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    •  i have a 10kW system. (0+ / 0-)

      But the planet uses 20,000,000,000 kW. We're nowhere close to being able to switch to alt energy.

      •  Everyone needs a couple KW. (19+ / 0-)

        it's pretty fast scale.

        We went through a pretty amazing transition in the 80's
        when people started getting PCs and another in the 90's
        when people started getting internet.

        Here, we just need a buttload of roofers.

        It's all low tech, to install them.

        Micro-Inverters with some big ass ultra-caps
        and we get some serious power up there and short term drop out resistance.

        •  The diary I referenced (15+ / 0-)

          also went into the feasibility of pumped-water storage, which is about 80% efficient overall, making it a profitable use of peak power.

        •  Hey, Mr. Executive-Orderer: Order PV panels on (21+ / 0-)

          EVERY FEDERAL ROOF - and I mean COVER THEM.

          Everything from warehouses to hangers to the Pentagon.  ALL OF WASHINGTON.  Put our money where your mouth is, mister!

          Hey, you'll even get some people WORKING!

          trying to stay alive 'til I reach 65!

          by chmood on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 06:05:30 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  he has taken the first steps (8+ / 0-)

            ordering an increase to 20% renewables by 2020.  Which is why we need a Democratic President committed to renewables in 2016, because executive orders can go away in a heartbeat.

            http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/...

            •  that should have been 20% renewable by 1995 (0+ / 0-)

              but regardless, your comment's the scariest thing ever

              oh wait, isn't there some industry fuel cell consortium that expects to be ready in 2025... as long as they control the renewables industry (also) they don't give a rat's patootie I suppose

              •  that's almost as neat (7+ / 0-)

                a trick as getting his birth announcement in the newspaper in 1961 because he knew he would run for President one day.

                Obama can't control what the past was.  

                And fuel cell technology may or may not make it in 11 years, but renewable power in federal facilities starting now is at least a step in the right direction.

                So pretty much, we can continue the 'don't do anything' route or we can try somethings, which may be too little too late, but are no more unrealistic than pretending we can change 25 years of history since Jimmy Carter wanted to do the right thing and the country failed.

                •  harry reid should cover the senate buildings now (3+ / 0-)

                  with solar and Solar thermal.

                  •  I don't disagree (0+ / 0-)

                    with the philosophy, but I also recognize that a lot of tall office buildings offer a small amount of roof space for the square footage of the building.  I am not an engineer either,  there needs to be a payoff,  is more than a token amount of the needs of the building going to be met?  Otherwise switching to high albedo roofing and maybe some greenery may actually create a net postive on energy usage, heat dissipation, etc. over what could be gained in energy from roof panels.  Grand gestures that don't actually work aren't necessary.

                    •  The energy gain per square foot of roof (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      patbahn

                      is the same if your building is one story or a hundred. Well, the gain is actually a little more on tall buildings as you have less chance of shade, and it is slightly cooler higher up. But what works on a single family homes works just as well on an office building, even if it doesn't generate a large fraction of the building's total energy usage.

                      •  but that is my point (0+ / 0-)

                        if you can't really make a substantial dent in supplying the buildings energy needs, is it cost effective to add the panels?  Or could creating a green space do more to combat the urban heat oasis effect to ultimately cut the need for energy more.

                        I don't think putting up solar panels to meet 1% of the energy use is actually energy positive,  you're wasting the energy that went into building the panels.

                        •  The economics for an office building are exactly (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          patbahn

                          the same as for any other building. That is my point. If it isn't economical to put panels on an office building, it is equally uneconomical to put panels anywhere in the city.

                          Perhaps covering the entire city with rooftop vegetation would be more energy effective than covering it with solar panels, but I doubt it. And if you cover your own roof the benefits all accrue to you, including the shade the panels provide, whereas if you try to fight an urban heat island on one roof only a small part of that benefit accrues to you.

                          •  I would need (0+ / 0-)

                            mathematical proof of that assertion before I could wrap my head around it.

                            The area of the panels is directly related to how much electricity they can generate.  The area of the roof of a high rise office building is no way directly related to the area that can be occupied and require light, heat and operational electronics.   In a home, the area of the roof more closely corresponds to the square footage that must be heated/cooled, lighted, and the number of people per square foot using electronics is probably less intensive than an office environment.  

                          •  If an office building has 2000 sq ft of roof (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            jfromga

                            it is going to cost x to cover it with solar panels, and it will generate y amount of electricity worth z dollars.

                            If a house has 2000 sq ft of roof, it will cost x to cover it with solar panels, and it will generate y amount of electricity worth z dollars.

                            The economics are exactly the same. The percentage of the structure's consumption that is being generated has nothing to do with it.

                            (Unless one is exporting power, which complicates things as the exported power is worth less, but that is beside the point.)

                          •  thank you (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            ypochris

                            the building owner can obtain a savings overall by generating even a small percentage of electricity.

                            My feelings are still that overall energy usage might be reduced more (an aggregate benefit to the environment instead of minor cost savings to the owner) by pursuing other courses of action with high rises.   But again, I am not an engineer.

                          •  don't think percentage load, think $/KWH (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            jfromga, ypochris

                            I can put 7 KW on my roof and go Grid neutral  
                            100% of energy need.

                            An office building say 10 stories high cannot cover more then
                            5% of it's energy needs, but, the energy produced
                            can still eb economical.

                            If that building buys Electricity during Peak TOU rates
                            at 34 cents/KWH,  and the arrays produce at 7 Cents/KWH
                            then every watt they produce is a win, even if it's 5% of
                            need, it's still a payoff.  If the array produces enough
                            cash savings to pay off in 3 years, then it's a win.

                            and say the building has a big parking lot, you use the parking lot as array coverage. You can get a lot of power
                            out of that.

                          •  thank you (0+ / 0-)

                            that is where I was missing the math.  It may make sense to get only 5% if it is a cheaper 5%.  But in the larger picture, it isn't making that building self sufficient as one might make one's house with the solar array on the roof.   That was where I was caught up.

                            In a city like DC where so many buildings are owned by the federal government or under long term leases, they might still do more for energy savings and long term benefit by improving albedo and roof gardening over solar panels given that there is no realistic way to make existing high rises self sufficient with current solar technology.I have seen new buildings designed with that in mind that come closer.  If I can remember I'll look for the pictures, but I think it was about a three story building not an actual high rise.

                          •  The benefit of a solar panel (0+ / 0-)

                            is it converts what would be solar thermal gain into electrons.
                            Also it's easy enough to paint the roof white and then throw solar panels on top, the scattered light actually
                            boosts the PV output.

                            Now what's better? White roof or PV or White Roof and PV?
                            I'm not sure, there.

                          •  like a lot of problems (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            ypochris

                            you have to square up the analysis, then it all makes sense.

                            Even if a solar array is 1% of your power needs,
                            if it makes sense on  a Cash ROI, you do it.

                          •  if my goal is profits (0+ / 0-)

                            as a business owner, perhaps.   Though many people here, myself included, don't think profits should be the only measure of good/not good in business activities.

                            But what we were really looking at was not profit, but the best way federal buildings, such as the Senate buildings in DC, could be retrofitted to improve global climate change.   And perhaps a 1-5% gain in lower cost electricity isn't the biggest improvement.  So if the President is going to be issuing orders for federal buildings to be reviewed and actions take for alternative energy and other contributions to reducing contributions to climate change, in a place like DC where the government controls so many buildings,     solar panels isn't the best choice,  that energy savings could be obtained, and other heat issues that cause all buildings in large cities to use more power could be addressed for a bigger net gain.  I have not done the math, but the President ordered a review and choices.  They may all end up bad choices,  but it allows for more consideration of aspects of the issue than just order solar panels on every building.

                            That is what I adressed, a blanket one solution fits all, 'do this now'  statement that didn't seem all that thoughtful about solving the bigger problem to me.  It may in fact be the best one,  but from what I've read about greening efforts in large urban areas, I don't think it is.  The Parking lot solar arrays and roof gardens may make more sense, though of course, many places in DC because of cost of land already have multi-story and underground parking structures, , leaving roof tops as the most 'available space' for greenspace.

                          •  it's symbolic. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            ypochris

                            why were the solar hot water heaters on the white house important?  Symbolism.

                            why did Reagan take them down?  symbolism.

                            why did Obama put them back up?  Symbolism.

                            If you put them all over, you make a big statement that is hard for the GOP to tear down later.

                            if the entire pentagon parking lot were solar PV, with rain barrels, it would be a real FU to the Kochs

                          •  but I addressed that (0+ / 0-)

                            Obama ordered a review and choice,  a "grand gesture" when real choices for improvement are available seems rather silly.  And the Pentagon parking lot with solar is different than a high rise, I think I already conceded open parking lots make more sense.

      •  please (26+ / 0-)

        all we need is the will to do it.  Nuclear energy went from a theory to existence in a few short years, all due to war.

        If we wanted to switch, if there wasnt huge status quo and corps in the way, Alt energy could easily be here by now.

      •  Well, maybe we will have to experience some (11+ / 0-)

        inconvenience and stop wasting energy like it was water.  Oh, wait, we waste water the same way.  I guess we must be stuck with either radioactive sea beds or mercury in our bodies.  No other choice, eh?

        Patriotism may be the last refuge of scoundrels, but religion is assuredly the first.

        by StrayCat on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 01:42:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Conservation (10+ / 0-)

          We can reduce building and transit emissions by over 50%, even if we reduce energy consumption by less than 50%, by becoming more efficient. With current technology.

          With a decade of the money we waste on subisidizing nukes and other petrofuels we could probably reduce building and transit emissions by over 80%, using mostly the current infrastructure.

          It's not at all too late. Though by wasting 35 years on Reagan/Clinton/Bush (and spining our Obama wheels another 5+) we've already committed to substantial damage. Even if we can roll back the Greenhouse to a sustainable level.

          "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

          by DocGonzo on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 08:07:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  2Gsystems for 8Gpeople (10+ / 0-)

        OK, you have a 10KW system in your home. For 20TW that would require 2Gsystems (2 billion systems).

        We have 8 billion people. That's one system like yours for every 4 people - about 40% more people than the average world household. Not entirely out of reach, though impractical the way our society is structured.

        Of course, you're American, so you use about 5x the global per capita average. The majority of America's energy is used in our economy that's about 1/5th the world's total, so we're consuming energy on behalf of foreigners who just pay. That energy is consumed by industry, which would have its own additional solar systems in addition to people in our homes. Plus industrial/utility scale generation, which is more efficient and of course much larger than in your home. Therefore far fewer home systems are needed in the world - maybe under 20% of all homes, or even under 10% if utilities switch en masse.

        Then there's wind power, which is over 2.25x the installed capacity already.

        And then there's geothermal, which is an even larger potential capacity than solar or wind, while even less developed yet.

        In the time it would take to replace coal, oil and gas plants with nukes we could deploy much more in solar, wind and geothermal. For less upfront cost, and a world of difference in risk and actual damage.

        "Close" is relative. Even ignoring the insane investment in eventual catastrophe from increasing nukes, we're closer in sustainable sources.

        "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

        by DocGonzo on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 08:04:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Please provide links Dr Gonzo (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Roadbed Guy

          to support your assertion of the vast geothermal potential, greater than either solar or wind.

          My experience is that geothermal energy is opportunistic, taking advantage of isolated instances of volcanic like heat near the subsurface, that luckily has water sources available.

          “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

          by 6412093 on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 11:35:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Vast and Vaster (4+ / 0-)

            Maybe geothermal potential is not as vast as solar or wind. A 2012 NREL study showed 4TW geothermal capacity, excluding offshore Alaska or Hawaii (so probably at least double that). But solar potential is 155TW and wind is 15.2TW.

            However, wind power is more concentrated than solar, so a better investment when the larger capital requirement can be met, as economics have demonstrated. Geothermal is even more concentrated, so it's probably even more the case. Plus these individual large projects can get at a larger share of the total resource than the very wide but relatively shallow coverage required for wind or solar. And the entire huge drilling industry is better prepared to switch to geothermal than the small current scalable size of solar or wind.

            But even so, 155TW solar potential is so much larger than 4TW geothermal potential that solar is probably bigger even after thos considerations. Wind exploitation though would probably plateau as geothermal exploitation rose past it.

            Thanks for giving me a reason to learn the actual proportions among these potentials. Though I note that geothermal potential over 10x what's needed to replace all coal plants - and so also all nukes and even oil and gas plants - is itself reassuring.

            If we were serious about survival we'd charge $10:gallon for gasoline and equivalent prices for coal and oil, spending everything above today's prices on building these sustainable resources in a robust electric grid. By 2030 we'd be winding the Greenhouse back to preindustrial, safe levels.

            "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

            by DocGonzo on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 12:58:16 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Don't get me wrong (0+ / 0-)

              I like geothermal especially since binary (no air pollution) plants came in to use.

              Its just that generally what I see are 10 and 20 megawatt plants popping up in Nevada, Imperial County, hot spots in Utah and New Mexico and so on, so I question the scope of the resources.

              “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

              by 6412093 on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 03:10:29 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I Like It (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Joieau, 6412093

                The raw geothermal resources of course are far vaster than even the vast solar and wind to choose from. The limits are our technology for reaching the heat below the surface. Evidently we tripled what's exploitable from 2004-2011, the updates to the original 1998 map, by reaching 4mi deep and using even near-boiling temperatures.

                I think eventually we should be able to exploit volcanoes, even dormant ones, without triggering them into eruption - possibly even managing active ones into safety. If we could capture the 24 megatons (28TWh) from a Mt St Helens eruption, we could power the whole US for about 9 hours. Continuous power draw might power the whole US, or much of it, or at least the large part of the grid nearby. And that's just one place.

                Geothermal efficiency can double or more using liquid CO2 instead of water, which could sequester CO2 someplace it would actually be monitored and kept locked up. It directly replaces coal and nukes plants.

                All these sustainable resources should be tapped as appropriate to them and their sites. We never selected a single energy source before, we will continue to need complementary ones going forward.

                "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

                by DocGonzo on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 04:06:25 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I'd be more optimistic, Dr., (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ypochris

                  But several companies have failed in their efforts to tap the geothermal energy in my backyard at Newberry Crater, a barely dormant volcano in Oregon, south of Bend.

                  “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

                  by 6412093 on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 10:57:46 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Too Early (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Joieau, 6412093

                    Tapping volcanoes will require very new materials, probably graphene or something dynamic, and new science of volcano dynamics gained by direct exploration inside the magma with devices of these new materials. I'd say it's 20 years away. I expect the Russians will do a lot of the pioneering work.

                    But eventually I could see borer robots drilling 5-10 miles beneath anyplace necessary to connect a beefed up electric grid to the power that's directly underneath everyplace on Earth. If we don't get ample power from remote centralized hotspots first.

                    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

                    by DocGonzo on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 05:26:23 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  They've beeen tapping Kilauea on Hawai'i island. (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      6412093

                      It hasn't worked out so well for nearby residents, as the high heat and corrosive, toxic gasses have proven to be difficult to contain. A lot of people (including myself) have gotten sick when hit with a gas plume after the numerous blowouts. And although I'm not certain, after a couple hundred million dollars have been sunk into this I don't think it is working out economically, either.

                      I like the idea of geothermal, and it appears to be working in places like New Zealand and California, where temperatures are lower and the fumes less toxic. But siting it on active volcanoes doesn't seem to be a good idea.

                      •  Project Causes Blowouts? (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        ypochris, 6412093

                        The geothermal project causes blowouts that gas the neighbors? It's certainly too soon to be trying that. They should experiment on some of the many active volcanoes in uninhabited areas. Sounds like a handout to some consultancy, not a serious effort at generation.

                        "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

                        by DocGonzo on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 09:05:39 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  It is a very serious effort at generation. (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          6412093

                          Puna Geothermal Venture is currently producing 38 Megawatts on a good day.

                          And still gassing the neighbors on a bad one.

                          •  Serious Generation (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            ypochris, 6412093

                            You're right, that's a serious effort at generation. Serious generation, anyway. Their failure to protect the neighbors from their demonstrated ill effects makes them less than serious in other ways - that matter more. They don't sound responsible enough to be allowed to continue this project.

                            "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

                            by DocGonzo on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 01:42:09 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Most of the population of Puna (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            DocGonzo, 6412093

                            would agree with you.

                          •  I need to look Puma up, thanks for commenting n/t (0+ / 0-)

                            “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

                            by 6412093 on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 10:12:23 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Puna, a district on the Island of Hawai'i (0+ / 0-)

                            that consists mostly of the north and east flanks of Kilauea volcano, where the geothermal development in Hawai'i is taking place.

                            As the vast majority of Puna is under 300 years old, this is where the cheap land in Hawai'i is found, dirt-free lava for the most part. Meaning it is where the poor live. So who cares if we gas them with our power plants? Isn't that how it's done everywhere, site them where it only affects the poor?

          •  On the plus side, geothermal is essentially (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            6412093

            "safe" nuclear energy - which is perhaps a tad ironic to be being advocated in this particular diary.

          •  hihg temp and low temp geo-thermal (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ypochris

            there is big high temp stuff in Iceland,  etc.

            but low temp Geo-thermal helps you sink a
            Heatpump for  a house.

            it's a great payback

      •  "The planet" doesn't use (6+ / 0-)

        20 billion kW. Industrialized nations use it, while developing and forgotten nations get little to none. Industrialized nations also waste the vast majority of what is generated, and nukes mostly generate grid power for the next nuke down the line (not for public consumption). It's a cash flow scam, always has been.

        We can do much better for ourselves and the future.

        There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

        by Joieau on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 08:20:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I am always amazed (6+ / 0-)

          at how in the developing world, where it is necessary to have non-grid power, there are so many consumer friendly options in appliances,  chargers, etc. that don't make it to the store shelves in the US.  The one advantage of not having a huge infrastructure in place is that innovation is easier to pick up.  There is no entrenched bureaucracy supporting the status quo.

          I recognize it isn't the same as reliable power at the flip of a switch, but still impressive to me.

      •  the planet receives 20 times that amount (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ypochris, Joieau, Lawrence
        But the planet uses 20,000,000,000 kW. We're nowhere close to being able to switch to alt energy.
        If the will existed, we could not only power our entire civilization with solar energy (photovoltaic and thermal), but consume 20 times more energy than we do now before we ran out of solar power.

        Of course, if we had that kind of power available, we could easily expand our solar energy infrastructure into space.

        Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

        by Visceral on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 12:42:38 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  20 EE9 KW on a planet with 6 billion people (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau

        and a billion dwelling units.

        That's 3 KW/ person  

        knock it down to 2 KW with high efficiency lighting and
        appliances.

        and i'm assuming you are talking about a peak power demand.

    •  Which means, you're not running on solar. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mamooth

      It means you're running on the grid when the sun doesn't shine. Don't delude yourself that we can run the grid on solar. We can't.

      We are all in the same boat on a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty. -- G.K. Chesterton

      by Keith Pickering on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 09:09:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hail (0+ / 0-)

      Do you get golf-ball sized hail every 5 years or so? I do in my area. Until there are cheap solar panels that can survive that, solar is not a realistic possibility for much of the USA. The rigid plastic panels won't even survive to the energy break even point, much less to the money break even point.

      •  Surely this is a problem that can be overcome? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ypochris

        I live in Florida ... I have hurricane shutters on every window.  Couldn't something like this be developed for solar panels?  I'm sure there is a more clever solution, it just seems to me that this is a problem that could be resolved without too much trouble.

        btw ... I also have 30 year old solar panels on the roof.  They've been providing hot water without incident for that long ... and survived an almost direct hit by Hurricane Andrew.

      •  The tempered glass (0+ / 0-)

        used on panels is highly impact resistant. Although I've never tried it on a panel, I have hit one of the large tempered glass windows on my house with a sledgehammer (a friend who works with glass bet me I couldn't break it) and it just bounced off. Yes, the edges and especially the corners are delicate, but these are protected by the aluminum frame of the panel.

        As I said, I haven't tried it on a solar panel, but I'm not sure this is actually an issue.

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