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On How Much Land Does Solar, Wind and Nuclear Energy Require?

Dear Mark,

The Brook paper actually assumed a Gen IV nuclear design apparently. A reader brought this to my attention and I verified in the supplemental material for the article. 

I've updated teh post to include data from actual U.S. reactor sites now. Cheers,

Jesse

June 26, 2015    View Comment    

On How Much Land Does Solar, Wind and Nuclear Energy Require?

Thanks for the link to the NRC resource! I've updated the post with data from these figures on the U.S. fleet.

June 26, 2015    View Comment    

On How Much Land Does Solar, Wind and Nuclear Energy Require?

Mark,

The land use figures for solar are not mind, but are from the MIT Future of Solar Energy report, which I clearly referenced. A vareity of assumptions go into any of these calculations, and I wouldn't be surprised if two different papers/studies differed by a factor of 2x. If they are in agreement on the order of magnitude, that is what I would expect. And note that a 2x increase in the land use figure still doesn't change the general conclusion at all. If solar took up 7-22,000 sq-km rather than 4-11,000, would that change much of anything about my post? I don't think so. 

Second, I am in no way advocating any particular shares of any resource in this post, just providing land use figures for comparison. So "my solartopia" is a figment of your imagination. If you've actually read any of my articles, you know I take a pretty nuanced view on the role of variable renewables in our energy system. You may want to try adopting some nuance yourself. 

Jesse

June 26, 2015    View Comment    

On How Much Land Does Solar, Wind and Nuclear Energy Require?

Joris, you are correct that Mackay's figures are for the mass of natural Uranium required to produce nuclear fuel. So that's for the fissionable U-235 as well as the remaining isotopse that are not utilized. I think it's worth considering the fuel mass of Uranium required however, as that gives you a sense of how much material has to be mined, then processed into fuel. I link to the chapter of Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air which discusses this figure in the post, and I highly recommend the free e-book to anyone interested.

June 26, 2015    View Comment    

On How Much Land Does Solar, Wind and Nuclear Energy Require?

Hi Peter,

I've updated the post to include a summary table at the end. 

Jesse

June 26, 2015    View Comment    

On A Look at Wind and Solar, Part 2: Is There An Upper Limit To Variable Renewables?

Nice try "Godo." If you want to know who I am and what I have spent my professional career advocating and supporting, please see my LinkedIn CV. As someone who helped pass, negotiate, and implement a state renewable portfolio standard and has testified in Congress in support of sustained investments in renewable and other forms of clean energy technology, your comments are laughably off the mark.
Jesse

June 10, 2015    View Comment    

On A Look at Wind and Solar Energy, Part 1: How Far We've Come

Hi Michael,

If you have reservoir hydro (rather than run of river), what we mean here is that you can effectively "store" the excess wind production by just not running the hydro units, holding the water until later when the wind dies down, and then running the hydro then. That's what's happening now in the Nordic system, as well as the Pacific Northwest of the United States and New Zealand and other hydro-rich regions. It's technically not storage I suppose, at the full grid level. I just mean that Denmark can export power to Norway or Sweden, which back off of hydro production, and then later it can import power from said hydro dams when the wind dies down.

This is similar to how people with solar on their rooftops often use the grid as a "battery," exporting solar during the midday peak and importing from the grid in the evening. It's not really storage, just taking advantage of a much larger, flexible system. 

Both examples aren't truly storage. That's why we put it in scare quotes ("store"). Sorry if that wasn't clear.

Pumped hydro amounts to true storage: you use excess electrical generation to pump water up into the reservoir and then release it later when needed to generate electricity. 

May 30, 2015    View Comment    

On A Look at Wind and Solar Energy, Part 1: How Far We've Come

Joe, in the interest of full discolure: I'm a native Oregonian as well, and had a part to play in helping negotiate, pass and implement that state RPS policy in 2007. Management of competing uses of the federal hydropower system in the Northwest has always been a challenge. With the right input from stakeholders (including when necessary through suits), BPA and regional policy makers can carefully manage the inherent tradeoffs here. But you point out another key challenge to integrating large amounts of variable renewables. Even relatively flexible hydropower has it's limits.

May 30, 2015    View Comment    

On A Look at Wind and Solar Energy, Part 1: How Far We've Come

Thanks. I included this information in our Part 2. The recent iteration of the Western Grid Integration Study (by GE Consulting) for the Western North America interconnect (WECC) found that this limit on the instantaneous production of asynchronous generators (i.e. wind and solar) could be about 55-60 percent with application of current technology. It's another important factor to consider. Please see our second part in the series for more...

May 30, 2015    View Comment    

On A Look at Wind and Solar, Part 2: Is There An Upper Limit To Variable Renewables?

Hi Torrey,

Yes if nuclear plants operate at a lower capacity factor, that certainly impacts the economics of these plants, just like curtailment does for wind and solar. But that's how the markets will work. If you have a competitor that produces at lower marginal cost, you'll need to ramp down when you're power is not needed. That's fine in principle. It may mean some baseload plants can no longer recover their costs and will have to exit the market until equilibrium returns. If those plants are nuclear plants the net CO2 impact could be bad and we may want to avoid that for climate reasons with some explicit subsidy, similar to subsidy needed to push wind/solar to ever higher shares. If those plants are coal plants, then good news for CO2. As long as system reliability can be maintained, that's what we want. Hope that clarifies.

Jesse

May 29, 2015    View Comment    

On President Obama Approves Drilling in the Arctic: Should We Be Outraged?

Just to clarify, when I say "focus on the demand side" I mean demand for fossil fuels. That includes (principally IMO), developing substitutes for fossil fuels -- aka alternative supplies of clean, affordable energy. 

As I said, the supply side is not irrelevant, for many of the reasons you outline. But it is a losing strategy to try to constrain off enough supply to limit CO2 emissions. In the absence of substitutes, demand for fossil fuels is too substantial, and you can't halt enough fossil fuel extraction with this kind of action. Activists just don't have anywhere near enough leverage—Venezuala or Iran or Russia don't care much about what U.S. climate activists do for example. That's why I say the supply side is relevant, but will remain secondary to ensuring fossil fuels become obsolete.

Jesse

May 14, 2015    View Comment    

On President Obama Approves Drilling in the Arctic: Should We Be Outraged?

Busted! Can't pull one over on you Arthur ;-)

I think same principles apply to gas. I just think gas is much less of a priority concern on both climate and environmental metrics. But if you're drilling for both oil and associated gas in the Arctic, all the same risks as I discuss apply. And yes, I think royalties from any gas developed on public lands/waters should be dedicated to clean energy investment as well. 

Jesse

May 14, 2015    View Comment