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View Diary: Is nuclear energy more expensive than offshore wind? (94 comments)

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  •  Three things (0+ / 0-)

    Cost - I was reading a UK parliamentary enquiry into new build low carbon electricity, which claimed onshore wind was currently the cheapest, but only if you ignore intermittency and transmission costs, which are obviously not a trivial matter for wind. Nuclear was rated second cheapest,  but will be cheapest by 2025. Offshore wind was way more expensive.
     Here is a weather forecast for Europe showing a high pressure system over much of the continent. If the isobars are far apart, the winds will be light, and a windmill producing 5 megawatts at twenty five knots will only produce about half a megawatt at twelve knots, as power scales with the cube of windspeed. If you want to power the centre of the high with wind from the edges, you need a lot of transmission, and you need another set of wind farms to power the edges as well.
       Germany has a stated goal of ninety percent renewable electricity by 2050 or thereabouts, while France, Sweden and Switzerland have already had ninety percent carbon free electricity for the last thirty years, with a mix of nuclear and hydro. You could in theory have a 100% nuclear system, and just ramp down when demand was low; cheap storage would make this easier. To do the same thing with wind, only operating a third of the time, would take orders of magnitude more storage; I've seen proposals to store hydrogen in big salt caverns in North Germany, but the losses converting from electricity to gas, pressurising the gas, then converting back, would be very high, and not even a pilot plant has been built. Hydrogen is much harder to contain than LPG, it embrittles and seeps out through metals, and is explosive at any air mix from ten to ninety percent. If it's use was widespread, leakage would probably have effects on the ozone layer, and production of high altitude water vapour would have a greenhouse warming effect. Other proposals to use biogas powered turbines have also never actually been tried, for a number of reasons- cost of gathering the plant material, the amount of storage needed, unsuitable fuel for current turbines. When it comes to storing energy, it's hard to beat an atomic nucleus which can store phenomenal amounts at incredible density for billions of years.

    •  a lot of facts (0+ / 0-)

      some relevant, some not. Some correct, some not. The thread is lost.

      a UK parliamentary enquiry - Lovely. However, according to the Times of London, EDF is asking for more money per MWh for nuclear than offshore wind is currently getting. Parliamentary enquiries are not where the free market rubber hits the proverbial road. So, if nuclear is so cheap, are they just trying to fleece the UK by making massive profits?

      "You could in theory have a 100% nuclear system" - not even the World Nuclear Association is advocating for that. If memory serves, they are estimating that 60-65% is the maximum amount of nuclear energy. And as a comparison to biogas turbines never having been tried - er, um, what? A 100% nuclear grid has never been tried (other than on a ship/boat). See the comment by Daneel about France exporting baseload and importing peaking. Biogas as a peaker plant is in current use today.

      If you find anyone advocating a 100% wind system, send them to me and I'll tell them what an idiot they are. Until then, let's leave off the asinine discussions about hydrogen salt storages.

      •  a lot of facts (0+ / 0-)

        Wind 'operates around 75% of the time but at a lower power output.'   Exactly. Much lower, mostly.

          'asinine discussions about hydrogen salt storages.' Just trying to figure how renewables- only proponents plan to get to zero carbon ever, let alone in the few years Jim Hansen allows us. This seems to be the German plan.

          'Biogas as a peaker plant is in current use today.' There are a few small plants using landfill gas; keeps the methane out of the air, all good. Low capacity though. Nobody's getting in enough switchgrass or algae or crop stubble to take over from natural gas and keep a grid going while the wind turbines take an anticyclonic vacation. Usually it's enough to run your cowshed or whatever with an occasional surplus for export. Zero Carbon Australia had some optimistic plans for biogas, criticised elsewhere as unrealistic.

           'Sustainable energy without the hot air', by David Mackay,  puts some numbers on this stuff.

    •  oh, and wind doesn't (0+ / 0-)

      "operate a third of the time" - it operates around 75% of the time but at a lower power output. You indicated that you understood how turbines work (although I've not seen anyone use 'knots' as a wind speed measurement in years). A capacity factor of 1/3rd means that if you divide the amount of energy produced during a period of time by the number of hours in that period of time multiplied by the nameplate capacity you get 1/3rd.
      so, over one year for a 5 MW turbine you would get:

      Actual output (MWh)
      ---------------------- = Capacity Factor
      5 MW * 8760 hours

      The power output can be anywhere from 0 to 5 MW.

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