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Topics - Bob Wallace

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Policy and solutions / Non-incremental Solutions for Global Warming
« on: June 25, 2018, 04:27:36 PM »
There are some individuals on this forum who object to incremental approaches to stopping global warming/climate change.  That's fine, as long as there is at least one non-incremental solution which has a reasonable chance of working.

I'd like to create a space where people could describe their, or others', ideas of how we might solve our problem non-incrementally, in one step.

I'd like to see serious responses. 

Not statements of frustration as to why we haven't yet solved the problem.  I think all of us posting here greatly wish faster progress. 

Not statements of despair.  Solutions.

No diversions into this or that country isn't doing enough. 

Please no 'go watch this hour long video' or naked links.  If you can't explain your solution in a few sentences then you don't understand it.

A serious discussion, please.

Policy and solutions / Build, Baby, Build. In Fact, Overbuild.
« on: April 19, 2018, 07:48:39 AM »
So often I’ve read people claim that wind and solar can’t be more than 10% of grid supply, that wind and solar can’t grow larger than their capacity factor, or that wind and solar must be 100% backed up by fossil fuel or storage.

I decided to see how far one could push wind and solar penetration at a reasonable cost and with no fossil fuel backup.  I’m using California 2017 data because it’s the only publicly available hourly data for load and wind/solar generation I’ve found.  Percent penetration = Total electricity supplied / Total demand.

The bottom line?  The route to a least expensive grid for California may be through overbuilding wind and solar generation rather than lesser amounts of wind and solar generation along with short term (one to three day) battery storage.

Since this is a ‘what might be in 20 years’ I’m assuming that both wind and solar will cost no more than $0.02/kWh (2018 dollars) to generate.  Both are already closing on that price with unsubsidized wind now below $0.03/kWh for several power purchase agreements (PPAs) and solar approaching $0.03/kWh in best cases. 

By 2035 a sizable portion of California wind and solar farms should have paid their capital and financing costs bringing their generation costs (operating costs) to less than $0.01/kWh.  This average of ~$0.02 new generation and <$0.01 paid off generation makes an assumed price of $0.02/kWh a very reasonable assumption.  (All costs in 2018 dollars.)

For this study I used CAISO 2017 hourly demand (load) along with actual wind and solar generation for each specific hours. 

The total demand for 2017 was 231 terawatt hours (TWh).  Actual solar generation during the year was 29 TWh.  Actual wind generation was 14 TWh, about half the amount generated from solar.

For each hour of the year I multiplied solar and wind production to find the highest penetration levels possible without driving the cost too high. 

While some have argued that wind and solar penetration will be limited by their capacity factor this is clearly not the case.  By simply increasing the amount of both wind and solar generated in 2017 five times from the year’s production penetration rises to more than 70%.  With 5x solar and 5x wind 40% of each separate hour would have seen its demand fully met by electricity direct from wind and solar farms.  No storage.

At 5x solar and 15x wind 73% of all hours would be fully supplied by only wind and solar.  Penetration would be 89%.

If electricity from wind and solar farms that costs $0.02/kWh then what would it cost to achieve high penetration levels with only wind and solar straight from turbines and panels with no storage involved?   89% penetration for $0.03/kWh at 5x solar and 15x wind. 

Overbuilding creates a lot of unused (surplus/curtailed) generation.  The more unused potential generation the higher the cost of electricity.  Solar panels and wind turbines are spending time sitting idle and not earning money.  At 5x solar and 15x wind California could generate 125 TWh more electricity than the grid demands.

The solution to high wind and solar penetration and lower electricity costs is to find other uses for the unused generation.  An obvious use is charging EVs.

In 2014 Californians drove over 350 billion miles.  At 0.28 kWh/mile that works out to 268,762 MWh per day or 98 TWh per year.  Let’s assume that charging times can be controlled by the grid, either directly or via price signals, and all EVs are recharged each day as much as possible with potential generation the grid does not need.

The following table shows the number of days per year on which all EVs could not be charged with available overgeneration.  Once the number of days drops below 20 it should be possible to avoid fully charging some EVs on that specific day and charge them only enough to provide the following day’s needs.

From this point on I’m restricting the amount of solar and wind to 15x for each.  There may be a better (cheaper) combination but at this point I’m not seeking the best, but to illustrate the role of  overbuilding.

At 15x solar and 15x wind penetration is almost 90%.  On fewer than 10 days a year are not all EVs fully charged.  And the cost of electricity drops from $0.07/kWh to $0.05/kWh due to sales for EV charging. 

More creative EV charging could allow for less overbuilding and lower the price.  Selling curtailed electricity for desalination, pumping water over the mountains to SoCal, or other dispatchable uses could further lower the cost.  But even at $0.05/kWh there is no lower cost low carbon option.

View this as an early draft.  Look for problems, please.  I'm not very good at self-editing.

Many, many thanks to Etienne for checking my spreadsheets (and finding some mistakes).  If anyone else would like to take a close look I'll be glad to share the link.

Obviously using one state and one year does not create a 'one size fits all' set of numbers.  But I think it gives us a strong suggestion that pure wind and solar may be usable for a high percentage of our electricity leaving a minor roll for other renewables and storage.

As for California and most 'west of the Rockies' states I suspect the penetration level for wind and solar will move close to 100% as we add offshore wind. 

Policy and solutions / Recycling to Reduce Oil Consumption
« on: April 17, 2018, 05:00:00 AM »
Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles.

The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug.

The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. “What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock,” said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. “It’s great and a real finding.”

The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic – far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process.

“What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic,” said McGeehan. “It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.”

Policy and solutions / Low GHG Meat
« on: October 02, 2017, 08:27:06 PM »
Perhaps it's time for a separate topic. 

China just purchased $300 million of factory grown meat from three Israeli companies.  If we're talking production levels that high then it's time to stop talking about lab-grown.  This is factory meat.


Is there a Moore’s law for lab-grown meat? Probably, but I am not aware of details on this subject yet. However, looking back just a few years, we have seen some insane price drops for lab-grown meat. In 2013, a burger of lab-grown meat would have cost you $325,000 excluding tips, and just two years later the same lab-grown burger was only $11.36.

Drawing reference from the continuous price drop in the last couple of years, it could be presumed that in 3 years, the global market could be inundated by lab-grown meat sold at ridiculously cheap prices. This lab-grown meat will be antibiotic-free and hormone-free, a much healthier option when compared with farmed meat.

No methane from ruminants.  No methane from decomposing poop. 

No more "25 pounds of veg protein to produce one pound of animal protein". 

No more forests being destroyed to create grazing land.  Forests returning to unused grazing land and soaking up carbon.

Far, far less petroleum used for production.


It is estimated that about 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock (estimates vary greatly depending on the assumptions).

And - this could be a huge boon in feeding our extra billions as agriculture becomes more disrupted by extreme weather.

Policy and solutions / Robots Grow Our Food
« on: September 12, 2017, 05:32:27 AM »
A crop of barley has been planted, tended, and harvested entirely by machine.  No human set a foot in the field the entire crop cycle.

Policy and solutions / Concrete - CO2 Villain or Solution?
« on: July 18, 2017, 05:52:03 PM »
"The concrete industry is one of two largest producers of carbon dioxide (CO2), creating up to 5% of worldwide man-made emissions of this gas, of which 50% is from the chemical process and 40% from burning fuel." - Wiki

Is this fixable?  Or even as bad as is commonly believed?

Cement manufacturing is among the most carbon-intensive industrial processes, but an international team of researchers has found that over time, the widely used building material reabsorbs much of the CO2 emitted when it was made.

"It sounds counterintuitive, but it's true," said Steven Davis, associate professor of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine. "The cement poured around the world since 1930 has taken up a substantial portion of the CO2 released when it was initially produced."

For a study published today in Nature Geoscience, Davis and colleagues from China, Europe and other U.S. institutions tallied the emissions from cement manufacturing and compared them to the amount of CO2 reabsorbed by the material over its complete life cycle, which includes normal use, disposal and recycling. They found that "cement is a large, overlooked and growing net sink" around the world - "sink" meaning a feature such as a forest or ocean that takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and permanently tucks it away so that it can no longer contribute to climate change.

Cement manufacturing is considered doubly carbon-intensive because emissions come from two sources. CO2 molecules are released into the air when limestone (calcium carbonate) is converted to lime (calcium oxide), the key ingredient in cement. And to generate the heat necessary to break up limestone, factories also burn large quantities of natural gas, coal and other fossil fuels.

 Through a process called carbonation, CO2 is drawn into the pores of cement-based materials, such as concrete and mortar. This starts at the surface and moves progressively inward, pulling in more and more carbon dioxide as years pass.

More than 76 billion tons of cement was produced around the world between 1930 and 2013, according to the study; 4 billion tons were manufactured in 2013 alone, mostly in China. It's estimated that, as a result, a total of 38.2 gigatons of CO2 was released over that period. The scientists concluded, however, that 4.5 gigatons - or 43 percent of emissions from limestone conversion - were gradually reabsorbed during that time frame.

"Cement has gotten a lot of attention for its sizable contribution to global climate change, but this research reinforces that the leading culprit continues to be fossil fuel burning," Davis said.

Adding basalt or olivine to the mix should increase CO2 absorption.  Basalt fibers are already added to some concrete in order to strengthen it.  Adding basalt fiber can reduce or eliminate the need for rebar (another CO2 source) and make the concrete less likely to crack. 

An advanced materials manufacturer in Calumet, Michigan, Neuvokas (Finnish for “resourceful”) blends purchased fiber and internally formulated resin at high speeds to produce lightweight basalt fiber-reinforced polymer that is cost-competitive with traditional steel counterparts and also preferable to ordinary fiber rebar. Similar in chemical composition to glass fiber, basalt fiber is stronger and highly resists alkaline, acidic, and salt deterioration. Basalt rebar can also tolerate higher temperatures and more abrasion. Lack of developed standards for the product have held up its general institution.

Here are some of the other advantages of the Neuvokas product:

100X increase in production speeds of basalt rebar compared to current FRP production,
Price parity with steel,
Immunity to rust,
Increased tensile strength,
7X weight reduction with basalt rebar, and
Capability of using 30% less concrete.

Policy and solutions / Replacing Oil with Batteries - the Small Stuff
« on: July 13, 2017, 06:25:07 PM »
Amazon is selling a battery powered lawnmower for $101 with free shipping.  (Limited to Prime members, those who pay an annual membership fee.)

The Sun Joe cuts a 14" swath and has enough battery for about 25 minutes of cutting.  It's pretty light (<30 pounds).  All that should make it a great option for those who have small yards. 

The forum / Where to park images for use on this site?
« on: June 29, 2017, 10:03:16 PM »
I've been using Photobucket for the images I post here.  But Photobucket has become ad-nasty.  They appear to be making free use so unpleasant with ads that people will pay them $3/month for use.

Is there a better free site? 

Is it possible to tweak this software so that we can post images direct from Google like can be done on Disqus based boards?

Policy and solutions / Wind Turbines
« on: June 01, 2017, 05:55:16 AM »
(I searched.  I didn't find the topic discussed.)

The common assumption seems to be that rare earth magnets are needed for wind turbines, or at least often used.  This leads to a lot of hand-wringing by "concerned" nuclear advocates looking for a reason why we can't have 100% renewable grids.

Turns out that REM magnets are used in only 2% of all US wind turbines.  And that the industry is turning to induction motors controlled by modern software and silicon.  That rare, rare material - sand.

Interesting read from Amory Lovins on the rare earth issue and why it largely is not an issue.  For wind turbines, EVs, and LEDs.

Policy and solutions / EU 28 on the Right Track
« on: May 17, 2017, 07:56:28 AM »

Renewables going up. 

Fossil fuels going down.

Domino's has announced that its autonomous delivery vehicle is now operating commercially, delivering pizzas to customers in Hamburg, Germany.

The robot delivery system was created in partnership with Starship Technologies, a European startup founded by two of Skype's co-creators Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis in 2014.

"Robotic delivery units will complement our existing delivery methods, including cars, scooters, and e-bikes," Don Meij, Domino's Group CEO, said in a statement.

The robots travel on six wheels, navigating through streets and around small obstacles with the help of their on-board sensors, which can detect the shortest route to a destination and adapt their speed to pedestrians around them. The robots can travel up to 16 kilometres per hour.

Policy and solutions / US Wind Continues to Grow
« on: May 02, 2017, 07:26:16 PM »
The U.S. wind industry installed more than 8 gigawatts in 2015 and again in 2016. Follow that with the strongest first quarter this decade and the industry can lay claim to some consistency,

Hunt said, "We've seen a steady and significant cost decline system making wind energy more economic than ever." The cost decline is due to technology innovation such as increased blade length, increased hub height, improved siting techniques and advanced software that's helping to boost overall performance in the turbine.

She notes, "There's been very compelling studies released by NREL that reveal the increased geographic area that can be developed when you increase hub heights from 80 meters, which is still more or less the industry standards today, up to 100 meters. It really has an exponential effect on the area that can be developed."

Here are some more stats from the report:

The U.S. wind industry installed 2,000 megawatts during the first quarter of 2017, a 385 percent increase from the first quarter of 2016 and the second strongest first quarter on record.

The addition of North Carolina’s first utility-scale wind project brings U.S. installed wind power capacity to 84,143 megawatts across 41 states.

Project developers reported a combined 20,977 megawatts of wind capacity under construction or in advanced development, with 4,466 megawatts in combined new announcements. There are now 9,025 megawatts under construction and 11,952 megawatts in advanced development.

1,781 megawatts of power purchase agreements were signed during the first quarter, the strongest first quarter for PPA announcements since the beginning of 2013.

There are now 41 states with utility-scale wind projects.

GE Renewable Energy, Siemens, and Vestas captured a combined 88 percent of the U.S. wind turbine market during the first quarter.

24 percent of the 2,000 megawatts installed in the first quarter are contracted to non-utility purchasers including the U.S. Army and Google Energy.

Wind now produces 5.5% of America's electricity.

Policy and solutions / Solar Roofs - Musk Style
« on: May 02, 2017, 06:10:52 AM »
From Elon's TED interview...

Elon: Yeah. Solar glass tiles where you can you can adjust the texture and the color to a very fine grain level. And then there’s sort of micro louvers in the glass, such that when you’re looking at the roof from street level or close to street level. All the tiles look look the same whether there is a solar panel behind it or a solar cell behind it or not. So you have an even color from from the ground level. If you look at it from a helicopter you’re actually able to look through and see that some of the glass tiles have a solar cell behind them and some do not. You can’t tell from street level.

Chris: Right. You put them in the ones that are likely to see a lot of sun and that makes them super affordable right? Not that much more expensive than just tiling the roof.

Elon: Yeah, we’re very confident that the cost of the roof plus the cost of electricity… A solar glass roof will be less than the cost of a normal roof plus the cost of electricity. So in other words, this will be economically a no-brainer. It will look… We think it will look great… And it will last… We thought about having the warranty be infinity, but then people said, well, that might sound like we were just talking rubbish, but I actually this is toughened glass. Well after the house has collapsed and there’s nothing there, the roof… the glass tiles will still be there.

Chris: I mean this is cool. So you’re rolling this out in a couple weeks time, I think with four different roofing types.

Elon: Yeah, we’re starting off with two. Two initially and the second two will be introduced early next year.

Chris: What’s the scale of ambition here? How many houses do you believe could end up having this type of roofing?

Elon: I mean, I think eventually. I think eventually almost all houses will have a solar roof. Now the thing is to consider the time scale here to be probably on the order of 40 or 50 years. So on average the roof is replaced every 20 to 25 years. So but you don’t you don’t start replacing all roofs immediately, but eventually, if you say you were to fast forward to say 15 years from now, it will be unusual to have a roof that does not have solar.

Earlier Elon said that Tesla had come up with a new glass formulation that's much tougher than other types of glass while costing about the same to manufacture.  I think that glass is going into the glass roof of the Model 3 and their solar tiles.

We know that solar panels lose from 0.1% to 0.4% output per year.  The higher number is for panels exposed to more wind/snow loading and/or higher UV exposure.  If this glass is as tough as Elon says, along with the tiles being much smaller than regular solar panels it seems like there would be no flexing due to snow or wind. 

As long as your house isn't in a high UV area then after 100 years your roof might still be producing 90% as much electricity as when it was new.

(I assume that when Elon talks about the price compared to 'normal' roofs he's talking about clay  and ceramic tile, not asphalt/composite shingles which are somewhat cheaper.

Policy and solutions / The Boring Company
« on: April 27, 2017, 09:34:37 PM »
An image of Musk's boring machine seems to have leaked.  The project is much further along than most of us realized.

Think about going from San Francisco to New York in a fairly straight line.  Underneath the Sierras, Rockies and the other small ranges.  The distance through the Sierras is only about 65 miles.  Two Chunnels. 

If the route could be dug for a small percentage of present digging costs it would make it possible to do all sorts of interesting things with 'loop  routes.  City in the way?  Go under it.

The proposed high speed routes for San Francisco (including the Bay) and for LA both go underground .

Policy and solutions / EV Charging
« on: April 26, 2017, 05:56:02 AM »
Don't know if this has been covered in another thread.  If so, sorry.

Tesla has opened the supercharger tap and new sites are pouring out...

“We started 2017 with over 5,000 Superchargers globally and by the end of this year, Tesla will double that number to total more than 10,000 Superchargers and 15,000 Destination Charging connectors around the world. In North America, we’ll increase the number of Superchargers by 150 percent, and in California alone we’ll add more than 1,000 Superchargers. We’re moving full speed on site selection and many sites will soon enter construction to open in advance of the summer travel season.

Tesla has a new supercharge web site.

If you go to the map page and click on "Map Options" one option is the Way Back.  Let that ap run (you might want to speed it up a bit) and you'll see how the Supercharger system grew over time.

Zoom out enough to see the US, Europe, and Asia all at the same time.

The Model S started selling in December of 2012 and about a year later an owner could drive up and down both coasts and from coast to coast on a single route using Superchargers as they traveled.

There's a lot of interesting data on the site.  All the locations and the number of charge points at each.  Some sites now have 20 charge bays.

Tesla will build larger sites along our busiest travel routes that will accommodate several dozen Teslas Supercharging simultaneously.

Policy and solutions / Storage Becomes a Player
« on: April 26, 2017, 12:42:25 AM »
I ran across this comment on a different site...

All producers need storage to optimize profitability. That means that coal and nuclear plants will be buying storage starting this year. The smart money will be buying battery storage.

My reading is that battery prices are now reaching the point where it's more profitable for large thermal plants to start time-shifting their low demand (low selling price) electricity to higher demand (higher selling price) times. 

That's not going to happen unless there's enough wind and solar to pull prices low when the wind is blowing or Sun shining and the price of battery storage has fallen enough.

Obviously not all grids are going to be in this condition now, but it's likely a point which most grids will have to traverse.

Policy and solutions / Can we ever stop the rise of CO2?
« on: March 14, 2015, 08:57:57 AM »
The International Energy Agency announced Friday that energy-related CO2 emissions last year were unchanged from the year before, totaling 32.3 billion metric tons of CO2 in both 2013 and 2014. It shows that efforts to reduce emissions to combat climate change may be more effective than previously thought.

This is both a very welcome surprise and a significant one,” IEA Chief Economist and incoming IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement. “It provides much-needed momentum to negotiators preparing to forge a global climate deal in Paris in December. For the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth.”

Following an announcement earlier this week that China’s CO2 emissions fell 2 percent in 2014, the IEA is crediting 2014’s progress to China using more solar, wind and hydropower while burning less coal. Western Europe’s focus on sustainable growth, energy efficiency and renewables has shown that emissions from energy consumption can fall even as economies grow globally, according to the IEA.

Global CO2 emissions stalled or fell in the early 1980s, 1992 and 2009, each time correlating with a faltering global economy. In 2014, the economy grew 3 percent worldwide.

In the U.S., energy-related CO2 emissions fell during seven of the past 23 years, most notably during the recession of 2009, U.S. Energy Information Administration data show. Emissions in 2013 — the most recent year for which U.S. data is available — were higher than they were in the previous year, but 10 percent lower than they were in 2005.

At the same time, the carbon intensity of the U.S. economy — CO2 emissions per dollar of GDP — has been trending downward over the past 25 years, according to the administration.

China’s emissions of carbon dioxide fell last year for the first time in more than a decade, helping stall global production of climate-warming gases. The finding, along with new data from the International Energy Agency, is a sign that efforts to control pollution are gaining traction.

Total carbon emissions in the world’s second-biggest economy dropped 2 percent in 2014 compared with the previous year, the first drop since 2001, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimate based on preliminary energy demand data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

Policy and solutions / The Hyperloop
« on: December 18, 2014, 08:02:49 PM »
The idea of shooting capsules full of people through tubes at up to 760 mile an hour sounds kind of science-fictiony but some people are taking it seriously.

The idea of going from LA to SF in a half hour for a few dollars sounds great.

Here's a interesting short news piece with a good video on what's happening...

About 2500 miles from SF to NYC.  Under four hours.  All (renewable) electricity. 

Might need a potty stop along the way.  Or they might have Red Eye - Iron Bladder runs late at night. 

Policy and solutions / CO2 - Are We Seeing the Start of the Slowdown?
« on: December 11, 2014, 07:31:20 PM »
“We see global trends, indicating promising shifts in some of the most relevant sectors for climate protection”, says Jan Burck of Germanwatch, author of the Index. “The rise of emissions has slowed down, and renewables are rapidly growing due to declining costs and massive investments.”

In some countries like Denmark (Rank 4), Sweden (Rank 5) and the United Kingdom (Rank 6) the result is decreasing emissions. On the other side of the globe China, the world’s biggest emitter, shows improvements in the efficiency sector and massive investments in renewables. Most recent developments indicate China’s decade long coal boom seems to be over, offering new hope for global climate protection.

“Data showing declining emission growth rates together with promising political signs, suggesting that we are able to stabilize global emissions. The Paris Climate Summit in 2015, where countries will make new commitments for climate action, could be a turning point in this respect,” adds Burck.

"The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) annual report “Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends” (earlier post) has, in its past editions since its inception in 1975, treated alternative fuel vehicles—electric vehicles (EVs), plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles—separately from gasoline and diesel vehicles, with the vast majority of its analysis limited to gasoline and diesel vehicles only.

The agency’s reasoning was that since alternative fuel vehicle production has generally been less than 0.1% of total vehicle production until very recently, the impact of excluding alternative fuel vehicles was negligible. With alternative fuel vehicles now approaching 1% of new vehicle production, however, they are in fact beginning to have a “measurable and meaningful impact” on overall new vehicle fuel economy and CO2 emissions.


 Alternative fuel vehicles represented 0.7% of new vehicle production in MY 2013, according to EPA. Including mpge and tailpipe CO2—i.e., not full well-to-wheels CO2—emissions from alternative fuel vehicles (AFV) increases the overall MY 2013 new vehicle fuel economy by 0.1 mpg, and reduces the overall CO2 emissions by 3 g/mi."

Little acorns grow into giant oaks....

Policy and solutions / We May Be Plugging In Sooner Than We Expected.
« on: October 07, 2014, 08:25:22 AM »
"So here are some highlights gleaned from the UBS (Swiss global financial services company) discussion with Navigant ( business consulting service):

Navigant estimates the cost of materials going into a battery at the Tesla Gigafactory on a processed chemical basis (not the raw ore) is $69/kWh [this metric is per kW per hour of operation].

The cost of the battery is only ~10-20% higher than the bill of materials – suggesting a potential long-term competitive price for Lithium Ion batteries could approach ~$100 per kWh. although conventional systems still selling for $500-700/kWh. But Navigant says that the broader market place will reach the levels Tesla is paying in the next two to three years."

"As Jaffe noted, the $180/kWh price paid by Tesla compares to about $1500/kWh even five years ago, maybe seven years ago when it was $1200 to $1500 per kilowatt-hour. “So $180 per kWh is the price of those batteries, not the manufacturing cost but the price that they’re paying for them,” he said.."

Let me repeat - "Tesla currently pays Panasonic $180/kW for their batteries".

The threshold at which EVs sell for the same price as same-model ICEVs is about $250/kWh.  It seems that threshold has already been crossed and we're moving on.

If this is correct then we should see very affordable EVs in showrooms in only a couple of years.  (Likely prices will start high in order to make some extra off the early adopters and then work their way down.)

Manufacturing costs of ~$100/kWh doom the gasmobile.

Then there's this other tasty bit from the article about grid, not EV, storage...


Citigroup last week cited $230/kWh as the key mark where battery storage wins out over conventional generation and puts the fossil fuel incumbents into terminal decline.


Mind if I shout?

Puts the fossil fuel incumbents into terminal decline!

The International Energy Agency (IEA) [3] has estimated that worldwide lighting is responsible for emissions of approximately 1900 Mt CO2 per year, equivalent to 70% of the emissions from the world’s light passenger vehicles.

Eighty percent of these emissions from lighting are associated with electricity generation, but the IEA estimates that about 20% come from the 1% of global lighting that is produced by the direct combustion of paraffin and oil lamps used by the 1.6 billion people who have no access to electricity [3].

Hence, dramatically improved lighting system efficiency, together with electrification that replaces oil lamps with electric lamps, could make a big contribution to controlling global CO2 emissions. A large literature illustrates the cost-effectiveness of greenhouse gas mitigation through the use of energy efficient technologies such as improved lighting [4]–[13].

I was aware that kerosene (paraffin) lamps contributed to global warming but I didn't realize how much.  And the authors don't include the soot/carbon black that is created by these very inefficient lamps.

Luckily we have a solution.  One that is working well and hopefully will expand to cover the more than one billion people who now live without electricity.

July, 2013

"Over the past decade, since the Bangladesh government launched a rural electrification programme supported by the World Bank and other international aid bodies, the number of off-grid installations in the country has rocketed. In 2002, installations rates stood at 7000; today that figure has exploded to nearly 2 million and counting, with average installation rates now topping 80,000 a month.

“A typical customer would give a 15% down payment, and then the balance would be made over a period of 24-36 months,” he says. “A typical system would be 50W – for LED lights, a black and white TV connection and mobile phone charger, with four-hour back-up up every day. The cost of everything would be US$300-325, and a household would typically pay US$8-10 for that every month.”

Moin says that even being able to power these relatively modest appliances makes a big difference to people’s lives. “It’s unbelievable, and until you see it, it’s very difficult to explain.

Let’s say you go to a rural remote home and they’re burning kerosene lights, suddenly overnight (because it only takes four hours to install a typical system) that home has proper lights and connection to TV – it’s transformational. And the quality of life keeps on improving – in terms of late hour education, and even in shops, they’re keeping them open later into the night.”

At 80,000 new installations per month Bangladesh should have added at least 1.1 million more micro-solar systems since this article was written. 

People are paying less per month than the cost of kerosene.  After a year or two the system is paid off and cash freed up.  Air quality improves immediately.  People become healthier and less money needs to be spent on medicine.  People become more productive.  Children find it easier to study for school and education improves.

This is a solution that pays for itself, creates new jobs, improves the lives of millions, and cuts GHG.

Policy and solutions / Methane leaks dropping?
« on: October 02, 2014, 05:41:13 PM »
This is from an industry sponsored article, but bears watching.

Technology advancements are driving more than just the huge production increases realized by the natural gas sector over the last several years. The industry is also innovating when it comes to making the production process more efficient and environmentally friendly.

New data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that methane emissions from petroleum and natural gas systems are down 12 percent since 2011. Methane released from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations has dropped an astonishing 73 percent since 2011.

Enter “green completions,” which virtually eliminate emissions that were once released during natural gas production. The technology creates a closed-loop system that separates usable gas from water during the “flowback” stage of the drilling process, and keeps that gas from entering the atmosphere. This has substantially curtailed older methods of emissions reduction, such as flaring.

Starting on Jan. 1, 2015, green completions will be the law of the land for the vast majority of natural gas producers. The industry-wide utilization of this technology will mean a reduction in methane emissions by 1.0 to 1.7 million tons a year.

Why does this matter? Because that’s the equivalent of removing up to 8 million cars from the road each year, according to the World Resources Institute.

I wasn't aware of legislation going into effect on Jan 1.  That's good news.

Policy and solutions / Concrete with Less CO2
« on: September 29, 2014, 06:13:38 PM »
Researchers from the MIT claim to have found the way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from one of the most polluting processes- that of making cement. The team did not introduce any new ingredients. Instead, they only tweaked the ratio between calcium and silica-rich clay.

After conducting a series of experiments, however, the team established that the optimal calcium-to-silica clay ratio should in fact be 1.5. Not only that the final product has incredible mechanical resistance , which is double the one achieved with a ratio of 1,7, and it is much less prone to fracturing, but also the team estimated a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from the manufacturing process of up to 60%.

Higher mechanical resistance would mean that less product could be used, resulting in a further reduction in CO2 per project.  And less CO2 from transportation.

Policy and solutions / Not Such Good News from India
« on: September 25, 2014, 08:55:26 PM »
In a blow to American hopes of reaching an international deal to fight global warming, India’s new environment minister said Wednesday that his country would not offer a plan to cut its greenhouse gas emissions ahead of a climate summit next year in Paris.
The minister, Prakash Javadekar, said in an interview that his government’s first priority was to alleviate poverty and improve the nation’s economy, which he said would necessarily involve an increase in emissions through new coal-powered electricity and transportation. He placed responsibility for what scientists call a coming climate crisis on the United States, the world’s largest historic greenhouse gas polluter, and dismissed the idea that India would make cuts to carbon emissions.
“What cuts?” Mr. Javadekar said. “That’s for more developed countries. The moral principle of historic responsibility cannot be washed away.” Mr. Javadekar was referring to an argument frequently made by developing economies — that developed economies, chiefly the United States, which spent the last century building their economies while pumping warming emissions into the atmosphere — bear the greatest responsibility for cutting pollution.

Mr. Javadekar said that government agencies in New Delhi were preparing plans for India’s domestic actions on climate change, but he said they would lead only to a lower rate of increase in carbon emissions. It would be at least 30 years, he said, before India would likely see a downturn.
“India’s first task is eradication of poverty,” Mr. Javadekar said, speaking in a New York hotel suite a day after a United Nations climate summit. “Twenty percent of our population doesn’t have access to electricity, and that’s our top priority. We will grow faster, and our emissions will rise.”

I'm hoping Prime Minister Modi takes him aside and has a little talk with him.  India is among the countries likely to be hurt most by climate change.  It is not in their best interest to wait until other countries have cleaned up their grids.  We're all in this one together.

Policy and solutions / But, but, but, China....
« on: August 12, 2014, 08:16:19 AM »
Some people love to argue that it would do no good to clean up the US/wherever grid because China is not going to do anything to curb their GHG emissions.  Let me chop and quote the parts about China from a Renewable Economy piece....

Just one week after Beijing confirmed plans to phase out the use of coal and close coal-fired power plants by 2020, the head of China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) has suggested that the country might begin implementation of a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).chinawind

... an RPS for China could include specific quota’s for power or capacity from the country’s utilities, purchase specifications for the grid companies, and renewable use by end customers, according to Deutsche Bank.

... China’s National Development and Reform Commission announced the creation of a committee of experts to oversee expanding the existing seven ETS pilot programs into a unified national program.


“China is showing increasing evidence of long term sustainable plans for multi-year solar installs, and we view (NEAhead) Wu Xinxiong’s statement as solid evidence of the country’s increasing commitment to solar and wind,” Deutsche analyst Vishal Shah said in a research note.

Already, the country has a goal of 15 per cent renewable generation by 2020 (echoing the European 20/20 renewables goals). In 2012, Chinese companies invested $65 billion in renewable energy projects, a 20 per cent improvement on 2011 numbers, and they plan to spend $473 billion on clean energy investments between 2011 and 2015, according to the country’s most recent Five-Year Plan.

Shah says that implementation of an RPS in China would strongly encourage ongoing solar installations and we see benefit to vertically integrated Chinese manufacturers and installers, as well as spurring development of “even larger scale projects for the companies most well positioned in the country.”

BTW, China now leads the world in wind generation and installed 10 GW of solar in 2013.  That's about the same amount of solar that the US has installed - over all years.  In 2014 China is on track to install another 13 to  14 GW of solar.

Policy and solutions / Do we stand of chance of avoiding the worst?
« on: July 12, 2014, 11:49:43 PM »
I'm opening this thread as a place to "post optimism".  To consider the chance that we can avoid severe climate change.  And to discuss what we can do to increase our odds of success.

Now, there's no way to guarantee that we can dodge that huge bullet, but there's also no guarantee that I'm aware of that we can't.  Those who are convinced that we have no chance are invited to discuss doom and gloom on a different thread.

Here's my starting position.

“A leaked draft of the (IPCC) report sent to governments in December suggests that in order to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) by the end of the century — the stated goal of international climate talks — emissions need to fall by 40-70 percent by 2050.”

Yes, 2 degrees C is going to cause us some hurt, major hurt for many, but it is AFAIK survivable for the greater part of humanity.

And, for clarity, that 40% to 70% reduction is based on 2005 emissions.

That leak occurred a few months ago and I've seen no great outcry from climate scientists that it's badly incorrect, so until I see something to the contrary that carries some scientific weight I'm going with 40% to 70% and we probably squeak through.

Arctic sea ice / Daily Mean Temperatures North of 80 degree North
« on: December 16, 2013, 10:52:11 PM »

Looking back through recent years it appears that winters are getting warmer (as we would expect with increasing GHG cover).

Is anyone plotting temperatures by month over the years?

Policy and solutions / Might Oil Be In Trouble?
« on: June 08, 2013, 07:36:15 AM »
On Wednesday this week at the annual conference of Canada’s Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, GM’s head of global R&D let his guard down slightly in saying prototype electric cars now being evaluated on U.S. test tracks have triple the energy density of a Chevrolet Volt, and close to double that of a Tesla Model S.

A Volt has about 140 watt-hours per kilogram energy density in its LG Chem lithium-ion T-shaped battery pack. Tesla’s “skateboard” chassis now uses Panasonic cells that reportedly deliver as much as 240 Wh/kg, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk said to expect more.

And so has GM in so many words.

“Today there are prototypes out there with 400 Watt-hours per kilogram,” said Dr. J. Gary Smyth, executive director of Global Research and Development, General Motors Company.

Smyth added the mystery batteries will cost much less than batteries in today’s electric cars and they’ll have a “big impact” on the auto industry and “it completely changes the equation” on cost, range, and vehicle packaging.

If they've got high capacity batteries running on test tracks now we could be very short years from an affordable EV one could drive all day with no more than one or two modest breaks to charge.  No different than driving 500+ miles in a gasmobile.

Give drivers the option of purchasing a very functional EV for close to the price of a similar ICEV and the market will flip.  Quickly.

Policy and solutions / Ten Countries Form Renewable Energy Club
« on: June 02, 2013, 07:58:13 PM »
On the invitation of the German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier, high-level representatives from 10 countries have gathered in Berlin to establish the Renewables Club on June 1st, 2013. Their common goal is to scale up the deployment of renewable energy worldwide.

Founding members of this pro-renewable alliance are the People’s Republic of China, the Kingdom of Denmark, the French Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Republic of India, the Kingdom of Morocco, the Republic of South Africa, the Kingdom of Tonga (as a representative of small and medium-sized island nations), the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

“As members of the Club we aim to lead by example,” said Minister Altmaier. “The Renewables Club is a political initiative of pioneering countries that are united by an important goal: a worldwide transformation of the energy system.” In such a system, renewable energy should play a key role in the future global energy supply.

“We are determined to work together as advocates and implementers of renewable energy at global level,” said Altmaier.

With approximately 2.9 billion inhabitants, the ten member nations represent about 40% of the world population.

With approximately $19 trillion, they also represent about 27% of the world economy (measured in nominal GDP).

The members of the Renewables Club represented 40% of global investments in renewables last year.

The Renewables Club includes economies that are leaders in technology, innovation, industry, renewable deployment, and efficient policy frameworks, as well as those emerging economies that will benefit the most from a rapid transition to renewable energy.

More info here -

The State of Florida just completed an $800 million project to make their grid smart.

The Maytag repairman could be getting some company in Florida. Last year alone, servicemen at Florida Power & Light sat tight more than 42,000 times as smart grid technology identified and solved power outages, many of them caused by problems inside of a home instead of by a fault on the utility’s system.
 FPL did not install any completely new systems, but installed 4.5 million smart meters and more than 10,000 new intelligent devices across its territory.
Like other utilities that are making use of smart meters, FPL is able to remotely “ping” the meter to see if it’s working. If a meter sends out a last gasp signal, the outage management system creates a new event before a customer calls. But if a customer does call, the utility can check to see if the outage is caused by the utility or something in the home, such as a breaker that’s open. Before the digital meters, the servicemen would have to go to the home only to then find out the problem was inside of the home. Not anymore.

“We knew that the number [of problems being inside the home] existed,” said Olnick, “but we had no idea it would be as high as it was.”


Fine, you say.  That saves a lot of service truck fuel.  But how about electricity?

The utility’s distribution performance and diagnostic center ... brings together engineers, software developers and business analyst to leverage the reams of data coming off of the smart grid.

A transmission performance and diagnostic center is monitoring 500 substations remotely. Engineers are also using algorithms to measure voltage for predictive maintenance of transformers.

This is going to give engineers the ability to determine exactly where distribution losses are occurring.  Efforts can go to making improvements which will bring the most bang for the buck.  Transformers which are not cooling down because of EVs charging at night can be easily identified and swapped out with larger capacity units.  (Heat is wasted electricity.) 

Information will let utilities chip away at their inefficiency problems and make it easier to abandon fossil fuels.

Quotes from:

Everyone knows that replacing your old appliance with a new, more efficient model will save you money on your utility bills,” said Steven Nadel, ACEEE executive director. “What this report shows is that consumers haven’t had to sacrifice good performance or new features in exchange for improved efficiency.”

“Many of us tend to be nostalgic about the past, but what this report shows is that your parents’ appliances not only cost more to run, but probably didn’t perform as well either,” said Andrew deLaski, ASAP executive director.

National efficiency standards for appliances, equipment, and lighting products have delivered big savings for consumers. The report found that a household with six products (refrigerator, clothes washer & dryer, dishwasher, central air conditioner, and toilets) that just meet the current efficiency standards will save $360 on annual utility bills compared to a household with the same products purchased 20 years ago.

ACEEE and ASAP analyzed how the choices available to consumers have changed over time as efficiency standards have taken effect for ten residential and commercial products.

The report compared the performance, features, and price of products available before and after each standard was implemented.

The report found that product performance generally stayed the same or improved as efficiency standards took effect. Refrigerator temperature performance has improved and noise levels have dropped over time.

Manufacturers have maintained good dishwasher performance even as energy and water use have decreased substantially. And incandescent light bulbs that meet new efficiency standards provide the same light output, lifetime, color quality, and dimmability as bulbs that were available before standards took effect.

“Overall, efficiency standards have been a win-win for consumers,” said Mel Hall-Crawford, energy projects director at Consumer Federation of America.

“Improved efficiency has added up to consumer pocketbook savings, and at the same time, consumers are getting products that deliver equal or better performance.”] [url][/url]

Efficiency means not only that people save money, more importantly it means that more of the renewable generation we install can go toward shutting down coal.  And then natural gas.

Permafrost / Permafrost Melt, Perhaps Not As Bad As We Feared...
« on: May 23, 2013, 05:28:52 AM »
Researchers have uncovered a mechanism in the Alaskan tundra that doesn't seem to follow the climate change script for soil carbon.

For years, scientists have shown that rising temperatures stimulate microbes that decay plant matter, releasing carbon more quickly into the atmosphere. But when Seeta Sistla, a doctoral student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, came to collect data for a 20-year-old experiment at the U.S. Arctic Long-Term Ecological Research site in northern Alaska, the soil carbon levels at the site were curiously stable.

While climate change is warming the soil and spurring microorganisms to decompose leaves -- which releases carbon into the air -- the growth of more shrubbery in the tundra is soaking up that carbon and redistributing it back into the ground.


The researchers collected samples dating back to 1989 from greenhouses at the Arctic Long-Term Ecological Research site, the longest-running whole system tundra warming experiment.

Overall, there was no change in total soil carbon over 20 years. While the surface layer lost some of its carbon, there was a significant increase in the mineral soils more than 2 feet below the surface. These soils typically don't hold a lot of carbon, but the researchers believe warming has encouraged soil nematodes and mites, which help decompose leaves and other plant matter, to make their way to the deeper soils.

"Deeper soil food webs are looking like surface soil food webs," Schimel said.

This redistribution of soil carbon storage raises questions of whether the balance provided by larger plants will stand in the long term or whether the more active microbes detected in the deeper soils will eventually offset the increased carbon in those deeper soils.

(I posted this in the Science forum and then remembered there was a Permafrost forum.  Feel free to kill one if desired.)

Science / Permafrost Melt, Perhaps Not As Bad As We Feared...
« on: May 23, 2013, 05:26:40 AM »
Researchers have uncovered a mechanism in the Alaskan tundra that doesn't seem to follow the climate change script for soil carbon.

For years, scientists have shown that rising temperatures stimulate microbes that decay plant matter, releasing carbon more quickly into the atmosphere. But when Seeta Sistla, a doctoral student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, came to collect data for a 20-year-old experiment at the U.S. Arctic Long-Term Ecological Research site in northern Alaska, the soil carbon levels at the site were curiously stable.

While climate change is warming the soil and spurring microorganisms to decompose leaves -- which releases carbon into the air -- the growth of more shrubbery in the tundra is soaking up that carbon and redistributing it back into the ground.


The researchers collected samples dating back to 1989 from greenhouses at the Arctic Long-Term Ecological Research site, the longest-running whole system tundra warming experiment.

Overall, there was no change in total soil carbon over 20 years. While the surface layer lost some of its carbon, there was a significant increase in the mineral soils more than 2 feet below the surface. These soils typically don't hold a lot of carbon, but the researchers believe warming has encouraged soil nematodes and mites, which help decompose leaves and other plant matter, to make their way to the deeper soils.

"Deeper soil food webs are looking like surface soil food webs," Schimel said.

This redistribution of soil carbon storage raises questions of whether the balance provided by larger plants will stand in the long term or whether the more active microbes detected in the deeper soils will eventually offset the increased carbon in those deeper soils.

Science / Greenland's Melting Could Cool the Atlantic
« on: May 17, 2013, 09:14:06 PM »
Greenland ice melting at an expanding pace may begin cooling the North Atlantic and increasing the severity of storms by 2075, said James Hansen, the former NASA scientist who raised concerns about global warming in the 1980s.

“If we stay on this path where the rate of mass loss from Greenland doubles every 10 years, we would get to a situation by about 2075 or 2080 where the mass loss is so fast that it causes the whole North Atlantic to be colder,” Hansen said in London.


Inflows of cold, fresh water from Greenland would slow deep currents that carry cold water south, cooling the North Atlantic as tropical waters get warmer, Hansen said. That would increase a “temperature gradient” that’s conducive to stronger storms.


The findings add to research showing the system of Atlantic currents that channels the warm Gulf Stream to the northeast and moves colder, deeper waters south may slow this century because of climate change. Possible effects include cooler temperatures for Europe -- or a moderation of rising temperatures -- and higher sea levels in New York, past studies have found.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will this year publish the first section of a four-part report of its first comprehensive review of the climate since 2007. A leaked draft in December said it’s “very likely” the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation -- the system of currents in the ocean -- will weaken this century. It is “very unlikely” it will collapse completely, the report showed.

Policy and solutions / Are We All Going to Bake in Place? Soon?
« on: May 14, 2013, 07:42:33 AM »
Several years back when I first paid attention to global warming I initially wrote it off as a measurement problem largely due to urban heat islands.

Then after I read a bit and found that not to be the reason temperatures were increasing I went quickly to the other side and became very concerned about things like sea level rise.  I was worried about my sister's house in Florida going under in the near following years.

With more reading I climbed down off that ladder.  I found myself jerked to and fro over the next few years by someone "who had the real story" and talked a good game.  And then others punched holes in their game balloon.  I needed a reliable climate change warning system.

As much as I dislike some of the the things that the US military has done from time to time, I do believe that they take the job of protecting the country very seriously.  And I think they have a collection of smart people along with access to the best information.  I think if we were close to the edge of the cliff the Joint Chiefs would be telling us in no uncertain terms.

I've decided that as long as the military brass and the world's leading climate science organizations are not jumping up and down and screaming at us, then we've still got time to avoid the worse.

Avoid the worse, he emphasized.

Your red flags may differ....

I'm bringing this over from another thread rather than go further off-topic there.

I am more focused on an individual, family and small community level of how to get through the coming lean times.

Here's my take on what one should do.  The first bit is quite selfish, but most of us do look after ours and ourselves first...

1) Do a thoughtful analysis of where you live.  Not just your personal residence but also your community and financial base.

If you live in a place like Arizona which is facing water problems, close to a coastal area which may get hit by even stronger hurricanes, or in even a 500 year flood plain, give thought to relocating.

Even if your house/business would probably survive, your investment may not. 

Consider selling out while property values are good and let someone else ride it into the ground. 

(I did warn you this was going to be selfish.)

2) Invest as much as you can right now.  Keep your debt load as low as possible. 

Climate disruption is likely to lead to economic disruptions and fairly certainly to higher food prices.  You may have to spend a lot more on food in the future.  You may not have extra money to invest for retirement and you may need those unnecessary loan payment dollars at the grocery store.

3)  You might want to start messing around with learning how to grow and preserve food.  If all you've got is a sunny window, grow some herbs.  It will teach you how to grow stuff.  If you've got a balcony then grow yourself some salads.  Lettuce and cherry tomatoes do quite well in pots.

Growing your own and preserving some is a great way to cut your grocery store bills.  You don't necessarily need to be doing it now, but having the skills in hand can be reassuring.

You don't need a large area in order to produce a lot of food.  Get a copy of John Jeavon's "How to Grow More Vegetables" excellent book.  He'll show you how to grow a tremendous amount of food for a family of four in less than a 40'x40' back yard.  How to provide a lot of food for one person with only a 20'x20' space.  His 'stuff' works.  I've been using him as my guru for almost 40 years. 

If you've got outdoor space then plant some fruit trees.  It takes a few years for them to get into production.  Stick some edible shrubs into your landscaping. 

Learn to eat less meat.  That's where the really big cost increases are likely to come. 

Then, helping your community.

1) Cut your own energy use.  Install solar if possible.  What you don't use can be used by someone else and what you cleanly generate can be used to cut the use of fossil fuels.

2) Do what you can to educate others.  Anything you can think of.

3) Support and vote for people who will work to make things better rather than those who will fight to keep us on the destructive path.

A company called Eos has announced that their zinc-air battery will be installed on the New York grid in 2014.

Eos claims 75% efficiency and 10,000 cycles for $160/kWh.  $0.016/kWh cycle. 

This would mean 5 cent/kWh electricity could be stored and used for less than 10 cents.

Let's say we get 50% of our electricity directly from wind at 5c/kWh. 20% directly from solar at 7c. 10% from hydro and geothermal at around 7c. The last 20% stored wind at 5c + 4c.

(0.5 x 5c) + (0.2 x 7c) + (0.1 x 7c) + (0.2 x 9c) =6.4c/kWh

We can live with that. And the generations following us can live a lot better if we do.

Policy and solutions / Renewable Energy
« on: April 24, 2013, 04:40:41 AM »
“The apocalyptic views about what it will cost to shift the world to renewable energy simply aren’t true,” Liebreich said in an interview. “Three years ago, we thought wind and solar would be cheap as chips, and they’ve even gone below that.” What this suggests, he says, “is that we are beyond the tipping point towards a cleaner energy future.”

Global annual investment in renewable energy is set to grow by anywhere from two-and-a-half times to more than four-and-a-half times between now and 2030, leading to a future energy mix that would see renewables accounting for between 69–74 per cent of new power capacity added by 2030 worldwide, according to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The research, published today, suggests that the most likely scenario for the renewable energy market outlook – a scenario BNEF is calling the “New Normal” – will see a jump of 230 per cent, to $630 billion per year by 2030, driven by further improvements in the cost-competitiveness of wind and solar technologies, and an increase in the roll-out of non-intermittent clean energy sources like hydro, geothermal and biomass.

The result will be renewable energy projects including wind, solar, hydro and biomass accounting for 70 per cent of new power generation capacity between 2012 and 2030, the report said. By 2030, it finds,  renewables will account for half of the generation capacity worldwide, up from 28 percent last year.

“It’s a strong forecast, but it’s believable,” said Guy Turner, BNEF chief economist. “That represents compound annual growth of 6.7 percent, and many industries have grown faster than that at this stage of their development.”

Spain has just approved a 250 MW solar farm which is expected to cost  about €270 million.

That's roughly $1.40/watt of installed solar.  No subsidies.  It should produce electricity at approximately $0.06/kWh.  Utility solar in the US has hit the $0.10/kWh level, this is a very big drop lower.

If this holds it will make solar one of our three cheapest ways to bring new capacity on line, with wind and natural gas the others.  It will make it very feasible to speed the abandonment of coal and should greatly cut our need for NG fill-in.

We can increase the manufacturing rate of solar very quickly and training new installers is a rather minor undertaking.

Policy and solutions / Will China and India Sink Us?
« on: February 23, 2013, 04:25:35 AM »
Both countries had a good 2012 in terms of installing additional solar generation.

China was number one in the world with 75 new sites for a total of 1,963 MW capacity.  They installed 34% of all new solar last year.

India was a respectable number four in terms of MW installed, following Germany and the US.

Consequences / The Impact of Rising Sea Levels...
« on: February 23, 2013, 03:34:01 AM »
NPR did an interesting piece today about how Boston is starting to think about dealing with higher seas and higher sea surges.

And they followed that up with a short discussion about how we may need to rethink federal flood insurance.  That we may be encouraging people to undertake more risk at taxpayer expense.

My take on federal flood insurance is that we should stop making it available to any new construction in flood zones and places where rising seas would put those buildings at risk.  That would cause most people to avoid building in those areas. 

People who built/bought earlier probably should be eligible for flood insurance.  But they should get only one wipe-out experience.  After that they can take their equity to higher ground.

Policy and solutions / Could we find places for more pump-up hydro storage?
« on: February 22, 2013, 06:58:05 AM »
At this point in time pump-up hydro is our cheapest way to store electricity.  Pump water up with spare electricity, let it flow back through turbines when we need electricity. 

We've got over 20 GW of pump-up in the US that we installed back when we were building nuclear reactors.  There's no way to turn them off when we don't need the power so we built pump-up to carry late night surplus power to daytime peak hours.

It's not uncommon for people to claim that there are no more places to build pump-up.  They usually claim the tree huggers wouldn't allow it.  (And, lots of us would object to damming any more streams.)

But how about converting some existing dams to pump-up.  Might there be a couple we could use?

There's a 1997 study of existing dams on federal land.  The researchers were interested in seeing if any were potential power producers.  They looked at 871 existing dams and screened them for adequate hydraulic head (enough pressure to run a turbine), stream inflow, reasonable distance from transmission lines, outside of protected areas, etc.  They found that 6 had hydro generation potential.  That together they could produce 1,230 MW.  Enough power for 957,000 residences

Luckily they posted a list of all 871 dams in the appendix, along with dam height/head.

I worked my way through the first 212.  Out of that 212 sample 29% (61) had at least 50' of head.  9% (19) had at least 100' of head.  And 4% (eight) had at least 190' of head.
In the US we've got around 80,000 existing dams.  We use about 2,500 currently to produce electricity.  That leaves us with approximately 77,500 candidate existing dams.

Using the federal dam percentages we might expect 22,475 with greater than  50' of head.  6,975 with greater than 100' of head. And 3,100 with greater than 190' of head.

Potentially thousands of existing dams usable for pump-up storage. 

Almost all dams (every dam I've ever visited) has a set-aside safety zone below it. 

Go a short distance from the dam and excavate a '2 to 5 day hole'.  A large enough basin to hold the water that would be used for generation over the longest period in which the wind and Sun let us down. 

Install a pump/turbine combo between the two reservoirs. 

Run wire.


The forum / [Solved] How to post an image?
« on: February 20, 2013, 09:39:25 PM »
I used the "Insert Image" icon (directly below 'B') and copied the link in between the "img] [/img".

That didn't work.  What to do?

Policy and solutions / But the Sun doesn't shine at night...
« on: February 20, 2013, 08:44:41 PM »
(I'm going to be traveling for a while.  Wanted to get this up before I leave.)

A common concern about renewable energy is that the Sun doesn't shine 24/365, neither does the wind blow continuously.  Surely we couldn't build a real grid on nothing but wind and solar with some storage.  At least not a grid that would give us affordable electricity.

Recently a new study was published which tackles this concern head on.

The authors took on the question of whether it would be possible to run a real world grid on only wind, solar and storage and do it for a reasonable price.  They found that they needed to include a tiny bit  (0.1%) of natural gas to keep it affordable.

Researchers at University of Delaware used four years of weather and electricity demand/load data in one minute blocks to determine 1) if a combination of wind, solar and storage could meet 99.9% of demand and 2) the most cost effective mix of each to meet demand.

The data for 1999 through 2002 came from the PJM Interconnection, a large regional grid that services all or part of 13 states from New Jersey west to Illinois, from Pennsylvania south into Tennessee and North Carolina.  This is the world's largest competitive wholesale electricity market, serving 60 million customers, and it represents one-fifth of the United States' total electric grid.

They used currently available technology and its projected price in 2030.  They included no subsidies for wind and solar in their calculation.  They did not include hydro, nuclear, tidal or other possible inputs.  They also did not include power sales to and purchases from adjacent grids.  They used three existing storage technologies - large scale batteries, hydrogen and GIV (grid integrated vehicles).

They found that by 2030 we could obtain 99.9% of our electricity from renewable energy/storage and the remainder 0.1% from fossil fuels for about what we currently pay “all-in” for electricity.  The all-in price of electricity includes coal- and oil-produced health costs currently paid via tax dollars and health insurance premiums.

During the four year period there were five brief periods, a total of 35 hours, when renewables plus storage were insufficient to fully power the grid and natural gas plants came into play.  These were summer days when wind supply was low and demand was high.  The cheapest way to cover these ~7 hour events was to use existing natural gas plants rather than to build additional storage.  (Adding in hydro, tidal, etc. would further reduce this number.)

After 28 billion simulations using differing amount of wind, solar, storage and fossil fuels they found the best solution was to over-build wind and solar and at times simply "throw away" some of the produced power.  Building "too much" wind and solar turns out to be cheaper than building more storage given the storage solutions we have at this time.  Finding markets for the extra production, selling electricity to offset natural gas heating for example,  further reduced costs.

Budischak, Sewell, Thomson, Mach, Veron, and Kempton   Cost-minimized combinations of wind power, solar power and electrochemical storage, powering the grid up to 99.9% of the time  Journal of Power Sources 225 (2013) 60-74

Remember, this is a "worst case" study.  Add in hydro, tidal, geothermal, and residual nuclear and the price drops because less storage will be needed.  The same happens when there is exchange of power between grids.

And those 2030 wind and solar prices?  The authors used somewhat dated (2010) projections.  Current prices have already brought the cost of wind down to their projected 2030 level and solar is already cheaper.  We almost certainly will have better/cheaper storage than they used in their study.

So, yes, we can have a renewable grid that gives us electricity when we want it.  And it's very likely that our electricity will cost less then than it does now.

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