Unlike many other products, customers buy electricity when they need it, not when it’s cheap. It doesn’t really matter whether a wind farm in the German North Sea can produce a lot of electricity cheaply during a windy day when that electricity is needed three days later in Munich.
This complete lack of matching supply and demand is what drives electricity prices with a large share of renewables in the market so high.
In Germany, lots of electricity is produced from renewables at times when it’s not needed. This causes market prices to be negative at times and Germany is paying neighboring countries money to buy that excess electricity.
At the same time, producers of renewables have guaranteed sales by German law, i.e. their electricity is always bought by the market whether it’s needed or not.
It’s this gap between supply and demand that customers are paying for which drives German electricity prices.
Currently, we’re paying 31 Euro cents in Germany per kWh while French customers whose grid has a large share of nuclear pay just 17 Euro cents per kWh on average.
At the same time, the average CO2 emissions in Germany per kWh are at 400 grams in Germany while they’re only at 50 grams in France. That’s because whenever solar and wind aren’t delivering any electricity we’re starting up coal and gas plants.
I wish proponents renewables were honest enough to not withhold these problems.
I mean, absolutely no one argues that it’s not that expensive to build a wind or solar farm. What makes wind ans solar expensive is keeping the necessary backup plants in standby for when they’re not delivering and paying for getting rid of excess electricity from renewables when they’re not needed.
The intermittency and low energy density are inherent physical properties of solar and wind farms which is why 100% renewables is newer feasible (unless for countries like Norway who have the possibility to build lots of hydro plants).
Future imagined technologies and/or infrastructure can't help you with balancing the power on the grid today.
The recent rolling power outages in California came from the fact that they are too dependent on renewables and basically ran out of power generating capability as the sun was setting in the evening but everyone wanted to keep running their air conditioning.
Actually it's more complicated than that:
"Several gas plants that were supposed to provide power failed to operate or tripped off, the CAISO said in a press conference last Wednesday. ... The CAISO also confirmed that demand was no greater than on previous very hot days."
You could equally make the case that the state was too dependent on unreliable gas plants.
I found this article helpful: https://www.manhattancontrarian.com/blog/2020-8-16-h7249j4l4...
From that article:
Take out all of the solar and wind capacity, and California has
only about 43 GW of capacity to meet demand that could well
exceed that on any hot summer day. And to get to that 43 GW,
you would need all other facilities up and running at absolutely
full capacity with no scheduled or unscheduled outages, which
is not realistic. Yes, you could try to import some power from
the neighboring states, but at times of peak usage they probably
need all of their own power. In short, you have put yourself
in a position where regular intentional blackouts are inevitable.
And, as more and more reliable fossil fuel and nuclear facilities
get closed in favor of wind and solar, the problem looks set
to worsen dramatically over the next several years
Doesn't it seem like the author is reasoning backward from a preferred conclusion, the way a lawyer might?
I'm not sure what to make of your "reasoning backward" statement. Just not sure what it means.
It’s actually a really great idea. Here’s a white paper that’s especially relevant for California (forgive the hokey graphic in the executive summary):
This is widely known to be false, and I wrote to correct that.
> What is imagined is that it can be expanded at scale...
No power generation method that we have is a universal solution, and as long as we have nation-states we shouldn't expect it to be.
But pumped hydro has indeed been expanded at scale, and it is in operations, as the wikipedia page I linked demonstrates.
It's not helpful to say things that are obviously false.
I also said:
> Future imagined technologies and/or infrastructure
Sure I could have been clearer but the entire thrust of my message was to say that you can't solve todays grid problems due to intermittent renewables with future technologies (not yet invented) and/or future infrastructure (not yet built).
I certainly agree with you that pumped hydro is viable is some very specific locations. I would also insist that if you want to advocate for more renewables you better include the cost of a combined renewable + pumped hydro to save the intermittent supply problem. And if you are going to advocate for building the renewable generation in one location and the pumped hydro in another location, then you need to include the cost of the transmission lines to get the power to where it is needed and adjust your capacity calculations for the energy lost in transmission lines. Along the way you are going to have also plan for the litigation costs and delays the moment you suggest damming a valley to turn it into a reservoir.
Almost every glowing report about renewables, especially if it is about how "cheap" it now is, fails to account for the alternate generation capacity that must be maintained/built or for the effective generating capacity (i.e. not the peak capacity on the sunniest or windiest day).
>customers buy electricity when they need it, not when it’s cheap. //
It doesn't have to be like this. You can let customers buy according to price, distributors don't seem to want to; presumably because that democratises the cost savings.
Octopus, a UK energy company, I think offers a customer direct grid pricing policy to some customers.
I'm happy to run dishwasher, washing machine at night. Do hoovering (vacuum cleaning) on sunny days, etc.. Wait half an hour to bake a cake if a storm is passing. But these things mean paying less to the electricity company.
I can see fridges that use a cold-storage scheme. And would definitely get a hot water tank if I could be paid to heat it.
So that's a great example about what can be scheduled in a flexible way.
If something is not standard practice doesn't mean it can't be done, or even that it's hard to do. There was no motivation to use any smarts for water heaters because the electricity price was flat, or the price was on a fixed schedule (timers and night heating of water, was done in the eighties here already).
I am in an apartment: I have a small water heater - I easily run out of water taking a shower if I stick around too long. There are two people in the house, and if we both want to shower in one day, the hot water . That way, I have hot water to do dishes and someone can take a shower in evening. I'm happy the water heater for the washer is separate, but again, it heats when the temperature dips and doesn't keep the water cold until electricity is cheap.
Even if the hot water heater waited to heat until prices were low, you are going to have water that is not-as-hot if you are the second person taking a shower. This is simply because as the tank empties, cold water is added to the tank. All subsequent hot water will be cooler.
I'll add that some folks sweat at night and must take a shower in the morning (I do when hormones act up. Night sweats are no joke).
I'm in an apartment: I cannot update the hot water heater. It literally cannot be done for me and millions of others because we cannot replace such things. You'd have to mandate landlords do improvements, and even then, it'll be years before it is all upgraded.
I'd argue that the real answer is to go with tankless heaters in this case: It isn't that you'll be spending money when the electricity is cheap, but you'd use less overall for the actual heating of water.
Where has is available most people have Combi boilers in the UK, very little or no storage, instant hot water in demand.
The idea would be that you notice the electric price is negative (or a control system 'notices' for you) and turn your immersion heater on. The water retains enough heat you have plenty of time to use that water.
If we have excess solar this is an inefficient but easy way to slurp it up. Hydroelectric pumped storage would probably be better but grid capacity for that seems low.
The whole thread was started on the premise that "hot water is an especially hard problem for load shifting, because people have to get hot water immediately" - while the case is the opposite - because hot water is very easy to store.
Although, in general if it encourages super-insulation of homes and things like ground-source heating ...?
The math worked out to 30 years before raw recoup. Once you add in a discount rate or life cycle would never justify itself. The per watt hour cost installed keeps to come down massively.
Solar and batteries are economical.
Once EV batteries become cheap, I'll charge my batteries when grid price is low.
Users would never even know, if they were factory wired with this kit the lights and any gadgets could continue to work.
Perhaps this should be something manufacturers have to include in order to get their A+++ energy rating.
Then home users can use devices with very basic built in electronics to save money or even earn money on electricity bills.
Neither can nuclear power. Nuclear power has significant and often unpredictable down-times making the power source not as reliable as one might think. In Sweden the availability for nuclear power is on average something like 85%. Availability depends on the age of the nuclear power plant, what the staff situation is and how tight the regulations are. Can't run the plant if most of the staff is home sick and tighter regulations means more downtime for inspections.
The availability for wind power in the North Sea is about 50%. Admittedly, lower than 85% but you can make up for it by building many wind farms.
> Currently, we’re paying 31 Euro cents in Germany per kWh while French customers whose grid has a large share of nuclear pay just 17 Euro cents per kWh on average.
That is an argument for tighter integration of electricity grids between countries. But also 31 - 17 = 14 cents/kWh. The cost of electricity isn't a problem for most households (in my household the static fee is the biggest expense even during the winter months).
But nuclear power plants? Completely uncorrelated. If each one produces power 85% of the time, then you need two, and you'll almost always have power.
Not really true. French nuclear output drops every time there's a European heatwave. It used to be the only time that the cross-channel link rank backwards (UK powering France).
I think France responded to this in the context of climate change by changing the protection standards for their rivers?
We made our bed and now we get to lie in it.
It’s not the technology’s fault we decided not to build any more power plants.
However, having said this, I would like to see a model of this with all the generation potential and costs involved, because right now we are all speculating. One can think of a multi-generation options, with wind and solar being the first and default option, battery (and other storage options) being the next option if wind and solar aren't enough, and gas being the third option if required.
Someone must have created a model like this?
In-depth studies petition that "the European energy system would strongly profit from exploiting the implications of these regimes for continent-scale wind generation patterns."
and "Such a pan-European wind power system would provide a stable output across a wide range of large-scale weather conditions" "but also requires enhanced transmission". This enhanced european grid network benefits to other forms of power production and is already planed.
There are ways to reduce loss induced by long powerlines, mainly HVDC ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-voltage_direct_current )
All this is also true for solar, and there is even at least one megaproject: https://www.suncable.sg/
Nuclear power is not magic either and can also suffer from disruptions. For example, if the delivery of uranium fuel is delayed, if there is a CODID-19 pandemic so workers are unavailable for maintenance work, if there are strikes, if there are Greenpeace activists who have breached the security lines sitting on the roof, etc...
In fact, I believe that the reliability of the German grid has gone up after Energiewende. Though it was a long time since I looked at it so I don't have a source handy. Reason being that the main source of power outages is disruptions in the electricity grid and not in the electricity production.
The availability for wind power in the North Sea is about 50%. Admittedly, lower than 85%
It's not only lower. It's 35% lower. That's a lot of lower.
Aside from hydro, which I very much like, but it has its own limitations, what else comes even close to nuclear?
I'd say nuclear is very much predictable.
It's the point for solar/wind energy.
Continent wide grids could be created connected Europe, Asia and Africa. Storage requirements could be lowered with HVDC grid interconnect. India's One Sun One grid plan is to build a Asia Africa hvdc grid.
The Pacific DC Intertie supplies power to Los Angeles from hydro dams in the PNW over HVDC lines. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_DC_Intertie
If the people who run wild wonderful off grid (great channel) have taught me anything, it's that battery backup is essential.
Maybe the solution is to keep a lot of dirty petroleum or coal-based generation capacity around to use in an emergency or war, but don't actually use it.
As usual, there's a trade-off between efficiency and resilience.
The discussions I found on:
changed my mind though. Nuclear power in France is heavily subsidized and it doesn’t make much economic sense. I mean, the radioactive emission from coal plants is higher than from nuclear powerplants - but the overall costs are too high.
Check out what Patagonia has to say on hydro plants and the ecological impact in case you are interested.
I do think that the way Germany is tackling electricity/energy is not great. Like so many things they are not solving...
Incident Location Fatalities
Banqiao China 171000
Machchu India 5000
South Fork USA 2208
The environmental impact of flooding entire basins is also pretty rough, and basins don't exist everywhere you might want one.
Banqiao, however, is spot on.
The "Cultural Revolution" began in 1966.
In such a context an otherwise avoidable catastrophe may happen.
This Revolution followed the "Great Leap Forward" ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Leap_Forward ), with famines. "In the subsequent famines of the early 1960s popularly attributed to the Great Leap Forward, Henan was one of the hardest hit and millions of lives were lost." Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henan#Modern_Era .
Moreover all this came after a civil war and violent Japanese invasion, during which dams were bombed, causing "massive flooding in Henan" (same source).
Predicting and adverting this catastrophe was possible, but given such a context nobody was able to do so.
This is Patagonia's brand strategy to sell products, rather than a political policy. So they have the luxury of pointing out problems and being light on the detail of solutions.
They get to focus on the negative ecological role of dams, and generally promoting reducing resource consumption. All energy production has a negative ecological impact to a greater or lesser degree, and it's rich for a company selling mainly things we don't need to talk about reducing consumption. The headlines are also different to the detail which calls for decommissioning the worst offenders rather than all dams. The difficult broader question of where energy comes from instead is ducked:
> ... solar, wind, tidal, wave, geothermal and biomass are helping us to transition to a clean energy future. 
The cynic in me feels like there is probably scope for future marketing campaigns about the ecological impact of these too. I had professional dealings with the company and advise taking it with a pinch of salt.
I learned about it through Blue Heart: https://blueheart.patagonia.com
And the story I heard about it was: their CEO went on a fly fishing trip there, really loved it, was told by the local guide that all will be gone in short time for hydro plants. He then decided to use all/most/a significant portion of the marketing budget in this campaign instead.
You can always criticize ulterior motives - and we will never know for sure. But I give them some kudos for the initiatives they take - like taking their biggest revenue driver (e.g., dry suits) and deciding to make it “as ecological as possible” and 3x as expensive along the way...
Every company is in the business of making money. And the fashion industry is known for making little money and having a big environmental impact. I don’t mind if somebody goes a more risky route that also makes them money along the way...
I think what they do is great, but I would take their campaigns, and especially all the Yvon stories, with a pinch of salt.
Tonuge in cheek, I'll share a story of my own - to launch a new Patagonia store in a Europe, they had bespoke furniture commissioned from recycled wood (probably using no solvents etc etc). Great! Except that it was made by in California, covered in bubble wrap and sent thousands of miles by land and sea.
Yes, No worries, I am not glorifying them.
But I guess they try harder than I do. That’s good enough for a start...
Wind and solar have been heavily subsidized in France through buying it at an above market rate. 
* Guaranteed minimum price for the electricity generated, well above current market rates. Taxpayer pays £92.50 per Megawatt Hour - when the wholesale price of electricity has been £35-£42 for the last year or so. The guaranteed price rises with inflation, and lasts 35 years.
* Loan guarantees, reducing their interest rates.
* Guaranteed maximum price for waste disposal, taxpayer pays anything above that.
* Capped liability / reduced insurance requirements for nuclear accidents. Taxpayer pays if an accident exceeds their insurance.
* Guaranteed maximum cost for decommissioning. Taxpayer pays if decommissioning costs more than predicted.
When the whole project was kicked off it was pre-brexit and our politicians were pro-chinese-investment. So a nuclear plant built with French expertise and Chinese money seemed like a great way to replace our ageing coal-fired power plants and keep the lights on.
Could you even get someone else to guarantee you an inflation pegged price of electricity for the next 35 years? And in that case, how much would it cost?
I think anyone would love to offer a CFD over a 35 year timeline, only HinkleyPoint C (and Sizewell C in the same agreement) where offered these conditions. i.e it makes financing much easier.
HinkleyPoint C is in planning since 2008 or so, not exactly a quick process.
Real construction since 2018 (but some prep work done in the decade leading up to this.)
Expected generation is in 2025/2026.
This sounds bad but is actually decent, 10 years from idea to generation is common and outliers exist in both directions.
How do they guarantee that they will actually provide the energy at a given time? Are they pairing wind with another power plant?
The CFD for hinkley point is available and is a few hundred pages.
Part of reason for the strike price with HPC is that they expected offshore to cost 85 GBP in 2025, while it costs 50 GBP in 2020.
Thanks for the explanation on CFD. One of the advantages of nuclear is its predictability, it seems unfortunate if this isn't what was bought by the UK.
The remaining points about the intermittent nature of renewables and how difficult it is to incorporate them into a reliable grid economically are still valid.
How much would it cost per kilowatt hour without subsidies?
Maintaining the energy grid is a careful balancing act between preventing surges and blackouts. There are a lot of grid-related engineering problems that come from increasing decentralization (e.g. wind, solar, hydro) because, as you mentioned, it increases unpredictability in supply.
All power grids require that balancing. Old, new, American, non-American ...
It could potentially increase the cost of buying a home in the future. Or significant investment from the government so we don't regress our back to having blackouts (especially when it puts even more pressure on the poor in the name of the environment)... either to homes or some centralized system.
Things I've noticed. Even high efficiency residential fridges aren't that efficient. Some off grid ones use three times less power. And lot of the modern fridges have inverters to drive the compressor. Which means would not that big a stretch to add a 12/24V input like my portable fridge.
I mention this because not all household loads are the same. You really don't want your fridge to stop working. You probably can manage if you can't run you whole house air conditioner full tilt.
Having appliances that can run off back up and ones that can adjust their load probably would help.
Another random opinion is a lot of house wiring could be replaced with Power of Ethernet. There is a new automotive standard that provides up to 100W. A house where lights and light loads were run off POE could be trivially backed up by a battery.
And one ethernet cable per two bulbs would work fine for lots of lighting situations anyway.
But then that highlights the problem with trying to PoE and entire house - You have to run a line out from a PoE source to each item you want to deliver power to, and provide a port for each which comes at some cost. I guess you could try and run some kind of PoE passthrough circuit arrangement like you see with some office voip phones...
The other thing is price out Ethernet cable by the foot and compare with 14g Romex. The former is $0.05/ft vs $0.20/ft. And you don't need a licensed electrician to run it.
Also PEO is low voltage and power limited, so safer.
I gotta imagine 100W PoE requires some bigger cables than plain-jane Cat5E or even Cat6, though...?
The higher power levels require that you take into account how each cable is going to safely dissipate a couple watts, which is easy if you're not running big bundles.
HVAC usage can be stockpiled in the thermal mass of the house. The same with the electric water heater - the thermal mass of the water in the tank. This is where variable electric rates come in, and smart HVAC/heater systems that run mostly when electricity is cheap.
Manufacturing and Cloud Providers both have to contend with the fact that idle equipment may cost them more than expensive power. Battery storage is predominantly about peak shaving of load variability, elective loads could help with trough filling. That doesn't get us to renewable power, but it does help get us away from the worst of the fossil fuel power plants.
I saw some pundit conversations about Battery Day recently. There's some speculation that a 'million mile battery' may be coming due to union of a few different complementary improvements to the battery design and manufacture.
If your battery can survive four times as many discharge cycles as the drive train, hooking back into the grid isn't so bad as long as your car doesn't conk out 10 miles shy of Grandma's house.
If you know your going to be parked at the office for the most part for 8 hours a day, then you'd probably be ok putting your car in opportunistic mode as long as you have enough for your commute.
The car can also track your driving patterns and manage all of this seamlessly. Having worked at a gas station and seeing how people swarm my station when gas was $0.10/litre less than the surrounding stations because we didn't update fast enough, I think there will be plenty of price chasers for these modes.
The anxious / I drive for recreation types / road trippers can pay extra to stay topped up all the time.
The peaks in the grid utilization curve actually tends to match the solar production curve pretty well (there are local deviations, running an aluminum smelter at night). Look at the demand curve in CA, you will see that it is flat midday. Before solar there was a peak midday. This creates issues on the ends (duck curve) of course but the key point is that solar production very closely matches peak electricity use.
There used to be a great article on Wikipedia how about this is done in the UK, but it was deleted. Notionally, it was merged into the main article about the National Grid, but all the interesting content was discarded when that happened. I think the worry was that the article was unsourced - it was pretty clearly just a Grid engineer who sit down and bashed it out one day. Anyway, here it is:
My other point is that solar generally matches peak demand pretty well so you don’t need a ton of demand responsiveness (given that electricity demand is already inelastic).
This work is an attempt to capture the “whole system costs” of an individual power plant. This could include the costs of enhancing the electricity network to connect a new power station, balancing supply and demand in real time, and providing backup power during periods of low wind or sun.
From the comment I'm replying to:
I wish proponents renewables were honest enough to not withhold these problems
As the article makes clear, nobody is hiding from the fact that there are costs associated with providing backup power during periods of low wind or sun.
The other problems in the comment are not problems with renewables per se (aside from one problem with the straw man "100% renewables"), but problems with German government policy.
The French public financial auditing institution (la Cour des Comptes) published in 2012 that public nuke investments are opaque, and that it costed around 228 10e9 euros, plus nowadays 3.4 10e9 euros per year for the sole maintenance. Nuke risk is what it is, and even financially it is not sound. Read there, starting folio 269: https://www.ccomptes.fr/sites/default/files/EzPublish/Rappor...
It is so expensive it cannot be hidden anymore. Electricity in France is absolutely not cheap, its price there is average in Europe. Source: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php...
Germany now pays in order to solve the problem.
France isn't completely dumb and a state law (2015-992, from 2015, the "loi relative à la transition énergétique pour la croissance verte") states that the part of nuke-produced electricity must fall to less than 50% in 2025, from 72% then, and that renewables must replace it. However those are only words, until now.
Meanwhile... Germany solves its problem by switching to more adequate energy sources.
Oil and gas - _when compared with solar, wind, etc._ - aren't energy per se, they are batteries. The energy is stored and all we do is release it.
On the other hand, wind and solar need to be created from scratch - and until we get better batteries - are released immediately.
We're not usually comparing apples to apples but batteries (tradional energy sources) to from-scratch energy (solar and wind).
Not only was it quick and cheap to build but it turns a good profit.
That's an interesting statistic, but the topic of the article is electricity in the UK not energy use in the world. A more useful statistic would be this:
"The government’s official data has revealed that renewable energy made up 47% of the UK’s electricity generation in the first three months of the year, smashing the previous quarterly record of 39% set last year."
It's true that doesn't include the energy used by gas heating systems or fuel used by vehicles, for example, but to bring those into consideration it would be helpful to know how quickly heating systems and vehicles are being replaced by electric equivalents (increasing the load on the grid, although per capita energy consumption in the UK has been decreasing for decades).
and here are the statistics to back that up
Electricity is only a subset of our energy usage (around 20%) and out of that wind and solar is only a small part. Hydro is much bigger.
How about cars? Most ICE engines are less than 40% efficient. If you charge an EV with renewables it will consume 2.5 times less primary energy. Renewables look small in primary energy comparisons because they are less wasteful.
The problem is that people cannot access these wholesale spot markets, only wholesalers. The consumer prices are usually set at like 11c kWh. If companies were given a chance to purchase electricity in a spot market, there would probably be some interesting business use-cases built around it, such as opportunistic bitcoin mining or battery arbitraging.
But it's definitely one arrow in the quiver, and together there are solutions for just about any storage problem you can imagine.
Personally I think a big obvious shift is that EV chargers should be located in the places that the cars park during the day. The whole "charge at home overnight" thing is an unnecessary demand shift. Charge at work during the day, when the PV is producing like mad.
Even if the PV is on the roof at home and the power is getting shipped several miles over the grid to the office where the car is parked, it's still easier to move power over distance than to store it over time.
Of course PV on the roof at work would be even better, since commercial roofs tend to be broad and flat and boring. But it'll take quite a bit of forward thinking to unlock that cognitive step.
I’m completely happy if my dishwasher waits until the sun comes up to start. Or my dryer determines it’s a good idea to wait an hour before starting. Or if my XYZ charges super slow today because it’s not too windy. Or if my freezer goes into deep-freeze mode because...
I wish I got to pay the “real” price of electricity instead of lame time of day buckets.
I really think a lot of night time load is just industrial customers chasing price. Change the price structure and they'll immediately adjust their time of use to match. Certainly smarter appliances could also chase low rates like industrial users.
You can spend some of the money you'd otherwise save on electricity in those cases.
> You wouldn't be happy either if factories can't produce enough food because they would have to wait for wind or sun.
A factory shifting hours wouldn't be noticeable at all by the time the product reaches the consumer weeks later.
If the factory isn't running enough hours at all, that's not a problem caused by renewables being unpredictable. That's just bad management.
But more realistically you'll be able to pay more per watt for that short period and get as many amps as your house can handle.
But also, buying such a variable-price contract is only going to be an option. If you want a certain amount of guaranteed-price power, as an individual household, there will always be someone willing it to you.
We could all probably do well eating a little less factory-produced food and a little more farm-produced food.
However, as far as I understand, this is not a sufficient solution to the storage problem because you can't build them just anywhere; (a) the feasible locations are not enough to fill the enormous storage need required for a full transfer from fossils to wind/solar; and (b) in general, the type of locations that are good for pumped hydro (e.g. rivers on mountains) are not the type of locations where we have major cities (e.g. fertile plains) and mass production of renewables, so they are far from the major consumers and producers and we have a bit of a grid transit problem and international cooperation problem for that.
So while we build pumped hydro we still need to look forward to something else (e.g. mass battery storage) that can fill the gap between what we can store today and what we'll need to store to stop burning fossil fuels.
It's ok for some niche use cases but I doubt it's the future.
...can supply a maximum power of 1,728-megawatt and has a storage capacity of around 9.1 GWh.
Try harder, please.
Firstly, I would think the difference between production and demand on a single day is a better indicator than the difference between your daily production peak and your daily demand peak, which could be months away from the day production peaks.
Even that isn’t correct, though. Such a reserve buffer would be depleted after that worst-case day, so if the day after that day also has demand outstrip production, you’re in trouble.
If your goal is something not ridiculous, for example, storing storing the difference of production-consumption when production>consumption for use later when consumption>production, you would likely need very significantly less than 50,000+ of those.
For your average country even having 100 is difficult. Think of some flat place like Poland.
More than that, Germany isn't even the biggest producer/consumer of electricity... Imagine some place like China trying to ramp this up.
Clearly you only need a small proportion of grid power in storage to cope with peaks.
There are also multiple ways to smooth load - overcapacity, battery storage, pumped storage, load shedding, pricing. These are solved problems which just need a bit more work and investment, and many countries already use pumped storage extensively.
1. Small population.
2. Pretty tall mountains and sparsely populated mountains (see 1.)
3. Quite high yearly rainfall levels.
4. Very rich country.
5. Country with a very low level of corruption and from what I know, pretty efficient at building new infrastructure.
Is there an example of an "average" country having decent levels of pumped hydro storage at a level that's above 0.5% of the country's needs?
According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricit...
Scotland has already entirely met its needs with renewables this year. This can and will be expanded to other nations in time.
Although, at some point it could be easier to just build coastal lagoons and let the tide do the work.
A fixed 24/7 electricity rate is thoroughly obsolete and has got to go.
Also, the grid doesn't use power evenly, but nuclear power (like geothermal) produces very even output so the US & Canada have agreements where Canada supplies excess hydro power during the day and then buys back cheap nuclear power at night.
Of course, wind & solar are very intermittent, an many places don't have easy access to hydroelectric power, so this is certainly true in some places.
Can you point me toward any studies about geothermal 'running out'? Is that a thing?
Interconnection could also make a big difference. You can export power from the North Sea to Germany or from Germany to Belgium for example. And ideally the market across Europe would help encourage cross border imports from less carbon intensive sources.
Obviously nothing is a 100% solution, but that is why we have a grid and a market.
The price thet consumer pays includes the electricity price (i.e. market price, as seen on epex spot or eex), the taxes, and the network !
Networ costs can be half of the final cost !! And these can change depending on the country and the electricity provider.
So please, when comparing prices, only compare the market prices of the energy component.
But also some of their market and grid reports. It is really interesting, especially from a geeky perspective.
Not so. Home energy storage systems are getting there. Case in point, smart storage radiators: https://www.ovoenergy.com/smart-home-heat
Until a few years ago, the cost of Solar/Wind didn't make it worthwhile studying this problem. Now it's probably viable.
Personally, i think the solution would be in converting energy into fuel in some way. Hydrogen is probably the easiest but very dangerous to handle in field conditions. Hydro Carbons would be ideal (extracting Carbon from air or maybe organic waste). There have been recent advances in catalysts - how to use electric/magnetic fields to mimic the action of physical catalysts etc.
It doesn't really matter. Each kWh of renewable energy reduces the number of kWh that have to be generated via fossil fuels thereby reducing emissions. A grid with 80% renewables is possible with very little energy storage.
>It doesn’t really matter whether a wind farm in the German North Sea can produce a lot of electricity cheaply during a windy day when that electricity is needed three days later in Munich.
Renewable power generation follows a normal distribution. Yes there are extreme outliers in each direction but the more extreme the lower the likelyhood of it happening. There are at most 10 days per year where renewables are below 30% of generated power. Running some gas plants during those 10 days doesn't matter. Especially if you are using power to gas.
>That’s because whenever solar and wind aren’t delivering any electricity we’re starting up coal and gas plants.
It's usually the opposite. When coal starts up and there is renewable energy available the renewable energy has to be curtailed but it gets paid anyway. Coal is the issue here. Gas is not a problem because it is more flexible.  The irony is that energy intensive industry doesn't have to pay the EEG surcharge which means consumers end up paying a 2-3 times higher EEG surcharge than they should. It's practically a heavy industry subsidy at this point, not a renewable subsidy. Consumers pay the electricity bill of arcfurnaces now.
Germany has high emissions because Germany turned off nuclear before phasing out coal and the coal lobby in Germany is huge.
>The intermittency and low energy density are inherent physical properties of solar and wind farms which is why 100% renewables is newer feasible (unless for countries like Norway who have the possibility to build lots of hydro plants).
I actually couldn't care less about 100% renewables. Even 80% renewables sounds like a dream today. However what you're saying is not the whole truth. 100% renewables are possible with today's technology and it will only get easier in the future. https://cleantechnica.com/2020/02/09/correcting-anti-renewab...
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkA65vpeA5g (Video in German)
Besides that, if ever electricity cost goes negative I think some electricity companies should invest in storing solutions. I know there are a few out there but most I've seen need more research and large investment. Maybe some can be distributed with making it easier for common folk to store and sell back.
That’s true of baseload generators like coal and nuke. Power generation is complex and multifaceted (hence calculation is always done on LCOE). Gas peaked plants are a critical part of the legacy generation systems, and permit more intermittent zero input sources like wind and solar to reduce the amount of baseload capacity.
I don’t know about renewable “proponents” but actual providers (of renewable or not) understand these issues well. Source: I used to be in this business.
But anyway am the issue here is about storage. And storage is getting cheaper by the day. Utility scale storage is also a lot cheaper.
Finally, if Germany was to build nuclear today it would cost far more than what they are paying for any other electricity source.
There’s a huge difference between the cost of nuclear whose capex was already paid for by the government decades ago and new nuclear. New renewables are cheaper by far than new nuclear.
A carbon-free & nuclear-free grid definitely depends on either dramatic advances in storage or substantial infrastructure development in transporting electricity over long distances.
Transporting the energy via cables is part of the solution for this and is exactly one of the things where Germany is struggling. A lot of wind capacity is in the north and east; a lot of the demand is further south and west. It's a combination of politics being a problem (this involves lots of federal states and local councils), poor planning, and old energy corporations dragging their heels.
The obvious solutions of putting some cables in place is basically completely blocked on this. Hence you have southern Germany burning expensive coal & gas at the same time the northern part is oversupplying wind power and exporting it to other countries at a discount. E.g. France is importing cheap German power and struggling to export more expensive nuclear power, which is one reason they seem to be shutting down older nuclear plants and gradually shifting to non nuclear renewables. France is of course still a net exporter but nuclear is too expensive for them to export.
The other part of the solution is of course investing in batteries and other forms of energy storage. This evens out peaks in supply and demand much more effectively, cheaper, and faster than any peaker plant can do. Also, vehicle to grid technology could be very interesting mid term as German car manufacturers are about to ramp up EV production to the order of a couple of million cars per year in the next few years. 1 million cars is about 0.5 twh of battery capacity (assuming about 50 kwh per car). A couple of million of EVs plugged into the grid could provide some very serious peak capability (to absorb over supply and provide peak demand). The hardest thing to figure out is proper incentives for this, which is not a technical problem. Long term, there should be zero need to keep legacy gas/coal plants around for this.
Of course, short term cables & batteries are lacking and there is a lot of legacy infrastructure there to be used. This actually keeps the prices higher than they should be. Overall, the picture is improving rapidly. Renewable market share is growing year on year at the cost of basically everything else.
The reason energy prices in Germany remain high is also because it continues to maintain a quite expensive and dirty brown coal infrastructure. The reasons for this situation are also entirely political. Politicians in the areas where this stuff is mined & burned are being pressured to keep that going even though everyone has known for decades that it is a stupendously dirty business that ultimately will have to go. It's been a point of contention between the two governing parties. Basically it's a combination of protecting jobs and big energy companies who are of course shifting investments to renewables but are putting the brakes on to protect their sinking legacy assets.
Basically, there are big German energy companies that are slowly going bankrupt because they are neck deep into stranded assets related to coal that need these high fees just to survive. So, expensive wind plays to their agenda because they get to keep on burning coal for a bit longer.
Yes Germany's early investments in wind were questionable but most of the new capacity is much better and quite competitive in other parts of the world (e.g. the US, the UK, etc.). E.g. Siemens is a big supplier in this space and of course a big German corporation.
The actual price (before taxes) is less than 9ct/kWh (about 7.6ct/kWh to be precise - including profits, btw.) and that's what industrial customers pay.
edit: I tried to find some figures to seejust how much bigger the German grid is compared to Kazakhstan and it's mind boggling. 25000 km in Kazakhstan vs 135000 km of just high voltage- and supergrid in Germany. Germany's grid is 1.8 million km versus 25 thousand km in Kazakhstan  . Different worlds.
 http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/energy/se/pp/eneff/9th__F... page 4
Industrial customers pay <0.09€/kWh.
Then there are the fundamentalists who fight any outlay of taxpayer dollars.
Also people who just don't want any foot traffic in their residential area. Some people are adamant about their neighborhood having as few outsiders as possible and by invite only.
It happens at all levels of government. I have an HOA that I've participated in over the years. My HOA's job is to maintain a clubhouse, the pool, the tennis courts, a small kids' playground, and some other common areas. For some reason, every 4 or 5 years, some person decides he wants to leave the traditional HOA lane and "go big" on special projects. Email flamewars and special HOA sessions ensue and "some person" gets the message to stop trying to find ways to increase our HOA dues.
In the US there has been significant opposition to things like pedestrian bridges, bike paths, parks, and the like for the last decade or so, from people who think those things are part of a plot to take away our rights and freedoms.
How? By making cities more pedestrian and bike friendly, and more pleasant places in general for people to live, it will encourage more and more of the population to concentrate in cities. It will then be easier for the globalists backed by UN troops to confiscate our guns, and then take over the country.
A lot of this ties back to "Agenda 21". That was a document produced in 1992 by the United Nations Conference on Environment & Development, signed by George H.W. Bush and the leaders of 177 other countries. It's a nonbinding statement of intent to improve and promote sustainability.
The John Birch Society decided that it was actually a plan to form a socialist one-world government, a "New World Order", that would usher in a "new Dark Ages of pain and misery yet unknown to mankind", and make the US a vassal of the UN, result in the forced relocation of rural populations to cities, and so on.
And it is not just fringe groups like the John Birch Society. According to Senator Ted Cruz, "Agenda 21 attempts to abolish “unsustainable” environments, including golf courses, grazing pastures, and paved roads. It hopes to leave mother earth’s surface unscratched by mankind. . . . Agenda 21 subverts liberty, our property rights, and our sovereignty".
Here's a good article about it .
(small plug for the https://collective.energy community)
Subsidies for fossile fuels do not make them cheap. They might make some local form competitive to the international market, but their inherent value comes from simple physics. Fossile fuels are simply much more effective than renewables. This does not mean that we cannot change it, but we need a compelling alternative. Slavery, for instance, was the most efficient means of agriculture for thousands of years. We changed it, somewhat ironically, by replacing it with mechanisation, driven by fossile fuels.
Externalities are extremely hard to give a fair price. We could have a limited CO2 Budget, but that limit would be artificial. Think of a CO2 Credit currency: Who would not be tempted to increase the limit ever so slightly to generate the credits for a new school/hospital/anti-terror-drone?
So, no, I do not think markets offer a solution here. They could help, of course, but the real solution is the introduction of effectively free energy with massive-scale photovoltaics. One barrel Crude oil has an energy of around 1.8MWh and costs between $20 and $70 to produce. Thus, to overcome oil, one needs to get the price per kWh solar down between four and one dollar cent. We are about to reach that point rather soon. From there on it is game over for big oil.
Eh? Almost nowhere transitioned directly from slavery to mechanisation. Not serfdom, even. Heavy mechanisation of agriculture was a 20th century thing.
Most of the resistance to the abolition of slavery in most places was social; it was an upheaval in the way things were done. "GDP will drop" was not, as far as I know, a major concern, nor did it generally happen.
But externalities have no inherent or obvious cost to market participants, either because they are so distributed that the cost per participant is ignorably small, or because the costs are distributed in time (and thus do not affect current market participants) (or both).
The cost of externalities has to be determined and that inevitably involves questions about values. As a trivial example: how much do you (or should you) value clean air? What ppm contamination is worth a dollar to you every time you purchase fuel?
This means that a "free market" with prices that include the cost of externalities must inevitably be regulated in some important sense, since the cost of externalities can only be established via the same processes used for regulation in general. And by most definitions of "free market", that is no longer a "free market".
That doesn't mean this isn't the right thing to do. It just needs better terminology to describe it.
I agree. The externalities should be accounted for. Petroleum should be taxed and not subsidized.
> externalities are untaxed.
Free markets are utterly and demonstrably unable to solve climate change.
I'm not actually sure if what I just wrote is parody or not. Arguments about "free markets" are always weird like that, since everybody seems to work with a different definition and they don't really seem to exist
I mean obviously the subsidies are bad but removing them isn't going to solve much of anything by itself.
Yea, this just isn't true. Rich people will just pay more for the same thing. Poor people will just have to pay more to even get to their jobs. It's pure laziness to put this on dogma rather than actually come up with decent policy to shape the market.
What alternative is there to a private jet or a yacht? No, you have to get the fear of prison (or worse) in them to get them to act in a socially rational manner.
But to actually answer your question, battery-electric yachts or aviation powered by biofuels.
If all you know about X is the totemic version reverberating through anti-X echo chambers, you probably don't understand X.
In American political discourse, this is exactly how the "free market" is defined by the political establishment. Taxing externalities is very unpopular among Republican and Libertarian politicians (Gary Johnson flirted with the idea of a carbon tax, but quickly withdrew support) and is relatively popular among Democrats and the Green Party. Which parties are the ones people associate with free markets?
You can hem and haw about appropriate use of the term "free market" all you want, but calling colloquial usage a "straw man" is disingenuous.
There is a party which is anti-regulation because its constituents are business owners who incur the cost of it. But they incur the cost of both inefficient wasteful regulation and any legitimate pricing of externalities, so they oppose both. One is free markets and the other one isn't.
Just because politicians representing oil producers support both "free markets" and subsidies for oil companies doesn't mean subsidies for oil companies are a component of free markets. It just means that politicians are hypocrites.
I also never claimed that subsidies were a component of the free market nor did I claim any politicians think so. I believe that's an actual straw man :)
The term for what you're doing is called weak man. It's finding some idiot or hypocrite in the world who is actually advancing the weak position so you can claim it isn't a straw man, and then knocking that down instead of addressing the stronger version being advanced by someone else.
> I also never claimed that subsidies were a component of the free market nor did I claim any politicians think so. I believe that's an actual straw man :)
That's an argument. If "free market" means what anybody who says they're for free markets says they want, that would imply that "free market" means oil subsidies. Which is clearly absurd, ergo so was your claim.
That doesn't really work when my argument is that it's the colloquial usage--not just a handful of "idiots".
> If "free market" means what anybody who says they're for free markets says they want, that would imply that "free market" means oil subsidies.
That's an absurd reduction, but that is how language works. This clearly isn't a productive conversation. Have a good evening.
There's always thumbs on the scale. Grandparent is proposing to remove some thumbs (fossil fuel subsidies).
Pigovian taxes are fairly popular among people who consider free markets to be valuable. This is because they retain $free = "can discover prices and conduct trade freely", a more valuable property than $free = "utterly free of any and all governance", which, like real communism, has never been tried.
Just look at German electricity prices.
There is however tremendous investments in battery technology. It has yet to be seen whether that could get cost effective enough combined with wind and solar to completely get rid of the need for Nuclear.
It would have been great if we had built enough nuclear plants in the 20th century, but at this point it’s pretty clear that most countries would better off going straight to cheaper renewables.
This doesn't seem to support your general argument.
Do you have any evidence that renewables are generally cheaper than nuclear when accounting for storage?
How about asking what conditions would be needed in a different country to make new reactors much more feasible than in Ontario?
> The storage report also shows a rapid drop in the costs of batteries, which leads to wind + storage or solar + storage getting increasingly competitive (and putting natural gas peaker plants out of business).  
8 minute energy's blended solar and storage costs are roughly $40/MWh, just above existing nuclear generation per MWh costs (that doesn't fully internalize waste disposal costs and other ancillary costs of that power). “The vast majority of our development pipeline are solar-plus-storage projects, with more than 24GWh of energy storage under development,” 8minute Solar Energy’s Sean Kiernan said.  Portugal just signed a deal for a 700MW project at 1.3 cents/kwh, a historic low (mentioned to demonstrate the cost decline continues, and can be expected to continue into the future). 
If you're looking for storage that discharges for days, that is not necessary with robust transmission infrastructure (which needs to be built anyway due to aging infra in the US) and overbuilding of cheap (and rapidly cheaper) renewables .
 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23580707 (Hacker News: The US can reach 90% clean electricity by 2035 without increasing consumer bills)
Obviously laws of physics do not bar it from scaling, the question is around cost.
UK current electricity demand is 30GW. So the demand for one hour is similar to the entire lithium battery production for a whole year.
How many hours worth of storage would we need to balance the energy grid using only battery storage? Off grid homes usually aim for around 3-7 days worth. Obviously that's excessive for a whole country where weather conditions vary across the country but I'd think several house would be required to account for peak in demand at times of low production.
Realistically distributed storage and load side control I think are more likely to be a bigger part of making it work.
"In 2019, LG Chem had the most lithium battery production capacity at over 50 GWh. LG Chem [is] increasing EV battery production capacity to as much as 110GWh by the end of 2020."
The design of a modern grid with battery storage would change as well - no reason to have singular giant storage plants. A mixture of solar, wind, and hydroelectric with distributed storage doesn't need to self-sustain 30GWh of storage, it needs to be able to smooth distribution and handle peaks. It'd be far more honest to look at seasonal average loads versus peaks, plus a buffer.
The UKs current installed pumped hydro resources amount to some 28GWh. Clearly we need a multiple of that if that is currently required to balance a grid consisting of largely dispatchable power. Given that, I don't think my estimate of needing several hours worth storage is too far out.
That was the first statistic I found. Even if we say current production is 200GWh of lithium battery storage, that isn't going to go very far if the rest of the world also need to create similar storage infrastructure.
So good luck running the grid on batteries for more than 15 minutes. We'd probably need to cover Alaska with lithium batteries.
At least 40% base load is what is needed and one only gets that from nuclear and geothermal if we discard fossil fuels. Maybe solar thermal with molten salt storage too, dunno.
Point of use energy generation and storage is a much bigger deal than I think people realize. I believe internally Tesla thinks this is many times it’s car business.
We are still struggling store industrial chemicals for mere half dozen years without it causing tragic accidents, while Canada might not be Lebanon today, there is no way to know how well off our future generations will be and whether they can safeguard the waste, both safely and securely from hostile actors without it being an big burden on them .
It will be costly problem at best or a major disaster at worst for all live forms. all this to have some power for 30-40 years.
If the world continues on a high-emissions trajectory, and people do not later pursue active remediation measures to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, it will take hundreds of thousands of years for natural silicate weathering to draw down atmospheric concentrations to preindustrial levels. More than half will be removed by faster processes, within 1000 years, but a significant minority of the excess will go away over the course of ~400,000 years:
This is actually longer than the time it will take for the majority of fission products and actinides generated in nuclear fuel to decay. The waste CO2 problem is also distributed over the whole globe rather than easily confined to storage casks like spent nuclear fuel is.
Neptuimum-237 has half life of 2.144 Million years and is produced as nuclear fuel waste and one of most mobile nuclides at the Yucca repository. It will take 100's of millions of years for sizeable quantity to go through its decay chain and be safe.
There are safer better options than nuclear to coal. A 1000 year time line of natural restoration is not acceptable and needs to be addressed, but trading it for millions of years is not the right solution.
Where do you imagine billions of tons of CO2 will go? It does not have a half-life like nuclear waste, once you've taken that carbon out of the ground, it is here to stay for tens of millions of years. There will never be enough trees to sequester this carbon. We must expend trillions of dollars to reprocess it back into oil or rock-like formations.
Also in the entire history of nuclear industry there has been no credible case of 'hostile actors' coming close to stealing nuclear waste. That's because doing so doesn't make any sense - it is useless to nations, and if someone like Taliban tried to handle it, they'd probably die in the process.
Nuclear waste is not a liquid that might spill and run away if you aren't careful. When properly handled it is vitrified in solid glass, and it doesn't go anywhere. Sweden is placing it in underground storage in solid rock, in a region that's geologically stable for millions of years - it will never bother anyone again or cost a penny more.
Where do you think the fancy chemicals in the fiberglass turbines or the exotic metals in the solar panels comes from?
>We are still struggling store industrial chemicals for mere half dozen years without it causing tragic accident
Oh boy are you going to love the high tech chemical industry that underpins the manufacture of wind turbines and solar panels.
All these things are dirty if you don't clean up after them. Nuclear is pretty clean just by virtue of how little material you need to process per kilowatt. A kilo of uranium gets you a lot more energy than a kilo of turbine or a kilo of solar panel.
They're all better than fossil fuels because they don't crap byproducts into the atmosphere but you need to have so much less underlying industry per energy generated with nuclear that it's just inherently cleaner than anything else. This is assuming that you're cleaning up after whichever one you choose.
Sure plutonium-239 with half life of 24,000 is not particularly radioactive, neptunium-237 has half live of more than 2 million years, both are extremely dangerous to humans for multiples of that time.
Half live is not directly related to the level of damage gamma decay can do to you. Elements are perfectly capable of emitting hazardous amounts of radiation for thousands and millions of years time.
We cannot barely build a phone to last 3 years, The incentive to not create problems for future generations is simply not there. If it was, we would doing a lot more for pollution and plastics and the mass extinction event we are currently causing.
I don't believe our track record as a species warrants any trust on the ability to build containment to last thousands of years.
Meanwhile, fossil fuels generate so much waste per kWh that it's impossible to contain it, so we just spew it over the globe at day one, changing the Earth's climate and driving mass extinction (and killing a million per year), but it's OK, because if stop using fossil fuels today and wait a few hundred years then things will be back to normal. Maybe.
Of all the ideas on nuclear waste disposal including launching on rocket into the sun, this is the most dangerous.
Firstly If you are replacing Coal and other methods of energy generation with Uranium the amount of waste is not small anymore ( it already is not small in any sense).
Cooling down the temperature is not the only problem. Neptunium-237 has half life of 2Million years!, plutonium 239 of more than 24,000 years, these materials will be radioactive for a longer time than we as species have been on this planet.
Grinding them fine and spreading them everywhere may very well kill all life on this planet for ten of millions of years, it may never come back.
Coal is bad, nobody is saying it is better than nuclear, but replacing coal with nuclear is opening a whole new can of worms, we are not equipped to handle, there are plenty of other safer alternatives .
 In in interest of a civil discussion, I will leave it at that.
The energy density of uranium is roughly 80,620,000 MJ/kg . Existing nuclear power plants have thermal efficiency between 30-40%, roughly speaking , so let's be pessimistic and choose 30%. That means actual usable energy density of uranium is 24,186,000 MJ/kg, or 6,718,333 kWh/kg.
The world produced 27,644,800 GWh = 27,644,800,000,000 kWh of electricy on 2019 . If we used nuclear to generate all of this, we'd need 4,114,830 kg of uranium, or 4,115 ton per year. Let's round up to 5,000 ton.
Spent nuclear fuel contains about 0.8% plutonium 239 , so our 5,000 ton of uranium will generate about 40 ton of plutonium 239, with half-life 24,000 years and radioactivity of 2.3 GBq/g . So our hypothetical nuclear waste will have radioactivity of 2.3 GBq/g * 40 t = 92 PBq. Which is a lot.
...or is it?
Potassium, naturally occurring and essential for life, is naturally radioactive (31 Bq/g), because it contains 0.012% K40 . Seawater is about 0.04% potassium , which contributes to a natural radioactivity of 12.4 Bq/kg, or 12.4 kBq/t from potassium alone.
Actually, let's forget the earth. Let's spread the nuclear waste evenly on the Mediterranean - volume 3,750,000 km^3  - who needs Italy anyway?
It contains 3,750,000,000,000,000 ton of seawater, or 46,500,000,000,000,000 kBq of natural radioactivity, which is 46,500 PBq. So our hypothetical dump of plutonium 239 will increase the Mediterranean sea's natural radiation level by about 92/46500 = 0.2% per year .
A far cry from extinction of all known life, I have to say.
* By the way, you may want to re-consider before saying stuff like "Pu239 has half-life of 24,000 years - it's not safe!" Coal, for example, contains tons of mercury, which is not radiactive (i.e., it has a half-life of infinity). After 24,000 years, there will be 50% of Pu239, but 100% of mercury left from coal ashes. Which is worse?
 Of course the actual effect will be higher because there will be other isotopes, shorter-lived and more radioactive. That's why I proposed keeping the waste in a fridge for 200 years first. I'm not a monster.
Also, I highly doubt that if humanity makes it even a thousand more years that we'll have trouble finding a productive use for depleted uranium or other spent fissile fuels. They have many interesting properties.
I was not arguing for coal in any way I am merely pointing saying Nuclear is not as clean as pro nuclear people argue.
Yes the NORM released by Coal and other human activities is substantial, However it is not remotely comparable to Fukishma, Chernobyl and bikini atoll . I don't trust any of the world governments to build a safe reactor and I don't share your optimism on that we will find ways to handle the waste. Instead of trusting luck that we will find clean ways to handle, we can start building plants when we do find them, .
It is recency bias to think we will be able to keep technologically innovating at the same pace we have in the last few decades or even few hundred years, most of our history innovation has happened rapidly only under certain conditions, it may be that those conditions will continue to favour, or maybe physical limits such as moore's law slowing down, resource limits stuck on single planet economically or socio political structural problems can slow down innovation substantially, Any of them could be a great filter in the Fermi Paradox sense.
We'd certainly like for those people to keep the mess stored safely, but there are incentives for them to not do so, even assuming they had the ability to.
And you'd better not ignore how much radiation is released by coal.
It is not:
However, that's not an innate property of nuclear, and there are relatively unproven designs that may be sufficiently cost effective and safe to be a desirable part of the mix.
I think the free market will solve this problem better than is speculating about it on HN. If its cost effective, it will happen, if it's not, it won't.
There dose not exist to my knowledge (would be happy to be proven wrong) any storage solution that currently operated commercial from buying cheap renewable energy at peak production and regain investment and operational costs by selling it expensive during lows. Not a single one in the world.
At best any comparison between storage and nuclear plants is between two currently non-viable commercial alternatives, both requiring massive government funding to be built. The only commercial viable power source right now is renewable that can compete against fossil fuels when the weather make it viable, and fossil fuels as base load and as a dynamic source that can spin up based on weather conditions and demands.
Also, you're simply unaware of commercially successful energy storage. The most high profile example being perhaps the battery pack Tesla installed in Australia for $90.6M AUD, and generated $13.1M AUD in revenue in just six months. Clearly a very good ROI. Pumped Hydro is used all over the world and is even more cost effective.
Pumped Hydro like Bath County Pumped Storage Station does exist but do not seem to buy cheap renewable when the price is low and resell it when it is high, but rather operate as a balancer for PJM Interconnection which get almost all its power from fossil fuels.
So do you have a link for a profitable battery that buys energy from renewables when there is an overproduction from renewable sources and then later sold when the prices has risen? That would be a solar / wind and storage combination. Using energy from fossil fuels to pump water is just not the same, even if doing so creates a profit for the company.
Every time I have read about a new storage facility they usually start with first describing capacity, then go on to say that this can enable a future use with renewables, but that right now it operate to balance the grid of existing (mostly fossil fuel based) power plants. I would very much like to be proven wrong and that there exist a viable commercial operation where we can see X amount of green energy produced by wind and solar going into the storage, and X (minus a conversion cost) of that energy going out, with one table showing how much the green energy costed when going in and an other table showing how much they got in profit when it went out.
"Tesla applies for UK power generation licence in [virtual power plant] play. ... The move suggests Tesla may be planning to build large-scale battery storage projects in the UK"
In 2019 nuclear produced 4.9% of the gridpower.
This is hardly an "unprecedented scale", which AFAIK lies elsewhere: https://unfccc.int/news/china-and-india-lead-global-renewabl...
Maybe in a different regulatory and economic environment, nuclear could be competitive. I don't know. Even coal is becoming uncompetitive in the US compared with renewables, and it's a lot cheaper and lower risk than nuclear.
I'm sure this is not the case, but there are often environmental and political concerns around hydro. For example, Ethiopia's new dam on the Nile river has caused tension with their neighbours, who're worried about the control it gives Ethiopia over the water supply in the river 
For example, Seattle is largely hydroelectric powered. The city's public utility even owns the dams, so whatever energy that isn't used in Seattle they sell to California at market rates, which makes energy conservation a profit center for them. Washington also has major mountain ranges plus the Columbia river. Kansas, on the other hand, is short on anywhere to get falling water.
On the other hand, salmon are a crucial species to the ecosystem out here. They're the primary food source of the local orca population. They're a major commercial fishery. They're one of the major sources of nutrients along the rivers going into the interior. Isotope analysis of trees along the rivers out here shows that a large amount of their growth is driven by decaying salmon.
Ross Dam and its kin that Seattle's power comes from are high enough up where we don't think there was historically much salmon run. There's a study going on now rechecking that. We've removed the Elwa River dam on the Olympic Peninsula, though. It was egregious: the requirements for salmon access were already in place when it was built, and they just ignored it and then refused to pay the fines. The Snake River dams up the Columbia are similarly problematic, and need to be removed.
This is different from, say, Switzerland, where their high dams like Grande Dixence don't have a comparable environmental effect.
> “The river was transformed from being a thriving producer of millions of ﬁsh such as shad, herring, striped bass, Atlantic salmon, sturgeon and alewives and supporting a wide cornucopia of other species ranging from otters to eagles — into a wastewater drainage system,” Jeff Crane, a dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Saint Martin’s University, wrote in a paper published in 2009.
These are both demonstrably untrue.
1st, due to methane releases of decaying plant matter in the flood zones depending on what is flooded Hydro can actually produce over double the emissions of the worst coal plants, annually. For example the Curuá-Una dam in Pará, Brazil, has produced three-and-a-half times more emissions than an equivalent generating plant running on oil.
Based on what was flooded by the WAC Bennett dam in BC, BC likely has more GHG emmissions in their energy mix than Alberta.
And based on the size of the reservoirs(some of the largest in the world) in Quebec & that the flooded mostly boreal forest & peat land, that is also true for Quebec.
2nd, Dams breaking have caused a lot of deaths: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1975_Banqiao_Dam_failure
Thanks for the info, I had no idea. Is this a long term effect where reservoirs will continue to emit CO2 into the long term future, or is it just a one-off cost to transforming land into a lake? If it is just a temporary source of CO2, how long does it take for the emissions to peter out and at what point will the hydroelectric dam become even with coal in terms of emissions?
Aside from its environmental concerns, it will be of limited use in decarbonizing the economy because pretty much all of the useful locations have already been developed.
We are very far from the max. But the concentrated opportunities are mostly taken already. What remains is geographically dispersed, and consequently expensive.
However, nobody told the sun that, so it keeps heating up the seas, evaporating their water, and letting the resulting moisture drift until it gets pushed up into cold air by some land obstruction like a mountain range...
"Pumping" the water uphill in this manner is very inefficient, but like all legacy technologies, we're stuck with it until we can invent a replacement ;-)
You need either nuclear or some heretofore not invented storage technology (or both) to get a reliable grid where wind and solar are a majority of your capacity.
Why? If you have nuclear, why bother with wind and solar - especially since wind and solar don't play well with nuclear.