Looking forward: new technologies in the 2020’s

by Judith Curry

Looking ahead towards new energy technologies, plus my own saga and rationale for transitioning my personal power generation and consumption.

Happy New Year everyone!  The theme I decided for my post to ring in the New Year is one of optimism re new technologies.

The basis for this post is an article by Eli Dourado that I spotted on twitter: Notes on technology for the 2020’s.  Will the new decade be the roaring 20’s or the boring 20’s?

Topics covered by Dourado include:

  • Biotech and health
  • Energy
  • Transportation
  • Space
  • Information technology

All are interesting and worth reading, here I focus on Energy.



The 2010s were the wind and solar decade. We observed stunning declines in the cost of both, although total deployment of wind and solar remains small—in 2019, wind and solar represented less than 9 percent of utility-scale electricity generation in the US. In the 2020s, cost declines will likely stall—wind and solar are already pretty cheap, so the declines of the past decade are not reproducible. Deployment, on the other hand, will accelerate.

Mass deployment of wind and solar will bring challenges. These sources are highly intermittent. When the wind suddenly stops blowing—which happens—we need a way to quickly make up the deficit. Each of the three electricity grids in the continental US—east, west, and Texas—has to remain in supply-demand balance every second of every day. We can use grid storage to smooth out some of the bumps, but storage remains expensive. To reach a grid powered entirely by today’s renewables, we would need storage at a price of $20 per kWh (with caveats).

That storage doesn’t all have to come from batteries, but let’s talk about batteries for a bit. Using Tesla’s grid-scale Powerpack as data, a 232 kWh battery today costs $125,793. That is a price of over $542/kWh. Through innovation, that pricetag will come down over the course of this decade, but improvements on the supply side could easily get swamped by increases in demand. After all, this decade will also include a huge shift toward electric vehicles, which I will discuss below. When demand outpaces supply, prices tend to stay high, even when there is impressive innovation.

With increased deployment of intermittent power generation, increased total demand for electricity due to electric vehicles, a high cost of grid storage, inadequate electricity transmission (have I mentioned that we often neglect to build in this country?), and strong political support for decommissioning fossil fuel plants, the 2020s may be a time of electric grid instability. This could be tempered to some extent by using car batteries as grid resources and through (politically unpopular) variable electricity prices.

JC note: this article is much more bullish on solar and particularly wind than I am.  The article neglects the challenges of scaling up in terms of land use, resource availability, and seems to accept some level of grid instability.

Ultimately, we need scalable zero-carbon baseload energy, which means nuclear or geothermal. The problem with nuclear is the high cost. If you look at NuScale’s small modular reactor technology, they are targeting 6.5¢/kWh. That is baseload power, so not directly comparable to wind and solar’s intermittent generation costs, but even so, it isn’t the most competitive in today’s market. Furthermore, NuScale’s flagship project was just delayed three years and is now not scheduled to come online until 2030.

JC note: Dourado is less optimistic about nuclear costs than others.

What is more plausible this decade is enhanced and advanced geothermal systems. The legacy geothermal industry is sleepy, tapping energy at traditional volcanic hydrothermal hotspots—forget about it. The next generation of the industry, however, is a bunch of scrappy startups manned by folks leaving the oil and gas industry. The startups I have spoken to think with today’s technology they can crack 3.5¢/kWh without being confined to volcanic regions. With relatively minor advancements in drilling technology compared to what we’ve seen over the last decade, advanced geothermal could reach 2¢/kWh and become scale to become viable just about anywhere on the planet. Collectively, the startups are talking about figures like hundreds of gigawatts of generation by 2030. I’m watching this space closely; the Heat Beat blog is a great way to stay in the loop. As I wrote last month, permitting reform will be important.

JC note: geothermal is the hottest energy technology that is feasible and cheap that I don’t know enough about.  The linked article by Dave Roberts (first line in preceding paragraph) is very good.

Fusion continues to make technical progress. I expect we will get a demonstration of energy-positive fusion in this decade from one of several fusion startups or perhaps Lockheed Martin’s compact fusion reactor. But again: a demonstration is far from a change that transforms society. It will take further decades to deploy reactors onto the grid. By the time fusion gets there, the energy market will be quite different from when we started working on fusion reactors in the 1940s. Wind, solar, and hopefully geothermal will make electricity pretty cheap, and fusion will struggle to compete.

JC note:  I don’t see a long term future for wind energy if there are other economical, clean options available. If fusion energy was available, I imagine that it would be a very attractive option.  See also this article on fusion energy.

Consider: around half the cost of an advanced geothermal plant is drilling, and half is conversion equipment. Suppose the plant is amortized over 30 years (although many geothermal plants last longer), and after that period the conversion equipment needs to be replaced. But the hole in the ground does not need to be replaced! That means for the next 30 years, electricity can be generated at half the initial cost. Geothermal wells we dig this decade could be producing at less than 1¢/kWh by the 2050s. That is a tough market for fusion to break into. But fusion will still be a great source of power in applications where other sources aren’t available, such as in space.

The 2020s will be a big decade for sustainable alternative fuels (SAF). Commercial aviation can’t electrify—batteries will never match fossil fuels’ energy density. Given political realities, aviation has no choice to decarbonize, which means either hydrogen fuel or SAF. Hydrogen fuel is much better than batteries, but still not as energy dense as fossil fuels or SAF, and so my money is on SAF, and particularly on fuel made from CO₂ pulled from the atmosphere. It is easy to convert atmospheric CO₂ to ethanol in solution; and it is easy to upgrade ethanol into other fuels. But it is hard to separate ethanol from water without using a lot of energy—unless you have an advanced membrane as Prometheus Fuels does. I have written about Prometheus before and continue to follow them closely. Their technology could decarbonize aviation very suddenly.

JC note:  SAF and Prometheus Fuels are new to me.  Thoughts?

<end quote>

JC’s energy transition

A few notes on my personal transition to cleaner energy.  About 6 years ago, we needed to purchase some new appliances: hot water heaters, stove top, clothes dryer.  At the time we opted for natural gas appliances – they were more energy efficient and operated more towards our preferences (not a fan of electric stove top or electric clothes dryer).  I now realize that natural gas stove tops are not good for indoor air quality; had we realized that at the time, this might have swayed our decision.  We also bought a new car about 5 years ago – internal combustion; we really need 4 wheel drive where we live and at the time there weren’t good hybrid or electric options.

About 2 years ago, we decided to make the plunge for rooftop solar for our home, this was eventually installed about a year ago (5 years ago, we wouldn’t have seriously considered solar, owing to cost and available technologies).  We also purchased two Tesla Powerwalls, which allows us to generate power for our household if the grid electricity is down and also at night.  As a second backup, we opted to keep the natural gas Generac (no simple task to integrate this with the Powerwalls). After tax breaks and rebates, all this cost us about $40K.  Based on our current electricity use, we will break even in about 15 years.

Caption:  48 solar panels on south facing garage roof.  Tesla Powerwalls (two white vertical rectangles) and Generac (white box on the ground)

The primary motivation for us to go solar was energy security (we already had a natural gas Generac backup system); we would not have gone solar without the Tesla Power Walls.  The Generac was kept to provide power in the event of wildfires drastically reducing the incoming solar radiation (a situation which is not unusual in the Sierra Nevadas). Our local power generation in Nevada is already pretty clean, with abundant renewables including geothermal; local air pollution is low and mostly generated by automobiles.  $40K would have been a lot to pay for ‘virtue signalling’ for clean energy, when our local power sources are already pretty clean.

The next point I want to make is how the infrastructure of solar power changes your outlook on future purchases of appliances, cars, heating and air conditioning.  Re air conditioning, while we have air conditioning in the house, we use a swamp cooler (powered by electricity) which our climate allows and which we vastly prefer owing to to the ventilation.  Not clear that electric vehicles are the right decision at this point (our existing cars are running fine).  We will probably replace the natural gas hot water heaters in the relatively near term, provided that our existing ones can be somehow/somewhere be re-used.

Our house was built in the 1980’s, with a fairly ingenious passive solar design that allows mid winter sun to pour into the house, both directly into living spaces

and also into higher levels, where it warms up stone walls, also with ceiling fans to bring the heat downwards.

In summer, when the sun is angled higher, little sunlight enters into the house.  So our wintertime heating bill is relatively low.   But over the next 5 years we will probably replace our 3 gas furnaces, will look seriously into heat pumps and alternatives to natural gas furnaces.

JC reflections

There are two broad issues here, extending from my personal anecdotes.

Energy infrastructure matters – once infrastructure is in place (home solar, charging stations for electric vehicles, whatever), decisions to move towards cleaner and more efficient use of energy become much simpler.

Second, your ‘best’ decisions made now may become suboptimal in ~5 years time, but you are locked in by the infrastructure (appliances, power plant, whatever).  Bottom line is that ‘urgency’ to improve in a ‘green’ direction can backfire; wait until the appliance, power plant whatever  comes to the end of its useful life and there will be better options.

341 responses to “Looking forward: new technologies in the 2020’s

  1. Wind and solar, and other renewables are not cheap. When the total system cost are included they are hugely expensive. Australia’s electricity prices have doubled since the federal and state governments started subsidising them. As a result, Australia’s electricity prices have moved from near the cheapest to near the most expensive in the OECD. Renewables can never supply a large proportion of the world’s ever increasing energy demand.

    The only currently known energy source that can supply nearly all the world’s ever increasing energy demand, effectively indefinitely, is nuclear power. However, it is hugely expensive thanks to the regulatory responses to the anti-nuclear power scare campaigns that began in the 1960’s.

    We need to remove the regulatory impediments and tax energy technologies in proportion to the their health impacts to enable nuclear power technology development to progress rapidly, costs to reduce rapidly and deployment rate to accelerate.

    Nuclear is the long term solution. Focus on nuclear.

    • Here are some facts regarding the health impacts of the various electricity generation technologies, the costs of the health externality and suggestions regarding what should be done to reduce it.

      1 Nuclear is the safest way to generate electricity

      Nuclear power is and always has been the safest way to generate electricity. In the USA and Europe electricity generation with coal causes 150,000 more deaths per TWh than nuclear, natural gas 40,000 more and wind 1,500 more (see Table 1 below). The deaths/TWh figures are from full life cycle analysis – that is, they are all deaths from mining to decommissioning and waste disposal, including from power plant accidents.

      Nuclear could become the cheapest way to generate electricity. Were it not for the unwarranted fear of this technology that was generated by the anti-nuclear power protest movement starting in the 1960’s [1] (Section 3.6), nuclear power could now be around 10% of its current cost [1] (Table 3 bottom panel).

      The cost of nuclear power can be reduced by removing regulatory impediments. Internalising the externality costs of all energy technologies would further increase nuclear power’s competitiveness and, therefore, its deployment rate and learning rate (i.e. rate of cost reduction).

      The negative externalities of energy technologies can be largely internalised by taxing or subsidising them in proportion to their health impacts. The health impacts of electricity generation technologies can be internalised by either taxing technologies in proportion to their health impacts or subsidising those with lower impacts in proportion to the impacts of the technologies with the highest health impacts.

      A rough calculation suggests that, to internalise the cost of deaths attributable to electricity generation technologies in the US, generators should be required to pay compensation for the deaths caused by each technology. Table 1 presents estimates of the number of deaths per TWh attributable to electricity generation technologies, the cost per MWh and the total cost to the economy. The calculations use US$9.6 million Value of Statistical Life (VSL) [2], deaths per TWh for each technology [3,4] and US electricity generation per technology in 2019 [5].

      Table 1: Health impact of deaths attributable to electricity generation technologies in the US: deaths per TWh, cost of deaths in US$/MWh at Value of a Statistical Life, electricity generation per technology (GWh/a) and total cost of deaths per technology (US$bn).

      Technology Deaths/TWh US$/MWh GWh/a Total, US$bn
      Coal 15 144 966,148 139.13
      Oil 36 346 18,567 6.42
      Natural Gas 4 38 1,581,815 60.74
      Biofuel/biomass 12 115 58,412 6.73
      Solar (rooftop) 0.44 4.2 72,234 0.31
      Wind 0.15 1.4 300,071 0.43
      Hydro 0.010 0.096 273,707 0.026
      Nuclear 0.0001 0.001 809,409 0.001

      If each technology was required to pay compensation for the annual cost of the deaths it causes in the US, the estimated amounts each technology would have to pay per MWh are:

      Technology US$/MWh
      Coal 144
      Oil 346
      Natural Gas 38
      Biofuel/biomass 115
      Solar (rooftop) 4.2
      Wind 1.4
      Hydro 0.048
      Nuclear 0.001

      The number of deaths/TWh due to coal fired electricity generation in China are 6 times higher and the World average is 4 times higher [3] than USA and Europe.


      1. Lang, P. Nuclear Power Learning and Deployment Rates; Disruption and Global Benefits Forgone. 2017. https://doi.org/10.3390/en10122169

      2. U.S. Department of Transportation. Revised Departmental Guidance on Valuation of a Statistical Life in Economic Analysis. 2016. https://www.transportation.gov/office-policy/transportation-policy/revised-departmental-guidance-on-valuation-of-a-statistical-life-in-economic-analysis.

      3. Wang, B. Deaths by Energy Source in Forbes. http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/06/deaths-by-energy-source-in-forbes.html

      4. Conca, J. How Deadly Is Your Kilowatt? We Rank The Killer Energy Sources. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/06/10/energys-deathprint-a-price-always-paid

      5. U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Total Energy, Data, Electricity, Table 7.2a Electricity Net Generation: Total (All Sectors). https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/browser/index.php?tbl=T07.02A#/

      • 2 Regarding the Linear No-Threshold hypothesis
        2.1 A-Bombs, Bears and Corrupted Science; Reassessing radiation safety
        Precaution and Assumption and the Deceits of Corrupted Science

        The adoption of the so-called ‘linear no-threshold assumption’ (hereafter LNT), which is used to estimate cancer risks in the low-dose zone, was due to a series of difficult-to-comprehend errors, deceptions and purposeful scientific misconduct by a relatively small group of strategically placed scientific elites in the United States. These individuals included Nobel Prize winners and other high achievers in the field of radiation genetics, who not only thought they were saving humanity from the harmful consequences of all things nuclear, but were equally concerned with ensuring that grant funding to support their research would never end. While their duplicitous actions have been hidden from view for 70 years, their story has unravelled in recent years in a series of painstaking investigations of newly uncovered scientific reports, personal letters, internal memos and other materials.
        These factual errors and misrepresentations were enveloped and advanced by the error making experts to ensure the LNT assumption’s adoption across the globe. Regulators then never looked back, never thought they might be wrong or considered that they might have been misled.
        The LNT assumption subsequently led to the wholesale overregulation of the nuclear industry, playing as it did on fears that permeated society at all levels. These fears lead to vast protests, delays in plant construction, massive cost increases, cancellation of newly proposed plants, and the rather rapid strangulation of the nuclear industry, despite ever growing societal energy needs and emerging political, regulatory and scientific concerns over increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide. The story I tell will show that the LNT theory lacked a proper scientific foundation, that science needs to be self-correcting and that it is time to reconsider nuclear regulation.

        Calabrese, E.J.P., Mikko. A-Bombs, Bears and Corrupted Science; Reassessing radiation safety. Global Warming Policy Foundation: UK, 2020; p 28. https://www.thegwpf.org/content/uploads/2020/06/Calabrese-Paunio-2020.pdf .

      • The number of deaths/TWh due to coal fired electricity generation in China are 6 times higher and the World average is 4 times higher [3] than USA and Europe.

        The number of lives saved and deaths prevented due to low cost affordable electricity from coal fired electricity generation is never calculated or published. It is order of magnitude greater than the deaths causes.

        We burn our coal much cleaner than in the past. The rest of the world is following our cleanup and China is building newer cleaner coal power because that know that is a best path forward at this time.

        You can use the same data to tell a wonderful story or a disaster. The alarmists need a coal disaster to sell their more expensive, less reliable renewables at an order of magnitude higher cost. They drive the cost of coal up with Carbon Capture and other Stuff that is only there for political purposes.

      • popesclimatetheory,

        Please read and carefully consider all the comments. Look at the cited references where necessary.

      • “According to the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Academy of Science and many health studies over the last decade (NAS 2010), the adverse impacts on health become a significant effect for fossil fuel and biofuel/biomass sources. In fact, the World Health Organization has called biomass burning a major global health issue (WHO).

        At the other end of the spectrum, nuclear energy is the safest. In fact, the United Nation’s (UNSCEAR) changed the estimate of additional deaths from the Chernobyl disaster from radiation in the public, from about 4,000 to about zero. Some plant staff and emergency workers were killed, and those deaths totalled 58 people, including 9 childhood thyroid cancers. The numbers for nuclear in the table reflects the old number.”

      • High efficiency – low emission coal plants release almost no black carbon.

        Source: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/jgrd.50171

    • 1.1 References on the impacts of, and how best to respond to, major nuclear accidents:

      Thomas, P.; May, J. Coping after a big nuclear accident. Process Safety and Environmental Protection 2017, 112, 1-3. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psep.2017.09.013

      Thomas, P.J. Quantitative guidance on how best to respond to a big nuclear accident. Process Safety and Environmental Protection 2017, 112, 4-15. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psep.2017.07.026

      Waddington, I.; Thomas, P.; Taylor, R.; Vaughan, G. J-value assessment of relocation measures following the nuclear power plant accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi. Process Safety and Environmental Protection 2017, 112, 16-49.

      Waddington, I.; Thomas, P.; Taylor, R.; Vaughan, G. J-value assessment of remediation measures following the Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accidents. Process Safety and Environmental Protection 2017, 112, 16-49.

      Yumashev, D.; Johnson, P.; Thomas, P. Economically optimal strategies for medium-term recovery after a major nuclear reactor accident. Process Safety and Environmental Protection 2017, 112, 63-76. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psep.2017.08.022

    • 1.2 Chernobyl Accident 1986
      (Updated April 2020)

      • The Chernobyl accident in 1986 was the result of a flawed reactor design that was operated with inadequately trained personnel.

      • The resulting steam explosion and fires released at least 5% of the radioactive reactor core into the environment, with the deposition of radioactive materials in many parts of Europe.

      • Two Chernobyl plant workers died due to the explosion on the night of the accident, and a further 28 people died within a few weeks as a result of acute radiation syndrome.

      • The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation has concluded that, apart from some 6500 thyroid cancers (resulting in 15 fatalities), “there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure 20 years after the accident.”

      • Some 350,000 people were evacuated as a result of the accident, but resettlement of areas from which people were relocated is ongoing.

      The conclusions of this 2005 Chernobyl Forum study (revised version published 2006) are in line with earlier expert studies, notably the UNSCEAR 2000 report which said that “apart from this [thyroid cancer] increase, there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure 14 years after the accident. There is no scientific evidence of increases in overall cancer incidence or mortality or in non-malignant disorders that could be related to radiation exposure.” There is little evidence of any increase in leukaemia, even among clean-up workers where it might be most expected. Radiation-induced leukemia has a latency period of 5-7 years, so any potential leukemia cases due to the accident would already have developed. A low number of the clean-up workers, who received the highest doses, may have a slightly increased risk of developing solid cancers in the long term. To date, however, there is no evidence of any such cancers having developed. Apart from these, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) said: “The great majority of the population is not likely to experience serious health consequences as a result of radiation from the Chernobyl accident. Many other health problems have been noted in the populations that are not related to radiation exposure.”

      Source: https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/safety-and-security/safety-of-plants/chernobyl-accident.aspx

      Video: ‘Experts talk about the health effects of Chernobyl’ https://youtu.be/PZUvoeIArDM

      2 during the explosion
      28 in the 30 days following the accident
      15 due to thyroid cancers since the accident
      19 more emergency workers died 1987–2004
      64 total


      WHO – ‘Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident and Special Health Care Programmes – Report of the UN Chernobyl Forum Expert Group “Health”

      Click to access who_chernobyl_report_2006.pdf

      WHO – 1986-2016: CHERNOBYL at 30 https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/1986-2016-chernobyl-at-30

    • 3 Nuclear power costs could be down to 10% of current costs this century

      If not for the disruption to nuclear power learning and deployment rates that began in the mid 1960’s as a result of the anti-nuclear scare campaigns and the (false) linear no-threshold (LNT) hypothesis, nuclear power costs in 2015 could have been around 10% or less of what they are now (https://doi.org/10.3390/en10122169 Table 3 and Figures 1, 5, 6 and 7).

      Figure 1. Overnight construction cost (in 2010 US $/kW) plotted against cumulative global capacity (GW), based on construction start dates, of nuclear power reactors for seven countries, including regression lines for US before and after 32 GW cumulative global capacity.

      Figure 5. Annual global capacity of construction starts and commercial operation starts, 1954–2015.

      Figure 6. (Top) Cumulative global capacity of construction starts and of commercial operation starts (sorted by construction start date); (Bottom) Cumulative global capacity of construction starts (red and green data points); accelerating projection of 1960–1976 data points (dotted green line); Linear and Accelerating projections of capacity in commercial operation (dashed pink and green lines).

      The disruption has cost the world an enormous amount, which is lost forever. If the impediments to nuclear power development are removed, it might take around 80 years, or less, for nuclear prices to get down to 10% of current costs. The cost of the disruption is the loss of much faster economic growth, hence faster improvement in living standards and better health, especially in the developing countries.

    • 3.1 How to return to pre-disruption learning and deployment rates

      Once the regulatory impediments are removed the rate of reduction of nuclear power costs could return to around the learning rates that existed before the 1960s disruption – i.e. about 25% per doubling of cumulative global capacity of construction starts.

      As prices decrease, deployment rate will accelerate and the rate of development will increase. Much smaller fission, and possibly eventually fusion reactors, will replace the current monsters. They will be developed faster, constructed much faster and old plants will be replaced faster. Electricity consumption will increase rapidly as electricity prices decrease. Electricity will produce an increasing proportion of our total energy requirements, including transport fuels (e.g. petrol/gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, etc.).

      A simple calculation suggests perhaps six to eight doublings of cumulative global capacity of construction starts from 2020 to 2100. Eight doublings at 25% learning rate would see the cost of nuclear drop to 10% of current cost.

      The learning rate could become much faster if electricity generators are taxed for the health impacts their technologies cause per TWh of electricity generated (refer to Section 1 above). In this case, costs would reduce faster and the deployment rate would accelerate faster so there would be more capacity doublings by the end of the century. So 10% of current cost could be achieved earlier.


      Learning rate (i.e. rate of cost reduction) = 25% per doubling of cumulative global capacity from 2020 (see Figure 1 above)

      Projected total global energy consumption in 2100 calculated by projecting the rate of consumption increase from 1980 to 2018 using IEA data = 2,800,000 PJ – https://www.iea.org/data-and-statistics/charts/world-total-energy-supply-by-source-1971-2018

      Approximately 43%of this is electricity generated by nuclear power = ~1,200,000 PJ
      8 capacity doublings = 50,000 GW = 1,261,440 PJ at 80% capacity factor. Deduct assumed decommissioned reactors – i.e. existing 2020 capacity plus capacity of first 2 doublings – i.e. deduct say 41,000 PJ = ~1,220,000 PJ

      At 25% learning rate and 8 capacity doublings, nuclear cost would be 10% of current costs

      Learning rate could be significantly higher than 25% if regulatory impediments are removed and electricity technologies (and all fuels) are taxed in proportion to their health impacts

      As nuclear power costs decrease electricity will replace other fuels at an accelerating rate.

    • 3.2 Some Benefits of Micro and Small Nuclear Reactors

      There are a variety of ways nuclear technology could advance rapidly if the regulatory impediments are removed. These include transitions to: SMRs, fast breeder reactors, fusion, etc. Below I describe what might be another possibility.

      Voyager 1 and 2 were launched in 1977; i.e. 43 years ago. They are now 18 bn km from the Sun. Voyager 1 is beyond the edge of the Solar System. They are still operating and still in contact with NASA. Each is powered by three radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) nuclear reactors using Pu238 fuel. Power at launch was 470 W and has decreased to 270 W over the 43 years.

      The development and production cost of the RTGs for the Cassini probe (launched 1997) and Mars Science Laboratory (launched 2011) were $118M and $109M (2015 US$). Mass production of RTG-like micro power plants to produce sufficient units to power the world and then keep replacing them every say 30 to 40 years, could reduce the cost per unit to economic even for single houses. Units for average size single houses may need to be about 2–5 kW plus energy storage with say 15–20 kW power and 100 kWh capacity (to power reverse cycle air-conditioning and heating, hot water, appliances and lights).

      This suggests it might become practical and economic for appropriate sized small nuclear power plants to power every house, apartment block, commercial area, industrial area, etc. (together with storage to manage periods when total demand is above 2–5 kW). The RTG units could operate for 40 years or more. Or less, and be replaced more frequently as improved designs are developed. O&M costs would be negligible because the RTGs operate remotely and need no maintenance for life; the storage might need replacement about every 20 years. Eventually there would be no need for large power stations and major transmission lines.

      The first such commercially viable power plants could, potentially, be being produced and installed within 20 years, and all the large electricity generation stations and transmission lines decommissioned within perhaps another 40–60 years. This is an indication of how nuclear power could develop rapidly and, consequently, the costs decrease rapidly.

    • 3.3 Potential advantages of micro nuclear power plants

      Micro nuclear plants of 2–10 kW for individual houses and appropriately sized plants for apartment, commercial and industrial complexes could, potentially, have many advantages, such as:

      1. They require negligible operation and maintenance for life. Micro plants could be fuelled for life, like the Venus 1 and 2 space probes

      2. They would be small and widely distributed so much safer than large plants

      3. The enormously costly electricity grid would not be needed

      4. The power system cannot be taken down by foreign cyber-attacks or by missiles targeted at a few large power stations

      5. SMRs could be built and installed quickly – e.g. 2-3 years

      6. Micro units could be installed in individual houses (below ground level under the house or in the back yard) in a few days.

    • 4 In short

      Nuclear power will remain very costly and rollout will remain slow until the regulatory impediments are removed. These regulatory impediments have:

      1. massively increased the time and cost to gain design approval for new designs and design changes

      2. massively increased the design costs and capital costs of nuclear power plants

      3. massively increased the construction time of the plants

      4. massively increased the operation and maintenance costs

      5. massively increased the cost of security required to protect the plants from sabotage

      6. Imposed massive decommissioning and waste management costs on nuclear power

      Future pricing of nuclear power depends on the learning rate, deployment rate and development rate achieved. The learning rate is constrained by regulatory impediments. When these constraints are removed the learning rate could return to around 25% per doubling of cumulative global capacity of construction starts from 2020. It could become significantly faster than 25% if the health impacts of all technologies are internalised in the cost of the power produced by each technology – e.g. by taxing on the basis of deaths and work-days-lost per TWh.

      It’s impossible to predict what nuclear designs and products will become the most competitive in the future.

      • I see little evidence that the regulatory impediments will be removed. The current efforts to “simplify” the regulations in the US look to make them licensing process more expensive and complex. Google 10CFR53. Appears to be more of an effort to turn highly burdensome regulatory administrative rules into law.

        One would think the passively fail safe reactors being developed should have any easier go. Apparently not. … and yes I am directly involved in trying to put common sense back into the licensing process, but the entrenched bureaucracy apparently does not want to give up any of their vast control over nuclear energy.

      • Victor Ovid Adams

        China and Russia are two major countries who care little about “regulatory impediments”. Are they developing low cost nuclear power plants? Reg. human costs recall that both Stalin (prior to his bomb completion) and Mao (when threatened by Khrushchev) told their inner circle that they take the hit and survive.

    • One has to get quantitative or it’s just wild eyed ravings. Wind and solar are some 7% of my bill. It’s not as if they hide it – it’s on the back of the invoice.

      Sourceaffordability affordability and Australia’s competitive advantage
      Retail Electricity Pricing Inquiry—Final Report

      • > Wind and solar are some 7% of my bill. It’s not as if they hide it – it’s on the back of the invoice
        Does that capture the total costs of wind and solar though, or only visible / open subsidies ? Are there no hidden ones, eg purchase obligations ?

      • I’m not arguing for unlimited expansion. I copied an IEA source value chart below that suggests a little more mightn’t cost an arm and a leg. It gives political wriggle room over which I have absolutely no say.


      • We would seem to be at cross purposes. I am asking about (true) unit costs, not market share.

      • What I see in the pie chart is some low capacity factor hydro and biomass to back up wind and solar. Plus some gas peaking plant.

        Electricity retailers were required to buy 19.31% of their supply from renewables in 2020. Prices are negotiated by retailers and are said to have been between $65 and $85 per MWh under contract. This is within the normal daily range of spot prices.

        The question I believe was did the Productivity Commission hide some costs? No – I don’t think they did.

      • The question is, the prices may look reasonable, but do they reflect the real cost ? Or do they reflect political privilege – open subsidies, and/or hidden subsidies like increased grid and transmission costs shifted to other generation sources ?
        Put another way, if all government energy support programs were scrapped, would wind and solar still exist ?

      • Given low LCOE – wind, solar, hydro and biomass will survive well enough on the RET. Until that expires in 2030. But you tell me – why do you conclude that ‘hidden costs’ are enough to matter?

      • The rise of electricity prices in line with renewables deployment.

      • As I said – my bill increased by 7% – although people arm wave that it is secretly more. And costs have fallen over the past decade.

      • > The question is, the prices may look reasonable, but do they reflect the real cost ?

        You mean unlike the price of oil which does?

      • The subsidy for renewables is 20+ times that of fossil energy per unit energy produced.

      • I think one thing he might be asking towards is a situation where you had a utility that pretty much ran on coal, at price$ X/kWhr, and price $X/khWr not only covered the cost of generation, but the cost of building and running the entire network, including power line maintenance, etc.

        If a wind or solar plant comes along, and can produce electricity at the going price, but it’s not being burdened with the cost of maintaining its share of all that massive infrastructure, is it being subsidized, in the grand scheme of things?

      • Bill Fabrizio

        I’m surprised that the Nat Gas percentage is so small. The Gorgon and Wheatstone projects alone, are massive. And I believe a significant portion produced must be sold to the domestic market? Is it due to a lack of distribution infrastructure?

      • There are east coast pipelines but no connection to Western Australia.

      • Defining “subsidies” reflects politics. And I’m also talking about externalities. Which, of course, is also gamed polirucally.

      • Defining subsidies is economics. Defining externalities is political.

      • WIRED’s latest wild eyed raving come stright from a mad cow’s mouth, Devived from coal mine safety systems the new Green technology is quantified as being 56% efficient


      • Do you imagine that these contributions are clever and interesting?

    • Rod Adams did a surprisingly upbeat interview with Robert Bryce on nuclear power. I wrote a blog post at Climate Scepticism:


      I also got it reposted at WUWT:


    • The video is almost two hours long, so I made a minute guide:

      Minute Guide

      4:00 to 5:00 – Why he prefers term ‘atomic’ to ‘nuclear’

      7:00 to 14:00 – AP1000

      13:00 to 15:00 – Natural gas availability

      15:00 to 25:00 – Nuscale

      25:00 to 29:00 – General Electric boiling water reactors

      29:00 to 32:00 – Westinghouse

      33:00 to 37:00 – Oklo

      37:00 to 45:00 – Terrestrial Energy, Thoricon — molten salt reactors

      45:00 to 46:00 – Nuclear powered ships

      46:00 to 50:00 – Advanced reactor projects

      50:00 to 1:00:00 – Prospects for nuclear in US

      1:01:00 to 1:02:00 – Natrium with molten salt buffer

      1:03:00 to 1:04:00 – Regulation and policy

      1:04:00 to 1:07:00 – New reactors and sites

      1:07:00 to 1:08:00 – Rod is now a venture capitalist

      1:08:00 to 1:10:00 – Existing fleet

      1:10:00 to 1:13:00 – Congested pricing due to wind

      1:13:00 to 1:17:00 – Getting nuclear to work

      1:17:00 to 1:23:00 – Navy, Rickover

      1:24:00 to 1:26:00 – Waste

      1:27:00 to 1:29:00 – Jimmy Carter

      1:29:00 to 1:31:00 – Waste issue as strategy

      1:31:00 to 1:35:00 – Rod’s motivation

      1:34:00 to 1:40:00 – Oppostion to nuclear

      1:41:00 to 1:44:00 – Books

      1:45:00 to 1:49:00 – Concluding optimism

      Interesting Points

      56:00 – Nuclear plant costs have not increased

      58:00, 1:13:00 – Carbon price

      1:04:00 – 2027 should be interesting year

      1:20:00 – Navy expertise should be declassified and utilized

      1:38:00 – Coal interests fought against nuclear

      1:43:00 – Praise for Daniel Yergin’s The Prize

  2. 3 Nuclear power costs could be down to 10% of current costs this century

    If not for the disruption to nuclear power learning and deployment rates that began in the mid 1960’s as a result of the anti-nuclear scare campaigns and the (false) linear no-threshold (LNT) hypothesis, nuclear power costs in 2015 could have been around 10% or less of what they are now (https://doi.org/10.3390/en10122169 Table 3 and Figures 1, 5, 6 and 7).

    Figure 1. Overnight construction cost (in 2010 US $/kW) plotted against cumulative global capacity (GW), based on construction start dates, of nuclear power reactors for seven countries, including regression lines for US before and after 32 GW cumulative global capacity.

    Figure 5. Annual global capacity of construction starts and commercial operation starts, 1954–2015.

    Figure 6. (Top) Cumulative global capacity of construction starts and of commercial operation starts (sorted by construction start date); (Bottom) Cumulative global capacity of construction starts (red and green data points); accelerating projection of 1960–1976 data points (dotted green line); Linear and Accelerating projections of capacity in commercial operation (dashed pink and green lines).

    The disruption has cost the world an enormous amount, which is lost forever. If the impediments to nuclear power development are removed, it might take around 80 years, or less, for nuclear prices to get down to 10% of current costs. The cost of the disruption is the loss of much faster economic growth, hence faster improvement in living standards and better health, especially in the developing countries.

  3. With the power walls you would have got the Tesla app? which shows your home usage, solar generation, battery charge and movements from or to the grid if you are attached. 48 panels and 2 power walls looks about right for your house I’d say from the photos. I have 14kv of panels and 1 power wall plus a Tesla. Could do with another power wall I’d say, especially in “winter” where I am as the solar irradiation is lower. Our grid cost is 28 cents a h
    kWh so payback at 75/100 kWh usage per day is quite short, especially with grid feed-in tariff of 11c. You can’t wait for the next big thing. It’s never quite there yet. I agree that solar and wind are stopgap measures that are a bit questionable and hope your insight into geothermal works out. I’ll need to read it up a bit more because the greenies will surely find something wrong with it. Nothing is consequent free.

    • Your grid feed-in tariff is simply a tax on your neighbors. I can’t blame you for taking advantage of the politicians who forced this, but it isn’t pretty.

      Also, the only possible good reason for rooftop solar is energy security. Otherwise, if solar makes sense at all, it makes far more sense at grid scale, not on individual roofs. At grid scale, it costs about 1/4 that of residential roof-top.

      • Rubbish!
        My feed-in tariff is for electricity I generate from my panels and feed back into the grid. It’s a measly 11c/kwh compared to the 28c/kwh they on-sell it for. My usage is 75+kwh/day so my power bill was a couple of grand a quarter when distribution costs and daily delivery costs were added. Now it’s in credit in summer and small in winter. It cost me $25k and it’s saving me $8k pa or thereabouts. So it’s not only saving me money, it’s provided power to the grid at a cheap rate. Who am I ripping off? Solar may be crap at large scale but on the individual house scale it’s great, especially in my area where we don’t really have a winter. Think before you rant about stuff you really don’t have any personal knowledge of.

      • retiredgeo | January 3, 2021 at 5:49 pm |

        My feed-in tariff is for electricity I generate from my panels and feed back into the grid. It’s a measly 11c/kwh compared to the 28c/kwh they on-sell it for.

        Depends on where you are, but in California, PPA (power purchase agreements) around here for grid-scale fossil fuel generators are 2.74¢/kWh.

        But home solar installations are paid about 20% more than that … and the difference is indeed a subsidy to the panel-owners.

        In addition, here in CA our utility is required to purchase grid-scale solar power. It’s about 4¢/kWh … so as you can see, there is definitely a subsidy for that as well.

        Who pays the subsidies? Why … the consumers.

        And this doesn’t begin to include all of the other subsidies. For example, there’s a federal subsidy of 26% of the solar installation cost. Then there are local subsidies. And not to forget a $4,800 credit towards buying a Tesla Powerwall … that costs $5,500.

        Now, I wouldn’t mind that so much if we got something for it. But here’s the news on that front:

        So yes … there are subsidies for solar, and they’re coming out of my pocket both as a rate-payer and a taxpayer.


      • “Rubbish!
        My feed-in tariff is for electricity I generate from my panels and feed back into the grid. It’s a measly 11c/kwh compared to the 28c/kwh they on-sell it for.”

        Your electricity is probably worth less than 5c/kWh to them. Non-dispatchable power, coming from tiny generators, is pretty worthless. You get that tariff because “green” – not for economic reasons.

        BTW, 28c/kWh is very expensive. Do you live in California or something?

      • Recall I said above that PPAs for grid-scale fossil generators are 2.7¢/kWhr? And they are “dispatchable”, meaning you can turn them on any time you need them.

        Grid-scale solar, on the other hand, is NOT dispatchable … and despite that, the cost is about 7¢/kWhr … color me unimpressed. The difference is coming out of your and my pockets.


      • “Otherwise, if solar makes sense at all, it makes far more sense at grid scale, not on individual roofs. At grid scale, it costs about 1/4 that of residential roof-top.”
        I’d compare that to Mao’s backyard furnaces that made pig iron. Of course it’s more efficient to have larger solar farms.
        I think the reason for roof top is the buy in effect. Once you buy roof top, you’re a supporter of it.

      • “I think the reason for roof top is the buy in effect. Once you buy roof top, you’re a supporter of it.”

        I think that’s an important political reason – you create a constituency. The other reason, I suspect, is a “free lunch” sort of feeling by homeowners. A system on their roof visibly reduces their electric bill. A utility system with better economics doesn’t – at least not noticeably.

        Of course, another reason we see in this thread is energy backup – people who want electricity when the grid is down. I think that’s a smaller percentage than those who do it purely for the economic value (which is mostly subsidized by their neighbors, unless their state’s utility regulators are sensible). But the “free energy” ideology is strong, and it plus the “natural” sourcing are powerful motivators, even if they are mostly bunk.

  4. JC: It would have been nice if you had clarified what you meant by “clean”. If you are using the English language then you must have meant “not polluting”, but some of your statements read like they might be referring to CO2.

    But in the end, Peter Lang has said it all. Unreliables are a waste of money. Let the suppliers compete fairly for the market, and for goodness’ sake let people choose reliability if that’s what they want.

    • PS. My last house, which we designed and owner-built) was mud-brick solar passive design with heat-pump powered underfloor heating for winter. The winter heating was certainly needed, as we were well over 2,000 feet above sea level. The mud-bricks provided good insulation and thermal mass. We had no air-conditioning yet it felt air-conditioned on a summer’s day. The house was brilliant.

  5. Awesome house, Dr. C!!!

  6. You wrote; After tax breaks and rebates, all this cost us about $40K.

    How much did the tax breaks and rebates cost the taxpayers?

    If you add the tax breaks and rebates and add in the extra cost of maintenance and/or repair due to equipment failure or natural disaster. $40K dollars for 15 years is what you say you will save, that is $222.22 / month. Not counting the tax payer part.
    That is more than my average electric and gas added together.

    Considering the cost of materials and work that went into what you have and the cost and work that will go into recycling what you have at the end of its life, your cost and taxpayer cost and utility users extra cost for your perks, This is really nice for you at the great expense of others.

    • Tax breaks and rebates are incentives for the public to make a change to what the government, elected by the same public, deems to be in their best interests and the best interests of the country and the world. This is standard practice by all governments and includes tariffs to farmers, car makers etc etc. if you want to play on a level playing field take away all tariffs and see how the America gets on. Selectively arguing no incentives to power generation alone is ridiculous. I don’t see power generators in the mega company clique on the stock market, at least not in my country.

  7. Great post. Learned a lot. Thank you.

  8. Don’t forget that the cost of batteries is not a one-time cost. Batteries degrade with every discharge cycle. Therefore, there is a depreciation schedule. They must be replaced, when the degradation reaches a certain point.

  9. EGS (commonly called hot dry rock) has had a very poor track record. Meager Creek, Cornwall and Cooper Basin have been expensive failures. On present technology, no-one has got a reliable system in production. The drilling into hot rock is harder than O&G and the nature of the rocks encountered rapidly destroys bits. Then the wells need fracking, but only just enough permeability. Invariably there is either rapid connection and thermal breakthrough, or no connection. The wells can be made to discharge but they can’t sustain it. Often the thermal shock of the quenching and heatup destroys casings, either by casing collapse of threads breaking.
    It would be nice if simple technology could be easily developed to make it all work, but currently, it is more distant than fusion.
    There is a reason why geothermal fields exist. They don’t rely on the country rock for heat, but the circulating deep water. This dissolves the fissures so enhances permeability. The mineral laden water deposits at the colder margins, effectively sealing the system from the surrounding contryside. The mineral laden water is why georesistivity has proven so effective at finding fields. Typically it takes tens of thousands of years for this to happen – trying to short circuit the process only brings grief.

  10. I expect that, more and more, with complicated power grids that depend on more and more wind and solar power from further and further away, there will be more electric grid outages.

    We need power generation in each region that is adequate for the region.
    The grid is getting more and more complicated with more and more power being generated far from where it is needed.
    There was a truck bomb in Nashville that was powerful enough to take out an important link in a power grid. It did take out a large amount of AT&T networking. A complicated grid with power far away will leave us open for destruction of our power distribution. Domestic or Foreign enemies or a crazy person or a freak accident or a natural disaster, could destroy us with little effort. In fact, a computer hack could take out the grid. DOD recently suffered a serious hack to software that was supposed to protect from hacking, I think I recall that story in a recent newspaper.

    This is all before you consider how the Solar and Wind is not green.

    You should consider the problems with the Power Grids with more Wind and Solar and Batteries.
    A few years ago, the whole northeast of the US had a total outage and that was before significant wind and solar was involved, I think.
    The negative impact of wind and solar is growing much faster than wind and solar power generation is growing.
    Now, someone is messing with natural gas distribution. Much simpler, more protected underground, but still at risk. That is another story.

    Wealthy people can put in backup power at great expenditure of natural resources and cost, some their own and much subsidized by the taxpayers or other energy network subscribers, but to offer low-cost affordable reliable energy to the general population, all these extra perks are not affordable.

  11. CO2 level in the Holocene trundled along at between 260 and 280 ppm. Until the industrial revolution. I’m not against the industrial revolution but it does have to be done smarter. You may quibble about this or that – it is an argument you have lost. Policy relevance demands a different approach.

    • It doesn’t necessarily mean CO2 is the control knob of global warming. Other climate change models are available.

      • Well let’s behave as if the obvious correlation is correct.

      • No, let’s behave as if climate has always changed. Let’s behave as if we’re not 100% sure on gravity theory and assume that solid body earth-tides might be increasing.

      • Your right – climate in our nonlinear world has always changed abruptly.

        But I thought it was settled that general relativity works, that quantum mechanics was not a fundamental theory of physics and neutron star moons whizzing around the solar system at superluminal velocities was a product of your psychedelia induced haze.


        This is about the technology to change the trajectory of the industrial revolution. But I thought I would refer back to the underlying fundamental geophysics as the motivating rationale. At least as a overwhelmingly dominant scientific paradigm – and as a political reality.

    • I notice there is no temperature on that graph. If CO2 has increased that much we should be stewing in our own juice now…

    • But Elly, the graph doesn’t show temperature. The Eemian, 120,000 years ago, was 2 C warmer (CO2 280 ppm) than now. What’s CO2 got to do with it, in your fevered and devout imagination?
      More handwaving. Snake oil.

      • People have been explaining the physical fundamentals to you for decades. I don’t expect that you will understand now.


      • Sigh. Where to begin?
        ” And CO2 is the highest it’s been for 15 odd million years.”
        That’s cherrypicking in the last 550 My, and without relevance. No causal relationship.
        “And we are rapidly approaching levels last seen at the PETM. ”
        That’s a lovely example of if not your ignorance then your devotion. You like charts, but you ignore the ones you don’t like:

        The PETM reached maybe 28C at a CO2 of maybe 1600 ppm.

        You’re obviously not familiar with correlation without causation. Look at Scotese’s chart, the last 250 million years. Please stop the nonsense about CO2 running away. Look at the history. If CO2 were to run away for some unfathomable reason, there is no reason to assume that temperature would follow. It doesn’t make any difference at this time, at these levels. None. None at all. Stop it.

      • That physics is not creationism seems obvious.

        “Crocodiles once roamed the Arctic, during the Eocene about 50 million years ago. Polar regions were lush and warm. Greenhouse gas concentrations were higher than today, but at most about 4 times higher – not enough, according to current climate models, to have warmed the Arctic sufficiently. Something appears to be missing in current models to account for the warmth of the past.” https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/events/clouds-and-climate-with-prof-tapio-schneider-1/

        Something a bit more complex?

      • Thanks, Elly, good talk.
        “Climate is controlled by turbulent flows. Turbulent motions are responsible for the bulk of the transport of energy, momentum, and water vapor in the atmosphere, which determine the distribution of temperature, winds, and precipitation on Earth. Clouds, weather systems, and boundary layers in the oceans and atmosphere are manifestations of turbulence in the climate system. Because turbulence remains as the great unsolved problem of classical physics, we do not have a complete physical theory of climate.”
        Recalling that chaotic dynamic non-linear process, eh?
        The comments are interesting too.
        So much for CO2. Now, about that major GHG, H2O vapor…

      • “The top-of-atmosphere (TOA) Earth radiation budget (ERB) is determined from the difference between how much energy is absorbed and emitted by the planet. Climate forcing results in an imbalance in the TOA radiation budget that has direct implications for global climate, but the large natural variability in the Earth’s radiation budget due to fluctuations in atmospheric and ocean dynamics complicates this picture.” https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10712-012-9175-1

        These ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns shift when the Earth’s flow field is perturbed. Even a little. It’s the nature of spatio-temporal chaos in turbulent flow. You are playing catch up but are far too far behind, And you still avoid walking and chewing gum at the same time.

      • After reading all the comments it’s obvious to me no one knows the relationship between CO2 and climate. Some fervently believe the greenhouse theory and some rightly question it. I think it’s rubbish. Has anyone checked the level of CO2 in a greenhouse? My googling shows CO2 concentration in a greenhouse is less than outside it. Scientists are supposed to question everything and not accept any theory until it has been proven. Sadly today’s scientists are mostly wanting in skepticism and treat theories like facts that need to be disproven rather than proven.

      • Now now, Elly. Your quotation is absolutely unexceptional.

        https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10712-012-9175-1 is perfectly in agreement with everything I’ve said, and offers no defense for the control of climate change by CO2.
        In which case, your insult to me is misdirected. You’re falling on your sword.
        Have you nothing to offer but insult? Oh, that’s right. This isn’t your field.

      • Grant Quinn, that would be an unmanaged greenhouse. Commercial greenhouses keep CO2 around 1,000 ppm.

        30% of the increase in agriculture since 1950 has been ascribed to CO2 increase.

  12. Geothermal is fabulous technology. The USGS estimated that some 10% of US electricity supply can be suplied from geothermal energy.

  13. Welcome to my world JC. My PV array will be 10 years old this year and I haven’t paid a electric bill since March 2012. Counting my net metering credits and 87 MWh of RECs (Renewable Energy Credits) my system is paid off with 20 more years of virtually maintenance free power. I’m very happy with my ROI. To buy the same system today would be about 1/2 as expensive and only require 2/3 as many panels.
    Technical question, why did you choose roof mounted panels? Unless they are mounted over a lifetime roof you are going to have to spend a lot of $$ to remove and reinstall those panels. Also roof mounted panels suffer degraded performance from reflected heat, poor ventilation and are harder to clean. Beside avoiding those obvious drawbacks I would add that unless your roof is at a optimal angle you could be loosing between 5% and 10% of your lifetime production by just being 5 degrees off from your optimal tilt angle for your longitude and latitude.
    No mention of microgrids? Seems obvious to me that when V2G is standard equipment on all consumer EVs the age of microgrids will begin the trend away from vulnerable centralized power networks.

    Have you looked at ‘smart’ zoned HVAC?
    If you really want to maximize your investment I would recommend installing a eGauge monitoring system.

  14. To be fortunate is to have politicians who are both practical and politically pragmatic. There has been a shortfall in the US in this for the past 4 years. In Australia we have managed to meet gas export contracts with a domestic supply less certain and more expensive. New basins are now opening up across the country – not before time. That may allow us to reduce gas generation prices while installing a reasonable level of cheap wind and solar. With minimal battery backup for stability during gas plant spin up. Halcyon days of reasonable energy prices that may last a decade or two.

    There is no nuclear – but we would be fortunate indeed to achieve a Korean levelized cost of 53.30 USD per MWh.

    A new IEA report can be found here – https://www.iea.org/reports/projected-costs-of-generating-electricity-2020
    The cost calculator here – https://www.iea.org/articles/levelised-cost-of-electricity-calculator

  15. First, Dr. Judith, your blog always has very interesting articles. It is a great contribution to the ongoing climate discussion.

    However, I’m sorry, but the claims above about solar and wind don’t make sense. That guy is just calculating imaginary prices.

    Here’s a look at actual prices. I live in California. Due to solar and wind etc. via “renewable mandates”, my residential electricity costs have gone up by 50%, far more than neighboring states.

    Here’s the insane California renewable mandate:

    Renewables requirement: 44% by 2024; 52% by 2027; 60% by 2030. Also requires 100% clean energy by 2045.

    Yeah, that’s totally legit. At present (Jan 2021) we’re at 14.6% renewable. And in California, “renewable” does NOT include large scale hydro …

    So here’s a comparison of western state rates:

    State Cents/kWh
    California 18.31
    Nevada 11.76
    Oregon 10.67
    Montana 10.59
    Wyoming 10.53
    Utah 9.93
    Idaho 9.81
    Washington 9.41

    And the depressing part? Due to the high amount of renewables, we get brownouts and blackouts whenever the load gets high and the wind and sun aren’t putting out much power.

    The ugly reality is, renewables have turned California into a third-world state. And despite that, the pissant Pollyanna politicians want more renewables—seems they can’t get enough of a bad thing.

    So rates will continue to rise. In the latest twist, many places in CA are outlawing the use of natural gas … pushing electricity instead. Farking brilliant. We’re already short of electricity, and on an energy-equivalent basis, residential electricity in California costs four times as much as natural gas.

    The other factor driving up CA electricity costs is the increasing use of electric cars. Again, we’re already short of electricity, so what the heck, let’s encourage people to use even more.

    So … not thrilled by renewable energy. Sounds good in theory, sucks in practice.


    • Great post. Robert won’t listen. He’s far off the deep end in high religiosity.

    • Willis

      Agree with your comments.

      Living in the UK it is clear that weather dependent renewables don’t work in a country with a high population, a 24/7 demand for energy and long periods of night, cloud, no wind, too much wind, all making a constant, consistent and cost effective energy source to be established.

      Perhaps there is some geo thermal capacity here but very little hydro.

      So it is horses for renewable courses and it is a shame that more research is not being carried out on reducing the bad points of fossil fuels as they are proven to work.

      I cant help feeling that a research programme costing in the low tens of bilions would enable even the climate anxious to live more comfortably with fossil fuels by reducing co2 and the more unpleasant noxious gases


      • Judith’s house is by no means the norm or anything like average so powerwall and other things are not going to be practical for the vast majority of houses, especially those already built. On new build this phrase was relevant

        “Our house was built in the 1980’s, with a fairly ingenious passive solar design that allows mid winter sun to pour into the house, both directly into living spaces…”

        We have a conservatory and the difference between yesterday- bright sunny and cold (4C) and today overcast and cold at 4C is around 20C plus in the sun room and in adjacent rooms around 10C. So needing much less heating.

        So designing houses for winter solar gain would be a good idea not forgetting of course that summer solar gain is often not needed.


      • Well said!
        Reasonable outlook. The only perceived problem with good quality black coal is CO2 which must be the most powerful gas in the world to wreak so much havoc at such low concentrations. If it’s increased 30% since the industrial revolution why hasn’t the temperature increased more than 0.6 degree C? It’s my contention that temperature is still rebounding from the last ice age and very slowly at that. CO2 is just a marker of that and the extra 100 or so ppm we’ve added has broken that correlation.
        Surely this argument alone is sufficient to destroy the silly notion that CO2 is controlling Earth’s temperature? If it wasn’t for coal we’d still be using wood and how did that turn out? London employed people to lead wagons from the footpaths because the air quality was horrendous. Some idiots are again using it under the name of biomass. Others are growing grains to replace oil. The craziness of all this will be so apparent in future our grandkids will be embarrassed for us. I’m embarrassed for us…

      • Curious George

        “Designing houses for winter solar gain would be a good idea.” True. A had another good idea: I moved. Unfortunately, to California.

      • Curious George

        A simple winter solar gain idea from my girlfriend:
        Plant evergreens on the north side of your house. Plant deciduous trees on the southern side.

      • Tax breaks and incentives are also how lawmakers game the system to their own advantage.

        They scare people over false emergencies, such as global warming caused by a trace gas and they get incentives from the profits on the green energy scams.

        They scare people over real emergencies, such as covid, likely caused by research they promoted, some get incentives from the profits on the vaccinations while they destroy businesses and peoples lives. How many elected officials become really very rich while in office and after.

        as to “live more comfortably with fossil fuels by reducing co2”
        There is much evidence that CO2 has improved the growth green crops, all over the planet. Reducing CO2 would reverse a very good thing. There is much evidence that climate has always changed with alternating warm and cold cycles, the temperature and sea levels are well inside historic bounds of the past ten thousand years, actual temperatures well cooler than the warmest times. The correlations of temperature and CO2 during one time period after we invented thermometers, was an isolated event, that was grabbed onto by the scammers.
        People who raise green things should sue the people who remove or reduce CO2.
        The western world countries are destroying their access to low cost, affordable, reliable electricity and their economies and way of life.
        Other countries are using fossil fuel and are more than making up for any efforts to reduce emissions.
        More proper research needs to be done to understand the natural self correcting climate response that has kept Antarctic temperatures and Arctic temperatures in the same bounds for ten thousand years while the Milankovitch lowered energy into the NH and increased energy into the SH.

      • “When the oceans are warm and wet, it snows more..” – popesclimatetheory

        Yes, you are talking about the millennial climate cycle in your blog. I have the idea that new physics tidal forcing pushes warm equatorial waters to higher latitudes, which increases precipitation, falling as snow.

        No CO2 required in our models of climate change.

    • In 2019, California imported about 25% of its total electricity. Including large-scale hydro from Washington State, and the HVDC line running directly from the coal-fueled plant in Delta, Utah into Southern CA. The plant is operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Conversion to natural gas-hydrogen mixture is penciled in. Clean hydrogen, only, of course, produced by some other kind of clean energy.

      California imports solar and wind electrons from Utah. The conversion is considered necessary:

      . . . which utility managers state is necessary both to avoid blackouts which could result from the non-dispatchable nature of solar and wind generation, and to ensure operation of the Path 27 HVDC transmission line which brings solar and wind power from Utah to Los Angeles. [Reference citations omitted by EDH]

      • California, which virtue signals by banning nuclear in-state, also owns one of the three reactors at the largest US nuclear plant at Palo Verde, AZ.

    • “It is easy to convert atmospheric CO₂ to ethanol in solution; and it is easy to upgrade ethanol into other fuels. But it is hard to separate ethanol from water without using a lot of energy.”

      Whaaat? Is the author one of modern “experts”? Are we witnessing diversity in action?

  16. “SAN DIEGO, (Oct. 13, 2020) – General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced today that it is collaborating with Framatome Inc. to develop a new helium-cooled 50-Megawatt electric (MWe) Fast Modular Reactor (FMR) concept that will produce safe, carbon-free electricity and can be factory built and assembled on-site, which will reduce costs and enable incremental capacity additions. The GA-EMS led team will be able to demonstrate the FMR design as early as 2030 and anticipates it being ready for commercial use by the mid-2030s.” https://www.ga.com/general-atomics-and-framatome-collaborate-to-develop-a-fast-modular-reactor

    It’s a smaller plug and play version of their EM2 – that is cost competitive with natural gas at US$6-7/MMBtu. Using the AIROX technology one would hope to separate light, short half life fission products from longer lived actinides. The latter are then recycled in a further burn.

    • You get also a perfect four-wheel drive. That means that the concept will be used first by the military. All we need now is a good battery, fuel cell, tabletop fusion, or whatever …

      • Curious George

        Sorry, that’s a misplaced comment on RIE’s post below.

      • You need an adequate battery or supercapacitor – perhaps the Ryden dual carbon battery that is the 5th technology in the battery video – and an Aquarius linear generator. These products are commercially available and the car is far more likely to emerge as hybrids in the market.

    • Looks to be more a form of expensive vapor-ware for a non-problem (nuclear waste). I do not see a snow-balls chance of the machine being cost competitive with natural gas, assuming the technology could survive the licensing gauntlet.

      • There is a gas price point at which these things become viable.

        The waste from light water reactors contains 96% of the original fissionable material. This can be recycled in fast neutron reactors. It’s just another fuel source.

        Engineering waste containment of fission products over hundreds of years is orders of magnitude simpler than engineering containment of actinides for many thousand.

        General Atomics have built gas cooled reactors in the US. There is no substitute for experience.

      • Unfortunately, the GA machines were commercial and technical failures that set back gas reactors for decades. Remains to be seen if that promising technology can make a comeback.

        Should note the EM2 financials are unsupported by costs from successful commercial machines. Based on history, the actual delivered energy cost is likely to be a multiple of the initial estimate. Would do well to remember the advise of admiral Rickover on paper nuclear reactors.

        The parity point for new water reactors (Vogtle plant) is around a gas price of $15 per MMBTU. Current delivered gas price is around $2.50 per MMBTU. Not surprising new nuclear plants are essentially nearly extinct in the US.

      • You really just pull nay saying quibbles out of your hat.

        Click to access 5026001.pdf

      • Need to learn from history and not repeat past mistakes. Over reliance on alleged and unproven technical wonders usually turns out poorly. A good dose of pragmatism needs to counterbalance an “ivory tower” mentality.

      • The INL Report demonstrates the outcome of losing practicality in the quest for the shinning-city-on-the-hill. Billions of dollars spent by the Federal government without the forces of the marketplace and practicality injecting reality into the effort.

        Need to be able to recognize when it is time to stop digging yourself into a hole. Therein lies the problem with big government’s inherent inability to quickly react.

  17. The image below is of a chassis prototype. It consists of some aluminum sections and a few cast components with integrated suspension supports. Simple – light – cheap. It is fully engineered for supercar torsional and stiffness performance – and with crumple zones front and back. It is shown with a Shelby Cobra replica body and a V8 engine. The length can by changed by changing the length of the centre cylindrical section to take any body shape from classic sports and rally configurations to the utilitarian. Don’t put in an internal combustion engine, drive train and gearbox and you have saved considerable weight, cost and complexity.

    Replace them with four Protean 75kW in hub electric motors with digital control of driving and braking in each wheel independently. Combine with a range extender and a couple of banks of batteries in metal casings either side of the central cylinder – and you have the makings of a very nice 300kW (400hp) vehicle. I had a 190kW Ford that drove pretty good – but this is a quantum leap in power to weight ratio.

    Body materials can be conventional steel or aluminum, handmade carbon fiber or even fiberglass such as is used for beach buggies. What seems more 21st century is 3-d printed cars using ABS plastic and carbon fiber. At least potentially a body in any configuration can be printed out in micro-factories in a few hours. I am however doubtful that we can get the Shelby Cobra look – with its slick and shiny exhaust pipes trailing a V8 rumble down the sides – to work in an electric car. I’m thinking modern and muscular – with chunky tyres and good clearance. Something you could take on the Paris-Dakar. Not your stereotypical e-commute bubble car.

    But what started me thinking down this track was Steampunk Girl’s post of a 1931 Bugatti Type 51 Dubos Coupe. That would work too. So poised – so elegant – so sexy. Both Steampunk Girl and the Bugatti.

    Each in-wheel motor can be controlled entirely independently. So although there is a trade-off in unsprung weight (an extra 34kg per wheel) each wheel is independently controlled improving torque vectoring and control dynamics. With modern suspension tuning unsprung weight seems less of an issue compared to the drive advantages. These motors are increasingly being used for high end conversions. The low end torque and direct drive (no gearbox) mean spectacular traffic light drags.

    • The Uni-Chassis in the top photo has been around since at least 2011 with, so far, no takers.

      On the other hand, Porsche (being Porsche) opted for more complexity. Much more complexity.

      “Porsche uses a centrally networked control system for the Taycan chassis. The 4D Chassis Control analyses the current driving situation in all three dimensions (longitudinal, lateral and vertical acceleration) and then calculates the vehicle status. It then shares this status with all the chassis systems in real time – adding a fourth dimension to chassis control.”

      Real EVs do and will continue to fall somewhere between.

      • Where do you think I got the photo? But once the torsional and stiffness performance is right – there are some basics – the rest is tunable suspension with what’s available off the shelf.

        Chris Theodore has impeccable credentials. The chassis was included as it could support any number of body configurations.


      • Robert I. Ellison asked, “Where do you think I got the photo?”
        Obviously I knew where you got the photo because I included a link to it in my comment.

        With respect to backbone chassis in general …
        From Wikipedia, “Category:Automobiles with backbone chassis”

        One of the better known examples is the Lotus Elan.
        “The Lotus Elan was the first Lotus road car to use a steel backbone chassis with a fibreglass body. This style of construction was to be repeated in subsequent Lotus models for nearly three decades.”

        My point is that the “backbone chassis” is not something new or exotic. Rather it is a design idea that has been around for some time but today’s designers and engineers apparently believe they have better solutions.

    • One motor+differential can replace two unsprung motors in wheels. There are many options for improvements.
      However the biggest gain is that the needed electric power can be generated off-site at much greater efficiency than in the int-comb engine with its range of operating regimes that it would be subjected to, (such as idling at very poor effcy).
      The problem is that a cheap unit would not sell. Human expectations require cost+complications, particularly for those to whom looking under the bonnet is taboo.

      • You defeat the purpose of having an onboard generator. And fail to grasp the advantages of the Protean motor.


        But yeas there are many options. They are called hybrids.

      • The Protean idea is nice, except that the magnetics in motors are far from light; rather heavy masses. So would be the extra suspension equipment to cater for that. Secondly, it is the other extreme, that of being an all-electric mentality. If you want an on-board generator too, it is easy to adapt, but then the complications multiply – as I said complications are an expected requirements-.
        That concept is actually the electric drive principle that took over in ships half a century ago. But then petrol for autos was dirt cheap and auto pollution still an unheard of hazard.
        People in general go for the technology they have grown with (as you can see from this thread) and need to be forced to change. When some do they go for the most complicated and expensive – to make a statement more then for any particular benefit-. Because most do not understand the technology, but only see its social impact. (How many found out the diesel engine performance fraud?).

  18. > wind and solar are already pretty cheap
    In the UK, government support programs to advance wind to about 1/3 of the electricity supply has pushed the cost up by 20% (UK govt figures). That puts it at roughly double the cost of fossil energy.

  19. California needs huge amounts of electricity to cover the ever growing demands. Unfortunately California is a very seismic area and the implementation of nuclear energy is very much questionable because of the high possibility of accidents.


    • They’ll use almost any excuse not to use nuclear. The Navy’s reactors get pitched, tilted, tossed around, and shaken and it’s not a problem because that was part of their design requirements.

      • The Navy reactors cannot withstand 6,5 Richter earthquake on a solid ground.


      • Interestingly, this is actually true. As an example, the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California was originally designed by Westinghouse engineers to Navy submarine standards. Submarine designs take into account not only normal sea going motions but also surviving depth charge attacks. That made good sense for a California power plant because of potential earthquake activity. However, depth charge survival is not part of civilian structural engineering codes and were based upon entirely different principles. Westinghouse could not prove using the civilian codes that the Diablo Canyon could survive potential earthquake threats. A very expensive multi-year retrofit to reactor design was required, after all major construction and installation of reactor components was essentially completed. This story may seem unlikely to be true but remember at the time that Diablo Canyon’s reactors were designed, the USA and USSR were in a cold war and most nuclear engineers were in or from the Navy nuclear power industry.

      • The reactor was subject to the ASME Boiler and Pressures Vessel Code in effect at the time Diablo Canyon was designed. As I recall, the seismic ground motion was altered due to finding additional faults and the design had to be beefed up.

        The Final Safety Analysis Report for Diablo Canyon identifies the codes and standards used to design the facility, including the reactor. I don’t recall any reference to US Navy documents which in any case would have been classified as “secret”

    • I would find it unlikely that nuclear power systems cannot be designed to survive California’s earthquakes. It’s just basic engineering, and the risks are well known, quantified, and known by location.

      California shut down its nukes for political, not safety reasons.

    • Your assessment is not correct as the likelihood of accidents is vanishingly small. The problem is the high cost of energy produced by new nuclear plants, relative to other generation methods.

    • California is a very seismic area and the implementation of buildings is very much questionable because of the high possibility of them falling down. Unless you design them not to, that is.

      • You seem to have a low opinion on the ability of engineers to design nuclear reactors that can withstand earthquakes. Should note the Fukushima reactors easily rode out a massive earthquake. Unfortunately, they made the wall around the plants too low for the tsunami. Even so, if the had put the electrical switchgear and diesel generators in a flood sealed room (or at a higher elevation) events would have turned out much better. But as they say, hindsight is always 20/20.

  20. The question I have is whether the push for renewables can survive a series of very cold winters.

    There is a belief in some quarters that the Chinese are building so many coal-powered generators because they believe that the current solar minimum will intensify and lead to a general cooling.

    • Bill

      That is a good question. I am especially concerned about the drive to install heat pumps. No wind and no sun make renewable electricity generation problematic and combine that with current low temperatures in the UK and it is difficult to see how such devices can be effective except in brand new houses with extremely good ventilation.

      Mind you how that works when the govt is encouraging better ventilation by opening windows in order to disrupt the virus is anyone’s guess.


  21. Lease sales for geothermal land development are not universally popular …

    “The BLM never analyzed the lease sale’s impacts to wilderness characteristics, even though some of the parcels offered were in lands with outstanding wilderness quality,” Wood said. “The bottom line is that until the BLM completes an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement, we won’t know the full suite of environmental impacts to lands within America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.”


  22. …”and particularly on fuel made from CO₂ pulled from the atmosphere. It is easy to convert atmospheric CO₂ to ethanol in solution; and it is easy to upgrade ethanol into other fuels.” – My thought, BAD IDEA! How does this satisfy energy need and business “drive” without upsetting the balance in a more harmful, deadlier, direction….. Would demand outstrip natural production? If so, we would then need to produce more CO2 in order to meet demand. If CO2 is the “driver” in premature warming, it stands to reason that depletion could create the opposite. It would certainly affect the growth cycle of plants – that could end life as we know it for all species.

  23. We are switching to gas, not renewables.

    And we still burn 600,000 tons of coal a year.

  24. Carbon dioxide (CO2 ) content in Earth’s atmosphere is about
    400 ppm (parts per million).
    CO2 is a trace gas in Earth’s atmosphere.
    Carbon dioxide – by definition – cannot be a control knob for Earth’s surface global temperature warming.

    CO2 is not a control knob for Earth’s surface global temperature warming.


    • Hear, hear! The ONLY reason to change energy technologies is cost. Man-made CO2 has a negligible effect on the temperature or “climate” of the Earth, and it is obvious from the actual data. Even the models agree, when they are honest. So all of these expensive windmills and solar panels are a waste of time and resources because the life cycle cost in dollars per MWH is generally not lower than fossil fuels.

  25. Judy, excellent insights and thanks for sharing. One area of innovation to keep an eye on when it comes to ‘storage’ is Hydrogen.

    While a great deal of hype is surrounding the sector, the discussion is mostly around fuel cells and transportation. The storage aspect of Hydrogen is far more compelling. There are hundreds of thousands of miles in pipeline Infrastrucutre that could be repurposed as ‘storage’ of Hydrogen produced by renewable powered electrolysis, particularly during off peak hours. A pioneering utility scale project incorporating Hydrogen storage is underway in Utah: (https://www.environmentalleader.com/2019/05/energy-storage-project-utah/)

    But as your post eludes to, the political will to view existing fossil related infrastructure as viable long term ‘assets’ is highly suspect.

    • While hydrogen is promising, the hydrogen cycle is quite energy inefficient, since you have to compress it to store it, plus you have to extract it in the first place.

      Still, for aircraft, it makes a lot more sense than batteries. For automobiles, I’d say the verdict is still out. And note: charging batteries is also energy inefficient, as is discharging them.

      • “Still, for aircraft, it makes a lot more sense than batteries.”

        Hydrogen doesn’t make sense for aircraft either because it has a much lower energy density than current aviation fuel (by weight and volume, including in liquid form). Furthermore, it must be stored at very high pressures. You could not adapt existing aircraft designs to use hydrogen as a fuel – you’d need to start again from scratch. Do you have any idea how long it takes between conception and commercial flight operations for a radical new aircraft design? If a major manufacturer, such as Boeing or Airbus, committed today they might get there is 2040. And that’s only half the story: you need to change a lot of infrastructure on the ground as well.

        The Boeing 737 development began in 1964, with a design that borrowed heavily from the 707. We are currently on the forth iteration of essentially the same plane 55 yeas later. The latest revision involved changing to a more fuel-efficient engine design. Not completely trivial, but minor in the scheme of things. How did that go?

        There’ll be flying cars before there are hydrogen planes!

      • “Hydrogen doesn’t make sense for aircraft either because it has a much lower energy density than current aviation fuel (by weight and volume, including in liquid form).”

        Hydrogen has the highest specific energy of any non-nuclear fuel at about 120 MJ/kg, which is why it makes more sense for aircraft than autos, due to their extreme sensitivity to weight of fuel. So, if one is going to have aircraft that do not produce CO2 (which is the assumption, not necessarily what I want), what solution do you have? The best known battery has a specific energy of 9 MJ/kg. Jet fuel is about 43 MJ/kg.

        You need to compress the hydrogen in order to get a tolerable energy density. But with aircraft, specific energy is more important than energy density.

        As for how long it takes to develop aircraft, there have actually been aircraft developed since the Boeing 737. The reason for the longevity of the 737 and similar aircraft isn’t due to the long time for development. It is because jet turbine, subsonic passenger aircraft are very good for that class – no major change has been needed, other than going to high bypass engines (which yes, requires the long certification process).

        But yes, of course it would cost a lot to do hydrogen powered aircraft. But in a world where people insist on zero CO2 emission, what’s the alternative?

      • mesocyclone | January 3, 2021 at 4:38 pm |

        “Hydrogen doesn’t make sense for aircraft either because it has a much lower energy density than current aviation fuel (by weight and volume, including in liquid form).”

        Hydrogen has the highest specific energy of any non-nuclear fuel at about 120 MJ/kg, which is why it makes more sense for aircraft than autos, due to their extreme sensitivity to weight of fuel.

        True … except for one detail. It has about the lowest volumetric energy density of any fuel.

        Typical fossil fuels are about 45 MJ/l. The volumetric density of hydrogen at atmospheric pressure (1 bar, or 14.5 PSI) is about 0.01 MJ/L. At 690 bar (10,000 PSI) it’s about 5 MJ/L. So if you plan to use it at atmospheric pressure, you need about 4,500 times the tank size for the equivalent energy.

        Of course you could store it at 10,000 psi, you’d only need nine times the tank size … and in addition to that problem, a pressure vessel capable of holding that pressure is going to be really, really heavy.

        Overall? It’s a non-starter for most applications, and particularly airplanes.

        Best regards,


      • H2 is a problem for long haul air, emitting H2O at those altitudes causes as much damage as CO2

      • Curious George

        “But in a world where people insist on zero CO2 emission, what’s the alternative?” To regain sanity. Probably hopeless.

      • “H2 is a problem for long haul air, emitting H2O at those altitudes causes as much damage as CO2”

        Evidence or reasoning for that assertion? Jet engines already emit H2O along with CO2.

      • Willis – nobody would use H2 at atmospheric pressure. If you compress it to 690 bar, then you need a bit under 9X the storage volume for jet fuel. For liquid hydrogen, you are down to a bit over 4X.

        I agree that it isn’t ideal. I am just pointing out that it is likely better than batteries, due to specific energy.

      • Reality is not a consideration for most of those in the “green” religion.

    • irfankali, thanks for the link. A few comments.

      First, the headline says:

      Massive 1,000-MW Energy Storage Project Launched in Utah

      Bad start. You can’t store “MW” of energy. You can only store MWhrs of energy … but the authors of the article seem to be totally unaware of that.

      Next, they say:

      “With five salt caverns already in operation for liquid fuels storage, Magnum is continuing to develop compressed air energy storage and renewable hydrogen storage options,” the company said.

      In other words … they don’t know how they are going to store the hydrogen. And indeed, this is a very intractable problem. A couple of important issues:

      • Leakage. Hydrogen is the smallest molecule. As a result, it can run merrily through pores that block larger molecules like O2 and N2 entirely. And it’s even worse a pipeline that’s been used to transport crude oil. It will be tight regarding large hydrocarbon molecule, bit it cannot store hydrogen without rewelding every joint … kinda tough if the pipeline is buried.

      • Energy density: The volumetric density of hydrogen at atmospheric pressure (1 bar, or 14.5 PSI) is about 0.01 MJ/L. At 690 bar (10,000 PSI) it’s about 5 MJ/L. And fossil fuels? About 45 MJ/L …

      So if you plan to store it in salt mines or unused pipelines at atmospheric pressure, you’ll need about 40,000 times the volume you’d need to store fossil fuels.

      Of course, if you have the energy to spare, you could go for liquid hydrogen. It has about 10 MJ/L. But you have to cool it down -252.9°C (20.3K, or -423.2°F, down by absolute zero) and keep it there to keep it liquid … a bit colder than my household freezer.

      • Safety: Most flammable substances will only burn with a certain percentage of air mixed with the fuel. Too much or too little air, and they won’t burn. But hydrogen can burn with almost any admixture of air. In addition, in daylight the flame of burning hydrogen is almost invisible. Combine those with the ability of hydrogen to go through the tiniest of pores … not pretty.

      • Sources. There are no hydrogen mines. Most hydrogen today comes from natural gas. But steam reforming of natural gas to get hydrogen is only about 65% efficient. Now, you can get it from renewable electricity by splitting water … but even that’s only about 80% efficient. So even before you start down the renewable hydrogen pathway you’ve thrown away 20% of your energy.

      • Nature of the product: As a result of there being no hydrogen mines, you cannot compare hydrogen to naturally available fuels. Hydrogen is not a net energy source. It is only a way to transport energy, so it can only be compared to other ways to transport energy. First among these ways is electricity. And when you do that, you run into Willis’s Rule Of Small Stuff, which states:

      It’s a lot easier to move electrons than to move molecules.

      Consider: suppose we need energy a hundred miles from where it’s located. For electricity, you string a wire, put electrons in one end and they come out at the other end. In addition, no storage is required because you can turn it on and off with the flick of a switch Low cost, low maintenance, high efficiency.

      For hydrogen, you need a super-tight pipeline, and pumps, and leak detectors, and likely a pig to inspect the inside of the pipeline, and you can’t turn it on and off … and then unless you need heat you’ll have to convert it back into electricity. Plus unlike electricity, you have friction losses plus needing pumps along the pipeline to keep the pressure up. High cost, high maintenance, lower efficiency.

      * Utility: Electricity can be used for a host of things. Like hydrogen, it can be turned into heat. Unlike hydrogen, it can also be used for light, mechanical motion, battery charging, arc welding, and a host of other things. So as an energy transportation method, it is much, much, much more useful than hydrogen.

      Given all of those impediments, I’m not looking for a hydrogen economy any time soon …

      Best to all,


      • We had a town here in Kansas located near a salt cavern used to store natural gas. Had a leak problem and gas was showing up everywhere in town. Fortunately the town did not get launched into orbit. Probably would have made it into orbit if the stored gas had been hydrogen!

      • Hydrogen has a negative Joule Thompson coefficient, so that when it rapidly expands it heats up, rather than cools down like almost all other gases. A leak in a high pressure H2 storage tank is a serious fire hazard.

        Ever notice that H2 transport trucks have a dozen or so small diameter cylinders bundled together, rather than one large cylinder? The high pressure requires very thick cylinder walls. The net is that the mass of the cylinders is quite large per unit of energy. Aircraft can’t afford to carry that mass.

  26. About 2 years ago, we decided to make the plunge for rooftop solar for our home

    The thing that bugs me about most home solar is that the installations are “tack-on”. We should have solar integrated into the building materials.

    For instance, like many people in rural areas, I have a shed. It is a 40′ X 60′ sheet metal affair. A very common sight. Why can’t one buy replacement roof sections that incorporate solar?

    One also sees metal roofs, especially out west. Again, why not incorporate solar into the sections?

    Sure, the roofs often do not have the proper angle or alignment – but they still capture sunlight.

    Enough of carpet-bombing rural areas with ugly solar farms and lighting up the night sky with the red blinking lights of windmills – incorporate these technologies into existing structures.

    • Solar roof tiles are available and have good and bad points



      • I have seen the tiles and I agree with you. A 26 inch 12 foot metal roof panel costs $12 bucks at Lowes. Think about that printed with a thin flexible coating of solar material.

        Low efficiency, low cost. Perfect for a garage, shed or home.

      • Dow had a project to make such panels a few years ago and discontinued it. Probably for cost reasons.

    • The thing that bugs me about rooftop solar is the terrible inefficiency. If you want efficient solar, go to utility scale. At least in the US, there is plenty of land to put solar on. Utility scale is about 1/4th the cost of residential rooftop solar.

      • Who cares about efficiency?

        If I were to put up solar, my primary concern would be what is the cost and does it produce enough for my needs?

        The primary cost of rooftop solar IS efficiency and the cost of engineering your roof (to physically support and secure it) and the added cost of installation.

        My shed has a metal roof, constructed of prefabricated units, why not simply print on inefficient low cost solar coating and incorporate that into the initial cost of construction?

        In other words, trade efficiency for expense.

        At least in the US, there is plenty of land to put solar on. Utility scale is about 1/4th the cost of residential rooftop solar.

        Land is not the issue – and no utility scale solar is not “cheaper”. It is hideously expensive because the costs are neatly tucked away and passed onto consumers.

        – Let’s talk about the costs of getting solar power to and from the land. There are substations and power lines to be built as well as maintenance – all of which is in addition to the sunk capital costs consumers already pay for established utilities.

        – Most utility solar is based on a scam that allows operators to sell electricity at RETAIL, not WHOLESALE. I know this because my brother-in-law installed solar at his hog barns and sells excess electricity.

        Generating electricity is the cheapest part of electric costs. Maintaining the lines and other facilities is where the real cost are and he pays none of that. I and my neighbors foot the entire bill and he gets a pass.

        He is a great guy who bought into an unsustainable scheme.

        Home solar, financed by the home owner for local use is the ONLY way to go. It is just that the industry is not structured for it to make sense.

      • “Who cares about efficiency?

        If I were to put up solar, my primary concern would be what is the cost and does it produce enough for my needs?

        The primary cost of rooftop solar IS efficiency and the cost of engineering your roof (to physically support and secure it) and the added cost of installation.”

        The chances are that your solar meets your needs because you are benefiting from subsidies. As someone who pays for others’ solar through my power bill, *I* care about system efficiencies. As an engineer, I find rooftop solar to be an insanely expensive system compared to the alternative of utility scale solar.

        Utility scale solar is cheaper because of scale. As with most economic endeavors, larger scale means lower unit costs. Utility scale solar means fewer controllers, less expensive panels due to purchasing in quantity, lower maintenance costs due to industrial design and location density, and lower transmission costs due to fewer, more efficient inverters and a single transmission line.

        None of that means that scammers wouldn’t try to get in on the game. But that is also true of residential solar..

      • If one is to worship at the alter of efficiency, why not skip inefficient solar all together and go industrial scale nuclear?

        We are at cross purposes here.

        My neighbor burns inefficient wood for heat and does so because he can control his costs and supply. He never has to worry about price skyrocketing to $5 a gallon or the propane truck not showing up.

        The motive is self-sufficiency and his measure is not high efficiency, rather it is good enough efficiency. Good enough for him.

        If one goes back to the origins of the modern solar and wind movement in the 60’s by visiting the pages of the The Whole Earth Journal, one will learn that it all started with people yearning to be off the grid, not plugged into a utility that was beholden to a private equity firm in New York, or perhaps London.

        Wind and solar have lost its way, instead of being a force to set people free – it has become a vehicle for rent-seeking.

      • “If one is to worship at the alter of efficiency, why not skip inefficient solar all together and go industrial scale nuclear?”

        Efficiency and cost are very closely related, and that’s why utility scale solar is the most cost effective.

        But yes, efficiency isn’t the only metric. Obviously, people have differing needs and desires. If an individual wants to be free of the grid, or wants insurance against grid outages, that’s a different situation from someone who just wants to be able to afford electricity.

        From a policy standpoint – which is what solar mandates are – utility scale makes far more sense. But natural gas makes the most sense for now, and nuclear is best for the future – especially if we take the Korean approach and do nuclear sensibly and inexpensively.

        I think rooftop solar was pushed because, like so many government give-aways, it’s hard to take it back when the unfairness and inefficiencies are discovered. Just like welfare, it creates a constituency of those who benefit directly, and those who benefit by selling to them.

      • I would say we are pretty much in agreement

      • Curious George

        Are utility scale solar panels more efficient than rooftop panels?

      • “Are utility scale solar panels more efficient than rooftop panels?”

        I don’t know. It’s really overall system efficiency where utility scale wins.

      • Curious George

        The problem with “utility scale” is that utilities tend to provide me with an intermittent power. Their mission is no longer a reliable power; now it is a “clean” power and a wildfire prevention. Dr. Curry explained it very well.

      • “The problem with “utility scale” is that utilities tend to provide me with an intermittent power. Their mission is no longer a reliable power; now it is a “clean” power and a wildfire prevention. Dr. Curry explained it very well.”

        I think that’s a bit exaggerated, except perhaps in California. I investigated solar for my home here in Arizona and decided against it, but one big reason was I didn’t want my roof encumbered with panels, and I don’t have enough land to lay them out. The other was the estimated return on investment was quite low, and the risk was not.

        If I was concerned about reliable power, I’d have a propane powered generator. Solar with batteries cannot provide power for very long, if the grid goes out. Also, a lot of grid connected systems provide zero power when the grid goes down – due to the control system. That’s kind of perverse, but true. My air conditioning takes about 7 kW almost continuously during hot late afternoons and evenings, so a 14kW PowerWall isn’t much help.

        Still, if Arizona sticks to its insane “green” energy mandate on power production, I might have to do something just to alleviate the costs that will bring. Electricity here is critical to survival – without it, in the desert, you will die of the heat.

      • For Arizona, try a swamp cooler, uses much less electricity than air conditioning (our powerwalls aren’t sufficient to run the air conditioner). We had a swamp cooler for our old house in New Mexico, worked great (works well in NV also). The advantage of the powerwall is that if the grid is down, you can still take advantage of the solar generated by your panels (and then stored by the powerwall).

      • “For Arizona, try a swamp cooler, uses much less electricity than air conditioning (our powerwalls aren’t sufficient to run the air conditioner). We had a swamp cooler for our old house in New Mexico, worked great (works well in NV also).”

        Thanks. Swamp coolers work a lot better in NM and Nevada than in the Sonoran Desert of AZ. Still, when I lived in NM, I found A/C to be a lot more comfortable than the swamp cooler.

        In AZ during monsoon season, the dew point is too high for a swamp cooler to lower the temperature to a tolerable level – especially since the humidity of course goes up with swamp cooling – no heat is actually removed. For a long time, they defined the start of the monsoon season as being three days with a dew point above 55F. For some reason, they changed that a few years ago to just be calendar dates. I think the 55F was chosen because it is about the upper limit of tolerable dew point for swamp coolers.

        One trick is to use a swamp cooler to cool the evaporator coils of a heat pump, although that can corrode the coils. I tried that as an experiment, and the savings were substantial. Another technique, used in larger buildings, is a chiller – same principle, except evaporation cools the water which is then directly used in a heat exchanger against the freon or equivalent.

        “The advantage of the powerwall is that if the grid is down, you can still take advantage of the solar generated by your panels (and then stored by the powerwall).” Of course, which is why I looked into one for my house. I concluded that it wasn’t worth it to me. Of course, that’s an individual choice.

        Also, a lot of solar systems will not produce power at all if the grid is down. I think this is a regulatory/safety issue that can be gotten around with permitting and a different controller.

      • “Also, a lot of solar systems will not produce power at all if the grid is down. I think this is a regulatory/safety issue that can be gotten around with permitting and a different controller.”

        This is exactly what the powerwall accomplishes.

      • Almost Iowa,
        RE: Whole Earth Catalog.
        I still have a original 1974 edition. Most of the original team ended up associated with the Long Now foundation. Despite some amazing stuff they have been doing for the last 20 years just remember you can also thank the WEG founder, Stewart Brand for why the US never went all metric and locked us into a confusing world of dueling metrics and measurements. I think he may have changed his mind later.

      • Land may be cheap, but one calc I remember showed that the entire state of Arizona would need to be covered with solar panels to deliver about 60% of the US electricity needs.

      • “Land may be cheap, but one calc I remember showed that the entire state of Arizona would need to be covered with solar panels to deliver about 60% of the US electricity needs.”

        That’s off topic from the relative value of rooftop vs utility scale solar. I don’t advocate using lots of solar, I am just pointing out the silliness of rooftop solar (except for those who want backup for grid failures).

      • No, it shows the impracticality of utility scale solar installations.

  27. Very good piece and excellent closing reflections. As noted the 15 year break even point for the Powerwall – solar system includes tax breaks and rebates. So perfectly good analysis from Judith’s perspective.

    In addition the rate structure is helping make this work as well. See this: https://judithcurry.com/2015/04/21/what-should-renewables-pay-for-grid-service/

    From this specific example we shouldn’t generalize that this approach is anywhere close to being economic if widely adopted. Take away what the non-users are contributing and the equipment won’t last long enough for the resulting payback period. Maybe supporting early adopters will benefit us all down the road, but it’s a big leap to assume that is likely.

    Planning Engineer

    • I learned a lot from your “planning engineer” posts here in the past.

      Do you know much about the prospects for geothermal? I am pretty suspicious of the idea that you drill it once and then it just keeps working.

      • As I discussed up post, you have to distinguish between EGS and conventional geothermal plant. Wairakei still has some wells drilled in the 50s and a lot from the 60s producing fluid for separation and steam. No-one has got an EGS plant to work yet so that side is still theoretical. However, the heat in the rocks is a finite source with very poor heat transfer, so any production from them would be strip mining heat and wells would have a very limited life.

      • Russ Schussler

        Not a lot about geothermal. Early in my career in LA they tried real hard to make geothermal work as it seemed a promising green resource n the 70s. The challenge then was the caustic environment inherent with the available thermal sources. Couldn’t keep anything working wrong with all the corrosion, The electrical properties of geothermal generation are fine and it would make a good base load source if you can get around the problems.


      • Russ, the plants down Salton Sea way are very low temperature heavily mineralised resource. Here in NZ, most are high temperature and the steam is separated in large cyclone separators (16m high, 4m diameter) If the design is right, the steam is very clean. The turbines are like the back end of a PWR in technology. You can’t use high tensile steels in the steam path and no exposed copper in the air, but working within those limitations, plant can be very reliable. Most get around 95% load factor over the 4-5 year survey cycle.

    • I would think that electric vehicles would be a better use to direct Li-ion batteries to than residential power. Batteries have bottle neck limiting factors such as cobalt and nickel.

  28. Decommissioning fossil fuel plants for energy (Transportation and Electric Utility) without transitioning to Nuclear is impossible.

    Mark Mills a Physicist has pointed out:

    “In general, fabricating a single Electric Vehicle (EV) battery, each of which weighs about 1,000 pounds, requires digging up roughly 500,000 pounds of materials. That’s more than a 10-fold increase in the cumulative quantity of materials (liquids) used by a standard car over its entire operating life.

    the quantities of minerals used in EVs will be dwarfed by the push for grid-scale batteries to make wind and solar usefully reliable. Those solar panels and wind turbines also entail using an average of 10 times more primary materials to produce the same energy output compared to hydrocarbon machines. The world is literally about to embark on the biggest increase in mineral and metal mining in history

    China, for example, supplies about 90% of rare-earths for the world. On the cobalt front, China has also quietly gained control over more than 90% of the battery industry’s cobalt refining, without which the raw ore is useless. Russia is a massive nickel producer. ”

    In addition, the entire electric utility infrastructure will have to be redesigned and built. Currently, most local urban blocks will only support 2-3 EV recharging station. Politicians and Green New Dealers are experts in ignoring the true lifecycle costs of a Green New deal. Their motto should be “We need to destroy the environment in order to save it”!

    • “In general, fabricating a single Electric Vehicle (EV) battery, each of which weighs about 1,000 pounds, requires digging up roughly 500,000 pounds of materials.”
      But it only has to be done once … because they will forever be recycled into new batteries. Or so some will say.
      China alone has 360 million motor vehicles.

      • Chris Morris

        Can they recycle batteries? I thought the technology to do this cheaply and efficiently wasn’t around. And don’t give pie in the sky promises about someone will invent a way.

      • Chris:
        According to a Nov 2019 MIT article on Electric vs ICE vehicles there is no economically feasible method to recycle a Li battery. And it won’t be likely for another decade or so if Tesla (who are actively studying the process) is correct (IIRC this was from a Tesla spokesperson in Fall of 2020).
        btw the article stated that an EV (they used a Tesla sedan) won’t be cost competitive to a ICE (they used a Camry) till about 2030 (when Li battery costs would likely be below $100/kWh) IF you include the full life-cycle of the vehicle: from mining, production, usage, and recycling at the end of life [but importantly absent any incentives].

        And to some of the up-posts about cost of renewables: the LCOE calculated by the EIA does not include backup generation, transmission costs, property taxes, or profits according to a 3/2019 Manhattan Institute article. Subsides, tax preferences and mandates can hide real-world costs.

      • It was the IEA and not the EIA. And at just what penetration external wind and solar costs become a problem depends on the regional mix of sources. A low LCOE is a good start. But really – it is a fact of life in many places and supported by many people in democracies. The constant whining about it – always without any reputably sourced quantitative analysis – is just self indulgent noise.

        For now there is natural gas and in future nuclear. For now – where I am – I am content enough that low cost wind and solar – balanced by existing 12% capacity factor hydro and evolving biogas supplies – reduces gas demand in the market and helps to eke out finite supplies. In the big picture that is.

      • thomaskennedy2

        Can you cite a reference to your claim of economically forever recycling Li batteries. In 2018, China had about 1 million EVs – why are you mentioning 360 million “motor vehicles”. In 2018 China had 240 million vehicles. Please cite your sources or it looks like you are just spreading disinformation.

      • Thomas Kennedy wrote, “In 2018, China had about 1 million EVs – why are you mentioning 360 million “motor vehicles”.
        Because that is how many motor vehicles China has today and presumably at some point in the future they will all be EVs.

        Thomas Kennedy further wrote, “In 2018 China had 240 million vehicles. Please cite your sources or it looks like you are just spreading disinformation.”
        At the the link I included, Wikipedia states, “The People’s Republic of China has the largest fleet of motor vehicles in the world, with 360 million motor vehicles in June 2020 including 270 million cars,”

        I notice that you didn’t include a source for your “240 million vehicles” claim. Please don’t do that again.

        Thomas Kennedy further wrote, “Can you cite a reference to your claim of economically forever recycling Li batteries.”
        “By 2025, about three-quarters of spent EV batteries will be reused and then recycled to harvest raw materials, Melin said.”
        Read the whole story.

        We currently recycle relatively low-value lead-acid batteries. Why wouldn’t we recycle expensive EV batteries?

      • The Bloomberg article you linked to is just a puff piece about how they will use batteries in less demanding roles. There is nothing about recycling where the batteries will be broken down into their component elements . Just hit them with a sledge hammer and throw the bits into a furnace once the acid has drained away. They do lead acids to extract the lead because that is easy technology. The new battery types can’t have their metals extracted.. Putting them in a furnace will cause real issues.

      • To those questioning the future of recycling Lithium batteries, I present
        JB Straubel.

    • I think Mark Mills is a national treasure. He’s great at giving a big picture overview:

  29. The planet mean surface temperature equation is very simple:
    Tmean.planet = [ Φ (1-a) S (β*N*cp)¹∕ ⁴ /4σ ]¹∕ ⁴ (K)
    What we were left to do was substituting the terms for every planet or moon without atmosphere (or with a thin atmosphere) in the solar system – the equation “works” for all of them.


    • Earthrise, taken in 1968 by William Anders, an astronaut on board Apollo 8

      There is also the Planet Surface Rotational Warming Phenomenon.
      I’ll try here in few simple sentences explain the very essence of how the planet rotational warming Phenomenon occurs.

      Lets consider two identical planets F and S at the same distance from the sun.
      Let’s assume the planet F spins on its axis Faster, and the planet S spins on its axis Slower.
      Both planets F and S get the same intensity solar flux on their sunlit hemispheres. Consequently both planets receive the same exactly amount of solar radiative energy.
      The slower rotating planet’s S sunlit hemisphere surface gets warmed at higher temperatures than the faster rotating planet’s F sunlit hemisphere.

      The surfaces emit at σT⁴ intensity – it is the Stefan-Boltzmann emission law.
      Thus the planet S emits more intensively from the sunlit side than the planet F.
      There is more energy left for the planet F to accumulate then.
      That is what makes the faster rotating planet F on the average a warmer planet.
      Thus the Planet Surface Rotational Warming Phenomenon occurs.

      • The Earth seen from Apollo 17

        Similarly we can evaluate the planet surface specific heat Cp importance.

        The Planet Surface SPECIFIC HEAT Cp Warming PHENOMENON
        I’ll try here in few simple sentences explain the very essence of how the planet surface specific heat warming Phenomenon occurs.

        Lets consider two identical planets “H” and “L” at the same distance from the sun.
        Let’s assume the planet “H” has a Higher average surface specific heat, and the planet “L” has a Lower average surface specific heat.

        Both planets “H” and “L” get the same intensity solar flux on their sunlit hemispheres. Consequently both planets receive the same exactly amount of SOLAR RADIATIVE ENERGY.
        For Lower average surface specific heat planet “L” the sunlit hemisphere surface gets warmed at higher temperatures than for Higher average surface specific heat planet “H” the sunlit hemisphere.

        The surfaces emit at σT⁴ intensity – it is the Stefan-Boltzmann emission law.
        Thus the planet “L” emits more intensively from the sunlit hemisphere than the planet “H”.
        So there is MORE ENERGY LEFT for the planet “H” to accumulate then. That is what makes for Higher surface specific heat planet “H” to be a WARMER PLANET.
        That is how the Planet Surface SPECIFIC HEAT Cp Warming PHENOMENON occurs.

      • “Evidence of young lunar volcanism” – Christos

        The notion of the Moon’s interior being a lot hotter than previously thought I found interesting.


      • This rogue planet shines due it’s high internal heat. It’s far-out orbit hints at new physics imo:

        “What I really think makes HD 106906 unique is that it is the only exoplanet that we know that is directly imaged, surrounded by a debris disk, misaligned relative to its system and is widely separated,” Nguyen said. “This is what makes it the sole candidate we have found thus far whose orbit is analogous to the hypothetical Planet Nine.”


      • Galileo spacecraft true-color image of Io. The dark spot just left of the center is the erupting volcano Prometheus. The whitish plains on either side of it are coated with volcanically deposited sulfur dioxide frost, whereas the yellower regions contain a higher proportion of sulfur.

        6. Io’s (Jupiter’s satellite) Mean Surface Temperature Calculation

        So = 1.361 W/m² (So is the Solar constant)
        Io’s albedo: aio = 0,63

        Io is a rocky planet without atmosphere heavy cratered, Io’s surface irradiation accepting factor Φio = 1
        Most of Io’s surface is composed of sulfur and sulfur dioxide frost.
        Cp.sulfur = 0,17 cal/gr.oC, Cp.sulfur.dioxide = 0,12 cal/gr.oC
        cp.io = 0,17 cal/gr.oC *0,5 + 0,12 cal/gr.oC *0,5 =
        cp.io = 0,145 cal/gr.oC

        β = 150 days*gr*oC/rotation*cal – it is the Planet Surface Solar Irradiation Absorbing-Emitting Universal Law constant
        σ = 5,67*10⁻⁸ W/m²K⁴, a Stefan-Boltzmann constant

        1/R² = 1/5,2044² = 0,0369 times lesser is the solar irradiation on Jupiter than that on Earth, the same on its satellite Io.

        Io’s orbital period is 1,799 days. Io’s sidereal rotation period is synchronous.
        N = 1/1,799 rotations/per day

        Tmean.io = [ Φ (1-a) So (1/R²) (β*N*cp)¹∕ ⁴ /4σ ]¹∕ ⁴

        Τmean.io = { 1*(1-0,63)1.361 W/m² *0.0369*[150*(1/1,799)*0,145]¹∕ ⁴ /4*5,67*10⁻⁸ W/m²K⁴ }¹∕ ⁴ = 111,55 K
        Tmean.io = 111,55 K is the calculated

        And the satellite measured is almost identical
        Tsat.mean.io = 110 K (- 163 oC) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Io_%28moon%29

        So the mean surface temperature equation does a very much close the Io’s surface temperature estimation.

  30. JC. What was the cost of your system not including the subsidies? Also, what was the assumed cost of capital? A typical investor would be unlikely to accept a 15 year payoff on an investment. Most people just do the simple math when calculating payback…how much is saved each year. Effectively assuming their cost of capital is 0%. Obviously, everyone is free to invest their own money into whatever they like though. Also, are you totally off the grid now?

    I invested in a geothermal heating and cooling system several years ago. My home heating costs went from $3000 per year to about $1000 per year. My only option without geo was propane and wood pellets. Obviously a geothermal system like mine increases electricity demand. I also have a backup Generac generator (propane fueled)…it ran for about 8 hours last night due a heavy snowfall that took out our power.

    • The $$ cost benefits aren’t there for solar (particularly with two Tesla Powerwalls), although this will help increase resale value of our home. I mentioned our primary motivation was energy security (for a longer time than the generac can provide). We are on the grid, but if the grid goes down, then we have power.

    • “Obviously a geothermal system like mine increases electricity demand.”
      Not obvious to me. Maybe you are referring to a heat pump?

  31. Talking of geothermal, Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano lava lake has been filling up several meters an hour and Sir David Attenborough narrates the link to life as we know it:

    Kilauea Volcano Eruption | A Perfect Planet | BBC…: https://youtu.be/L4qDgsyFw7M

  32. The LCOE on intermittent power sources leaves out substantial costs – the most important of which is grid stability. When intermittent power becomes significant in the mix, you need a lot of backup power generation that sits idle most of the time. Storage doesn’t cut it, as JC’s numbers show.

    Texas gives an example how these costs come about. The zero marginal cost of wind power is driving conventional plants out of business. But, the wind power cannot replace them during times of no generation. When the loss of backup power starts reducing energy security, the costs will go up sharply, as backup then becomes a political and economic necessity.

    Another cost left out is transmission – LCOE is just the cost of the plant and fuel.

    • Texas is complicated. You underestimate the effect of having one of the largest utilities in the nation go bankrupt (look up TXU and leveraged fuel contracts). As a gas lease holder I got screwed too so I admit am biased against monopiles. As a point of reference almost all interrupted electric power is due to local transmission failures.
      If you are interested in digging deeper check this site:

      • I don’t have time to dig into it at that level.

        I am not saying that wind and solar have caused interruptions. My point is that they make some conventional plants uneconomical, and those get shut down. If enough of that happens, the grid will go down under low generation situations.

        The reason the conventional plants become uneconomical is that the wind and solar are not paying (or at least were not) for the externalities they exert on the grid. They are not paying to keep the backup plants alive, and their low marginal cost (since they aren’t paying) kills them off.

        I don’t know if ERCOT has done anything about that or if it is politically possible to.

  33. Dr. Curry,

    Excellent post, and Happy New Year.

    JC note: SAF and Prometheus Fuels are new to me. Thoughts?

    I am a fan of dimethyl ether. Much easier to handle than hydrogen, and properties similar to propane. DOE Alternative Fuels Data Center has additional information. https://afdc.energy.gov/fuels/emerging_dme.html

  34. H. Douglas Lightfoot

    Here is a link to nuclear energy:

    Nuclear energy today is the safest and most reliable way of generating large quantities of electricity.

    Here is a link that shows CO2 at any concentration has no effect on the Earth’s temperature:
    The title is “The IPCC made three fatal errors in assumptions about CO2”.

    Rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are a benefit, not a problem.

  35. I’ve been perusing the Heat Beat site an geothermal and find that the technology and economics look a bit speculative. I’d like to note that Richard Muller in his book, Energy for Future Presidents, says that once the geothermal heat is extracted from a volume of Earth, it takes eons for more heat to get conducted back in.

    • Exactly. People don’t understand the difference between energy and power. It’s like those rooftop water heaters decades ago. You’ll have a few gallons of hot water but the heat transfer rate is not near enough to sustain a household.

  36. JCVery much enjoy your well written and thoughtful blogs.If you haven’t seen the attached, thought you would appreciate.The author has legitimate credentials and experience including a physics degree from Queens University but won’t hold that against him 😉. He gives a sobering dose of reality on the limitations of some technologies that much of the general public, media, many millilenials and science challenged politicians don’t seem to grasp.R.L.McQueen P.Eng.Sent from my Galaxy

  37. Dr. C – What are your thoughts on “smart home” technologies, especially those connected to the internet?

    • Smart home technologies are technologically interesting. Personally I am pretty bewildered by all the options for our home security system; I do like the cameras tho. But I spotted on twitter that when google had difficulties a few weeks ago, their smart home software made it impossible for anything to work in their house.

      Personally, I’m mainly interested in security/reliability, so i like things simple, secure and redundant; unlikely that smart home technologies are anywhere close.

  38. Dietrich Hoecht

    For good measures of magnitude – here is the conversion from gasoline powered to electrical vehicles and a zero carbon future. CA governor Newsom’s executive order requires zero carbon emission energy by 2045, and all new vehicles to be electrically powered by 2035, that is 15 years from now. He also stated that batteries will help compensate for generation intermittency.

    The following numbers are meant to give a generalized glimpse into this future, without consideration of generating and usage efficiencies, changes in consumption, availability of other energy sources, etc. etc.
    First, on the conversion to electrical vehicle power.
    The US consumes annually 142 Billion gallons gasoline. One gallon electrical energy equivalent is 33.5 kWh. That translates to 4.75 Trillion kWh. The present US electrical consumption is 4.1 Trillion kWh. Therefore, if we assume total gasoline vehicle conversion we would have to more than double our national electricity capacity!
    Second, if we want to compensate for outages and temporary capacity shortages with batteries alone, let us verify the impact on available Lithium. Lithium is considered primary battery metal for this assumption.
    To find the battery metal content we find for one cell’s Li (in grams) 0.3 x amphour. At typical cell produces 3.6V.
    The installed US power capacity is 1.3 Million Megawatts or 1.2E12 W. One full day battery demand of 3.45E13 Wh / 3.6V requires 2.88 E12 g Lithium or 2.88 million metric tons.
    To tackle this demand for two days doubles this to 5.66 million tons, and if one plugs in the power demand for Newsom’s gasoline conversion the Lithium metal usage becomes 12.45 million metric tons.
    The worldwide reserves of Lithium are 15 million tons, which means we are approaching irrationality with this 12.4 million number.
    Note, above calculations are for US only, not the world.

    Again, these numbers are very coarse and meant to illustrate the limits of physical nature, and the illusionary world of political green advocacy.

  39. I am surprised that Tom Clyne’s excellent article, “Making Fusion a Reality”, does not mention “HB11 fusion” which is surely the front runner in the race for copious, safe, cheap energy.

  40. No rare earths or graphene nanotubes required. This is a technology I have been following for years and that is now entering mass production. It has marginally less energy density than Li-ion but has many other virtues.


  41. Pingback: Looking forward: new technologies in the 2020’s – Watts Up With That?

  42. Pingback: Looking forward: new technologies in the 2020’s |

  43. “For Nuclear Energy To Flourish, We Need A ‘Mindset Reversal’ About Radiation”

  44. What we need to do is limit exposure to ionizing radiation as much as is practical using 21st century technology.

    • Why? At what point does “good enough” show up? You propose a standard that can never be met as the goal posts keep moving. All this based on a theory that cannot be proved because results lie in the noise-level regime. In other words, cannot extract any useful information and are relying on a “feeling”.

      • At the point of practicality as I said. Something you don’t seem to recognize. There are small over a large population. It is only in more recent times that epidemiological studies of low dose exposure are achieving power to detect effects. This is not the same as there not being effects of course. The chart I provided shows increasing dosage over time – simply that.

        But it is not something I can be bothered discussing with a truculent naysayer like you.

      • … small risks…

        And your views after all are not the dominant scientific paradigm or shared by the public. It is an old and tiresome song and dance. We simply need to note reality and minimize exposure while recognizing the low risk and benefits of such things as medical imaging. Behaving with intelligence and prudence and not in accord with some chest thumping ideology.

  45. Pingback: Looking forward: new technologies in the 2020’s – Climate- Science.press

  46. The Radiative GreenHouse Effect theory three-legged stool toppled – together with all the pseudo-scientific, confirmation bias, correlation = cause, climate change, Gorebal warming rubbish stacked on top.

    Leg 1: By reflecting away 30% +/- of the incoming solar radiation the albedo, which could not/would not exist without the atmosphere, makes the earth cooler not warmer much like that reflective panel behind a car’s windshield. Remove the atmosphere and the albedo goes with it, i.e. no water vapor or clouds, no snow or ice, no vegetation, no oceans, the earth becomes a barren, airless, celestial rock. And much like the moon, an albedo of 10% with 20% more incoming kJ/h, hot^3 lit side, cold^3 dark. Nikolov, Kramm (U of AK) and UCLA Diviner mission all tacitly admit this scenario refuting the RGHE claim that the naked earth would become a -430 F frozen ball of ice.

    Leg 2: The upwelling “trapped” and the downwelling “back” radiated energy of the GHG loop must first be removed from the terrestrial system. Removing this “extra” energy would short-change & disrupt the balance at ToA so it must be balanced by some kind of “extra” upwelling energy. LoT absolutely, positively, emphatically PROHIBITS “trapped” and/or “extra” energy.

    Leg 3: The “extra” upwelling LWIR comes from an assumption that the earth’s surface radiates as an ideal black body which, by THEORETICAL definition, with unitary emissivity absorbs ALL and emits ALL. However, because of the non-radiative heat transfer participation of the contiguous atmospheric molecules, radiation becomes accountable only for (ALL – non radiative) which renders “extra” upwelling LWIR impossible. Emissivity is not 1.0 or .95 but (ALL – non-radiative)/ALL. In the case of the ubiquitous K-T power flux balance graphic: theoretical ε=63/396=0.16 or per the actual balance ε=63/160=0.39. There is no “extra” upwelling LWIR, no “extra” energy for the GHGs to “trap” and “back” radiate and no downwelling LWIR.

    The alleged up/down welling measurements are the result of incorrectly applied instruments and confirmation bias. Remember cold fusion where the “extra” energy was stray currents in the apparatus.

    As demonstrated by experiment, the gold standard of classical science.

    Leg 1 + Leg 2 + Leg 3 = 0 RGHE + 0 GHG warming + 0 CAGW

  47. Over eating is widely viewed as a major cause of premature death. What would the cost of food be if growers and sellers were required, through tax or liability, to pay for all the calculated years of life lost?

  48. Here’s a technology I have mentioned before. A million of these for 500 million people by 2040 transforms landscapes.


  49. We are assured by the renewables salesfolk-activists-stakeholders that:

    – renewables are already the cheapest energy source
    – renewables are reliable and don’t have technical or environmental problems (cats are worse)
    – intermittency isn’t a problem (solved by smart metering and smart-whatever)
    – Batteries (also too cheap to meter) can convert intermittent supply into baseload/load following supply

    If all this is true, as is strenuously and continually asserted, then
    Why is there still a problem?
    Why is there still a debate?
    Why the apparently desperate ongoing search for new technologies?

    Why this post even?

  50. Robert:
    “I’d be very surprised if there were any truth to rotational planetary warming. Why else do you think you were nominated for the Galileo Galilei award?”

    The surfaces emit at σT⁴ intensity – it is the Stefan-Boltzmann emission law.
    The planet Slow emits more intensively from the sunlit side than the planet Fast.
    There is more energy left for the planet F to accumulate then.
    That is what makes the faster rotating planet F on the average a warmer planet.
    This is how Planet Surface Rotational Warming Phenomenon occurs.
    Are you, Robert, very surprised now?


  51. The are many ways apart from open subsidies by which governments can give a leg-up to the various electricity generation technologies. These are known as hidden subsides, an example being forced minimum purchases. And unlike with open subsidies, hidden subsidies make it very hard to assess the full costs of each technology – an obvious attraction for the politicians and lobbies behind them of course.

    So before any rational policy decision-making can happen, all hidden subsidies for all technologies need to be scrapped. We are always being told how cheap wind and solar renewables have become, so this should present them with no problem; it will too test the sincerity of their advocates.

    • Forgot to add :
      But if it is decided that in fact wind and solar do need government help to survive, it should be done with open subsidies to replace the scrapped hidden ones.

  52. That renewables are cheaper is a cruel LCOE hoax because it does not include the astronomical cost of backing up intermittency. I did a simple 100% wind plus batteries analysis and got a battery cost over $3 trillion for New York City, $8 trillion for New York State and $38 trillion for the PJM multi-state control area, which does not include New York.

    We are talking about hundreds of millions of MWh in storage just for one city and state. The world’s biggest battery system is still less than 200 MWh. It probably cannot be done at any price. Certainly not in the coming decade.


  53. Only recently got air conditioning and replacing the 20-yr old gas furnace at the same time greatly improved both performance and efficiency…

  54. Here is my take on the possible geothermal revolution.

    It is all about fracking for heat instead of for gas and oil. Intriguing but difficult. I am told that bringing heat up from 3-10 km is not feasible. If it is feasible then geothermal is the reliable renewable. That the heat is there is beyond question. We live on a thin crust over a molten ball. Delivering that heat is the challenge.

  55. I feel a need to be critical. Who can afford such systems? Those with excess money. I can see the generator providing an important value.

    I think what you’re doing is separating from most people. I do it with my retirement money, separating myself from the problems with Social Security. That problem never gets fixed though.

    You’re part of a class that is different from most. And since electricity is such a vital thing, solving it for yourself leaves the problems still there. You don’t address the problem by insulating yourself from it.

    This is an odd thing for a liberation like myself to say. I support an electrical grid as I support a sewer system and a waste management system. As I support a functioning road system.

    I have not been some kind of survivalist. Who has abandoned hope and started building defenses.

    This is where we need to fight together and look out for our fellow man and be subjected to the same things they are. Those of us who are fortunate have lost enough touch with those who are not.

    At the same time, I LED bulbed my office, rewiring those 2 X4 ft florescent fixtures myself. I have the normal LEDs at home.

    This is such a vital thing. When they separate us, they win.

    Thank you for this article.

    • Don’t forget it increased her resale value too. Looks like normal American consumer/capitalism behavior.

      • I see arguments for doing things like this in other contexts. I see grid problems getting worse. When we had the housing loan meltdown, that wasn’t my problem. But indirectly it was. The bailouts and wasted money came from somewhere. When we get around to saving the grid, you all are going to have to pay for that too.

      • Flip your argument around. Spend $$* today to lock in your exclusive access to 270MWh (8Kw PV x 11MWh/yr x 25yrs of production) of nearly maintenance free power. With a little load shifting and the upcoming V2G options looks like a sound investment.
        * I’m not sure what a dollar will be worth in 25 years with debt in the hundreds of trillions but a watt will still be a watt.

      • jack:
        It looks like your investing in yourself when you do not have a problem. The grid has the problem. You should not be making the grid problem worse. We are moral, are we not?

        How not to make the grid problem worse:
        Do not use power from the grid during peak demand. Sell to the grid during peak demand. You need a lot of batteries. To be moral.
        Your solar panels are part the solution, right?

        Don’t be freaking pretending to save the planet while you help wreck the grid. This is a moral issue.

      • Ragnaar,
        “It looks like your investing in yourself when you do not have a problem.”
        Why would you make such an accusation? Do you need to have a ‘problem’ to decide when it’s time to make an investment?

        “The grid has the problem. You should not be making the grid problem worse,”
        My solar PV is an asset to ONCOR and they have told me that in person and even gave me an award back in 2013. My ONCOR grid has 99.7% up time over the last 5 years. In the 25 years I have lived here every single outage can be traced to 1) Trees, 2) Weather, 3) Damaged equipment 4) Animals. There was a brownout in Texas a few years ago in the dead of winter when the base load gas plants went off line because their cooling intake pipes froze up.

        “We are moral, are we not?”

        All morals flow from the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Do you think Trump has morals? Does his calls for “Lock her Up!” now apply to him too?

        You need to study this problem of the trade offs between self-consumption and exporting to the grid. I have been involved in a decade long research program so that’s one reason my solar PV system is one of the top 5% residential system in the world. I got smarter.

  56. “What spreads the sea floors and moves the continents? What melts iron in the outer core and enables the Earth’s magnetic field? Heat. Geologists have used temperature measurements from more than 20,000 boreholes around the world to estimate that some 44 terawatts (44 trillion watts) of heat continually flow from Earth’s interior into space. Where does it come from?” https://newscenter.lbl.gov/2011/07/17/kamland-geoneutrinos/#:~:text=A%20main%20source%20of%20the,geoneutrinos%20released%20during%20radioactive%20decay.

    About half comes from radioactive decay – the rest may be primordial. We use some 22 TW – mostly from fossil fuels. From about 62,500 power plants plus industrial heat and transportation. Energy use will hopefully double or triple this century. The developing world needs to be building 1000’s of power plants every year.

    The readily available geothermal heat is in pockets where hot water or steam rise to or near the surface. A video I linked above gives a USGS estimate that some 10% of US electricity could be geothermally sourced. But there may be another way to transport heat from 3 or 4 kilometers deep using a material invented by two Russian physicists. For which they received the Nobel Prize for physics in 2010.


    The basis of life is energy, water and health. Get those things right and everything else follows. We require many different sources of energy – whatever works efficiently and economically. In my view the major path forward is doing what we know how to do with fission energy and doing it better and cheaper. While sequestering carbon in soils and ecosystems in this decade of ecological restoration. Making agriculture more drought and flood resilient and adding to dry weather flow in aquatic systems.

    “Ecosystems support all life on Earth. The healthier our ecosystems are, the healthier the planet – and its people. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration aims to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean. It can help to end poverty, combat climate change and prevent a mass extinction.” https://www.decadeonrestoration.org/

    “Billions in Change 2 shows how simple life-changing inventions provide clean water, electricity, and improve the lives of farmers. See how these inventions will enable the unlucky half of the world to improve their lives.”


  57. Judith,

    Your area doesn’t experience Public Purpose Power Shutoffs (PPPS’s) does it? My Sierra foothill location has experienced 8 planned power shutoffs (PPPS’s) and 1 unplanned (our substation was turned off to prevent a larger black out on the CASIO grid back in August) outage over the last three years. We drag our 1999 vintage Honda generator off the covered porch when the outages get to the point that the black outs are adversely affecting the life or limb of the humans, animals or our food.

    Our PV system was approved for operation with PG&E back in 2006 and our interconnection with PG&E precluded us from installing any battery backup. Our rate schedule was just modified so it’s time to see if adding a battery pack would be worthwhile. Does your interconnection contract and hardware allow you to use the Tesla batteries during the daily afternoon ramp that is causing issues on the CASIO grid?


    PS Per PG&E our Power Content for 2019 was 100% clean- if you count large hydro, and pumped hydro as clean and you allow Diablo’s output to count toward decarbonization goals. Our self-generation in 2019 wasn’t counted by PG&E.

  58. While I like electric cars with all that torque and acceleration (FUN!), I gotta ask the one question that’s being conveniently ignored – what difference will it make to long term mean global temperature if the US goes to zero emissions while China and India do not? Last I heard was the climate models show a change that amounts to little more than a rounding error.
    Poor and lower middle class people (and there’s a lot of them) are going to get really screwed by higher energy costs which roll into everything. And we want to spend all this money and reduce our standard of living while accomplishing virtually nothing? The definition of insanity, it is.

    • “what difference will it make to long term mean global temperature if the US goes to zero emissions while China and India do not?”

      Shhhh… you question reveals “an inconvenient truth.”

      Seriously, it betrays a real madness in the west – the insane idea that making symbolic changes at extremely high cost will lead other countries to change their ways. It doesn’t work and never has. The non-proliferation world has the same sorts of fantasies.

    • Mike Doutt | January 4, 2021 at 6:57 pm |

      While I like electric cars with all that torque and acceleration (FUN!), I gotta ask the one question that’s being conveniently ignored – what difference will it make to long term mean global temperature if the US goes to zero emissions while China and India do not? Last I heard was the climate models show a change that amounts to little more than a rounding error.

      Mike, I discuss this exact question in my post entitled “Going To Zero“.

      Best regard,


  59. Victor Ovid Adams

    Mindful of Taleb’s piece titled “The scandal of prediction”, I’ll present a few of my thoughts, by no means original or novel, some better advanced in this blog discussion. Key point: over the next decade(s) NatGas will continue to rule and expand, read the rest as time and interest permits:

    1) You cannot make solar (S) and wind (W) with… solar and wind. Renaming S and W “variable” rather than intermittent energy sources is just not right.
    2) Upon commissioning, S and W start out with a large Carbon deficit that would take many years to pay back similar to the burden of a newly minted MD struggling to paid off a huge student loan. Meanwhile, S and W farms need maintenance/replacing.
    3) NatGas will continue to expand into the world economy as the premier, no brainer source of electricity as well as other uses such as cement (“crumbling” infrastructure), fertilizers and plastics. Here comes Alexey Miller, Gazprom’s boss boasting but making a point during the signing of a multi billion dollar gas deal with China for the next 30 years: we (Russia) have enough natural gas to supply China’s needs for the next 200 years . Ditto on Germany, see the much contested Nord Stream pipeline and even US exports of LNG worldwide, based on long term contracts spanning decades.
    4) The internal combustion engine as well as the coal (horror!) and NatGas fired power plants are also undergoing a tech revolution though under reported to the public at large.
    5) Lumping NatGas with Coal and even petroleum as villains in the quest for that green economy is silly and eventual cooler heads will prevail. Large parts of New England still use fuel oil for heating, something of a relic instead of clean burning NatGas. Waiting for electric heating powered by S and W?, In the US, we’re blessed with abundant reserves easily accessible via by now much improved fracking (horror again), literally the envy of the world. China and Argentina are attempting to emulate us. Russia too has vast deposits of “tight shale oil” (not to be confused with similarly sounding “oil shale”), so far untouched as they are busy producing their massive dry gas reservoirs in Siberia.

  60. jacksmith4tx | January 4, 2021 at 9:39 pm |

    Before you make a judgement about what the developing world is doing to address the energy/climate nexus spend a little time to get the international view point.


    I went to take a look. I was unsurprised to find that the authors didn’t have the stones to identify themselves. That always makes me nervous.

    So I took a look at the news about “solar”. To my great lack of surprise, it was all about just how wonderful solar is, about the “bright future” of solar, and the like. Not one article that I could find discussing the manifold problems of solar.

    Same is true of wind. Might be something critical of wind in Russian or Urdu, but I speak Spanish and French, and I can fake it in Portuguese … nada.

    The trouble is just the same here in the US, where the media is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the wokerati … never a bad word about renewables here either.

    So I fear you’re not getting “what the developing world is doing”. You’re getting the news about what the woke folks, the elites, the upper classes in those countries believe the developing world is doing … which is not the same thing. The elites don’t care if renewable power costs more … they’re not going to be hot in the summer or cold in the winter. But nobody is asking the poor about skyrocketing energy prices.

    I discuss this in some detail in my post “We Have Met The 1%, And He Is Us“. Your comments welcome.


    • Since 2005 the Carbon Capture Report has created a daily summary of the global state of climate change and the world’s core energy sectors, charting the major developments and narratives guiding both the fields’ evolutions and the public conversation around them. Leveraging 23 years of expertise in global scale web mining that began the year after Mosaic debuted, the Carbon Capture Report became a staple for those tracking the global climate and energy discourse, at its peak becoming on of the top 65,000 websites worldwide by traffic and having a daily email subscriber base covering 120 countries.

      I have been using that site since it began and I can assure you the global news flow is both pro and con even for solar and wind power. In a more abstract way it’s also a way to keep tabs on where the technology in going.

      • Thanks, Jack. OK, find me a couple of negative stories about solar out of the first few dozen in the section bizarrely called

        Global online news coverage of nuclear power generation.

        (Yeah, that’s gonna inspire real trust, that after 15 years of operation they can’t even label a section properly.)

        In any case, where are the negative stories about the massive piles of toxic waste, or the death of Solyndra and the host of Solyndralikes, or the rise in California electricity costs that unreliable solar has brought us along with brownouts and blackouts, or the huge space requirements, or the amount of backup fossil fuel generators that you need if you have solar, or the massive destruction from hail and high winds, or the resulting instability of the grid … because I sure didn’t see any on the entire page of either the daily or the monthly solar “news about nuclear power”.

        And meanwhile, a google search for “problems with solar energy” brings up 270 million links … so even if only one in a thousand is really discussing the issues in question, that’s still 270,000 links. And cutting the search to just last month brings up over 300 links. None of them made it into your solar “news about nuclear power”. Funny how that works … sorry, amigo, but it seems that the pollyanna merchants of sunshine are blinding you to the obvious problems of solar energy.


      • Curious George

        Jack, thanks for a suggestion to use AI. Did you find anything? Please share your results.

      • Curious George,
        Well two weeks ago one of my ‘trained’ AI queries started flagging “Sudden Stratospheric Warming” and it looks there is a strong one forming right now. Look out for extreme outbreaks of cold due to atmospheric ridges, changes in the ozone and the jet stream.
        The instrument history of major SSW events is short but now we can measure them we see they are quite spectacular considering the energy involved. Jennifer Francis has some interesting papers published on global atmospheric dynamics.

  61. I design equipment that is used on combined cycle natural gas combustion turbine power plants. On combined cycle they use the exhaust heat from the combustion turbine to generate steam for a secondary steam turbine. Using this technology they can achieve up to 65% efficiency. And they generate base load power 24/7. Very clean emissions. The newest FPL plant will generate 1100 megawatts using 135 acres of land. Compare that to wind turbines which require about 50 acres of land to generate 3 megawatts but only when the wind is blowing. Which technology is really green? In my opinion it’s the gas fired turbine. Now if we want to ask which technology makes sense and which one doesn’t, well that’s a no-brainer.

    • Sounds great Mike. Are you using a closed loop water cooling system? All thermal energy plants that need large quantities of cooling water will be in tension with demand from agriculture, industrial and consumers users. This is already a problem in Texas.

    • joe - the non climate scientist

      Mike Doutt comment – “The newest FPL plant will generate 1100 megawatts using 135 acres of land. Compare that to wind turbines which require about 50 acres of land to generate 3 megawatts”

      Throughout the history of mankind, technological improvements have brought forth, more efficient machines, producing more while at the same time becoming smaller, in many cases, much smaller and vastly more powerful. Think of the std car engine or computer.

      In the case of “renewable energy” or “green energy” – The progress has been just the opposite, creating bigger yet far less powerful machines.

  62. I would be very grateful if someone would explain to me why our contribution of little more than 4% to the CO2 in the atmosphere is worth worrying about.

    The natural experiment has been done: 1929-1931, a 30% decrease in human CO2 production with no change in the atmospheric CO2 trend, with temperature increasing to 1941.

    And of course the LIA ended around 1840 with no significant change in CO2 except as the world warmed, and our contribution became measurable only in 1880, after which temperatures declined to 1910, rising again with no alteration in the leisurely increase of CO2 until 1941 (well past the Great Depression) and then declined again through WWII and the postwar reconstruction (and how much CO2 did that generate?). The decline was slight, but enough to generate alarms about The Coming Ice Age! in the early 70s.

    Our current virtue-signalling and hand-wringing is unbecoming.
    We ignore the decarbonization that has been proceeding naturally for the last 1,000 years as we’ve gone from wood to coal to oil to natural gas and potentially to nuclear.
    We ignore the fact that plants inhale CO2 and exhale oxygen. We eat them and inhale oxygen and exhale CO2. Looks like a win-win to me.

    30% of the agricultural increase since 1950 has been attributed to CO2. Satellite pictures show the greening of the earth.

    Climate change is a given, not a problem. CO2 mitigation is a problem, not a solution.

    “It’s scientifically absurd to think that we can dial in a nice climate by turning the CO2 adjustment knob.” -Klaus Eckhart Puls

    • “Climate change is a given..” – jimww

      I agree with everything you say in your post, don’t get me wrong, but there’s *abrupt* climate change that has happened in the past and appears to be happening in the present.

      If CO2 isn’t causing it, then what is?

      • Thanks, Alan, but that’s the argumentum ad ingnorantium – we can’t think of anything else so it must be…

        There are eight (at least) other forcings that are operative. CO2 at this time at these levels is at the fifth half-life of its exponential decline. Which means that the next doubling to 800 ppm will increase its GHG effect by 2% or so.

        So.. what caused the previous eight glaciations and interval warmings over the last 1 million years of this current Ice Age? None of them preceded by CO2 change. Or the LIA beginning and end?

        Abrupt? The fastest/largest warming in the historical record (CET and Armagh) was 1680-1720. No CO2 change preceding.
        This is nonsense.

      • “Thanks, Alan, but that’s the argumentum ad ingnorantium – we can’t think of anything else so it must be…” – jimmww

        New physics tidal forcing is the only alternative imo. The glacial 100kyr cycle would be due to Earth’s orbital inclination and *not* Milankovitch eccentricity.

      • New physics announcement is only months away:

        “An international group of scientists, including Case Western Reserve University Astronomy Chair Stacy McGaugh, has published research contending that a rival idea to the popular dark matter hypothesis more accurately predicts a galactic phenomenon that appears to defy the classic rules of gravity.

        Milgrom said the findings, if robustly confirmed, would be “the smoking gun proving that galaxies are governed by modified dynamics rather than obeying the laws of Newton and of general relativity.”


      • “Our results suggest a breakdown of the SEP: the internal dynamics of a gravitational system in freefall is affected by a uniform external gravitational field. This sheds new light on the dark-matter problem and paves the way for relativistic theories of modified gravity in the weak-field regime of gravity g less than approximately 10^−10 m s^−2.” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201216155158.htm

        Alan would do well to consider the paper itself rather than a popsci report. Note the extremely small gravitational acceleration. This is the equivalence principle. Gravity is equivalent to inertia, If you were like Albert Einstein – you would tie yourself with ‘strings’ to the bottom of the box to avoid floating away in freefall.

        I gave a thought bubble that it is gravitational time at the bottom of this and of dark matter itself. Nonetheless – it is a far cry from Alan’s unseen neutron star moons whizzing around the solar system at superluminal velocities.

      • Geoff Sherrington

        jimmww writes “CO2 at this time at these levels is at the fifth half-life of its exponential decline. ”
        Let us be more exact
        There are about 10^40 molecules of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere.
        In laboratory studies, if we start with 1 molecule, then double it to get 2 molecules, we have done 1 doubling. If we double that again, 2 doublings give 4 molecules. 3 doublings give 8, 4 doublings give 16.
        138 doublings give 3.484*10^41 molecules, mathematically. This is simply 2^N, where N is number of doublings.
        Physically, if all molecules are available for doubling at a given time in history, then to double the atmospheric concentration the number of doublings has to go from approximately 138 to 139, adding another 3.484*10^41 molecules to that number already there.
        There are about 510 million square kilometers of earth surface, By calculation, a column the height of the atmosphere with a footprint of one square metre will contain some 7*10^32 molecules of carbon dioxide today.

        “Saturation” relates to the Beer-Lambert Law, where the passage of radiation through a gas medium is reduced with the thickness of the medium and the concentration of absorbing gases. For a simple case with a constant thickness (like the depth of the atmosphere), absorption is caused by changes in the path length t, so that

        I = Iₒ e¯ᵏᶜͭ

        where I is the radiation intensity at any location within the gas, Iₒ is the original intensity of the incoming radiation, e is the exponent, k is a constant depending on the gas and t is the thickness of the radiation path between incoming Iₒ and location I.
        Simply put, more molecules in the light path cause more absorption of the radiation. However, greenhouse studies deal with heat effects, not so much with the radiation intensity. Intuitively, more active molecules in the radiation path should lead to more heat generation. However, moving from laboratory studies to the Earth’s environment, it is apparent that 1, 2, 4, 8 … molecules in the air will not be capable of much heat production in the total atmosphere. There are simply too few molecules, about half of which will be in Earth’s shadow any given time.
        A question arises: How many carbon dioxide molecules need to be in the air before they produce a heat effect that can be measured? If 1, 2, 4, 8 …. are not enough, then how many are? Another question: What is the maximum excitation energy that CO2 is capable of handling?
        Geoff S

      • You don’t know what you’re talking about Ellison and also gave the wrong link. Here’s the paper:


        “Tidal effects from neighboring galaxies in the cold dark matter (CDM) context are not strong enough to explain these phenomena. 
        Our results point to a breakdown of the SEP, supporting modified gravity theories beyond GR.

        I’ve emailed Stacy McGaugh and Moti Milgrom putting forward the Hyperon Core Hypothesis with strong gravitational interaction on the plane of rotation of astronomical bodies. It would create the tidal effects required when galaxies inclination orbits coincided so their strong gravitational cores interact on the galactic planes.

        Again, it’s all the same idea as the Moon creating Spring tides on Earth, but at much larger scale.

        It’s a shame you so negative about the proposition. It requires someone special with a very open & inquiring mind.

        One day the penny will drop with someone. Maybe 5 years away, maybe 10, even 20, but it will happen.

    • joe - the non climate scientist

      Jimmww comment – “And of course the LIA ended around 1840 with no significant change in CO2 except as the world warmed, and our contribution became measurable only in 1880”

      You raise a point that I havent seen a coherent response from the climate science community. The shift from a general cooling trend to a warming trend circa mid 1800’s was at least equal to or greater than the current warming trend. This occurred when co2 went from 280ppm to 281ppm (or there abouts). If CO2 is the control knob, how can 1ppm of co2 cause as much warming as 100ppm of co2.

      Note the LIA and a cooling trend of approx -.3c to -.4c per century with a shift to +.5c per century warming trend vs a current warming trend approximating +.7c to +.8c century.

      • We are still rebounding from the last ice age. Why, and when it will end, I don’t think anyone knows. If as previously, we slide back into an ice age, apparently the norm for earth rather than the exception, the consequences for life will be more extreme than the minor warming we are apparently experiencing.

      • No, CO2 was around 280ppm in the Eemian (2C warmer than now), the Holocene Optimum, the Minoan Warm, the roman Warm, and the Medieval Warm, and going in to the LIA. At the emergence, around 1840, CO2 at the Law Dome was around 276ppm, rising to 280 ppm about the time human CO2 production took off in 1880.

    • “Ice age CO2 reductions coincide with an increase in ice sheet extent and therefore an increase in global albedo, and this should result in further cooling of the climate. But what actually happens is that when CO2 reaches a minimum and albedo reaches a maximum, the world rapidly warms into an interglacial. A similar effect can be seen at the peak of an interglacial, where high CO2 and low albedo results in cooling. This counterintuitive response of the climate system also remains unexplained, and so a hitherto unaccounted for agent must exist that is strong enough to counter and reverse the classical feedback mechanisms.” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1674987116300305?via%3Dihub

      Ya sure we know what we are doing?

      • “what actually happens is that when CO2 reaches a minimum and albedo reaches a maximum, the world rapidly warms into an interglacial. A similar effect can be seen at the peak of an interglacial, where high CO2 and low albedo results in cooling. ”
        This is not merely counterintuitive, it is contrary to physics and logic, the equivalent of saying “and then a miracle happens.”

        One of the problems I’ve posited is: why, when the Ice Age reaches its maximum and glaciers extend almost to the equator, does the earth not “‘run away” into a descent to the S-B equilibrium point or close? Similar to the question why, when the albedo is minimum with no snow or ice, and CO2 and the other GHGs are steadily increasing – the P-T excursion for example when global temp went to at least 28C – does the temperature reverse? At that event the temp returned to 22C with some rapidity.

        There has never in 550 million years been a temperature reversal preceded by a CO2 change. Nor in the last million with our 8 glacials and interglacials.

        I can’t escape concluding that CO2 us not in charge of climate, and we are not in control of CO2, and our current devout fervor is unwarranted.

        I suppose the easiest response to the initial statement would not be It’s CO2 but rather It’s the sun, son! But we’d still be bereft of a mechanism since the sun doesn’t seem to have such rapid alterations in output, certainly not on the downside.

      • Oh Jimmy – it must be geophysics because that’s actually happens. The planet is warm and CO2 levels high – and then there is a plunge into a glacial.

      • “I can’t escape concluding that CO2 us not in charge of climate, and we are not in control of CO2, and our current devout fervor is unwarranted.

        I suppose the easiest response to the initial statement would not be It’s CO2 but rather It’s the sun, son! But we’d still be bereft of a mechanism since the sun doesn’t seem to have such rapid alterations in output, certainly not on the downside.” – jimmww

        Your insight and intuition is far greater than that of Robert Ellison.

      • I don’t think much of insight or intuition. There are physical processes involved – insolation, thermohaline circulation, ice sheet albedo – that are feedbacks on feedbacks in a complex dynamical system. Only data in such a system can inform an analysis that is done on the basis of a background in and methods of a ‘mainstream science’ that they hate so much.

      • Oh, Elly – “it must be geophysics because that’s actually happens. The planet is warm and CO2 levels high – and then there is a plunge into a glacial.”
        Well, yeah, duh!
        And then a miracle happens, right?
        You’re actually pretty good on soil conservation. Maybe stick to that?

      • Oh Jimmy – you are much good at anything but snide innuendo. Which part of geophysics didn’t you understand?

      • Sorry – I meant not much good.

      • “You’re actually pretty good on soil conservation. Maybe stick to that?” – jimmww

        He’s also a sewage expert. He can sit and watch it turn into soil.

      • At least I am an expert in something . You are a tool in everything.

      • “Which part of geophysics didn’t you understand?”
        Do you understand what that even means?
        Reality is what happens – i.e. it’s not a miracle. Geophysics is what explains it. If we can’t explain it, we postulate a miracle. Right?
        Wanna try again? Or do you believe in miracles?

      • “Geophysics is a subject of natural science concerned with the physical processes and physical properties of the Earth and its surrounding space environment, and the use of quantitative methods for their analysis.”

        Too big a word for you Jiminy? It is all deterministic. You just need to figure out the logic of it.

      • Elly, you remind me of the maxim that
        Engineers think that theory approximates reality
        Physicists think that reality approximates theory
        Mathematicians don’t see the difference.

      • Engineers are warned of faux precision. It is why we invented slide rules. The answer to anything is that it is about this much. Then as people with lives and livelihoods in our hands – we add a safety factor because the world is inevitably uncertain. Those – like yourself – who report on carbon concentrations without any consideration of measurement imprecision or confounding factors are more like snake oil salesmen.

      • You go around in circles. With nothing buts false insinuations and disparagement. It’s simple. Well not so simple that you can understand what explanations are available.

        We started with an Arctic that when it is warm and then the world plunges again and again into glacials. Try to work that out I said. I’ll give you a clue. Science is a puzzle to be solved – not a supposition to be imposed.

      • “it must be geophysics because that’s actually happens. The planet is warm and CO2 levels high – and then there is a plunge into a glacial…. and so a hitherto unaccounted for agent must exist that is strong enough to counter and reverse the classical feedback mechanisms.” Is what you said.
        You did not describe any geophysical process to account for the plunge. Since, indeed there is none, yet. You describe an event and then use a magical incantation to explain it. And you vilify anyone who expresses displeasure with this fraud, appealing to the incantation “geophysics”. Have you been drinking? Oh, wait. You’re Australian. Never mind.
        Of course, there are eight other forcings which, with GHGs, have a vector effect on climate. Maybe with a little geophysics you can figure out that it ain’t CO2 that’s in control of climate at this time, at these levels.
        Have fun, Bobby.

      • Of course it is geophysics Jiminy – that’s what you objected to. The driver for glacials is runaway ice sheet feedbacks resulting from a combination of low deep water formation in the North Atlantic (thermohaline circulation) in periods of low NH summer insolation. According to the scientific paradigm. But feel free to enlighten us with your paradigm.

        But CO2 isn’t just normally high for a normal interglacial. It is way up there because of human emissions. Will this trip the system prematurely into a glacial? Or can it go the other way with methane, CO2 and cloud feedbacks? Are you not going to try Jiminy? Just want to disparage me – and claim injured innocence – and ‘mainstream science’ without a clue other than 8 other forcings that you refuse to name even? Don’t be afraid Jiminy – it is just science. Learn some basics of thermodynamic physics and oceanography. Hydrology – now there;s something worth studying. Maybe a bit of math or the history of the scientific method. And after all if being implausibly, egregiously and obstinately wrong – on top of being clearly disingenuous – were a hanging offence Jiminy – you’d of swung years ago.

      • “The driver for glacials is runaway ice sheet feedbacks resulting from a combination of low deep water formation in the North Atlantic (thermohaline circulation) in periods of low NH summer insolation”
        If it weren’t for hand-waving, you wouldn’t have anything at all to say.
        Why don’t you just stick with “And then a miracle happens”?

        Oh wait: “Of course it is geophysics Jiminy – that’s what you objected to.” Yes you would. You could lie. (I would never object to geophysics. I’m rather fond of it.) You even contradict yourself: “and so a hitherto unaccounted for agent must exist that is strong enough to counter and reverse the classical feedback mechanisms.” I.E. an unknown mechanism beyond current geophysical theory. Remember to discriminate between geophysics and reality, eh? Reality is what happens. Geophysics is our explanation for what happens.

        “[CO2] is way up there because of human emissions.” But CO2 currently is near the lowest it’s been for 550 million years.
        Way up where? CO2 in the Jurassic was over 2000 ppm. What were the dinosaurs driving? At the start of the end-Ordovician Ice Age the CO2 was over 4000 ppm.
        You haven’t a clue.
        Stop it, Bobby. You’re making a fool of yourself.

      • You are all over the place Jiminy. I quoted the hitherto unaccounted for mechanism. And suggested that it is THC in combination with insolation. And CO2 is the highest it’s been for 15 odd million years. And we are rapidly approaching levels last seen at the PETM.

        But you are right about me making a fool of myself.

      • “..suggested that it is THC in combination with insolation.” – Ellison

        Which is hand-waving word salad as usual from Robert when confronted with reality.

      • The connection is obvious and has been investigated over many decades. A decline in AMOC – such as is being seen now – transports less heat nothward. Along with changing insolation due to orbital cycles – summer ice survives and becomes a runaway positive feedback. But these things are by no means simple mechanisms.

        e.g. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2020PA003877

        There is much more to be found on this if diligent. But Alan makes a virtue of ignorance and it hardly seems worthwhile.

  63. CO2 trundled along at 260 to 280 ppm over the Holocene. It is not notably influenced by temperature. The concentration is now 412 ppm. But I’d agree. CO2 is not a problem. More an opportunity. low carbon electricity is coming sooner rather than later. But if you neglect research and development you are likely to miss the bus. Such is life in a declining world power. I am not sure how many of you can recognize a bus when it hits you.

    It is an even better opportunity than that. Electricity is less than 25% of global emissions – if I have to explain that to you – you are on the wrong blog. Rattan Lal says that 150 ppm can be returned to soils and ecosystems by 2100. Increased agricultural productivity not by a dubious 30% but by 300%. Cows are a big part of the solution. For God’s sake pay attention.

  64. UK-Weather Lass

    I would like a few very old technologies –repair, update, recycle as examples and my father was a real genius at it some of which has rubbed off – rather than the current rapid obsolescence we see in most all contemporary stuff.

    Software that only works on the latest products because the maker has decided not to update the older stuff anymore in an age when we are consumables conscious must be the rigour mortis of serious environmental concern.

    These things happen not because a product doesn’t reliably work any more. It happens when a manufacturer cannot be bothered to support and update a product which still works well but cannot now run, for example, the latest streaming software (e.g. BBC iPlayer ditching various devices it has previously supported). These are conscious decisions to end the life of products that have run for a decade or more from a corporation that says it is concerned about the environment! And all because it makes sense to the manufacturer of that product to maximise their profits to sell you the latest design which will change annually (which is often nowhere near as good, well built, or designed) and neatly lets everybody else in the chain of support off the hook of looking after their customers (or license payers).

    How are short lifetime products going to help us manufacture and consume less when we barely get off the ground with much recycling even now and face a really serious problem with batteries, wind generators and solar panels in the not so far off future?

    I think we need more joined up thinking and much less virtue signalling.

    • “BBC iPlayer ditching various devices it has previously supported.”
      I already ditched most of BBC, CNN, New York Times, and Washington Post.

  65. Pingback: Looking forward: new technologies in the 2020’s — Climate Etc. – NZ Conservative Coalition

  66. Wow, thanks for this post. I have been intently studying energy “production” (conversion provides a better framework) and distribution ever since CO2 was labeled a pollutant.

    As someone who loves to cook and who is horrified by the push to electrify everything, there are studies which show that air quality, when comparing electric to natural gas, is dependent on what is in the pan rather than under it. CH4 combustion produces nothing more than CO2 & H2O. In SoCal my supplier reports 92% CH4. The higher order ethanes will contribute some CO2 if combustion is incomplete. Blue flame! I am not aware that combustion of trace gases in the delivered product are of concern. In terms of efficiency, 1ft^3 of natural gas = 1,000 BTU = 1KWh. The other issue is current limiting. Viking have a cooktop that I covet with an 18,000 BTU burner. Instant 18KW!

    I follow transmission (check out tdworld.com). I do so out of desire ultimately see us scrap the grid. High capital and maintenance cost, loss’y, EMF radiation, VLF propagation, plasma generation, insecure both in natural catastrophe and vulnerability to attack, resource intensive to construct and maintain. (But hey, jobs!)

    Given the forgoing one could guess that I have issues with solar and wind as they rely on the grid. That aside, putting solar panels on the roofs of manmade structures is a no brainer. I Object to the appropriation of habitat. I consider climate activism centered on energy to be a distraction. Land use ultimately is far more significant. I believe how we grow our food contributes far more to changing weather patterns than the use of clean tech fossil fuels. But the point is that if we are to stabilize the eco system we must stop appropriating habitat.

    With respect to wind, nothing is free. If the reader isn’t familiar with Axel Kleidon’s work on this forced, dynamic, non-linear system in thermodynamic disequilibrium that we call earth, you should. It may change one’s view on energy extraction/conversion.

    Regarding the auto I have been all about hybrids for the last 15 years. The battery is nothing more than a big capacitor in an inductive circuit that dampens the excursions of fuel derived power required offset the forces of gravity and rolling resistance, storing the energy available when such are negative. One gallon of gas equals 33.7kWh equals approximately 100 miles driven. Given that most EV charging energy is grid supplied you can guess how I feel about EVs.

    I am enamored with hydrogen technology. The reader is spared as my time is short.Our energy future is hyper local (as are we for the foreseeable future): Local generation and micro grids. A word to the global warming activists regarding methane: If we don’t convert it to CO2, extracting energy in the process, it will cook us. (I know, I’m guilty of using their misguided science to cause a reconsideration of natural gas. Sorry, not sorry)Thanks J, for a turn to energy. The pandemic has consumed my time for research.Please avoid infection and encourage all to follow public health guidance Happy New Year,@pdcarey

    • You may be interested in this article that also compares the power output from a fossil fuel car as compared to an ev



    • I link this despite the source. It is a literature review. Indoor gas stoves are polluting.


      My electric stove works well. And I have a purists distaste for BBQ in anything other than a wood burner.

      ‘We are living in a world driven out of equilibrium. Energy is constantly delivered from the sun to the earth. Some of the energy is converted chemically, while most of it is radiated back into space, or drives complex dissipative structures, with our weather being the best known example… It is the goal of pattern formation to understand nonequilibrium systems in which the nonlinearities conspire to generate spatio-temporal structures or pattern.’ https://www.ds.mpg.de/LFPB/chaos

      It is the abrupt transitions between patterns in the Earth system – a diagnostic characteristic of spatio-temporal chaotic systems – that is at the core of the dominant climate science paradigm.

    • “1,000 BTU = 1KWh”. According to a Windows 10 Calculator, a nice product which does not even have a kWH as a unit of energy, 1 kW ~ 1 BTU/s, so 1 kWH should be about 3,600 BTU.

    • “1,000 BTU = 1KWh”. According to a Windows 10 Calculator, a nice product which does not even have a kWH as a unit of energy, 1 kW ~ 1 BTU/s, so 1 kWH should be about 3,600 BTU.

      • Curious George

        This is the second time I am posting this as a comment to pdcarey’s post above – with identical results.

    • Can you pls elucidate some on the conversion “One gallon of gas equals 33.7kWh equals approximately 100 miles driven”.

  67. Ooops,I do not know where that came from.
    One cubic foot of natural gas is 1037 BTU.
    1 kilowatt = 0.303 BTU
    18,000BTU = 5.45Kw
    Sorry for the rush post job.

  68. CG. ,
    Dimensional analysis is easier to understand if you remind the reader tHat that 1000 BTU equals 1/500 th of the daily methane burpage of a cow:


  69. Make a buck with cows and save the planet.

  70. An alternative to Li-ion battery energy storage is by use of gravity:

    “Gravitricity’s energy-storage scheme seems simple. Instead of a six-armed crane shuttling blocks, Gravitricity plans to pull one or just a few much heavier weights up and down abandoned, kilometer-deep mine shafts.

    These great masses, each one between 500 and 5,000 metric tons, need only move at mere centimeters per second to produce megawatt-level outputs. Using a single weight lends itself to applications that need high power quickly and for a short duration, such as dealing with second-by-second fluctuations in the grid and maintaining grid frequency, explains Chris Yendell, Gravitricity’s project development manager. Multiple-weight systems would be more suited to storing more energy and generating for longer periods, he says. 

    Proving the second-to-second response is a primary goal of a 250-kilowatt concept demonstrator that Gravitricity is building in Scotland.”


  71. The geothermal heat flux from non-volcanic regions is less than 1 W/m2, so that should be the amount you can sustainably harvest (as opposed to one-time mining of heat) and the process won’t be 100% efficient. Wind turbines produce about 2 W/m2. (Solar panels produce more than 100 W/m2.) For geothermal to be practical, it will probably need come be harvested from “non-volcanic” regions of unusually high heat flux.

  72. In 2019, Los Angeles signed a landmark deal for solar power plus battery storage with 8minute Energy (Eland project). The project has the capacity to produce 200 MW for $19.97/MWh. Since the power line from this region to LA is often near full capacity when the sun is shining brightly, they intend to store power in Li batteries for a surcharge of $13.00/MWh with the capacity to store 800 MWh and deliver 400 MW. (These are prices after subsidies. The real price is higher.)

    If you wanted to make a system that could provide power around the clock on sunny days, you would probably need to store about two-thirds of the electricity generated and use the rest directly. That would require twice as much storage as this system, for a total cost of $46.00/MWh. This would still need back-up for cloudy days and the cost of storage to survive several cloudy days in a row would be astronomical.

    Interestingly, the way to make this solar power 100% reliable is to fully back it up with natural gas. The capital cost for having a natural gas plant sitting around unused when the sun is shining is about $10.00/MWh. When the sun isn’t shining, you need to add about $30.00/MWh for the natural gas – but you aren’t paying anything to the owner of the solar farm when you are paying for natural gas. 100% back-up with natural gas plants appear to be the ideal way to make any intermittent renewable energy 100% reliable for a relatively low price. So the Eland project could made 100% reliable for about $55/MWh.

    • joe - the non climate scientist

      Franktoo comment – “The capital cost for having a natural gas plant sitting around unused when the sun is shining is about $10.00/MWh. When the sun isn’t shining, you need to add about $30.00/MWh for the natural gas – but you aren’t paying anything to the owner of the solar farm when you are paying for natural gas. 100% back-up with natural gas plants appear to be the ideal way to make any intermittent renewable energy 100% reliable for a relatively low price. So the Eland project could made 100% reliable for about $55/MWh.”

      Based on you numbers, the cost of 100% natural gas runs about $40MWh without subsidies where as eeland project is $55 MWh with subsidies. Without subsidies – what is the cost $60-$70 MWh?

      I would expect the gas generation running continuously would have a drop in cost per MWh since there is continual running instead of all the start up/shut done inefficiencies, so cost closer to $35 MWh than the $40,

      What is being accomplished?

    • Joe asked: What would be accomplished by the scenarios for which I calculated cost.

      People on one side of the renewable energy debate are demanding 100% renewable electricity. People on the other side say such systems will be unreliable and ridiculously expensive. I’m trying to understand how much 100% renewable electricity from solar power costs today based on the cost of the Eland plant in the sunny desert near Los Angeles. However, I realize a better goal is 100% solar power on the 300 sunny days a year backed up by as much as 100% natural gas power on cloudy days. The result would be 85% renewable power that is 100% reliable. The exact cost of this is obscured by visible and hidden subsidies in the prices I cite, the variable cost of natural gas (if Biden reduces fracking), and whatever social cost you chose to add for emitting CO2. The same strategy could be used to make electricity from wind reliable.


      The cost of battery storage of solar electricity to get through nights and transition hours when the sun isn’t strongly shining isn’t outrageous compared to the cost of electricity from nuclear power. The cost of battery storage to get through a series of cloudy and/or calm days (for wind) IS outrageous, and will never cover all contingencies because the cost is so high. My solution is to rely on 100% backup by natural gas plants and pay the low capital cost of having a plant idle for most of the year. We already have natural gas plants standing by most of the time with inefficient start up/shut down/personel stand by most of the time to meet peak demand. The cost of meeting peak demand is higher than for meeting baseload demand for this reason. If the activists were smart, they would realize that natural gas is the ally that can make renewable generation 100% reliable for a low cost. 85% solar with 100% reliability appears practical in Southern California right now. (Without storage, Southern California can’t make good use of more solar power at the moment. No one wants to purchase more solar electricity when the sun is shining brightly. In other locations, no one wants to purchase more wind power, when the wind is blowing strongly.)

  73. Dear Dr.Curry,
    For long term reliability the closed-loop AGW designs will be necessary. In the EGS designs, squirting boiler feed water down the injection tubes into hot fractured rock means the water will pick up calcium, sodium and barium cations and sulfate and chloride anions. These will precipitate as sulfate and chloride compounds on the walls of the production tubing, choking off the flow in months or a very few years. At that point the production well will have to be shut down and “worked over” at great expense, the tubing removed for chemical cleaning and replaced with clean tubing. Deep oil and gas wells have the same problem but the produced hydrocarbons tend to slow the deposition of the solids so that workover intervals can be economical, depending on the value of the oil and gas.

  74. Attempts to control the climate by Dimming The Sun(!)

  75. Electricity is 25% of the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. To be effective a multi-gas and aerosol strategy is required – CFC’s, nitrous oxides, methane, black carbon and sulphate. Along with ongoing decreases in carbon intensity and increases in efficiency and productivity. And technical innovation across sectors – energy, transport, industry, residential and agriculture and forestry. This is a global project that has been underway for decades and is only gaining momentum. And despite any and all crude and eccentric contrarian ideas – there are a number of rational reasons to do what we know how to do and to accelerate technological progress.


    More than that are cultural and spiritual dimensions in stewardship of the global commons. Without this humanity is bereft.
    There are ways to a bright future for the planet, its peoples and its wild places – but these need to organically evolve in a broad context of economics and democracy, population, development, technical innovation, land use and the environment.

    There is a brand new world full of technological wonders. There is a role for government in research and development. Both at the level of fundamental research and as tax breaks for private sector investment or as contributions to first of a kind demonstrations. The lead must come from creative entrepreneurs in a free market environment that fosters economic transformations in the creative-destruction of the capitalist dynamic. .

  76. High tech farming is the current reality. Like with any technology transformation – competition will ensure that it is embraced or the enterprise doomed.

    On smallholder parcels – water conservation in swales, check dams, terraces and sand dams provides the opportunity for hugely productive intensive gardens.

  77. “As a result, commercial applications are starting to take off. One recent market report predicted that sales of MOFs for applications including storing and detecting gases will balloon to $410 million annually over the next 5 years, up from $70 million this year. “Ten years ago, MOFs showed promise for a lot of applications,” says Omar Farha, a MOF chemist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. “Now, that promise has become a reality.”

    Crystalline nets harvest water from desert air, turn carbon dioxide into liquid fuel

  78. Looking in my archives for water technologies that change the world.


  79. “Looking forward: new technologies in the 2020’s”

    And new versions of climate science being created by a new generation of climate scientists.


  80. Anyone know more about Promethius? Their website is all marketing speak. I’m skeptical of their claim to be carbon neutral. Seems like their process would have to be fairly energy intense, but that’s an assumption. More info would be appreciated.


  81. There is now, and finally, a cooperative venture between Indonesia and a US company. A small and large size reactor is to be built. The large one in a shipyard and follow-on units are to be made assembly line style.

    To recap some of the potential Thorium molten salt reactor implementation:
    – Little or no danger of failure and proliferation, or invitation to sabotage/attack
    – No serious accumulation of nuclear waste. In fact, old waste can be burned up in these reactors
    – Nearly unlimited Thorium reserves in the US
    – Small reactors can replace diesel generators in places like small islands and remote communities, also with military establishments
    – Non-polluting desalination
    – Small reactors can readily be plugged into existing grid, and waste heat could heat communities and industry
    – Cheap with modular production and low operating cost
    – Can replace fossil fuel on a large scale.

    Also note that a proof-of-concept reactor has run at Oak Ridge for 20,000 continuous hours.
    What’s not to love? We just have to change some regulations and overcome inertia.

  82. A link to the Chinese Thorium reactor development. Time to wake up!

    Click to access ThoriumChina-Cindy_Hurst.pdf

  83. Geoff Sherrington

    Unintended consequences.
    Our popular radio talk back host was discussing modern inventions, this time the smart watch/smart switch devices with which you can turn on home lights, secirity cameras, heaters etc. from a distance.
    Ourhost said words like “Hey Google, turn on my lights!”.
    There followed a series of similar calls from listeners, on the common theme of “Darryn, be careful what you say on radio. You turned on my home lights.”And many more, all over Melbourne.
    Geoff S

  84. “Self-Charging Nano-Diamond Batteries” That Can Run An Electric Car For 90 Years? Is this Cold Fusion deja vu all over again? Maybe. Or maybe not.
    Glenn Rocess
    Aug 27, 2020·5 min read Medium

    • Cold fusion all over again, at least for an electric car.

      I calculate that it will take 6000 lbs of pure C14, with no losses in the system, to produce ONE kWh of electricity.

      And, it isn’t self charging – the charging is done by creating C14 in a reactor, which is a very expensive process.

      They are probably looking at this as a replacement for plutonium batteries, which are not only very expensive, but hazardous.

      C14 radiation (beta) won’t penetrate your skin, and you are unlikely to eat a diamond battery.

      Plutonium radiation isn’t too bad if you don’t ingest it (I’ve hung out for hours within a few feet of nuclear weapons). But it is highly dangerous if you ingest it – the alpha radiation will cause mutations efficiently, plus Pu is poisonous.

  85. “The Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit organization developing advanced technologies to rid the oceans of plastic. To achieve this objective, we have to work on a combination of closing the source and cleaning up what has already accumulated in the ocean and doesn’t go away by itself.”

  86. There is a succinct discussion of South Australian wind farms shutting down following loss of transmission capability in an extreme storm. Batteries were subsequently installed as a fast frequency response service. Load shifting is another matter entirely. It goes on to discuss liquid metal batteries.

    Energy from one teaspoon of Alan Lowey’s neutronium core thought bubble?

    • No, your usual tactic of misrepresentation coupled with humiliation isn’t working this time. The core of a neutron star is unknown speculative, which is exactly the same situation with the core of the Earth, Moon, Sun or any other astronomical body:

      “There’s no shortage of theories as to what might make up the centre of these cosmic objects. One hypothesis is that it’s filled with free quarks, not confined inside neutrons. Another is that it’s made of hyperons, particles that contain at least one quark of the “strange” type. Another still is that it consists of an exotic state of matter called a kaon condensate.”


      • Hyperons have been observed in the Large Hadron Collider. They are calculated to exist in neutron stars – not the centre of the Earth driving climate. Unnoticed and as somehow related to the failure of general relativity. There is absolutely no reason to take you seriously.

      • That is my point and logic has nothing to do with you being a general relativity denier.

  87. New machine learning processor up to 1000 times faster than current best chips (10¹² -10¹⁵ operations per second).
    “The team demonstrated an optical neuromorphic processor operating more than 1000 times faster than any previous processor, with the system also processing record-sized ultra-large scale data sets…
    While state-of-the-art electronic processors such as the Google TPU can operate beyond 100 TeraOPs/s, this is done with tens of thousands of parallel processors. In contrast, the optical system demonstrated by the team uses a single processor and was achieved using a new technique of simultaneously interleaving the data in time, wavelength and spatial dimensions through an integrated micro-comb source.”

  88. Lengthy but inspirative & beautiful! I loved it. Thanks for sharing.

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