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View Diary: The Utility of Light: Getting Real with the Existing Energy Infrastructure. (122 comments)

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  •  Subsidies, intermittentcy... (2+ / 0-)
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    Plan9, kurt

    Nuclear's overall subsidies amount to a fraction of a cent/kW-hr (certainly, if you ignore ancient subsidies that ceased decades ago).  This is nothing compared to paying 50 cents/kW-hr for renewable power when the market price is almost one tenth that.

    Shipping wind power between different regions may alleviate the intermittentcy problem somewhat (and increase wind's potential penetration somewhat) but this is no panacea.  During heat waves, when you need power most, continent-sized still zones are common.  I recall reading that during Europe's recent heat wave, the entire continent's wind power production (not just the production in any local region) was only a few percent of rated capacity.  Also, as others have pointed out, such a power shipping scheme results in significant line losses, and requires a very large grid infrastructure investment (enough to significantly affect wind's overall cost).

    I agree that large hydro dams can store intermittent power from wind farms, at reasonable economic cost.  It is the one large-scale storage option that works.  For this reason, wind's potential penetration is higher in regions that have a lot of hydropower (such as the US Northwest).  Unless "environmentalists" succeed in tearing these dams down, that is.....  I even heard one proposal to tear down a dam and "build a windfarm" to replace its output.  It was one of the most hilarious things I've ever heard.  Removing the dams will reduce the amount of wind power than can eventually be employed, not increase it!

    It's true that for a timeframe of less than 10 years, renewables will be able to reduce emissions by a modest amount, whereas little, if any, can be done with nuclear since no plants will come online.  But after 10 years, nuclears potential is larger.  This is because renewables' intermittentcy will likely limit them to a small fraction of generation (~20% at best).  Nuclear has no such limitation, as has already been demonstrated by France.  If we chose to do so, we could replace all our coal plants with nukes, and reduce US CO2 emissions by more than 1/3.  Wit hydrogen or plug-in hybrids, nuclear could do far more than that.  It is doubtful that renewables will be able to do this much.  Personally, I advocate a combination of the two, along with a serious conservation effort.

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