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Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

Posted May 12, 2011 9:17 PM

Germany has announced that it will phase out coal and nuclear power by 2050, and gain 80% of its electricity from wind, solar, and other renewable sources. It's an ambitious goal, yet there are experts within the industry who think it's entirely possible, especially given Germany's past green energy experience. Can this plan really work for Germany — and could it fly in other countries as well?

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#1

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/12/2011 11:00 PM

Eventually coal and uranium will run out, and thus will really be phased out.

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#2

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/13/2011 6:59 AM

Making the announcement is the easy part.

We've got an administration in the US that makes all kinds of utopian announcements, so far it's just costing a lot of money.

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#3

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/13/2011 12:34 PM

Germany does not have much in term of coal reserves, and imports most of the coal it uses, though it is not a major importer of coal. So this part of the announcement doesn't seem very impressive.

The US, on the other hand, possesses the largest coal reserves in the world, an amount equivalent to about 245 years worth of coal usage. So yes, it will run out eventually, but by then it might not matter anymore. Fusion or safe fission or some new (or improved) energy source could be available then to supply whatever energy we need.

This is from Wikipedia, so I'm not sure how accurate this is.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_reserves

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#4

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/13/2011 1:29 PM

Wind energy has definite limit .IF the air dam is built in wast area the same will cause typhoon any weher in the coriolic force region.Hence it is essential to trap limited quantity of energy.The air dam of any type is harmful.The solar gravitational force drawing polar air reserve in north south movement.-The sliding over of air over the varying diameter of earths surface causes south west and north east monsoon.The warm surface areas can supply thermal expansion to it .The cooling in the night is no mor effect.The full moon and no moon has strong effect on this energy addition.And can cause turbulace/storm.THe air dam is to be kept powerless.

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#5

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/13/2011 1:41 PM

Only solar energy is the principal source of energy is solar .the primary mechanism of cooling hot air in a large cavity and releasing energy of partial vacume.Other dynamic activities -thermodynamic operations using high temperature air /stem cycles with heat reservoir are the best and sustainable.

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#6

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/13/2011 3:22 PM

This is an excellent geopolitical question.

The problem can't simply be framed as one of populous belief. Right now nuclear power is an important form of energy in Europe. The events in Japan have given nuclear power a foul taste for many and several groups such as environmental and anti-globalization movements are using Japan's misfortune as a means to further their agenda.

Europe is in a dire situation. If Europe can not generate its own source for power, it must import that power from outside. Right now those sources come from North Africa and Russia.

The geopolitical struggle here is that Europe's security is held, in part, at the hands of Russia and Africa. We all remember the row that Russia had that lead to a shutdown of natural gas supplies to Europe during a previous winter. No country wants to be in a position where another country can and will hold their needs hostage, so having independence is an important advantage.

The drive for self-security in Europe and the growing concerns over nuclear power is pushing those states to look for alternatives that can be readily had. Fracking (the subterranean hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and natural gas) is one alternative that is being considered and has now becoming a highly politically charged subject in France and will likely extend through Europe.

Fracking is not that important to France's energy needs (they have invested heavily in nuclear power), but it is more important to other European nations. If the anti-fracting movement that started in France gains momentum in the rest of Europe, this will tip the equation in favor of Russia. No doubt that Russia and others are working hard to foster this.

The point here is that the political winds between outsourcing Europe's energy needs and insourcing energy with its own states will be (in part) the determination when and if coal and nuclear energy is phased out.

Right now there are no clear energy alternatives that Europe can tap into internally. Relying on Russia is problematic because Russia can and will use its energy exports as a form of political leverage in Europe as Russia continues to re-expand its sphere of influence in the Balkans and neighboring Europe.

The alternative energy programs we are seeing in Europe are driven more by geopolitics than a desire for greenness. How the geopolitics in the region develops will determine what lies ahead.

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/13/2011 4:52 PM

Nuclear, coal and gas power deserve all the negative press and economic problems they have. [para] A combination of wind, medium scale PV and solar thermal with storage will be economically attractive in many countries very soon. I can very safely predict that development by early in 2013. Distributed solar thermal systems with thermal storage are the key technology to make this practical and cheap. Roof top PV is too expensive and barely worth thinking about. [para] At business and community scale, with net metering, these systems are already economically attractive in most countries. Many governments and power grid operators, particularly in Australia, are making adoption as difficult as possible. A small number are actually encouraging it. Those countries will be the economic winners. Spain, Germany, France and Japan will lead the way. Robert M

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#8
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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/13/2011 9:53 PM

Good point Robert!!!!

Four countries that are smaller than the state of Texas are going to show us how it's done.

Please keep me posted.

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#12
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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/13/2011 11:24 PM

Well, waiting a few years is no big deal to be proved right or wrong.

However, I think you are looking at this with a very narrow point of view. You see what is technically feasible, yet ignore the geopolitical engine that drives the world around you and its implications.

I predict, with equal safety, that in 2, 10, or even 100 years, the crux of the problem will still exist, albeit in somewhat different forms.

The root of my confidence lies in the history of Europe and the world. Despite enormous technological gains in our past history, we are still faced with the same basic problems and challenges we have always faced. Granted these issues may have changed, but the fact is, we still have geopolitical struggles that define our lives and how we live with each other.

Additionally, energy has always been a commodity that governing bodies and states have used as a mechanism to control the masses. That has been the case in our past and will be so in our future because energy is political power and it is carefully controlled.

Curiously enough, Germany is not investing heavily in solar technology with expectation that it will provide an energy solution to their needs, but as an effort to become a leader in solar energy products for export. Germany is less than ideal climatically to make full use of solar energy, but the hope is that if enough tax payer money is invested in the technology that Germany can lead the world with exports of those products and technology. It is a bold gamble.

France develops 75% of its power via nuclear plants. No matter what the political mood of its citizens, shutting down those plants is highly unlikely and even so, it would take decades to make a transition. For France there is little reason to believe that radical changes are on the horizon.

Spain generates about 12% of its energy via renewable energy. The goal is to boast that another 67% by 2020. That would mean that Spain would develop 1/5 (20%) of its total energy needs via renewable sources. Is this an energy panacea? No, not by a long shot. That still leaves 80% produced by conventional means and that Spain will still have about the same geopolitical struggles that it has now.

Japan is still trying to determine its energy future. Previous to the earthquake they generated 11% of their power via nuclear. Plans for the future call for tapping wind power. By 2030 Japan predicts to produce 6% of of todays total energy consumption via wind. Wait, that is only 6% of of today's usage! In 20 years Japan's energy needs will surely grow, so the actual percentage produced by wind will be lower.

Despite all the "Green" rhetoric, the reality is not as dramatic as supporters might like to admit. While renewable energies will help with our future, it in no way represents a lower end user cost or a panacea for for our needs. Energy costs will continue to go up and at increased rates. What we can realistically hope for is that some of the sting of non-renewable energy generation can be reduced, but all at a cost that we will have to pay for better sustainability.

Let's see who's prediction better fits reality in a few years. Care to wager now?

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#16
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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 12:38 AM

It's kind of a funny parallel:

When it comes to money, government's plan is to collect more and spend more.

When it comes to energy, it's always about making more, or at least maintaining the status quo.

Talk about reducing our consumption doesn't really come up.

A couple of weeks ago, as I stood under a bank of 30 halogen lights at 10 pm, filling my tank with expensive gasoline, I thought to myself.............we are doomed.

How can we save the planet, when we are still scared of the dark?

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#17
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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 1:15 AM

Mind you, I had 6 other stations in sight, as well as a closed shopping center or 3, all lit up.

This was one exit, on one highway.

The bogey man forces us to turn night into day......................all around the globe.

Yeah, lets build a windmill..................that'll feel better.

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#25
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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 9:49 AM

Drive through any large city, with a large business district, at 2 in the morning, and see how much energy is being used on empty space--THe new sensing tech really helps though--Infra red sensors that detect when there is no body heat in an area for a certain period of time, then shuts off the lights--Simple, redundant practices like that will help...

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#51
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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

06/17/2011 1:38 AM

May I also add, this decision precipitated in the wake of the drought in Europe this year and falling river levels in Europe. I guess Europe is also realising that cooling water cannot be taken for granted always.

Plus, with growing concerns of Hazardous Waste Disposal Mechanisms finally, years after the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, Developing countries are refusing to become the North's backyard.

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#9

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/13/2011 9:54 PM

Can they be phased out? Yes. Will they be phased out? Probably not. The world cannot afford $$$ to do without this inexpensive (relative) energy. Some really sharp college kids will come up with a way to clean up coal, therefore allowing America to use its 100 years' worth of coal reserves. By then alternatives will be affordable. Today 51% of Americas electricity is coal produced. Maybe 1% of users can afford to triple their bill to pay for today's alternatives. It's just a matter of indeterminate time until the alternative cost trend line crosses the affordability line. Just be patient.

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#10

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/13/2011 10:30 PM

Germany....yeah right. With that climate solar isn't going to do much...they don't have the land mass for a big enough wind farm......now if they can harness the hot air that emanates from politicians, greenies AND their flatulence (both are inexhaustible). They might be on their way.

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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/13/2011 11:15 PM

Natural gas and biogas will be a big factor in Europe, even if the gas is transported as LNG. Solar and wind and wave power can also play large roles, but may not be cost competitive for a long time. New natural gas can buy time until new technologies are fully developed. Coal and nuclear should be phased out as soon as possible. Coal costs too much to clean up. Nuclear waste has no disposal solution.

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#13

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/13/2011 11:35 PM

Some good comments on this blog. Germany and Australia have a lot of wet low grade coal. Their use makes almost twice as much CO2 per unit energy. America has the most coal and China has a lot of coal. Both of those statistics are a serous worry. While we make the shift to materials that grow and energy from the sun we need to preserve coal for iron production. Along that path we may use solar energy to process some materials that do not grow. [para] We will definitely shift to materials that grow. Every material that is mined will become relatively more expensive as readily accessible stocks are depleted. This shift in material source may only take a few hundred years. We already use wood, paper and cardboard, for all sorts of products. Far more than most people realize. We need to make all products far more durable to value the finite sources of all our materials. [para] Everywhere that people grow food and/or grown material has enough sunlight for energy. We need to produce energy where it is needed, value it and use it well. The proven processes to produce it and store it economically already exist. The costs are now less than the retail price of transmitted grid electricity in most locations. Many people are generating their own energy. They have always done this. Even when it was cheaper to buy energy from subsidized grids. [para] The critical shifts will be down in scale from grid power and up in scale from individual houses. Communities are already doing it for themselves. It is a trickle now but it is growing quickly. The communities are doing this in spite of government manoeuvering. [para] Large scale cannot make use of the low grade heat that is a byproduct of all energy production. Individual house systems seem to be too expensive to instal. Watch these spaces. Robert M

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#15
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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 12:32 AM

In speaking with people in the REAL Industry, of producing energy--These problems are the largest--1: Scale--You can cover all of America with corn fields, and only produce 11% of needed fuel-Ethanol--A political ploy-- (Sorry, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles) Same goes for scale of solar, and wind-- 2:--Line loss--Solar projects require huge amounts of land, of which over 1/3rd are strictly needed for service roads and infrastructure--On top of that, Solar requires SUN, and lots of water (Oops--They didn't tell you about needing water in the desert)--i.e. Desert like conditions , which are a long ways away from the needed recipients.. LINE LOSS.. With building an infrastructure that will carry said power to a grid that can handle it, line loss results in a huge loss of power, and the cost of infrastructure build out 3: Many of these sources are not available 24 / 7, therefore the requirements for Sustainable Grid Energy are not met. 4: If you think that Coal, Nuclear, and Oil are dirty, have you explored the real costs (Environmental) of producing Solar Panels, Exotic Batteries for Hybrid cars etc??? Have you noticed that rooftop solar panels are rated in 10 year life spans (i.e.--Savings over a ten year period)--When panels drop in efficiency, below a certain level, they can no longer meet basic grid requirements, and must be replaced--Does anyone know how much it takes to replace these panels (Figure on 3/4 of the cost of the original cost--again)--Not many people have panels that have lost efficiency yet, but they will be coming.. My comments--If the same amount of money , being spent Politically and in Green propaganda were to be spent in researching the uses of spent fuel rods, and for better ways of containment, for lower level requirements, we would give ourselves a full fifty years to really develop a new group of power sources, that really work, and, at the same time, be independent of political upheavals around the world. As we develop these new technologies, we will then be able to export such tech, as exports to the rest of the world, in the same manner that we did with the Computer tech. Building and wasting money on High Speed trains through the middle of mostly agricultural communities in California, really show you the folly of todays thinking--With whomever can be elected next time--BS I say--Let the Engineers decide, just as Doctors do in the Operating room--Not Politicians--(Boy--I think it is now Miller time--Whew!) Thanks for even getting this far into the rant--Mac

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#18
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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 1:28 AM

Yep it was a bit of a rant. Some valid points but mostly not to the heart of what matters, and few if any critical comparisons. First thing to do is to talk to other than those who are "in the industry" as well, to make sure you are not getting a good dose of "self interest".

Photo Voltaic panels are not seen as the main game in economical solar at the moment so far as I know and should not form any major part of the argument - for now it is solar salt or solar towers in the solar area. Yes, wind and solar are not 24/7 but energy can be stored or diversity used to overcome this so its only additional cost that matters, and whether that tips the balance.

Yes there are hidden costs with "solar" but no less so than with the "carbon" or "nucliear" fuel systems. No comparitive figures were provided in the response so no final judgement can be made. And yes, PV panels are only guaranteed for 10 years, but realistically their performance is 20 years or better and that is the figure that should have been referred to.

Land use requirements for solar are not that high and be aware of how much land it takes, for example, to support all of the parts of a coal powered energy system. As for line-losses, they may or may not be significant depending on the technology used and the pre-existing grid/feeder situation in the country concerned.

etc. etc.

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#23
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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 7:43 AM

You wrote, "Yes there are hidden costs with "solar" but no less so than with the "carbon" or "nucliear" fuel systems."

I challenge that!

If that were true solar/wind would be an economical alternative to the existing fossil fuel energy production used today. That is flat out untrue. If it were true for both energy producing industries and for residential installation there would be no need for huge government tax incentives. The incentives are needed because the true cost is so high that it does not make financial sense for a company or individual to invest in the technology.

Even if the cost was at parity with existing energy plants there would be just cause to buy those systems without government assistance because the payback makes sense.

The largest problem with solar, wind, and other alternative energy production is the cheap cost of energy using existing fossil fuels. Some politicians would love to change all that. Unfortunately, the only way to make solar, wind, and alternative energy viable is to artificially inflate the cost of fossil fuels. That has been happening as I write.

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#24
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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 9:01 AM

You may wish to challenge it - and please do with the relevant figures. It will involve a lot of homework.

But for the moment it seems that your thinking does not extend past the obvious and the short term - as is the case for most simple business decisions but which the planet or society as a whole may not agree with in the longer term.

And before you get too carried away with the alleged costs of "renewables" it is worthwhile recalling what "business" said in the beginning about the costs of a similar situation decades ago, when eventually it was recognised that later unrecognised advantages were as great as the early recognised costs.

I make no final claim in any of this, but I do ask a balance and accuracy that is not evident in some responses.

Does the word "externalities" mean anything to you?

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#26
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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 9:49 AM

Fair play, I agree. Support your initial claim with a proof, then.

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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 10:06 AM

Not that I should have to provide the proof because it was your claim, not mine, but in my own backyard (Florida), FPL just went online with a 25 mW plant. The cost was 6 times that of a natural gas plant. It was subsidized, in part, by US taxpayer's money because the plant does not make a good business case by itself.

Quote: "Florida. The N.C. plants are smaller than the solar plant that came on line last fall in southern Florida. That plant consisting of over 90,500 photovoltaic panels is a 25,000 kilowatt plant, built by Florida Power and Light.[iii] The plant costs more than $6,000 per kilowatt to construct, about 6 times what a natural gas combined cycle plant would cost, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), an independent agency within the U.S. Department of Energy."

Link is here.

The hope is that if we build enough of these porkulous projects that the cost will go down or at least go down while the cost of fossil fueled plants rise and at some point reach parity. To get there government will simply tax fossil fuel more, which has its own set of problems.

Pragmatic as it sounds, energy is a precious commodity that governments use for geopolitical power and control of their own constituents.

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#33
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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 4:08 PM

The true cost of disposing of nuclear waste in money and ill health is inestimable. Mankind does not know how to safely store it or protect it from terrorists for thousands of years. Meanwhile it is an ever growing problem. I have heard that the Russians just dump it in the ocean. We store it on site, with minimal protection. The Japanese use GE tech to protect it.

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#27
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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 9:55 AM

What efficient means is there to store solar, out in the middle of a desert? I would have thought that a large flywheel farm , adjacent to some of the non-24 / 7 sources, would have been thought of... I am aware of the tower technologies, and saw one of the first commercial set-ups , outside of Barstow, Ca., 20 years ago. My friend, mentioned, worked on that , and also did the cost analysis for DWP and other companies--Result was negative efficiency, and a slow waste of money--Sure looked neat though!! Maybe this technology has really progressed too..

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#34
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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 4:18 PM

I have admired that plant also. Always thought it was a great idea. Unfortunately I am not always right. Hopefully we will find a way to harness solar economically! Now I am a proponent of natural and biogas (the other natural gas.)

It seems to me that there is a lot of money wasted in pursuit of cheap energy. Unfortunately the general public pays the bill to the utilities or governments. How about producing it onsite; business or home with natural gas to electricity?

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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 2:11 AM

No problem mac.

I just hit the enter button.

Things are so much easier to read.

Welcome to CR4. This is a self test.....................I will attempt to read your stuff in the morning..............on coffee.

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#32
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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 3:20 PM

Nice comment. I have been wondering about setting up a combo wind and solar backup system on a minimal scale. It would be as a minimal electricity backup in emergencies.

Another question, I have had, is why it wouldn't be less expensive to create my own electricity with a natural gas generator, since natural gas is so cheap. I will submit this to the forum.

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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/13/2011 11:58 PM

I don't know about Germany's situation but presumably lower levels of solar isolation and their higher population density will make it harder than for countries like Australia - who at present has some of the dirtiest and cheapest power in the word.

There are two issues in "going renewable", or to put it the other way "phasing out coal, gas and nuclear". The first is relative cost efficiencies, and the second is the size of the capital investment involved. All the "renewables" are more expensive than historical fossil and nuclear options, or at least they are until a "carbon cost" offset is applied. In the absence of any urgency arising out of something like climate change, relative cost efficiency is really the only issue since all equipment must be replaced every 50 years or so anyway - for Australia, much of the replacement could have been expected in less than 10 to 20 years (except that I understand some state government/s have let some generators off the hook".

Once all the self serving stories are sifted out/adjusted - and they come from both sides - it does seem that there is a strong economic argument to support the "yes it can" case (apologies to Barack Obama). It also seems that the task is far from impossible or too difficult - that statement will surprise many.

A recent paper published in a The Institution of Engineers Australia forum(?) took a fairly rigorous look at the options using known data (and there is not too much that is unknown with technologies like wind and solar salt). The study included complex modelling and had appropriate allowances for things like wind distribution in real time, and it came to the conclusion that, for something like an extra 5c /kWh, Australia could go 100% renewable in less than a couple of decades.

Even if this figure was wrong by a factor of two or three it seems to me that the world could still cope if it had to, though there would be a lot of screaming from "the right". To put some perspective on that - those who are old enough to remember that there was an oil shock on the seventies when oil prices jumped something like 400%, and the US still continued to make very large cars.

The reference below looks like it points to the material I referred to above. This is included for interest and since I've not actually checked it, my including it here is certainly not an endorsement.

------reference and quote-------attached

"Here is a 7 part video series produced by www.beyondzeroemissions.org which shows that Australia is entirely capable of deploying a 100% renewable zero emission stationary energy system by 2020 for a predicted expenditure of not more than 3%GDP over 10 years. This will bring our emissions back in line to a sustainable level. The videos also dispel many of the myths and false arguments used to make the case that global warming, or human induced climate change is a hoax."

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#20
In reply to #14

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 2:38 AM

Good comments Trevor M. I am an Australian too. I had to move to California to pursue my aims for solar thermal power; with dry cooling and thermal storage. In Australia our coal is too cheap and the majority of voters and politicians do not care enough about the environment. [para] In California I quantified some significant basic truths about thermal storage. Solar salt has been priced out of the picture. Sodium and Potassium Nitrate and Nitrites (most of the solar salts) are also the source of nitrogen for growing corn for ethanol. The price is through the roof and the option is now irrelevant. Storage media have to be really cheap to be effective with a limited range of temperature. The most widely used and proven solar thermal collectors are troughs, single axis tracking. They work best at relatively low temperatures, less than 350C (662F). That rules out wide ranges of storage temperatures, at least for reasonable efficiency. That leaves only two materials that are cheap enough. The emerging technologies must use one of those. Probably the one that is a fully proven technology. All will be revealed during 2012. [para] In Australia retail electrical energy costs about six times the price the generators get. In California that ratio is usually less than two to one. That might be entirely due to Australia's sparse population and gerrymander effects. It might also be the result of a world parity pricing policy and really cheap coal. For whatever reason it creates an amazing market for energy sales "behind the meter". [para] I do not have the time to research, for Germany, the ratio between the energy price paid to generators and the energy price charged to communities and/or residential consumers. Perhaps some one can enlighten us. Retail prices, this ratio and concern for the environment is what will drive communities to use local energy production from renewable sources. The free low temperature energy will just be the icing on the cake. [para] If any doubt that government can mess with emerging markets, like solar power. Check the latest NSW government announcements. From sixty cents FIT to forty cents, twenty cents and then zero, all covered by the one announcement. These people are seriously messing about. It seems too extreme to be without some hidden agenda. [para] Robert M.

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#59
In reply to #14

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

09/24/2011 4:46 AM

Trevor,

I hate to sound like an echo but, "Cheapest and dirtiest" some figures please.

I don't think many people around the world would regard 24c / kwh as cheap for tarriff 11 with tarriff 33 being around 1/3 less. Electricity costs are rising at far greater rate than the CPI and of course feeding into the CPI.

The price hikes are to fund mismanagement by state governments. While the hikes are lauded as levelling the playing field by a vocal minority, they have no bearing on the cost of production and distribution. The distribution system in most states is in appalling repair due to the appropriation of future funds by the same state governments. Wayne Goss called the maneuvre "extracting money from hollow logs".

Electrostatic precipitators have been a feature of power station flues since the 1960s and bag houses since the 1980s, there are no visible emissions. Australian coals are also genarally low in sulphur. Most Australian thermal coal in black coal apart from Victoria where rigorous flue cleaning is also used.

If by "dirty" you mean it produces carbon dioxide, well then? Does that also mean the gas hot water systems being foisted on us by the same vocal minority (you know the mob, the ones who vehemently oppose modern diesel technology, close down sustainable yeild forestry etc, etc) should be phased out?

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#21

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 5:37 AM

This blog so far has concentrated on wind and solar as the main types of renewable. Island countries like the UK are seriously looking at tidal, current and wave solutions, but these are limited to states with a coastline.

Geothermal is available to anybody who can drill a deep enough hole. It has a small land footprint. Once the infrastructure is installed, operation is relatively long term, low cost, low technology. It works 24-7-52 or can be switched on and off at the touch of a pump button. It is not overly polluting. It can be deployed as multiple small power stations close to demand resulting in low line losses.

The technology for deep hole drilling is not very mature, but the people with the most expertise are the mining and oil companies who will need alternative forms of revenue if we are serious about changing our energy supply mix.

I don't know about the rest of the world but UK spending on geothermal technology is pitifully low. Maybe there are technological problems I am not aware of but it does not seem to be in the discussion when we talk about renewable. I am not really into boxes but if there is one then lets think outside it. If we do, the answer to the question could possibly be YES.

Iceland has an obvious advantage with geothermal so close to the surface but this comes with a serious volcano health risk. They generate about over 90% of their energy from geothermal, so it can be done. Deep hole drilling is probably less risky away from geological faults. Spending big on a deep hole only to have it close after a small quake will not impress the investors.

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#22

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 6:08 AM

Coal, Gas and nuclear energy will be phased out eventually, but wind power is only intermitant, as found out off the eastern shores of Britain, so we must have something as a back-up when the wind stops blowing or isn't blowing hard enough!

There is another form of natural energy that hasn't been talked about here, wave energy and sea current (tidal) energy, these two are much better than wind power, as they don't stop every now and then. There are three experimental sea current (tidal) power stations in the British Isles, and so far they have functioned better than expected, so it would seem that this is maybe the way to go?

Spencer.

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#29

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 1:01 PM

PV is the ultimate answer, until someone discovers the key to cold fusion. Yes, PV is expensive and inefficient, but that is changing rapidly. And the PV will be rooftop (or the roof itself), both residential and commercial. Generating power at the point of use eliminates the costs and losses of transmission, and reduces our reliance on an antiquated and fragile grid. If we had gotten serious about this decades ago, we wouldn't even be talking about this now. We'd all be driving electric cars, we'd all have PV at home and the Arabs would be living in tents and riding camels, instead of rattling nuclear swords and driving gold plated Rolls-Royces. Our politicians don't look beyond the next election; we need term limits, and we desperately need some scientists, engineers and futurists in Washington.

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#30
In reply to #29

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 1:21 PM

I'd like to agree with you.................that would be awesome!

I do believe that technology is going to reach a point where energy, (I don't know how), is going to be relatively clean and affordable, as well as major advances in energy storage.

While it could be argued that the following statement isn't 100% accurate..........I still feel that, in general, at the moment, we've got the wrong people, working on the wrong projects, for the wrong reasons.

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#31
In reply to #29

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 2:06 PM

But PV isn't practical in the northeast that sees large periods of time with heavy cloud cover. Not to mention snow and ice.

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#35
In reply to #31

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/14/2011 5:59 PM

Yes, the potential in the NE is the lowest in the country: Insolation map, but it is still usable. Soon we will have PV with efficiencies much higher than today's 15% or so. I'll go way out on a limb and guess 50% to 90% in 5 years, assuming Big Oil and the Feds don't kill it. And light does go thru clouds, including wavelengths we can't see but the next-gen PV cells will.

And most of us will still be grid-tied at some level, so we can share power and enjoy the benefits of failsafe/failsoft.

I think our kids will be buying new houses where a PV system will be as expected and unobtrusive as indoor plumbing. And they will look back at the 20th century and regard giant centralized power plants fueled with fission, oil, coal, wind and the like as merely milestones on the path to clean, silent, endless power. Of course, one of their kids will figure out cold fusion and off we go...

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#36

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/15/2011 10:21 AM

This is the ideal strategy to get rid of the emission & Nuclear waste menaces. The Nuclear waste menaces are hectic head aches being faced in Germany, the trans border storages, annual shiftings, public agitations naturally forcing Germany to retreat from Thermal / Nuclear power sytems.

Recently in Chennai port, Tamilnadu, India- The court had prohibitted imports & handling of Coal via Chennai Port, the long fought public launched complaints on the dirty coal contaminations around the area.

The case is true not only for Germany, but fits to the rest of the world too.

Well, the fact is that Solar, Wind technolgoies can not replace thermal/ Nuclear. but the potential is elsewhere. www.sustechinitiatives.com seems to have got the answer.

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#37

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/15/2011 9:58 PM

Considering the risk of ash storage dam coal is to be phased out.Considering the risk of prolonged storage of used fuel rod requirement and pollution due to fuel processing,mine transportation route. 2.5per cent fuel and balanced huge quantity as radioactive waste.Where will we reach in future.In the middle of extinction.SO phase out N fuel.Try to harness the 1 kw per m2 solar radiation using thermodynamic process and photo voltaic method.Geothermal power is available to some countries

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#38

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/16/2011 11:32 AM

Hmm, Doesn't France sell energy to Germany? Is Germany not going to buy any foreign energy that is derived from Coal or Nuclear? So if France produces a major portion of its energy from nuclear and sells it to Germany, wouldn't that still be using energy derived from nuclear power, though I guess it would not be from nuclear power within the realtively tiny country of Germany (Still a nuclear disaster in France would likely impact Germany). It seems kind of like a political statement to gain more green extremist support.

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#39

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/17/2011 7:51 AM

In the immediate future - no!

Germany is just kissing up to the greens again - their politics make that necessary from time to time.

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#40
In reply to #39

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/17/2011 1:33 PM

I posted this somewhere else, earlier, that I saw that Honda has built a single charging station, that uses solar panels, to breakdown water , producing enough Hydrogen, to refuel a new Hydro-Hybrid car--That seems like, if feasible, a good way to go--Fuel costs for transportation, not homes, are the most consuming and expensive. Large scale solar farms, floating on the Oceans, near the Doldrums, cranking Hydrogen out of the seawater, to be compressed and shipped worldwide. Unlike windmills, Hydrogen can power the most massive of engines, used by tankers, locomotives etc, and is clean. I am never climbing on a plane with solar panels on it's wings and a windmill on it's tail..... .Just sayin'....

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#41
In reply to #40

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/17/2011 1:54 PM

Gotta tag onto this. 30 years ago, as a project in some class, I proposed giant undersea "windmills", that would sit on the ocean floor in the Gulf Stream and make electricity to crack seawater into hydrogen that would be piped ashore and distributed like natural gas. Maybe I was a little ahead of the times...

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#42
In reply to #41

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/17/2011 2:07 PM

Great idea!!--Instead, they give us strip mining...A private investor is trying to put in a wave energy farm, off of the Nuclear Power Plant, in San Onofre, Ca., and use it's existing transmission lines, so as not having to build out new ones. You can imagine the resistance he is getting from all of the enviros...

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#43
In reply to #42

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/17/2011 2:27 PM

This line has gotten a bit air headed.

Wave power - maybe in 50 years

H2 for common fuel - again, maybe in years to come but not soon.

The private investor mentioned is no doubt looking for cash - maybe you can invest - just don't whine when it all goes sour.

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#44
In reply to #42

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/17/2011 3:47 PM

Acttually I would venture to guess most of the resistance isn't from environmental groups as much as the recreational groups like surf riders, who hide under a thin veil of environmentalism. They are really concerned about any potential impacts to their recreational environment that could cause an issue or limitations for their future recreation. This is similar to the desalination plants down there or even some place like the Grand Canyon.

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#50
In reply to #44

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/20/2011 5:40 PM

Correct about the surfriders--I am one--I watch as they pickup trash at the beach (good thing), yet think nothing of spending 1/5th of the year jetting from one wave zone to another, in 747's, chasing the storms and weather that create these waves. That aside, another opinion piece in the LA times, has the Desert environmental groups up in arms about the large scale solar projects being planned in the deserts. 21 million acres given the go ahead, for review, and 14 sites will be picked, with an average buildout of 4300 acres per site, of which much will be roads, transmission lines, etc. This translates into a large area of desert transformation, and the recovery rate, for deserts is similar to those of high altitude, low moisture areas--Hundred of years, if not more. So now the Desert Greens, will fight the Green Energy folks. Good time to be a lawyer, me thinks....

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#52
In reply to #50

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

06/17/2011 12:33 PM

Well and there is the environmental justice issue versus NIMBY. There is a reason they are wanting to use land inthe inland deserts versus in Los Angeles County. The people inland are much poorer, therefore the the land is cheaper and there are less regulations and enforcement (due in large part to financial resources). It is similar to the reason Los Angeles exports its wastewater solids into the central valley, it cost too much to dispose of locally and no one in LA wants to see, smell or hear about their waste. If they can get it through people won't bother the operators out there or notice what they are doing. They could do damage for decades before any authorities did anything about it. From a business stand point, it just makes better financial sense to go where the land is cheap, the people are too poor for many attorneys to want to represent and too sparce for a huge class action, and the government won't pay any attention to you.

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#53
In reply to #52

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

06/17/2011 2:24 PM

I believe most of this land is State and Federally owned, so cost, demographics etc don't seem to be much of an issue, i this case..

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#54
In reply to #53

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

06/17/2011 2:57 PM

Cost is always an issue, even if the land is Federal the government has to account for the cost of the land. If it is to be owned by a private company then the governemtn has to recuperate the lease cost for the land. If it is to be owned federally, then they must account for the cost of removing the land from other services (a loss) to recuperate that loss. If the federal government is using State Land or reverse, they must reimburse for the use of that land. Demographics, in th desert are likely a minimal impact, but must be analyzed, such things as impacts to traffic usage, recreational impacts, etc.. On federal land environmental justice becomes a definite subject of the NEPA study. In such cases the use of lands in impoverished areas to the significant detrimental of the local residents would kill a project, especially if the locals use that land for grazing, local businesses depend on recreation or other existing activities on that land, destruction of natural habitat supporting endangered species, etc..

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#55
In reply to #54

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

06/17/2011 3:13 PM

The "problem" with Federally owned land use, versus private land use, in my thought, is that the Government does not have to show a profit, where as the Stockholders of a private company must be shown a return on their money--As far as Environmental impacts, both sides of the Environmental movement are at odds with each other , as mentioned before--Similar to the Animal Activists groups that are protesting the eradication of rats, and other invasive species in the Channel Islands, in direct conflict with those that are trying to return the land to natural habitat..

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#56
In reply to #55

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

06/17/2011 3:49 PM

However, in the environmental justice case it is not really going to be poor people against poor people, which is what environmental justice is related too. Rather it is likely going to be a issue if local Wealthier people's NIMBY concerns and the cost of land in relation against the cost/benefits to local impoverished people. The eradication of rats isn't a very good comparison, because in some issues like environmental justice there isn't really a environemntal group dumb enough to fight in favor of adversely impacting poor people. What you end up with typically is the cost of doing business against poor peoples welfare, and have to show greater beenfits to them then potential losses (e.g. more jobs and income, increased tax base, necessary resources, financial mitigations, etc.). It is however, possible that the benefits to the local public that have existing beenfits outweight the losses. though it is just as easy to fight in court how those factors are weighted and estimated. Usually in many State cases the projects that represent the interests of the deepest pockets and/or most constituents win out in the end though, unless they are just blatantly trying to screw over the local public.

It is very common for proposed projects of one agency in the Federal government to pose a risk of being shut down on a project due to the environmental opinions of another, a reason many try to address these beforehand as much as possible. I commonly work on projects where agencies such as USBR or USACE have one opinion in support of a project only to have it all shut down because of a opinion from USF&W or NOAA.

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#57
In reply to #56

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

06/17/2011 4:12 PM

Very interesting. Thank you for your considerable knowledge in this area. I am only a fly on the wall in regards to many of these issues, but have other friends that deal with these issues daily, and I need to glean what I can, so as to not be influenced by press reports, or the Media. We know how objective they tend to be..

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#58
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Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

06/17/2011 4:22 PM

Yes, the media tends to skew things towards the simplest and relatively uninformed interpretations to get the eye catching headlines, plus local media sources tend to be strongly politically skewed towards a specific audience it seems and try to present information colored to only what the audience wants to hear. Though you can always go to the agencies proposing projects to get direct information, and EIRs will have a public review and comments period before they can be adopted. I usually like to read published EIRs just to see what is going on, they will have a lot of the conceptual information and the responses to comments. Public agencies have to publish them or make them available to the public. You can always see where resistance exists befiorehand so you can gauge the importance of some aspects of a project or how much push back elements may get from certain interest groups.

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#45

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/20/2011 10:52 AM

The present status of experience in solar thermodynamics shows that we can terminate COAL AND NUCLEAR ENERGY .Hydrogen is being placed in to the place of FOSSIL fuel .The source of hydrogen is cracking water using solar power.Another source is the energy plantation as the source of cellulose from wild plants.CRACKING CELLULOSE IS THE SOURCE OF ENERGY.

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#46
In reply to #45

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/20/2011 10:56 AM

Hydrogen production is not the real issue. Storage is the bigger problem.

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#47
In reply to #46

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/20/2011 11:33 AM

Underground rock bed tunnel with steel lining and chilling facility is sufficient for hydrogen storage.

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#48
In reply to #47

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/20/2011 11:58 AM

You are a little bit crazy maybe? This may qualify for crazy idea of the century.

Not to mention that as of today and for a good many years to come, production of H2 from water is to costly to be used.

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#49
In reply to #47

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

05/20/2011 12:37 PM

While not supporting this idea, you might note that steel is fairly porous to hydrogen, gonna need something more like aluminum if you plan to store for soem epriod of time (you will still have some leakage through the container walls just orders of magnitude less).

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#60

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

10/05/2011 12:11 AM

The solar thermal power,solar thermal storage,energy plantation ,tidal power,geo thermal sources are suitable to replace coal, nuclear fuels.The technology is ready.To build respective units for use.plantation in eqatorial regions are essential.import dry biomass,to extract tar using solar con centrators to combine solar and bio energy.Also extract methane hydrate from deep sea bed using petroleum solvents.

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#61
In reply to #60

Re: Can Coal and Nuclear Energy Really be Phased Out?

10/05/2011 3:22 PM

Nice thoughts but all of your suggestions need to compete with cheap, relatively clean natural gas. Natural gas is now being found in many areas and is very difficult for "greener" or dirtier, more dangerous (coal and nuclear) fuels to contend with. If natural gas cannot be shipped to your area, that might be another story. Efforts are better spent converting to natural gas generators using change phase turbines or microturbines. Even with normal gas generators.

The biomass can be processed to methane, cleaned and used in the above generators. This is done commonly in dairies, trash dumps, sewage facilities etc.

All the best,

Ron Wagner

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