Archive for January, 2012

BENCHMARKS IN SOLAR VIZ A VIZ NUCLEAR

A company in Spain celebrated an historic moment for the solar industry: Torresol’s 19.9 MW concentrating solar power plant became the first ever to generate uninterrupted electricity for 24 hours straight.

The plant uses a Power Tower design which features a field of 2,650 mirrors that concentrate sunlight onto a boiler in a central receiver tower. The plant also utilizes molten salt as a heat-transfer fluid that allows the plant to generate electricity when there’s no sunlight. After commissioning in May 2011, the plant was finally ready to operate at full-blast in late June and benefited from a particularly sunny stretch of weather, according to Diego Ramirez, director of production at Torresol.

“The high performance of the installations coincided with several days of excellent solar radiation, which made it possible for the hot-salt storage tank to reach full capacity,” Ramirez explains.

Big milestones for Power Tower technology, which is still a very nascent technology compared to the more-mature parabolic troughs. There are only a few operating commercial-scale plants around the world, and Torresol’s is the only one with a 15-hour molten salt storage capability.

 

In the lead up to another 15% reduction in Germany’s feed-in tariff (the price paid for solar electricity fed into the grid), the German solar industry finished 2011 off with a bang — installing 3,000 megawatts of solar photovoltaic systems in December.

Let’s put those figures in perspective: In just one month, Germany installed almost twice as many megawatts of solar than the entire U.S. developed during all of 2011. Preliminary figures show Germany ended the year with roughly 7,500 MW of installations; the U.S. ended up with about 1,700 megawatts, according to GTM Research.

Oh, and I should probably mention that the Germans installed all of that solar at almost half the price. The average price of an installed solar system in Germany came to $2.80 in the third quarter of 2011. In the U.S., it was about $5.20 in the third quarter.

Why the disparity? The Germans have a much more mature solar market. The country’s simple, long-term feed-in tariff makes financing projects less expensive, and has created a sophisticated supply chain that allows companies to source product, generate leads and get systems on rooftops efficiently.

Some criticize feed-in tariffs for not creating a “market” like we imagine in the U.S. The activity we saw at the end of 2011 is representative of what happens every year in Germany: because the incentives are dropped down to meet market pricing, there is always a rush in December to install systems quickly. But isn’t that what we do in the U.S. when tax credits and rebates are about to expire?

It’s fair to criticize feed-in tariffs like those in Spain and the Czech Republic which caused an unsustainable boom before crashing down. But when looking at the numbers and pricing that the German solar market continues to post, there’s still a very compelling argument for states and municipalities to consider moderate, long-term pricing mechanisms like feed-in tariffs

Us peak demand is probably up around 850 GW summer. Installed at optimal locations solar PV is 20% of nameplate. Solar Thermal can as high as 60. If that number I said seems ridiculously high – remember in 20 years that would only be 400 Gw or around 100 GW of power tops with today’s tech – at which point (20 year mark) a good deal of it would be needed to replace existing systems too.

Feed in tariffs can fail badly, as you note about Spain and the Czech Republic.

The price tells the story: $2.80 per Watt. Wow! Imagine how fast our desert Southwest would fill with PV at that price!

 

With the kind of sustained and predictable insolation that most of the US Southwest gets, it would be a tremendous benefit to focus on solar PV and thermal, cut back on new wind farms, and aggressively shut down the worst coal plants in the area.
Five years of concerted effort towards those goals should pay a great many local dividends including jobs

Actually, there is a world price (range) for installed solar PV. One has to properly account for all the various incentives + tax breaks. In Germany the taxpayers are subsidizing ratepayers. Even so only the fortunate (and rich) can afford a roof top sized solar PV installation. Many live in apartments (flats) without the opportunity for this investment.

Not clear that by anybody’s notion of economics this is equitable; it seems to me a quite expensive way to generate electricity. Germans already pay the second highest rates in Europe (but then Germans are, on average, quite prosperous so maybe it doesn’t matter).

It’s a great irony that it’s Germany who’s leading on solar when their average insolation is not all that good.>>>>
It should be the US with its large flat roofs, sprawling parking lots, vast sunny states and insatiable demand for power and cooling that should be the world’s Solar Champion. Perhaps laying back on the great potential that could be exponential.

Well, since everybody who breathes is subsidizing fossil fuels by bearing the burden of pollution on their bodies and wallets, a feed-in tariff is the LEAST the government can do to try and level out the playing field. How about we put a price on each ton of mercury, soot, fly ash, NO2, SO2, particulate matter, ozone and CO2 emitted instead? It would be more difficult to manage, but it would correct the horrendous Market Failures that all the externalities of pollution present.

Really, an expensive way to generate electricity?

At $3 per watt, the cost of solar is now less than half and maybe only a fourth or fifth of the start-up costs of a nuclear power plant, and this does not even scratch the surface of the true cost of nuclear when upkeep, management, safety, and the long-term storage of wastes are added to the picture.

Put another way, at $3 per watt, the solar equivalent of a 2 giga watt nuclear plant (which is on the large side of such plants) would cost $6 billion. That means the Iraq war at $1 trillion could have purchased the SOLAR EQUIVALENT of 1 trillion/6 billion = 167 nuclear power plants (3 for each state). But the U.S got so much more for the money by going to war, didn’t it?

Keep in mind that PV has a 20% capacity factor at best, while nuclear routinely have >90%. With that in mind, a 3$/W PV installation effectively becomes 15$/W, while a 5$/W nuclear plant (in the ballpark of the much over budget Olkiluoto 3) becomes 5,56$/W.

This completely ignores the cost of storage and/or backup (usually dirty and dangerous gas) during night and cloudy days.

Keep in mind that coal, gas, and oil are causing the destruction of civilization and the possible extinction of most life on Earth and even the self-perpetuating cybernetic system of all life on Earth that we call Gaia. How do we factor the cost of that into the equation to compare to the cost of solar, wind and other renewable energies that don’t cause all those inconveniences?

Also consider the synergistic effect of combining different sources like wind and solar across broad geographic areas in a distributed system… and the existence of clean storage like pumped storage, solar thermal, etc. ?

Keep in mind the high capital costs and long lag time of nuclear–it’s long construction time, long time to pay back its carbon construction costs, less-incremental and thus less interest-compounding growth, its decreasing fuel reserves, toxic qualities and storage problems, etc. Compared to efficiency, organic carbon sequestration and renewable energy it makes very little sense unless the goal is to reduce economic and therefore political democracy.

We also need to keep in mind the undeniable link between the Light Water Reactor Fuel Cycle and weapons grade nuclear material. The LWR was selected PRECISELY because its fuel cycle was the most mature at the end of the Manhattan Project. If we had abandoned nuclear power as we should have in the 1970s, Iran would have ZERO ability to use its civilian nuclear power program as a blatant cover for its weapons program

Even if it seems not to be accounting for the fact that all these aging, dilapidated reactors are 70s technology. Reactors have come a long way since then, to the point of gen-3+ and gen-4 reactors costing a sixth in start-up capital & time and costing much less in management as the manner of handling and processing nuclear materials has completely departed from the old rod/pellet in a giant bucket of water model, such as thorium salt and breeder reactors. LFTR reactors can burn off what is called waste by other facilities. Breeders can burn most all of it.

Just remember that the failures of today are of corporate complacency and lack of innovation due to using market ideology to run a utility. Modern reactors and their designers’ being shunned are not nearly to blame.

Maybe you’re not accounting for the fact that commercial “next-gen” thorium and breeder reactors don’t exist, and projected costs of new nuclear are astronomical and growing, not shrinking. And thank Gaia they don’t exist; the last thing we need is an over militarized country like the US, obsessed and paranoid about terrorists and using every excuse to ramp up weapons and surveillance systems and disappear human rights, trucking plutonium back and forth all over.

All kinds of technologies look better before they actually exist. Too cheap to meter, safe as houses, blah blah…. And then they actually build some, and what we get is half a century of subsidies with no end in sight, TMI, Brown’s Ferry’s comedy of errors, Chernobyl’s pathetic tragedy, Fukushima’ horror. Thousands of incidents, near-misses, lies and cover ups… and construction times and costs way over the projections and estimates and the costs of the alternatives. OMB gave it a 50% chance that loan guarantees for reactors would be defaulted on, leaving the US public holding the bag…again. And what about the next accident? Where will it be—and how bad?

Expectations have been halved for reactors built by 2035, so nuclear has even less chance than it ever did (which was almost zero) of helping solve the climate crisis in time. In the end, probably the most pernicious effect of nuclear power is its concentration of profits compared to decentralized efficiency, solar and wind, and the resulting destruction of practical democracy.

The failures of today are exactly the same as the failures to come—caused by arrogance, corruption, and addiction to profits (among other things). To say that reactors are not to blame is like saying guns don’t kill people, etc. etc.. OK, true. But how many fatal drive-by spatula-slappings have you heard of? In any case, nobody’s blaming reactors, and “their designer’s being shunned”???

Blame is irrelevant. Preserving life on Earth is the issue, and nuclear is making it harder.

No matter how figured solar PV together with a low carbon backup costs more than NPPs until the fully internalized cost of solar PV (plus low carbon backup) is around US$0.08/kWh LESS than electrical energy from NPPs. That might seem strange, but both solar PV and NPPs have very low variable costs; essentially all costs are either capital costs or fixed O&M. So the way the economics works out isn’t a clear cut as one might initialy think nor as rosy as the solar PV promoters would have you think.

Continued use of fossil fuels will cost us the planet. So any costs of solar, wind, etc., no matter how they compare to the skewed, externalization-ridden and profit-oriented prices we have today are miniscule by comparison. Nuclear’s high capital costs, numerous externalities and continuing subsidies, long lag time for construction and payback for construction carbon and the need to solve the climate problem before even the first nuclear reactor started now would likely be online mean it can’t be the solution. And I would think that the lessons of TMI, Brown’s Ferry, Chernobyl and Fukushima as well as hundreds of other incidents of leaks, corruption, and the inevitably-accompanying lies and cover ups would be that nuclear is not the way to go.

It shouldn’t be an either/or between advanced nuclear and solar. Nuclear is base load; solar PV is typically well-matched to daytime peaks.

Nuke plants have long construction times – 4 Areva EPR are all behind schedule, especially Olkiluoto, 75% over budget (so far), 3 yrs behind schedule and MIGHT fire up 9 yrs after construction began.
Yes, it’ll produce plenty of power but that’s a long time to live off candles.
Solar (and wind),notwithstanding their lower capacity factors can be producing power within months, weeks, even days, if the transmission is in place.

I’ve looked into all those matters rather carefully. In comparison to other industries, NPPs are highly and well regulated and are much safer. Could do better, of course, but the LLE risk from NPPs is about the same as the LLE risk of eating peanut butter.

To replace coal burners with a low carbon source there is no alternative except at a cost too high to seriously consider. Learn to do the electrical energy economics yourself; don’t just take somebody’s word for it. >>>>

And to say that there is no alternative except at too high a cost just seems ludicrous. Since there is no evidence or support and cite no references it’s hard to even know how you arrived at that conclusion but clearly wind, solar and other renewables are being produced at a cost that is perfectly acceptable, and are growing at a phenomenal rate (though still not fast enough). The cost of efficiency is even less, and to change our lives to make our lives more rational, connected and ecological the net benefits are enormous.

One should cite sources. By following World Nuclear News it is quite evident that the capacity factor of NPPs has increased over time. It now stands at around 92%; the new Gen III designs under construction ought to do a bit better than that, but time will tell.

Also to say that the nuclear industry is well-regulated and safer than other industries suggests you haven’t looked into these matters carefully enough. Fukushima alone is enough evidence that that’s not true, and there’s a pile of other evidence. We’ve been lucky so far, but the several major and many minor accidents as well as continued crimes and cover ups, including the collusion of captured regulators make the nuclear industry an unacceptable burden to humanity.

 

The problem in the US is that Wall Street/old energy interests run the county and they are obstructing virtually every effort communities and states are making to progress with local, distributed renewable energy. Until there is a mass movement to overcome excessive utility/corporate powers, and wage a ground-up push for FIT’s, we will be stuck in the dirty dark ages. Solar Done Right just launched a Call to Action for Energy Democracy

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GERMANY AND ENERGY ISSUES

SOLAR

Just weeks after the solar industry installed the one millionth system in Germany, the country’s solar trade association announced that the technology accounted for 3% of total energy generation in 2011 — increasing 60% over 2010 to 18.6 terawatt-hours (18.6 billion kilowatt-hours.)

Even with changes to the feed-in tariff that have reduced solar photovoltaic installations compared with previous boom years, the sector was still the fastest growing among all other renewable energy sectors in 2011, according to preliminary figures.

This follows data released last week showing that renewable energy accounted for 19.9 percent of electricity production in the country in 2011, growing 16.4 percent over 2010. Meanwhile, overall energy use in the country fell 4.8% due to warmer temperatures and increasing efficiency efforts, further boosting the value of solar generation.

NUCLEAR

Germany is shifting from an expensive nuclear exit policy of shut down/demolish/
replace to shut down – upgrade generators – drive deep geothermic heat wells to power steam generators and add heat recapture p.g bringing the ex-reactors back on line with close to 200% p.g. output. With on-site radioactive waste transportation systems.

Excess power from those and surges in renewables will generate hydrogen into the gas grids as a form of power buffer.

Over the mid and long term, converting strip mined brown coal operating plants to deep geothermic-heat recapture is also beyond the preliminary discussion phase. These will be hooked up to expanding long distance heat-hot water systems.(coupled co-generative systems) These will also have upgraded generators.

BIO-GAS

Lacking space for garbage dumps most German city utilities long ago built bio waste methane recapture blended with natural gas to fire high temperature sewage sludge and garbage waste incineration plants which also feed a cites long distance heat and hot water system. Everything I throw into trash and flush down the toilet is literally returned to me in the form of power and long distance heat.

HYDRO ELECTRICITY

Existing hydroelectric is being upgraded with new A ++++ generators, yielding an up to 30% increase in hydro-electric power output by 2025.
Germans developed and patented floating, anchored, on-stream power generation. They are not only an excellent export item, but anchored out of the way of river traffic, 3000 big ten megawatt units will be putting another, constant 30.000 megawatts onto the grid by 2025. All extra power from that will go into generating hydrogen energy buffering going into storage and onto the grid.

German revised building codes mandate combined concentrated solar heat – shallow geothermicor hook up to long distance heat from utilities on all new buildings. By
2025, nother 2 million older buildings will have also been retrofitted with these heating oil and natural gas saving devices.

Thanks to direct and indirect subsidy programs such as mandated local utility buy back, many German farms are already equipped with solar voltaic and village cooperative operating wind turbines. 1.5 % of all German farms are already equipped with septic tank gas recapture-septic tank sludge-celluose waste roting methane recapture or cow manure methane recapture.

By adding something called HHO browns gas generation and radical steam ionisation to the fuel cells we boost output while slashing re-captured methane consumption by 90%. Surprised?

By 2025, in addition to solar p.v. and wind, methane recapapture/aqueous systems on farms will be putting out an average of 50 kWh and a mix of mixed recaptured methane and hydrogen of about 4 cubic meters per farm. i.e. another 10.000 mWh constantly feeding the grid and about 800.000 cubic meters a day of mixed methane hydrogen going into the national gas grid.

With all the wind solar and other distributed energy feeds, German, Swiss, and Austrian utilities laid and are laying optical fibre cable not only for telecommunications-
but for true, fast response smart grid co-ordination of all the decentralized power sources.

At its beginning phases, Germany is replacing its pure natural gas or heating oil heat systems with coupled co-generative systems, either fuel cells also generating heat, or V.W Gulf engines driving 30 KW generators. Now new advances let these be operated off approximately 10 percent recapture methane-hydrogen, and 80% “aqueous fuels systems.” Thermostat and smart grid coordinated controlled- belonging to mostly communally owned utilities.

In addition to owning, operating, and upgrading its own power generation system, state owned German rail is upgrading its national German grid to commercially carry
HTDC power. So are French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish rail.

“Westwind” will put up over 15.000 wind turbines on the Western and northern coasts of the Iberian Pensula and France.

The French-German “Deertec Consortium” was originally scheduled at a 400 billion Euro investment, but now Morocco,, Algeria, Tunesia, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Libya and Egypt are coming in an upping the ante.

By 2030, Desertec concentrated solar will cover more than 15% of all future mediterrean basin and French German power needs.

Better to adapt a more “wait and see” attitude towards the massively growing German sustainability sector rather than rushing to early conclusions.

Nobody over there was expecting Germany to take an alternative route in its nuclear shutdown program – upgrading generators and converting to deep geothermic and heat recapture- bringing them back online generating close to 200% the power.

The last German nuclear power plants will go off line at the end of 2022, and be back up on line with deep geothermic heat recapture by the end of 2022.

We should be off fossil for stationary power and heat systems by the end of 2025 according to city owned Munich utilities- with more than double the power heat output of 2011. That all adds up to ore exports in the sustainability sector and more margin with full employment.
Think progress green should keep a closer eye on what is going on in Europe right now to continuously cut consumption while increasing performance.

Germany has cut its fossil fuel consumption since re-unification by 50% since 1992. Munich already has a per capita fossil fuel consumption of only 30% of a comparable U.S. region such as Washington DC. Area. That 70% difference already spells margin and less than 3% unemployment.

In Munich, the figure is already closer to 60% with the utilities operating the biggest solar voltaic installation in Europe roofing the new Munich trade fair centre with it, Augmenting Europe’s most extensive, most intensively connected, long distance heat hot water system from the thermodynamic power plants with deep geothermic, a brand new deep geothermic/heat recapture power plant on the western edge of the city, also feeding long distance heat + hot water grid, the city gas/Nat gas fired sewage sludge and and garbage incineration plant, 40% Alpine foothill hydro-electric now being upgraded with new A +++ generators for 30% more improved hydraulic mechanical to electrical power efficiency. Mandated buy back from all the massive solar voltaic installations going in, local wind, participation in North and Baltic sea wind farms.

Scheduled participation in Desertec, and Bavarian anchored on-stream hydro-electric. Munich power plant south upgraded 15 years ago to combined cycle with a G.E. gas turbine, with hot exhausts driving a steam turbine… with long distance heat hot water.

The utilities also operate Europe’s best, state-of-the art, energy saving urban transit system… with common rail diesel single frame and jointed low entry busses, brake energy recycling streetcar-light rail, and brake energy recycling subways lines interconnecting with German commuter rail-also, brake energy recycling at points all over town.

American Airlines placed a huge 20 billion Euro order with Airbus because it is already more 30% more fuel efficient than older Airbus models. Two other measure further cut consumption another 50% >Soon in testing. Comptrollers worried about operation fuel costs will tip more sales the way of Airbus. Imagine a 2014 new A 380 coming off the line in 2014 which uses 70% less kerosene than a Boeing 747 on comparable stretches. Cutting 70% of the kerosene in air travel is definitely green.
The same is t be done  with automotive, rail, and maritime applications.

Off nuclear by the end of 2022 means then all back on line putting out double the power by the end of 2023.Off fossil for all other stationary apps is achievable by the end of 2025. Slashing fossil fuel in all transportation aviation, maritime, rail, automotive by at least 85% is do-able here by the end of 2025.And despite the massive cuts, European refineries will continue to process at full speed and ship finished product via Rotterdam, Frial, Marseilles, Bremen, Bremerhaven to unloading points in the U.S.

This looks like the approximate scenarios for Germany and the continental EEC over the next 13 years.

Fukishima reshuffled the “sustainability” card deck in Europe. Reactor shut down and demolition with replacement with other energy forms is now perceived as the most expensive and least feasible of options.

Sustainability based recovery is now the prime goal of the continental Euro zone EEC.
General sustainability will surpass the automotive industry as the biggest sector in the German GNP. It will reach over 20% of the gnp by 2020.Sustainability technology helped boost German exports from 8000 billion in the crash year of 2008, to projected export volume of over 1.4 trillion Euros for fiscal year 2011, ending at the end of March. Most of that was accounted for by export to other EEC countries and the BRICK- Brazil, Russia, India, China, Korea-south, followed by OPEC states, and the Association of Southwest African States, South Africa. GE just backed out of massive deal for 24.700 wind turbines in Africa as they could not swing the forward financing. That is being split by Dutch Philipps, French Alstrom, and German Siemens.

Major Indian industrial groups selected Phoenix and Schott Solar to build local production of concentrated solar units- on close to 3000 square kilometres arid-semi arid lands forward financed by massive OPEC BRICK development funds.

One drunken after hours remark by a British subject negotiating for G.E. to a minister of energy in Windhoek last year queered an almost done deal for 24.7000 wind turbines in Southern Africa another ten thousand on the Eastern Horn and Arabia, perhaps another 10.000 on the Indian coastline. The contracts are now being divided up between
Philipps, Alstrom, Lockheed, and Siemens.

Excerpts from Kent Doering and Think Progress Green website.

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