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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Breaking the Cycle of Anti-nuclear Indoctrination--the "Electric vehicles will store excess electricity from wind and solar" argument

My old Leaf, my new Bolt, and a Tesla Model S

From a comment field under a GTM article:

I just bought my second generation electric car because my old car battery has finally reached the point that I can't reliably do my commute without hitting a fast charger. That would have happened sooner had the utility been sharing it.
Anonymous anti-nuclear indoctrination victim:
Actually, no:

"Intelligent use of vehicle to grid (V2G) technology can improve the battery life of electric vehicles according to a new study from the University of Warwick, potentially disproving a key criticism levelled at the technology."

Please try to keep up.

This is a typical case of a tale growing larger with each retelling. He/she was quoting from an article in Clean Energy News titled V2G found to improve the lifetime of electric vehicle batteries about a study published in Science Direct Energy titled On the possibility of extending the lifetime of lithium-ion batteries through optimal V2G facilitated by an integrated vehicle and smart-grid system.

He/she never read past the click-bait headline and certainly didn't read the study. It's no secret that one can optimize battery life by not letting it sit idle for long periods at high states of charge and by avoiding certain temperature regimes when charging or discharging it. But there are operational trade-offs associated with doing that.

When I first bought my Nissan Leaf (6.5 years ago) I charged it only to 80% to extend its battery life. However, after a few incidents where I wish I had that extra 20%, I stopped doing it. And as battery capacity fades over the years, the last thing you want to do is further reduce your range by reducing the charge on your car.

Another option (other than not fully charging your car) would be to bleed electricity from your battery to lower the state of charge when it's going to sit idle for most of a day by turning on the heater (and hope you won't regret doing that when you don't have enough range one day). But you paid to charge the battery and dumping its energy to the air to extend its life would be a losing proposition. Ideally, you would instead use that electricity to save money by displacing grid electricity.

Using the above ideas, the study concluded that it would not be feasible to use electric cars for energy arbitrage at the household level. However, it hypothesized that it might be feasible for large commercial buildings to use employees' electric cars in a "smart car parking lot" to buy and sell energy on the grid (sell when demand and price is high, buy when they are lower).

Criteria needed to match this study's results:

The odds of meeting all of those requirements are zero today and will very likely remain zero into the foreseeable future and even if they could be met, only a third of the cars would be able to participate on any given day, and only some commercial buildings would participate. You can't predict the future. There is no way your car can know what route you will take after work and therefore can't consistently predict how much charge must be protected from grid use.

In a nutshell, your employer gets a lower electric bill by tapping employee car batteries in the parking lot. There's no mention of the employer reimbursing the employees who paid for that electricity when charging at home.

Although it didn't say why, the study suggested that for all of this to work, the cars would somehow have to be trickle charge overnight at home from "relatively cheap" pumped hydro or compressed air storage (neither of which are scalable). See Figure below.

Illustration of the V2G topology proposed in this work. Renewable energy is stored in a cheap, efficient storage device and trickle charged to the vehicle overnight. The clean energy is then sold to the commercial building during peak times. The balance of energy required to power commercial vehicles, homes and in some instances the car comes from the grid.

The only potential benefit I can see to the car owner (among the potential problems) is the off-chance for a higher resale value many years away assuming they can convince someone that their car is worth more after convincing them that the battery is a little less worn out. Good luck with all of that.

And finally, this study was based on a few dozen battery cells in a lab. The odds are low that those results and especially the potential benefits hypothesized will translate to the real world.

To ice this cake, from an editor at the CleanTechnica tabloid:
Tesla CTO JB Straubel is one of the most respected battery experts on the planet, and a few weeks ago we shared an interesting video of him talking about batteries in which he touched on the topic late in the 36-minute video.

V2G & smart charging: Notably, the summary is that JB makes the case that it doesn’t make economic sense for EVs to send electricity back to the grid

I’m definitely inclined to accept JB’s analysis of the tech, so V2G [electric car to grid] and reusing EV batteries for grid storage are now dead-in-the-water ideas to me.

Wind and solar will play major roles in the grid. They just can't do it all.

This article will be added to the list found at Breaking the Anti-nuclear Indoctrination Cycle.

Friday, February 23, 2018

I've decided on the Chevy Bolt

Tesla Model 3

I wrote an article last year titled Which Electric Car Would you buy, Bolt, 2018 Leaf, Model 3, Model S, or Model X? and received some really excellent advice in the comment field. It's decision time because I'll soon be commuting to a location just out of round-trip range of my 2011 Leaf and I don't want to hit a fast charger as part of that commute.

The Tesla Model 3 is (in theory) the Bolt's only competitor, but I couldn't get my hands on one of those in time for this commute if I wanted to, which isn't a problem because I wouldn't buy one if available (for the same price as a Bolt).


Tesla may yet go the way of the DeLorean (popularized in the movie Back to the Future).

Friday, February 16, 2018

Breaking the Cycle of Anti-nuclear Indoctrination--the "Nuclear is a mature industry" argument

Back in the day, Senator Bernie Sanders was using Grist Magazine to lobby against government assistance for nuclear energy on the grounds that it's a mature industry. I might agree with him if it really were a mature industry and if renewables really could carry the day without it. But it isn't, and renewables can't. Always irritates me to watch ignorant politicians screw with my children's futures.

By Rob Shenk from Great Falls, VA, USA - F-22 Raptor, CC BY-SA 2.0,
Sopwith Camel

Nuclear energy has been around for about half of a century. Aircraft technology has been around for about a century. By Senator Sander’s reasoning, a Sopwith Camel is the equivalent of an F-22 Raptor. There would be no F-22 raptor without government funding.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Breaking the Cycle of Anti-nuclear Indoctrination--The "Nuclear power stations will be disabled by a lack of water, warming water, rising sea levels, storms, and on and on" arguments

In their zeal to attack nuclear energy, the anti-nuclear crowd reached argument overkill (or one of its many synonyms) long ago. As is the case with climate skeptics, for every anti-nuclear argument put to rest, like in a game of whack-a-mole, another springs forth to replace it. Use of nuclear power is untenable because of:
  • High water
  • Low water
  • NRC water temperature limits
  • EPA water temperature limits
  • Increasing air temperatures
  • Water availability
  • ...and on, and on
Anti-nuclearists typically promote intermittent (weather dependent, non-dispatchable) wind and solar, rarely defending the dispatchable energy sources normally considered to be renewable (hydro, geothermal, biomass, biogas). Even Jacobson's flawed study relied heavily on hydro. Without adequate hydro, his energy strategy became a two-legged stool.

High water

Some comments by an anti-nuclear indoctrination victim recently seen on Twitter who, like most of the others, has also been convinced that 100% wind, solar, and hydro is the goal instead of 100% decarbonization:

"Always wondered how we are going to cope with the existing nuclear plants on the coast as Sea levels rise and storms become more intense. How do you see that playing out?"

Figure 1: Storm Damaged Turbines Flickr Creative Commons via Western Area Power

Don't see it as a problem. Dikes can be very effective. Ask the Dutch. As for storms, see Figure 1.
"The dutch recognize that dykes will not protect them from the rising Sea levels. It says so in the article. They are to the expects. You should not ignore there conclusion. There is going to be a huge problem with existing nuclear stations on the coasts n in land as they are on the Banks of rivers. Miami is a good eg. You can't dykes Florida."
Big difference between building a dike around a portion of a power station and an entire country (or state). There are tens of thousands of miles of dikes in the U.S. that constrain river systems.
"Sea levels are becoming too high. It take money n time n resources. It's going to be a huge problem ...flooded nuclear plants on our coasts are a huge problem that's going to be difficult n expensive to manage ...a huge expensive problem. And is not safe. The risk of failure goes up massively due to catastrophic breach. Accessing the plant is also big problem."
First, none of that is true. Secondly, it will be many decades before sea levels are problematic for most nuclear power stations located adjacent to coastal water sources. Wind farms will go idle because of changing wind patterns, and the degradation in solar efficiency from higher temperatures are also problems. Why focus solely on the challenges for nuclear?
"The latest Sea level rise for ~2100 5-7ft."
Note 2100- 2018 = 82 years. Seven feet is a modestly sized dike, but more importantly, any existing nuclear power stations located in flood zones today will, by 2100, have reached the end of their operational lives a half-century or so earlier, making all of his arguments about rising water, moot.

Anti-nuclear indoctrination victims rarely formulate their own arguments. They read them somewhere in the internet echo chamber or in the lay press, where another indoctrination victim had repeated it and on and on. When they find one that strikes a chord, they repeat it. And there's no end of arguments to pick from. They make no attempt to critically assess the argument before repeating it.

The above argument is a close cousin to others claiming that low water levels or warmer inlet or outlet water temperatures will make nuclear unsafe and uneconomical. Below I discuss a recent incarnation encountered in a Disqus comment, which interestingly enough was based on a 2007 article in the New York Times written by one of their own journalists--a perfect example of how the lay press does so much damage regarding scientific and engineering topics and also an example of how old arguments (over a decade old in this case) moulder on the internet waiting to be resurrected again and again.

"In 2012 a nuclear plant in MA using ocean water had to curtail operations due to warm water temperatures. The inlet pipe wasn't deep enough. Plants are designed to operate under conditions. Those conditions will be more uncertain in the future."
Low Water

No power source is impacted by weather-related water concerns more than hydro. Hydro power can be curtailed for years on end due to long-lived droughts. On the rare occasion when a thermal power station like nuclear has to reduce power because of low intake cooling water levels, it's for very short periods relative to hydro.

Figure 2 shows that 3.5 times more hydropower stations were affected by low water over the study period than nuclear. Climate change is going to have a much worse impact on hydro (Jacobson's inadequate third leg) than it will on nuclear.

Figure 2

NRC limits on inlet/outlet water temperatures

Any thermal power station becomes less efficient with a lower delta between inlet and outlet cooling water, be it geothermal, solar thermal, biomass steam turbine, biogas steam turbine, or nuclear and can be designed to use a wide variety or even a combination of cooling technologies:
  • Open loop
  • Closed loop, tower
  • Closed loop, pond
  • Hybrid or dry
  • Mixed wet cooling
  • Other
A power plant can be designed or modified to handle higher water temperatures if so desired. The largest nuclear power station in the U.S. is located in the Arizona desert and uses municipal wastewater for cooling.

Singling nuclear out from all of the other thermal power station types is dishonest as well as disingenuous.

EPA limits to water outlet temperature

Power stations exceeding limits (ignoring coal) per Figure 3:

  • Landfill gas and biomass = 3
  • Natural gas = 13
  • Nuclear = 3

Figure 3

And keep in mind that wind and solar are very dependent on natural gas to integrate them into the grid.

Air Temperatures

When confronted with the fact that solar panel efficiency decreases with higher temperatures and that wind patterns will shift, the commenter suggests:
"Solar efficiency decreases in hot weather. So you put up more."
Which, of course, increases cost, just as the need for more cooling capacity in nuclear, solar thermal, geothermal, biomass and landfill gas thermal power stations will increase cost.
"Wind is also going to be affected by climate change. Might be on the wrong side of a front for a long time."
Wind patterns are going to shift in a manner that will permanently impact the productivity of some existing wind farms. Also, transmission lines are less efficient at higher temperatures, and because wind farms typically require lots of extra transmission lines, you can expect higher system costs as a result of higher average temperatures.
"But during an extreme event renewables may be the only generation left working."
 See Figures 1, 4, and 5.

Figure 4 Snow-Covered Solar Panels
Photo via U.S. Department of Energy

Figure 5 Ice Covered Turbine Blades
Photo via Vindforsk
Water Availability

Not mentioned by either of the above commenters was the old water availability argument. Again, nuclear is no worse in that regard than ostensibly renewable thermal power stations (and much, much less of a concern than with hydro, the third leg of Jacobson's energy stool) and that concern can be mitigated by design if necessary as the largest nuclear power station in the U.S. demonstrates by using municipal wastewater for cooling even though it is located in the Arizona desert.

Figure 6

Wind and solar can't do it all. This article will be added to the list found at Breaking the Anti-nuclear Indoctrination Cycle.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Breaking the Cycle of Anti-nuclear Indoctrination

From a comment under one of my articles:  
"It's pretty obvious that tons of people have gotten duped on nuclear energy. Do you (or anyone else) have an idea why that is?"
 My reply:
Start by listing all of your favorite nuclear war apocalypse science-fiction novels and movies.
  • Conflate nuclear weapons with nuclear power stations.
  • Terrorize the public with false claims like "Nuclear power stations are nuclear bombs just waiting to go off"--Helen Caldicott
  • Capitalize on that fear by claiming your organization is trying to protect you from those nuclear power stations.
  • Pour gas on this misinformation with a for-profit, sensationalist-driven, innumerate, lay press.
  • Let it cook for a generation or so before the arrival of the internet to shine a light on the misinformation.
VoilĂ ! A generation of indoctrinated aging hippies and a new generation that may yet be informed given enough effort.
From a comment under an Environmental Progress article:
They are lying to us!
The question is why? Presumably environmentalists at Greenpeace are good people who want the best for us and for nature. But why then do they lie about nuclear energy, scaring us half to death? (Or *actually* to death, if you consider the people killed in Fukushima as a result of the panic!)
My reply:
The question is why?

Indoctrination. Most think they're telling the truth at this point. They are indoctrination victims (Google synonym of victim). Those that realize the truth are ousted from the organization or just leave (think atheist evolutionary biologist in a creationist church). And then there is the comfort and anxiety relief (endorphin dumps) provided by being a member of a tribe. Human nature ...
Michael has explained how the snowball got rolling. It's been rolling downhill for a long time but there may be an inflection point ahead.

This post will serve as a place-holder for articles I've already written and for more I'll be writing that critique various anti-nuclear energy arguments. I hope that people will bookmark this article to copy and paste links from the list below as part of a rebuttal to these arguments when seen in comment fields, blogs, or our for-profit, sensationalist-driven, innumerate, lay press. They're not in any particular order.

Also, note that I sometimes sprinkle my posts with random nature photos I've taken over the years as a reminder that the sixth extinction event was recognized by science before climate change reared its ugly head.