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A Detailed Look at Renewable Baseload Energy

Posted on 25 June 2011 by Mark Diesendorf, dana1981

The myth that renewable energy sources can't meet baseload (24-hour per day) demand has become quite widespread and widely-accepted.  After all, the wind doesn't blow all the time, and there's no sunlight at night.  However, detailed computer simulations, backed up by real-world experience with wind power, demonstrate that a transition to 100% energy production from renewable sources is possible within the next few decades.

Reducing Baseload Demand

Firstly, we currently do not use our energy very efficiently.  For example, nighttime energy demand is much lower than during the day, and yet we waste a great deal of energy from coal and nuclear power plants, which are difficult to power up quickly, and are thus left running at high capacity even when demand is low.  Baseload demand can be further reduced by increasing the energy efficiency of homes and other buildings.

Renewable Baseload Sources

Secondly, some renewable energy sources are just as reliable for baseload energy as fossil fuels.  For example, bio-electricity generated from burning the residues of crops and plantation forests, concentrated solar thermal power with low-cost thermal storage (such as in molten salt), and hot-rock geothermal power.  In fact, bio-electricity from residues already contributes to both baseload and peak-load power in parts of Europe and the USA, and is poised for rapid growth.  Concentrated solar thermal technology is advancing rapidly, and a 19.9-megawatt solar thermal plant opened in Spain in 2011 (Gemasolar), which stores energy in molten salt for up to 15 hours, and is thus able to provide energy 24 hours per day for a minimum of 270 days per year (74% of the year). 

Addressing Intermittency from Wind and Solar

Wind power is currently the cheapest source of renewable energy, but presents the challenge of dealing with the intermittency of windspeed.  Nevertheless, as of 2011, wind already supplies 24% of Denmark's electricity generation, and over 14% of Spain and Portugal's.

Although the output of a single wind farm will fluctuate greatly, the fluctuations in the total output from a number of wind farms geographically distributed in different wind regimes will be much smaller and partially predictable.  Modeling has also shown that it's relatively inexpensive to increase the reliability of the total wind output to a level equivalent to a coal-fired power station by adding a few low-cost peak-load gas turbines that are opearated infrequently, to fill in the gaps when the wind farm production is low (Diesendorf 2010).  Additionally, in many regions, peak wind (see Figure 4 below) and solar production match up well with peak electricity demand.

Current power grid systems are already built to handle fluctuations in supply and demand with peak-load plants such as hydroelectric and gas turbines which can be switched on and off quickly, and by reserve baseload plants that are kept hot.  Adding wind and solar photovoltaic capacity to the grid may require augmenting the amount of peak-load plants, which can be done relatively cheaply by adding gas turbines, which can be fueled by sustainably-produced biofuels or natural gas.  Recent studies by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that wind could supply 20-30% of electricity, given improved transmission links and a little low-cost flexible back-up.

As mentioned above, there have been numerous regional and global case studies demonstrating that renewable sources can meet all energy needs within a few decades.  Some of these case studies are summarized below.

Global Case Studies

Energy consulting firm Ecofys produced a report detailing how we can meet nearly 100% of global energy needs with renewable sources by 2050.  Approximately half of the goal is met through increased energy efficiency to first reduce energy demands, and the other half is achieved by switching to renewable energy sources for electricity production (Figure 1).

ecofys fig 1

Figure 1: Ecofys projected global energy consumption between 2000 and 2050

Stanford's Mark Jacobson and UC Davis' Mark Delucchi (J&D) published a study in 2010 in the journal Energy Policy examining the possibility of meeting all global energy needs with wind, water, and solar (WWS) power.  They find that it would be plausible to produce all new energy from WWS in 2030, and replace all pre-existing energy with WWS by 2050

In Part I of their study, J&D examine the technologies, energy resources, infrastructure, and materials necessary to provide all energy from WWS sources.  In Part II of the study, J&D examine the variability of WWS energy, and the costs of their proposal.  J&D project that when accounting for the costs associated with air pollution and climate change, all the WWS technologies they consider will be cheaper than conventional energy sources (including coal) by 2020 or 2030, and in fact onshore wind is already cheaper. 

European Union Case Study

The European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) prepared a plan for the European Union (EU) to meet 100% of its energy needs with renewable sources by 2050, entitled Re-Thinking 2050.  The EREC plan begins with an average annual growth rate of renewable electricity capacity of 14% between 2007 and 2020.  Total EU renewable power production increases from 185 GW in 2007 to 521.5 GW in 2020, 965.2 GW in 2030, and finally 1,956 GW in 2050.  In 2050, the proposed EU energy production breakdown is:  31% from wind, 27% from solar PV, 12% from geothermal, 10% from biomass, 9% from hydroelectric,   8% from solar thermal, and 3% from the ocean (Figure 2).

EU Renewables

Figure 2: EREC report breakdown of EU energy production in 2020, 2030, and 2050

Northern Europe Case Study

Sørensen (2008) developed a plan through which a group of northern European countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Germany) could meet its energy needs using primarily wind, hydropower, and biofuels.  Due to the high latitudes of these countries, solar is only a significant contributor to electricity and heat production in Germany.  In order to address the intermittency of wind power, Sørensen proposes either utilizing hydro reservoir or hydrogen for energy storage, or importing and exporting energy between the northern European nations to meet the varying demand.  However, Sørensen finds:

"The intermittency of wind energy turns out not to be so large, that any substantial trade of electric power between the Nordic countries is called for.  The reasons are first the difference in wind regimes...and second the establishment of a level of wind exploitation considerably greater that that required by dedicated electricity demands.  The latter choice implies that a part of the wind power generated does not have time-urgent uses but may be converted (e.g. to hydrogen) at variable rates, leaving a base-production of wind power sufficient to cover the time-urgent demands."

Britain Case Study

The Centre for Alternative Technology prepared a plan entitled Zero Carbon Britain 2030.  The report details a comprehensive plan through which Britain  could reduce its CO2-equivalent emissions 90% by the year 2030 (in comparison to 2007 levels).  The report proposes to achieve the final 10% emissions reduction through carbon sequestration.

In terms of energy production, the report proposes to provide nearly 100% of UK energy demands by 2030 from renewable sources.  In their plan, 82% of the British electricity demand is supplied through wind (73% from offshore turbines, 9% from onshore), 5% from wave and tidal stream, 4.5% from fixed tidal, 4% from biomass, 3% from biogas, 0.9% each from nuclear and hydroelectric, and 0.5% from solar photovoltaic (PV) (Figure 3).  In this plan, the UK also generates enough electricity to become a significant energy exporter (174 GW and 150 terawatt-hours exported, for approximately £6.37 billion income per year).

UK Renewables

Figure 3: British electricity generation breakdown in 2030

In order to address the intermittency associated with the heavy proposed use of wind power, the report proposes to deploy offshore turbines dispersed in locations all around the country (when there is little windspeed in one location, there is likely to be high windspeed in other locations), and implement backup generation consisting of biogas, biomass, hydro, and imports to manage the remaining variability.  Management of electricity demand must also become more efficient, for example through the implementation of smart grids

The heavy reliance on wind is also plausible because peak electricity demand matches up well with peak wind availability in the UK (Figure 4, UK Committee on Climate Change 2011).

UK wind seasonality

Figure 4: Monthly wind output vs. electricity demand in the UK

The plan was tested by the “Future Energy Scenario Assessment” (FESA) software. This combines weather and demand data, and tests whether there is enough dispatchable generation to manage the variable base supply of renewable electricity with the variable demand.  The Zero Carbon Britain proposal passed this test.

Other Individual Nation Case Studies

Plans to meet 100% of energy needs from renewable sources have also been proposed for various other individual countries such as Denmark (Lund and Mathiessen 2009), Germany (Klaus 2010), Portugal (Kraja?i? et al 2010), Ireland (Connolly et al 2010), Australia (Zero Carbon Australia 2020), and New Zealand (Mason et al. 2010).  In another study focusing on Denmark, Mathiesen et al 2010 found that not only could the country meet 85% of its electricity demands with renewable sources by 2030 and 100% by 2050 (63% from wind, 22% from biomass, 9% from solar PV), but the authors also concluded doing so may be economically beneficial:

"implementing energy savings, renewable energy and more efficient conversion technologies can have positive socio-economic effects, create employment and potentially lead to large earnings on exports. If externalities such as health effects are included, even more benefits can be expected. 100% Renewable energy systems will be technically possible in the future, and may even be economically beneficial compared to the business-as-usual energy system."



Arguments that renewable energy isn't up to the task because "the Sun doesn't shine at night and the wind doesn't blow all the time" are overly simplistic.

There are a number of renewable energy technologies which can supply baseload power.   The intermittency of other sources such as wind and solar photovoltaic can be addressed by interconnecting power plants which are widely geographically distributed, and by coupling them with peak-load plants such as gas turbines fueled by biofuels or natural gas which can quickly be switched on to fill in gaps of low wind or solar production.  Numerous regional and global case studies – some incorporating modeling to demonstrate their feasibility – have provided plausible plans to meet 100% of energy demand with renewable sources.

NOTE: This post is also the Advanced rebuttal to "Renewables can't provide baseload power".

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Comments 301 to 350 out of 440:

  1. KR @300, I do not know of any actual designs, so no, I cannot provide links. But it is certainly possible to do. One potential design would be a field divided squares each filled by a fixed parabolic reflectors. A series of gantries could be mounted each field line of squares, able to track east or west to follow the focal point of each parabolic section during the day, with a carriage on the gantry carrying a sterling engine, and able to move north-south to track seasonal changes. Because the mirrors are fixed, they can be butted together with no gaps, except for the rail to carry the gantry. Is it practical? No. Is it economical? No. Can it be done? Yes. The point is the argument that we should measure our efficiency in terms of the land area of the plant (at $10 an acre, or whatever picayune price it costs in the Sahara) rather than in terms of the area of the collectors is nonsense. Land area is a factor in England, but primarily because the low solar intensity means greatly enlarged areas are needed for the same power generation. In Singapore and Hong Kong land area is definitely a factor, and I am happy to predict that we will never see a CSP plant in either. But even in farmland in Granada, Andasol considers land so small a relative cost that they could not even bother building the power plant and salt storage tanks underground to allow collectors to be run over the top of them. The cost per m^2 of land is not the limiting factor of solar power. The cost per m^2 of collectors is.
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  2. Further to 301, exactly how much area of the Earth's surface should we count this Million kWh per annum solar power plant as occupying? It does not use a single square mm of land that is not already being used for another purpose. The opportunity cost of the roof area used is very close to zero. In North Africa, along the coast, if excess power production is used to run desalination plants, solar power plants may even have a negative opportunity cost. That is, they may actually increase the area of available arable land by providing water to allow arid land to be irrigated. Again, the point is that the idea that we should measure efficiency in terms of total plant area instead of total collector error is a serious distortion.
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  3. Tom - Agreed, the land cost is not a huge factor, especially with dual purpose land such as you show here. I actually suspect the major factors will be political, in the large scale grid interconnectivity needed to support distributed power generation, making it robust against weather variations, and in changing where the $$$ for power goes rather than to OPEC. I'm always puzzled by "we can't do it" objections such as the ones that have appeared in this thread. They just don't make sense. --- Side note/thought experiment: I think that if you set up rectangular mirrors trimmed from parabolic shapes, you could put them together with near zero waste space. Off vertical, each would partially shade neighbors behind it, but the full field area should still receive complete coverage. Again, though, land is relatively cheap, and you're going to want some room for servicing the collectors.
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  4. KR It all boils down to which numbers you use for power density of plant (average raw energy density x plant conversion efficiency). As you point out at #300: (200W/m2 x 20%) x 24 x 365 = 350.4kWh/m2/year LAGI says 400kWh/m2/year. Completing LAGI's area calculation gets this: 198,721,800,000,000/350.4 = 567,128,424,657.5 or 567,128 km2 A 13.5% exaggeration. Still, not really enough to overturn LAGI. But After MacKay, using 15W/m2 for CSP: 15W/m2 x 24 x 365 = 131.4kWh/m2/year 198,721,800,000,000/131.4 = 1,512,342,465,753.4 or 1.5 million km2 After Smil, using 10W/m2 for CSP: 10W/m2 x 24 x 365 = 87.6kWh/m2/year 198,721,800,000,000/87.6 = 2,268,513,698,630.1 or 2.3 million km2 My problem is that I simply do not believe the power density estimates employed when people are talking up the potential vs footprint of renewables. And I have real-world data on my side. This has gone on for long enough (I'm sure if nothing else, we all agree on that). Given that MacKay calculates with a 100% packing factor while Smil looks at actual plant footprint, the truth is going to be somewhere above 2 million km2. A very big difference from 500,000km2.
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  5. Yeah, it is amazing that the 'land area' arguments against renewable power keep popping up... despite countless real world examples of dual purposing land so that wind power uses very little 'extra' space and solar power uses none. Solar panels are going up on the roofs of tons of large buildings across the United States: malls, warehouses, schools, et cetera. Some of these actually generate more power than they use and thus are not only decreasing their own future power bills, but becoming power plants for neighboring consumers. Large parking lots are another area currently seeing alot of solar development. I suspect that within a few decades it will be more common than not for these type of large structures to be solar covered. It just makes sense to profit from 'sunlight resources' on property which is already needed for other purposes.
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  6. There was a reference, Vaclav Smil 2010, along the way in this discussion, claiming that the power density of the Waldpolenz Solar Park (also mentioned along the way) was only just above 4 W/m^2, due to fill factor, inefficiencies, etc., and arguing that this was a reason not to go with renewable sources. This power density does turn out to be accurate. As a numbers check against the earlier LAGI discussion: Waldpolenz occupies 110 hectares, using 12% efficient cells, and generates ~40,000 MWh per year. 4*10^7 kWh/year, divided by 1.1*10^6 meters, comes out to about 36 kWh/m^2 per year. Divide that by the cell efficiency, 12%, and you see collectors are intercepting 303 kWh/yr, converting 12% as an end product. There may or may not be a factor of 0.85 in DC/AC conversion in this, meaning that the panels would be intercepting 356 kWh/yr. Insolation in Germany is about 1000 kWh/yr, meaning that for fixed PV panels the Waldpolenz effective fill factor, the sunlight intercepted, is >= 30% of total sunlight available. A scaling factor of ~3 is therefore quite reasonable between collector area and plant area - even for simple fixed PV panels. --- Smil then compares this power density to that of coal - but only from deep mines, with 20T/m^2, leading to a power density per year of 2.5-4.8 kW/m^2. Strip mines (New Mexico figures) have a best case density of ~2T/m^2, which puts the power density in the 250-480 W/m^2 range per year. So - in terms of land use, coal from deep mines (limited/expensive) is much more concentrated, but over a 30 year power production run, strip mines (the current preference) have an energy density of 8-16 W/m^2, only 2x-4x that of a 30 year solar power plant. And that coal land can never be used for coal production again - it's once through only. Area used is just not a good argument against solar power.
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  7. Oh, in my previous post I should note that the 4 W/m^2 power density is for a 1000 kWh/yr site with 12% efficient cells - using current technology in a far from ideal location. Using 30% efficient CSP in a 2000 kWh/yr site (>230 Wh/m^2 average from MacKay, not the 200 BBD introduced), such as in the tropics, or even 20% efficient PV, the power density for solar will easily exceed strip-mined coal land use power density over a 30 year run. And coal, as we all know (as with all fossil fuels), is a limited resource... Again - area used does not hold up as an objection to solar power. May we now move on to other things?
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  8. Thanks to Tom and KR for sticking with the LAGI discussion and - eventually - breaching my mental log-jam. The moderators have been patient too, which I appreciate.
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  9. Thank you, BBD, the feedback is greatly appreciated.
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  10. BBD @308, let me echo KR's appreciation. Few things improve my opinion of a person as much as a willingness to admit mistakes. IMO what has been established in the LAGI discussion is that: 1) Suitably sited, and counting only collector area, 500,000 km^2 could supply the Earth's entire projected energy needs in 2030. 2) Allowing for the normal ratios between collector area and site area, the area of solar power plants required to supply the Earth's entire projected energy needs in 2030 is 1,500,000 km^2. 3) This precludes the wide spread use of single use solar plants as a power source in densely inhabited regions with in mid or high latitudes, or in very densely inhabited regions (such as Singapore) regardless of location. 4) This does not preclude the wide spread use of solar power generation in those areas so long as dual use of the area is incorporated into the design so that the solar power generation is not precluding other desirable activity. Such use could be a significant (circa 15% as a reasonable estimate) provider of power in northern Europe, but not a primary power supplier, nor a supplier of base load power. 5) This does not preclude the significant generation of solar power in low latitude, low population density areas (South of Spain and North Africa) with power being transmitted to industrialised regions. Such location and transmission raises security issues, but comparable security issues to those currently existing related to majority sourcing of fossil fuel from the middle east. 6) The specific design of collectors, and in particular their tracking mechanism makes a crucial difference to the efficiency of the collector relative to the unit area of the collector (and hence cost). Gains in efficiency by tracking are made with a trade of in reduced collector area to site area ratio. We have not discussed or agreed on whether solar power suitably located could provide base load power, and the economic efficiency of solar power as a major (> 20%) or majority supplier of power requirements. Would you agree with that summary.
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  11. KR @307, you would probably be interested in these comparisons, also at LAGI. Solar vs Tar Sands: Solar vs Shale Gas:
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  12. Tom # 310 Excellent summary. Agreed! Thanks again. KR # 306 #307 Interesting analysis on power density at Waldpolenz. In order to prevent errors (!) I'd like to take time to consider what you say and it's bearing on Smil. One small point:
    Using 30% efficient CSP in a 2000 kWh/yr site (>230 Wh/m^2 average from MacKay, not the 200 BBD introduced),
    I used 200W/m2 as this is the LAGI estimate. Not trying to muddy the waters... And thanks again to you.
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  13. BBD - The ~230 Wh/m^2 average is taken directly from MacKay, and is a quite conservative estimate of tropical year round 24hr averages. The peak on his table is 273 Wh/m^2 in Nouakchott, MR. This refers to sunlight available prior to conversion into usable power. The 200 W/m^2 (note the different units - W/m^2 vs. Wh/m^2) came from peak insolation of 1000 W/m^2 and a 20% conversion efficiency - instantaneous converted power at noon, not time averages of sunlight. Apples and oranges. Wh/m^2 and W/m^2 are not equivalent, despite confusingly similar numbers. I always have to double check what I'm working with...
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  14. In my previous post about Waldpolenz Solar Park and long term density, I did not actually show my calculation of the instantaneous power density. I wanted to show that as well for completeness. Waldpolenz occupies 110 hectares, and generates ~40,000 MWh per year. Conversion efficiency is irrelevant for this calculation. That's 4*10^10 Wh/year, divided by (24*365 hours), divided by 1.1*10^6 m^2, giving an average power density of 4.15 W/m^2, with correct units. This agrees with Smil's estimate of 4 W/m^2. Note that instantaneous power for a PV system like this will of course vary from summer noon maximum to nighttime zero - the rated capacity of the plant must be able to handle the summer noon maxima. This is one reason that the rated capacities of solar and wind power plants are so much higher than the average power produced. For some reason the difference between max capacity and average power keeps coming up in skeptical arguments against renewable power... Adding tracking to this fixed panel system would likely increase both average power density and effective collection of available sunlight by ~60%, without changing maximum capacity (through more time spent near maximum), albeit at a significant cost in initial build and maintenance.
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  15. KR
    For some reason the difference between max capacity and average power keeps coming up in skeptical arguments against renewable power...
    Ah. Now that I can help with. Certainly as regards the UK. The problem is that renewables manufacturers and the government have a naughty habit of quoting capacity rather than average output when talking up the latest wind project.
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  16. MacKay's estimate of a power density of 15W/m2 for CSP is explained here (note 178).
    178 Concentrating solar power in deserts delivers an average power per unit area of roughly 15 W/m2. My sources for this number are two companies making concentrating solar power for deserts. says one of its dishes with a 25 kW Stirling engine at its focus can generate 60 000 kWh/y in a favourable desert location. They could be packed at a concentration of one dish per 500 m2. That’s an average power of 14 W/m2. They say that solar dish Stirling makes the best use of land area, in terms of energy delivered.
    The SunCatcher appears to be a state-of-art two-axis CSP collector. Any views on MacKay's power density estimate for (Stirling Engine based) CSP plant? (This is not a loaded question btw. I am after knowledge).
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  17. Given CSP's high conversion efficiency (a conversion efficiency of 31.25% for a Stirling engine dish system) and effectiveness ~60% greater for a tracking system over a fixed system, 15 W/m^2 for a desert system sounds entirely reasonable, despite the spacing required between collectors for 2-axis tracking. The Stirling engine dish systems are the highest conversion efficiency available, although linear Fresnel systems offer higher effective power density due to high fill factor, and are reasonably inexpensive to build. Incidentally, the above info was located with a quick Google on "concentrating solar power stirling engine". This information is readily available.
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  18. The other thing that would be helpful are pointers to reliable estimates for transmission and conversion loss estimates for HVDC. Also, what is considered the maximum realistic distance over which HVDC can be employed. I'm looking at this myself, of course, but I'd be interested to know what figures would be generally accepted here.
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  19. KR #317 Thank you. What I wanted to establish was whether you (or Tom) differed with MacKay's estimate. It was you who quite correctly emphasised the need for common definitions. I'm looking for figures which are generally going to be acceptable here. I'm not trying to get you or anyone here to actually 'do my homework'. Just to be clear.
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  20. Interesting note: July 4, 2011, the Spanish Torresol solar project became the first to generate uninterrupted 24 hour power from the sun. Torresol uses a 15 hour molten salt supply as a storage mechanism, and is predicted to provide power ~20 hours a day average, with summers having multiple 24-hour production cycles. It's expected to generate ~110 GWh/year from a 19.9 MW capacity tower design.
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  21. KR #320 Which can only be good news. Out of general, but practical interest, are we in broadly compatible time zones? As you have probably gathered, I'm in the UK. Please note, I do not ask where you are.
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  22. Some things to think about... Logistics and politics. The feasibility of very large footprint solar plant in currently inaccessible desert locations depends on both as much as it does on output projections. Construction transport infrastructure Roads - built with what and from where? (Ability of North Africa (NA) to provide without mass import?) Rail - ditto (wood and iron resource in NA?) Full energy/emissions accounting for mining, processing, import and transport of required materials to point of construction? Roads - NA requires import of a large* fleet of tractor units and flatbed carriage Rail - NA requires import of a large* rolling stock of locomotives and flatbed carriage Full energy/emissions accounting for manufacture and import? Plant construction materials Concrete and steel. Carbon villains. Vast quantities* required for vast solar plant construction. Full energy/emissions accounting for mining, processing, import and transport of required materials to point of construction? The majority will have to be imported for NA. Finally, water use - this cannot be waved away in NA Estimate vs available resource? Politics There is so much to say that it is foolish to spray questions. Here is one: Why is it appropriate for Europe to assume that it has an uncontested right to the potential solar resource in North Africa? HVDC can go South as well as North. *'Large' and 'vast' risked on SkS. How many trucks and trains and megatonnes of concrete, steel and glass do we need to build something like this? To get this:
    65 such blobs [50% packing factor; erratum in caption] would provide 1 billion people with 16 kWh/d per person.
    16kWh/d is good, but the European average consumption is 125kWh/d.
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  23. BBD "...currently inaccessible desert locations depends.." So choose accessible locations for the first couple of exercises. Near the coast there are plenty of roads. Further inland oil and exploration companies have made roads for their own purposes. Why not set up alongside them? "Why is it appropriate for Europe to assume that it has an uncontested right to the potential solar resource in North Africa?" No uncontested right, but a very attractive financial proposition. Why would anyone transport power from North Africa south? Countries to the south would be mad to pay for expensive power transported over long distances - across the whole of the Sahara - when they'd get a much cheaper deal for local solar. As for cheap. This idea looks good. Not what you'd go for first in difficult areas, but very promising.
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  24. Peter Sinclair has a new item: Heat waves spotlight nuclear achilles heel On Wednesday, the utility had to bring a third reactor at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant down to 50 percent power to avoid environmental sanctions because the water in the Tennessee River — where the plant’s cooling water is discharged — already was at 90 degrees. “When the river’s ambient temperature reaches 90 degrees, we can’t add any heat to it,” said TVA’s nuclear spokesman Ray Golden. ... All existing nuclear plants use vast amounts of water as a coolant. But in recent years — often far from the public eye — hot river and lake temperatures have forced power plants worldwide to decrease generating capacity. Experts say the problem is only getting worse as climate change triggers prolonged heat waves, prompting calls for changes in siting processes. Anyone see a feedback here? Long hot summer -> river temperatures over 90 degrees F -> nuclear plants reduce generation -> more gas and coal burned in FF plants -> more CO2 emissions -> increased temperatures. Add in drought -> reduced river flow and depth -> more rapid heating of water. Stir. Repeat.
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  25. JvD states on a recent thread:

    "As someone who is familiar with the field, you must know there are many peer reviewed studies that disagree with your assessment that renewables cannot be used to power the entire globe." [comment by michael sweet]

    Yes I have read probably all of them. None of them disagree with my assessment, since none of them show how renewables can power the globe. All they do is show that there is enough sun, wind, etc. It saddens me that [SkS] it not able to recognise the difference between that and showing actually *how* renewables can power the globe, which is what is demanded in a scientific discussion. IPCC does not do this. Greenpeace does not do this. WWF does not do this. They make a mockery of serious efforts to move to low-carbon economy. This kind of denial is similar to climate change denial and just as damaging to the effort to save the planet for human welfare. I repeat my call for an overhaul of the treatment of this important subject on SS. Dr. Ted Trainer has clearly shown the problem and [SkS] should take it from there. I can't do more than that.

    JvD: Could you provide some specifics on this? Perhaps refer to a few of these papers and explaining why they support your view?

    After all, the authorship of the reports you are criticizing will very likely include people whose cumulative professional experience will be greater than yours. On what basis is your view superior to theirs?

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  26. As a follow-up to JvDs comments:I would have to disagree. 

    Capacity: There is certainly enough wind/solar energy theoretically available, many multiples of current and projected demand, even if limiting to only otherwise undesireable real estate. 

    Renewable baseload: Distributed networks can and will have baseload capacity - I believe the reliable baseload for a sufficiently distributed network, with zero energy storage, has been shown to be ~1/3 of average capacity (Archer & Jacobson 2007). Average capacity is IIRC ~15-30% of installed capacity, varying with type/site - by no means perfection, but a predictable fraction. 

    Reliabilty: Wind/solar at least tend to be multiple components (many windmills, many solar panels) at each site, with the possible exception of concentrated thermal. This means source failures are far less likely than with coal/nuclear boilers, but for the sake of argument we can go with the same site reliability figures as fossil fuels use - and we manage with those now. As to supply variations - weather predictions out a few hours are extremely reliable, providing plenty of time for any needed redistribution or backup to ramp up. 

    International availability: Not often discussed, but certainly an issue. While the US (for example) doesn't have this problem, the UK (small, cloudy, high latitude, high energy use) is probably not going to be able to supply their energy needs with renewables located in the UK - but rather importing from perhaps Northern Africa or other locations. But that's the nature of the world today - some countries are energy exporters, some are energy importers. Particulars will change, but we are dealing with that situation now. 

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  27. JvD,

    Since you recommended nuclear for global power can you describe how you would secure locations like Siria or Zimbabwe?  The fiasco in Fukushima proved that neclear power absolutely requires permanent connection to other power supplies to protect their core and on-site waste storage.  How will you protect this access in a war zone? 

    I, for one, have no problem with wind generators or solar being installed in Syria.  If they are damaged the Syrians can build new ones.  There are no security issues.  How can you imagine powering the entire world, including unstable countries, with nuclear?

    You appear to me to claim that energy engineers, like you, are too stupid to develop methods to overcome the problems that renewable energy has.  I think these issues can be overcome.  For one thing, baseload power, the title of this post, has a lot of daytime energy use transferred into it because fossil fuels cannot provide the energy at a convienent time.  While wind might be the same, solar produces its energy during prime daytime energy use hours.  

    Please list your objections so they can be discussed.

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  28. "JvD: Could you provide some specifics on this? Perhaps refer to a few of these papers and explaining why they support your view?"

    As I already wrote, Dr. Ted Trainer (among others, including Dr. David McKay) has already worked this out and has shown where the IPCC, WWF and Greenpeace renewable energy scenarios' fall down very badly. He has authored several peer-reviewed papers on this, and an article explaining his (and my) position can be found here:

    "On what basis is your view superior to theirs?" 

    My view is informed by science.

    "Renewable baseload: Distributed networks can and will have baseload capacity - I believe the reliable baseload for a sufficiently distributed network, with zero energy storage, has been shown to be ~1/3 of average capacity (Archer & Jacobson 2007). Average capacity is IIRC ~15-30% of installed capacity, varying with type/site - by no means perfection, but a predictable fraction."

    1/3 of capacity when capacity is 30% = 10% of installed capacity, which is probably about right. In Europe, the firm capacity for wind calculated in the case of a European supergrid with distributed wind power was 8% as I recall (wind industry figures), so I guess the takehome is that the USA case offers slightly higher firm capacity for connected wind than Europe. Still a 10% firm capacity rating for wind power is *terrible* and does not contradict my position on the feasibility of 100% renewables so I don't know why you are making this point. Concerning solar PV it has a firm capacity of only 0%.

    Be warned BTW that Stanford's Jacobson is a known propaganda producer. After Fukushima, he made some headlines in the EU with a very frightening (and completely wrong) risk assessment for the safety of European nuclear reactor fleet. Similarly, in this paper about wind firm capacity it *appears* as if connected windfarms can provide reliable baseload, but in fact the firm capacity is only 10% of nameplate capacity using Jacobson's own numbers. Similarly, the Jacobson paper on the EU nuclear fleet risk *appeared* to show huge amounts of expected fatalities per year in the EU due to nuclear accidents (and it made headlines because of this frightening appearance), but on more carefull study it turned out that EU nuclear reactors actually *save* thousands of lives yearly when compared to the alternative: coal power.

    So this is a general warning: researchers like Jacobson engage in propaganda which means you have to be extra alert when trusting their research papers. Often, the conclusions that *appear* in the abstract are 180 degree opposite to the actual conclusions that follow from the particular science, as in this case. Jacobson writes to make headlines, not to increase understanding. Wind power cannot serve as significant firm capacity, which means it can only provide a minority of energy needs. The rest has to be nuclear, or else it will be natural gas or ultimately coal which equals death.

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  29. JvD - Average capacity for renewables (wind, solar, etc) is the only appropriate number to be used when judging output, and is the number used when considering input to the grid. 

    Some numbers: 2011 US net summer generating capacity was 1.05 TW. Estimated potential US wind capacity, at a 30% gross cpacity factor, ~10-12 TW, and if using a 1/3 baseload scalar that comes out to 3-4 TW baseload. Note that this does not include solar, hydro, or other renewable possibilities - all of which expand both the average power and (by being subject to different influences on itermittancy) increase the percentage of power available as baseload. 

    The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) finds it quite possible (plausible is of course another matter, mired in politics) for renewables to supply 80% of US electrical generation by 2050 meeting baseload, hourly needs, over the entire country. 

    If you disagree with Archer and Jacobsons numbers, please point to research supporting your point - otherwise, you are making an ad hominem argument. His opinions on nuclear, whether correct or not, are irrelevant to the data on interconnected wind plants and baseload. 

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  30. JvD wrote: "Yes I have read probably all of them. None of them disagree with my assessment, since none of them show how renewables can power the globe. All they do is show that there is enough sun, wind, etc."

    Then, when confronted with studies which DO show the "how" the response is that these studies are 'propaganda' and 'not based on science'.

    How is this not classic denial?

    Denier: 'No evidence exists!'
    Reality: 'What about all of this evidence?'
    Denier: 'None of that evidence counts!'

    JvD, you seem to concede that "there is enough" available renewable power to cover demand. Given that, how would you prove that energy storage and transmission are both impossible? Because, if they aren't, then 'more than enough power' + 'means of delivering power when needed' = 'problem solved'.

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  31. "JvD - Average capacity for renewables (wind, solar, etc) is the only appropriate number to be used when judging output, and is the number used when considering input to the grid."

    No. The nameplate capacity matters. When connection a wind-farm to the grid, the transmission lines need to be sized to the full nameplate capacity of the wind farm, even while perhaps only 25% on average of the transmission capacity will be utilised. similarly, in order to integrate a wind farm into an energy system, the maximum power addition that can be absorbed is the nameplate capacity, not the average capacity. For example, if a country has a peak demand of 10 GW, then you cannot install more than 10GW of *nameplate* capacity wind. Anything more than the 10GW will be curtailed (lost).

    It is a popular but fatal flaw to assume the average capacity is what is important. It is precisely this fatal flaw that causes the IPCC, WWF and Greenpeace scenario's to crash and burn completely.

    I will once again (fourth time) point to Dr. Ted Trainer's research papers on the feasibility of large scale transitions to intermittent renewables. Simply google "Ted Trainer" and you will quickly find them all. I can also recommend Dr. David MacKay's work on renewables and his book "Sustainable energy without the hot air". Together, MacKay and Trainer have already proven everything I'm trying to explain now on this thread. It is not rocket science but very simple to understand once you think about it.

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  32. JvD - I will if possible answer in more detail later, but even a quick look at Dr. Ted Trainer's work shows some poor assumptions - such as an assumed max of 25% supply from wind due to integration problems, whereas the UK has estimated 1.5-3% increase of integration costs (to the consumer) with wind providing 40% of electricity. Given that Dr. Trainer is from the UK, I find that odd, and suspect there are other errors that will become evident upon careful examination. His other points about sustainability and energy usage level are quite interesting, and worth consideration, but are quite frankly off-topic regarding the technical possibilities of supplying current and near-future power from renewables. 

    You are quite correct about maximum output vs transmission capacity - but I will point out that those costs are also under consideration by planners. It is clear that significant renewable input will have impacts on electrical integration - but the costs seem reasonable, and I am not aware of any show-stoppers at this point. 

    I've read Dr. D. MacKay's book, it's very well researched, and agree that the UK does not have the landspace required for wind/solar to supply all their needs - as I mentioned here, the UK may have a future as a net importer of energy. A transition for the UK, moving away from coal, but they are hardly the only country that is or will be an energy importer. 


    In summary, I am hearing a lot of "it isn't possible" in your posts, but little in the way of data. 

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  33. JvD, in addition to the points raised by KR... MacKay's book is based on data from five years ago. That's a completely different world in terms of solar cost and efficiency. Yet even so he found that most household electricity needs could be covered by rooftop solar (even in the UK). Where he says solar falls far short is in covering total energy needs... which basically means petroleum for automobiles and industrial power. Switch over to electric vehicles, factor in huge improvements in solar technology since MacKay did his research, add in utility solar and/or wind, allow for power transmission from sunnier climes, and use those electric car batteries to smooth out intermittency problems and suddenly a 100% renewable solution is not some distant impossibility.

    Also, it is usually better if you can make an argument for your case directly rather than just saying, 'see what this other guy over here says'.

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  34. JvD,

    here you claim that renewables cannot be built higher than nameplate capacity compared to usage because occasionally some power would not be used.  All current fossil and nuclear capacity is desigend overcapacity and much capacity goes to waste.  Why do you think they subsidize night time load balancing?  I thought you claimed that you designed power systems.  You are claiming we cannot build renewable power to the current fossil standards!  You need a consistent argument.


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  35. @KR. Note that I am not saying that it is technically impossible to power the world with intermittent renewables. I'm saying it would be economically impossible. Ignoring energy costs is not the way to proceed. Intermittent renewables become more expensive to integrate as their penetration increases because greater and greater fractions of produced energy have to be dumped (curtailed).

    A shift to 100% renewables would fall far short of delivering the 90+% decarbonisation we need to stop AGW. Long before this 90+% is reached, the costs of further decarbonisation would rise exponentially. Even if solar panels and wind turbines were free, the costs of adding additional panels and wind turbines would rise (too) far above the cost of simply burning more fossil fuels, once critical penetration levels are exceeded.

    You discredit Ted Trainer because he assumes the limit for wind at 25%, versus some others who claim 40% for the UK. This is nit-picking. The point is that electricity supply has to be decarbonised by at least 90%, so whether we reach 25% or 40% in some region with wind is irrelevant. There will always be a large residual need for either fossils or nuclear. My suggestion is we use nuclear, because otherwise it will be fossils and AGW or blackouts.

    Anyone who seeks to destroy nuclear power while being under the illusion that solar panels and wind turbines are convenient drop-in replacements for nuclear power plants is inadvertantly dooming our chances of achieving a decarbonsed energy supply. He is also an unwitting tool of the fossil fuels sector. The fossil fuels sector *love* the growing infighting between the various low carbon energy technologies wind, solar and nuclear. It is a great achievement of them that the have managed to frame nuclear as the enemy of wind and solar. In fact, nuclear is the enemy of coal. Wind solar and nuclear together can destroy coal and gas. But not if they are infighting, which is what fossil fuels pushers love to see.

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  36. The following paper written up under auspices of the EU commission sheds more light on the problem with intermittent renewables. Being aware of such publications which pose hard questions to a rosy view of intermittent renewables as being able to provide baseload power is crucial. 
    Assessment of the Required Share for a Stable EU Electricity Supply until 2050

    "The policy implication of this analysis is that there are significantly increasing costs associated to the deployment of intermittent generation technologies in the EU-27, and in that sense limits to further deployment. If the cost of integrating intermittent generation was to be limited to about 25 billion EUR per year, no more than about 40% of intermittent generation can be integrated in the European power market. The final choice of an acceptable cost increase will be a political choice."

    Please also look carefully at the chart on page 8 which illustrates the problem in a nutshell. This problem is not adequately addressed by SkS, which in my view constitutes a fatal flaw in the SkS treatment of the subject matter. Worse, IPCC, WWF and Greenpeace also ignore this problem, which means those organisations are critically undermining our chances of stopping AGW, though not for want of good intentions. As is goes: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions".

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  37. "JvD,

    here you claim that renewables cannot be built higher than nameplate capacity compared to usage because occasionally some power would not be used. All current fossil and nuclear capacity is desigend overcapacity and much capacity goes to waste. Why do you think they subsidize night time load balancing? I thought you claimed that you designed power systems. You are claiming we cannot build renewable power to the current fossil standards! You need a consistent argument."

    The required firm capacity in a power system of the size of the EU to guarantee system stability is about 30%. So you need 130% of of firm capacity. The EU currently has a peak electric demand of about 800 GW. So about 1000 GW of firm capacity is needed. In terms of fossil or nuclear plants, this amounts to about 1000 GW of nameplate capacity. In terms of wind, the figure would be about 13.000 GW with more than half of the generated electricity being curtailed. Even if wind turbines themselves where free, it would be too expensive. Is this not easy to see?

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  38. JvD,

    You have considered only the absolute worst case analysis for wind.  Of course if we only look at the worst case it looks difficult.  Real world analysis suggests that it is unlikely that the entire Eurozone would be windless at the same time.  Here in Florida the local power company has wasted over $5 billion US on nuclear in the last 5 years with nothing to show but a radioactive waste dump they have to pay to remove.  How does that look for cost effectiveness compared to wind?  If some solar was used (as currently  employed in Germany), the solar all comes on during the highest usage during the day. A small amount of solar would substantially lower the required wind.  Can you imagine that engineers could devise storage of energy?  I can.  Someone suggested recently on this site that the hydropower in Norway alone could back up wind in the entire Eurozone for a week of no wind.  Perhaps big users could be convinced to use less energy on days with little wind.  You cannot concieve any other method of storing energy?  

    You have not addressed my comment about safety of nuclear power in war zones.  I have never seen that argument addressed by nuclear supporters. Nuclear cannot possibly power the entire world if all possible future war zones have to be avoided.  Where in Africa will you site your nuclear power plants to power the entire continent?

    Your argument against renewables is completely bankrupt.  You have provided no links to peer reviewed science.  You claim that your analysis is better than the consensus IPCC position, with no supporting data.   I doubt that you really design energy systems.  

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  39. JvD wrote: "A shift to 100% renewables would fall far short of delivering the 90+% decarbonisation we need to stop AGW."

    A: We don't need 90%+ decarbonization to 'stop AGW' (to the extent that we CAN do so). The atmospheric CO2 level will stabilize if we decrease CO2 emissions by ~50%. Yes, accelerated warming would then continue for a few decades and gradual warming for centuries. However, even getting down to 0% emissions would just decrease the accelerated warming period. There is nothing we can do (short of geo-engineering) to prevent long term gradual warming from albedo shifts.

    B: A shift to 100% renewable power would, by definition, mean 100% decarbonization.

    Also: "Intermittent renewables become more expensive to integrate as their penetration increases because greater and greater fractions of produced energy have to be dumped (curtailed)."

    Ah, so you arrive at your conclusions by making the assumption that excess renewable power will simply be 'dumped', unused. That is, of course, ridiculous. Why would we just 'throw away' all of that energy rather than transmitting it from areas that are currently producing excess electricity to areas that are currently producing insufficient amounts? OR storing the energy for use later? Or both?

    Yes, if you make irrational assumptions you can show ANYTHING. That doesn't make it any less irrational. By the same logic we could argue that nuclear power is unworkable because if you paved the streets with nuclear waste we'd all be irradiated. What's that? Paving the streets with nuclear waste would be stupid? Indeed, but no less so than "dumping" all excess renewable power.

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  40. I get the feeling there is no real desire here to get to the bottom of this issue. Funny, since the people on this site must be familiar with the way 'climate skeptics' destroy their own credibility by acting out in the same way whenever their pet ideology is threatened. Take the time to read the comments threads on sites like WUWT, etc, if you don't know what I mean.

    The 8% firm capacity factor for an EU-wide connected wind scheme is a wind-industry statement. It is telling that you don't even accept figures from the wind industry itself, which, if anything, must be the close to best case, probably not the worst case. Concerning Europe, you'll find that EU-27-wide lulls in wind speed *are* rather common, which is probably part of why the firm capacity is only 8%, and not 10% which it apparently is in the US (according to Jacobson). Either 8% or 10% do not make much of a difference to the issue at hand of course, which is that intermittent renewables cannot evidently provide baseload power. (except if money is no issue of course)

    Worryingly, in the same paragraph, you quote a worst case example for a nuclear power project in Florida as if it where the norm for nuclear, exposing some hypocrisy in your argument it seems. Because why not look at the best case for nuclear, as I have looked at the best case for wind? In order to really understand the modern potential of nuclear power, taking a look at how well the Chinese are doing would add far more insight than isolating one failed project in the USA.

    The problem with nuclear power is not that it does not look good on paper - which it does - but that politics can make a mess of it when it is guided by fossil fuel interests. Contrast this with intermittent renewables, which not only are politically difficult (subsidies and siting problems f.e.), but already which fail badly on paper from the outset, making them worse than hopeless and only good for niche applications and small penetrations, thereby posing no existential threat to fossil fuels.

    Note that we are not talking about adding merely 10% solar or wind to the grid, which is obviously no problem. We are talking about full decarbonisation of the grid, which is what this thread is really about. When talking about full decarbonisation, we must consider aspects such as curtailment and storage of intermittent power honestly. You are not doing this, thereby preventing the discussion from advancing to the required level IMHO.

    Ignoring the literature on the subject as indicated by me is useless. You may continue to imagine that I have not linked to peer reviewed research. It would arguably be better to read my posts again. (google Ted Trainer for a start, though there are many good papers on the subject)

    Concerning the war-zone argument against nuclear power. If that is the best you can do, then I guess we mostly agree already. In any case, probably north of 75% of all energy usage takes place in stable countries after all, and that is where nuclear power would do very well. Besides, even if a nuclear country ends up going to war, the nuclear plant does not become a threat. Nuclear weapons development is completely independent of having active commercial power reactors, since fuel for nuclear bombs is made in purpose built minireactors. Getting bomb material from used fuel from a commercial NPP is difficult and expensive and is not done by any nuclear armed state. Nuclear proliferation and waste management are issues we know how to handle. Doubting our ability to handle it is merely being argumentative IMHO.

    So I guess I'm done here. I've not seen any substantial counterarguments to my points.  I'll be watching this thread for any serious counterarguments of course, and I sincerely hope the article at the top will be overhauled to reflect normal science. If not, that will be my loss, since I tend to point people to this website regularly for good information on the science of global warming. But until this particular thread is overhauled, I'll have to settle for recommending people read this site as long as it concerns climate science, but warning them to ignore its invalid and superficial treatment of energy issues, which IMHO does nothing to advance understanding but rather threatens it.

    However, I am confident that the site management understands exactly what I am talking about and is already considering how it will correct this article. It is simply inconceivable to me that someone is able to produce such a good informative website on climate change sciences as SkS is, while simultaneously allowing a faulty and baseless treatment of energy issues such as this article to pollute it for long.

    Best regards and good luck to all,


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  41. JvD - Given the order of magnitude differences in integration costs between the EU estimate you linked and the UK estimate I did (25B vs 3.5B Euros for 40% integration of intermittent supplies), I can't consider the economic questions wholly answered - in either direction. And given the costs of continued carbon emission, we will have to do something. But again, I don't see any proven show-stoppers either in terms of costs or technical issues. 

    [ Side note: As to excess power, the US navy has estimated that a 100MW power plant could produce (using seawater as a source of both electrolytic hydrogen and dissolved CO2) roughly 41,000 gallons of synthetic hydrocarbon fuel per day. Production of aviation fuel, for example from a nuclear carrier powerplant, is estimated by commercial syn-fuel manufacturers to be capable of producing aviation grade fuel at a cost of ~$6/gallon, approaching current prices. In my view, excess irregular power could be applied to making carbon-neutral hydrocarbons for both transportation and power storage - given sufficient storage in the production pipeline, irregular oversupply would not be an issue. ]

    Nuclear, on the other hand - the major objections to a nuclear panacea are also economic $$$. Extremely high construction costs, slow build times due to politics of approvals, overly optimistic energy pricing due to a lack of accounting for externalities of fuel extraction, production, storage, and waste management, not to mention decommissioning costs, all make nuclear at least as financially unattractive as any other option. And given the very chunky pricing of single GW size power plants, extremely hard to finance, unlike the small increments of most renewable sources. I have some hopes for "mini" reactors, the 100-250 MW 'modular' designs, but there are still huge issues with the inefficient once-through fuel cycle and waste management. I don't see those being addressed without some realistic consideration of breeder reactors, which doesn't seem to be on anyones agenda at the current time. 

    Anyone who seeks to destroy nuclear power while being under the illusion that solar panels and wind turbines are convenient drop-in replacements for nuclear power plants is inadvertantly dooming our chances of achieving a decarbonsed energy supply. He is also an unwitting tool of the fossil fuels sector. The fossil fuels sector *love* the growing infighting between the various low carbon energy technologies wind, solar and nuclear. It is a great achievement of them that the have managed to frame nuclear as the enemy of wind and solar.

    Matters are just not as simple, nor as cartoonish, as you have portrayed them. On my part, I am certainly not someone who "seeks to destroy nuclear power", and I consider that a complete mischaracterization of the view I have seen expressed on SkS. 

    Entrenched fossil fuel suppliers are certainly against competitors - but they've had 50 years to come to terms with nuclear, and it just hasn't been a major factor. Wind and solar are the fastest growing contributors to the energy system - 10%/year growth for wind, near 100%/year growth for solar PV - they are simply cost-effective energy sources. Like it or not, we are going to have to consider, and engineer, for their integration - while welcoming the reduction in CO2 emissions. 

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  42. JvD wrote: "When talking about full decarbonisation, we must consider aspects such as curtailment and storage of intermittent power honestly."

    And... you consider your assumption of 100% curtailment of excess renewable energy to be 'honest'?

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  43. JvD,

    I was not thinking about nuclear arms, thanks for reminding us about that problem.  I referred to the demonstration in Fukushima that when a nuclear power plant is disconnected from the grid, the core melts down.  Nuclear power plants require grid power or fuel for generators even when they are shut down to prevent core melt down.  This problem needs to be addressed as in any war zone it is likely for a power plant to be a target.  I note that you now claim nuclear can power 75% of the world and not 100% as you previously claimed.  What do you plan to do for the other 25%?  Many stable countries 20 years ago have had wars fought on their land.

    Florida actually suffers from two nuclear problems at the same time, two separate plants by the same operator.  I will also mention that Southern California has a disabled nuclear plant they are paying for right now.  Nuclear is not economic in the USA.  No private investors are willing to take the risk.

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  44. JvD makes this authoritative statement about nuclear energy: "waste we know how to handle." If talking about nuclear as it is most common nowadays, I have to ask for substantiation on this because I am far from convinced. I'll add that I am by no means opposed to nuclear, which presents numerous advantages. It also, however has numerous challenges and drawbacks. One obvious one is that, on the long term, there is only so much uranium on the planet, so very large scale nuclear generation using that as a fuel has the same basic problem as fossil fuels, GW notwithstanding. The other is that the same very large scale (global) generation will multiply the problem of waste which I already stated I wasn't so sure we handle well. 

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  45. Wind power usually has a capacity factor (i.e. average output as a percentage of nameplate capacity) in the range of 20% to 40%. Let's assume 20%.

    Pumped hydro storage usually has efficiency (i.e. energy returned from storage divided by energy expended to store) in the range of 70% to 85%. Let's assume 70%.

    Using these two numbers we can find that, given sufficient storage capacity, a combination wind and pumped hydro solution could achieve 14% (i.e. 20% * 70%) of nameplate capacity as baseload capacity. So, using conservative values for currently operating technologies, wind could provide continuous 800 MW baseload power with a nameplate capacity of ~5,700 MW. Yet JvD lists 13,000 MW of nameplate wind as being required to provide 800 MW of peak capacity.

    Obviously, something doesn't add up. The problem is that JvD is insisting that most wind energy instead be 'curtailed'... just 'thrown away' without being used at all. Yet he provides no reasoning to support that position. Why throw away vast amounts of electricity rather than using it for storage or transmitting it to areas that need it? No explanation has been given... which makes it seem like the only purpose is to make renewables appear unworkable by grossly inflating the amount of renewable power required to meet demand.

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  46. Joris/JvD,

    I am writing as somebody without the specific background of most commenters here.

    IMHO, your arguments did appear a bit unfocussed, and you moved the goalpost throughout the discussion and addressed few of the questions posed to you to understand the background assumptions you seemed to make. I do not think your points were "ignored". In fact, they were engaged and people acknowledged they have read your cited authors. As you cited only 1-2 sources though, I wonder what makes you think the contents of these are superior to what others have written?

    If your main point was that it is impossible to decarbonize completely (physically), you were answered adequately.

    If your point was that nuclear power must be employed in addition to renewables, you were also answered adequately (if possible), although a different thread may be more appropriate.

    If your point was that it is "economically impossible" (@335) to have renewables supply all power, you were maybe not answered adequately, but I wonder if that would be even possible. We cannot predict the economic future. What appears uneconomical today, will not in 5-10 years. In addition, it appears to me that many such studies still apply BAU, assuming that one would simply have to satisfy future (=current plus growth rate) demand by 100% renewables, disregarding that serious change necessarily also involves increases in efficiency, making sure the renewables mix is (regionally) right with most production being local and with adequate storage capacity, and potential population reductions for sustainability.

    What is your alternative scenario (to 100% renewables)? What alternative scenario do the sources you cite offer (quoting Ted Turner from that blog you cited: "It is also my view that we should transition to full dependence on renewables as soon as possible…although this will not be possible in a consumer-capitalist society.") ?

    You are putting some blame on SkS in your last post @340. If you want to improve the post and get people to do it, because you are convinced of being correct regarding the "faulty and baseless treatment", you need to be more convincing, maybe even do a selective rewrite for consideration.

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  47. "One obvious one is that, on the long term, there is only so much uranium on the planet, so very large scale nuclear generation using that as a fuel has the same basic problem as fossil fuels, GW notwithstanding. The other is that the same very large scale (global) generation will multiply the problem of waste which I already stated I wasn't so sure we handle well. "

    This is a popular myth produced by fossil fuel pushers. It needs to be stamped out for there to be any kind of serious discussion about stopping AGW economically. Nuclear waste handling is far easier than handling co2, nox, sox and heavy metal waste from alternative energy sources. Even solar power and wind power produce waste. For example, the solar and wind farms built in the USA in the 20th century were never decommissioned and still sit there rusting and leaking heavy metals into the ground water. Presumably, modern windfarm and solar farms will also rust and leak after they are broken or after subsidies stop. This is not speculation, but demonstrated by history. In OECD countries, nuclear waste was always handled, has hurt noone and poluted nothing. Strong indication that we know how to handle it.

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  48. "As you cited only 1-2 sources though, I wonder what makes you think the contents of these are superior to what others have written?"

    In the sources I mentioned, numerous additional sources are mentioned in the references. This is normal science, i.e. reading scientific literature rather that suggesting it's not there. Normal science also shows you can't run an aluminium smelter (24-hour operation) using solar or wind power (intermittent). Therefore, it is up to the deniers of this common knowledge to come up with research that shows aluminium smelters *can* be run on solar power. Instead, all I see is handwaving and references to pumped storage. However, pumped storage is far to small to help in providing storage for a 100% intermittent renewables scenario. There just aren't enough sites to built pumped storage.

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  49. "IMHO, your arguments did appear a bit unfocussed, and you moved the goalpost throughout the discussion and addressed few of the questions posed to you to understand the background assumptions you seemed to make."

    IMHO i moved no goalposts and addressed all relevant questions. Note that I was asked four individual times to point to scientific literature before it was acknowledged that I had in fact provided such. It is difficult for me to understand why now I am the one ignoring questions.

    By 'moving goalposts throughout', if you mean that I excluded war-zones from suitable sites to build nuclear power plants, then I must dismiss this criticism as simply being argumentative. For that matter, in a war-zone, wind farms and solar farms will also not likely be built. Arguably, wind farms and solar farms less suitable, because micro nuclear power can be trucked-in to provide power where it is needed, whereas solar and wind farms are fixed location assets that are extremely vulnerable to small weapons fire and sabotage.

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  50. "What is your alternative scenario (to 100% renewables)? What alternative scenario do the sources you cite offer (quoting Ted Turner from that blog you cited: "It is also my view that we should transition to full dependence on renewables as soon as possible…although this will not be possible in a consumer-capitalist society.") ?"

    Ted Trainer does not include nuclear power in his assessments, which is why he concludes that we must move to a 'simpler way'. That is: economic collapse. As is happens, there is a good article that discusses how Ted Trainer's research conclusions would change if the nuclear option was added. I'm going to present the following paper as a good description of my 'alternative scenario'. In my scenario, economic collapse is not a feature, but something that is successfully avoided without harm to the environment.

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