Skip to main content

The rap on renewable energy is that it’s too variable to meet society’s demand for a constant supply of electricity. The answer to the problem turns out to be: More renewables.

Climate change is acting like an ever-tightening vise on our energy options. Each year that passes without dramatic decreases in our use of carbon-emitting fuels means the cuts we have to make simply get more drastic. By 2030, say experts, we must entirely replace coal with efficiency and renewable energy, or fry. Even the most intrepid environmentalists wonder if it can be done without huge price hikes and wholesale changes in how we live and use energy--changes that society may not accept.

A new study out of the University of Delaware shows it is possible to power the grid 99.9% of the time with only solar and wind energy, at a cost comparable to what we are paying today. This counters the conventional wisdom that we will always need large amounts of fossil fuel as a backup when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. It also means the goal of getting largely beyond fossil fuels by 2030 is not just achievable, but practical.

The study focused on a regional transmission grid known as PJM, which encompasses parts or all of fourteen states, mostly in the Mid-Atlantic. Researchers ran 28 billion computer simulations to find the most cost-effective combinations of wind and solar that could power the entire grid, at the least possible cost and with minimal amounts of energy storage. The winning combination relied on natural gas turbines for backup on only five days out of the four years modeled.

The study authors looked for the least cost taking account of carbon and other external costs of fossil fuels, which are not being accounted for today, but they also assumed no technology improvements over time, making their cost estimates conservative overall. All the least-cost combinations used much more storage than we have today, but needed it for only 9 to 72 hours to get through the entire four years modeled.

The secret to dealing with the inherent variability of wind and solar, it turns out, is to build even more wind and solar. One wind turbine is unreliable, but tens of thousands spread across a dozen states greatly reduces the variability problem, and tens of thousands of wind turbines balanced with millions of solar panels is better still. To get to 99.9% renewables, you keep adding wind turbines and solar panels until you are producing three times the electricity that you actually need to meet demand. To power the grid with renewables just 90% of the time, you would have to produce “only” 1.8 times the electricity needed. (And yes, we have the windy sites and the sunny places to support all those projects.)

While it may sound strange to build more generation than you need, that is already the way grid operators ensure reliability. To take one example, if you were in Virginia when the “Big One” struck in 2011, you will recall that the earthquake caused the North Anna nuclear plant to shut down for four months. Nuclear energy provides a third of the electricity in Dominion Virginia Power’s service territory, and yet the lights stayed on. That’s because the grid wizards at PJM simply called on other power sources that had been idle or that had spare capacity.

The other component of reliability is the ability to match demand for power, which rises and falls with the time of day, weather, and other factors. So-called “baseload” plants like nuclear, coal, and some natural gas turbines don’t offer that flexibility and must be supplemented with other sources or stored energy. PJM currently uses more than 1,300 different generating sources, as well as about 4% storage in the form of pumped hydro. The right combination of other sources can replace baseload plants entirely.

Pairing wind and solar improves their ability to meet demand reliably. Onshore wind tends to blow most strongly at night, while solar energy provides power during the peak demand times of the day. Offshore wind power is also expected to match demand well. Combining them all reduces the need for back-up power.

But until now policy makers have assumed that solar and wind won’t be able to power the grid reliably, even when combined and spread out over PJM’s more than 200,000 square miles, and with the addition of wind farms off the coast. Critics have insisted that renewable energy requires lots of back-up generating capacity, especially from some natural gas turbines that can ramp up and down quickly. New gas turbines have even been designed specifically to integrate with renewables in anticipation of increasing amounts of wind and solar coming onto the grid.

This makes the work of the U. Delaware researchers a game-changer by showing that wind and solar can be backed up primarily by more wind and solar. And so we can begin planning for a future entirely without fossil fuels, knowing that when we get there, the lights will still be on.

Originally posted to Power for the People on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 09:53 AM PST.

Also republished by Climate Hawks, Climate Change SOS, Kosowatt, and DK GreenRoots.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (203+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blonde moment, ferg, Pinto Pony, eOz, kevinpdx, rbird, MrHinkyDink, CTDemoFarmer, TiaRachel, Shockwave, elwior, global citizen, Ashaman, irate, rickeagle, NoMoreLies, Mary Mike, RLMiller, Betterthansoap, Buckeye54, dmd76, poliwrangler, absdoggy, anodnhajo, Andrew F Cockburn, Sun Tzu, MKinTN, Gooserock, Anthony Page aka SecondComing, homo neurotic, A Siegel, citisven, cskendrick, radical simplicity, blackjackal, Tinfoil Hat, AnotherMassachusettsLiberal, GAS, CoolOnion, Sandy on Signal, GeorgeXVIII, J V Calin, boatjones, 6412093, indie17, LakeSuperior, Dinclusin, jediwashuu, ninkasi23, ColoTim, Chaddiwicker, cordgrass, YucatanMan, trivium, marleycat, Kurt from CMH, zerone, jrooth, FultonDem, Mr Robert, Assaf, offgrid, Siri, JimWilson, oldpotsmuggler, cantelow, Catlady62, Jim Tietz, Icarus Diving, Odysseus, DWG, bartcopfan, maybeeso in michigan, tmay, david78209, James Wells, teresahill, JayBat, Canis Aureus, asym, monkeybrainpolitics, Captain Chaos, nzanne, WheninRome, tofumagoo, xaxnar, filkertom, TheGreenMiles, WhizKid331, Joieau, RandomNonviolence, Mislead, young voter, carver, Miggles, RiveroftheWest, nirbama, BeerNotWar, Wreck Smurfy, afox, Carol in San Antonio, arendt, Nowhere Man, hooktool, TheDuckManCometh, Oldestsonofasailor, defluxion10, freesia, fisheye, Trendar, DRo, Fishgrease, tobendaro, Quicklund, mconvente, WearyIdealist, johanus, Aureas2, ATFILLINOIS, where4art, Lefty Coaster, Cronesense, Fiddlegirl, Lily O Lady, hamm, dpwks, Glen The Plumber, cwsmoke, FarWestGirl, askyron, cactusgal, Noodles, greenotron, SolarMom, Cedwyn, Alumbrados, Bluesee, KenBee, SD Goat, eeff, citizen dan, Larsstephens, angelajean, cooper888, petulans, quiet in NC, cynndara, sydneyluv, drofx, jamess, wu ming, elginblt, Flying Goat, roses, antooo, Freelance Escapologist, CS11, buckstop, alisonk, basquebob, Just Bob, Marihilda, squarewheel, BYw, HeyMikey, sfarkash, Hirodog, DarthMeow504, copymark, filby, rsmpdx, fixxit, Tillie630, ivote2004, profundo, Words In Action, Sandino, wader, aitchdee, means are the ends, Rosaura, Calamity Jean, mrsgoo, riverlover, deepeco, DeminNewJ, Mosquito Pilot, dot farmer, hlsmlane, flowerfarmer, rivamer, Yasuragi, lavorare, toom, Steven D, CalGal47, semiot, Aquarius40, GDbot, dotsright, yoduuuh do or do not, jfromga, IreGyre
    •  I like the way you think (45+ / 0-)

      There are three pieces to this:  generation, conservation and efficiency.

      We probably could cover thatn 0.1% simply by making the rest of the US as energy efficient as California.  Just adopt our regulations and invest in some building retrofits and boom, there's massive energy savingss there (for example, California emits on the order of a third the CO2eq per person of the most inefficien states).  

      and of course, switching to uses that don't use electricity (clotheslines) can make a whopping ton more.

      Frankly, the US wouldn't have the carbon and energy problems we do if we didn't waste energy like drunken sailors.

      Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

      by Mindful Nature on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 10:27:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  In my case (52+ / 0-)

        I use a clothesline.  House is passive solar, with a woodstove for supplemental heat.  Part of what the woodstove burns is brush cut from the yard.  Household electric, by paying a very small premium, all comes from wind 100%.  I do use propane very occasionally for heat.  And for cooking - that's the main thing, for cooking with gas.

        The house is planned with good cross ventilation properties.  And trees are planted to shade morning and afternoon in the summer while not blocking the winter sun at all.  That takes only a little planning, looking at sun angles at various times of year.

        Some good progress can be made with building codes.  For one example: Make superstores make covered parking with solar collectors above.  Not a bad investment for the stores, since it'll cut their own utility bills significantly, and looking forward can help with charging for electric cars, too.  Using rooftops of large public facilities for solar, too, makes sense.  It'd save taxpayers money for schools, convention centers, armories and so on.  A dedicated national program for that purpose would make sense.

        "Taxes are for the little people" - Leona Helmsley (before being sent to jail for tax evasion)

        by Land of Enchantment on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 10:46:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Here's the phrase: The house is planned (15+ / 0-)

          a lot of these efforts take good planning.  A well designed structure can do a lot to cool and heat itself simply by using the environment.  I think we could do with more of that, some by providing resources, some by improving planning and building codes.  I'm drawn to some of the successes with the passivhaus and Zero energy building approaches.

          There's a lot of simple things we could do if we only wanted to.

          Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

          by Mindful Nature on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 11:10:24 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  An ancient and simple city planning idea (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            too many people

            that Hot climates tended to gravitate to if not planned is to NOT have north south/East West street grids but have them at 45 degrees from that... SE to NW & SW to NE...

            This automatically adds more shade throughout the day and keeps buildings and streets cooler in the summer in more equatorial regions where the sun is more directly overhead while in the winter more walls are in direct sunlight a bit more to keep the building a little warmer...

            it can be seen in places like downtown LA... the old street pattern is from the Spanish colonial time... the rest of LA in the flat areas switches to a North South/East-West layout A Northern European Legacy... While it is true that the older European street grids are all over the place... when they got organized and did city planning the prime compass point layout just seemed the way to go...

            But East West streets have the northern side bake all day in the Summer... while the southern side freezes all winter... The "Spanish" (& North African, Arab way too) spreads the heat load around better and exposure to direct sun is minimized for most wall surfaces in the summer while a slightly lower sun in Winter (at those latitudes) actually exposes walls to more solar energy overall... and of course all the walls are white anyway so the main point was reduced exposure and reflectivity..

            A bit too late to change existing layouts in the hotter regions... and while in the Northern parts of the US it used to not get as hot as it has been in recent years the northern European style grid

            Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

            by IreGyre on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 09:25:09 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  I would love to hear (9+ / 0-)

          more about your home.  Did you build the home yourself or buy an already existing passive solar structure.  Have you written diaries on the subject?

        •  A cheaper solution is (10+ / 0-)

          making parking lots and roofs white.  It reduces the heat island effect which reduces cooling costs in the area and reduces cooling costs in the big box.

          •  Building-integrated photovoltaics... (5+ / 0-)

            It is painful to me that what you describe, painting things white, is one of the most effective programs we have.

            Rather than reflecting and scattering with white paint, we need to collect that energy with building-integrated photovoltaics.

            •  Sure but right now it isn't economical (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Don midwest, FarWestGirl, alisonk, BYw

              I'm in the industry and the biggest deterent to sustainable solutions is economics.  So we pick our battles.

              If you can make a solar film that is cheaper than white paint, you'll do really well.  Until then, invest in large scale solar arrays and wind farms (economy of scale), reducing heat island through white roofs and parking lots, and using lots of insulation and insulated low UV glazing.

              •  Large scale solar arrays (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Just Bob

                are not my favorite, for a variety of reasons. Isn't solar better as a distributed power source?

                -7.5 -7.28, A carrot is as close as a rabbit gets to a diamond.-Don Van Vliet

                by Blueslide on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 05:33:38 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Solar film cheaper than white paint (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                alisonk, DeminNewJ, ricklewsive

                Might be called grass.  Or moss.  Or, unfortunately, mold.  But you get the idea.  These things already exist, and will do half the work for you if you simply introduce them to appropriate resources and stop actively exterminating them at every opportunity.

                A lot of the creepy sterility of our human world is the direct result of a deliberate aesthetic cultivated during the first half of the 20th century called Modernism, which extolled the perfection of "clean lines" and "uncluttered landscape" and expanses of steel and concrete as expressions of human power.  The Nazis and Communists are famous for it, but they only invested in a movement that was already well underway.  In America, much of this was invested in near-worship of all things related to aviation and space science.  Think about science fiction novel covers.  There are no trees in Outer Space.  And, theoretically, no mold, mildew or insects.  Everything is sanitary.  Perfectly clean and devoid of life.

                Only problem is, we happen to be living beings ourselves.  And new developments in science suggest that we aren't even single organisms, but collections of cohabitating symbiotic life-forms.  We depend on the bacteria in our guts to digest our food, and the mitochondria encased in our cells to process our intracellular energy.  In the larger world, we need plants to produce oxygen, a wide array of foodstuffs, and an even wider array of supporting organisms to keep our foodstuffs and symbionts fed and healthy.

                Solar film on the oceans = algae.  Solar film on the mountains = lichen, alpines.  We don't have to invent any of this stuff.  All we have to do is quit poisoning it.

              •  what costs do you include in your economics? (0+ / 0-)

                How much of our military budget do you include and what kind of set asides for sea level rise, food banking and other remediation needs created by climate instability are in your cost estimates for solar?

                We kidnap. We torture. It's our policy. Embrace it or end it!

                by Mosquito Pilot on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 04:08:23 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  Renewable Energy is the way (6+ / 0-)

          I have lived off grid for 18 years of my life https://www.facebook.com/...

        •  Many European cities (5+ / 0-)

          have taken this building-code idea in a slightly different direction, by mandating Green Roofs.  Unlike white-painted parking lots, these reduce both cooling and heating costs, assist with managing stormwater runoff, and provide sanctuaries for ecological diversity, as well as, frankly, looking a lot prettier than the vast majority of modern architecture.  They can also be integrated with Solar arrays in a complimentary system where the two techniques actually benefit one another rather than being mutually exclusive.

          Personally, as an ecological gardener, I can't see why we don't mandate this on every flat roof that can support it.  Every bit of green is precious, and helps to mitigate the damage that urbanization has done to our Earth.  We've already established that life will adapt and often thrive, opportunistically, in the artificial niches and habitats we create.  We need to take a more conscious attitude towards guiding and encouraging the right kinds of biological colonization and diversity.  Otherwise, we're stuck with starlings, rats, cockroaches and coyotes.  And wiregrass.

        •  our school district put solar panels (5+ / 0-)

          on school roofs and parking lots, and found that it saved them money. it's a total no brainer.

      •  Actually ... (18+ / 0-)

        note that Univ of Delaware study is 'just' wind and solar.  What about hydro (traditional dams, in stream, tidal, wave, ...)? Biomass? Waste-to-electricity? Geothermal?  Combined Heat & Power?  Etc ...

        Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

        by A Siegel on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 11:29:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Or Nuclear. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Recall, alain2112, A Siegel

          As it is, US per/capita emissions are down 5% since 1990.

          Imagine how much lower they would be if the US had 300 functioning nuclear reactors instead of 100?

          Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

          by PatriciaVa on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 12:59:13 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Even better (21+ / 0-)

            if we can do it all with renewables, and can sidestep figuring out how to safely store waste for thousands of years and how to prevent engineering errors from small leaks up to Fukushimas.  With renewable technologies progressing in leaps and bounds, my chips are on that.

            •  And it makes most power usage decentralized (5+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Roger Fox, asym, BYw, Just Bob, A Siegel

              In a generation or two, for regular household or light industrial usage, the grid may become a back up electrical source for most Americans instead of the primary one.

              •  Energy like the net becomes resistent (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Noodles

                to interruption, disruption and monopolization... the more local it is and the more "nodes" there are the more it is self correcting and resilient... and economically too... insulating the average person from control and domination by strategically placed corporations that control access and set prices to suit themselves.

                Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

                by IreGyre on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 09:30:06 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  Absolutely unacceptable. (17+ / 0-)

            If you could find anyone to invest in them without the government (taxpayers) and ratepayers. And taking all the health/environmental risks. Both Exelon - the largest nuke conglomerate in the country - and GE - designer/builder of nukes - have taken the position that the costs and headaches are simply not worth the effort. The fuel cycle start to finish (if there were a finish, but there's not) is a significant contributor to global warming and future uncertainties. Nobody in their right mind wants to generate waste deadly to humans for at least a hundred thousand years just to toast their bagels today. There are better ways to toast bagels.

            If we go passive, conservation, smart metering for scheduling usage and generation from solar, wind, hydro, waste gas (methane) and geothermal, with well designed downstream use of waste heat, we'd have no need for nuclear or coal plants. And natural gas plants would be reserved for demand peaks that can't be worked around in other ways. That's the point.

            •  If. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              PatriciaVa, A Siegel
              If we go passive, conservation, smart metering for scheduling usage and generation from solar, wind, hydro, waste gas (methane) and geothermal, with well designed downstream use of waste heat, we'd have no need for nuclear or coal plants.
              If we don't, nuclear needs to be an option.
              •  It's already an option. (8+ / 0-)

                What we are NOT doing is building 200 new nukes, and we never will. There's not enough money on the planet, even considering the vast monetary bubble Wall Street recently inflated and then popped (remember when "real money" was measured in billions and there was no such thing as trillions? Ah, Dr. Evil...). We are at the environmental tipping point - we simply do not have 50-100 years to drag our collective feet on doing something about the human causes of climate change.

                So no, nukes will not be playing a considerable role in the future.

                •  Which is fine. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  alain2112, PatriciaVa
                  What we are NOT doing is building 200 new nukes, and we never will.
                  I just don't think that we shouldn't oppose building nuclear generators while we're still building fossil fuel generation, and we shouldn't shut down nuclear power plants while we're still burning fossil fuels.
                  •  We are nearly two years (5+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Roger Fox, BYw, Just Bob, ozsea1, Sandino

                    behind the curve on shutting down all our GE Mark-I and II reactors. Their continuing existence definitely needs opposing, unless we're willing to risk turning major population centers into dead zones for no good reason. Earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes... these are becoming more common, and the storms more powerful. A consequence of having wasted too much time already making necessary changes in how we use this planet's resources.

                    At the same time we should be shutting down all U.S. PWRs now known to be endangered by earthquakes and more frequent flooding (now evident from climate change). For the same good reason - public health and safety. Sure, the 'Big One' hitting southern California is going to be a huge mess. Lots of people killed and injured, important large cities destroyed. But San Onofre and Diablo Canyon going down at the same time is a real threat to everything east (downwind). Why would we wish that double jeopardy on ourselves?

                    The poor choices of the past all have to be recognized and rectified if we hope to leave a habitable planet to our progeny. The sooner we do what has to be done, the sooner young people will grow up thinking the new ways are normal, and older people will wonder why we waited so long.

                    If Japan can manage to still be a modern industrialized nation with two nukes - down from 30 - we've got no excuse not to close and decommission the most dangerous of our 100+ nukes asap. It's not like we can pretend we don't know the risks anymore. Coal is a filthy fuel. So is uranium. There's no excuse for either at this point in history.

                    •  Wait, you feel threatened by climate change? (0+ / 0-)
                      Earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes... these are becoming more common, and the storms more powerful. A consequence of having wasted too much time already making necessary changes in how we use this planet's resources.

                      At the same time we should be shutting down all U.S. PWRs now known to be endangered by earthquakes and more frequent flooding (now evident from climate change).

                      Progress!
                      •  What in the world (3+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        BYw, Just Bob, Sandino

                        would make you think I'm not? Climate change threatens all of us.

                        •  Prior conversations with you. (0+ / 0-)
                          I have gone to all the "worst case scenario" panic sites per Global Climate Change. There's definitely stuff to be concerned about, and much to do to stop the progress on our end of contributions to it. I do that every day. Have for many years. Do you? I have seen nothing credible to directly threaten my existence. Or my children's existence. Or my grandchildren's existence. Or... well, you get the picture. Do I care beyond that? Why should I? Beyond doing what I can, minimal as that may be, while I'm still here.
                          link
                          •  And? (4+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            ozsea1, Sandino, flowerfarmer, A Siegel

                            I made choices decades ago that directly impact my family's ability to survive in a warmed climate - confirmed just last year when USDA changed my growing zone to the next warmer one. We'll be okay, at least until the mountains give up their ghosts. Humans will survive climate change, until they can't anymore. The least we can do about our contributions to the process - literally - is to stop treating the planet as our own personal cesspool. Hell, we should stop doing that even if the climate weren't changing and we weren't contributing to it.

                            I'm doing what I can to promote the adaptability we need, to the nation/world at large. We have to change the way we do things, or it will be a lot worse than it needs to be. That would be a shame, but there's really nothing more I can do about it. If everyone were doing what they can it wouldn't be such a hopeless endeavor, would it? Doesn't matter all that much to me in the end, so long as I've done what I can. What more do you expect people to do than that?

                          •  Doing as much as you can. (0+ / 0-)
                            I'm doing what I can to promote the adaptability we need, to the nation/world at large. We have to change the way we do things, or it will be a lot worse than it needs to be. That would be a shame, but there's really nothing more I can do about it. If everyone were doing what they can it wouldn't be such a hopeless endeavor, would it? Doesn't matter all that much to me in the end, so long as I've done what I can. What more do you expect people to do than that?
                            You campaign against nukes while we're still burning coal.
                          •  Because nukes aren't green (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Joieau

                            And building new ones generates huge CO2 that takes years of generation to washout. Meanwhile the energy and CO2 costs of mining increasingly scarce uranium and indefinite safe storage of deadly waste means that building nukes does not help reduce CO2 emissions by offsetting coal burning for at least a generation after their creation, if at all.  The risks are so high, that a crony-captured system cannot be trusted to build or maintain them.

                          •  "As much" being, according to you, (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            rovertheoctopus

                            supporting nuclear power? Ain't ever going to happen.

                            Surprised as I am that you would bother to keep track of my comments in other diaries so as to introduce here out of the blue for no apparent reason, I think you somehow managed to miss something significant about me in regards to the subject of nuclear power and my hard-earned opinions about it and the people who think they run it and the people who don't think their job is to regulate it.

                            But just so you know, I have way too much real life experience with nukes, the nuclear industry, and the mal-named Nuclear Regulatory Commission to ever fall sway to any anonymous commenter on these here intertoobs' ill-conceived (or utterly deluded) nuclear cheerleading.

                            Nuclear is not a cure for or a defense against climate change. It never will be. It was a terminally dumb idea in the beginning, and it remains terminally dumb at the end. But do carry on as you choose. Just sayin' you may wish to avoid me on the subject...

              •  Nuclear has priced itself out of the market (5+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                BYw, Just Bob, ozsea1, Sandino, Calamity Jean

                FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

                by Roger Fox on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 05:20:46 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  @ 11-15 cents per KWH (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BYw, Just Bob, Calamity Jean

            for new construction, LCOE, cost to generate, I think capital is flowing elsewhere.

            FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

            by Roger Fox on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 05:18:26 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Couple things ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            too many people

            1.  There are so many 'would've, could've, should've ...':  What if we had kept increasing CAFE standards? What if Carter's solar program had been kept at a steady research level of, let's say, $2.5 billion / year for the past 30 years along with a steady state $2.5 billion in Federal acquisition of renewable systems?  What if the construction/nuclear power companies had been more effective in project management and quality control such that power plants didn't have massive (MASSIVE) cost overruns that bankrupted the option of continuing nuclear power builds? What if ...  Yes, if we had a fleet of 300 nuclear power plants, we'd have roughly 60% of US power demand at extremely low carbon and, since the plants would be paid off, at very low price.

            2.  Putting aside pesky little environmental concerns (Fukushima, otherwise ...), the pricing is a key challenge going into the future.  There is not a nuclear power plant in the developed world that is pricing in below $0.15 per kWh (and, well, the bid structures are much higher than that).  Personally, I find SMRs far more interesting than large plants because uncertainties about energy markets/technologies (and climate change and ...) are making it incredibly difficult to commit $10 billion (or so) for a plant that won't generate an electron for perhaps a decade or more.  SMR development would enable 6-12 month decision-making/financial moves for adding power perhaps 25-100 megawatts at a time which is fiscally more palatable to utilities and helps match bump ups in energy production w/electricity demand growth.

            3.  Related to (2), very hard for that decade out purchase when there are quite plausible scenarios (suggested by Chu's targets w/SunShot) that solar will be delivering, to the household, electricity at <$0.05 within a decade (by the end of this decade) with perhaps a $0.01 additional cost for power storage/management to flatten demand curves.  No 'new' fossil fuel energy system can match this (the target of REHere is a path off coal that I originally laid out many years ago.  Nuclear power is part of this discussion -- a piece along with efficiency, solar, wind, CHP, ...  My big 'change' might be to add how we could drive down NG as well, making it truly only a fill-in when storage/renewables/power management aren't able to maintain the system.

            Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

            by A Siegel on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 05:15:55 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Biomass should be able to take up a huge part of (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Yoshimi, Calamity Jean, IreGyre

          that last 0.1% with all the waste we throw out and generate in the process of cattle feedlots, etc.

          "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

          by YucatanMan on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 01:06:46 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Plasma Converters (5+ / 0-)

          I'm intrigued by plasma converters. They heat the garbage to over 6,000 degrees Celsius. Conventional garbage burners can create some really toxic exhaust, but if you ran cyanide through a plasma converter, you would get carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen. The plasma converter gets rid of toxic chemicals, and is a net producer of energy.

          The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

          by A Citizen on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 03:19:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Cost (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            IreGyre

            I've been intrigued with the concept of using plasma waste converters as an alternative to landfills, but it seems the cost of building these sorts of facilities is more than most local or regional governments in the US are willing to bear.  In the article you link to St. Lucie county Florida is cited as an example of a US community that intends to use this technology.  St. Lucie has since decide that it can't afford to build a plasma converter.  If these plants are going to be built in the US the federal government is going to have to first sponsor some demonstration plants to show that the technology is a financially viable alternative for local governments.  

          •  Challenging ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            IreGyre

            issues include the large parasitic costs and the other uses of the waste streams -- We should be diverting as much as possible before we need to be considering this. Interestingly, as an indication of the problems that we can create w/paths like this, in some communities, efforts to divert food waste from the trash system into composting are blocked because of the necessity to maintain contracting municipal solid waste streams into incinerators. There has been enough success on other recycling that was being burned that composting projects are being blocked. (Interesting WashPost article on composting nationwide.)

            PS:  I've had, although it is a few years since the last time, the chance to have 'inside briefs' on plasma-torch/such systems. I find them 'energy cool', as well, but am uncertain how to place them against other options.

            Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

            by A Siegel on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 05:02:15 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Storage systems, yup. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sandino

          FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

          by Roger Fox on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 05:15:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  White roofs. n/t (10+ / 0-)

        Freedom has two enemies: Those who want to control everyone around them...and those who feel no need to control themselves.

        by Sirenus on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 12:21:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  MM - according to a friend of mine (0+ / 0-)

        who retired in 2012 from the California Public Utilities Commission, as a commissioner, our usage is lower on a per capita basis because our California environmental laws chased nearly all of our heavy industry out of the state to other states or countries.  

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 01:17:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If accurate, that's a serious problem. I don't (5+ / 0-)

          want to see the US further de-industrialized.  But did California's energy policy really drive them out, or was it simply the standard pattern of multinationals moving jobs to the places with the cheapest and most disimpowered labor pools, even if that means workers getting 50 cents a day?

          --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

          by Fiona West on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 02:40:10 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  FW - it was our environment policies (0+ / 0-)

            not energy policies, although energy is a big variable cost for heavy manufacturing. Our higher energy costs are a barrier to attracting new manufacturing to California, but it's much more our environmental laws. Now, the good news is that our air and water has dramatically improved over the past 50 years. However, I don't think there is much controversy that one of the costs was that most of our heavy manufacturing moved to other states, Mexico, or offshore. I am sure a part of it was the trend of offshoring jobs, but the exodus out of California started much earlier. Our manufacturing was heavily unionized so we also lost our high paying middle class, union, manufacturing jobs and reduced the role of industrial unions in California.

            "let's talk about that"

            by VClib on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 04:32:30 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  We lost manufacturing (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ozsea1

              because of cheap energy not expensive energy. It was easier to get cheap off shore labor and ship stuff back and forth with cheap (subsidized) energy. Once our economy starts reflecting the true cost of energy in the price of fuel, most manufacturing will return.

              -7.5 -7.28, A carrot is as close as a rabbit gets to a diamond.-Don Van Vliet

              by Blueslide on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 05:40:00 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Blueslide - None of that is happening soon (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                nextstep

                and if manufacturing returns, it's not returning to California.

                "let's talk about that"

                by VClib on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 05:46:37 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Diary is a bit misleading (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  VClib, ozsea1, Sandino

                  Study

                  http://www.ceoe.udel.edu/...

                  We modeled wind, solar, and
                  storage to meet demand for 1/5 of
                  the USA electric grid.
                  20% is about 100 gigs. Diary says 99.9% of 500 gigs. Statistically theres little difference, but in practical terms 99% requires a new grid and massive storage build out.

                  According to (IIRC) National academy of sciences we dont need storage or grid work to get 20% from renewables. After 20% yes, storage systems and long distance HVDC systems are required, more and more as we pass 50% and then 80%.

                  Another quote from study:

                  Least-cost combinations have excess
                  generation (3x load), thus require
                  less storage.
                  3x is an old number
                  DOE has assumed that 3x number for years, so long in fact we're starting to see efficiency increases that may make the 3x number obsolete.

                  And then the diary pushes a link to Nat gas peakers...... Not pumped hydro storage, which we already have 25 somethingish gigs of in this country. And the Hydro Industry says they can reach 25% of national demand, about 125 gigs.... IIRC.

                  From the study:

                  During times of excess renewable generation, we first
                  fill storage, then use remaining excess electricity to displace natural
                  gas.
                  Seems author would first use Nat gas peakers......

                  FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

                  by Roger Fox on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 06:05:29 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I didn't read it the same way...I think (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Sandino

                    The 1/5 of the national grid referenced might be the 14 state area they modeled and they can meet 99.9% of the needs of that area with wind and solar.

                    That area is densely populated. It may be more difficult in other areas. Perhaps more distributed power (rooftop solar?) would be appropriate in some instances.

                    Others have simply gotten old. I prefer to think I've been tempered by time.

                    by Just Bob on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 09:05:28 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  That refers to using excess electricity to (0+ / 0-)
                    During times of excess renewable generation, we first fill storage, then use remaining excess electricity to displace natural gas.
                    displace natural gas (and oil) as home heating.  IOW, to pursuade people with gas and oil furnaces to use a super-cheap oversupply of electricity instead of running their furnaces in the wintertime, because the study revealed that there would be a consistent excess of wind energy in winter.  If there happened to be a fluke temporary shortage of wind some cold day, people could run their furnaces just as they do now.  That sentance does not refer to natural gas electrical peaker plants.  

                    Renewable energy brings national global security.     

                    by Calamity Jean on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 12:25:00 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  The dairy refers to nat gas peakers (0+ / 0-)

                      in fact links to it.

                      FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

                      by Roger Fox on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 09:38:22 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  The diary refers to natgas generators, but (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        JeffW

                        that particular sentence refers to gas used for heating.  Here: http://climatecrocks.com/... is an interview with one of the authors of the study, which says:

                        We’re getting lots of excess electricity, especially September, October through May.

                        And lo and behold, that’s when we’re using a lot of fuels for heating. So . . . we asked the question, suppose we displaced natural gas for heating with this excess electricity?

                        Renewable energy brings national global security.     

                        by Calamity Jean on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 08:32:07 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  While the diary links to this GE puff piece (0+ / 0-)

                          http://www.technologyreview.com/...

                          Look the Del study uses the words "natural gas" 33 times, in the first 2 dozen or so they are referencing displacing nat gas, I quite counting at that point.

                          The quote you just provided is about displacing nat gas.... the diary inserts nat gas plants to generate electricity where renewables cant.

                          Thats simply not the same. And I find no evidence the authors of the Del study support more nat gas peakers.

                          FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

                          by Roger Fox on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 10:56:09 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

            •  Fuck that and fuck them. When CA starts collecting (0+ / 0-)

              its rightful and fair share of sales taxes corporations like Amazon have been screwing the state out of, we'll see a major improvement in schools and with it the standard of living that will produce new generations of dedicated Californians.

              Since mid-twentieth-century, California's greatest asset has always been its education system and its dedication to creative, unfettered minds.

              Mark my words.

              Physics is bulls**t. Don't let them fool you. Fire IS magic.

              by Pescadero Bill on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 11:30:31 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Well they needed some excuse. (6+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cynndara, wu ming, BYw, Just Bob, ozsea1, IreGyre

          Because I've not heard of any state increasing its heavy industry overall in the last decade and longer.

          Maybe near-slave, and literal-slave labor in China and elsewhere is the sort of thing you don't tell people is what motivates you when you leave.

          At the same time, look at what's happening to China, India, Mexico, etc as places with weak environmental laws. Be interesting to see how many industry-moving executives are moving themselves and their families from California to follow the factories.


          Markos! Not only are the Gates Not Crashed, they've fallen on us. Actual Representatives are what we urgently need, because we have almost none.

          by Jim P on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 04:31:30 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Jim - why would the executives of multinationals (0+ / 0-)

            move out of the country? After Prop 30 we may see them moving to Florida or Texas but they aren't moving to China.

            "let's talk about that"

            by VClib on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 05:48:06 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The executives won't. Their companies will. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Just Bob

              That's the record. It would be unlikely that we've had massive industrial-enterprise-exporting but California is the one state where industry didn't do that.

              Apple, for example. Where is Apple's production? Not in <insert name of any of 50 states here>


              Markos! Not only are the Gates Not Crashed, they've fallen on us. Actual Representatives are what we urgently need, because we have almost none.

              by Jim P on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 06:56:52 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Apple doesn't manufacture anything (0+ / 0-)

                They decided a long time ago that manufacturing was not a core competence and have not made any of their products for a very long time. They are spending $100 million to bring one line of Mac manufacturing back to the US this year, but it will be with a contract manufacturer, not Apple employees, who will be making the Macs in the US. The one Mac line is a small  fraction of Apples sales, but it's a start.

                "let's talk about that"

                by VClib on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 07:32:03 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  that waste is what gives me hope (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Words In Action

        both american carbon waste, and chinese carbon waste. it is a far, far easier sell to get rid of waste than to tighten one's belt. while both will ultimately be needed, we've got a ton of egregiously wasteful practices that can be ditched relatively painlessly, before we even get to the tough stuff. you don't get any more value from appliances that waste electricity, after all.

    •  And our clothes will smell sunshine fresh! (7+ / 0-)

      "We the People of the United States...." -U.S. Constitution

      by elwior on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 10:48:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, a lot of the gap can be made up with (14+ / 0-)

      conservation rather than usage.  

      Here's how electric bills work in Mexico, where the CFE (a government-owned generating/distribution company) sets the rules:

      First off, there are various tiers for agricultural, for business, for residential, but the overall scheme is this for residential (city or rural):

      1)  Lowest rate class is subsidized by the government.  Charges are around 5 to 7 cents (US) per Kilowatt Hour (KWH), much lower than US rates.   The amount of usage, a few hundred KWH, is designed to let the poorest people afford a couple light bulbs, a refrigerator, a fan or two, maybe a TV or other small consumers.   Many of these consumers live in thatched huts, shacks or tiny concrete block homes of 2-3 rooms total.

      2) Mid-rate class is subsidized by the government a bit, so it runs around 10-12 cents per KWH, very similar to US rates.   This class is intended for those middle class families who might have a ceiling fan in every room, fridge, several lights in several rooms, tv, several various appliances like microwave, etc.

      3) High rate class is not subsidized and depending on amount of usage can become expensive.  If you are using more than, say for example, 1000 KWH per month, you are thrown into the High Rate Class.  This means bills of 30 cents (US) or more per KWH.  

      It is a very expensive JUMP in price.  And, you are stuck in that rate class until an entire years' worth of your usage is below 1000 KWH per month.

      The thinking is that people who need that much electricity (for AC or for whatever) are wealthy people and they can afford to help pay the cost of generating electricity for others.  Also, the higher rates put pressure on people to lower their usage, so that less generating capacity needs to be built.

      You'd be surprised at what spoiled Americans can do to trim their lifestyle excesses when faced with electricity at triple the cost of the USA.  Conservation becomes an everyday habit when you are trying to avoid penalty rate high usage levels.

      *Note;  This is a very generalized discussion.  The CFE actually has many rate tables and they vary by part of the country, season of the year, etc.  

      But this is the general principle:  Wealthy, heavy users pay much higher rates.  Conservation efforts flow as a result.  Compact fluorescent bulbs, for example, were common across Mexico before most homes ever had them in the USA.

      "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

      by YucatanMan on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 12:48:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I was thinking giant hamster wheels... (0+ / 0-)

      Powered by giant hamsters, of course.

    •  Clothes lines work in the Winter too. Even up (0+ / 0-)

      north if the humidity is low. Yeah, it's cold but not as cold as living in a house with no heat.

      I've never poured a concrete footing but I'm looking at ways to set up clothes lines in two yards right now. I'm thinking the old fashioned opposing "T" formation with four or five plastic covered wires running between.

      Maybe I'll check a ranch supply place to see what they have.

      Everybody used to have 'em when I was a kid.

      Reaganomics noun pl: belief that government (of, by, and for the people) is the problem and that we can increase revenue by decreasing revenue.

      by FrY10cK on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 05:08:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Broken link! (13+ / 0-)

    Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

    by Mindful Nature on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 10:28:07 AM PST

    •  sorry about that! (0+ / 0-)

      I can't figure out how to edit the post to fix the link. I appreciate your putting it in.

      •  click on edit (0+ / 0-)

        make the changes then click save changes, then click publish changes

        FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 05:46:23 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Your diary doesnt have the word storage (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jamess

        But yet the study says

        During times of excess renewable generation, we first
        fill storage, then use remaining excess electricity to displace natural gas.
        Makes it seem like you're pushing nat gas. Makes it seem you're in genuine. Especially in light of the DOE doc on 20% from wind in 20 years, recent studys by Berkeley National Labs and the National Academy of Sciences concerning integration of renewables into the grid, and the assiciated need for renewable storage systems. Not nat gas plants.

        FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 06:11:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You have misread the study. (0+ / 0-)
          During times of excess renewable generation, we first fill storage, then use remaining excess electricity to displace natural gas.
          If the renewables are producing more electricity than there is demand for, the study suggests using the excess to displace natural gas for home heating.

          Renewable energy brings national global security.     

          by Calamity Jean on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 12:31:37 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Really? (0+ / 0-)

            or am I pointing out he study doesnt say the same thing as the diary, Diary is pushing the use of nat gas peakers, study says the opposite.

            Diary doesnt say word one about storage, study does, page 62.

            FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

            by Roger Fox on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 09:37:15 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  OK, maybe you misread the diary. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JeffW

              I don't see how you can interpret a diary with the title of "For electric power generation, the end of fossil fuel is in sight" as pushing the use of natgas peakers.  

              Now it is true that during the transition from 90+% fossil fueled electricity to 90+% renewable electricity that there will be considerable use of natgas generators.  That can't be helped; there needs to be a continuous supply of electricity.  But as more wind turbines are installed, coal burning and natural gas burning generators will be shut down; coal forever and natgas to sit idle waiting for the once every year or two event when renewables and storage can't cover the need.  

              Renewable energy brings national global security.     

              by Calamity Jean on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 08:22:32 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Because the Author (0+ / 0-)

                writes this paragraph, with link:

                Critics have insisted that renewable energy requires lots of back-up generating capacity, especially from some natural gas turbines that can ramp up and down quickly. New gas turbines have even been designed specifically to integrate with renewables in anticipation of increasing amounts of wind and solar coming onto the grid.
                IMHO Renewables can be built out to 100% of Americas electrical needs by adding Storage systems like pumped Hydro which we already have a about 22 gigs of, and Solar thermal systems like they are looking at in Arizona. And major grid work including HVDC for long distance transmission and offshore wind.

                In fact the DOE, Berkeley Nat Labs and the National Academy of Science tell us we can get to 20% renewables without grid work and storage, IIRC.

                And that is the gist of the linked study, except the diary takes a sharp turn and says renewables need nat gas peakers...... WTF?

                The study makes the case that the renewable load as a whole matchs up fairly well with demand, and storage systems are fine for any variation.

                FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

                by Roger Fox on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 10:21:35 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

  •  Liquid Metal Batteries (14+ / 0-)

    I'd like to see these simulations recalculated taking liquid metal batteries into account. While they say they're at least a year away from commercialization, they could erase the need for a backup power source altogether and put the energy delivery curve on a more predictable and constant basis.

      •  How close are they to market? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Icarus Diving, Noodles

        The brief searching I did doesn't show they are near going to market with versions scaled to deliver grid level power. I would venture to guess Ambri is 2 years from delivering product to market that can handle the grid.

        •  no idea (0+ / 0-)

          About all I know is that this came out of UCLA and their immediate focus seems to be small devices. I'm only guessing it can scale up to "grid capacity" size.

          I'm wondering, too, if current generators (like hydroelectric) couldn't be made far more efficient if they had a way of storing excess electricity - i.e., if the generators aren't limited by the need to supply only what the grid can handle at any given moment.

          •  Even 10 years out would be great. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Icarus Diving, cynndara

            We'd certainly start small, such as for personal devices which may be available sooner, and scale up form there. On the other hand, we might not need it scaled to grid size if it's usable for most devices and cars. It may reduce the usage required if it stores electricity efficiently and help us conserve power thus extending the lifetime of current generators without having to replace them with something bigger.

    •  The study already assumes massive power storage (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IreGyre

      They assume storage power capacity totaling about 20% of total power generating capacity, providing about 2.5% of total energy.

      They're modeling a mix of hydrogen  in high-pressure tanks, Li-titanate batteries, and GIV (grid-integrated vehicles). That is a lot of storage, but is a lot less than I have ever assumed.

      This is an impressive paper; they did some good work.

      -Jay-
      
      •  Umm, that's missing the point (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tobendaro

        Liquid metal batteries are meant to be put at the exit of any and all solar/wind installations not just to provide energy when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing, but rather to provide a smooth energy output to the grid.

        It isn't just the erratic delivery that's a problem for these electricity sources. It's the erratic intensity of the energy. These batteries solve both delivery and intensity concerns which it sounds like this paper isn't accounting for. Not having read the paper, I can't say that for sure though.

    •  Another solution could be (0+ / 0-)

      Vanadium Flow Redox Batteries, for large capacity storage

      "If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them. Isaac Asimov (8.25 / -5.64}

      by carver on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 02:40:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well, if we build wind turbines as fast as we can, (0+ / 0-)

      it will still take more than one year to build enough to stop burning fossil fuels.  The liquid metal battery may be ready to use before the renewables build-out is over.  

      Renewable energy brings national global security.     

      by Calamity Jean on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 12:38:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  There remains the problem of transportation. (20+ / 0-)

     It will take a Herculean effort to convert our cars and trucks, etc. to electricity, not impossible of course, but we need the will.
       Also, the power grid has to be brought into the 21st Century first, and at that point, vastly improved.

       There's a lot of work to be done, but if you think about it, that work will allow our economy to boom again.

    "We the People of the United States...." -U.S. Constitution

    by elwior on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 10:46:22 AM PST

    •  One Small Step, Electric Trolley Buses (16+ / 0-)

      We used to have them in cities all over the country. No battery losses, no track to lay, very easy and quick to implement and flexible to re-route.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 11:21:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not just the matter of converting them (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      oldpotsmuggler, elwior

      but the matter of powering them after that.  This study doesn't seem to have included future increases due to electrical vehicles, and those increases are going to be large.

      We need to get out of our cars already.

      •  jobs move. houses dont. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau, elwior

        Stuck with vehicles for awhile.

        The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

        by xxdr zombiexx on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 01:33:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Jobs move, Houses don't (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BYw

          So why not move the jobs closer to houses?

          •  It's a chicken and egg situation (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Aquarius40

            For many businesses none of their employees live in any one particular location. And even if they did, there's no saying that the business can find an acceptable facility where the people live.  Many businesses are location dependent, too, so they're not free to just up and move where ever they choose. A distribution warehouse,  for instance, has to be near its transportation links, but its employees might be equally distributed in all directions. On the other side of the equation it's not like people can easily pick up an move just because they had to change jobs and their commute has increased dramatically.  I think the cost of transportation is gradually forcing people to more carefully consider where they live, work, and shop, but we're not at a point where people can reliably find work within easy commuting distances.  As it is, people are willing to commute long distances to jobs, which makes it kind of hard for many businesses, even if a business is willing, to move closer to a meaningful percentage of their workers.

        •  GM and EPA (8+ / 0-)

          got a joint patent some years ago on a light transportation diesel engine (cars, 2-axle trucks) designed for 100% biodiesel. Current diesels would have to be retrofitted with different hoses/plastic/rubber components to operate on 50-100%, but that would happen over time if 50-100% were all they could get. Plus attrition on older diesels. After all, Rudolph Diesel invented his engine to run on peanut oil.

          Ships, trains, buses, tractors, combines, EDGs (Emergency Diesel Generators) in hospitals and other facilities, and the totality of our tractor-trailer shipping systems are already diesel. If cars and light trucks were also diesel, transportation wouldn't be an issue in the global climate change debates.

          We'd need a semi-radical new farm bill, though. Based on the raw materials used by producers. But if we weren't growing tens of millions of acres of corn for ethanol, land would be available for the preferred industrial crops. Better yet, that doesn't need to be food crops - they could be industrial crops. Like industrial hemp.

          We can go with most biomass per acre (hemp). Greatest high quality oilseed proportion (hemp). Greatest cellulose proportion as well (hemp) for plastics, paper and textiles. Hemp grows great on marginal land, needs no or very little fertilization (in proper rotation with green manures) or irrigation, and no herbicides because it grows as thickly as bamboo - like a weed!

          •  Renewable (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Joieau, BYw, elwior

            but not carbon-neutral.  All of these end up BURNING stuff, which doesn't solve the problem of putting carbon in the air.  I'd like to hear more about the loma prieta methods of controlled burning that leave most of the carbon as charcoal which can be plowed under as an excellent soil amendment.

            •  Emissions of a diesel engine 'burning' (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              elwior

              biologically-based oils have been evaluated. 67% less unburned hydrocarbons, 48% less carbon monoxide, 47% less particulates, 10% less nitrous oxide than petroleum diesel. NO sulfates, 80% less aromatic hydrocarbons, 50% less ozone.

              If biodiesel were combined with hybrid technology, emissions would reduce further. But if somebody comes up with a cleaner transportation engine I wouldn't mind a bit.

              BTW, charcoal isn't that great a soil amendment, cannot be "plowed under" in unlimited quantities without destroying the fertility of the soil. Given our ridiculous burden of coal ash (used for many years as 'inert filler' in agricultural fertilizers thus already "plowed under" as well as filling pits and ponds far and wide at great risk to communities), I'm leery of biomass for electrical generation. There's plenty of heat coming from the sun, if we've got to boil water to generate 'trons, use CSP. But development of kinetic energy sources is far more promising - no burning.

    •  Transportation is a secondary factor (13+ / 0-)

      Power plants are the single largest source of greenhouse gasses.  While vehicle tailpipe emissions are still significant,  power plants should be our first concern.

      Orly, it isn't evidence just because you downloaded it from the internet.

      by 6412093 on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 12:01:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  See the posts starting 2 posts above yours (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elwior, Calamity Jean

      From Liquid Metal Batteries. Something like those or Super batteries or graphine based Supercapacitor might make it happen much sooner than you think. Those power storage sources may do the all the Herculean lifting that we need.

      Besides, more renewable solar sources can lessen the need for a grid through decentralized power where excess goes back to the grid.

  •  One issue I didn't see addressed (4+ / 0-)

    was the impact of large scale storms. When you have distributed generation and a 3x over capacity for generation, small storms that shut down wind generation in certain locations aren't that much of a problem.

    However, if you get massive storms that blanket a good portion of your generating area, you're really going to start stressing your cross-country interconnections.

    It was clear they simulated a certain amount of 'weather' over the course of 4 years, but it wasn't clear whether they included off-normal events, like hurricanes, to see if their system could maintain electricity production.

    •  Especially Since Off-Normal is the New Normal (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ozy, Words In Action, flowerfarmer

      under climate change.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 11:22:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Large scale storms are not as bad as.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ozy, Odysseus

      ....stagnating high pressure centers, which will leave most of your billions of dollars in wind energy investment at a very small fraction of capacity over potentially very large regional areas.    

      The article mentioned in the diary presumes the existence of a significant electric utility battery storage that isn't in place and will be quite expensive to install.

      While marrying wind and solar to energy storage should be in our future mix, it is not in widespread implementation and most energy projects now being developed do not have such capability.

    •  More long distance HVDC (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jamess, BYw

      would ease some of the problems associated with AC transmission.

      FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 05:29:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  north sea storms are like hurricanes (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BYw, Just Bob

      german wind farms out there have done perfectly well. those turbines are hella big.

      •  The turbines shut down (0+ / 0-)

        when the wind speed gets too high. Germany survives because it's not relying on that power, and it can also get power across its borders (and sell power when it produces too much).

        So, the comparison isn't really good for a 99.9% renewable USA.

  •  Solar has the potential to eliminate the grid. (15+ / 0-)

    Point of use generation is better in that there are many fewer points of failure. Living off the grid is much safer.

    The third world is going that way because they haven't already invested in the grid infrastructure and can't afford it now. Someone with a cell phone in a village in India doesn't charge it by plugging it in to the wall because there are no plugs in the wall. Instead they buy a solar charger when they buy a phone.

    The grid probably won't completely disappear any time soon, but the more we can downgrade its importance the better off we will be.

    •  What is needed is a massive effort at residential (14+ / 0-)

      and commercial roof top solar which is also married to comprehensive energy conservation programs.

      This type of energy development will create high employment and a diversified electric generation system.

      We also need:

      Renewable generation public power authorities

      Research on integrating home space heating, water heating and electricity generation.

      District heating systems designed around new residential and commercial development.

      Massive refrigerator  change out program to get energy star units in widespread use (very big energy payback on this).

      •  We also need, here in the north country,..... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Recall

        of massive changeout of any remaining less than 85% thermal efficiency residential furnaces and massively changing those out for 96% thermal efficiency condensing type units [make by Amana, Lenox and others.

        Next, we need to create sewage sludge gasification projects that are near existing industrial gas users in the steel industry and the petroleum industry for material gasification units with cryogenic gas processing to create concentrated flows of needed H2, CO, NH3, H2SO4 products for industrial use, as well as a concentrated CO2 flow for potential sequestration or industrial use.

         In addition to solving the sewage sludge disposal problem [which can also be solved in other ways], such a gasification process can also be used to solve the trash/landfill disposal problem for municipal solid waste [but only after current waste recovery industry for materials reuse gets it first; materials recycling recovery efforets are a form of greenhouse gas emission control stewardship since their recovery preserves the benefit of the use  of the material achieved by the original energy input [and thus inherent CO2 generation].

        We should probably rebuild much of the steel industry as
        well, focusing on direct reduction to iron process and nonrecovery coking with integrated electrical cogeneration.

    •  The electrical grid isn't going to "completely (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Yoshimi, Andrew F Cockburn, BYw

      disappear" ever because an electric utility that disconnected its interconnect to other systems would be committing an act of electric utility system design engineering misconduct.

    •  Economy of scale (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Andrew F Cockburn, ferg, Joieau, elginblt

      Right now, its more economical to do solar at a utility scale (Soitec and First Solar).  The solar plants in this country are doing really well.

      •  That's only because the banksters (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BYw, Just Bob, Calamity Jean

        have figured out how to manipulate the incentives to their advantage (their evil, not stupid). If we want to create a lot of jobs and not tax the electric grid, we should promote residential and light commercial solar.

        -7.5 -7.28, A carrot is as close as a rabbit gets to a diamond.-Don Van Vliet

        by Blueslide on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 05:45:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  No, its because the parts and components (0+ / 0-)

          and maintenance at a large scale is more economical and have a better ROI than a single panel on your roof.

          •  I dunno (0+ / 0-)

            The latest installed cost for a couple MW is $1.50/watt? Then you have to ship it to where its needed and the utility may have to accomodate the connection with more gear. You can do a small residential job for under $4/watt, no connection woes and most power gets used within earshot. You also employ more people wit the installation, get more individuals invested in solar and send incentives paid by local ratepayers to mom and pop who will likely spend it locally...its win-win unlike multi MW installs funded by bankers that ship in cheap labor, siphon out the local incentive money and walk away.

            -7.5 -7.28, A carrot is as close as a rabbit gets to a diamond.-Don Van Vliet

            by Blueslide on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 01:56:32 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Andrew - that works in the third world (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Andrew F Cockburn, Roger Fox

      because they don't demand 24/7/365 uninterrupted power. First world power needs can't be compared to any third world application.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 01:19:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  We could stop demanding 24/7/365 (8+ / 0-)

        uninterrupted power...

        I am writing this on a laptop with a four hour battery life. It is snowing outside but my house is well insulated. We have battery powered lights for emergencies.

        It would still take lots of work to get off the grid, but it isn't impossible. In twenty or thirty years I think that it will be common. Even if you are on the grid, it will be more to even generation out and provide capacity for the rare times when you need a lot of juice.

        Even if we could only generate 25% of our total power, most of us would have no trouble ramping our usage down to that level in the case of a disaster. That would mean that Lowes wouldn't be selling out of generators every time there is a big storm and people wouldn't be freezing to death if they can't afford one.

        When I was a kid no one was talking about eliminating the telephone grid. Instead we were trying to expand it out to the rural areas. Now most college students don't have a land line and never will. Things change.

  •  seems like a pretty big f'n deal (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, JayBat, nirbama

    very encouraging.

    cost parity was a matter of time -- i've seen some studies come out over the past year indicating that renewables were approaching cost competitiveness with conventional / fossil fuel based energy sources, but not recalling having seen anything this unequivocal.

    great stuff. now all we need is some political will ... 'cause you just KNOW that big oil will care to hear precisely NONE of this.

    "i hear you're mad about brubeck ... i like your eyes. i like him too." -donald fagen

    by homo neurotic on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 11:29:13 AM PST

  •  Hate to be a downer here, but ... (4+ / 0-)
    Even the most intrepid environmentalists wonder if it can be done without huge price hikes and wholesale changes in how we live and use energy--changes that society may not accept.

    A new study out of the University of Delaware shows it is possible to power the grid 99.9% of the time with only solar and wind energy, at a cost comparable to what we are paying today.

    ...

    The study authors looked for the least cost taking account of carbon and other external costs of fossil fuels, which are not being accounted for today, but they also assumed no technology improvements over time, making their cost estimates conservative overall.

    ... but our current prices are based on not paying those external costs, in monetary terms of course. If we start to pay for them up front, you will get a huge price hike.
  •  Add in coming power transmission efficiencies (3+ / 0-)

    And you're selling juice to fossil fool states.

  •  Don't forget Hydroelectric where (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    6412093

    conditions make it viable, such as the Pacific Northwest

    •  We've got all the hydro we can handle in the (11+ / 0-)

      Pacific Northwest.

      All we had to do was drive all the salmon runs to the brink of extinction, costing us billions in a decimated fishing industry.

      Orly, it isn't evidence just because you downloaded it from the internet.

      by 6412093 on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 12:13:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  And not only that, but with (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cynndara

        climate change coming hard upon us, water will become scarcer and scarcer in our latitudes. There are estimates that Lake Mead will reach dead pool (let alone loss of hydropower) within the next 20 years, to be very generous. This means Hoover Dam will be of no use to anyone or anything, and AFAIK, it is the main power generator for many millions on the largest river in the West.

        "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

        by bryduck on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 02:33:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Sure, but it is already there (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cynndara, IreGyre

        We have the most efficient hydro electric system in the world, as far as available power generation to usage, so much so we can still be taking out dams to reduce the ongoing damage and still make plenty of power. Hydro electric can also be done in the ocean as well by harnessing tidal power, which has much less destructive effects. It will just cost money to develop fully and implement.

  •  time to start building that new grid (10+ / 0-)

    we need a New Green Deal or Marshall Plan for clean energy. This could truly be Obama Administration's biggest legacy, and I'm hopeful that something along those lines is in the works.

    If you're in the Bay Area, come to the Forward on Climate Rally in SF on Sunday Feb 17

    by citisven on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 11:42:58 AM PST

    •  As we saw last night at the Superbowl (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      offgrid, JayBat, BYw

      Our grid is falling apart, to have a grid that takes in lots of distributed energy production from around the country we are going to need lots of investment in a smarter system.

      "Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed." -- Vaclav Havel

      by greendem on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 11:50:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Electricity grid development (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      6412093, Recall, cynndara

      isn't going to change the problem of electric utilities having to meet their own generation needs with minimal system import and purchased power.

      In addition, environmentalists should stop claiming we are going to solve our electricity generation problems by using new electric grid approaches.   Note that increasing the distance that you have to wheel power over the grid from the generation source to the electric customer inherently increases transmission line loss which is an inescapable part of the problem of electric transmission over long distances.

      •  True. (4+ / 0-)

        But if we want efficient, reliable, and environmentally non-destructive energy, you know what?  We have to take it on as an integrated federal project, not farm it out to private companies to run on the tightest margin (least service, least maintenance, least reliability) they can get away with for the biggest profit.  The power grid is a natural monopoly (it's too expensive for duplication by multiple parties and too essential to be allowed to have gaps or failures) and a public necessity.  That's the classic description of something too important to leave to the private, deregulated market.

      •  True but (0+ / 0-)

        HVDC for long distance gives the grid a distance "robustictacy" that AC cant, while AC trans loss is 7% DC is 3%.

        IIRC resistive heating losses are worse with AC, specially in summer.

        Ultra HVDC is good for 1000-2000-2500 miles, Green Bay to LA, if you will. HVDC has its place, but by itself is not a solution.

        FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 11:52:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you sharing the good news! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, Just Bob

    I just have to skim your diary so I've hotlisted it for later reading. And then this related article came across my twitter feed, so I popped back in to share it:

    From Think Progress:

    New Mexico Utility Agrees To Purchase Solar Power At A Lower Price Than Coal

    Later ;)

    Got #Bqhatevwr? There's a mug for that! #Bqhatevwr coffee mug at my BoldyLiberal* store on Zazzle

    by jan4insight on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 11:50:12 AM PST

  •  I liked the study cited in the diary (0+ / 0-)

    since it produces some hard numbers about what needs to be done.

     But the federal Energy Information Administration's most recent forecasts assume fossil fuel will still supply the vast majority of electricity by 2040, and coal also will still outstrip renewables.  

    Orly, it isn't evidence just because you downloaded it from the internet.

    by 6412093 on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 12:05:49 PM PST

    •  The EIA predicted in 2005 that ... (10+ / 0-)

      ...we would have, in a best-case scenario, 63 gigawatts of installed wind capacity by 2025.

      But at the end of 2012, we had 60 GW.

      The EIA predicted spring that by 2035 we would have 70 gigawatts of installed wind capacity.

      Perhaps their persistent underestimate of their Annual Energy Outlook should be taken into account when figuring what things will really look like in 2040.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 02:11:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It would also be interesting (0+ / 0-)

        to compare their glib assumptions about the role of fossil fuels between now and 2035 with known reserves of those fuels, and models of their prices.   I occasionally worry that I view too many federal agencies as captured thralls producing propaganda and liability shields, without first reading a detailed exposé of that particular agency. But not this time.  As Lily Tomlin said, No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.

        Another fun project would be to google the authors of these Bush admin studies, and see what kind of wingnut welfare they are on now.

  •  850 GWh of fast storage. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nowhere Man, squarewheel

    Yeah, that's not a realistic assumption at all.  The three storage technologies they modeled were GIV (grid-integrated vehicles, i.e. a vast fleet of electric cars), hydrogen (massive facilities and water consumption) and central batteries (huge amounts of lithium)

    Basically, they managed to make it work by more or less ignoring the real issues of energy storage.

    •  Storage costs (6+ / 0-)

      The cheapest form of electricity storage that is actually in use is pumped hydro. It requires the right kind of geography for high and low reservoirs close to each other in an area with lots of rainfall and abundant water supplies to fuel the storage system.

       It's mostly civil engineering, digging large holes and pouring concrete and it costs about a billion bucks US in 2010 money for a 10GWh storage facility that can produce 1 or 2 GW output on demand for a few hours. 850GWh of storage would cost about $85 billion, maybe a little less for production-line manufacture of turbines etc. That's enough to supply the entire US demand for electricity... for about 40 minutes at peak consumption. It's also wasteful with a round-trip efficiency of about 65-70% i.e. putting a GWh of electricity in to pump water uphill will return 650MWh of electricity and waste 350MWh in friction, generating losses etc.

       Batteries cost about a million bucks per MWh (promising candidates include sodium-sulphur assuming NGK can solve the "bursting into flames" problems their first-generation designs have been prone to), that is ten times the cost of pumped storage although losses are smaller. Flywheels are in the same ballpark, capacitors are a lot more expensive.

       Considering those numbers nuclear grid generating stations ($10 billion build cost, 60 year lifespan, 3c/kWh operating costs covering fuel, waste disposal and decommissioning to generate 1.5GW for 90% uptime and no CO2 emissions) start to look like bargains.

    •  Lithium will not be involved (0+ / 0-)

      I believe Air-Iron batteries are being used in modern grid-backing applications.

      •  They specifically used lithium titanate (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sandino

        ...for their estimate in the report.

        Like some of the other posters, I don't think the energy storage mechanisms they mentioned are all that likely to be what are actually used.

    •  The whole point of the study was that (0+ / 0-)

      wind electricity is so cheap that it makes sense to nearly eliminate storage by having a large oversupply of wind turbine generators.  

      Renewable energy brings national global security.     

      by Calamity Jean on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 12:50:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  They still had 850 GwH of storage (0+ / 0-)

        ...unless I'm reading the projections wrong.  Presumably they'd need a lot more without the wind?

        •  That doesn't seem like an excessive amount (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JeffW, Roger Fox

          of storage, considering it's covering part or all of 13 states, but I don't see where you got that figure.  Here:  http://www.sciencedirect.com/... in table 3, it says that to cover 99.9% of the historic load with renewables would require 16.2 GW of solar photovoltaic, 89.7 GW of offshore wind, 124 GW of onshore wind, and 51.9 GW of storage.  Some of the storage would presumably be batteries and some would be hydrogen or other chemical storage.  

          As you can see, wind generation capacity far exceeds storage capacity.  That's the point.  

          Renewable energy brings national global security.     

          by Calamity Jean on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 08:08:36 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  cheapest form of newly built generation (0+ / 0-)

        3.5 to 6.5 cents per kwh.

        I read somewhere a new turbine goes carbon neutral in less than 1 year. I cant wait until they start building the Atlantic Wind Connection, 350 miles of offshore HVDC to support 1700 4 mw turbines, NJ to Virginia.

        FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 11:21:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Germany Is Already Doing This (13+ / 0-)

    Here's some information about a German experiment in a fully renewable grid that has been operating for over five years now:
    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    It consists of wind, solar, biomass, some hydro and probably some pumped storage.  Evidently, it has been operating successfully for years.

    The intermittency argument against renewables is false.  Every time you here it, I'm looking at you Michael Shellenberger, you should slap it down.

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

    by gmoke on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 12:17:04 PM PST

    •  Intermittency (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gmoke

      isn't a large problem until renewables become a large percentage of electricity consumption.

      Right now they are at about 20%, and they have electricity exchanges with the Scandinavian countries which act as a big hydro 'storage' reserves.

      •  German Experiment (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sandino, Calamity Jean

        The diary referred to is about a regional grid that is 100% renewable, from what I understand.  How large that region is and how many households it services I have not been able to ascertain but it is all wind, solar, and biomass with a little hydro, including some pumped hydro storage for excess wind.

        No coal, no oil, no gas, no nuclear.

        Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

        by gmoke on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 08:31:15 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The paper linked to in the diary (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gmoke

          shows a proposal for a high fraction of renewables, not an operating, 100% renewable, isolated grid.

          Even with the relatively small fraction of renewable power that Germany now uses, they still rely on cross-border exchanges with France and Scandinavia to sell power when they over produce, and buy power when they need it and the paper linked in the diary assumes the same.

          It also looks like the are re-engineering houses adding PCM (phase change materials) insulation as a thermal energy heat sink to help even out demand or hot water storage tanks. That's a pretty ambitious project indeed.

          Additionally, the paper proposes distributed micro-turbines or trigeneration systems, both of which appear to be driven by natural gas fuel. An interesting read, but a far cry from a 100% renewable grid.

  •  Our home is powered by (11+ / 0-)

    wind and solar.  My husband has done it all himself.  He's done the research, purchased all necessary items, and installed it himself.  With the exception of my electric stove and oven (soon to be changed to gas), we are completely off the grid.  Onward!

    being mindful and keepin' it real

    by Raggedy Ann on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 12:17:21 PM PST

  •  Certainly worth pursuing. (0+ / 0-)

    But...wouldn't concentrating our energy generation sites in large open areas make them--and our infrastructure--more vulnerable to extreme weather and crazy people?

    There are two types of Republicans: millionaires and suckers.

    by Phil T Duck on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 12:17:45 PM PST

  •  This is fantastic to read about, but it'll be (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cynndara

    better to see it implemented some day. Out of curiosity, I saw mostly wind & solar discussed; how much did offshore stuff like wave-motion or water-current turbines factor into the power generation? I'm talking offshore, not dams. Hopefully we can breach most of those some day as well.

    Geothermal, too, in areas where it is available, would be a good "base line" supply to keep things going.

  •  a portfolio of various sustainable alternatives. (0+ / 0-)

    We don't need another monopolizable single source.

    Profits need to be generalized not hoarded.

    Heresy, yes.... but essential to a more fair world.

    The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

    by xxdr zombiexx on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 01:29:31 PM PST

  •  The subject of the diary (9+ / 0-)

    is precisely why fossil fuel has purchased every available politician and media outlet.  

  •  Renewable energy for the win (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Just Bob, Calamity Jean

    All day and all night, rain or shine, renewable energy is a reliable way to keep the lights on in the 21st century.  http://clmtr.lt/...

  •  The outgoing Sec of Energy (6+ / 0-)

    Steven Chu, started a program called SunShot.  The goal of this project is to stimulate industry to invent, design and build the components of solar energy systems that can compete, without rebates, with grid power.  It is felt that within ten years solar will be cost competitive with grid power.  It will take investment (by the big bad government) but it looks do-able.

    Our firm is involved in this effort (some small part of it anyway).

    Check out this link.

    http://www1.eere.energy.gov/...

    If you think you have an idea that might contribute, get involved.  Awards start with Tier 0 (pre-prototype concepts).

  •  And to help pay for some of this (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cynndara, Words In Action, Sandino

    how about phasing in a carbon tax on domestic and international goods and services based on some reasonable estimate of their carbon footprint. Make it high enough to be able to raise a meaningful amount of investment capital and discourage use of carbon-contributing products and services.

    Obviously, this will require the yet more bureaucracy and regulation, which will cost something and put an extra burden on companies. But if it offsets the burden already being placed on society and thus companies too, it's worth it.

    As for storing excess renewable energy, how about hydro pumped storage?

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 03:00:24 PM PST

    •  pumped hydro is off the shelf tech (0+ / 0-)

      in fact old school, we built about 22 gigs of pumped hydro by 1996 IIRC. Though mostly matched to coal plants.

      FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 11:09:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Still the most efficient way to store (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roger Fox

        excess capacity from what I've read, so might as well use it. I'm sure that smaller-scale versions can be built that would be cost-effective.

        "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

        by kovie on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 02:58:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, small and mid size hydro (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kovie

          were hardly exploited in the big dam building years, so lots can be added to capacity.

          FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

          by Roger Fox on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 06:54:34 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  A while ago I had this hairbrained idea (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Roger Fox

            about using excess electricity to power desalination plants on the pacific coast, then pump the much-needed water to the Central Valley and over or through the Sierra Nevadas for irrigation and local water use, using the downflow of the water to power turbines to recapture some of the electricity used to pump them up. It would probably be too inefficient to be practical, but who knows.

            "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

            by kovie on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 08:46:27 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Important stream of thought (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kovie

              I've been following Polywell fusion for a few years. Small compact fusion, no waste, little radioactivity. 1000mw plant 35x35x35 building.

              SO build Polywell plants on the west coast to desalinate seawater, this provides coastal agriculture water, cities and towns drinking water, so the rivers arent pumped dry. Pump water inland to alleviate water use pressure also.

              Yeah pumping water uphill is very energy intensive, friction loss by itself is a killer. But yeah with spillover power it could be done.

              FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

              by Roger Fox on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 05:07:37 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for specifiing electric power generation (4+ / 0-)

    because there I agree fully.

    One thing proposed for wind power, to fill in for periods of low or no wind, is to use excess capacity on very windy days to pump water to a higher elevation. Then, when it's not windy, you flow the water back downhill and capture that stored energy with water turbines, which are VERY efficient.

    Wish I'd thought of it.

    It rubs the loofah on its skin or else it gets the falafel again.

    by Fishgrease on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 03:16:32 PM PST

  •  Another score from the supercomputer revolution (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cynndara, Calamity Jean

    The more hard investigative evidence like this, the easier it will be to turn the corner here. Let's give established industry and their lobbyists their due. they are formidable opponents. But there's one thing big money likes even more: getting in on the ground floor of an entirely new multi-trillion dollar industry

    You know what? We might have reached the top of the post-fossil hill. It might actually turn into a downhill grade today or (rhetorical) tomorrow. This is good news.

  •  About damn time! nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action, Calamity Jean

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 04:02:06 PM PST

  •  We are constantly solicited by (0+ / 0-)

    alternative power companies, and don't know which are legit.
    Reviews are always up and down.
    I would love to see a diary on the good ones.

  •  FWIW, Ray Kurzweil says solar usage doubles (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Just Bob

    about every couple years and has for the last 20 years in a smooth curve. He's comparing it to Moore's law. Personally I think Kurzweil is a bit of a blue-sky optimist, but even if his claim is within the ball park and it holds true, in about 15 years, solar will be at 128% of where it is now and should handle our electrical needs. In part this is because solar becomes more efficient and cheaper every two years.

    Add to that successful advances in photo-voltaic films which could be used as coverings as we use fabrics, or even a photo-voltaic paint which is being demonstrated as usable, and solar may be ubiquitously used on clothing, cars, backpacks, or you name it. Every little bit adds up.

    And other researchers are figuring out how plants use photosynthesis which is much more effective and our current usage and are trying to adapt it to commercial usage. Battery storage is probably the bottleneck. Likely, that problem will continued to be resolved also.

  •  thanks! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action

    this is really encouraging news.


    Now if only we can convert Oil & Gas subsidies
    into Renewable subsides.


    Here's how the game is really Rigged.

    by jamess on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 06:08:43 PM PST

    •  Read the study (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jamess

      See my other comment upthread, Dairy has nat gas slant study doesnt.

      Page 62 see storage systems

      During times of excess renewable generation, we first
      fill storage, then use remaining excess electricity to displace natural
      gas.

      FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 06:16:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nuclear power is unnecessary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sandino, Calamity Jean

    except to prop up the status quo.  Renewables lead to more democratic distribution of power.

    •  Why is it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      squarewheel

      that everyone assume all these great technological advances in solar, wind, and especially storage, and then insists on a complete lack of imagination when it comes to future nuclear technologies?

      •  because the nuclear industry has been ever so (3+ / 0-)

        imaginitive about not doing anything with the waste, that's why.

        and nuclear is still expensive, and still requires mining nuclear materials.

        so they can go right ahead and be imaginitve as long as I don't have to supply the hazard insurance.

        big badda boom : GRB 090423

        by squarewheel on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 08:20:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You would rather just live with (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Recall

          the known hazard coming out of coal plants? You don't want to supply hazard insurance to nuke plants, but you don't require coal plants to pay for the thousands of extra deaths incurred annually?

          There are plenty of methods of dealing with the waste, some of them more practical and/or economical than others. I think it's short-sighted to assume that it's an insolvable problem.

          All of the proposed solutions are expensive...grid-sized battery storage, massive off-shore wind investments. And many components for renewable energy require mining of rare earths and other elements that are hardly eco-friendly.

          There are risks involved in any venture that supplies energy on the scale required for a modern technological society. Those risks must be managed properly, but they also must be assessed properly.

          The relative concern most people have between coal plants and nuclear plants demonstrates that many don't have a clue as to the real risks and harm involved.

          Here's a list:

          http://www.forbes.com/...

          Considering that nuclear has the best mortality rate, by far, maybe we should be looking into supporting more research into dealing with the waste issue.

          Also, as the article points out, both wind and nuclear have the lowest CO2 footprint.

          •  NO!! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Sandino
            You would rather just live with the known hazard coming out of coal plants?
            We want wind and solar.  No to coal plants.  No to natural gas plants.  No to nuclear and ALL fossil fuels!

            Renewable energy brings national global security.     

            by Calamity Jean on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 12:58:52 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Why are you ignoring mortality stats (0+ / 0-)

              without any justification?

              Nuclear is the safest, and among the lowest for CO2 emissions.

              Wind is good, onshore wind is safe and cheap. However, it is not enough. We will need shallow offshore, and probably deep water offshore which will significantly increase the costs and mortality rate.

              Solar is expensive, and also has a fairly high mortality rate relative to nuclear.

              If you want to go 'all renewables' you're going to have to come up with a much better justification for incurring those extra deaths, incurring the extra expense, and incurring the larger CO2 release than just:

              'NO' to nuclear.

              Nuclear plants are supposed to insure against 'worst case scenarios'. Think Hoover Dam is insured against a total collapse?

              Despite the linked diary, I've seen no actual study showing how the US can get to 100% wind and solar within any reasonable time frame. The study linked to in the diary talks about a 'very optimistic' 50% for Germany, and I've seen similar studies for the US.

              If you want to get rid of fossil fuels, nuclear will be part of your portfolio. Anything else is just a pipe dream.

      •  Nuclear has no incentive (0+ / 0-)

        they get massive gov't subsidy, liability protection, and have their R&D done in weapons labs.  Then there's the vast risk. Experimental designs must be much more rigorously verified before testing, so the costs of innovation are higher due to the nature of the deadly poisons they produce.  So until that breakthrough happens, and working thorium or pebble-bed reactors become commodities, there is no incentive to make small innovations. Indeed, even mandated safety repairs are delayed by years or decades, or just avoided because the costs exceed what the owners expect to squeeze from their rustbucket plants.  Even before Fukushima began its ongoing poisoning of the planet, the Chinese were beginning to pull back on their ambitious nuke plans when they realized they couldn't find enough uranium for them.

        •  Every power generation source (0+ / 0-)

          is subsized. I wouldn't have solar on my roof if I didn't get ~50% paid for by state and federal subsidies.

          It's amazing to me that every time nuclear comes up, normally progressive people turn into free market libertarians. Cost is a factor, but it seems to me the more important question is how does the US generate the power it needs while reducing the impact on both its population and the environment.

          'Deadly poisons' exist in virtually every power generation scheme. Nuclear just tends to control theirs much better than others, which is why they are at the bottom of the mortality list, even folding in Fukishima and Chernobyl.

          Your assertions about China are out of date:

          http://www.economist.com/...

          They can't afford not to go nuclear given their massive health costs and pollution associated with coal.

          Of course, they are also trying to accelerate fusion development, but they are probably over optimistic on that front.

          And finally, you mention things like 'lack of innovation' as if it's some sort of inherent, unavoidable characteristic of nuclear power rather than just a question of providing the right incentives.

          This site and community consistently (and rightly) look to the government to solve various problems. And, once again, nuclear seems to turn some people here into libertarian conservatives who decry any government involvement.

          I find it utterly flabbergasting.

  •  And they don't even mention (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action, Calamity Jean

    geothermal.  It's my understanding that we have enough power resources in the form of geothermal trapped under the Rockies to power the entire country, probably indefinitely, if we had any way of storing and transporting it.  Basically, if we built an electrical highway (i.e. power grid) out into the back of our Nowhere, it could keep us comfortable forever if we used it efficiently.  Iceland essentially exports geothermal energy by using it to smelt aluminum without the use of fossil fuel.

  •  once again - we don't have the money for renewable (4+ / 0-)

    but we have money for big, long infinite wars.

    amazing isn't it ?

    I remember all the idiots who just knew that solar cells were too expensive, and renewables were too expensive.  and then we wasted a trillion dollars killing lots of people including civilians.

    it's been a while since I did the math, but 1 Trillion is about 30%
    40% of ALL of our electricity being generated by solar.

    but hey, that's too expensive.

    better to bomb countries and let old people starve.

    big badda boom : GRB 090423

    by squarewheel on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 08:19:05 PM PST

  •  Study overlooked hydrogen fuel cells (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action

    The study UNDER estimated the ability of variable power sources because it omitted any reference to the use of huge utility-scale fuel cells.  They are doing this in Europe already.

    When the wind turbines and solar cells are generating surplus, the surplus current is used on-site to hydroyse water: running an electrical current through ordinary water separates the hydrogen from the water molecule (with oxygen as a by-product.

    The hydrogen is stored in on-site tanks until the wind dies down or the sun sets, and then is used to power the giant fuel cells, which put electricity into the grid.

    This technology allows us to use hydrogen to store excess energy form wind or sun, and than calls on that stored energy whenever demand exceeds the power being generated by the wind/solar facility at that point in time.

    If you add hydrogen into the mix, this lowers even further the requirement to generate excess power across a giant regional grid.

    •  I like hydrogen power in theory, but..... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      integrate

      only if the excess energy is used to produce hydrogen from the water source, store it, and then put that water back into the original water table.

      But then the question becomes...why use fuel cells at all in that case? Why not just use excess energy to pump water into a huge above ground aquafer and then let it out to turn turbines during peak load like the 2100 MW pumped storage facility we have 40 miles North of here http://www.consumersenergy.com/...

      Seems a bit simpler and more elegant. And it removes the potential for water diversions. The only real benefit to fuel cells in that case is that it makes the energy a lot more portable...which brings me to my fundamental standoffishness on fuel cells.

      Where I'd be against it is if the hydrogen was taken from a local water source and then moved to a different location - for example for use in cars.  Water diversions are something I've got opinions on.

    •  Storage systems are vital (0+ / 0-)

      as we pas 20% from renewables.

      Excellent point.

      FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 10:58:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

Meteor Blades, Mary, Alumbrados, paradox, Ed in Montana, Joe Bob, DeminNewJ, filkertom, Odysseus, ferg, copymark, Gooserock, Shockwave, Fishgrease, Sherri in TX, CupaJoe, eeff, willyr, Sandy on Signal, hubcap, Babsnc, afox, cskendrick, Wee Mama, teresahill, Agathena, CoolOnion, joe pittsburgh, Aquarius40, roses, ivote2004, askyron, Wrench44, aitchdee, wader, Mxwll, young voter, Noodles, TiaRachel, johanus, HeyMikey, homo neurotic, defluxion10, riverlover, ybruti, Sembtex, side pocket, Mosquito Pilot, Steven D, jcrit, rolet, Josiah Bartlett, xxdr zombiexx, drofx, Bluesee, Tinfoil Hat, NoMoreLies, jrooth, LakeSuperior, OpherGopher, basquebob, YucatanMan, fixxit, Sun Tzu, where4art, Sandino, AnotherMassachusettsLiberal, Box of Rain, Alan Arizona, xaxnar, kovie, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, tobendaro, profundo, dmd76, AoT, KenBee, Lefty Coaster, global citizen, A Siegel, Ashaman, Rosaura, lao hong han, hlsmlane, onionjim, CA Nana, means are the ends, SD Goat, bstotts, bartcopfan, Quicklund, BeerNotWar, fisheye, hooper, Cronesense, ninkasi23, offgrid, yoduuuh do or do not, FishOutofWater, Mary Mike, deepeco, DWG, eOz, rivamer, Wreck Smurfy, GeorgeXVIII, Don midwest, Assaf, Counselor730, TomP, Mighty Ike, MKinTN, gundyj, mconvente, GAS, zerone, 6412093, Aureas2, elwior, wade norris, filby, Akonitum, beanbagfrog, lavorare, jamess, monkeybrainpolitics, Ask 4 Questions, Calamity Jean, tofumagoo, boatjones, RandomNonviolence, carver, TheGreenMiles, J V Calin, petulans, doppler effect, BYw, Robobagpiper, WearyIdealist, toom, SolarMom, squarewheel, Fiddlegirl, WhizKid331, bleuet, arendt, rsmpdx, cantelow, Carol in San Antonio, Mislead, rbird, petral, platypus60, asym, sfarkash, joe from Lowell, citisven, Words In Action, j be, Just Bob, CalGal47, CS11, angelajean, ATFILLINOIS, cordgrass, elginblt, Yasuragi, nirbama, Maverick80229, not4morewars, dot farmer, dpwks, ozsea1, bgblcklab1, hooktool, freesia, cooper888, FarWestGirl, mrsgoo, marleycat, Icarus Diving, Muskegon Critic, antooo, poliwrangler, Andrew F Cockburn, Marihilda, Vatexia, cactusgal, Miggles, Catlady62, blackjackal, RLMiller, greenotron, DRo, Pinto Pony, hamm, KiB, anodnhajo, Flying Goat, cwsmoke, Mindful Nature, Siri, ahumbleopinion, This old man, Mr Robert, radical simplicity, OlyPenDem, Buckeye54, oldpotsmuggler, Glen The Plumber, Canis Aureus, Captain Chaos, Lily O Lady, Chaddiwicker, argomd, Alhambra, RiveroftheWest, ModerateJosh, peterfallow, Jim Tietz, duhban, NonEuclidian, TheDuckManCometh, CA wildwoman, Betterthansoap

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site