one thing to say that you don’t know what a full cost accounting would tell us. It’s another to reach a conclusion about the relative cost/benefits of different energy sources without having numbers on which to base that conclusion. Wouldn’t you agree?

      • Joshua,

        I think you pose great questions. So, seriously, we already have a “system” in place based on fossil fuels. Those costs should be relatively readily available and I’d be interested. Now, though, we’re “injecting” a new set of technology with some known issues as detailed by PE. Do we have the appropriate documentation to show this new tech is an improvement based on “societal” costs vs CO2 mitigation?

      • Danny –

        ==> “Those costs should be relatively readily available and I’d be interested. ”

        I’ve been asking for numbers for a long time. I have yet to see anyone provide them. A lot of people say that a full cost accounting is too difficult. Well, OK – I have no doubt that it is a highly complex task that will never account for all uncertainties. Yet we can see a great many people participating in these discussions (of different opinions) who have a high degree of certainty about the relative net cost/benefit ratio of different sources of energy. And what it particularly amusing is that quite often, their high degree of certainty is based on unvalidated and unverified (economic) models.

        Interesting, IMO.

        S

      • Dueling models?

        If we’re already invested societally in fossil fuels, does it make sense to introduce new tech (renewables) , to the extent we discussing, w/o knowing it’s “societal” cost also? We could be making a bad thing worse, could we not?

        I’m for continued research in to renewables (fossil’s won’t last forever), but not sure we’re ready financially (for more grid investment) at this time to go truly large scale.

      • Planning Engineer

        I meant to say what Danny said about who has the the burden of developing the numbers and I agree with him there.

        You asked for concrete numbers. Here is a link that has considerable concrete data of the sort you seek. http://eipconline.com/Phase_II_Documents.html

        It comes from massive DOE funded study, that I think would have received considerable publicity had the findings been more supportive towards renewables. This study had considerable input from all stakeholders. I don’t think they do an excellent job summarizing the and drawing out the implications of the findings, that too may be because they do not support renewables. Bu

      • PE –

        ==> “I meant to say what Danny said about who has the the burden of developing the numbers and I agree with him there.”

        I am generally unimpressed with “burden of proof” forms of argumentation. The generally seem to me to be CYA for the failure to make a strong argument.

        I don’t see why those who are proponents of status quo don’t have a burden of proof to show why there are benefits that outweigh the social costs of fossil fuels, which are quite large, and some of which would not be as large or even present at all in renewable-derived energy.

        Why don’t you have a burden of proof if you’re going to foul my environment, cause negative health impact to me, my family, and my society, and cost me tax dollars to keep your preferred choice of energy flowing?

        Once again, if you don’t have an answer to these questions I can understand. They’re difficult questions. But I think that ducking the questions doesn’t cut the mustard, and neither does certainty as to the answers if you don’t have supporting evidence.

      • I’m sorry, but is this: “I am generally unimpressed with “burden of proof” forms of argumentation. The generally seem to me to be CYA for the failure to make a strong argument.” the reasoning behind deciding to force renewables in to the system at a higher “normalized” cost per KWh? Isn’t that what’s happening? It’s being done w/o strong argument? Or is CO2 “might” cause problems so let’s raise our costs considered a strong argument? Or renewables MIGHT (or not) be more emissions efficient so let’s replace a known system with known emissions.

        What’s the big rush? What is your perceived “ideal” level of renewables percentage wise today based on what’s been offered here? (seems if it’s 30% wind and wind can deliver only 30% of power that’s a ceiling).

      • Severin Borenstein has also pointed out that current coal prices are well above marginal production cost, making the mountain for alternatives to climb even higher, as carbon taxes and regulations will drive coal prices down. (A good example of the theory of the second best in welfare economics, by the way, where the welfare inefficiency of today’s market power in coal production, which leads to below-competitive levels of output, is partly cancelled by the negative externalities of coal, which make those lower levels closer to the theoretical optimum.)

      • Planning Engineer

        Joshua – Let me clarify. I believe the regulated utility Industry has done a good job of justifying the status quo. I think there has been a good balancing of benefits and consequences. I believe energy is provided in an economic, reliable and environmentally responsible manner. The industry has been under scrutiny and required to meet the burden of proof. If alternative programs are proposed to do things in a radically different manner- it should not be the industries responsibility to take the at face value unless they can disprove them. An affirmative case should be made by those proposing the change. In actuality the burden is placed on the industry. But it a dialogue between us, I can remind you that the burden of proof properly lies with you.

      • PE,

        Don’t waste you time on Joshua. He’s a troll of the worst kind. He invariably diverts good threads to argue about his ideologically driven motivated reasoning. His whole purpose in life seems to bate Judith and others. I’d suggest your time can be much better spending providing valuable information to those who are seeking to learn rather than those like Max_OK and Joshua who simply want to disrupt.

      • Danny –

        ==> “What’s the big rush? ”

        An odd question, given what I’ve written. I haven’t suggested that there’s a rush.

        I have repeatedly asked basically the same basic question: In the face of large uncertainties, on what evidence are people basing their certain conclusions? We know that there are large external costs to the status quo. We know that there are also large external benefits. But do we know the ratio? If not, then on what basis are people justifying their uncertainty? On what basis should there be a confident rejection of alternative pathways that are absent certain large costs if we can’t evaluate the full account of their relative costs and benefits?

        This seems to me like a basic matter of decision-making in the face of uncertainty. Decision-making in the face of uncertainty is complex, and not something that comes easily to humans. But despite the complexity, I don’t think that an appropriate path for that endeavor is to duck the large uncertainties. If you think you know the answer, as to the relative costs and benefits, then, IMO, make your case, but in so doing you have to account for externalities. If you think that you can’t account for the uncertainties, then, IMO, you should acknowledge that you don’t know the answer, not assert an answer by avoiding what it is that you don’t know.

        What is your perceived “ideal” level of renewables percentage wise today based on what’s been offered here? (seems if it’s 30% wind and wind can deliver only 30% of power that’s a ceiling).”

      • Hi Joshua,

        “What’s the big rush?” The reason I posed this is it’s coming across to me that we’re moving forward with implementation of huge solar/wind farms w/o all the information in hand to the positive, and with a number of negatives that are known. I’m trying to get a feel for the ingrained fossil fuel based system vs. interjecting renewables based on presumed benefits that may be inaccurate.

        Sometimes we must make decisions with “uncertainties” included in the decision making process, but sometimes we don’t have to make those decisions “today” and yet we are. So if we’re moving the decision making process forward w/o all that information in hand I’m wondering “why the hurry”.

        My impression is you are suggesting moving forward with those uncertainties “today” is the appropriate response, so I’m just trying to get a feel as to the reasoning behind that thought process. Having the fossil fuel industry provide due diligence to justify continuation of their method of energy supply seems to have already been done as they are the current method of choice (market forces). Interjecting alternative methods should (from my view) then be charged with the burden of proof that what they (renewables) are replacing is of less value economically or socially otherwise we’re just incorporating further “uncertainty”. Any suggested modification of that thinking is appreciated. We already know that solar and wind are less than adequate for generation when the suns not shining or wind’s not blowing so this leads me to consider “external” reasons (CO2 reduction?) as a “benefit” and I’m not comfortable (yet) that that is needed and therefore may not truly be a benefit.

      • PE –

        ==> “Joshua – Let me clarify. I believe the regulated utility Industry has done a good job of justifying the status quo.”

        As an educator, I am in an “industry” where there are a lot of valid questions as to the cost/benefit ratio. Many of those questions are closely linked to a large variety of external costs and external benefits.

        I would not be satisfied with saying that I believe that my “industry” has done a good job of justifying the status quo, without also presenting arguments as to what I feel is a justified accounting for the external costs and benefits.

        If challenged to evaluating alternative educational pathways, I never say that it is someone else’s burden to prove the status quo insufficient before evaluating alternative pathways. IMO, that wouldn’t make any sense. AFAIC, the only justifiable response would be for me to do the best job I can to do a full cost accounting of the full range of relative costs and benefits of the different pathways, including external costs and benefits – with a full understanding of the enormous complexity to that task in a real world context (where I’d have to try to control for parenting styles or economic status or cultural norms or resources available or target ages or the Hawthorne effect, or observer bias, the difficulties of sampling, etc., etc., etc.).

        ==> “The industry has been under scrutiny and required to meet the burden of proof. ”

        I fail to see how you can justify that argument.

        ==> “An affirmative case should be made by those proposing the change.”

        Apparently, you and I have a different take on the notion of “burden of proof.” So be it.

      • Heh –

        Lest I be guilty of reasoning like Brandon, I should do a better job with this:

        I never say that it is someone else’s burden to prove the status quo insufficient before evaluating alternative pathways. IMO, that wouldn’t make any sense.

        What I mean is that it wouldn’t be valid for me to argue that (A) the status quo has been justified if I haven’t at least (B) presented an argument that accounts, or tries fully to account, for external costs and benefits. I don’t see how one could validly claim A if the condition of B has not been met.

        It wouldn’t make sense to me to present such reasoning. I’m not saying that your argument doesn’t make sense. I understand the “sense” of your argument. I happen to disagree with your opinion.

      • Joshua, the problem can be simplified such that PE’s point is validated. There is a study on wind, I believe it was Wyoming, that indicated that above 7% penetration resulted in exponential increase in the cost of wind generation. A large part of the problem was because we have the electric system we have. This is why activists are correct when they point out that allowing a mine or choosing a natural gas electric generation unit commits us, approximately, for another 30 years.

        For planning, incremental costs are used. It is in these incremental cost that wind and solar lose out, before externalities are added in. The problem with externalities is as PE indicated, one can just raise the externality to whatever is wished due to inclusion, exclusion, projection of harm, or projection of net good.

        The real worth of the study is that it explored what was required to make wind work. The software did not exist, the hardware did not exist, and it required a population willing to not to have electricity when it was needed most. In fact, the assumption was that societies work, eating, and energy use would be changed. A large assumption to say the least.

      • JFP –

        Hey, how’s it going?

        ==> “The problem with externalities is as PE indicated, one can just raise the externality to whatever is wished due to inclusion, exclusion, projection of harm, or projection of net good.”

        Yes, externalities are problematic. But without addressing them, I can’t agree that PE’s point has been validated.

      • Danny –

        “The reason I posed this is it’s coming across to me that we’re moving forward with implementation of huge solar/wind farms w/o all the information in hand to the positive, and with a number of negatives that are known.

        But the same applies with continuing with the status quo.

        ==> “Sometimes we must make decisions with “uncertainties” included in the decision making process, but sometimes we don’t have to make those decisions “today” and yet we are.”

        My maintaining the status quo, and thereby rejecting pathways that directly reduce significant existing negative externalities, we are making a decision in the face of uncertainty. We can’t just conclude that by ducking questions related to the existing status quo we aren’t making a decision. We are deciding to duck.

        ==> “So if we’re moving the decision making process forward w/o all that information in hand I’m wondering “why the hurry”.

        Why the hurry to maintain the status quo – even though you can’t tell me whether the negative externalities of the existing paradigm are significantly greater than the negative externalities?

        ==> “My impression is you are suggesting moving forward with those uncertainties “today” is the appropriate response, ”

        Once again, that isn’t what I”m saying.

        ==> ” Having the fossil fuel industry provide due diligence to justify continuation of their method of energy supply seems to have already been done as they are the current method of choice (market forces). ”

        I disagree. Market forces do not require that the negative externalities of the current paradigm of energy supply be reflected in the prices.

        ==> “Interjecting alternative methods should (from my view) then be charged with the burden of proof that what they (renewables) are replacing is of less value economically or socially otherwise we’re just incorporating further “uncertainty”.”

        Once again, I think that there is not “burden of proof” here, or perhaps that both sides of the debate have one. I guess like with PE, this is an unresolvable difference in opinion.

        == “We already know that solar and wind are less than adequate for generation when the suns not shining or wind’s not blowing so this leads me to consider “external” reasons (CO2 reduction?) as a “benefit” and I’m not comfortable (yet) that that is needed and therefore may not truly be a benefit.”

        My point is not that I am “comfortable” with large-scale adoption of alternative energy supply pathways. My point is that I don’t understand why someone who can’t describe for me the existing cost/balance ratio of existing supply pathways would be “comfortable” with the status quo. My point is that seeking “comfort” in this debate is a fool’s errand. There is no “comfortable” solution when you’re making decisions in the face of these kinds of uncertainties. If you’re “comfortable,” IMO, it’s most likely because you’re making invalid compromises.

      • Going ok. Just very busy. Our site is undergoing a $65 million plant expansion. So, time is limited.

        Joshua, you seem to have forgotten that externalities are counter factuals. We do not have a way of measuring them. My point is that they help no one. They are not scientific nor even accounting. They are political. PE’s has been discussing practical applications. You are engaged in a conversation that does not have bearing on what he has said except as an objection along the lines that obstructionists have with the temperature adjustments that have to be made. The way that engineers and accountants have computed the cost is that the estimates are demonstrable. Externality costs cannot not be demonstrated in the same sense.

      • JFP –

        ==> “Joshua, you seem to have forgotten that externalities are counter factuals.”

        I haven’t forgotten that, because I’ve never thought about it really. It’s an interesting question.

        The health impact from particulate matter in our atmosphere is not a counterfactual. It isn’t an description of what we would have had things been different. Same for many other externalities related to fossil fuels as an energy source. But sure, to make sense of what the externalities mean, they have to be grounded in the context of what would the health impacts have been had we not introduced particulate matter into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.

        Interesting question. For this limited brain, a bit of a paradox,.

        ==> “We do not have a way of measuring them.”

        Not to get into the full-on banality of the measurement vs. estimation debate, we have no way of measuring anything perfectly. So I’m not sure what you’re going for there. We have (imperfect) ways of trying to estimate their magnitude.

        ==> ” My point is that they help no one

        ??? Estimating the health impact of particulate matter as the result of burning coal helps no one? I”m not following you here.

        ==> “They are political. PE’s has been discussing practical applications”

        I don’t accept your delineation of what is and isn’t “political.” This is all politics. If you doubt it, then just look at how much association there is between political world view and views on these issues. It ain’t just coincidence, John. I’m not arguing a specific causality – but I don’t accept your binary delineation.

        ==> ” You are engaged in a conversation that does not have bearing on what he has said except as an objection along the lines that obstructionists have with the temperature adjustments that have to be made.

        Here are the statements that I reacted to initially:

        “You can and we do incorporate some external costs within planning models.”

        and

        “My opinion is that when you incorporate such external costs (i.e. high carbon penalties for example) at levels that most people could consider reasonable, wind and solar still do not “approach general competitiveness on a cost basis.” ”

        please review those comments of his, and reconsider this:

        ==> “The way that engineers and accountants have computed the cost is that the estimates are demonstrable. Externality costs cannot not be demonstrated in the same sense.”

      • Danny asked:

        … we already have a “system” in place based on fossil fuels. Those costs should be relatively readily available and I’d be interested. Now, though, we’re “injecting” a new set of technology with some known issues as detailed by PE. Do we have the appropriate documentation to show this new tech is an improvement based on “societal” costs vs CO2 mitigation?

        One way to estimate the external cost of attempting to force society to implement renewables is the risk of failure (where risk is consequence times probability).

        Risk RE cannot achieve claimed CO2 savings by 2050

        Estimate the risk renewable energy technologies, that meet requirements, will not be available by 2050 to provide 50% of electricity economically.

        Nuclear – already proven it can do it (France for past 30 years), so say 5% probability it cannot in 2050.

        Renewables – not demonstrated they can do the job, EROI suggests they cannot do the job, many practitioners say they cannot; therefore, assume 90% probability they will not.

        Consequence = Social Cost of Carbon of the emissions not avoided by the technologies. Assume the projected carbon price is equivalent to SCC. Weighted average carbon price (from Australian Treasury 2013 projections) is $60/tonne. Average projected Australian emissions intensity (for delivered electricity) is about $1t/MWh. Therefore, average carbon cost would be about $60/MWh.

        Risk of renewables will not be able to do the job = $60/MWh x 90% = $54/MWh

      • JFP –

        I’ll also add this quote from PE, for you to consider in light of your comment:

        ==>…”your point should seem obvious, that huge gaps will not be swayed by vague and distant externalities”

        So PE is saying that he can estimate the externalities, and know their impact on the cost/benefit analysis. In fact, he says, it is obvious.

      • Joshua, an example of why I say they aren’t measureable. Take the particulate matter emitted that causes asthma and other problems in large amounts. What can’t be said is how much that individual, who suffered, benefited from the goods and services in the manner that we can compute the cost of energy, the cost of cleaning particulates, the medical cost of treatment, the amount of profit generated from the emission of the particulates. This has not been measured, and is argued it cannot be measured.

        Joshua this is where I was not clear. You state “But sure, to make sense of what the externalities mean, they have to be grounded in the context of what would the health impacts have been had we not introduced particulate matter into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.” This externality is just one, and as I show above, costs can be shown, but we do not measure externalities, and may not be able to give a “complete” enough picture. That is the basis of my comparison about temperatures. Assumption, not only to the amount, but to the worth, not only have to be made, these assumptions comprise a part of externalities not captured. They still exist. In fact one of the problems with particulates is that it cannot be shown, in almost all cases, that they caused the problem. Yet, the evidence is that the particulates do cause these problems at the extreme. But this is not where most humans live.

        You state “”It ain’t just coincidence, John. I’m not arguing a specific causality – but I don’t accept your binary delineation.”” My apologies, I was using it as a comparison to illuminate, not as an absolute. Just as I assume your statement that “”I don’t accept your delineation of what is and isn’t “political.” This is all politics. If you doubt it, then just look at how much association there is between political world view and views on these issues”” is a comparison because the medical cost you quote can only be construed to be “political” as a derived position, and not a direct condition of a medical ailment.

        Your statement “”I don’t see why those who are proponents of status quo don’t have a burden of proof to show why there are benefits that outweigh the social costs of fossil fuels, which are quite large, and some of which would not be as large or even present at all in renewable-derived energy”” is what I am trying to address. Without accounting for the social benefits, many of which are diffuse and only measured in the most general sense, such as the benefit that cheap available electricity has had on medical advances, and general health, it is a unattainable requirement. I am not making the argument that a good number cannot be had without all knowledge, but rather that there is a limit to our knowledge.

        The other point, that seems to be missed, is that with the intermittency of renewable derived energy which requires fossil fuel or more expensive back-up, not only are not all mega watts equal, but there is a legitimate question as to whether renewable derived energy is not a net increase in CO2 emissions. The simplistic accounting that all have to use does not take into account the support of the manufacturing chain that is needed to develop, make, and sustain renewable derived energy, much less what is presently used for over and under production.

        I would just ask that if you would require a burden of proof, you require it for all. The research I did on the Wyoming and EU wind derived energy was that it appeared break even at best in CO2 reduction, but cost about 60% more for the same output at best scenario which is 7% penetration. The difference in my numbers and those put out by the EU study and the Wyoming study was to include the cost of non-existent software and hardware. Without these, the CO2 cost is much more for wind derived energy than fossil fuels due to economic loss of usable electric devices that cannot that the under or over voltage wind derived energy causes, or by putting the CO2 inefficiencies caused by ramping up and down, where they should be…on the wind derived source.

        I said “Externality costs cannot not be demonstrated in the same sense.” The rabbit hole PE opened up by a too general statement, I can’t defend. My point is a bit different, though I did understand the point he was trying to make…I believe. I disagree with PE in that some are well known and measurable, some are not. But in general, none are or can be addressed by the economic system.

      • JFP –

        ==> “Joshua, an example of why I say they aren’t measureable. Take the particulate matter emitted that causes asthma and other problems in large amounts. What can’t be said is how much that individual, who suffered, benefited from the goods and services in the manner that we can compute the cost of energy, the cost of cleaning particulates, the medical cost of treatment, the amount of profit generated from the emission of the particulates. This has not been measured, and is argued it cannot be measured.”

        Again, we come to whether something can be measured as compared to whether it can be estimated. As with relevant to w/r/t global temps, we can always argue that our estimates are not sufficiently accurate. What is the objective exclusion criterion for accuracy?

        If we just throw our hands up and say “It can’t be measured,” and then go on to project costs versus benefits ratios for various energy supply pathways, then we are assuming a net neutral or positive ratio for benefits versus costs for the status quo of fossil fuels for our energy supply. So then in making such an argument, you are essentially saying that you can make a valid estimate. But how can you say that we can’t estimate the cost verus benefit ratio of externalities and then say, with a sense of certainty, that there is a relatively higher benefits versus ratio of fossil fuels?

        Seems to me it is better to either (1) try to estimate the cost vs. benefits ratio of externalities or, (2) say that they can’t be measured and, accordingly, stick with the view that this is about decision-making in the face of uncertainty.

        ==> ” This externality is just one, and as I show above, costs can be shown, but we do not measure externalities, and may not be able to give a “complete” enough picture.”

        How do you determine what is “complete enough?”

        ==> “That is the basis of my comparison about temperatures. Assumption, not only to the amount, but to the worth, not only have to be made, these assumptions comprise a part of externalities not captured.”

        Well, that is my point. Assumptions are being made. Then how can you say that there is no evidence-based methodology for estimating?

        ==> ” Without accounting for the social benefits, many of which are diffuse and only measured in the most general sense, such as the benefit that cheap available electricity has had on medical advances, and general health, it is a unattainable requirement.”

        But I agree with this. The ratio of costs versus benefits is what I am focusing on.

        ==> “but rather that there is a limit to our knowledge.”

        There, again, we are in agreement.

        ==> “The other point, that seems to be missed, is that with the intermittency of renewable derived energy which requires fossil fuel or more expensive back-up, not only are not all mega watts equal, but there is a legitimate question as to whether renewable derived energy is not a net increase in CO2 emissions.”

        I accept all of that..

        ==> “The simplistic accounting that all have to use does not take into account the support of the manufacturing chain that is needed to develop, make, and sustain renewable derived energy, much less what is presently used for over and under production.”

        Of course.

        ==> “I would just ask that if you would require a burden of proof, you require it for all”

        Again, agreed. I thought I made that clear. It seems to me that both sides have a burden of proof. That is why I reject the argument that “your side has the burden of proof” – as I said above.

        ==> “The research I did on the Wyoming and EU wind derived energy was that it appeared break even at best in CO2 reduction, but cost about 60% more for the same output at best scenario which is 7% penetration. The difference in my numbers and those put out by the EU study and the Wyoming study was to include the cost of non-existent software and hardware. Without these, the CO2 cost is much more for wind derived energy than fossil fuels due to economic loss of usable electric devices that cannot that the under or over voltage wind derived energy causes, or by putting the CO2 inefficiencies caused by ramping up and down, where they should be…on the wind derived source.”

        I am not questioning specific estimation for specific contexts. I am certainly not able to evaluate those estimations.

        ==> “The rabbit hole PE opened up by a too general statement, I can’t defend.”

        That was my point.

      • Planning Engineer

        John Pittman – please don’t be swayed by Joshua’s highlighting of my statement and stretching it well out of context.

        ==>…”your point should seem obvious, that huge gaps will not be swayed by vague and distant externalities” He seemed to think I was dismissing all externalities as well as claiming the ability to do it in my head.

        I would not in any way ever characterize all externalities as vague and distant. Certainly there is a role for evaluating externalities and externalities that demand careful attention. But beyond the list of reasonable externalities there are always more vague and distant ones that will not be worth further pursuit. There has to come a point when you look at the gap and the remaining pool of “potential” externalities make some assumptions around their maximal impacts and say enough is enough.

      • Planning Engineer

        Joshua – I am very concerned by the way you twist things. That’s a big reason why I have to question your good faith efforts here. You take a quote and interpret it thusly:

        Planning Engineer”…your point should seem obvious, that huge gaps will not be swayed by vague and distant externalities”

        Joshua

        My use of obvious obviously refereed to Peter’s point – not externalities. Further I am agreeing with Peter’s point, not endorsing his example, if that incorrectly had some weight in your mind. It’s s a stretch to think I’m referring to an and all possible externalities. Why do you go there?

        The quote you “wanted” me to make, is that “All externalities are vague and distant and it is obvious that their impacts on cost benefit analysis can be summarily dismissed” . Read the two sentences-they are quite different. I disagree strongly with the second one and very much resent your disabuse of my original quote.

      • Planning Engineer.

        Joshua continually displays many of the 10 sighs of intellectual dishonesty.

        Judith put up an excellent post describing the ten sighs. It is here:
        https://judithcurry.com/2013/04/20/10-signs-of-intellectual-honesty/

      • Planning Engineer

        Joshuas quote got left out (guess it did not like the brackets)

        So PE is saying that he can estimate the externalities, and know their impact on the cost/benefit analysis. In fact, he says, it is obvious.

      • PE –

        If I have misconstrued your meaning, I apologize – but it is not because a lack of good faith. It could be a simple error. It could be a matter of bias (me reading what I want to read into what you say). It could be some combination of the two. I assume that your participation here is in good faith. I’ve seen nothing to justify an interpretation otherwise. As such, I have no reason to engage with you in bad faith. It would be like with JFP – where I may misinterpret his meaning for any variety of reasons, but he and I both know that we are exchanging views in good faith. As such,if I’ve misinterpreted him (or he’s misinterpreted me), we attempt to clarify.

        The point you’re making here is a bit difficult for me to follow – in part because the subthread is so long and I have to scroll all the way down to follow the different comments from different people and then scroll back up as I’m writing the comment. And in part because the discussion is a mix of dyadic discussions mashed together into a discussions among three or four people. And perhaps, in part for the reasons I mentioned above.

        So maybe we should retool, or just move on.

        As for retooling – I’d like to take the comment I just wrote to JFP as a baseline. My perspective is, I think, fairly well explained in my above comment to JFP. Where do you disagree with my perspective as I laid it out to him?

      • Planning Engineer

        Joshua – let’s sit it out till next time. Come back fresh and start anew. I am not an expert on externalities, just a dabbler. Utilities choices are greatly monitored and regulated by outside processes and others who decide how externalities are treated, not the utilities. Planners seek input as we go along and our environmental and external affairs people take over. We advise and modify as directed. As advice to regulators, I have no problems with your postings.

      • ExternE is possible the most thorough study into the externalities of electricity generation. It has an enormous amount of valuable information
        http://www.externe.info/

        Here is a summary of results in a short pdf.
        See the Table at the bottom of p13 for a summary of Externalities from electricity generation for one country, Germany.
        http://ec.europa.eu/research/energy/pdf/externe_en.pdf

        Note:
        Nuclear = 2.5 EUR/MWh
        Solar PV = 8.3 EUR/MWh

        Externalities of PV are 3.5 times higher than nuclear.

        And it’s unreliable. So, I wonder why on earth any rational, informed person (especially engineers in the industry would continue advocate for it?

      • John F Pittman

        Joshua, one need not go to the extreme end of accounting to realize that externalities have a problem. The best example of this is the discount rate and the future costs of carbon. In order for it to make sense to pay for renewables now, and CO2 reduction now, the discount rate has to be much greater than can be demonstrated. To justify this, the estimates for future costs of carbon damage has to be much more than can be supported. I am talking of the estimates needed for the world to forgo 2% of the world’s economy for the next 100 years. In fact, the rate has to be so high because literally few things we make to use will be here in 100 years. An example of this thinking is the work that was done on greening the Empire State building. According to the numbers from the persons who did the work, it would take over 100 years to payback the investment at current rates.

        The problem is in this statement of PE’s “”at levels that most people could consider reasonable.”” His statement and the numbers support him, is that one can only use estimates, discount rates, or costs that are unreasonably high in order to support the use of renewables and CO2 mitigation. I can only speak of wind and discount rates, in which case, I know he is correct. The estimates used for making renewables or CO2 mitigation are not credible. That does not mean that they are necessarily incorrect. Again, there is a limit of knowledge problem.

      • John F Pitman,

        In order for it to make sense to pay for renewables now, and CO2 reduction now, the discount rate has to be much greater than can be demonstrated.

        I think you mean much lower, not much higher. Certainly, all the analyses that attempt to justify carbon pricing assume unrealistically low discount rates. They do this on trhe basis of their own personal judgements about “social costs, equity, etc. These chart shows how EPA, France and UK project the sudden reduction of historical discount rates from now on:
        How Should Benefits and Costs Be Discounted in an Intergenerational Context?
        http://www.fraserinstitute.org/uploadedFiles/fraser-ca/Content/research-news/research/publications/climate-policy-implications-of-the-hiatus-in-global-warming.pdf

      • I should have been clearer. We need low discount rates to justify doing anything that is not a ‘No Regrets’ policy. No regrets means the policy would be net beneficial irrespective of any assumed positive beneftits from reduced climate damages.

      • JFP –

        ==> “The best example of this is the discount rate and the future costs of carbon….one can only use estimates, discount rates, or costs that are unreasonably high in order to support the use of renewables and CO2 mitigation. ”

        Noting Peter’s correction about your inversion of the implications of high and low discount rates, from what I’ve seen, we can rather easily predict the discount rates that people used by identifying their politics. Now I’m not in a position to judge the technical merits of the arguments in support of various discount rates. The prevalence of opinions among “experts” is information w/ regard to the likelihood of viability, but it isn’t dispositive. As such, it seems to me that the decision-making must take place in a context of uncertainty. There must be allowances for the possibility that reality might play out along a variety of pathways. But we don’t see that. We see people arguing with certainty about what is or isn’t reasonable – as indeed you have done.

        This reminds me of when many “skeptics” discuss climate sensitivity; they argue as if uncertainty means only that the sensitivity might be lower than the “consensus” view.

        So my point is that until people are willing to truly acknowledge uncertainty – whether it be w/r/t discount rates, sensitivity, or externalities, or until enough time has passed that virtually all uncertainty w/r/t the impact of ACO2 on the climate to be eliminated, what we’ll get is same ol’ same ol.’

        My argument boils down do consistency. I don’t see the logic of (1) arguing that the economics show that renewables are more expensive, and unsustainably so, and yet, (2) arguing that we can’t measure or reasonably estimate the cost/benefit ratio of externalities. Argument #1 depends on making assumptions about the cost/benefit ratio of externalities. If you are arguing that renewables are unsustainably expensive, then you are necessarily assuming that the cost to benefit ratio is neutral or negative (in the sense of cost being lower). If you are arguing that you don’t know that the cost/benefit ratio is, and that it isn’t meaningfully measurable or estimable, then you can’t know whether renewables are unsustainably expensive – and in which case, IMO, you should allow for the possibility that they are, preferable economically, to continuing the status quo. And that is true w/o even considering the potential benefits of renewables, relatively, w/r/t climate change.

      • Thanks Peter, I do get things inverted, especially when tired.

        Joshua “we can rather easily predict the discount rates that people used by identifying their politics.” Yes, I will agree with that if you include governments and policies as well. But I would argue, like point of uncertainty, neither side makes it a practice to include assumptions, estimates, etc that weaken their case. Which is why I pointed out that the typical methods eliminate the extremes, but the extremes are not necessarily incorrect.

        Joshua “We see people arguing with certainty about what is or isn’t reasonable – as indeed you have done.” I am guilty of that; but I am also trained in deciding what is reasonable for economics in engineering. Typically cost versus benefits and cost versus likelihood are put in a matrix, then a payback period, or the estimate of cost from risk is used to decide the level necessary for investing or risk mitigation. The example I used was the greening of the Empire State building that had over 100 years for payback. This can be eliminated just on the time value of money. Typically, anything over 30 years payback cannot be justified using commonly accepted practices. This was the point of the climate activist that came up with such discount rates and such high costs of carbon. He was so certain, he worked backwards from his belief of high CO2 sensitivity to justify the discount rates and cost. Engineers typically work from the other direction and according to accepted practices. The Wyoming and EU studies also assign discount rates and costs of carbon in such a manner as the activist or rely on non-existent technology, or assigning wind derived support costs, not to wind, but to fossil fuels which is an unacceptable practice. In some engineering endeavors, such an accounting practice by a publicly owned company could send you to jail.

        Where there is the greatest truth and argument is in the risk matrix if CO2 sensitivity is really high. But if we address such a risk, we won’t be able to measure because that would be a counterfactual. So typically, in engineering as well as other areas, if you make the claim, you have to provide the support. Instead, we get the Precautionary Principle as a policy to avoid making a claim and justifying it.

      • Johnfpitman

        Typically, anything over 30 years payback cannot be justified using commonly accepted practices. This was the point of the climate activist that came up with such discount rates and such high costs of carbon.

        True. The economic models such as DICE accumulate costs and projected benefits out to 300 years at unrealistically low discount rates to attempt to make their case. But plot the costs and benefits out to 2100 and the costs greatly exceed the benefits for the whole period. And this is using assumptions that are highly favourable to the CAGW alarmists case – such as ECS=3.2, high damage function, RCP8.5, Copenhagen ‘optimistic’ participation rate (which is completely unrealistic and virtually impossible to achieve).
        The red line here shows the net costs and benefits for 1/2 the Copenhagen participation rate (which is still unrealistic):

      • JFP –

        ==> “But I would argue, like point of uncertainty, neither side makes it a practice to include assumptions, estimates, etc that weaken their case. ”

        Aye. There’s the rub.

        Catch you on another thread.

      • FP –

        ==> “But I would argue, like point of uncertainty, neither side makes it a practice to include assumptions, estimates, etc that weaken their case. ”

        Aye. There’s the rub.

        Catch you on another thread.

        What an example of picking the cherry that appeals to his ideological biases and avoiding all the relevant and important points JFP made. It is a very clear demonstration of the closed minds, bias, motivated reasoning of the extreme Left bigots and idealogues, like Joshua.

      • Planning Engineer

        I would take issue with this quote “But I would argue, like point of uncertainty, neither side makes it a practice to include assumptions, estimates, etc that weaken their case. ”

        In generation planning it is a standard CYA (Cover your A##) move to include all assumptions that weaken your case. That and generally, and 100% from my experience, the goal is to pick the best most robust plan from the available options so we are not usually on a side. Up front we point out all the weaknesses and places the plan might fail (and the magnitude of those failures) in the various scenarios. There may be some cases where a utility wants to employ a particular technology, because they are “true believers” or some other motivation, but that has not been my experience. If something might work – most want to say they gave it full and careful consideration and also that they were aware of the drawbacks of the unselected options.

        A while back large Combined cycle additions we had planned came on line serving a significant portion of the system need. As it was being brought up to speed, some might say the natural gas bubble broke. Natural gas costs increased significantly above our expected scenario. Stakeholders were not happy, but we could pull our documentation and show that scenario was anticipated as a potential likelihood and also our findings that it was still was a “good” option in that scenario, superior to coal which many felt we should have stuck with. Subsequently natural gas has declined and coal plants have faced hurdles. At first we looked stupid, later genius – but in truth just wise to look broadly at a range of assumptions and scenarios.

        The question with today’s renewables, typically is do they work in any scenario – let alone across a broad range of assumptions. Finding a “reasonable” scenario where they work is the first challenge. The true test is will they hold up across a broad range of assumptions. When costs and changes support such findings, planners will not want to dismiss renewables.

      • In generation planning it is a standard CYA (Cover your A##) move to include all assumptions that weaken your case. That and generally, and 100% from my experience, the goal is to pick the best most robust plan from the available options so we are not usually on a side. Up front we point out all the weaknesses and places the plan might fail (and the magnitude of those failures) in the various scenarios. There may be some cases where a utility wants to employ a particular technology, because they are “true believers” or some other motivation, but that has not been my experience. If something might work – most want to say they gave it full and careful consideration and also that they were aware of the drawbacks of the unselected options.

        I agree 100%.

      • Planning Engineer

        A critical typo there. We want to be aware of the drawbacks of the selected option. (Also not overlook the benefits of the unselected alternatives).

      • JFP –

        In case you’re inclined to agree with my friend Peter in his judgement of me, personally, or the underlying mechanism of how I formulate my perspective (which I kind of doubt based on our previous exchanges)….

        I highlighted that one excerpt from your comment because I think it is basically the bottom line. I accept the logic of most of the rest of your comment, but feel that the quoted excerpt trumps the other points you made. In the end, these discussions are based on inherently subjective evaluations. That doesn’t mean that all the reasoning on top of that subjective foundation is equally subjective. I don’t reject the basic mechanics of the matrix analysis you describe in specific contexts, but question how people extract from those limited contexts to draw more general conclusions.

      • I don’t understand why Joshua continually avoids and dodges the important relevant points – such as wind and solar seem to be not viable, not fit for purpoose in that they don’t meet the main requirements of electricity system, are hugely expensive and a very high cost way to reduce GHG emissions from electricity. And their effectiveness decreases as the proportion of electricity generated by them increases.

        I summarised relevant it here: https://judithcurry.com/2014/12/11/all-megawatts-are-not-equal/#comment-655417
        The last two paragraphs said:

        “With the risk of failure included the total LCOE for the two options are:
        No nuclear = $222/MWh
        With nuclear = $101/MWh
        Therefore, the LCOE of the ‘no nuclear’ option is 2.2 higher than the ‘with nuclear’ option. And emissions would be 3.2 times higher.

        The risk that renewables will not be able to do the job is the major risk that should be questioning, not the costs of waste disposal, decommissioning, accident insurance etc. of nuclear all of which are negligible compared with LCOE and the risk that renewables do deliver the benefits claimed by their proponents.”

        Surely, anyone who wants to debate rationally and objectively has to be able to refute those numbers by showing the substantial errors, not just throw up assertions and questions.

      • PE: My comment was in reply to Joshua’s about the two sides on the GHG issue. Not your work. I am familiar with the requirement. If you look at my post of using matrixes for risk and cost evaluation, these matrixes have to have items in there of what you call CYA.

        Peter and Joshua: My point is that under commonly accepted practices 30 years is the practical limit. Peter, I agree with your analysis of cost since that is in line with what economic studies show. The point I haven’t made well is that the 30 years includes assumptions favorable to both sides. Joshua: The economic basis for CO2 relies on numbers that do not meet acceptable standards and it is not because externalities that we can measure are left out. The last review I did indicated that externalities unfavorable to mitigation were left out, or the estimate was so low as to be ridiculous.

      • JFP –

        ==> “The economic basis for CO2 relies on numbers that do not meet acceptable standards and it is not because externalities that we can measure are left out. The last review I did indicated that externalities unfavorable to mitigation were left out, or the estimate was so low as to be ridiculous.”

        I assume that you mean “The economic basis for CO2 mitigation?…

        ==> “and it is not because externalities that we can measure are left out.”

        We seem to be repeating. “Cannot measure” is a subjective statement, which touches on standards of measurement and the relationship of measurement to estimation. In other words, if you say it can’t be measured, then I don’t see how you can express your certainty as to the validity of estimations.

        ==> “The last review I did indicated that externalities unfavorable to mitigation were left out, or the estimate was so low as to be ridiculous.”

        I can’t speak to any specific analysis – don’t have the skills or knowledge. I am looking at the logic of the larger arguments being made.

        For example, you seem to be arguing, with great certainty, about the validity of various discount rates. You seem to have skills to make such an evaluation. But others who likewise possess such skills come to very different conclusions.

        As someone who lacks the skills, ability, or knowledge to assess the underlying evidence for using different discount rates myself, I have to take the bird’s eye view of the arguments. As such, I see what looks to me like much subjectivity being presented as objective science. I don’t know for sure, but there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that to me. That is also a phenomenon that fits well with empirical evidence about how people reason, particularly in heavily polarized context, particularly when the people doing the reasoning are strongly identified within that framework of polarization – as is everyone here discussing these matters.

        So I look at that situation and I look for people who are arguing from the perspective of policy-making about risk taking in the face of uncertainty. I have less confidence in the arguments of those who, it seems to me, are overly-certain.

        Anyway, as I said before, catch you on another thread.

      • JFP –

        Don’t know if you’re still hanging out here – but thought you’d find this interesting:

        http://reep.oxfordjournals.org/content/2/1/61.short

    • As Raganar points out, you also need to consider the external benefits, not just the costs. The SCC document published by the feds focuses almost, if not entirely , on external costs, and much of what is claimed as costs is suspect at best. The SCC document is little more than a political tool to be used by the green blob to make fossil fuel energy appear to be more expensive, while completely ignoring external benefits.

      • I was referring to external costs relative to renewables. But speaking of benefits, an increase in especially wind production would lead to more jobs here because the manufacturing is usually done in the US. I also think with the right incentives in place I think our dynamic private enterprise system will generate even more cost efficient energy technologies that will lead to even more jobs.

      • Job creation is not a positive externality. We could create even more “jobs” by requiring everyone to grow his own food and cut down trees for fuel. Every person employed in producing power is a cost to the economy, not a benefit. That’s why we like productivity.

      • http://apps2.eere.energy.gov/wind/windexchange/pdfs/economic_development/2010/jedi_manufacturers.pdf

        Old list of manufacturers:

        Current top 5

        Well, hard to make the case for a lot of US manufacturing jobs. Lots of one time installations jobs and O&M jobs.

        The problem with the O&M jobs is they make power delivered to the customer more expensive (cutting jobs at companies that use energy).

        Lots of installation work and some

    • Planning Engineer, I would like to see some concrete numbers in terms of what an agreed carbon tax (as you say) does to the difference in costs between fossil fuels and renewables. You also have to consider that the cost of solar will likely decline further and I don’t know about wind.

    • Joseph,

      And who determines external costs?

      The people who want to delve into that briar patch have their reasons for wanting to do so. Mainly that they can paint whatever picture they want.

    • “So if fossil fuels incorporated all of the external costs relative to renewables, how would that change things?”

      I assume we are taking “faux” pollution such as CO2 and methane off the table?

      This becomes a debate about how big the subsidy check to the fossil fuel plants should be. The US gets about $ 100 billion in direct benefit from the 400 PPM CO2 level (over 280 PPM). There are some ancillary benefits (it is easier to make dry ice) that I can’t put a number on. I’m sure there is some downside to fossil fuel plants that needs to be deducted from the subsidy check.

      PV and Solar create more hard pollution than gas plants, it is hard to tell if renewables or coal pollute more. Nuclear is by far the cleanest.

  7. David L. Hagen

    Planning Engineer
    Compliments on a clear presentation of key issues.
    Higher Cycling Costs
    One major impact of adding unregulated (non-dispatchable) solar and wind power is that conventional power plants have to be cycled more rapidly to compensate – far faster than original designs. Such cycling costs much more than slow ramping. e.g., Kumar et al. review Power Plant Cycling Costs April 2012 for NREL NREL/SR-5500-55433.
    Fig. 1-1, 1-2 on p5, 6 shows major issues involved.

    6. Median Cold Start cost for each of the generation types is about 1.5 to 3 times the Hot Start Capital and Maintenance Cost. For the lower bound 75th percentile this ratio of Cold Start Cost versus Hot Start Cost is only slightly higher.

    e.g., See Fig. 1-7 on p 17

    EPA CO2 Regulations – massive increase in grid failure risk
    The greatest danger of the EPA’s CO2 power regulations is that they will shut down farm more coal base load plants than projected – severely harming grid safety margin – and likely causing major grid failures when most needed – eg in the middle of a polar vortex – which could cause millions to freeze.

  8. Judith/Mods. the links to Planning Engineers other posts both go to the same post

    Planning Engineer, as always very readable and informative

    cheers

  9. Reblogged this on Centinel2012 and commented:
    Not a bad analysis and as the author states and I agree 100% there is on average a 3 to 1 disadvantage to Solar/Wind power. Or another way of looking at it is the name plate rating should be reduced by 3. so a 3 mg name plate turbine is really only a 1 meg wind turbine. and that means the capital cost is at minimum 3 times that of conventional systems and there are not good economy of scale factors so even that is an understatement.

  10. David Springer

    Electrical generation isn’t a problem in the US. Cost is under control and clean fuel is plentiful with the renaissance in natural gas. Nuclear has had 70 years to come through on early promises of electricity “too cheap to meter” and instead it’s been so expensive that there hasn’t been ground broken at a new location for almost 40 years. No one invests in losers except governments and not even that is getting behind nuclear mainly because electricity isn’t a problem and secondarily because electricity isn’t a problem and third because electricity isn’t a problem.

    Enter transportation fuels. Houston, we have a problem. Cost is out of control, we’re importing 24% of what we consume from countries that want to harm the US if they can and we’re giving them oil profits to do it with.

    Electric vehicles are impractical at best and when it comes to aviation… impossible without a huge breakthrough in either storage or generation technology. There are far too many vehicles and other infrastructure in service that can only use a limited range of fuels. Ethanol has been edging into the market for decades and is still less than 5% of all fuel used and that’s mostly in low-level blends with gasoline at up to 10% by volume whjich is level that unmodified gasoline engines can tolerate well. Flex-fuel vehicles that can burn up to 85% ethanol mixtures account for less than 105 of all vehicles and less than 1% actually use E85 instead of regular gasoline.

    All this speaks to the huge investment the US has in gasoline vehicles. Hybrid electrics are making a mark albeit a small one so far. They account for 1.5% of all vehicles on the road. We just got our first one, a 2015 Camry Hybrid, which uses the same drive train as a Prius with minor changes for a larger vehicle with more power. My wife’s commute went from 22mpg in her old Avalon to 44mpg in the hybrid. I drove it. To me it’s almost indistinguishable from a non-hyrid if you don’t count the eerie quiet. These will continue to help the transportation market adjust.

    Given the many many decades it takes to get even cost-effective new technologies, like hybrid electrics, to the market the pie-in-the-sky talk about hydrogen vehicles and pure electrics, for instance, is a monumental waste of time. What we need is a way to cheaply gather solar energy and store it in hydrocarbon bonds in fuels compatible with the vehicles we have today and many decades into the future. This is possible but it comes from a field few know about – synthetic biology. Nature has given us all the basic technology we aren’t capable of inventing – self reproducing organisms using photosynthesis to turn solar energy into chemical energy. We just need to master and modify for our own purposes what already exists in nature. Progress is rapid. Long before any other transformative technology could come along to replace internal combustion engines running on gasoline and diesel in any significant number biotechnology will have provided a solution. Technology always comes to the rescue just not always in the ways we anticipate. Back in the day nuclear was the exciting technology but that, as we now know, is a bust.

    • It is interesting to read the online conversations regarding replacement batteries for the Toyota hybrids. Replacing batteries is complicated to DIY and expensive otherwise.

      “Technology always comes to the rescue just not always in the ways we anticipate. ”

      True. Forty years ago I thought we would be on Mars, instead we have the iPhone.

    • David, generally agree. Read my first book Gaias Limits for details.
      We have driven a Ford hybrid Escape SUV since 2007. AWD plus tow package. We get 32 city and 27.5 highway (AC on, 75mph). NMH battery has lasted 400k miles in NYC taxi service, and is still going strong for us. (when we bought ‘Kermey’ [ref to Ford adverts for the Escape hybrid 2007 in Sci. Am] battery life was the risk taken.
      IMO, All non-class 7/8 vehicles should become full hybrids stat. Arguments in Gaias Limits.
      Am much less certain that bioengineering can save our liquid transportation fuel bacon from looming peak oil (despite the recent price gyrations caused by classic supply/demand imbalances in a price inelastic commodity). See essays Wishful Thinking, Bugs Roots and Biofuels, and Salvation by Swamp for the reasons in newest ebook Blowing Smoke. Issue is not bioengineering. Is the fundamental scope and scale of energy density.
      Am certain that nuclear lies in our energy future for electricity. Am not certain the exact form, except should be some gen 4 version. Unless we foresake coal, we have a couple of decades to figure out the best engineering solutions. See essay Going Nuclear in Blowing Smoke for details.

      • Am much less certain that bioengineering can save our liquid transportation fuel bacon from looming peak oil

        You should check out some of Nate Lewis’s YouTube lectures. He wants to make liquid fuels from sunlight not with biology, but with chemistry (he’s a Caltech chemistry prof). In the video below, he explains the limits of biofuels starting at about 41:00.

    • David Springer:

      What we need is a way to cheaply gather solar energy and store it in hydrocarbon bonds in fuels compatible with the vehicles we have today and many decades into the future. This is possible but it comes from a field few know about – synthetic biology.

      The guy working on that is Nate Lewis. He has some very good YouTube lectures and presentations. He is especially good at explaining the scales of energy use.

      • I believe putting CO2 in the atmosphere is on balance beneficial.

        I believe the CO2 demonization is an attempt to phony up a reason for irrational expensive energy choices by people who believe they are saving the planet in some confused and misguided way.

        However – using solar power to generate fuel, particularly hydrocarbon fuel, is a worthy research area and there is no downside to doing it, if it can be done cost effectively, and without a lot of rare or expensive minerals.

    • Electricity is about to become a huge problem, largely for self-inflicted reasons on the supply side and less suddenly due to the explosive growth of IT use on the demand side.

  11. Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

    Here we go again with the anti-wind power propaganda. This time it’s claims that wind power’s affect on lowering CO2 is at the lower end of “expectations.” Maybe wind power’s effect on lowering other pollutants also is at the lower end of “expectations.” I don’t know. I do know, however, it doesn’t make sense to stop doing something just because it’s at the lower end of someone’s expectations.

    Anti-wind power propagandist like to bring up the cost of power to the user, pointing out if money were invested in more gas- and coal-fired plants instead of more wind-power farms, power would cost less. The cost to the environment, however, is downplayed if even considered in cost estimates.
    The propagandist also don’t like to face the fact fossil fuel costs are likely to rise as a result of rising world demand for these fuels whereas wind itself is free.

    Some of the most outspoken opponents of wind power are nuclear power advocates, which is understandable because the two sources are competitors in the race to low emissions, and nuclear is losing. The main problem facing nuclear, however, is the public’s concern about its safety and in its lack of appeal to investors.

    • Max. Do a grid system analysis. Wind capacity factor at best about 30% of nameplate rating. So 70% additional standby backup, unless you accept grid brown/blackouts. Basically double the capacity cost for renewable wind compared to conventional generation, whose costs will surely rise with peak fossil fuels (put petroleum comes first, and is little used for electricity generation).
      Next, figure the environmental impacts. That backup capacity will be working 70% of the time when the wind does not blow–more during peaks.
      So figure almost no net CO2 savings unless the backup is nuclear. Except nuclear is baseload, not backup. So diesel, gas peaker, spinning reserve coal, whatever, your wind almost doubles the electricity cost, yet cuts almost no fossil fuel emissions–while destabilizing the grid. As the UK and California are just now discovering.
      If you can somehow system engineer a reliable grid alternative to this harsh intermittent renewable reality, my advice is to file a patent before posting your solution as a reply. You would become very rich.
      BTW, the US, UK, Denmark, and German experiences rule out the canard that the wind is always blowing someplace, so enough wind capacity evens out geographically. The reality of weather fronts and such has shown that is just not true for meaningful Egrid scales. Like whole countries in Europe, and whole regional grid interconnects in the US. UK has much salient data.

      • your wind almost doubles the electricity cost, yet cuts almost no fossil fuel emissions–while destabilizing the grid. As the UK and California are just now discovering.

        Very True, as demonstrated by a comparison of France (75% nuclear virtually no wind and solar) versus Germany (the RE advocates pin up example). France’s CO2 emissions from electricity are just 15% of Germany’s and France has near the cheapest electicity in EU Vs Germany and Denmark near the most expensive.

        Couldn’t be clearer, eh?

    • Yep. My uncle Arnulfo used to say he would keep farming yams in Louisiana even though Americans were quite resistant to his wife’s boiled yam breakfast recipes. He felt it was a much better food than cornflakes and the other stuff people like to eat. Even after he went broke he kept insisting boiled yams would be the basic staple for the American family. Not too long ago he wrote me a letter asking for help to convince his Senator to submit a law to provide yam farming subsidies. He feels if only he could get $2 per harvested pound the yam would become the only food Americans will eat.

    • Curious George

      I love an anti-propaganda diatribe with no data at all. What exactly is a propaganda?

    • Planning Engineer

      Max,

      I missed out on my first passes, that you were referring to my piece as “anti-wind propaganda”. I figured you were referring to a one or the links someone had added. It didn’t occur to me that the limited comment I made could be called such. I just want you to know that if I wanted to write “anti-wind propaganda” I could do a much better job of it.

      Like others have stated here – We will need to move away from fossil fuels. I’ve been the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden Colorado on multiple occasions. Wind and other renewables should develop to play a bigger role in our future. I believe that all else equal we should err on the side of favoring new clean technology and don’t mind a premium for it. My personal opinion is that there is no doubt that for political reasons intermittent resources are being pushed way beyond applications where there is technical merit and paying much more than a moderate premium. My professional stance is to give all viable alternatives full and careful attention.

      In this piece I did my best not to offer a bunch of commentary disparaging intermittent technology. I tried to talk about factor that are not being considered and give an idea of how they can impact decision making. To do that it was necessary to bring up factual non-controversial shortcomings of intermittent technology. There are many areas I could have pursued if I wanted to be critical of wind. For example there appears to be a huge problem with bearing failure. Either the life of most wind turbines will be much shorter than anticipated or maintenance costs way higher than projected. There are many fair statements I could make that are critical of wind which I did not.

      If you want to influence me to change, you’ll have to give more specific examples of where I may have been unfair.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        Planning Engineer, thank you. I apologize for not replying promptly. I overlooked your message to me.

        Your first impression was right. I was not referring to your piece when I said “Here we go again with the anti-wind power propaganda.” I am sorry if what I said was misinterpreted.

        I appreciate the time and effort you put into your presentation. If you were hoping for critical analysis, I regret I don’t have much to say other than I don’t recall a discussion of external costs. Aren’t the external costs associated with fossil fuels a main reason for having renewables?

        I hope to see more of your work here at ClimateEtc in the future.

  12. To emphasise what PE wrote, the large thermal and hydro machines add stability by giving grid inertia and voltage control/ MVAr. It is in the table, but many won’t understand the terms.
    The frequency control on a large stiff grid is relatively easy, but on small isolated and stringy grids, (think islands like Iceland or New Zealand) it is a lot harder and their frequency fluctuations are quite large. There are regular excursions down to 49Hz in NZ and once or twice a year, it goes to below 48Hz. That is danger territory near grid collapse. The cause is often relatively large generators (>5%) on the grid.
    The MVAr and voltage control is needed to minimise line losses and stop brownouts. To Joe Public, they don’t notice it because it is done and done well by the grid engineers and controllers. If they go to a third world country, they will rapidly see why it is needed.
    One renewable PE doesn’t discuss is geothermal. It isn’t that big in the US but in some countries, it is a significant proportion of the generation. Unless it is a dry steam resource like Geysers in California, it can’t load follow. That means it is run as dispatchable baseload. In the table, it is similar to Nuclear except the Fixed costs are Medium. The limitation is the high temperature resource needed.

  13. Planning Engineer, many thanks for yet another informative post on how the world really works. You contribute to making Judith’s blog indespensible concerning both ‘climate change’ and the AGW energy sequelae.

    BTW, having researched the matter for my long ago egeneration economics thesis, for my energy storage materials business in 2009-10, and again more recently for the book “BS”, it would seem that modern nucs, all USC coal plants, and all CCGT plants really want to be base loaded only. They can be flexed, but flexing costs far outweigh any transitory grid benefits. That is why, for example, FLP is adding 100 MW gas peakers despite replacing 4000 MW of old (1950s) dirty resid fueled baseload with 4400 MW of CCGT supplied by new gas pipelines, inside the old facility footprints. The rebuilt stations are in Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. And FPL’s next planned major capacity increment is nuclear baseload. A lot of ‘feet on the ground’ support for your excellent comments.

    • Planning Engineer, I agree 100% with Rud Istvan on this important point:

      Planning Engineer, many thanks for yet another informative post on how the world really works. You contribute to making Judith’s blog indespensible concerning both ‘climate change’ and the AGW energy sequelae.

    • Planning Engineer

      Thank you and others for the (overly) kind words that pop up in the comments. For those who give me too much credit – let me emphasize my intent is to suggest questions and swat down some of the premature answers others have arrived at. Don’t put too much weight in my casual assessments.

    • Rud,

      Barnhart et al gave a presentation, to the CPUC, on ways to look at energy storage.

      “ Journal Article: Energetic implications of curtailing versus storing solar- and wind-generated electricity.”

      http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/NR/rdonlyres/1521FE3B-2FB5-4A6A-A93B-45125D6EF895/0/Barnhart20140116CPUCPHSWorkshop.pdf

      Does your analysis of energy storage indicate when curtailment of excess wind and PV output is the way to go vs trying to store the energy?

      CASIO also addressed energy storage recently:

      “Energy storage is one of several options available to provide operational flexibility and mitigate renewable curtailment.
      •Increase energy storage, demand response, and energy efficiency
      •Modify curtailment provisions in power purchase agreements to reconcile with RPS priorities
      •Achieve time-of-use rates or other mechanism to align with regional and seasonal system conditions
      •Deepen regional coordination with other balancing authorities
      •Electrify transportation including managed charging capabilities and incentives
      •Reduce fleet minimum load burden by increasing fleet flexibility ”

      http://www.energy.ca.gov/research/notices/2014-12-01_workshop/presentations/Heather_Sanders_California_Independant_System_Operator.pdf

      • Short answer, no I did not. Two reasons.
        First, the current California feed in deals require SoCalEd and PGE to take whatever renewables produce. Curtailment is forced 100% onto their conventional generation. My understanding is that this is also the case in the UK and Germany. Germany’s high renewable penetration forces daily curtailment of conventional coal and gas baseload generation to the point those facilities are now unprofitable to operate. Reason EON just announced it was splitting itself in two, to hive off the now unprofitable conventional generation. Thatnis a serious massive new headache for Energiewende. And, renewable curtailment would still not solve the backup problem when renewables are not producing. Siemens estimates Germany will need an additional 50000 Mw ( about 80 of its biggest gas peakers) by 2020. See essay Tilting at Windmills.
        Second, since renewable curtailment is not possible with current feed in contracts, CPUC mandated storage. This was rigged in favor of speculative unproven battery startups thanks to lots of VC lobbying. CPUC also excluded the very low cost, zero techical risk, >80% RTE, environmentally benign, proposed Eagle Crest pumped storage project from being part of this mandated storage 2020 storage mix. See essay California Dreaming. Both essays in ebook Blowing Smoke, foreward by Judith.

  14. For the electrically challenged: all megawatts are not equal in another way.

    A bare-naked “megawatt” is a measure of power not energy. A megawatt-HOUR is a measure of energy. You need a power source working over a period of time. A Megawatt installation running for one hour.

    You pay by kilowatt hour.There are 1000 kilowatt hours in one Megawatt hour. If your kitchen kettle is rated as one kilowatt then the amount of energy it uses in one hour is one kilowatt-hour (1 kWh).

    Engineers mostly use watt-hours. Physicists use joules (after James Joule). The conversion from watt-hours to joules is 1 watt hour = 3600 J.

    Next time you see a horrendous big number of joules showing the Earth is getting hot you can divide by 3600 J to get watt hours.

    According to NASA scientists the Earth has warmed on average in recent years at the RATE of 0.5 watts per square meter (0.5 W/m-2).

    ***
    Reference: Norman G. Loeb, John M. Lyman, Gregory C. Johnson, Richard P. Allan, David R. Doelling,Takmeng Wong, Brian J. Soden and Graeme L. Stephens. Observed changes in top-of-the-atmosphere radiation and upper-ocean heating consistent within uncertainty. (Nature Geoscience Vol 5 February 2012)

    URL: http://www.met.reading.ac.uk/~sgs02rpa/PAPERS/Loeb12NG.pdf
    ***
    Half a watt per square meter is NASA’s best estimate of the Earth’s energy imbalance.

    If you want to frighten people you can convert to the great big number 1800 Joules per hour per square meter or 180 joules per hour per square foot. (One square meter = 10 square feet.)

    If you want to impress people about the success of solar and wind power, you quote the installed capacity. The solar power installed capacity is X megawatts and wind power installed capacity is Y megawatts. Then you add X and Y megawatts and say renewable electricity accounts for Z% of total installed capacity.

    If you play this game, your are either the deceiver or the deceived.

    What counts as ENERGY is the number of hours each installation operates. The units are megawatt-hours, kilowatt-hours (kWh) or joules. These are the units they use when they sell energy in the form of electricity.

    Once you understand the following their game is up. The Z% of megawatts may be a big percentage of total power installed (in anticipation of tax dollars and higher prices). But for energy sales you can ignore that.

    The percentage of total energy produced from this huge installed capacity is a pitifully small number. The wind does not blow every day; the Sun does not shine at night; and in winter the Sun’s rays have less effect.

    The wind and solar industry produces a puny amount of energy by comparison with installed capacity. Each kilowatt hour has to bear the burden of recovering from customers and taxpayers capital cost and that cost is high per unit of output.

    Divide cost of a megawatt of installed capacity by a small number of megawatt hours and you get a high capital cost per unit. The producers need big subsidies from taxes, and higher prices.

    The price of electric power from fossil fuels rises and falls. As America develops is gas, oil and coal reserves, the cost of electricity from these source will fall, but the cost of solar and wind are locked in.

    By contrast the capital costs of solar and wind are locked in at the time of investment. So if the price per kWh needed to cover the cost of solar and wind energy must stay the same and maybe even rise depending on the subsidies.

    MAD MAX’s world? Except it’s real. It’s the present and the future.

    The perpetrators are the politicians, less scoundrels than incompetent and credulous believers in the science of global warming that has been corrupted by other politicians both elected and appointed..

    • Frederick Colbourne:

      If you want to frighten people you can convert to the great big number 1800 Joules per hour per square meter or 180 joules per hour per square foot. (One square meter = 10 square feet.)

      From the late great Max Anacker:

      Joulie the Joule
      [In a 6th grade science classroom]

      Hi, children!

      I’m Joulie the Joule.

      You can’t see me because I’m invisible.

      I’m also an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, li’l bitty ol’ thing.

      I warm things up, but I’m so tiny that I could only warm a glass of water by 0.004 degrees – can you imagine!

      In fact, I’m so small you couldn’t even feel me at all if I got into your eye.

      But I’m very important in the war on climate change and the carbon pollution that causes it, and that makes me very proud.

      Here’s why.

      Your teacher may not have told you, but global warming has stopped for a really long time. In fact it’s stopped since before any of you were even born!

      But scientists know this can’t be true because grownups are still driving cars and SUVs plus turning up the thermostats in winter and the air conditioners in summer making lots of that really bad gas, CO2 – so they know it’s really gotta be warming, even if we can’t feel or measure it.

      So the scientists figured out how this could be.

      All that heat had to be going somewhere and since it wasn’t going to the air around us, it was probably hiding in the deep blue sea!

      Nobody had really been measuring this, but scientists know it’s true anyway.

      And for the last 10 years they have even been measuring it. That’s kinda hard to do because, as we all know, the oceans and seas of the world are so very, very humongous. But anyway, the scientists now have some measurements scattered around here and there and (together with some older stuff) these show that the top 2000 meters of the ocean has warmed by a total of around 0.06 degrees C over the past 50 years.

      This doesn’t sound like much at all, so nobody gets very scared when they hear it.

      And that’s where I come in!

      The scientists have figured out that they can convert the warming to Joules – ME! – and it will sound a whole lot scarier.

      Remember that I can only warm a glass of water by around 0.004 degrees so it would take gadzillions of me to warm the whole top part of the ocean by that much.

      And to warm it around fifteen times that much, or 0.06 degrees, which scientists think they have measured over the past 50 years total, would take 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of me! Scientists would call this 5.0×10^22 Joules.

      And that sure sounds a whole lot scarier than 0.06 degrees, doesn’t it, children?

      And it makes li’l bitty me very proud to play such a big and important role in the war on climate change!

      Even very small things can make a really BIG difference.

      Your li’l team-mate in the war on carbon pollution,

      Joulie the Joule

      https://judithcurry.com/2013/09/26/the-relentless-increase-of-ocean-heat/#comment-388048

    • I like to scare people using North Korean nuclear bomb equivalents. Those are scarier than the Hiroshimas used by others involved in the panic business.

      • Fernando, you may be on to something there. Warmistas are being instructed to use messages that are sticky (sticks to the memory).
        Why use the 4 Hiroshimas per second metaphor: simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, story. Made to stick! Hmm hockey stick anyone?

        http://www.skepticalscience.com/4-hiroshima-bombs-worth-of-heat-per-second.html

        Kim Jong-un or why North Korea learned to stop worrying and love the bomb. Bombs per second keeps the climate in play. It is similar to Reagan’s reasoning of out spending the Soviets in defense thereby collapsing their economy. It’s Koreas version of SDI. This may be the stickier idea needed to counter-act Hiroshima and help us psuedo-scientists use propaganda to debunk R Gates. Oh the wonder of unintended irony as Joshua would say.

  15. Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

    Frederick, your thinking goes wrong near the end of your post in the following two paragraphs.

    “The price of electric power from fossil fuels rises and falls. As America develops is gas, oil and coal reserves, the cost of electricity from these source will fall, but the cost of solar and wind are locked in.

    By contrast the capital costs of solar and wind are locked in at the time of investment. So if the price per kWh needed to cover the cost of solar and wind energy must stay the same and maybe even rise depending on the subsidies”
    ________

    The price of electricity in America, most of which is produced from fossil fuels, has been rising for as long as I can remember. The index in the linked article shows the price has doubled since the early 1980. I don’t believe the index is in constant dollars, so I presume the price increase has been mostly a result of inflation. Wind and solar have no prices, so obviously aren’t affected by inflation.

    http://cnsnews.com/news/article/terence-p-jeffrey/electricity-price-index-soars-new-record-start-2014-us-electricity

    I’m afraid the party may be over for new drilling. The drop in the price of oil is a disincentive to invest in new oil and gas wells, and production drops fast in a well’s first four or five years of operation, so don’t count on a continued abundance of supply. The supply of wind and solar don’t vary much from year to year, and unlike oil and gas, you can’t deplete them, and OPEC can’t influence them.

    • So oil drillers will be subjected to market forces while ivory tower renewables will whine and likely get more subside from the state and ultimately taxpayers. That inflation you mentioned is caused by government as well.

      Major price changes, even if a commodity such as oil is greatly inflated by government excess, corruption and manipulations dating over 75 years will cause pain to many ordinary parties. Russia, Iran, Venezuela might also collapse if the strain is long enough on their corrupt cash flow cultures.

      Low oil prices might well wipe out the filth of our Greenshirt renewable fraudster culture at the same time. So while I pity the overextended private sector worker who does a hard job there is plenty to be hopeful in traditional Keynesian malinvestment decline. None of this could ever have happened without free market curtailments and greed of government culture so obviously supported by so many here and in large part by the host herself.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        cwon14 said in his post on December 12, 2014 at 11:30 am

        “So oil drillers will be subjected to market forces while ivory tower renewables will whine and likely get more subside from the state and ultimately taxpayers. That inflation you mentioned is caused by government as well.”
        _______

        Everyone is subject to market forces. There are winners and losers. I’m losing income from royalties as the price of oil drops, while consumers are winning at the gas pump.

        The international oil market is not a free-market, so market forces are not unhampered. Most of the world’s oil reserves are in the hands of State owned companies. Collusion among producers is a fact of life (think OPEC). The oil and gas industry in the U.S. is subsidized through tax breaks. I get a tax break from the depletion allowance on my interest in a producing oil and gas well.

        Government policy can be inflationary, but government isn’t the only player in inflation. Unfavorable weather, for example, can lead to crop failures, resulting in inflated prices for food. Economic growth alone can be inflationary, particularly at times when the economy is overheated.

      • Max,

        Changing prices, even rising prices is not “inflation”. Inflation in simplest terms is the rate of increase of the money supply and the artificial impact it has on prices. It’s driven by government policy over any length of time.

        Time you buried Keynes and if you would read his words in his later years he would encourage you to do so.

        http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Friedman.html

      • “Time you buried Keynes…”
        “…this theory basically states that governments can influence macroeconomic productivity levels by increasing or decreasing tax levels and public spending…”
        Unfortunately, he’s not been buried to this day. The idea that two variable can control things.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        cwon14 said December 12, 2014 at 5:26 pm |
        Max,

        Changing prices, even rising prices is not “inflation”.
        _______

        Please don’t be offended by me quoting a definition of “inflation” for children. I think its a good definition.

        “Simply put, inflation is a rise in prices relative to money available. In other words, you can get less for your money than you used to be able to get.”

        http://www.socialstudiesforkids.com/articles/economics/inflation1.htm

        Another way to put it is inflation reduces the value of your dollar.

        Still another way to put it is your dollar won’t buy as much as it used to buy.

        If you are on a fixed income inflation is bad news.

    • Curious George

      Wind and solar have no prices? A citizen scientist, indeed.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        Curious, apparently you didn’t understand I was talking about wind and solar as fuels, as in, for example, the wind fuels the turbine). I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear.

      • Curious George

        Sorry, I thought you were talking about the price of electricity. The industry somehow manages to turn a “free fuel” into a very expensive electricity. This discussion is about one reason why it is so.

    • The steep decline curves are for fracked shale wells only. Saudis know this.
      My own best guess is Brent back near $105/ bbl and WTI back around $95 ( the diffence is the oil quality. Brent is light and mostly sweet. WTI is heavier and sourer.)
      But that does make renewables economic going forward. Three reasons. 1. In US and Europe, very little electricity is generated from petroleum (resid). 2. Capacity factor. 3. Grid cost of intermittency (backup).

    • RE Max making uninformed comments – “I don’t believe the index is in constant dollars, so I presume the price increase has been mostly a result of inflation.”

      Do you understand what you said Max? Doubtful.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        Yes, timg56, I understand what I just said. I will elaborate on what I said in case it wasn’t clear. Constant dollars have been adjusted for inflation, current dollars haven’t, and the rise in the linked index of the price of electric power was so fast I presumed it expressed the increase in current dollar terms.

        The rise in current dollars would reflect both inflationary and real price increases. I’m guessing it was mostly (more than half) a result of inflation, but without seeing a deflated version of the index I can’t be sure.

        Is there something you wanted to add?

      • Yes Max,

        As you state in your reply, the rise in current dollars could reflect both inflation and real price increase. The critical piece of knowledge needed to determine if electrical power is increasing dramatically is the percentage attributable to inflation. For all you know, inflation could account for almost of of the current dollar price increase.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        timg56, when I use the BLS price deflator for all goods and services, I see that it takes $288.15 in 2014 to buy what $100 would have purchased in 1980, which is almost triple. As I recall, the index of electric power prices only doubled during this period. I think we can say the real price of electric power has declined.

        http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm

    • MaxOK is doing the high-school bollix of supply and demand: “Low prices means less supply which means high prices.” No. That confuses “supply,” the schedule relating production to prices, and “quantity supplied,” the point amount on the schedule produced because of the price. Price-makers and takers grope until they find a price at which the quantity supplied and the quantity demanded, given the supply and demand schedules, are roughly equal. If the supply schedule shifts so that there is more quantity produced at any given price–as the shale revolution has caused–then the equilibrating price is lower holding the demand schedule constant.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        stevepostrel said in his post on December 12, 2014 at 8:51 pm
        “MaxOK is doing the high-school bollix of supply and demand: “Low prices means less supply which means high prices.” …

        _____

        steve, I didn’t know that was what I was doing. If that was what I was doing, I’m embarrassed to say I don’t entirely agree with myself. I’m not sure you know what you are doing, but you should be embarrassed too, because your attempt at explaining economics is almost unreadable and undoubtably the product of a disorganized mind.

      • No worries, Max. Just look up “supply and demand” in a decent econ textbook. It’s easier with graphs, but you could also try Sowell’s Basic Economics, which does the whole thing without any math, pictures, or jargon.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        steve, we should send a copy of Sowell’s Basic Economics to Suhail Al-Mazroue, the United Arab Emirates’ oil minister. Apparently, unlike you and I, he doesn’t understand economic theory and believes “Low prices means less supply which means high prices.” Based on this misunderstanding of how supply and demand work, the Arab Emirates and some other countries that produce oil inexpensively think they can use low-priced oil to
        reduce the supply of U.S. shale oil which is relatively expensive to produce, and after this competition is suppressed the price of oil will go back up. Al-Mazroue recently said he didn’t care if oil went down to $40 a barrel.

        Al-Mazroue may not realize as the price falls you have to sell more oil just to keep your income constant, proving low prices mean more supply not less supply. So U.S. shale oil producers will keep drilling more new wells, even if the new ones are unprofitable, in order to keep their income from falling.

        Hmmm …. I’m afraid I haven’t thought this through.

      • ‘Don’t question why she needs to be so free
        She’ll tell you it’s the only way to be
        She just can’t be chained
        To a life where nothing’s gained
        And nothing’s lost
        At such a cost
        Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday
        Who could hang a name on you?
        When you change with every new day
        Still I’m gonna miss you…’
        Ruby Tuesday

        Time is the quintessential resource where the supply is inelastic – no matter what the demand the supply is constant. Hence Ruby Tuesday. goodbye – Ruby Tuesday -…. – when you change with every new day.

        Oil is an example of a resource where demand is relatively inelastic – no matter what the price the demand is relatively constant.

        Oversupply leads to competition to sell the same amount of oil – almost – at lower prices. The lowest cost producers – such as Saudi Arabia – have an advantage. If they had the sense of Norway – they were making hay.

        It is a bit difficult to work on one side of the equation without the other. It is after all the theory of supply and demand.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        Pinky, thank you. I am interested in this subject because I get a small cut of the the income from an oil and gas well that began producing in January of this year. Characteristic of shale wells, it’s output started very strong but is diminishing rapidly. Unfortunately, it looks like my best oil production year or years will occur when the price of oil is low.

        I am pray the price of oil goes back up soon. Will the supply of U.S. shale oil diminishes as low prices discourage new drilling and existing wells fade fast? I hope so.

  16. Planning Engineer, thanks for this. As always, lots of good information here.

    I’m a big fan of renewable energy, although my favorites have always been solar and hydropower. Until we quit thinking silly thoughts about nuclear, we should pursue renewables.

    Renewables are useful if you take horses for courses. People should bear in mind that the most ambitious projections for renewable provision to the grid have always been capped at about the 30% mark, at least until the grid gets brought into the 20th Century (let alone the 21st.) As revamping the grid will be hugely expensive, it may be cheaper to use renewables wisely.

    By wisely, I mean not putting solar up where the sun doesn’t shine enough and not putting wind power where the wind doesn’t blow.

    Probably the most cost-effective way to increase the utility of renewables right now would be uprating the turbines in hydroelectric facilities. When they did that to Hoover Dam, they pretty much produced as much electricity as another Hoover Dam.

    I believe planning engineers (no caps) in general tend to describe an optimum system, but are able to work with what’s available at the end of the day.

    Solar makes sense in Hawaii and Arizona and a number of other places besides. In my former home state, California, it seems both functional and popular.

    Those like McKibben and his lot do make crazy claims for the future of solar. Those claims will not come to fruition. But sensible use and some real planning (and engineering) can make renewables value for money.

    The fuel is free. There are times when that is important.

    • Solar might make sense, for a small portion of needs, in some places. So, use it where it makes sense, why not? I sure would oppose any ban on solar installations…

      But, the policies already established in many parts of the world, of paying huge subsidies, and forcing solar by mandates, whether it makes sense or not – this is outright crazy.

      The basic reasoning of all “green” advocates is emotional. They say: “solar energy is free, clean, renewable, wonderful!”. So the Government has to force it’s installation, at all quantities available and at all costs. This is crazy.

    • The fuel is a free lunch, and they ain’t no such thing, Tom. Things I learned at my Mama’s knee and other low joints.
      ============================

    • TF, I completely agree with your ‘horses for courses’. As an example, solar makes some sense in high insolation Arizona, where peak demand is summer afternoon AC.
      But not in Germany (I lived in Bavaria for 6 years) where peak demand is cold winter nights when the sun does not shine, and winter days are overcast.
      So the Subsidized German solar Energiewende makes no sense. Their wind energiewende also makes no sense, for different reasons elicidated elsewhere on this thread. That ‘sense’ is the issue here.

      • Solar energy can make sense in niche markets. But their contribution to total electricity generation and to global GHG emissions reduction are so minute as to be virtually irrelevant. Continually arguing about them is just a distraction … look over there!

      • @PL: Continually arguing about [solar energy] is just a distraction … look over there!

        So stop arguing about it then. In particular if I point out that the solar panels on my roof are saving me US$10,000 a year, don’t argue that I have thereby screwed the poor. Any such objection to my saving money by using solar power is just a distraction.

      • VP,

        As I’ve pointed out repeatedly, you don’t understand what your talking about on energy matters. I’ve given you all the references, but you’ve demonstrated repeatedly you’re not interested in learning, just in trolling.

      • I see you continue to depend on ad hominem arguments in lieu of anything more substantive. That’s been pretty much your style with most people that you disagree with. Lots of luck with that approach.

  17. Thanks Planning Engineer. Much appreciated.

    To support wind and solar in their present forms is to support the continued use of fossil fuels, especially gas and oil. Big Oil, threatened by coal and nukes more than by Big Green, knows it. Translation tip: “transitional” and “supplementary” mean “oil and gas”. Just ask Exxon and Boone Pickens. (Actually, don’t ask ’em. Just watch the barely repressed smirks. The last thing they need is an “alternative” that doesn’t suck and doesn’t need…gas and oil!)

    If those same-old good old boys manage to keep on top in an era of abundant product, falling prices and crumbling cartels, I say good luck to them. But can’t we skip the solar and wind charade and just burn the gas and oil?

    Oh, and if we are going to have alternatives and radical new solutions etc, why not pick something that isn’t old and doesn’t suck?

    • Planning Engineer

      Alternative energy players have done a great job of avoiding the stigma attached to big business. They are big business.

      • Some years back I did a translation for an elderly gent who turned out to be the architect/artist/inventor behind a certain radical car design back in the 1970s. He was a controversial character in the Whitlam years, now largely forgotten, like his car. I have no idea how seriously anybody should have taken his radical engine design, but in our conversations he left me in no doubt as to how ruthlessly oil companies used to deal with commercial threats, however remote.

        No biggie, I use and like the products of Big Oil and would expect them to play ugly with a very hard ball. But we should be aware that there are massive commercial wars going on; and that the demonisation of coal and nukes is very helpful to the likes of Exxon. Hence Big Oil are now playing with a very hard GREEN ball. They don’t mind if you demonise them a bit – provided you demonise their competitors out of the game.

  18. Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

    Rud Istvan said in his post on Dec.11, 2014 at 11:58 pm | Reply
    Max. Do a grid system analysis. Wind capacity factor at best about 30% of nameplate rating. So 70% additional standby backup, unless you accept grid brown/blackouts. Basically double the capacity cost for renewable wind compared to conventional generation, whose costs will surely rise with peak fossil fuels (put petroleum comes first, and is little used for electricity generation).Next, figure the environmental impacts. That backup capacity will be working 70% of the time when the wind does not blow–more during peaks.”
    _______

    Rud, I suspect you believe power technology has gone about as far as it can go, there’s no better way of doing things than the old way, and there never will be a better way. I wouldn’t be surprised if you unwittingly lean toward data that support your belief.

    • Max.
      Have you ever considered that Rud thinks that way because he might be correct or are you one of these post modern scientists? One could go through your previous postings on this subject and note the cherry picking you have done, disregarding the contra-information. Most of your words just display your ignorance on the subject.
      If nothing else, you have shown you aren’t an engineer. Engineers deal in reality, not wishlists.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        ChrisM said on December 12, 2014 at 4:04 am

        If nothing else, you have shown you aren’t an engineer. Engineers deal in reality, not wishlists.
        _______

        No, I’m not an engineer, and I don’t need to be one to understand technology doesn’t standstill.

        Some engineers believe wind power is practical while others don’t, so apparently there’s not complete agreement among engineers on “reality.”

      • Chris,

        Max has repeatedly admitted he is not a scientist and as he sats here, he is not an engineer. In fact, by the comments he makes you can tell Max is not a lot of things. His grasp of economics is equal to a slow 5 year old’s.

        Having little understanding of science, engineering and economics is obviously no hurdle to Max’s opining here on a post that is primarily about engineering and economics.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        timg56 thinks I’m not very bright because I’m skeptical of the claims being made by engineers who oppose wind power.

        Thankfully, I don’t have to be very bright to doubt the addition of wind power to a large electric grid requires an equivalent addition of reserve power, or to doubt claims that wind-power doesn’t reduce CO2 emissions.

        Nor do I have to be very bright to see opponents are loosing their battle as more and more wind power installations are built. I sense their desperation. Experience tells me the desperate aren’t the most reliable source of information.

      • Nor do I have to be very bright to see opponents are loosing their battle as more and more wind power installations are built. I sense their desperation. Experience tells me the desperate aren’t the most reliable source of information.

        What can be accomplished by accusing the desperate of being desperate? It is about as useful as accusing the poor of being poor, or a murderer of being a murderer.

        If you want to accomplish something fruitful of that sort, tell a sympathizer that they’re sympathetic, or a charity donor that they’re generous.

    • Rud could do a much more environmentally friendly job if his references were from Wired, Rolling Stone, and Greenpeace. (Talking about Greenpeace, I read the Peruvians captured their local Greenpeace agitators after they started writing Greenpeace renewables slogans at the Nazca lines heritage site…this is starting to read like a Kurt Vonnegut novel).

    • Max – OK is the poster child for CWONs post below.

      https://judithcurry.com/2014/12/11/all-megawatts-are-not-equal/#comment-654861

      Does not matter how many facts you put in front of him, he is ideologically blind to them. Current Wind Turbine technology is a colosal waste of time, money, and resources. As Warren Buffet stated, the only reason he is interested in Wind projects is to get the government subsidies, otherwise, it’s not worth the investment.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        Barnes, facts have been carefully selected by wind-power opponents in an attempt to make their case, but obviously it’s not a compelling argument because we see continued growth in wind-power installations.

      • Max,

        Planning Engineer is simply relaying facts. We own and operate the second largest wind generation capacity in the US. (At least that owned directly by a utility company.) Our availability factor runs between 27 – 29%, which is pretty much as high as you can go. We have no further plans to increase wind generation capacity and solar isn’t even in the cards.

        Now, want to try tossing out your assinine claim of “wind-power opponents” at us?

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        If it looks like my initial comment was directed at Planning Engineer, I apologize to him. It was not my intention. My subsequent comments were mostly responses to those who had responded to me, none of whom were Planning Engineer.

      • And Max, you and the other supporters have carefully ignored the facts that the current wind power technology is a complete loser. I am not saying that some future technology is not possible, only that the current one is a bust. The ONLY reason wind continues to be used is because of RPS standards that are forcing utilities to use it along with federal subsidies. Remove those two initiatives, and wind power will quickly disappear.

  19. Bengt Abelsson

    The Swedish grid peak demand, projected for winter 2014/2015 is 27500 MW.
    Hydro can deliver 13700 MW, nuclear 8000 MW, wind 322 MW only, diverse biofuels and fossils the balance.
    Wind is not trusted to deliver more than 6% of nameplate capacity at peak demand.

  20. Tony Brown FYI http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/POST-PN-484/catchmentwide-flood-management

    Pardon being OT, but I’ll be away and won’t have another opportunity.

  21. I’m seeing a considerable lack of understanding on the part of some commenters of the fundamentals of economics and finance; in particular, the time-value of money. O&M expenses and time-of-day variations of the VALUE of a Kwh of output aside, there is a simple reason why nuclear units are run as base-load rather than as load chasers. The plants are too capital intensive to be used for any but base-load purposes..

    The COST to own and operate any power plant can (with the aside noted) be broken into two major components; fuel expense and capital expense. Fuel expense varies with plant output. Capital expense does not vary with output. Capital expense is set by the construction and start-up cost of the plant plus the interest rate on the financing of that plant. That capital expense runs at a fixed rate, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the originally projected economic life of the plant and it runs whether the plant is producing full power, zero power or anything in between.

    The cost to run a nuclear plant is overwhelmingly dominated by capital costs. Since such a plant costs you almost as much sitting idle as it does running flat out, you run it flat out and maximizing revenue as much as humanly possible.

    Combustion peaking turbines, conversely, are relatively inexpensive to construct and their costs to operate are therefore dominated by fuel expenses. When simple combustion turbines sit idle, their fuel expense is zero and their capital component is NOT eating your financial lunch. Therefore, such machines are only run during those times of day when the varying value of a Kwh equals or exceeds the variable cost of running those machines. One component of that value includes chasing load (frequency control).

    Both solar and wind are very capital intensive when compared with, say, a gas turbine-generator. Even though their fuel costs are zero, that capital cost is running 24/7 for the projected life of the plants, whether the plants are producing power or not. Their terrible capacity factors tell you that for the majority of the time, on average, those plants are either NOT producing power or are producing only a fraction of nameplate power. Run the numbers (unsubsidized) and you will see just what economic dogs wind and solar really are, with solar being by far the worst. Use the best theoretical energy conversion efficiencies wind and solar could ever achieve, take a look at the inherent energy density limitations involved, and you will concluded that too much physical material is required to produce too little power output for these technologies to ever reach the Promised Land of economic survivability.

    • Planning Engineer

      Very good post Claude. I struggle here in the discussions because there is value is speaking of concepts generally and it is very cumbersome to continually differentiate between what is practical and what is possible. When speaking in terms of what is practical – some take it as if you are denying what is possible. I agree that practically you are not going to build a nuke here now and in the near future unless you expect to use it 24-7. But if somewhere they got really good and cost effective at building nukes, they could play a role us upper end intermediates providing load following capability.

      • I agree. And just in case others missed my earlier comment on this, I think it will be many decades before there is much call for nuclear to provide intermediate (and even further away) peaking capacity. It’s so far off it’s irrelevant.

        But SMR’s will achieve the capability to load follow economically much earlier, and that capability will be needed earlier to move into smaller grids in less developed countries.

      • Matthew R Marler

        Peter Lang: But SMR’s will achieve the capability to load follow economically much earlier, and that capability will be needed earlier to move into smaller grids in less developed countries.

        To expand on that idea a little: When you consider the number of technologies that can be used to provide power from nuclear fuel,and the total amount of power available from the known fuel, it seems to me that nuclear power has hardly even been tried. Despite a substantial record showing that mass production can drive down costs, nuclear power plants were not even “standardized” until the late 70s (iirc), much less developed for mass-production of most of the components. It looks to me like SMRs offer the opportunity for substantial eventual reduction in price, as do some of the other technologies.

        With plentiful fossil fuel, people may be in the position of choosing which they fear most: problems of nuclear fuel, or problems of CO2-induced warming; this is ironic to me when the clear and present danger, by far, is the risk of death and dismemberment caused by the electricity itself.

      • Matthew R Marler,

        It looks to me like SMRs offer the opportunity for substantial eventual reduction in price, as do some of the other technologies.

        I agree 100%. On top of all you said, the potential to increase the efficiency of using the fuel by a factor of 100 is one an indication of how much the cost per MWh will come down in time. And that’s not even considering fusion.

        We’re nuts to keep stalling.

    • Both solar and wind are very capital intensive when compared with, say, a gas turbine-generator. […] Run the numbers (unsubsidized) and you will see just what economic dogs wind and solar really are, with solar being by far the worst.

      This may continue to be true for wind (but stay tuned), but probably won’t for solar. (“Swanson’s Law”.)

      Use the best theoretical energy conversion efficiencies wind and solar could ever achieve, take a look at the inherent energy density limitations involved, and you will concluded that too much physical material is required to produce too little power output for these technologies to ever reach the Promised Land of economic survivability.

      Setting aside wind, the best plausible (at this time) conversion efficiency for solar is around 60-70% (with appropriate new technology). Using existing 40% efficiencies, and 2000x concentrating solar power, with thin-film silicon (made from sand), you’re talking about around 8 KW/gram! It’s totally ridiculous to claim that “too much physical material is required to produce too little power output for these technologies to ever reach the Promised Land of economic survivability.”

      • “…8 KW/gram!”

        What’s “totally ridiculous” is confusing the mass of actual energy conversion material with the mass (and cost) of the entire energy plant. If I gave you the solar cells for free at current conversion efficiencies, you still couldn’t make economic sense of central photovoltaic solar. Better to think in terms of Kwh per acre-year.

      • Renewables like solar and wind are unsustainable. they cannot produce the power to support modern society. They are a drag.
        http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/08/22/catch-22-of-energy-storage/

      • AK, your solar estimate for future efficiency is wildly off. There is a theoretical quantum physics band gap limit called the Shockley- Queisser (yes, that William Shockley). For single PV layers (e.g silicon p-n ‘diode’ junctions) it is about 31% depending on solar irradiance assumptions (which interestingly depend on GHG– water vapor is almost, but not completely, transparent over the quantum useful PV frequency range). Add a second layer with a different band gap like a 3/5 material (very expensive gallium arsenide) and you get a whopping theoretical increase to 38%. But not in practice because of the extra scattering from the extra layer. Helps some. Boeing even makes triple layers for the deep space probes where cost is no issue and there is not much sunlight flux.
        In practice, the best c-Si cells are manufactured at batch dependent 25-26% now (using lots of expensive tricks like anti-reflective coatings and surface diffraction gratings), and these are assembled into commercial panels with about 19% efficiency. p-Si cells run 19% with panels about 16 (p-Si losses from theoretical are inherent in the polysilicon grain boundaries, which are charge trappers).
        For thin films like CdTe, the S-Q limit is about 18% and First Solar has made cells at 14, panels at 12. Roughly the same theoretical to practical efficiency ratios in an inherently less efficient (but lower cost) materials system.

        Doubling PV efficiency from what already exists is beyond physics. Somehow you have been misinformed.

        If Judith wants, I could easily whip up an illustrated post on the PV physics efficiency stuff. Is already researched and written up in different forms, as I served as an outside Board member on a solar startup out of Argonne that had a cheaper way to get to mid 20’s single layer efficiency. Except it didn’t. We shut it down last year. Heck, could also do a post on wind turbine life (the bearing problem PE noted above in a wind comment to Max). Researched it and had a draft essay for Blowing Smoke, which did not make the final cut since too narrow and techy given the bigger renewables picture.

      • Rud,

        If Judith wants, I could easily whip up an illustrated post on the PV physics efficiency stuff.

        Sounds interesting.

      • @Rud Istvan…

        Sorry for the slow response, I’m pretty busy these days, and forgot to check back on this comment.

        I haven’t been mis-informed, the theoretical limit for monochromatic PV cells is, AFAIK, around 80-85%. Assuming concentrating technology that produces a highly concentrated spectrum, with tuned monochromatic PV at each point, my “60-70%” is perfectly reasonable. I’ve heard estimates of 80% for working LASER>PV systems, although I can’t point to any peer-reviewed work. (Don’t have time to search.)

        Of course, you still need concentrating technology. I’m pretty sure it could be done with Fresnel lens/prism structures, although I’m still trying to work out the optics (in my spare time). Using a glass-fronted system with a total thickness of a few millimeters (assuming Fresnel intervals in the 100μm range and multiple glass types), it makes sense to assume, say, a total of 5mm material, mostly glass (silica w/ impurities) and relatively cheap plastic.

        At 20% zenith coverage (full tracking), you’re talking 200,000 square meters of frontal material per square kilometer of land, at 0.005 cubic meters per square meter (5mm), works out to 1000 cubic meters per square kilometer of land.

        Assuming 60% efficiency, at a (rough) 1 KW/square meter, the zenith 200,000 square meters would yield 0.6*200,000 KW = 120 MW/square kilometer of land. For a million square kilometers of land, that works out to 120 teraWatts peak, divide by four for daylight (remember the tracking) and minimal clouds (assuming the right locations) gives you about 30 teraWatts average.

        Total material requirements for that million square kilometers would be about a billion cubic meters, one cubic kilometer. Far from unreasonable.

        Unless I’ve made an order-of-magnitude error above. Check my work?

    • Stephen Segrest

      Claude — I was in general agreement with your post until the sentence:

      Their terrible capacity factors tell you that for the majority of the time, on average, those plants are either NOT producing power or are producing only a fraction of nameplate power.

      What would you say of a combustion turbine burning +$100 bbl oil in Japan installed to meet peak demand with a capacity factor of less than 10%. Would you say it has a horrible capacity factor?

      • Stephen Segrest

        Planning Engineer — Could you explain to everyone what ELCC (Effective Load Carrying Capability) is?

      • Of course peaking turbines are run a low capacity factors! The point of my post was that it makes economic sense to run cheap machines (combustion turbines) at low capacity factors. It makes no sense to deliberately run capital intensive machines (nuclear) at low capacity factors and it makes no sense to build capital intensive plants that cannot be run at any but low capacity factors (wind and solar).

      • Planning Engineer

        Stephen – Emergency generation with a very high cost, does not bother me if it’s dependable and I can count on it and especially if I’m sure I don’t have to count on it too often. Occasionally you might see emergency generation added not for meeting the system peak, but rather to save the system (or a portion of the system) from a rare but potentially catastrophic event. I favor low capacity factors on such units and don’t mind incredibly high generation costs. If such a unit only operates once for a few hours that might be good enough. (We spend multi-millions to mitigate and prevent rare events that might happen only once every 50 year but have widespread unacceptable consequences.) I don’t mind an old CT with horrendous costs lying around waiting for that record breaking hot summer. If it’s cost are 100 times my average, it’s day may come.

        None of that makes me sympathetic to low capacity factors for high cost intermittent generation. If you spend a ton on a wind turbine and it only operates at a few hundred random hours a year – that is concerning. It won’t be there for the once every 5 year summer heat wave either.

        I don’t want to desert you Stephen but I’m not much help on ELCC. Effective Load Carrying Capability is a measure indicating how well a unit might be available for reliability problems and to help reduce outage events. I’m no expert there and don’t have an opinion to offer as to how credible such assessment are. Traditional units can suffer outages as your peak nears and they have unavailability as well. But we have a longer track record with them. I don’t know if the ELCC values are conservative and intermittents serve to increase reliability with their addition since we built in a little extra margin to cover the uncertainty, or too generous (because we want to encourage renewables) and degrade reliability. Since we don’t have a lot of experience there and intermittent projects vary as to location and specifics – I doubt the measure hits it on the nose.

      • Stephen Segrest

        Claude — Your statement: The point of my post was that it makes economic sense to run cheap machines (combustion turbines) at low capacity factors.

        To meet peaking load, does it always make sense to run cheap machines (combustion turbines) at very high fuel cost (e.g., oil at +$100 bbl) versus solar?

    • Break even point:

      I thought it was good to present it as fixed and variable costs. Some industries are fixed cost heavy, and some are variable cost heavy. Fixed cost heavy’s answer is more volume to make a profit. Variable cost heavy’s answer is looking at cutting variable costs, the current margin. So once built, nuclear is less sensitive to variable cost (fuel price) fluctuations in general, same with hydro. Fixed costs sometimes also include overhead. Examples are property taxes, maintenance, insurance and communications. These costs can be assumed to be pretty stable.

    • I’m seeing a considerable lack of understanding on the part of some commenters of the fundamentals of economics and finance; in particular, the time-value of money.

      I agree. That’s the fundamental problem with trying to explain these issues to people who have little understanding of finance, cost/benefit analyses, options analysis, policy analysis, but are very confident they know what they are talking about.

  22. Planning Engineer

    Wasn’t aware this was available earlier, but it provides a good recent overview from NERC of what is referred to as system services in the chart above (Called Essential Reliability Services in the document). http://www.nerc.com/comm/Other/essntlrlbltysrvcstskfrcDL/ERSTF%20Concept%20Paper.pdf

  23. Having only skimmed the post and reading none of the previous replies, I recognize this comment may be redundant.

    The simplest metric by which we CAN compare wind with dispatchable generation is its guaranteed continuous minimum contribution to serving load across peak demand hours of the year, at some high statistical confidence level. There are several terms out there which approach this definition: capacity value, capacity credit, effective load carrying capability, loss of load expectation, summer capacity and winter capacity, to name a few.

    One of the entities which works for FERC as a market monitor, Potomac Economics headed by David Patton, notes in their 2012 Annual Report on MISO that:

    “The current capacity credit for wind is likely more than three times higher than a reasonably conservative capacity credit. Such a credit should be
    based on the minimum output level one could expect under peak summer conditions.”

    https://www.potomaceconomics.com/uploads/reports/2012_SOM_Report_final_6-10-13.pdf (report page vi) and:

    ” ..[T]his report shows the effects of assuming the lowest quartile
    of output during peak hours on the unit-by-unit basis. This methodology would produce an average capacity credit for the wind resources of 2.7 percent for PY 2013–14.” (Same resource, report page 16).

    Using the average of the lowest quartile as a measure of capacity value means that wind output would not fall below a 2.7% of its nameplate capacity more than about 12.5% of the time, or that its capacity value would by 2.7% at an 87.5% confidence level. Even this severe trimming of wind’s capacity related “avoided cost of capital” on the system is not conservative enough to be applied to the entire generation fleet. If all generators had their capacity value (credit) rated at an 87.5% confidence level, reserve margins would be severely understated, as Potomac points out in other sections of the referenced report.

    To get to the punch line, yes, wind is perhaps a fuel saver but has near zero sway to avoid constructing and maintaining dispatchable plants. Essentially wind’s value cannot exceed the value of the fuel it saves: About $40/MWh for CC Gas, $25/MWh for coal, and less than $10/MWh for nuclear. One need only compare fixed to variable cost ratios of dispatchable plants, then, to calculate wind’s avoided cost including fixed costs, multiplying the dispatchable technolgies’ fixed costs by wind capacity value (2.7%?) divided by the dispatchable source’s capacity value.

    We developed a simplified regional market hourly economic/technical re-dispatch model this year. This is a fascinating tool to help interested parties at all levels of technical competency recognize the interdependent impacts of adding intermittent resources into systems with varying amounts of fixed output resources (i.e. nuclear) already participating in their regional markets. Contact me for more information about the release date and venue for this model.

    • John Smith (it's my real name)

      FERC
      haven’t heard those folk mentioned much lately
      are they still around?
      I just remember two attorney friends, lawyers for FERC, telling me what great things this outfit called ENRON was doing

      • Still around.

        Still coming up with new regulations.

        Struck out against the EPA (i.e. ignored) over CO2 regulations and potential threat to grid reliability.

        Still employing attorneys, one of which is a niece of mine.

    • Thomas Stacey,

      To get to the punch line, yes, wind is perhaps a fuel saver but has near zero sway to avoid constructing and maintaining dispatchable plants. Essentially wind’s value cannot exceed the value of the fuel it saves: About $40/MWh for CC Gas, $25/MWh for coal, and less than $10/MWh for nuclear.

      Excellent point. In the Australian National Electricity market the capacity credit was 3% in one state and 8% in another (don’t remember which was which of Victoria and South Australia). I think the 8% has been reduced since.

  24. Stephen Segrest

    Planning Engineer — Thanks for another solid post!

    In these threads, I continue to see folks framing generation options in terms of black/white either/or. If you could clarify some things, it would be appreciated:

    (1) In a “typical” bell shaped load distribution curve, what is the approximate percentage break-downs in total generation requirements? i.e. — base load is about X%, intermediate is Y%, and peaking is Z% (total is 100%).

    (2) In a black/white either/or World — If on an existing Utility grid where significant incremental growth was occurring primarily in peak demand, would a U.S. Utility generally: (A) Build a new nuclear power plant for this new incremental demand that would have a capacity factor of say 30%, (B) Install solar resources, (C) Or in prior base load planning decisions, overbuild a nuclear unit and just cycle up during 30% of the System’s generation requirements (as they reportedly do in France)?

    (Note: Of course, lets assume that somehow nuclear cost per kW becomes reasonable — not China’s, but reasonable/hopeful Western country estimates).

    (3) Here in the U.S., could you discuss why “cycling down” large coal and nuclear base load power plants is so difficult. Please address what typically happens in efficiency (percentage wise) when a large coal unit is “cycled down”, and what happens to long term O&M costs when cycling up and down routinely happens.

    (4) Could you discuss why Renewables could be a better Fit in places say like New England (with a fleet of new shinny natural gas combined cycle units) versus say a place like Mississippi (with a lot of older coal units).

    (5) Could you talk to us about fuel risks. Every U.S. Electric Utility CEO that’s advancing the need for base load nuclear talks about the critical need for generation fleet diversification given (A) the hand writing on the wall as to U.S. coal (e.g., mercury, smog); (B) the fear of becoming overly dependent on natural gas.

    If having a diversified portfolio for fuel risk is important for base load requirements — is this diversified portfolio argument valid or invalid for peaking requirements (e.g., solar)?

    • Planning Engineer

      1) In a “typical” bell shaped load distribution curve, what is the approximate percentage break-downs in total generation requirements? i.e. — base load is about X%, intermediate is Y%, and peaking is Z% (total is 100%).
      >Here’s some rough guestimates that must be close to true for some place at some time and not true for other places at other times. On a capacity basis (plus or minus 10% on each) maybe 45% Base, 35% intermediate and 20% peaking. Now the Base units will operate more and the peakers less so on an energy basis you might see 65-75% of the energy from baseload plants, 25 to 30%% from intermediate plants and only 2-5% from peakers. This is not an exact science and strict categories are somewhat fuzzy. Gas plants put in as intermediates are operating as baseload with the low prices. I don’t know whether to keep them as intermediates and showing intermediates operating more, or classify them now as baseload.
      (2) In a black/white either/or World — If on an existing Utility grid where significant incremental growth was occurring primarily in peak demand, would a U.S. Utility generally: (A) Build a new nuclear power plant for this new incremental demand that would have a capacity factor of say 30%, (B) Install solar resources, (C) Or in prior base load planning decisions, overbuild a nuclear unit and just cycle up during 30% of the System’s generation requirements (as they reportedly do in France)?
      >(D) None of the above, probably. (B) Possibly solar would work if the peak if the solar is coincident and dependable in relation to the peak growth. What would be needed is a balance between existing generation, the new generation and your load shape. (F) If the system were balanced before and now the peak is growing – you’d likely want to add a peaking resource like a combustion turbine. (C) If you could grow into the capability of the nuclear plant in a reasonable time, it may make sense to over build temporarily and dispatch the rest of your system less than might be otherwise optimal in order to serve the peaking load as reportedly France does. (A) I don’t think a nuke would work with a capacity factor of 30%. Unless the load was very seasonal and you could run it for weeks and then do without it for weeks. But cycling for a 30% load would not work. I
      (3) Here in the U.S., could you discuss why “cycling down” large coal and nuclear base load power plants is so difficult. Please address what typically happens in efficiency (percentage wise) when a large coal unit is “cycled down”, and what happens to long term O&M costs when cycling up and down routinely happens.
      > Someone else is probably better than me to answer this question. Planners take numbers from the maintenance people and put them in our models-lol. There is less wear and tear on a system when you ramp it up and leave it there than starting and stopping. (With good driving city miles are harder on your auto than highway miles). Some plants are built to better stop and start others not so much. O&M costs go up with cycling due to wear and tear. With controlling nuclear reactions I can only begin to imagine the difficulties introduced by starting and stopping – I never even saw maintenance numbers on that – you just don’t go there.
      (4) Could you discuss why Renewables could be a better Fit in places say like New England (with a fleet of new shinny natural gas combined cycle units) versus say a place like Mississippi (with a lot of older coal units).
      >Should probably defer here as well. I’m not sure why the premise has New England as better than Mississippi. Wind will be better where there is wind. Same for geothermal and solar. The higher capacity values from renewables afforded in an area the better (though I fear they are dreadfully low most places). Other than that renewables will be better based on the incremental cost of the energy they will replace. In general places with higher energy costs will be better. Or maybe the answer is renewables will be a better fit where politically they are supported (actual performance be damned).
      (5) Could you talk to us about fuel risks. Every U.S. Electric Utility CEO that’s advancing the need for base load nuclear talks about the critical need for generation fleet diversification given (A) the hand writing on the wall as to U.S. coal (e.g., mercury, smog); (B) the fear of becoming overly dependent on natural gas.
      If having a diversified portfolio for fuel risk is important for base load requirements — is this diversified portfolio argument valid or invalid for peaking requirements (e.g., solar)?
      >That’s a really good question. It is important to have a diversified portfolio. But at what cost? My take is you should be willing to pay a premium for diversity, but when the cost delta’s get too high maybe not. The world changes so you sometimes get diversity just because current conditions are giving different answers than the past so your new additions are different from you current ones. Without outside political/environmental pressures because of low actual and projected gas prices – all indications would be build more gas. To hedge against gas risk I’d happily pay 5% more for nuclear base load which would control the costs. I would not pay 100% more for nuclear just to reduce the fuel risk. Somewhere between 5% and 100% you get challenged.
      The world changes – one of the risk mitigation strategies in case natural gas prices got too high was to convert them to gasified coal operation. The capital costs of such a conversion are huge and now the environmental hurdles would be impenetrable.
      I’m less worried about diversity for peaking rather than for intermediate or baseload, but it is somewhat of a concern. See above peaking only provides a much smaller portion of energy than it does for capacity.

      • Stephen Segrest

        Planning Engineer — Thanks.

        My question on say, New England versus Mississippi is for you to address the issue of System generation portfolio flexibility in integrating Renewables.

        Why is having intermediate natural gas (say combined cycle) units important (regardless of any Renewable discussion)? What does load tracking ability mean, and why is this important? (again, forget any Renewable aspect)

        Does a System’s flexibility play a big part in how Planners view Renewables? Can this System flexibility address many of the concerns folks have about individual characteristics of Renewables?

      • Planning Engineer

        Stephen – Did you see the piece on the Duck Curve. That addresses load tracking. https://judithcurry.com/2014/11/05/more-renewables-watch-out-for-the-duck-curve/

        Flexible operating characteristics – the ability to ramp up, ramp down, switch off, switch on – are important. You need a certain amount of your generation to have that capability at all hours. A hypothetical system now completely consisting of natural gas CTs, Combined cycles and hydro would have very good characteristics and could absorb more renewables. Add high amounts of Nuclear (that for now operates at a set level) and the flexibility goes down somewhat. Same for run of river hydro or a biomass or coal plant with a set round the clock contract. Add in intermittent resource, which not only can’t be made to do when you want them to, but might do the exact opposite and your flexibility is lower still for additional renewables.

        What do you do in the middle of the night when loads are low and you have a big nuclear plant running, a coal plant that is backed down halfway- but can’t be shutdown because it is needed for the peak, and the wind is blowing and you are getting the max ever out of your wind farms such that generation exceed load? You have to solve your oversupply problem sufficiently so that you have something flexible that can regulate the second by second minute by minute changes in demand. Base and intermittents with no intermediates = disaster.

      • Stephen Segrest

        Planning Engineer — Thanks. I just wanted people to re-read what you’ve written before on System flexibility. I don’t think many folks are grasping the importance of System versus individual generation characteristics yet.

      • I don’t think many folks are grasping the importance of System versus individual generation characteristics yet.

        Speaking for your self?. I haven’t yet seen you do a proper comparison of two alternative systems, that must meet the same requirements of energy security, reliability, power quality, at least cost – and achieve the same emissions reductions. Until you do that, I think you are just waffling.

        This shows the cost to achieve 100% renewables (using biofuels for back up) and three options with natural gas instead of biomass for back up. the system is optimised to minimise the amount of bio fuel required to meet demand with the required reliability. Transmission is considered to be a ‘copperplate system’ for the original optimisation study.

        This adds a fifth option, mostly nuclear, in which nuclear replaces all renewables other than those already in service and already approved.
        http://oznucforum.customer.netspace.net.au/TP4PLang.pdf

    • If having a diversified portfolio for fuel risk is important for base load requirements — is this diversified portfolio argument valid or invalid for peaking requirements (e.g., solar)?

      It depends on the costs v the benefits. Until you say something and do proper costs comparisons all your comments are irrelevant waffle and personal opinion.

  25. Great article. When I was working at a nuc plant, we worried about a shutdown when we were near the end of core life due to the poison buildup. Once we started our refueling 12 days early because we tripped and would have had to wait 7 days before we could come critical again.

  26. Thanks PE for serious reality based information, it isn’t going to change one Greenshirt Utopian Renewable Energy meme, carbon hating or in short the AGW political cult itself but I appreciate the posts. Facts are helpful but they don’t overcome the emotions of even well educated academics cheering a mob on. The Green belief system is proof positive of that.

    For example;

    Today NPR is celebrating the birthday
    of Rachel Carson of “Silent Spring” fame and the global fraud involved to ban DDT. It’s estimated to have cost 60 million lives in largely poor nations. It’s overtones to the climate change agenda are rather obvious as is the actual empirical science discounted in post normal political science state. It’s been about 52 years of reasoned debunking of Silent Spring by rational “facts” to no avail to the undercurrent value system that is using another politically motivated scale to decide what is science truth. So for all the useful facts of your work PE the key to science improvement is a consensus of cultural honesty as to why the Green Culture (some call it a “Green blob” or mob) are largely immune to empirical observations you may list. Carbon hating (or love of irrationally priced “renewables”), the political enertia around it or Silent Spring, is devoid of factual derailment alone.

  27. Pingback: Climate Etc. – understanding the cost of renewables | Allegheny Treasures

  28. PE, here’s another example of why facts weigh so little with Green emotional reasoning in the room:

    http://joannenova.com.au/2014/12/48-science-minds-misuse-the-term-scientist-namecalling-is-not-science/

    A tree can always grow to the sky in the renewable meme, if it doesn’t there is a conspiracy explaination usually to follow. So your figures and effort is instantly discounted. All the people in the link are “smart” and don’t care a darn for your observations. Better we focus on the why of that when facts are present. Again, I enjoyed your post and least a reprieve by the absence of our usual pinhead Gaia police squad found on most topics but curiously absent today.

  29. Planning Engineer

    I feel terribly let down by science communicators like Neil Tyson DeGrasse, Bill Nye and other members of the “skeptical/science” community. A few times, mostly long ago, I tried to offer some “critical thinking” challenges related to the environment and energy on the skeptical blogs and in no instances did it feel like a rewarding experience. I love science, critical thinking and that they debunk a lot of hooey. But many in that community equate scientific literacy with an adoption of global alarmism and the promotion of aggressive measures to address it. In many sphere’s the “skeptic community” welcomes debate and is very careful to spell out use evidence to support their beliefs and address challenges. With climate they just seem to label dissent as deniers and reiterate bullet points.
    I’m afraid that group got derailed years back and instead of rethinking doubled down. Perhaps Michael Crichton nailed it here: http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/commentaries/crichton_3.pdf

    • Planning Engineer

      This was in response to CWON14 and the post he cited.

    • I enjoy your posts, Planning Engineer, and hope that you never feel tempted to take up “science communication” in place of saying what you think, what you know, and what you don’t know.

      Us folks in River City have bought enough marching bands and monorails from “science communicators”.

    • In many sphere’s the “skeptic community” welcomes debate and is very careful to spell out use evidence to support their beliefs and address challenges. With climate they just seem to label dissent as deniers and reiterate bullet points.
      I’m afraid that group got derailed years back and instead of rethinking doubled down.

      That’s been exactly my expirience at the now defunct Skepticblog (http://www.skepticblog.org/). I think when it comes to environmental issues, they are too emotionally invested. It looks like it will be more of the same at the replacement Insight (http://www.skeptic.com/insight/).

    • It’s a great essay of course and how sad that the Green and Global Socialist movements are as committed as ever to politically corrupted, Soviet styled “science” in even greater proportions today.

      Crichton saw the peak of what little intellectual credibility (initial obscurity of the enclave from academia to ascending political meme of the last 25 years) and exuberant Green Utopian-ism there was. What he would make of the naked vitriol of the current incarnations is anyone’s guess. He certainly warned of the potential but underestimated in my view the schism that drives it to this level globally.

  30. Stephen Segrest

    Clearly, there are some very smart folks here at CE that bring up valid points on Renewables. But what I balk at is the lack of objectivity often seen here in talking about how Renewables are and have been addressing issues like intermittency.

    In Planning Engineer’s previous post, I referenced a ton of studies by the U.S. Department of Energy (and its Labs), EPRI, etc. on actual industry/utility advancements, achievements on:

    Voltage and VAR control and regulation, voltage ride-through, power curtailment and ramping, primary frequency regulation and inertial response.

    I also referenced what actually is going on in Europe as to some of the concerns raised here at CE on short-term outages — the world-wide industry recognized metric of SAIDI (where short term reliability on the German Grid is sure better than in Texas).

    https://judithcurry.com/2014/11/05/more-renewables-watch-out-for-the-duck-curve/#comment-645002

    As to the issue of a “bulk system collapse” there are so many issues involved like (1) Renewable Penetration Levels; (2) Generation Mix Flexibility — especially with the amount of load following intermediate units; (3) Grid integration (e.g., Germany to Norway’s hydro or New England to Canadian hydro), etc.

    You just can not make either/or black/white conclusions on Renewables (as many here at CE do). It’s about using sound engineering and engineering economics looking for right fits.

    The right fit say in Mississippi might be 10%.

    In addition to the hard data I’ve referenced on intermittency concerns, we are seeing remarkable hard data on the dramatic decrease in solar technology costs (e.g., analogy of Moore’s Law). Just how low can it go?

    • Stephen, to your bolded, I know a great deal about it since invented a better material for supercaps, which in static compensators are substituting for spinning inertial mass machines (aka synchronous condensers) in single units up to 4mw x 1 minute.
      But that is all ‘dynamic compensation’ for power quality (VaR and ramp rates and frequency regulation are key word giveaways). All about power on the order of 1/60 second to several seconds. Lots going on, as you note.
      Has nothing to do with the hours to days of storage or backup required by intermittent renewables. And no matter what happens to wind or solar capital costs, both will always be intermittent. And that will always be a huge problem with any appreciable grid penetration.

    • Ummm SS there was a Texas outage caused by wind power.

      Further the plant operators have told Merkel they are divesting themselves of the coal and nuclear power plants which government policy is keeping from being used profitably, and just retaining the renewable facilities.

      Power generation is a hot topic in Germany.

  31. Stephen Segrest

    Something went wrong when I hit send on the last post. It should have read:

    The right fit say in Mississippi might be 10% in New England.

  32. Stephen Segrest

    It must be the html: The right fit say in Mississippi might be less than 1% and greater than 10% in New England.

    • Stephen,

      I believe you are correct regarding fit. Here in the PNW, wind is not a bad fit, primarily because of the availability of hydro. With that said, growth in wind generation is coming to an end here.

    • It must be the html:

      Indeed. But “The right fit say in New England might be > 10% and < 1% in Mississippi " would have worked.

  33. The sound engineering and economic analyses on power generation provided in this outstanding thread apparently have the resident trolls intimidated. Well, those who are smarter than maxie.

    Nice work by, especially Planning Engineering and Claude Harvey.

    • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

      The continued growth of wind-power is bad news for Fossil Fuel Luddites and Nuke Nuts. So they retreat into denial and keep telling themselves wind-power sucks.

      • Max,

        I don’t see that at all, which is why I modified your sentence earlier leading to a need to define “reality”. What I see is “we’re not ready yet” when it comes to renewables. Recognition exists that fossil fuels will not last forever. Spending tons of money today for CO2 mitigation is the point of contest. When technology brings the “true” costs of renewables in balance with fossil fuels then bring it on.

      • Wind power might actually be good news for Fossil Fuels if it blocks nuclear plants.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        Danny, ready or not, renewable energy is accounting for a growing share of the energy market. Mark Twain said “show me where a man gets his bread buttered and I’ll tell you his pinions.” Could some of the opposition to wind power come from people who fear their bread is losing butter?

        Why focus just on CO2? Renewables reduce harmful emissions in general, not just CO2 emissions.

        Canman, that could explain why Peter Lang and other advocates of nuclear power are so opposed to wind power.

      • Max,

        I get that they are increasing in market share, but I’m not sure they should be and since you’ve not seen any numbers just like I haven’t (had not until some were shared I believe from PE). So are not doing exactly what we agree we shouldn’t? Making decisions w/o all the analysis in hand by advocating wind (and other renewables) over fossil fuels?

        I’m confident some are against it for the wrong reasons, but are some for it also for the wrong reasons?

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        MORE BAD NEWS FOR FOES OF WIND POWER

        Bloomberg today reported a huge wind-power order from Africa

        Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS) won an order to supply what the company says will be Africa’s biggest wind-power plant in a sign that clean-energy investments are picking up on the poorest continent.

        Vestas received an order from Lake Turkana Wind Power Ltd. for 365 of its 0.85-megawatt turbines, it said in a website statement. That’s the most machines the Copenhagen-based company has sold to a single plant. The project benefits from wind conditions that are among “the best in the world,” Chief Sales Officer Juan Araluce said today.
        http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-12/vestas-gets-biggest-wind-turbine-order-as-africa-market-erupts.html

      • Max & PE,

        Maybe this is a good application, huh? If designed/built from the ground up to provide 15% of demand. PE, if you were in this “poor country” and had reliable wind, how do you see the cost/benefit? Do you think you’d chose differently? (not sure there’s enough info. to answer)

        From the Lake Turkana site: http://www.ltwp.co.ke/the-project/the-community

        Unfortunately, I don’t see any detail on financing from IFC for comparison of alternatives.

      • Maxie’s yammering is based on a false premise: the basis for the “opposition to wind-power” is a preference for fossil fuels. Whether he really believes that, or he is just being disingenuous, we don’t know for sure. The truth is that the opposition is to subsidies and mandates for impractical and uneconomic wind-power schemes. Period. End of story.

      • Max, Warren Buffet explained your observation. Take the subsidies and run.

      • Planning Engineer

        Danny – I dont’ know enough to judge, but I like a number of things about that. They have high winds! It’s more likely wind can add value to underserved Africa than to a modern American grid. If you are not served, intermittent is a step up. They can charge batteries. I’m sure they will be quite resourceful in taking advantage of electricity when its there and flowing. I’d rather sink research dollars into a needy area and learn from that experience at the same time doing good for the third world. New technologies often prove themselves in niches and as they improve and things get worked out they find their way to broader applications.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        Don Monfort said on December 12, 2014 at 5:07 pm |
        The truth is that the opposition is to subsidies and mandates for impractical and uneconomic wind-power schemes. Period. End of story.
        —–

        Yes, much of the opposition is ideological. Free-market ideologues object to subsidies on principle, because they believe everything is best left to market forces, although some might not mind subsidies that help them personally. These ideologues have little influence on public policy.

      • Maxie is on the wrong page. Interspersed in a reasoned and informative discussion are his yammerings arguing with people we don’t know: Fossil Fuel Luddites, Nuke Nuts, Free-Market Ideologues. These are the Straw Men of maxie’s dreams. What a clown.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        ” Free-Market Ideologues” is not a colorful name. I should have said “Free-Market Fruitcakes.” My favorite is “Nuke Nuts.” I believe it would be a good name for a peanut snack laced with hot pepper or a breakfast cereal that erupts when milk is added.

  34. The groundbreaking idea in the linked article about how life began certainly improves on the old belief that life was created by leaving a pile of dirty rags left in a corner.

  35. Max,

    From your post above:”Some engineers believe wind power is practical while others don’t, so apparently there’s not complete agreement among engineers on “reality.”
    This sure reminds me of something else if one replaced engineers with climate scientists and wind power with climate change.

  36. I will help you, maxie:

    Some climate scientists believe in CAGW while others don’t, so apparently there’s not complete agreement among climate scientists on “reality.”

    • Another point to ponder, maxie, is that engineers are primarily concerned with whether or not it can be built. If someone will fund it, they will build it. See Claude Harvey’s analysis on the question of practicality.

      • Planning Engineer

        It’s a dilemma Don. We want to do the right thing, but yeah we love to do exciting fancy stuff. I think the right thing wins out for most engineers – but building the near trillion dollar system needed for a massive transition to renewables would sure be exciting.
        I was at a meeting earlier this week and the EPA Clean Air Act was referred to as a Lifetime Employment Act for Planners. The only Engineers I find that are not concerned/dismayed by the Clean Air Act work within the alternative energy segment, though likely it would personally benefit us all. (If our homes don’t require too much AC.)

    • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

      Don suggests 97% of engineers want wind-power. ClimateEtc seems to have attracted some of the remainder.

      • Sure maxie, almost everybody wants wind-power. We are all looking forward to the day that capitalism is vanquished and de-industrialization makes it practical again.

      • Seems to me that those that want to return us to the neolithic age would be against the amount of industrialization necessary to build a million wind turbines.

      • Well, there is a pool of engineers that graduated at the bottom of their class. About 6% of the population is severely mentally ill.

        So there is a pool of incompetent and crazy engineers that believe in wind power, CAGW, and that micro-thermite charges set by the US government brought down the twin towers.

  37. Three little words which make all the difference but weren’t on the label: Batteries Not Included.

    To be precise, it’s not wind power which sucks. It’s THIS wind power which sucks.

    If future wind tech does not suck, then future people should buy it. Future-me would certainly buy it because I like alternatives to everything. In fact, I like alternatives so much that I am yearning for alternatives to wind power and solar in their present clunky forms. But can you imagine carting all that junk away and then having to find money to start again with something useful? The enemy of good alternatives is not the status-quo or BAU; it’s the sucky alternatives which squash all the enthusiasm, cred and funding for the good alternatives.

    The retro-fitting is bad enough. But so much money has been spent on this junk we are now faced with years of retro-advocating.

    Meanwhile, to paraphrase Google, don’t be eagle.

  38. Matthew R Marler

    Planning Engineer, thank you for another informative post.

  39. PE: Thanks for the informative post. Are there any accepted alternatives to Leveled Cost of Energy, which ignores dispatchability and the demand cycle?

    I’m particularly annoyed at the idea that rooftop solar is now “competitive” with power from the grid, especially since rooftop solar is mostly an option for the affluent. ($20,000 system, wait about 6-18 months to receive your Federal tax credit, wait 10? years to recoup your investment and show a profit, resale risk.) Some companies will install solar panels (they own) and lease them back to homeowners (so the affluent owner of the company can make this profit), but I suspect such companies aren’t interested in making such investments in non-affluent homes. In either case, if I install roof top solar, my neighbors and/or children will pay the 30% federal tax credit for installing my system plus any state or local incentives (up to another 30%). This doesn’t make roof top solar competitive with electricity from the grid; it just shifts the cost of that electricity onto others, who may be less affluent.

    Then my neighbors may be required to buy any excess electricity my solar panels produce, sometimes at a retail rate which is far higher than the wholesale rate conventional generators might charge. Since my rooftop solar panels are likely to produce excess power only for a few hours around noon and since peak demand is likely to be much later in the day, my home is a producer of intermediate load power and a consumer of expensive peak power. This means that a larger fraction of dispatchable conventional generations become inherently more expensive peak demand, which my neighbors must pay. (The local power distributor, of course, is the entity required to purchase my excess output, but the local public utility commission allows them to pass all generation expenses on to my neighbors.)

    Supposed my residential solar panels reduce my net cost to zero. The local distributor (and through them my neighbors) is required (often by law) to reliably provide me with all the power AND the distribution system to deliver it, whenever I want to consume power. They also may be required to purchase power from me whenever I want to sell, often at a higher price than they can purchase power elsewhere.

    IMO, this is a more accurate depiction of some aspects renewable power than your polite generalities. Getting rid of the fallacy of leveled cost of electricity generation is the first step in confronting reality. Is the company you work for required to confront reality, or are they guaranteed a return on their investment by their local public utility commission and able to pass all costs on to customers served by a monopoly? It that case, the profits your company earns may be driven by the total amount your company has invested in power generation and distribution, and not enhanced by lowering the cost of delivering power to your customers.

    When customers don’t pay the full cost of their buying decisions, economists say that the negative externalities are being paid by others. The “social cost” of carbon is a negative externality, but one that is almost impossible to calculate given uncertainty about climate sensitivity, costs and discount rate. It is likely that the negative externalities associated with roof top solar are going to be in the vicinity of 100% of the homeowners cost, which is far greater than the low-end estimates of the social cost of carbon.

    • Frank, you have described why in the real world EON, Germany’s largest utility, just announced it is splitting in two to hive off the no longer profitable conventional baseload assets. Caused by forced grid acceptance of intermittent renewables, requiring curtailment of the conventional baseload, with all the negative economic impacts noted upthread.
      The stuff on this thread is not theoretical, or whinging by traditionalists. Wait til California or UK grid crashes sometime soon due to too much renewable and not enough reserve.
      Already happened a few months ago in Scotland. Blamed on a faulty substation relay. But what was not said is that relay was supposed to trip because of a sudden decline in wind. The relay was supposed to isolate a small part of the grid (its substation grid, most likely), letting that fail to save the rest. When it did not, the whole thing went down. At least that is what can be gleaned from the facts peaking out from the inevitable Green coverup. Worth a Google.

    • Planning Engineer

      Frank – I’m not ignoring you. It’s not so much a bulk issue so I don’t have any additional insight. I appreciate yours.

      • If I may politely ask (and you don’t have to answer), do you work for an organization (such as power distributor) that generally makes more profit when they are allowed by regulators to invest more in capacity? Or do you work where there is a free market that rewards the lowest cost generators?

        I ask because I had a friend who was planning for his company’s move away from a regulated environment. For decades, the most reliable way to earn more profit had been to invest more capital and get the promised ROI. Suddenly the goal was to be the lowest cost generator, which was a real shock to an organization that had always been allowed to pass operating costs on to consumers. I doubt many of your readers (including myself) understand the unusual incentives that drive the power business.

      • Frank,

        It’s an excellent question, but doesn’t need to be framed as asking PE what sort of organisation he works for. Over the long run, intervention and regulations increase the cost of what the market can deliver.

      • Planning Engineer

        Frank – there are more choices than you provide. I will answer none of the above. In North America we have power providers who are Municipals, Cooperstives, Federal and State entities. Not to cast aspersions on profit, but in my career the drivers to provide economic, reliable power to consumers in a publicly responsible manner has not ever been in conflict with a profit motive connected to earning a rate of return. The focus has been rates and costs to consumers. I have been part of joint projects where our partners were,

      • + 100

      • Planning Engineer

        Partners were getting a return on investment.

      • As of course they should. And some must have the opportunity to make super profit otherwise every business that attempts to run a business must be guaranteed a fair rate of return (like in communist countries). If there is no incentive to invest and take risk, everyone may as well be an employee of the state. How is the money generated to pay their wages? :(

      • Planning Engineer

        Thankfully all utility models in North America pay their employees. That’s always built into the rate first thing! Some utilities provide profits to external shareholders, Utilities without the profit motive have developed bold and brilliant projects (as have investor owned entities). And similarly investor owned utilities show great concern for impacts on their consumers (as do the rest of us).

        I think it’s fortunate that we have these different models – they kind of provide a check on each other,

  40. Bismarck made a crack that going to war for fear of being attacked is like committing harikiri for fear of death. (He thought you should just be ready for war.)

    Hobbling and wasting fossil fuels for fear of their eventual exhaustion is much the same. You make them expensive for fear that one day they will be expensive. Worse, you neglect their potential for modernisation and development.

    Spending millions trying out energy alternatives, however exotic, is a great idea. Spending billions (trillions by now?) pretending that experimental technologies and possible alternatives are more than what they are has been the problem.

    When something is ready, it’ll be like that first moment you held an iPad. You may not have liked Apple, you may have been waiting for improvements or a cheaper clone before buying…but you knew it was it was something genuinely new, useful and READY.

  41. Stephen Segrest

    What can I say more than its always looking for the right fit based on engineering and engineering economics — and absolutely not any locked in stone mandates of the Politicians.

    The World and how engineers view this World is changing rapidly — especially the degree of new layers of sophistication (e.g., ELCC) in our already extremely complex planning models.

    Many of the negative ubiquitous conclusions on Renewables made here at CE are just not holding in this changing World (e.g., short intermittency and the SAIDI metric).

    Major Utilities in places like Nevada and New York are now giving a “Reported Capacity Value” of ~80% on PV projects.

    It’s not a black/white either/or World — its about looking for Right Fits — which do exist.

    • Well… I actually agree with most of this.

      There is a simple standard for whether PV and Wind are beneficial to the power grid – do the customer’s power bills increase or decrease?

      If the customer’s power bills don’t increase, the technology was a good fit, and was integrated correctly. If the power bills decreased then renewables were a benefit to the system.

      The customer’s power bill is the real standard of whether renewables make sense.

      Perhaps someone could provide documented examples of where of adding renewables reduced the cost of delivered power?

    • Steven – you are partially correct in that there should be no “locked in” solution. Another consideration is artificially inflating the costs of one type of energy (fossil fuels) via regulatory fiat while artificially deflating the costs of another form of energy (renewables) via subsidies in an attempt to “level the playing field”. I have no problem with power companies figuring out the right energy mix and working on ways to integrate renewables into the grid. I have serious problems with RPS which are in fact mandates to force renewables into the grid when they are shown repeatedly not to be ready for prime time without massive and unnecessary expense. Go figure out a way to accomplish what you are trying to accomplish without using force as your means to your end.

  42. Good article. Shame about the graphics. Need to get rid of the cross-lines as an absolute minimum.

  43. Anti-nuclear activist and renewable energy promoter Stacey Clark claims in a HuffPo article this week, one which is Part 3 of a three part series, that wind power can and should completely replace coal and nuclear generation in the US Northeast.

    Offshore Winds Soon to Power Cape Cod: Part 3
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stacy-clark/offshore-winds-soon-to-po_2_b_6247456.html

    The HuffPo article and its earlier two article segments are typical of such articles in ignoring the issue of how to incorporate wind power into the region’s electricity grid while still maintaining the stability and reliability of the grid at an affordable cost, once coal and nuclear are completely gone.

    Ms. Clark’s articles and their various reader comments cite the German program as an example to be followed in making the transition towards a renewable energy future, but without mentioning any of the issues Germany is now facing in achieving its renewable energy goals.

    As far as these people are concerned, the German experiment is progressing nicely. Also as is typical, the article and the associated reader comments cite opposition from fossil fuel interests and from the region’s electric power utilities as being the principle stumbling block to achieving a fast transition into a renewable energy future.

    For myself, I do not see how we could shut down a substantial fraction of the fossil-fuel and nuclear facilities currently attached to the grid, replacing them with the renewables, without imposing severe energy conservation measures on all consumers of electric power. IMHO, the only practical way to enforce such conservation measures would be to raise the price of electrical energy to levels high enough to significantly curtail demand.

    Further, I do not see how we could move towards a grid powered 50% (or more) by the renewables without placing all power distribution responsibility into the hands of a centralized power marketing authority, one which can: (1) provide the levels of technical coordination and assured access to advanced technology needed to keep the grid stable, and (2) which can simultaneously guarantee access to the funding resources needed to pay for the necessary grid-scale energy storage technologies.

    Last month, I asked Planning Engineer how one could transform California’s electric grid to use 50% renewables by 2030 without using nuclear power, assuming strictly for purposes of discussion that a renewable-friendly technical and power marketing environment would be created to support the transformation. Planning Engineer’s detailed response indicated that it would be technically possible to do this, assuming some number of caveats, but only at considerable expense.

    Moving to 50% renewables by 2030 will admittedly be a very expensive proposition, and least in terms of dollars invested. But the argument could be made that these expenses will be recovered, and then some, in the form of a greatly reduced cost for the environmental and the social externalities.

    If we were to use the state of California and the states which comprise New England in the US Northeast as test case experiments for moving towards a grid powered 50% by renewables by 2030, two regional power marketing authorities would be created, the California Power Marketing Authority (CPMA) and the New England Power Marketing Authority (NEPMA).

    The CPMA and the NEPWA would have exclusive control over the marketing and distribution of all power consumed within their state’s borders. They would buy power from generators / suppliers and resell that power in all of California’s and New England’s energy markets, respectively; setting rates in ways that fairly distribute the economic burdens of The Great 50% Renewables Experiment among all of California’s and New England’s energy consumers.

    All of the renewable-supplied electric power used in The 50% Experiment would be produced in California and in New England, respectively, and the CPMA and the NEPMA would guarantee a rate of return of 15% on a power supplier’s investment in their wind and solar power generating facilities, based upon an annual audit of each power producer’s accounting books.

    OK people …. in the spirit of thinking positively for positive thinking’s sake, I ask you, citizens of the great state of California and of the great states of the New England region, this question — how could you do anything else but support Stacey. Clark and her like-minded renewable energy advocates in their grand and glorious quest for your complete economic and environmental salvation?

    • I ordinarily would not comment on a HuffPo piece. But feel constrained to do so here. The situation is worse than Beta Blocker portrays. The cited article not only does not even mention the grid issues Cape Wind would create, the subject of PE’s excellent guest post. It
      -ignores the feed in tariff well above the New England bulk E rate
      -ignores the massive federal subsidies to this project beyond the feed in tariff ‘tax’
      -advocated for shutting Pilgrim nuclear for half the article
      -quotes as ‘scientific’ authority exactly one Ph.d affiliated with 350.org ( the denizens can follow that clue to the reveal on his Ph.d expertise)
      -proudly features a photo of the quoted ‘expert’ with Bill McKibben himself (opposing Pilgrim, supporting Cape Wind)
      -asserts the author’s qualifications as a well known environment science writer.

      Well, at the risk of crossing over into ad homs, I checked the author’s own qualifications out on her LinkedIn post. Where she has proudly posted:
      -is actually a Kindergarten teacher
      -with a forthcoming 2015 picture book for young children on the benefits of wind
      -qualified as a Climate Advocate by a (2 week?) Al Gore training class
      – with a BA in ‘Environmental Geology’ from Swarthmore. (I have no idea what ‘environmental geology’ is. Geology, I understand. Rocks, plate techtonics, petroleum formation, all that stuff. Environment I understand. Ecosystems, predator prey equations, biological carbon sinks, … But a degree in Environmental Geology??)
      Wonderful example of MSM confusion/incompetence/propagandizing. For another, see essay Shell Games and Seattle Times reporting.

  44. Reading the linked article, Kim Cobb says: “In this sense, inaction on climate change is like betting against the house when you know the deck is stacked in its favor. You might be willing to lose a few bucks for a small chance of a huge payout, but you wouldn’t bet your life’s savings.”

    We’re all doing just that: betting our life’s savings. We cannot get around that. Come what may, those living outside Western civilization feel it’s a pretty safe bet that the Western school teachers of global warming alarmism are not humanity’s best hope for survival.

  45. My reasons for transitioning from fossil fuels:

    1. Large external costs that are not accounted for in the price.
    2. Fossil fuels are finite resources and will eventually run out
    3. Ever increasing prices due to scarcity.
    4. Geopolitical tensions due to conflict over these vital and increasingly scarce resources.
    5. To bring the billions of people living in the developing world into the developed world we are going to need alternatives to fossil fuels to meet their energy needs.
    5. Risks from climate change.

    • Accepting all your reasons there is still a question. Should we transition over the next 20 years, the next 50 years or the next 100 years? Perhaps we could transition in 35 years but if we waste a lot of time and resources on unworkable solutions now, maybe we’ll put ourselves in the a position that hinders that. Starting on a bad path may not get us as far as fast as waiting for a better appraisal of the terrain. If you feel we can’t wait, that still does not clear the hurdles we see.

    • An accurate restatement of Western Leftist dogma.

    • Climate change isn’t a reason it is an excuse.

      It used to be called global warming until the warming stopped, and you aren’t using the correct term – the current buzzword is “climate disruption”.

      We are going to transition from fossil fuels. We can do it smart or we can do it stupid.

      If we are smart we will let the market drive generation choice. When and where renewable technologies can truly provide cost completive power they will be deployed. There isn’t any conspiracy to stop it. If there was we wouldn’t have all the white elephants out there we have today (Ivanpah anyone).

      Or we can be stupid and spend trillions (smartgrid is almost 1/2 a trillion for 20 years) to put white elephants out there now that are 1/2 power generation and 1/2 empty symbolism. They aren’t clean and in most cases they aren’t cost effective. There are niches where a low percentage of renewable power works now, those niches are being filled, that’s good enough.

      Germany more than doubled its delivered power cost by making renewables 27% of its non-hydro power generation. That isn’t smart no matter how you look at it.

      There is a dedicated group that is adamant that being stupid is smart. They cannot be convinced otherwise. And they don’t realize that claiming stupidity is smart, loudly and repeatedly, doesn’t make stupidity smart.

      No one really opposes cost effective grid compatible renewable energy. It just has to be cost effective grid compatible renewable energy.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        PA said December 12, 2014 at 8:35 pm

        We are going to transition from fossil fuels. We can do it smart or we can do it stupid.

        If we are smart we will let the market drive generation choice.
        ______

        Uh Oh ! Another market purist who, of course, believes the market must come first, and if the market can’t achieve the goal then the goal isn’t worth achieving. Why do some people cling to this obsolete ideology?

      • Max,

        Help us out! We see that you don’t agree w/ PA’s approach. Can you detail that which you see is so much of an improvement in method? From this: “if the market can’t achieve the goal then the goal isn’t worth achieving.” I ask “what it the goal”?

        As fossil fuels become more scare and therefore valuable (financially) then would not renewables likely catch up naturally due to those very market forces that PA is suggesting?

      • The market isn’t working when the external costs of fossils fuels are not taken into account in the price. If you have a remedy for that, then you would have more of a case; although you still have risks from climate change that are still there if you continue the current path.

      • I should say external costs relative to the external costs for the alternatives.

    • Curious George

      Joseph – I agree with your point 2, but not with its implications – specifically your point 3. Let me quote from a Wikipedia article on Simon-Ehrlich wager: Julian L. Simon and Paul Ehrlich entered in a widely followed scientific wager in 1980, betting on a mutually agreed-upon measure of resource scarcity over the decade leading up to 1990. Simon had Ehrlich choose five commodity metals. Copper, chromium, nickel, tin, and tungsten were chosen and Simon bet that their prices would decrease, while Ehrlich bet they would increase. … Ehrlich lost the bet, as all five commodities that were bet on declined in price from 1980 through 1990, the wager period.

      It seems that you are not taking into account something called progress .. I mean a scientific and technical progress, not something disgraced by the word “progressive”. But you are in an excellent company; John Holdren did also bet on the losing side – and now he has Obama’s ear.

      Isaac Asimov read about the resources bet and then wrote: “Naturally, I was all on the side of the pessimist and judge my surprise when it turned out he had lost the bet; that the prices of the metals had indeed fallen; that grain was cheaper; that oil…was cheaper; and so on. I was thunderstruck. Was it possible, I thought, that something that seemed so obvious to me – that a steadily rising population is deadly – can be wrong?

      Yes, it could be. I am frequently wrong.”
      http://www.juliansimon.com/reply-critics.html

  46. David Springer

    Wind Power in Texas – 8.7% of all delivered electric power. RPS Bill in 2005 required utilities to have 10,000 megawatts alternative power by 2025. Texas utility companies met that goal ten years early in 2010.

    This doesn’t even count the 80,000 active windmills in Texas that have been pumping water since The Alamo.

    Texas manages its own power grid.

    Done right there is no problem with some percentage of wind power on the grid and it can also be utilized for other than on-demand power such as lifting water from ground or below ground into elevated tanks that provide water on demand with smooth perfect pressure then provided on demand by gravity with no moving parts. I have a water tank and electric pump that lifts water 100 feet. The pump turns on for a couple hours once a week to top off the tank. A neighbor still has a working windmill that does the same thing as my pump.

    • David Springer

      Electricity in Texas is cheap and reliable too. US national average price 10.43 cents per kwh. Texas price is 9.19 cents.

      • CO2 – a catalyst for change

        Currently the technology is operating at demonstration scale in Hobbs, New Mexico, USA. At full-scale commercialization, this platform ultimately has the potential to produce up to 94,635l of ethanol or 56,781l of diesel per acre annually, for around US$0.32/l (US$1.20/gallon) or US$50/barrel.

        Of course, people who don’t understand the principle of “proof-of-concept” may not be impressed.

      • David Springer

        Nice! Hadn’t seen that one.

      • Personally, I doubt using dryland like the Texas Panhandle will be cost-effective. If you suspend the tubes on the ocean surface, you could use a bit of cheap (via “Swanson’s Law) solar PV power to run CO2 extraction from the ocean, using the process the Navy’s working on. No problem with intermittency, the “bio-catalyst” wouldn’t need CO2 when the sun isn’t shining anyway. And since the extraction just needs low-voltage DC, and would be right there with the PV, no need for inverter technology.

        Or you could use the power to pump sea water through the tubes, in smaller tubes made of some material that diffuses CO2 and oxygen, but not hydrocarbons. That would require some advances in material technology, but there’s no problem with cyanobacteria dragging CO2 out at ambient partial pressures, especially working with a strain possessing carboxysomes. Some of which are alkalinophiles, which means you have a good starting point for creating strains that can grow in a medium capable of sucking the CO2/carbonate right out of the ocean.

        But, IMO, you’ll never convince anybody who sees technology development in terms of decades, rather than years. Especially when they don’t understand exponential growth.

      • Global Transcriptional Response of the Alkali-Tolerant Cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. Strain PCC 6803 to a pH 10 Environment by Tina C. Summerfield and
        Louis A. Sherman Appl. Environ. Microbiol. September 2008 vol. 74 no. 17 5276-5284

        Many cyanobacterial strains are able to grow at a pH range from neutral to pH 10 or 11. Such alkaline conditions favor cyanobacterial growth (e.g., bloom formation), and cyanobacteria must have developed strategies to adjust to changes in CO2 concentration and ion availability. Synechocystis sp. strain PCC 6803 exhibits similar photoautotrophic growth characteristics at pH 10 and pH 7.5, and we examined global gene expression following transfer from pH 7.5 to pH 10 to determine cellular adaptations at an elevated pH. […] Consistent with this was increased transcript abundance of genes encoding carboxysome structural proteins and carbonic anhydrase. [my bold]

        […]

        Cyanobacteria are among the most alkaliphilic microbes, and they frequently dominate alkaline environments, such as soda lakes and microbial mats ([ref’s]). In addition to pH, key parameters that include nutrient availability and temperature influence the population composition of phytoplankton communities ([ref]). However, cyanobacterial bloom formation is usually accompanied by an elevated pH that results from increased photosynthesis that depletes CO2. Many cyanobacterial strains are alkali tolerant and grow at pHs ranging from neutral to 10 to 11, so that cyanobacteria both generate and thrive in alkaline conditions.

        […]

        One reason that cyanobacteria have an advantage over other phytoplankton species at high pH is that the carbon-concentrating mechanism of cyanobacteria is better able to utilize bicarbonate than the mechanism in green algae ([ref]).

        […]

        Changes specific to photosynthesis included the upregulation of genes encoding three bicarbonate transport systems, probably in response to a perturbed CO2/HCO3− ratio within the cell. Consistent with this was increased abundance of transcripts of genes encoding carboxysome structural proteins and carbonic anhydrase. [my bold]

        […]

        Compared to other alkaliphilic bacteria, cyanobacteria have two additional complexities, photosynthetic (thylakoid) membranes and the presence of ATP synthase in both thylakoid and plasma membranes ([ref]). Compartments within the cell are maintained at different pHs, and the thylakoid lumen has a pH that is ∼2 units lower than the pH of the cytosol ([ref]). Changes in the external pH have been shown to alter both the cytoplasmic and thylakoid lumen pHs, with an increase in the external pH of 2 pH units resulting in an increase of ∼0.2 pH unit ([ref’s]).

        Quite a few studies have demonstrated that (some) carbonic anhydrases (CA’s) of alkalinophiles operate best at pH’s around 9-10, it would seem that there are carboxysomes that are also effective in cells growing at such pH’s, although the actual pH surrounding the carboxysomes is probably only “∼0.2 pH units” higher than in other cyanobacteria.

        All of this adds up to a great potential for dragging CO2 directly out of the ambient environment, once the appropriate genetic engineering is done.

    • David Springer

      Energy production in Texas 2012 in megawatthours.

      Natural gas 213
      Coal 138
      Nuclear 38
      Wind 32

      Nothing else is worth mentioning in comparison.

      http://www.eia.gov/electricity/data/state/

      Detailed State Data at link above (Excel spreadsheet)

      • David Springer

        Correction. Numbers in thousands of megawatthours.

      • If not fossil fuels, only nuclear can supply some 80% of the power, right?

        (as it’s been doing in France for the past 30 years)

      • David Springer

        If nuclear is the only option we might as well move back into caves.

        Solar is the answer. Just 10% of the Texas panhandle covered with bio-reactors can produce enough transportation fuel for the entire United States at a lower cost than today. The problems are tractable with the main one being delivering enough concentrated CO2. The technology however is scalable so small bio-fuel factories can be paired with CO2 production points. Ultimatel, as synthetic biology is mastered, the bio-reactors build themselves like a tree builds itself only far more complex with plumbing spanning whatever distances are needed, storage tanks, the whole nine yards. Concentrated CO2 is only needed today because the bio-reactors are manufactured from plastics and similar materials to they’re too expensive to operate at low efficiency with atmospheric CO2. When synthetic biology gets to the point where the bio-reactors themselves are self-replicating then they’re essentially free so they can make up in quantity what they lack in efficiency.

        There are no breakthrough technologies required for the above. Nature already has all the systems designed and tested it’s all just reverse engineering for us. It’s like cut & paste with DNA. Laboratory tools that reduce the labor required in the reverse engineering are growing faster and less expensive at a rate commensurate with Moore’s Law for semi-conductors. It’s the path that requires the least time because the technological progress is exponential and deployment becomes exponential as well with self-replicating components.

        This is essentially nano-technology on a trajectory that was predicted back in the mid-1980’s with a predicted time to maturation of about 50 years. Thirty years later it’s right on track. Stuff we’re doing today with micro-biology labs was almost inconceivable 30 years ago. We now have centimeter square chips that have the equivalent of thousands of test tubes on them. What took months and many technicians and a large biology lab now takes hours with almost no human intervention. Almost inconceivable. Some visionaries saw it. I was fortunate enough to have followed those visionaries from the word go. Computing power and a global hyper-text network was one of the prerequisites. Synthetic biology requires data-storage, processing, and collaboration on a large scale. The machinery of life, even simple bacteria with minimal genomes, are more complex than any machines or machine complexes ever designed by human engineers. The reverse engineering effort required is huge but manageable. The computing part and a lot of the biological part is done. The first living, reproducing bacteria with a 100% synthetic genome was brought to life a few years ago by Craig Venter … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craig_Venter it’s only a matter of time before biofuels become cheaper than equivalent fuels made from crude oil ever were.

      • Solar is the answer. Just 10% of the Texas panhandle covered with bio-reactors can produce enough transportation fuel for the entire United States at a lower cost than today.

        What complete twaddle! If so, Why isn’t it being done, by any country anywhere in the world? And what are the costs, that have been actually demonstrated commercially? And what about the rest of the energy?

        Your point is ridiculous.

      • CO2 – a catalyst for change

        Currently the technology is operating at demonstration scale in Hobbs, New Mexico, USA. At full-scale commercialization, this platform ultimately has the potential to produce up to 94,635l of ethanol or 56,781l of diesel per acre annually, for around US$0.32/l (US$1.20/gallon) or US$50/barrel.

        Of course, people who don’t understand the principle of “proof-of-concept” may not be impressed.

      • David Springer

        It’s not being done at large scale yet because it’s very new. Third generation biofuel. Unlike previous attempts this is continuous direct production of fuel not generation of biomass for feedstock into a further processing to produce usable fuel.

        There’s a demo plant in Hobbs, New Mexico. Water, nutrients, genetically engineered photosynthetic bacteria go into a cheap flexible clear plastic raceway that lays on the ground and a fuel/water separator that constantly removes fuel from the mix. A couple days to grow the bacteria from innoculation to saturation level, then a genetic switch is thrown which changes their metabolism from re-production to fuel-production. They produce fuel for a few weeks then are killed, equipment sterilized, and do it all over again.

      • It’s at about the same stage of the technology life cycle solar thermal was in 1980. So give it another many decades at best.

    • Curious George

      Do you have data on electricity import/export for Texas? Just like you should not consider one windmill in isolation, you should not consider one state in isolation.

      • David Springer

        If Texas were a nation it would be 40th largest by geography right behind Chile and have the 14th largest economy. It most certainly can be considered in isolation. Among the nation’s contiguous 48 states, Texas is the only one that has a stand-alone electric grid entirely within the state. It is quite isolated from the eastern and western national grids. Electrical energy import/export is practically nil.

        http://www.eia.gov/state/analysis.cfm?sid=TX

        Electricity

        Texas produces more electricity than any other state, generating almost twice as much as the next largest generating state. More than two-thirds of the electricity generated is from independent power producers. Almost half of the electricity generated in Texas comes from natural gas-fired power plants, while coal-fired power plants account for about one-third of the net electricity generation. Six of the state’s 10 largest power plants are coal-fired. Two nuclear plants, Comanche Peak and South Texas Project, supply nearly one-tenth of the state’s electric power generation. The rest of the electricity generated in Texas is powered by renewable resources, primarily wind.

        Texas is the largest electricity-consuming state. Unlike other regions where large net interstate electricity deliveries are available, the Texas power grid is largely isolated from the interconnected power grids serving the eastern and western United States. This isolation means the state is, for the most part, dependent on its own resources to meet its electricity needs, and it is not subject to federal rules. Among the contiguous 48 states, Texas is the only one that has a stand-alone electric grid entirely within the state.

        The largest share of retail electricity sales in Texas is to the residential sector. Almost six-tenths of the households in the state use electricity as their primary heating fuel. The residential use of electricity is higher in Texas than in other states, in part because of population size, but also because of high demand for air conditioning during the hot summer months and the widespread use of electricity for home heating during the generally mild winter months.

      • Are there any real attempts to run ERCOT it on your solar generated fuels? What is the expected date to replace the 50% of the fossil fuel electricity generation?

      • Curious George

        David, thank you. Happy holidays.

      • I suspect lessons learned from California helped form that grid in Texas.
        ===============

      • Can you say, End run, I mean Enron.

      • Cut with an S-curved Sabre.
        =========

      • David Springer

        Texas had an independent grid long before Enron incorporated in 1985. It isn’t called “The Lone Star State” for no reason. If Washington D.C. keeps trying to pull it down with damaging federal policies it might become a nation unto itself once again.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_Texas.

  47. Interested Bystander

    Below is a link to an interactive map of US renewable energy facilities (wind, solar, geothermal, etc) and renewable energy potential. Try the existing solar facilities and solar potential combination and you will see significant mismatch of facility locations and potential. You will also be able to easily trace out North Carolina.

    http://www.nrdc.org/energy/renewables/energymap.asp

  48. Can anyone tell me why windmills have the generator on top, rather than have a gear box and a shaft leading down to a generator at the base?
    It seems that putting something that is both heavy and maintenance rich at the top, rather than the bottom, is a mistake.

  49. John Smith (it's my real name)

    PE
    adding my thanks to the chorus
    informative discussion
    good to hear from real soldiers fighting the real battles on this issue
    tip of the spear
    again, I’m betting guys like you quietly solve this problem while the rest of us are ranting

  50. PE,

    Informative and presumably authoritative as well.

    For anybody considering change, the devil’s in the detail, and the maintenance might bite you in the backside later on.

    Live well and prosper,

    Mike Flynn.

  51. From an EDF france email:
    Origine 2013 de l’électricité vendue par EDF : 79,3 % nucléaire, 14,4 % renouvelables (dont 9,3 % hydraulique), 3,3 % charbon, 1,7 % gaz, 1,0 % fioul, 0,3 % autres. Indicateurs d’impact environnemental sur http://www.edf.fr

    • Thanks,

      France’s electricity has been generated by around 80% nuclear for over 30 years. It’s electricity is near the cheapest in EU. It exports large amounts of electricity to it’s neighbours which demonstrates it meets requirements, is fit for purpose, and does what customers want – i.e provide reliable electricity. Furthermore, it’s emissions from electricity are 15% of Germany’s and Denmark’s (the RE advocates pin-up example of RE penetration).

      It’s difficult to understand why the CAGW alarmists aren’t pushing for it. Just to be clear, I am pushing for the least cost system that meets requirements over the long term. I am not ;pushing for nuclear if it doesn’t meet this requirement. For me, if the CAGW alarmists couldn’t care less and block one of the best solutions, I couldn’t care less either. I’ll advocate for least cost energy that is likely to best meet requirements.

      • France To Cap Nuclear Reliance, Move To Renewables

        http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/France-To-Cap-Nuclear-Reliance-Move-To-Renewables.html
        _____

        It looks like the future is dim for nuclear power in France.

      • Hi Max
        From conversations I had, the hydro is the only renewal energy source that most people there care for.
        France is currently run by a socialist government, which is rapidly running out of money, there are strikes of one kind or another all over place. It will be a major miracle if the current government (sick man of europe) survives till next election, and absolutely has no chance of winning it. In the recent local election particularly in the south, the ‘right wing’ parties were triumphant. Marie le Pen and Christian Estrosi mayor of Nice are among the most popular politicians, while ex president Nicola Sarkozi is already electioneering across the country.

    • Planning Engineer

      Are those percanteges for capacity installed or generated Energy?

    • You are absolutely right!… France has been doing what the pin-ups of renewable intermittent energy (wind and PV) DK and DE claim they will be doing in 2050… i.e. generating 80-100% electricity CO2-free… and yet France is the most despised country of them all, the real enemy to fight, due to its reliance on nukes.
      Just to add one datum: the 75% electricity generation via nukes saves the equivalent CO2 emissions of all of the cars circulating in the Eurozone (EU-27)… 600 million souls… if it’s not effective this I don’t know what it is…

      R.

  52. Planning Engineer. Is this just government hype, or could there be a serious problem? I know there have been some disruptions to the power system from solar storms before, but this article has the ring of “catastrophe” to it. We’ve heard so many exaggerated claims of danger from this or that natural phenomenon before, I’m always wary. Boy – wolf …

    From the article:
    DHS: 100 Million Americans Could Lose Power in Major Sun Storm
    Document says FEMA unsure of damage to grid from magnetic storm
    SHARE
    TWEET
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    Sun emits a mid-level flare – 04 Dec 2014Sun emits a mid-level flare Dec. 4, 2014 / AP

    BY: Bill Gertz
    December 12, 2014 5:00 am

    Millions of Americans face catastrophic loss of electrical power during a future magnetic space storm that will disrupt the electric grid and cause cascading infrastructure failures, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) document.

    DHS’ Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stated in an internal 2012 fact sheet outlining its response plan for severe “space weather” that the actual impact and damage from a future solar storm is not known.

    “An analysis of the space weather impacts indicates that the greatest challenge will be to provide life-saving and life-sustaining resources for large numbers of people that experience long-term power outage from damage to the U.S. electrical grid,” the FEMA document, dated March 1, 2012, states.

    The FEMA fact sheet noted the findings of a 2010 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency that monitors sun storms, warning that an extreme solar storm could leave “130 million people without power for years,” and destroy or damage more than 300 hard-to-replace electrical grid transformers.

    – See more at: http://freebeacon.com/national-security/dhs-100-million-americans-could-lose-power-in-major-sun-storm/#sthash.4hR7iAr5.dpuf


    http://freebeacon.com/national-security/dhs-100-million-americans-could-lose-power-in-major-sun-storm/

  53. Planning Engineer

    My take is that it is somewhat a threat and a bit hyped as well. I think the latest findings are more moderate. In North America the threat is worst farther north and moderates as you head south. There are remedial actions to prepare. Likely we will get advance notice and shutting down grid would prevent major damage (not that it is not. Big deal to bring it back up).

    • Planning Engineer

      Don’t know if the solar problem is related to EMP. If so I have some experience EMP, but only as it relates to automobiles, for which protection methods are readily available.

      Is EMP protection also readily available for the grid?

      Keep warm,

      Richard

      • Planning Engineer

        The industry used to lump EMP (Pulses from nuclear explosions or specialized devices) together with GMD (Solar disturbances) because of their similarities. Because of their differences they have been separated to different study groups. The North American Reliability Corporation (NERC) has developed a standard (I think it’s in draft form now) that will be mandatory for utilities to comply with.

        EMP is not at that same stage and not sure if it will progress to have compliance standards as well. It’s hard for a utility to protect against an overhead nuclear explosion of undetermined size. (It’s also hard for us to protect against nuclear explosions on the ground – but that one hasn’t come up yet.) I believed there was a study performed that took out the grid with a limited number of nuclear produced EMP strikes, but details were not shared. It looked like the coincident timing across different parts of the county would have been less than split second timing. But don’t know cause I didn’t see it. As some of you may be aware you can generate studies that show a lot that is very unlikely to happen.

        This is an observation with no judgement or assessment of risks attached. As certain liberal politicians tend to react strongly to potential remote environmental risks, certain conservative politicians seem more easily motivated to react strongly to EMP risks.

    • Heh, your N/S gradient of risk is yet further evidence that a warmer globe is an improvement over a cooler globe.
      ============

      • Snakes and other creepy crawly things would agree warmer is better.

      • I guess max considers humans creepy. That computes.

      • Some humans are creepy. I don’t mean you, jim2. I forgot to mention mold also thinks warmer is better,

      • Ah, yes, from the dim recesses of the past I remember: ‘A warmer world sustains more total life and more diversity of life’. I fondly recall the grief I got when I substituted ‘supports’ for ‘sustains’ once.
        ===================

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        A warmer world means Water Moccasins moving North. Who wants that ? And no, a Water Moccasin is not a shoe you wade in. It’s an ugly aggressive snake that’s deadly venomous and enjoys biting people. As the world warms these nasty ill-tempered reptiles will extend their range and invade more and more of the creeks and streams so important to family recreation. Don’t think this won’t happen.

        Check out this video. Imagine a child running into one of these vile creatures.

      • Yes maxie, the slaughter will be horrific. But did you know that your child is far more likely to be killed by the family Fido, than by a poisonous snake? Better take that mutt to the pound, maxie.

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        Kids are more likely to be killed in traffic accidents, which is why kids shouldn’t ride in cars.

        Kids shouldn’t have pets of any kind PERIOD, because their parents will end up having to take care of those pets.

    • Thanks, PE. I really enjoy and appreciate your input.

    • In North America the threat is worst farther north and moderates as you head south.

      Another positive externality of living in warmer climates :)

      • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

        As I have always expected, Peter Lang doesn’t know which end is up. I suspect lots of Australians are like Peter.

  54. @Joshua | December 12, 2014 at 11:45 pm |

    As an educator, I am in an “industry” where there are a lot of valid questions as to the cost/benefit ratio. Many of those questions are closely linked to a large variety of external costs and external benefits.

    I would not be satisfied with saying that I believe that my “industry” has done a good job of justifying the status quo, without also presenting arguments as to what I feel is a justified accounting for the external costs and benefits.

    (end quote from Joshua.)

    Hi Joshua,

    I believe the public education system has not done a good job. I know educators get this message from all sides, but my take is probably a little different.

    My beef is that educators, probably driven by image-conscious politicians, start out with assumptions that deny reality. Specifically, they ignore the fact that human intelligence is described by the normal curve. That generally, and more specifically talent are not shared equally among humans.

    Given that reality, a more realistic approach would be to let students master material at their own pace, where a test for each level would determine success, and move the next grade every year. The role of the teacher would be to help each student maximize his potential.

    At the end of high school, each student would get a diploma and a certification indicating the highest level achieved in the core subjects as well as any elective subject areas chosen by the student.

    This approach would put an end to the ridiculous idea that all students should reach this ever lessening level of “proficiency” in the core subjects.

    • invisibleserfscollar.com

      The Early Bird has found the Worm.
      ===========

    • Planning Engineer

      Joshua – We’ve had a couple good exchanges but the payoffs are getting more and more remote with our failures to communicate. Can you provide me national cost/benefit analysis for public education that take into considerations all sorts of details that I might consider important. How are you valuing the trauma that occurs through bullying at school as well as the shooting that occur. Are you weighing in the health risks/benefits from school lunches, school bus accidents and the risks of sitting all day? How about sports injuries. Do you have control groups or estimates as to what children might learn on their own, through computer home study or other alternative schemes? How about the values inculcated in the student through government schools what credits and disbenefits are you counting there?

      I think you do cost benefit analysis on a local level as do we in the utility industry and neither of our parameters and scopes will please everyone.

      But maybe you can provide me a version of cost/benefit analysis for education that will show me what you are getting at and I can respond in kind.

      • PE –

        ==> “Joshua – We’ve had a couple good exchanges but the payoffs are getting more and more remote with our failures to communicate. ”

        I agree.

      • Planning Engineer

        Just in case you forgot – Joshua – this was part of your judgement in regards to my failure to meet your expectation In providing you with your desired cost benefits justification earlier in this thread.

      • Planning Engineer

        Joshua said:
        If challenged to evaluating alternative educational pathways, I never say that it is someone else’s burden to prove the status quo insufficient before evaluating alternative pathways. IMO, that wouldn’t make any sense. AFAIC, the only justifiable response would be for me to do the best job I can to do a full cost accounting of the full range of relative costs and benefits of the different pathways, including external costs and benefits – with a full understanding of the enormous complexity to that task in a real world context (where I’d have to try to control for parenting styles or economic status or cultural norms or resources available or target ages or the Hawthorne effect, or observer bias, the difficulties of sampling, etc., etc., etc.).

      • PE, what you said in your last comment should be obvious to most people, even educators.

        I’ve added a comment near the end of the thread that shows that, using the best available information, comparing two options to reduce GHG emissions from electricity generation by 2050 (in Australia), ‘with nuclear’ and ‘without nuclear’, the ‘with nuclear’ option is the least cost option and reduces the emissions the most. In fact it reduces emissions 3.2 time more and for half the cost of electricity.

        Anyone doing decision analysis would understand, with such a large difference, the gap is not likely to be reduced unless there is a huge and blatant error in the estimates of LCOE, transmission and risk of RE’s failure to deliver.

      • Planning Engineer

        Peter- I should have taken your advice earlier to not engage, but I thought that despite obvious difficulties, he was operating in good faith, your point should seem obvious, that huge gaps will not be swayed by vague and distant externalities. As if a utility decision to build a combustion turbine in the middle of Nebraska is incomplete because it did not value some greater likelihood ( or past sunk costs) of Middle East wars. Reviews of utility projects go through strict review processes as to environmental and social consequences. Their is significant public involvement and project need is evaluated, looking at various impacts including environmental, cultural health, safety, aesthetics and social justice In consideration of other alternatives or no action.

      • Planning Engineer,

        I agree with all this and virtually everything you said in three posts and the comments on those threads.

        I would point out for the benefit of anyone who is interested that using figures from the the Nordhaus DICE-2013 Integrated Assessment Model (with it’s default inputs), the cost of carbon pricing would greatly exceed the benefits for all this century. And note that the most important inputs all lean on the high side of the IPCC’s central estimates: (ECS = 3.2, damage function is high, RCP8.5, Copenhagen ‘optimistic’ participation rate is unachievable).:


        source: http://catallaxyfiles.com/2014/10/27/cross-post-peter-lang-why-the-world-will-not-agree-to-pricing-carbon-ii/

      • PE –

        ==> ” As if a utility decision to build a combustion turbine in the middle of Nebraska is incomplete because it did not value some greater likelihood ( or past sunk costs) of Middle East wars. ”

        Sorry that you concluded that I”m not acting in good faith. Not sure what lead you to draw that conclusion, but you’re entitled.

        As for this:

        “… As if a utility decision to build a combustion turbine in the middle of Nebraska is incomplete because it did not value some greater likelihood ( or past sunk costs) of Middle East wars. ”

        That’s not what I said. What I am doing is questioning the certainty of the broad conclusions that you assert, when you don’t have, IMO, sufficient evidence in support. The one does not equal another. Now I might conclude that your use of a straw man might be an act of bad faith engagement. I don’t draw that conclusion – just because someone employs a fallacy it doesn’t mean that they’re engaging in bad faith. If you care to elaborate on what led you do pass judgement on my motivations, I’d be happy to address that point.

      • Perhaps it was because I didn’t address your questions about an educational const/benefit analysis?

        I didn’t address that point because as you said, the payoffs of the discussion were getting more remote. My point was that to make the kind of certain educational cost/benefit determination that you have made for energy sources, I absolutely would need to include estimations of the impact of the kinds of points you raised. For example, the costs from bullying culture often seen in schools is absolutely a valid reason to question the benefits versus costs of how our schools are organized versus programs that have children working in smaller groups, groups organized along different criteria, or even in more individualized configurations. It absolutely is important for understanding how curricular modifications might bring a better return on investment. To make such determinations, the size of the problem has to be estimated, and different variables have to be considered for how the problem might be mitigated. The fact that as a society we simply continue with the status quo educationally, because it is difficult to implement systemic reform, despite questions as to whether modifications might bring greater returns and lower costs, is a good parallel for why we shouldn’t have a similarly complacent approach to energy policies.

      • Planning Engineer

        Joshua – I didn’t “conclude you were acting in bad faith”. Taking ambiguous statements to strong conclusions probably ratchets up the divisiveness. Sometimes keeping them in the grey is more accurate and more helpful too. Initially I thought you were asking questions in good faith (but no conclusion there) and now I just don’t know. No real opinion even. Because my take was that you were in good faith, I felt more compelled to try to help than I would if I had no clue where you were coming from. I don’t know you and a lot gets misinterpreted on-line,so I’ll remain on the fence.

        Our overall perspectives don’t really mesh. We are dealing with many grey issues here. If you are a black/white kind of guy, it must be tough because engineers are not good at gray language anyway, many are too used to formulas and operating in areas of certainty or at least controlled errors. I see a lot of grey and that’s where the truth ends up is and even when it does not, its a good place to hang out while the truth is being sorted. The issues are here on this blog – wicked problems and dealing with uncertainty are crucial. In the greater society, some want to assume we have all the right answers now and that we should formulate a grand and expansive all knowledge encompassing plan. Many years ago I heard Aaron Wildavsky, a public policy expert speak about the challenges of change. He impressed upon me that you can’t have perfect knowledge, plans don’t work as envisioned, projects aren’t implemented as planned and that incrementalism would be more successful than comprehensive change. So I tend to think intelligently and carefully muddling through is the best we can do.

        That background may explain my frustration when it appears to me that you are asking us to prove we know everything about everything. We do our best to get the Knowles we need and hope nothing major is going on in the gaps. We need to monitor the gaps and check our assumptions. I believe people outside the field should be able to help point us towards the gaps we need to examine. But they shouldn’t drive 100%. We’ve worked a lot with those who would propose expansive renewable programs and it just doesn’t seem to be the time now. Our industry has been saying it, just recently Google engineers (who you might credit more with good faith efforts to make renewables work) concluded today’s technologies won’t do it.

        Many on the climate change front have stated, “the science is settled, it’s time to quit arguing and move on.” I don’t know that I would be that harsh in this case, but the case could be made “the info is there on today’s renewables, we need something better. Quit propping up the old-dashed hopes and lets move on.”

      • Planning Engineer:
        This was good: “I see a lot of grey and that’s where the truth ends up is and even when it does not, its a good place to hang out while the truth is being sorted.” One could take themselves out of the discussion by saying they know, and then criticize from either side.
        “…plans don’t work as envisioned, projects aren’t implemented as planned and that incrementalism would be more successful than comprehensive change…” Which is to say, bet all your money on a solution or half of it. Wait awhile to see how the bet turns out (maybe decades) then bet the other half of your money. In Minnesota we have bet on windmills. We could hold that at the current level and bet on pumped storage hydro now. I think we could find some suitable river bluffs.

    • jimn2

      ==> “Specifically, they ignore the fact that human intelligence is described by the normal curve. That generally, and more specifically talent are not shared equally among humans.”

      I think that there are different types of “intelligence,” and that unfortunately the concept of “intelligence” as embedded in our predominant educational paradigm essentially only values a narrow band of the range. Added on to that, yes, there is variance within that band, but the precise relevance of that variance and how it translates into the educational paradigm is problematic as well. People make broadly simplistic assumptions about how it should translate (that greater intelligence leads to greater academic success, or should lead to greater academic success) – when the reality doesn’t match those assumptions, and IMO, it is questionable whether it should anyway.

      ==> “Given that reality, a more realistic approach would be to let students master material at their own pace, where a test for each level would determine success, and move the next grade every year. The role of the teacher would be to help each student maximize his potential.”

      We are in complete agreement there. The measures should be criterion referenced, not norm-referenced as in the current academic paradigm. The difficulty, of course, is that when you’re dealing with large numbers of students individualization is problematic. It requires creativity. It also requires the willingness to break from the status predominant paradigm – which was specifically developed to produce passive workers in a hierarchically structured workplace – and to sort those workers into strata that reflect the existing social/class status quo.

      ==> “This approach would put an end to the ridiculous idea that all students should reach this ever lessening level of “proficiency” in the core subjects.”

      There are some misconceptions embedded in that statement about trends in educational outcomes – but that doesn’t mean that I disagree with the basic premise that the current criteria used to establish “graduation” should rebuilt from the ground up.

      • Joshua – I was already aware of the limitations of the definition and measurement of intelligence. That’s why I threw in “talent” as a general catch-all.

      • Little joshie reminds of some of the teachers we had in Detroit. They never lasted very long.

  55. The overwhelming impression I get from all of Max’s postings is he is a troll with no understanding of the subject at all. His postings seems to be finding the most alarming headlines he can, usually written by someone with almost as much knowledge as him. When anyone points out why the articles are wrong, his reposte is either to ignore it, or say they are a luddite with the unwritten codicil that they are in the pay of the fossil fuel industry.
    DNFTT
    And to save the aspersions on by fossil fuel credentials, I’m an O&M engineer for a group of Geothermal power stations in NZ where about 80% of our power is from renewables. There is a lot of wind on our grid (about 500MW out of 8000MW nameplate) that causes me grief as our outage work gets rescheduled whenever the wind forecasts are wrong (which is often) and generation is tight.

  56. Right now nuclear is generating 84% of France’s electricity and CO2-e emissions from all France’s electricity are 59 gkWh – i.e. less than 10% of Germany’s. http://www.rte-france.com/en/eco2mix/eco2mix-co2-en

    How can the CAGW alarmists and other renewable energy advocates continue to ignore the facts?

  57. One of the links from our hostess shows the own goal of the renewable energy movement in Germany. Not only did they get expensive power, but they had to pay to get people to take it away.
    http://notrickszone.com/2014/12/09/energiewende-takes-a-massive-blow-top-green-energy-proponent-concedes-blunder-with-ugly-consequences-huge-blow-to/

  58. At 5:00 am in France, nuclear generated 85% of power, wind 1%, solar 0%.

    CO2-e emissions from electricity generation were 53 g/kWh. That’s about 6% of Australia’s average annual emissions from supplied electricity, and less than 10% of Germany’s and Denmarks!

    Click on “display all available data” at the bottom right of this screen to see a summary of generation, CO2, etc. and click on the pie chart to see the generation proportions expanded in the left pane.
    http://www.rte-france.com/en/eco2mix/eco2mix-co2-en

  59. Up thread the question was posed:

    This seems to me like a basic matter of decision-making in the face of uncertainty. Decision-making in the face of uncertainty is complex, and not something that comes easily to humans. But despite the complexity, I don’t think that an appropriate path for that endeavor is to duck the large uncertainties. If you think you know the answer, as to the relative costs and benefits, then, IMO, make your case, but in so doing you have to account for externalities.

    The best available evidence is that renewables are very expensive and cannot meet the requirements of the electricity system at the scale required to reduce GHG emissions by the amounts the proponents claim by 2050 (or anywhere near it).

    Cost comparisons were requested. Here are some costs from authoritative sources.

    Nuclear power cheapest electricity with largest emissions cuts by 2050

    The lowest cost way to generate our electricity and reduce emissions by 2050 is with a large proportion from nuclear power.

    Here I use the CSIRO ‘eFuture’ calculator to compare two scenarios to supply electricity to meet the projected electricity demand on the National Electricity Market (NEM) in 2050 as well as cut CO2 emissions. The two scenarios are: 1) nuclear power not permitted and 2) nuclear power permitted. ‘eFuture‘ determines the generation mix that gives the least cost electricity for that scenario using the selected inputs. The scenarios compared here use the default (central estimate) for each user selectable input. The two scenarios are compared on the basis of CO2 emissions intensity and wholesale cost of electricity.

    CO2 emissions for nuclear not permitted are 80 t/MWh versus 25 t/MWh with nuclear permitted. That is, if nuclear is not permitted emissions would be 3.2 times higher than if it is permitted.

    The table below lists the LCOE (wholesale price) with nuclear not permitted and with nuclear permitted; the third column shows the ratio ‘No/Yes’ (nuclear not permitted/permitted)’. Cost items of common interest are itemised. Costs are in $/MWh.

    Item; No nuclear; With Nuclear; No/Yes; Ref.
    LCOE from ‘eFuture’; 130; 85; 1.5; 1
    Accident insurance; 0; 0.1; -; 2, 3
    Decommissioning ; 0.15; 0.01; -; 4
    Waste management; 0; 1; -; 5
    Transmission, high penetration; 37; 4; -; 6
    Total LCOE; 168; 92; – 1.8 –

    Without nuclear is 80% higher cost than with nuclear permitted. With a higher proportion of renewables in the default scenario, the cost of electricity would be even higher, probably more than double the cost with nuclear permitted.

    Policy analysts also need to include in policy options analysis an estimate of the risk that renewables will not be able to do the job. We know nuclear can provide around 75% of electricity in an advanced industrial economy because France has been doing it for over 30 years. But renewables have not demonstrated they can or will be able to. Many practitioners think they will not. An estimate, in LCOE equivalent terms, of the risk that renewable technologies do not meet the hopes of the proponents is $54/MWh.

    With the risk of failure included the total LCOE for the two options are:
    No nuclear = $222/MWh
    With nuclear = $101/MWh
    Therefore, the LCOE of the no nuclear option is 2.2 higher than the with nuclear option. And emissions would be 3.2 times higher.

    The risk that renewables will not be able to do the job is the major risk that should be questioning, not the costs of waste disposal, decommissioning, accident insurance etc. of nuclear all of which are negligible compared with LCOE and the risk that renewables do deliver the benefits claimed by their proponents.

  60. … cont
    References

    5. OECD, 2013, ‘The Economics of the Back End of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle’, Figure ES.1 http://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/pubs/2013/7061-ebenfc-execsum.pdf

    6. Peter Lang, 2013, ‘Renewables or nuclear electricity for Australia – the costs’, Figure 7 http://oznucforum.customer.netspace.net.au/TP4PLang.pdf

    7. WNA, 2014, ‘Decommissioning Nuclear Facilities’ (“0.1 to 0.2 cents/kWh”) http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Nuclear-Fuel-Cycle/Nuclear-Wastes/Decommissioning-Nuclear-Facilities/

    8. DECC ‘Offshore Renewable Energy Installation Decommissioning’ https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/47955/900-offshore-renewable-installation-decom.pdf

  61. This could have been a great article if only it had been written in English.

  62. @Planning Engineer…

    Have you seen this? I just found it while searching for something else, and thought it might be handy if you don’t already have a link to it.

    • Planning Engineer

      AK – Thanks, we are dealing with those same issues. It’s a challenging area because you want to make sure that PV resources do not harm the system/carry their own weight. But at the same time not unduly penalize them. Sometimes projects that would otherwise be viable are rendered non-viable because of requirements to help support/not harm the system.

      • The externalities that should be attributed to solar PV but aren’t are high. Apart from the pollution, there are hidden costs to the electricity system and cross subsidies. The cost of electricity from the dispatchable generators is increased as a result of the cross subsidies. That is passed on to all customers.

        Here is an excellent paper that quantifies some of these costs for Melbourne and Brisbane Australia
        Graham Palmer, 2013, ‘Household Solar Photovoltaics: Supplier of Marginal Abatement, or Primary Source of Low-Emission Power?
        http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/5/4/1406

        And this is a Discussion Paper by the Electricity Supply Association of Australia “Who Pays for Solar Energy
        http://www.esaa.com.au/policy/who_pays_for_solar_energy

        Applying reasonable assumptions for average capacity factor and operating life, the CO2 abatement cost with residential solar PV was around $600/tonne with all costs included.

        How can that be justified?

        That, dear Segrest, is the sort of information that is relevant for policy analysis. If ;policy analysts were getting correct information (instead of the misinformation pushed by the industry and advocates), there would never have been subsidies for solar PV or regulations that favour it over other solutions that are far more cost effective.

      • Planning Engineer

        Peter – I don’t believe my comments were so much related to externalities. The inverters have the capability to provide voltage control. There is a perspective that utilities should not allow third parties to have voltage control functions at certain voltage levels. There are risks and benefits with that. Solar is different from other technologies and I think it can be unduly restrictive to not let them have voltage control responsibilities in some instances. It completely ruins the economics, despite the subsidies. We have to realize new technology won’t work just like existing technology and not be dogmatic in holding it to the same standards when the costs of adaptation are small. But at the same time we don’t need to ignore big differences and allow it to inappropriately lean on the system. Sometimes those calls are hard. My take is utilities usually bend over backwards to help the new, but not always. Contrary to what some may think, I side with renewables in some cases.

      • Planning Engineer,

        I’m not sure what you re getting at with this comment. Did you read the two links I gave? They are factual information. The paper by Graham Palmer is excellent. A wealth or real-world information and costs from an experienced consulting engineer in the industry.

    • Planning Engineer

      Peter – I’m not disagreeing with the perspective you provided at all. I just was emphasizing, something different, that their are operational issues (do you set the inverters on power factor control or voltage control?) that can impact the economics (at least the economics of todays subsidized conditions) perhaps fairly or unfairly. It’s a side issue that I thought was more on point with the document AK provided. None of what either of us provided was/is contradictory. Just talking about different things. Maybe you were already aware of that – and I pointed it out unnecessarily.

      • PE,

        Thanks for explanation. I misunderstood. Now I understand better. I hadn’t considered that before. It;s a good point.

        However, I am not persuaded solar PV or solar thermal can or ever will provide a substantial contribution to global electricity generation. I don’t believe the ERoEI can ever be sufficient to be sustainable. So that is a limiting factor. Because of it’s low energy density and high materials requirement per MWh on an LCA basis I don;t think it will ever be viable. Storage is essential and the costs are too high by an order of magnitude. No utility would buy solar intermittent and unreliable wind and solar power fif they weren’t mandated and subsidised to do so.

        Put simply, I am persuaded they are not viable, there is a much better way to cut GHG emissions from electricity generation. It is proven. It will come eventually whether GHG emissions is an issue or not. That’s my little brain dump for 4:45 am here. I’d be pleased to be shown persuasive evidence that these statements are wrong (all of them).

  63. UK ‘Electricity bills are set to soar by £250 to pay for green policies

    The DECC says that the measures will cut consumption and drive down bills
    Campaigners say the increase will inevitably push up bills by as much as £250 for homes and businesses.

    And data from the Department for Energy and Climate Change reveals that the price of electricity for an average home could soar £350 by 2030.

    more … http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/546966/Electricity-bills-soar-250-green-policies

  64. Pingback: Recent Energy And Environmental News – December 15th 2014 | PA Pundits - International

  65. Planning Engineer,

    I am wondering if you may be able to help me. I want to estimate and quantify the GHG emissions caused by cycling, and attribute the additional GHG emissions caused by the additional cycling caused by wind generation.

    The purpose is so I can filter the data base and estimate fuel consumed (and GHG emissions) per hour while there was no generation (MW = 0); and also estimate the the additional fuel used emissions due to ramping power up and down.

    I have generation (MW sent out) at 5-minute intervals for ever generator unit (410 Available Generators) in the Australian NEM. I also have the average emissions intensity (t CO2-e/MWh) for every power station (annual average of multiple units of similar type in a single power station). This is the official data that is the basis for all official Australian reports on GHG emissions. I also have the heat rate (or thermal efficiency) and emissions factor (kg CO2-e/GJ).

    The issues are:
    1. the heat rate curve for each unit or each type of generator, as an improvement on the linear heat rate used for the analyse (i.e. the thermal efficiency is constant throughout the operating range).

    2. is there significant hysterisis in the heat rate. How much is it (per generator type).

    3. what is a likely average time that each type of generator takes for hot start, warm start, cold start, and shut downs for the period fuel is being consumed.

    How much fuel is consumed during the starts and stops and spinning reserve (e.g. in GJ per MW capacity per hour).

    I have many references to authoritative reports. However, I need an experienced to apply his experience and engineering judgement to define the few key inputs I need in the filter. I think they are (for each main type of generator such as : Brown coal, black coal, OCGT, CCGT, compression engines):

    1. duration for: hot start, warm start, cold start and period when fuel is consumed during shut down

    2. likely duration of spinning reserve such that if the period since it was last generating is less than x hours it was probably in spinning reserve; if greater ti was probably started from cold (or warm. hot (etc.) AND there was a shut down at the end of the last period of generation

    3. Fuel consumption per MW capacity per hour for spinning reserve, for hot start, for cold start, for warm start, and for a shut down.

    Example references:

    http://www.aemo.com.au/Consultations/National-Electricity-Market/~/media/Files/Other/planning/2013Consultation/Planning_Studies_2013_Esisting_Generator_Technical_Data.ashx

    http://www.wartsila.com.au/en/power-plants/learning-center/combined-cycle-plant-for-power-generation

    http://www.wartsila.com/fi/voimalat/learning-center/combustion-engine-vs-gas-turbine-part-load-efficiency

    Start up times (1975 publication may be relevant for our coal plants)
    EPA, 1975, Effects of Transient Operating Conditions on Steam-Electric Generator Emissions
    http://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyNET.exe/910143C6.TXT?ZyActionD=ZyDocument&Client=EPA&Index=Prior+to+1976&Docs=&Query=&Time=&EndTime=&SearchMethod=1&TocRestrict=n&Toc=&TocEntry=&QField=&QFieldYear=&QFieldMonth=&QFieldDay=&IntQFieldOp=0&ExtQFieldOp=0&XmlQuery=&File=D%3A%5Czyfiles%5CIndex%20Data%5C70thru75%5CTxt%5C00000018%5C910143C6.txt&User=ANONYMOUS&Password=anonymous&SortMethod=h%7C-&MaximumDocuments=1&FuzzyDegree=0&ImageQuality=r75g8/r75g8/x150y150g16/i425&Display=p%7Cf&DefSeekPage=x&SearchBack=ZyActionL&Back=ZyActionS&BackDesc=Results%20page&MaximumPages=1&ZyEntry=1&SeekPage=x&ZyPURL

    • Planning Engineer

      Peter – I can’t help with you with the detail you need. In the US they put a wall between the transmission and generation functions, to ensure the transmission side did not give preference to their own generators versus outside generation. I work in the transmission area now with no direct access to detailed generation modeling tools/data.

      You may be way ahead of me, so pardon me if what follows is of no help because you are past this. I’m asking, are you trying to do something better than the results that would be made in comparative runs with standard “production cost” modeling? Or are you taking this approach because you do not have access to such tools, or results?

      I’m scrambling today with no time, but was going to read this to see if it provided any guidance: http://www3.cec.org/islandora/en/item/1959-estimating-environmental-benefits-renewable-energy-and-energy-efficiency-in-north-en.pdf See section 2.2

      Best to you.

      • Planning Engineer,

        Thank you for your prompt reply, and for the clarity (professional engineering communications!)

        I am setting up the data to get an anslysis done along the lines of those by Joe Wheatley (for Ireland) and Kaffine et al (USA regiojs such as ERCOT. See the references in my comment near the top of this thread here: https://judithcurry.com/2014/12/11/all-megawatts-are-not-equal/#comment-654762 Look foirst at the Joe Wheatley paper (download the free pre-publication pdf)

        I am not looking at costs in this, just emissions.

        However, Australia has used linear relations hips between emissions and generator output. I want to check if the other factors I mentioned are significant in the estimate of the emissions saved by wind generation.

      • Planning Engineer

        Peter – Interesting stuff and I’m working to take it all in. Here’s what I’m trying to figure out. Production Cost models give you a lot of information beyond costs such as equipment starts and stops, emissions, fuel usage, etc. You can break it down to see different values (for fuel use, emissions, etc) during start ups and stop, versus ramping versus during different operating levels. My memory/experience is that we felt pretty good about the NOx and SO2 emission values reported by the model. I can’t remember if there were concerns about the ability of such models to accurately estimate CO2 emission levels. I can’t recall differences in CO2 levels as being a factor in any alternative comparison’s.

        So I’m wondering now if other modeling efforts are needed because production costing does not do a good job. Or if it does, why all the extra work to do it outside the models. (Is it just those with the resources are not interested in doing the work?) To me it seems like it would be easy to run different scenarios in the Production costing models to compare against the linear to see how well they hold up.
        __________________
        I don’t know if this helps you, but I think I get it now. Called a friend for some clarification. Speaking generally there are different models and some may be more sophisticated than others. His understanding that is that the default is emissions are linear based on MWHs. For NOx you can and he had modeled emission levels to change with heat rate. He’d guess you could do the same for CO2 but was not aware that would be significant. Sounds like your work is more along the lines of developing what might work to improve the models, or see if the models need improving. Obviously if the models are based on linear inputs they will only incorrectly confirm the linear assumptions. Best of luck with it. (I’d have sent you a personal email if I knew how.)

      • Planning Engineer,

        The key difference between what you are talking about and what I am doing is that you are looking at modelling and I am looking at statistical analyses of historical empirical data. See Joseph Wheatley, 2013, ‘Quantifying CO2 savings from wind to understand:
        http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421513007829
        Or free version (as submitted before peer review but I am not aware of any significant changes in the published version, and I’ve checked): http://joewheatley.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/co2.pdf. Also, some charts and discussion here: http://joewheatley.net/how-much-co2-does-wind-power-save/

        One of the many issues with the Australian data is that it smooths the emissions out and makes the intermittent renewables seem better than they are.

        1. Heat rates published by CER and AEMO are linear through the range of power output from minimum to maximum power. They should be a curved function. Using the linear approximation understates the emissions when generators are running at less than optimum power so they underestimate the emissions when the wind is blowing and overestimate when it is not blowing. This makes wind energy seem more effective than it really is at reducing emissions.

        2. Fuel is consumed when no electricity is being generated, e.g. during spinning reserve, start-up and shut-down. The emissions are claimed to be included in the total emissions reported by CER and in the average emissions intensity (CO2-e/MWh), so the total emissions reported by year are correct. However, the emission are not being attributed to the correct time when they were emitted. This means emissions when the wind is generating high power are understated and when wind is generating low power are overstated (because the emissions from spinning reserve stArts and stops are not included). This makes wind energy seem more effective than it really is at reducing emissions.

        See chart here: http://www.wartsila.com/fi/voimalat/learning-center/combustion-engine-vs-gas-turbine-part-load-efficiency

        Old coal generate about 80% of our electricity. Most were commissioned in the 1970s. So the curves for new plants are not very useful.

        I have this dated 1975 which is helpful on durations, but not on the heat rate curves for the old plants.
        http://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyNET.exe/910143C6.TXT?ZyActionD=ZyDocument&Client=EPA&Index=Prior+to+1976&Docs=&Query=&Time=&EndTime=&SearchMethod=1&TocRestrict=n&Toc=&TocEntry=&QField=&QFieldYear=&QFieldMonth=&QFieldDay=&IntQFieldOp=0&ExtQFieldOp=0&XmlQuery=&File=D%3A%5Czyfiles%5CIndex%20Data%5C70thru75%5CTxt%5C00000018%5C910143C6.txt&User=ANONYMOUS&Password=anonymous&SortMethod=h%7C-&MaximumDocuments=1&FuzzyDegree=0&ImageQuality=r75g8/r75g8/x150y150g16/i425&Display=p%7Cf&DefSeekPage=x&SearchBack=ZyActionL&Back=ZyActionS&BackDesc=Results%20page&MaximumPages=1&ZyEntry=1&SeekPage=x&ZyPURL

      • I should have explained that there are stacks of modelling exercises of the emissions avoided by wind generation. But just like climate models they don’t seem to agree with empirical data from grids. So, this is about estimating the emissions avoided by wind from empirical data.

        Having said that, if we could get the information, appropriate to our old plats, from the models it could be a great help. The input data for the Australian modelling is here: http://www.aemo.com.au/Consultations/National-Electricity-Market/Planning-Studies-2013-Consultation
        and
        http://www.aemo.com.au/Consultations/National-Electricity-Market/Planning-Studies-2013-Consultation

        But it uses linear heat rate!!. :(
        And there are many other issues too, as mentioned above.

      • Planning Engineer

        Thanks Peter. Good stuff.

      • Planning Engineer,

        There’s a good comparison (on a page) of modeled v empirical data analysis of the CO2 saved by wind power here: http://joewheatley.net/quantifying-co2-savings-from-wind-power-redux-ireland-2012/
        The modeling result makes wind seem much more effective than the analysis of the empirical data suggests.

        The modeling was done by the Sustainability Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). The result seems almost impossible, for the reasons explained.

  66. Lincoln Wolverton

    The paper below is tailored to the Pacific Northwest, but the issues are much more broad. Sorry for the length.

    Working with Wind
    January 8, 2010
    Linc Wolverton

    The major resource being planned to meet the requirements of state-legislative preferences for renewable energy in the Pacific Northwest and California is wind. The “fuel” for the resource is free, of course; the uncertainty of the fuel supply, however, introduces costs, perhaps significant, to a utility undertaking a wind-energy strategy.

    The word ‘strategy’ is deliberately chosen here, because a resource plan 1) cannot be accomplished without recognition of the overall utility load to be served in the context of all existing and planned resources, and 2) must consider the totality of new resources necessary to meet load service. A prospective resource cannot be evaluated solely as a stand-alone project.

    The analysis of a resource strategy is complex, particularly when wind is an important part of that strategy. Rather than going through a discussion of the cost and operational elements at the outset, this paper will begin with an example and then follow with conclusions drawn from the example.

    Suppose you are the power manager of a 400 MW utility that presently has resources and mechanisms in place that provide service to load reliably. As power manager, you have the responsibility to ensure

    1) that adequate voltage and frequency levels are constantly maintained (which you accomplish by purchasing automatic-generation-control services from your transmission provider –BPA Transmission, for example, as the operator of what is called a Balancing Authority);
    2) that schedules of power-delivery needs for the next hour (in BPA’s system) are delivered to your generation units and/or power suppliers and to the transmission provider;
    3) that plans for the next day and subsequent days are in place; and
    4) for the longer run, that adequate, reliable resources are planned and developed for expected load growth, recognizing legislative constraints as to types of resources.

    Assume that operating your current system for current loads works smoothly, so your concern is about planning for the longer run and integrating the operations of the new resources into the utility.

    Suppose you anticipate 100 MW of load growth, and for ease of this example, the load is the same in all 8760 hours of the year. You have to plan resources to meet the load growth, and you have the further constraint that you must meet renewable-resources standards – wind, in this example. You know that the typical wind resource is expected to produce at a 33% average operation level or plant factor. Sometimes it will produce nothing; other times it will produce 100% or something in between; on average, a 100 MW wind resource will produce 33 MW of energy.

    From an operational point of view, the easiest thing would be to buy 100 MW of a fossil-fuel resource. Such a resource would satisfy the needs of meeting load but it does not meet the environmental constraint for renewable resources.

    The alternative is a wind resource. At the outset, you as power manager recognize the difficulty of an entire-wind strategy. On average, you could meet load if you bought 300 MW of wind capacity, which yields 100 MW (3 times 33.3 MW) of average energy, which reflects your load-service need. Does this strategy work? The answer to that question is no, because at times there will be no energy at all from the wind generator, and at other times you will be producing too much — 300 MW —instead of the 100 MW that you need to serve load. At those latter times, you have 200 MW too much, which will either have to be sold in a short-term market or wind operations will have to be curtailed.

    Because an all-wind strategy for your increment of load growth is unreliable, you will need either 1) one or more generating resources to back up your wind resource; 2) access to a short-term power market for firming or backup energy, or 3) some combination of the two. Additionally, if the full operation of your wind resource exceeds your 100 MW need, you will need access to the short-term market for disposal of excess energy.

    The first wind/firming option above could be accomplished by acquiring 100 MW of a fast-responding thermal resource and 100 MW of a wind project. The wind would operate approximately one third of the time; the thermal resource would operate the remaining two-thirds of the time – the combination would serve the assumed flat-load need. This option assumes no requirements for market purchases or sales (though some additional fossil-fuel operation, at times, might be profitable if sold into secondary energy markets).

    Suppose you choose this first wind/firming option. Now, operational issues come into play —particularly, advance scheduling and operation. You’ve acquired the wind/firming package, and you have to schedule your wind and (likely) fossil-fuel resource for the next hour and plan for scheduling for the next day. The wind-resource output for the next hour can be predicted with some confidence, and the fossil-fuel resource can be planned to supplement the wind resource. For the following hour, the process is repeated. Natural variations of generation from what is scheduled for the hour — which will particularly affected by the variability of the wind resource — will be met by imbalance charges coming from the balancing authority (if BPA). That is, if you schedule 40 MW of wind production and therefore 60 MW of backup-resource production and the wind produces 50 MW, you will have imbalance credits of 10 MW. If wind is lower than 40 MW, you will have imbalance charges.

    For the next hour, you will have, probably, a different projection for the level of wind-resource output and a corresponding different projection for the firming fossil-fuel resource followed by a different real-time generation performance. This scheduling procedure will continue for each hour of the year.

    Because you are operating your fossil-fuel-fired resource at a different level each hour, you have to be able to fuel that resource accordingly. You will need long- and/or short-term purchase agreements for fuel and/or storage facilities if you can’t purchase fuel on an hourly basis.

    It should be clear from the example that a renewable-resource strategy based on wind involves much more than the wind project itself. To make the wind project usable to a utility, the cost of a wind-resource self-generating “package” alternative thus consists of:

    1. The installed cost of a wind facility and its associated transmission and ancillary services.
    2. The cost of forecasting the “free” wind “fuel” hour by hour in order to determine output levels and submit transmission schedules for the wind and backup generation.
    3. The installed cost of a firming fossil-fueled thermal facility and its associated wheeling and transmission losses.
    4. The cost of fuel-storage facilities at the thermal facility and associated pipeline rights for operation and storage.
    5. The cost of the fuel necessary to back up the wind resource hour by hour at the heat rate of the firming facility; operating in a variable manner likely will be more expensive than operating at a steady rate.

    A “package” based on reliance on market purchases has some differences, as will be discussed below.

    Two important implications of the wind alternative arise: a) Though the wind resource has no carbon-dioxide output, the wind-resource strategy does: the firming thermal resource has carbon-dioxide emissions, and there is associated carbon-tax risk, and b) the wind alternative does not shield the utility from the market volatility in price of the thermal fuel – either when it is in the buying or selling mode. Because the firming resource has to be fast responding, it is likely to be a single-cycle combustion turbine — that is, without a heat-recovery cycle — and therefore requiring more fuel per kWh production than a combined-cycle plant.

    Building thermal resources in conjunction with wind projects is the approach described above. An alternative is to rely on market purchases of firming energy when wind production drops and sales of excess energy when the real-time amount exceeds the scheduled amount. In the list of components above, the last three items in the package, the self-generation component is replaced by market purchases, with slightly different cost results. The quantity of power involved hour to hour would be no different; the cost, however, would be. The utility would be making purchases hourly for each hour of the year to supplement what is not produced by the wind project.

    Economic theory suggests that the prices of those purchases would be determined by the fuel cost and heat rate of the incremental project running in the West on that hour — where the supply curve and demand curve meet. For example, if gas was selling at $5 per million BTUs and the heat rate of the incremental plant was 10,000 BTUs per kWh, the price of power would be $50 per MWh. The price will vary each hour, perhaps significantly, as the incremental plant changes when overall loads rise and fall and other resources move in and out of production. Along with the cost of power would be the cost of transmission; the cost of losses has been ignored in this analysis.

    The marketplace for power is affected by the sum of loads —most of the time, the full Western Electric Coordinating Council (WECC) — in that market and the resources available to serve those loads. Among those resources are, of course, the aggregate wind projects feeding into that marketplace — whether it be the entire West — that is, Alberta to New Mexico to California to British Columbia — or limited, for example, to the Pacific Northwest when transmission lines into California are full (e.g., during the spring runoff). To the extent there is correlation among wind patterns, as there is in the Columbia Gorge, several thousand MWs of capacity could be added to or removed from the market in a very short time — within minutes. For example, recently wind-resource production in the Northwest increased from 5 to 600 MW in five minutes.

    The market-price impact of the changes in wind output will differ depending on the decisions on how utilities will accommodate the firming for the wind resources on their systems. If utilities put heavy reliance on the market for surplus power, there will be three results. One, insofar as the capacity of the wind resource exceeds the need for power of the utilities, surplus power will regularly be offered for sale on the market, with potentially significant negative impacts on spot prices if quantities are large. Two, insofar as thermal resources are kept in a standby capacity to accommodate fluctuations in wind, when not needed, energy from those resources will likely be offered into the market when the market price exceeds the variable cost of production. This phenomenon is no different from what occurs in a non-wind-resource environment, but the amount available to the market may be significantly greater than the amount in a comparable non-wind environment — largely because of the high need for standby capability for the varying wind resource. Third, the volatility of surplus-market prices should increase due to the uncertainty of wind production and the possible short-term offers for sales from standby resources as opportunities arise — possibly, because the time those firming resources are not needed is the time when prices are more likely to be low due to the wind resources’ output.

    If price volatility increases, then insurance against that volatility will become more expensive: hedging contracts will become pricier. All of these effects on market prices, and thus wholesale power costs, should be taken into account when a utility decides whether and how to rely on wind or some other renewable (or non-renewable) resource.

    The following two examples portray wind and firming-generator production as planned and as actually occurs, using a single day in BPA’s system. The first example corresponds to the discussion above where wind capacity is set at the expected load service level. The second example shows what happens when more wind capacity is purchased in order to increase the average production. Both examples use the same single, actual day of BPA’s aggregate wind production. 

    Example 1 – 100 MW Wind Resource, 100 MW Firming
    The following diagram shows how the system would be set up to meet a load of 100 MW in each hour of a 24-hour period when the only information about the expected wind output is a long-term average. The wind averages 31 MW; therefore, the required firming is 69 MW. The data are patterned on the total wind output of a single, real day on the BPA system.

    The next diagram shows the actual wind output for that day, assuming the 100 MW load. What is not met by wind must be met by the firming resource.

    The final diagram shows the amount of excess wind and additional firming that would occur throughout the 24 hours. In real time — that is, as the operating hour approaches — the utility operator faces the choice of selling the excess wind in the surplus markets or making an adjustment in the firming resource (including its fuel supply). The unplanned firming will require a market purchase, because no adjustment can be made in the wind resource.


    Example 2 – 200 MW Wind Resource, 100 MW Firming
    The following diagram shows how the system would be set up to meet a load of 100 MW in each hour of a 24-hour period but with a doubling of the wind resource. As in Example 1, the only information about the expected wind output is its long-term average. With a larger wind fleet, the wind averages 62 MW for the day; therefore, the required firming is 38 MW.

    The following diagram shows the actual output of the wind, based on that BPA day. Because the wind capacity has been doubled, there is excess wind to sell in the early hours of the morning when wind exceeds actual load.

    The final diagram shows the intra-day excesses and shortfalls. While in Example 1, accommodating the wind could be done either through a sale of energy into surplus markets or a reduction in the output of the firming resource, in this example, wind energy will be forced on the market because there is only 32 MW of firming resource planned for the day; the amount of excess wind energy substantially exceeds 32 MW in most of the morning hours.

    The other significant result is that the need for Unplanned Firming energy nearly doubles as the wind dies out during the day, which will require market purchases and/or higher operation of the firming resource with corresponding fuel consumption (out of storage or from market purchases).

    The upshot of doubling the capacity is to require significantly more volume of intra-day market activity or other adjustments for the utility. With many utilities in a similar position, market volatility will increase, perhaps substantially.

    • Planning Engineer

      Great explanation of critical considerations in a clear understandable manner. Any way to see the diagrams you referenced?

    • Linc Wolverton,

      Can you please provide a link to your paper. If not, would you be able to send it to Judith and ask her to send a copy to Peter Lang? (I think Planning Engineer would also like a copy.)

      Or. perhaps Judith might post it as an invited post.