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#451 2019-12-01 05:35:19

kbd512
Moderator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 3,010

Re: When Science becomes perverted by Politics.

GW,

There are no grid scale storage solutions to be had, there never have been, and it's unlikely that one will become available, never mind affordable for every country in the world with a significant population, in the next half century or so.  There sure is a lot of magical thinking going on here when it comes to completely changing our power grids in the next couple decades by waving our handy dandy magic wand.

The Germans have spent over $500B, fast approaching $600B, on their Energiewende over the past 2 decades.  Even after blowing mad money (or what we Americans refer to as half of our yearly defense budget), less than half of their power comes from "renewable energy".  By my math, that's 120 brand spanking new 1,250MW Gen-IV PWR's, which would produce enough electricity to account for 1/3rd of the EU's annual electricity generation.  Germany uses around 500TWh of electricity annually, which works out to just under 60GWh over any given hour of any given day.  If 1,250MW reactors were run at 90% of their rated capacity, then a grand total of 54 nuclear reactors would be required.  Let's call it 55 for easy math.

55 reactors * $5B/reactor = $275B <- That's for the whole shooting match, not 39% of total generation, which is all that solar and wind have achieved at double the cost of nuclear

For sake of completely asinine argument, let's pretend that monetary cost is meaningless.  In another 30 years when those solar panels / wind turbines / batteries have reached EOL, having consumed orders of magnitude more resources and thus embodied energy than the tiny quantities of Uranium mined to produce nuclear power, therefore the embodied energy required to create them, and the current surplus of energy / resources created through the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power no longer exists, where will the energy and resources come from to either recycle those products or create new ones?

Let me guess...  We're going to wave our magic wand again.

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#452 2019-12-01 09:27:54

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 16,726

Re: When Science becomes perverted by Politics.

Sure we will have Unobtainium by then to make power from.
The cost of nuclear to build rests on the pockets of those that pay for its energy as all things do.
The same as there disasters when they fail.

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#453 2019-12-01 13:17:30

GW Johnson
Member
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 3,717
Website

Re: When Science becomes perverted by Politics.

Kbd512:

I never said a grid scale storage solution existed.  I said one should be developed and made available,  by means of a Manhattan Project-style focused development effort,  not the current NSF-academic playtoy stuff.  There really are a handful of good ideas showing promise for this.  The so-called "flow battery" that appeals to me is but one. 

A proper effort focused on a few of those need not take 50 years.   If it works out like the Manhattan Project,  the timeline is closer to 5 years.  50 years is "business-as-usual",  which is NOT a Manhattan Project.  This should have started a couple of decades ago.  But corrupt politics has prevented that.  Once available,  then renewables become feasible at more than 20% of the mix,  because the intermittency goes away.   

Renewables do indeed compete on price.  Because we are finally starting to pay more than lip service on the life-cycle pollution cleanup costs of coal,  renewables already look far more cost-effective than coal.  They do not yet out-compete natural gas,  but that's OK,  they don't need to. 

Like you,  I want nuclear to come back into the mix.  But I want two very serious safety deficits fixed,  and that will increase its costs. 

Plants need to be sited and designed for the geologic record hazards they will face,  not the historical record hazards.  That means they must resist bigger earthquakes and bigger tsunamis than they have been designed for so far.  Expensive,  unfortunately,  but necessary,  as Fukushima proved beyond any doubt.  I also want a solution for spent fuel that is better than pools in or near the reactor building,  which is a HUGE safety vulnerability in every single nuclear plant ever built,  so far.  I don't care if it's disposal,  reprocessing,  or some of both,  but the current practice is just NOT acceptable. 

As a result of doing nuclear "right",  it would seem ballpark-correct to presume that renewables and nuclear (and natural gas) will be more-or-less price-competitive. Just as we want them to be.  Let the market power the fast replacement of older assets with these 3.  That's better than any sort of government mandates. 

That would give us renewables,  nuclear,  and natural gas as our dominant electricity-generation sources.  And THAT would be a whole lot cleaner (in any sense of the word) than what we have been doing the last 100 or so years. 

Otherwise,  it's just nuclear and natural gas.  Why put your eggs in 2 baskets,  when you could have 3? 

If we're going to do one Manhattan Project,  let's do two:  develop the thorium reactor technology into something as safe and mature as uranium/plutonium.  That'll take a while,  it's a tough problem,  as the Indians know from attempting it.  But once done (10 years?  More?),  that's 4 baskets to put your eggs into. 

Now,  doesn't that make sense?

GW

Last edited by GW Johnson (2019-12-01 13:25:25)


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#454 2019-12-02 02:41:18

kbd512
Moderator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 3,010

Re: When Science becomes perverted by Politics.

SpaceNut,

It's not as if I'm happy about my options, it's that I know how to do the basic math that our self-styled environmentalists are either ignoring or haven't done.  "I believe in climate science, now watch as I completely ignore what the science behind energy tells me because I don't like what it says", is clearly demonstrating a religious belief, not a belief in science.  They will then proceed to blame anyone and anything except their own lack of understanding of the problem when the snake oil that's been sold to them still can't cure what ails them.  It's money or politics or oil companies or anything else except the blatantly obvious fact that the technology can't do what they want it to do.

The Germans already have nearly double the required installed capacity to supply 100% of their electricity needs, in terms of wind (59GW) and solar (48GW), as would otherwise be required to supply all of their energy needs if they were using nuclear reactors.  Unsurprisingly, all of that additional installed capacity to deal with the wild variability of wind and solar, which to date has only resulted in a 40% solution for Germany, ended up costing roughly double what a 100% solution would've cost them if they'd just accepted what math and science told them about the economics of renewable energy and used nuclear power to begin with.  When you need 50 to 100 times as much resources to use renewable energy to produce the same amount of power as nuclear energy, it ends up costing even more than nuclear energy.  To top it all off, the Germans are still burning coal and gas like it's going out of style while they're dismantling working nuclear reactors.

I want our self-styled environmentalists to tell me what they think went wrong there if it wasn't exactly what I've claimed all along- specifically, that nuclear remains the cheapest "more expensive than fossil fuel" option because of its exceptionally low variability in output and 1 million to 1 energy density advantage over coal and gas.  Extremely concentrated energy uses vastly less resources to produce the same amount of power as vastly more dilute energy resources.  Who could have possibly figured that out?

GW,

Politics didn't stop absolutely everyone on this planet from developing a battery with an energy density equivalent to gallon of gasoline.  Known science and physics did.  Politics did not dictate that we developed internal combustion engines to move people and materials instead of the batteries that existed in decades past, known physics did.  Politics did not dictate that fissile materials are at least a million times more energy dense than coal and gas, physics did.  It wasn't even a matter of money, obviously, since hundreds of billions of dollars, if not trillions of dollars, have been infused into a plethora of research / development / production efforts to create better and cheaper solar panels / wind turbines / batteries.  It's a known physics problem, nothing more.  You know that as well as anyone else who frequents this forum, so please stop pretending that politics or money or anything else caused this.  If we understood the physics of batteries much better than we obviously do, then we wouldn't have these problems and someone would undoubtedly want to get rich off of the solution, wouldn't they?

Electric motors of the non-superconducting variety are rapidly approaching 100% efficiency with current technology NdFeB magnets and Copper.  Current technology aviation electric motors are already between 96% and 98% efficient at converting electricity into torque.  As such, the potential energy utilization improvements to be made, with respect to converting electrical power into mechanical power, are rapidly coming to an end.  Meaningful future improvements will consist solely of reducing the weight of the conductors (CNT vs Copper or Aluminum), improving the energy product of the magnets (FeN vs NdFeB), and better cooling solutions (greater heat rejection per unit of mass).  Since the PWR of electric motors already grossly exceeds that of the most powerful jet engines, I think we know precisely where the "failure" to electrify everything comes in at, and it's certainly not here.  As such, the only "magic" that possibly can happen revolves around energy storage.  After taking stock of the amount of money spent for the paltry gains achieved, I've seen nothing resembling "magic".

We, as in all of humanity- irrespective of money and politics, do not know currently have the foggiest idea of how to make a battery that has the energy density of the chemical bonds that make various hydrocarbons so useful to us for producing power.  We keep throwing money at a growing array of different battery technologies, hoping something will "stick", yet none of those technologies have proven convincing enough to the people throwing money at them to further develop.  You could claim that's all a result of politics or money, but I think the answer is simpler than that.  If someone had a battery that could actually replace a gallon of gas, that could actually be built at the scale required, there's no corporation on the planet that wouldn't sign a check for however much money the inventor wanted.

There's been a Manhattan Project going on for at least 2 decades now, as it pertains to the development of better solar panels and batteries, with very little to show for all the time and money expended.  There are no clever aerodynamics that can make a wind turbine spin when the wind isn't blowing, so nearest we can tell the only practical way to make them spin more often is to make them as big as skyscrapers.  Mass manufacturing has already had the majority of its effect, yet we're no closer today to practical and affordable renewable energy for the entire world than we were when we started this charade.

The nuclear energy technology of the 1960's, with almost zero subsequent development, is still beating solar and wind on total cost when all inputs and outputs are tabulated and not masked with subsidies or other forms of obscuration such as not counting the cost of new power transmission lines, or indeed entire backup power plants, as a cost of using renewable energy technology or pretending that new solar panels won't be required in another 30 years when the old ones no longer function.  I couldn't help but notice that you never answered my question regarding where all this surplus power will come from to produce the next batch of panels and wind turbines to power the entire world, 30 years from now, when there's no more energy from coal / gas / nuclear to be had.  Distributing your eggs into multiple baskets is always a good strategy, but that's the exact opposite of what our renewable energy fanatics are implementing as policy.

I would rather we made the tough decisions now to lessen the burden on our children- even if doing so made us wildly unpopular with most of our renewable energy fanatics, rather than pretend that a better solution will materialize in the near future simply by throwing more money at the problem.  If a better solution does materialize 10 years from now, then nothing is stopping us from using it.  If it turns out that a better battery is actually 50 years down the road and we switch to nuclear today, then we still get the same benefits of reliable and clean power, arguably greater benefit, than if we wait 50 years to satisfy the religious zealotry or fetishes of our renewable energy shills.

I'm not looking for a price-competitive future, I'm looking for a maximum effectiveness future that meets current and projected power demands while doing so sustainability for at least the next century.  This isn't a Rube Goldberg academic curiosity for me where we blow mad money on a slew of different ideas and pray that one of them actually works.  It's a practical proposition about transitioning away from fossil fuels at best possible speed with the least economic and ecological impact.  Clear-cutting forests and leveling mountains to install gigantic fields of solar panels and wind turbines doesn't look much like progress to me, more like exactly what we did in the early 20th century when we were energy-poor and desperately trying to escape perpetual poverty that was part and parcel with a subsistence farming agrarian economy.  For reasons I will never understand, that seems to be exactly the kind of society that our renewable energy fanatics fervently want to take us back to.  Unless they plan to start genocidal wars with every 3rd world nation on the planet currently using fossil fuels to claw their way out of degrading abject poverty, which wouldn't surprise me in the slightest, I don't see that happening.

I want to see at least as much R&D money devoted to nuclear power, which currently provides more CO2-free electricity than any other source except hydroelectric.  Every credible report I've ever seen, no matter who published it, says there's no way in hell to meet 2030 climate targets without service life extension of existing nuclear power plants and new builds.  If some miraculous new battery technology comes along that makes storage issues a thing of the past, then I promise to back renewable energy technology 100%.  Until then, I expect blind faith and wishful thinking to take a back seat to current technological reality.

Now, does any of that make sense?

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#455 2019-12-02 17:14:07

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 16,726

Re: When Science becomes perverted by Politics.

For sometime the power companies were swithching there plants from coal to oil and then to gas but the rise in costs of all have stabalized and not given the change which is required. The creators of the energy versus the delivery is in many states allowing for the energy to be selectable but the delivery is the owner of the lines and the maintenance as well as hook up disconnects to the grid. So solar and wind are sold to local use directly but much of it is bought up by the grid owners to offset there rising maintenance costs. Up until recent the power companies owned all of the energy plus delivery and were able to broker the large reactors that we currently have but since the deregulations of the lines the tables are turned and now the customer is footing the bill and not an investor. Most solar happens to be small investors and not the power companies which would be the way to lower costs and increase the energy avaiable but the grid is not loading up with power walls to compensate for the extra energy.
Nuclear energy while clean needs to sink heat into something and that something is the earth air, water and soil of which its the heat that needs to be sold not just disposed of....

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#456 2019-12-02 17:19:13

GW Johnson
Member
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 3,717
Website

Re: When Science becomes perverted by Politics.

We're really not very far apart,  Kbd512.  I think you and I agree that the impediment holding back renewables on a large scale is grid-scale storage.  Such does not yet exist in a practical form,  I agree. 

However,  for a fixed-location installation,  what you require out of a battery is just NOT the same as what you would require of a transportation battery.  There is no need for high energy density in a fixed application,  neither high energy per unit mass,  nor high energy per unit volume.  The only thing to worry about is buying enough of the chemicals and materials (and dealing safely with the hazards they pose). 

Picking the materials and packaging that works most cost effectively,  is what the Manhattan Project I proposed would be all about. 

Because of the tank farm and chemical reactor approach,  I think the so-called "flow battery" might have an advantage for earlier application feasibility.  These things have been made to work as academic lab benchtop scientific feasibility experiments,  but have NOT been turned into manufacturable items yet. 

Can't give you numbers,  I am no expert on batteries.

Spacenut:  ALL heat engines generate waste heat,  not just nuclear. 

GW

Last edited by GW Johnson (2019-12-02 17:20:32)


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#457 2019-12-02 19:25:26

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 16,726

Re: When Science becomes perverted by Politics.

How much waste heat from nuclear versus the oil, gas ,coal is there an equal trade for it or is it less for the fossil fuels, I do not know?

So the game changer for storage is, not to store at all but to not over produce from all of those others. Or to connect the world with a continous grid from one nation to the next and grow up...

We have seen the power from solar concentration, solar chimneys both with the ability to create power at higher efficiencies than a PV panel...

The flow battery is eligant in that the materials can obsorb the excess charge but its got storage limitations for how much extra can be contained in a given area.

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#458 2019-12-03 09:12:50

GW Johnson
Member
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 3,717
Website

Re: When Science becomes perverted by Politics.

All the power plants except gas turbine use the same basic steam turbine technology to create shaft power to run generators. They are all in the same ballpark for thermal efficiency,  which means they are all in the same ballpark for waste heat and cooling requirements.

Gas turbine power plants have a bit lower thermal efficency but a much faster response to load changes.  That is why natural gas power plants are usually gas turbine,  and are usually used for dealing with surges in capacity. 

Given an as-yet non-existent grid-scale energy storage solution,  renewables plants could deal with surges in demand as well as gas turbine plants,  by temporarily drawing upon the storage.  The trick there is not to deplete the storage for the surge,  which would negate its performance dealing with the intermittency and variability.

Grid-scale solar PV would be around 20-25% efficient at making electricity out of sunlight.  That's about half the efficiency of making electricity out of fossil fuel,  or running a nuke steam plant.  It's feasible only because you don't have to buy the "fuel" (sunlight). 

Wind is around 40-50% efficient,  same basic ballpark as fossil and nuclear,  but wind is free,  if intermittent. (One guess why Texas went with wind.)

For nuclear,  you buy very little (but rather expensive) fuel,  but you have to amortize some rather expensive construction costs,  compared to fossil.  Better stuff just has to be used.

The renewables already work competitively,  they just work extremely variably and intermittently.  THAT is why they cannot be more than about 20% of your source mix,  without that grid-scale storage solution. 

You have to have backup plants for when they don't supply effectively.  Long distance resistance losses preclude just drawing power from more remote parts of the grid. Those coping mechanisms get too expensive when renewables (as they currently are) get to be too high a percentage of your source mix. It's $ not technical that makes that decision.

It's complicated.  Sorry.  No simple answer.  But now I think you can see why I persist in talking about putting eggs in more than one basket.

GW


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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