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Sunday, April 16, 2017

David Roberts Asks, "Is 100% Renewable Energy Realistic?"--Part 1

Day Gecko (aka, the "Art Deco Gecko")


Below I parse what I think Dave got wrong in his first of a two-part post about the feasibility of 100% renewable energy. I parsed his second post here. And as I said in the intro to that article, to see what he got right you'll need to read his articles.
Imagine powering civilization entirely with energy from renewable sources: wind, sun, water (hydroelectricity), naturally occurring heat (geothermal), and plants.
I have imagined it, and it gives me shivers ...not the good kind. For whatever reasons, I was imprinted in my youth with a love of nature. Our children, for better or worse, have, in turn also been imprinted. It brings great pleasure into our lives. The wonders evolution has wrought over time are awe-inspiring.

The Amazon is being destroyed by new dams. A day hardly goes by that I don't get an email solicitation by some environmental organization to help stop the destruction of more rain forest for palm oil or biomass plantations.

The Ivanpah solar thermal experiment is still killing about fourteen birds a day (after destroying intact threatened desert tortoise habitat). Out of curiosity, I recently calculated the possible impact on bird and bat mortality from the implementation of a Mark Jacobson's 100% renewable energy plan.



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

David Roberts Asks, "Is 100% Renewable Energy Realistic?"--Still Antinuclear

Excerpted Roberts Quotes Promoting Wind and Solar Over Nuclear--Read Article for Full Context

Below I parse what I think Dave got wrong in his second of a two-part post about the feasibility of 100% renewable energy. I parsed his first part here. To see what he got right you'll need to read his articles. And if you decide to read them, keep in mind that he has absolutely no background, theoretical or practical, in engineering or science and has been inextricably imprinted with a bias against nuclear energy.
Two potentially large sources of dispatchable carbon-free power are nuclear and fossil fuels with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).
Nuclear and CCS do not have equal potential. What is “potential” about nuclear energy? Next to hydro, it’s the largest low carbon source of electricity on the planet, and has been for over half of a century. Wind and solar are the potentially viable energy sources, nuclear already has a long proven history.

All through his article, Dave repeatedly associates nuclear (a proven source of low carbon energy) with CCS (a completely unproven source) as if they have equal “potential. He puts nuclear in the same box as CCS, just as antinuclear groups have always put nuclear power stations in the same box with nuclear weapons and coal.

Nuclear power stations ≠ nuclear weapons

Nuclear power stations ≠ coal power stations

Nuclear power stations ≠ carbon capture and sequestration

Clearly, nuclear power, our main source of low carbon energy for a half century, belongs in the box with other proven low carbon technologies, not with fossil fuels.
Suffice it to say, a variety of people oppose one or both of those sources, for a variety of reasons. 
Why no mention of the variety of people also oppose wind, hydro, and biomass?
In this post I’m going to discuss three papers that examine the subject, try to draw a few tentative conclusions, and issue a plea for open minds and flexibility. It’ll be fun!
This will be fun and although he works tirelessly to insinuate otherwise, Dave’s mind remains quite closed to nuclear as you’ll see.
There are two papers circulating right now that cast a skeptical eye on the goal of 100 percent renewables.

One is a literature review on the subject, self-published by the Energy Innovation Reform Project (EIRP), authored by Jesse Jenkins and Samuel Thernstrom ...

The other is a new paper in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews that boasts “a comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems.” It is by B.P. Heard, B.W. Brook, T.M.L. Wigley, and C.J.A. Bradshaw, who, it should be noted, are advocates for nuclear power.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wind and solar are Fuel Savers




 Figure 1: Jesse Jenkins proposed energy mix

(1) The flow of ideas across the Internet

Jesse Jenkins recently Tweeted his proposal for a low carbon energy mix. I had a few thoughts about his pie chart (see Figure 1).

Note that Jenkins is starting to call wind and solar “fuel savers.” I’ve been pushing this point for some time now. I’m certainly not the first to suggest this concept, but hopefully, with Jenkins intonation, the concept will start to appear more widely across the internet. Google the term “biodiversivist wind and solar are fuel reduction devices” for images and you'll likely see Figure 2 (shown below) at the top of the list. Rather than attempt to replace dispatchable sources with sporadic wind and solar, using wind and solar as “fuel savers” in combination with those dispatchable sources would not require reinvention of entire grid systems to accommodate them.


 Figure 2: Wind and Solar are fuel savers

(2) Are wind and solar, fluctuating, variable, intermittent, irregular, occasional, or sporadic?

I recently read a 2014 German Energy Transition blog article where the author was grappling with the English words “variable and intermittent.” His conclusion; “Variable renewables and intermittent conventional it is!” This is a wonderful example of the human capacity to warp reality as we see fit. Because the word "variable" has multiple meanings to pick from, we shouldn’t be using it to describe wind and solar.