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View Diary: James Hansen at MIT (86 comments)

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  •  Not *over*simplifying. (1+ / 0-)
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    Your link is to information about a themal solar power plant.  They take longer to build and are much more expensive than photovoltaic solar; in fact, all solar farms except the one in your reference that were originally planned as thermal solar were changed to PV when PV panel prices came down so much in the last few years.  And utility-scale wind is even less expensive than PV.  

    Themal solar's biggest virtue is that it can store energy for some hours after sunset.  With the anti-renewable-energy forces shrieking,  "Intermittent!  Intermittent!  Storage!  Rawk!  Storage!  Polly wanna cracker!", it's not surprising that many people think this is very important.  It's not.  (Really.)  Remember, electrical demand is intermittent, and nobody gets bent out of shape about that.  

    For most locations, there are cheaper and simpler ways to handle the sunset-to-bedtime electrical demand.  The biggest one that's available right now is gas-fired turbines.  There's lots of them, running every day producing electricity.  They burn natural gas now, but there's no reason that in the future they couldn't burn biogas, which is exactly the same chemically, just sourced differently.  For other alternatives, in no particular order, there's: wind, hydropower (including pumped storage), biomass, and geothermal.   Another possiblility for the eastern part of the US is to install one or more High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) lines and send solar power from the dry sunny eastern side of the Rocky Mountains one or two time zones east, from where it's still sunny to where the sun has already set.

    CO2 reduction is too important to leave it to economic and 'market forces'....
    You're absolutely right.  CO2 reduction IS too important to leave to economic and market forces.  But that doesn't mean that we need to throw our limited financial and material resources at the most expensive non-carbon alternative, or that we need to solve problems that are only anticipated and not actually occurring yet.  

    "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." -- Sen Carl Schurz 1872

    by Calamity Jean on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 02:29:12 PM PDT

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    •  Limited financial resources? (0+ / 0-)

      Where are you getting your talking points from? Our economy is demand starved, we could and should literally be printing money to put people to work and inflation wouldn't even blink.

      I linked to a real world, large scale solar installation. But fine, here are solar PV systems operating and still under construction:

      You're looking at a ~3 year final construction time, unless they are delayed, with a final nameplate capacity of 400kW. Current nameplate capacity is 250kW, with an annual generation of ~626GWh, or roughly a capacity factor of ~30%.

      Cost: $1.8B

      Power generation, 10-20x less than a single nuclear plant.

      Did this PV plant come in at 10-20x cheaper? Come online 10-20x faster?

      Or how about this PV project, currently under construction:

      Again, ~3 yr construction time, 550MW nameplate, 23% capacity factor, $2B construction cost...

      ~1100GWh, ~10x less than a single nuclear plant.

      cost $1.6B, power 20x less than a single nuclear plant...

      I'm sensing a pattern here...

      But seriously, what 'limited financial and material resources' are you referring to, and what data do you have to support the existence of these limits?

      •  I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get back (1+ / 0-)
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        to you, but real life got in the way.  

        You are absolutely right about this:

        Our economy is demand starved, we could and should literally be printing money to put people to work and inflation wouldn't even blink.
        But as a political reality, that's not going to happen much.  The best we can do is federal loan guarantees, which if everything goes well, don't cost the government anything.  The loan guarantee just makes private financing easier to arrange and cheaper.

        For your first reference, Agua Caliente, it got a federal loan guarantee in August 2011 and was already putting out power in December the same year.  Building it went so fast that they had to stop for a while because it was ahead of schedule.  From  :

        First Solar Inc. (FSLR), the biggest U.S. solar manufacturer, halted panel deliveries to the world’s largest photovoltaic power plant, which it’s building in Arizona, because construction is ahead of schedule and the company must slow down to meet contractual milestones.

        First Solar won’t ship additional modules until January to the $1.8 billion Agua Caliente project and won’t install panels currently sitting on the ground at the site, said Fred Pech, the power plant’s construction manager. The solar farm is scheduled for completion at the end of 2013 and is 85 percent built.

        Maybe they should have made a shorter schedule.  But Agua Caliente when it was started was the world's largest PV solar farm, so it was only prudent to put a little slack into the plan.

        Now compare that to Watts Bar Unit 2, currently under construction:  

        TVA is currently working to finish the partially completed Unit 2. Unit 2 was about 80% complete when its construction was stopped in 1988. The official reason given for halting construction was a decrease in demand for electricity. Unit 2 remains partly completed (several of its parts being used on other TVA units), but on August 1, 2007 the TVA Board approved completion of the unit. Construction resumed on October 15, 2007, with the reactor expected to begin operation in 2015. The project was expected to cost $2.5 billion, and employ around 2,300 contractor workers. Once finished, it is estimated to produce 1,180 megawatts and create around 250 permanent jobs. Unit 2 is expected to be the first new nuclear reactor to come online in the USA in nearly two decades.

        In February 2012, TVA said the Watts Bar 2 project was running over budget and behind schedule. On April 5, 2012, TVA released a revised construction schedule and cost estimate for the Unit 2 project, stating that the new target start date for Unit 2 would be by December 2015.  As of December 2012, the plant's cost estimate was US$4–4.5 billion.  

        Quoted from  

        Solar farm:  construction time under 3 years including a delay because of being ahead of schedule, power production starting during construction, building cost under $2 billion.  Last 15% of construction = about 1 year

        Nuclear plant:  construction time for only last 20% is 8 years or more, and no power produced yet, cost over $4 billion.  

        My main objection to nuclear power is that it takes too long.  In the time needed to construct one nuke plant, half a dozen or more solar or wind farms could be built.  Long before a nuclear operator sees watt #1 or a dollar of return on investment, an operator of a wind farm or solar farm will have put out multiple gigawatts and taken in considerable profit.

        "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." -- Sen Carl Schurz 1872

        by Calamity Jean on Sun Apr 27, 2014 at 11:27:54 AM PDT

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