Not Created Equal

A one GWe nuclear power plant operating at 85% capacity factor produces annually 7.45 TWh.
Thus, some people believe that a solar PV farm producing this same amount of energy on an annual basis can replace the nuclear power plant. 
This is not correct.
Nuclear power plants for the most part operate 24/7 and thus produce reliable base load power you can count with.
Solar PV farms produce continually varying output during the day and nothing at all during the night.
Also, in most places there is significant variation in solar insolation throughout the year. And the lower levels might actually coincide with the times of year when the most electricity is needed. As an example, here we have the insolation data for Berlin, Germany:

The variation between July and December is 10 to 1. Plus, Germany usually needs the most electricity in the dead of winter. 

Thus, solar PV does not replace nuclear capacity (or any other capacity), it just displaces energy from reliable producers in a semi-random fashion. (Nothing at night and a variable amount during the day). 

If the grid cannot absorb the solar electricity in full at any particular moment, then it has to be dumped into neighboring countries. This energy is usually not very valuable and may even require negative prices to be disposed of. If neighboring countries refuse these energy dumps then solar capacity might just have to be curtailed (further reducing its already relatively low capacity factor). 

Bottom line: solar PV for the most part does not replace installed capacity of reliable producers and just ends up being duplicated investment producing energy when it may not be particularly needed. 

It could be argued the output of wind turbines (years in advance) is even less predictable, and thus less valuable, than that of solar PV. 

Feel free to add to the conversation in Twitter: @luisbaram


Less Arrogance

The CAGW discourse could be less contentious if climate alarmists tamed their arrogance. Here is some humble advice on how this could be achieved:

1. Accept, off the bat, that Earth's climate system is extremely complex and thus that neither you, nor anybody else fully understands it.

2. Don't try to frame EVERYTHING that happens as "consistent with what you would expect from a warming planet." This reduces your credibility or worse, makes you sound like a clown.

3. If your premise is that increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are a serious problem then BEHAVE as if you believe this is true. You don't need to completely eliminate your fossil fuel use (an impossible feat for you as for anybody else) but at least engage in token actions such as eliminating all air travel.

4. This is a critical one. Again, if CO2 is a very serious issue, then you need to become a card carrying nuclear power advocate. And if you are already a closet nuclear supporter, then you need to come out.

5. Even if it is painful for your followers, you should educate them in the uselessness of solar panels and wind turbines to take us to a low CO2 global economy.

6. Maybe long term fossil fuels could be significantly displaced by nuclear power, but today they are indispensable to combat poverty. Thus, carbon taxes are not only a very bad idea, but also one of the cruelest things governments can implement.

7. You should never close your mind to new facts and data. You should even be open to recanting your AGW beliefs if reality ends up not agreeing with them.

Thank you.

Feel free to add to the conversation in Twitter: @luisbaram


ITER: Going Nowhere Fast

If no further cost increases happen and everything works according to the plan, in a few years ITER will be able to produce 500 MW of heat (not electricity). This heat will just be released to the atmosphere without producing any useful electricity (ITER will not even have an electrical generator). This heat dump into the atmosphere is planned to take place during 2035 if no additional delays occur. 

The input for producing this output is calculated to be 50 MW of heat. However, since the input heat will be produced with electricity, at a 40% efficiency for the generator it actually requires a thermal input of 50 / 0.40 = 125 MW of heat. So the net heat production of ITER should be 500 MW - 125 MW = 375 MW. If this heat were used to power an electrical generator (at say, 40% efficiency) its output would be 150 MW. 

The cost of ITER, so far, is projected to be 20 billion euros, so per GWe of capacity it corresponds to 20 / 0.125 = 160 billion euros. And again, this cost does not include boilers, generator, transformers, etc. 

160 billion euros per GWe is 20 times or more the current capital investment in a fission reactor. In order for fusion to compete in the marketplace at least 95% of the cost of the reactor will have to be cut for it to be attractive to electric utilities. Yes, there will be a learning curve but the magnitude of the cost reduction required seems challenging, to say the least. At the same time, fission is a moving target.

Also, a fusion reactor might not be as long lived as an equivalent fission one. "A technical concern is that the 14 MeV neutrons produced by the fusion reactions will damage the materials from which the reactor is built."

Plus, since it is inherently more complex, its capacity factor would almost certainly be lower than that of a fission reactor (in the US the whole nuclear fleet operates at around 90% annual capacity factor).

So, will ITER type fusion electrical generation ever be able to compete with fission technology?

Feel free to add to the conversation in Twitter: @luisbaram


A Dose of Reality

Most climate alarmists think reason and science are on their side and thus tend to have an arrogant attitude when dealing with climate skeptics.

They get annoyed when skeptics call their alarmist beliefs CAGW. They fight back saying the "C" is a "denier" plot but then we ask, if AGW is not catastrophic, why should humanity spend (waste) tens of trillions of dollars to "fix" something that ultimately may not be bad (if it is even being caused by our CO2 emissions)? 

Also, with a perfectly straight face many alarmists underline that "climate action" requires the replacement of fossil fuels wholesale by (mostly) solar panels and wind turbines. And yes, many of them confuse "energy" with "electricity." The latter is only a fraction of our civilization's total energy consumption. 

Here is where their boat, as it were, begins to thread water. Fossil fuel generating capacity cannot be replaced by solar and wind. At the most, these so called renewables can displace a certain number of hours annually of fossil fueled generation. However, the power plants themselves stay, as at any particular moment (that may well be during peak electricity demand) renewables may produce little or nothing. Solar PV produces nothing at night or when the panels are covered in snow. Their output is significantly curtailed during overcast days. Wind turbines' generation is more random. 

Today, solar panels and wind turbines produce marginal amounts of energy globally and this energy for the most part is not even needed as reliable power plants need to curtail their output to accommodate these semi-random energy dumps. 

So, these persons that believe reason and science are on their side promote an impossibility: replacing fossil fuels in a hurry with marginal, unreliable, energy sources that need to be paired with the same fossil fuels they want to replace. Obviously, they are not on the side of reason, they are not only denying reality, but engineering itself. 

Fossil fuels have lost, and will continue to lose, market share. However their absolute use is still increasing led by natural gas which is currently the fastest growing fuel worldwide. 

Yes, nuclear energy can replace fossil fuel capacity but many decades will be required for say, nuclear to supply 50% of the primary energy of our civilization.

So, fossil fuels are here to stay. If their CO2 emissions are a problem (that is worse than the benefits they provide) then reasonable solutions that do not contradict sound engineering and economics should be found. Maybe those "solutions" are just adaptations to a somewhat warmer planet.

Thank you.

Feel free to add to the conversation in Twitter: @luisbaram


Climate Confidential

I obtained this book from somebody that had no business in giving it to me, or to any other. **
This is a confidential manual to train climate alarmists globally. It has already been translated to 27 languages.

The manual is titled: Climate 101.

Here are some of the hard instructions included:

  • To demand trillions of dollars (euros) FIRST you have to scare people out of their wits.
  • Don't even try to explain the complexities of Earth's atmosphere. Just say: CO2 will kill us all!
  • Always project an aura of infallibility even though we don't really understand what is going on. Remember, #TheScienceIsSettled
  • Of all alternatives to reduce CO2 emissions, always select the most expensive and least reliable.
  • Always downplay the serious problems of humanity such as poverty, war and terrorism while insisting AGW is the priority.
  • Never debate against an opponent that knows the science. On second thought, never debate with anybody. They'll cream you.
  • Insist that the Energiewende is a success in spite of the fact it is falling apart at the seams.
  • Unconditionally oppose nuclear energy, the best road to a low CO2 economy. Why? There's not much money in nuclear.
  • Send loads of climate delegates to climate conferences. Why? They love the perks and we need them on our side.
  • Recruit celebrities to terrorize the public with CO2. Overlook the fact that these same celebrities are raping the planet.
  • Never settle for less than 100% RE. This is a question of moral purity. Never mind it is just not possible.
  • Root for liberal candidates all over the world. Why? They are easier to con.
  • This con won't last forever. The next trillion dollar scam in which we are already working is #UniversalBasicIncome

** This post is actually pure fiction. I have not received any manual, but the more I think about it the more probable it seems that this manual actually exists. How is it that all climate alarmists use the same tactics and talking points? 

Feel free to add to the conversation in Twitter: @luisbaram


Food and Energy

Making energy more expensive whether by carbon taxes or otherwise is not a good idea. Let's analize how, for example, food has energy inputs (mostly fossil fuel based) through all its processes:

  • Planting is usually heavily mechanized plus fertilizers are mainly produced from fossil fuels.
  • Harvesting is usually heavily mechanized also.
  • Transportation requires oil powered ships and / or diesel powered trucks.
  • Preparation / cooking / freezing / refrigeration is mostly fossil fuel powered.
  • Even buying the food usually requires people driving to the supermarket (or home delivery) and then what is left needs heating and refrigeration.

Thus, increasing the cost of energy would almost certainly have a significant impact on the price of food.

And sure, the poorer somebody is, the larger portion of his income has to be spent in buying food.

So, to those governments that want to impose a carbon tax we say: thanks, but no thanks. Don't play with the basic needs of your citizens. 

Feel free to add to the conversation in Twitter: @luisbaram


100% RE

We hear a lot about the desirability of going 100% renewable energy (mostly solar & wind). But before we get overly excited by this vision, let's underline some practical considerations.

  • Solar panels & wind turbines are low density energy converters and thus vast mining operations would be required to produce a significant amount of our electricity. Since the lifetime of the above devices is not that long (a few decades at the most) these mining operations would have to exist in perpetuity (even if some recycling takes place). 
  • Additionally, let's underline that electricity is only a fraction of world's total energy consumption and renewables usually only replace other sources of electricity generation.
Here we can see global energy consumption (IEA 2016 report):

  • China is the #1 producer of solar panels & wind turbines so massive tonnage would need to be transported across the world (ships, trucks) and again, these shipping operations would need to continue in perpetuity.
  • 100% RE would also require voluminous industrial battery banks which would also necessitate gargantuan mining, smelting, manufacturing and transportation operations. The useful life of batteries is even less that that of panels and turbines.
  • New transmission lines will be needed to bring the renewable energy from where it is produced (low population density places) to where it is actually used. These transmission lines will also need mining, manufacturing, transportation operations. 
  • The shipping fleet worldwide would need to be significantly expanded (more mining, manufacturing, etc.). 

All of the above would certainly be very expensive and harmful to the environment. So the question is why is 100% RE even considered a desirable objective?

Feel free to add to the conversation in Twitter: @luisbaram