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Thread: Where should we get our energy from?

  1. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    * Jared Harris in Chernobyl voice * We're using sub-optimal technology right now.
    Obviously that's true, but that's not the counterfactual - we're imagining a energy mix of mostly solar + storage against some other future energy mix and trying to figure out if it's the best option.

    Pretty much any form of renewable requires storage capacity since they're all intermittent to one degree or another. Oh, except hydro but we all know the problems that can cause.

    The advantage solar has is that it is intermittent on a predictable schedule which can be planned around, whereas the current leading source of renewable energy in the UK - wind - is kinda random
    I think that the schedule is nice - ish, after all you do have to take weather into account - but you need a lot more storage for an equivalent solar capacity vs. wind capacity because in a given geographical region, the lows of solar generation (zero) are far lower than your lowest regional wind generation.

    Also, per your comment later, storage is not currently envisioned to be useful on a seasonal basis, but more on an hour-to-hour and possibly day-to-day basis. The amount of storage you'd need for seasonal storage is staggering, and would only be possible with something like a massive hydro setup.

    I mean, if we're looking at secondary or tertiary costs like materials for construction or foot print we need to do that for all potential sources of power, not just solar. The thing about the costs for solar and other renewable sources is the cost is upfront, not on going (except for occasional replacement and maintenance, also true for fossil fuel and nuclear sources), so once it's paid, it's paid.
    Agreed, the full life cycle costs of all options are important here - that's why fossil fuel plants, while often the 'cheapest' option on the surface, are often the worst option when looked at in a holistic manner. I think you underestimate the recurring costs of renewables, though - sure, there's no fuel cost, but there's plenty of maintenance required, and the generation and storage infrastructure will need regular replacement. It's not a panacea.

    I suspect that solar and wind (and a few other options) will probably take up the bulk of our 'variable' power demands, along with storage. But baseload power is much better addressed by geothermal, hydro, or fission/fusion. And emergency power is going to be hard to beat good ol' fossil fuels.


    (BTW I am well aware that I'm very busily destroying a straw man - your tongue-in-cheek 'solution' was obviously not intended as a energy generation plan, and you have emphasized the need for other sources as well. I'm just trying to discuss the broader complexities of the issues and the fact that there is likely not a one size fits all solution to energy production.)
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  2. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    Obviously that's true, but that's not the counterfactual - we're imagining a energy mix of mostly solar + storage against some other future energy mix and trying to figure out if it's the best option.
    All the options we have are sub-optimal in some way.

    Fossil Fuels: dirty, dangerous, relies on obtaining a particular resource
    Fission: dangerous, expensive, relies on obtaining a particular resource
    Fusion: unproven future tech, expensive
    Wind: intermittent, unpredictable, requires huge ass turbines.
    Solar: intermittent, seasonal
    Hydro: expensive, disrupts land, environmental damaging. You also need a decent river.
    Geothermal: expensive, you can only build the plants in a special place

    Also, per your comment later, storage is not currently envisioned to be useful on a seasonal basis, but more on an hour-to-hour and possibly day-to-day basis. The amount of storage you'd need for seasonal storage is staggering, and would only be possible with something like a massive hydro setup.
    I was wondering about that.

    I think you underestimate the recurring costs of renewables, though - sure, there's no fuel cost, but there's plenty of maintenance required, and the generation and storage infrastructure will need regular replacement. It's not a panacea.
    It's not like fossil and nuclear doesn't also need maintenance. Plus there's the transmission infrastructure, plus there's actually getting the fuel these systems run on and then distributing it.

    One nice thing about solar is you can make a building pretty much look after itself in terms of energy usage, so you can cut down on having to run wires all over the place.

    I suspect that solar and wind (and a few other options) will probably take up the bulk of our 'variable' power demands, along with storage. But baseload power is much better addressed by geothermal, hydro, or fission/fusion. And emergency power is going to be hard to beat good ol' fossil fuels.
    Massive deployment of solar power can severely cut what the baseload actually is, which is good because geothermal and hydro are pretty situational.

    (BTW I am well aware that I'm very busily destroying a straw man - your tongue-in-cheek 'solution' was obviously not intended as a energy generation plan, and you have emphasized the need for other sources as well. I'm just trying to discuss the broader complexities of the issues and the fact that there is likely not a one size fits all solution to energy production.)
    My basic idea is to make as much use of solar power as possible, look whatever capacity gap is left and then bridge it with the most appropriate source. For example; hydroelectric is great if you got the, e.g. Colorado river handy. Wind power is fine, but you need wide open unobstructed spaces for it work well.
    Sticks and stones take a toll on me but they aren't your strongest weaponry
    You can take your shots but you'd best prepare, I can see smoke rising in the air
    Every move has a counteract, to turn the tides with a planned attack
    You push me down and the rest will rise but first I'm singing a battle cry

  3. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    You can get home batteries that will store the power generated by solar panels for use at night. You can go and buy one right now.

    I don't know why you're quoting current figures like that's the maximum potential of solar when it's hardly used right now. The power output of an average home can be covered by about 15-20 solar panels, so just stick the fucking things everywhere then order a fuck ton of powerwalls off Telsa. Climate crisis solved. You're welcome, future generations.

    Re: Winter. Solar panels work off light, not heat. It still gets light in the winter, although the days are shorter. However, winter conditions are better for solar as the panels are adversely affected by heat. So swings and roundabouts. We should probably have other sources to cover any shortfall by solar should be the mainstay.
    The days are much, much shorter and darker in winter and demand is much, much higher in the winter. It woud take an insane amount of powerwalls to ensure we get enough electricity in winter to cope with demand. Then it also means we would be producing a mammoth amount more electricity in the summer than we would waste as the solar panels work better then while demand is lower.

    Oh and solar + powerwalls costs an insane amount more than alternative sources that actually work for us like wind. Why not just use wind and energy storage on an industrial scale rather than solar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    Iirc in the UK solar power generation capacity during the winter months is about 20-25% of what it is during the summer months. Not bad but not sufficient. For Northern and northwestern Europe, it may be good to decouple heating from other power needs, relying eg. ground source heat pumps and the like for heat, and investing in improving insulation.
    Supply is 20-25% during winter.

    While demand is about 30% higher in the summer.

    ProductionSummer = 4 * ProductionWinter
    DemandWinter = 1.25 * DemandSummer.

    If we produced enough in winter to cover demand via solar we would be literally producing 5x as much as we need during summer. That is never going to be cost effective.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    All the options we have are sub-optimal in some way.

    Wind: intermittent, unpredictable, requires huge ass turbines.
    Solar: intermittent, seasonal
    Hydro: expensive, disrupts land, environmental damaging. You also need a decent river.
    Geothermal: expensive, you can only build the plants in a special place
    Winds actually quite predictable, wind can be accurately predicted 48h in advance.
    My basic idea is to make as much use of solar power as possible, look whatever capacity gap is left and then bridge it with the most appropriate source. For example; hydroelectric is great if you got the, e.g. Colorado river handy. Wind power is fine, but you need wide open unobstructed spaces for it work well.
    We have wide open unobstructed spaces.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ominous Gamer View Post
    ℬeing upset is understandable, but be upset at yourself for poor planning, not at the world by acting like a spoiled bitch during an interview.

  4. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    Given that we're also talking about making heavy use of storage here, what's relevant is the power capacity over the year not on any given day or season, and obviously you have to design around the fact that some times of the year and places are going to more productive than others - this is obviously true of all forms of renewable energy. I do, as I said, advocate having other sources as well.
    Wait . . . you want to store power from the summer to get us through the winter? Not just through the night. That's not going to work, the storage required for that would be insane.

    Offshore wind is far more consistent all year long and is more balanced towards demand. Storage to handle spikes of demand or intermittent drops in supply are going to be a fraction of that required to get through an entire winter.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ominous Gamer View Post
    ℬeing upset is understandable, but be upset at yourself for poor planning, not at the world by acting like a spoiled bitch during an interview.

  5. #35
    People are talking about fusion power and orbital solar installations in this thread and I can't get a bit speculative about future development of renewable tech and storage? We can't do the extinction rebellion thing and transition from carbon in 5 years, as nice as that would be, so we need to account for future tech developments.
    Sticks and stones take a toll on me but they aren't your strongest weaponry
    You can take your shots but you'd best prepare, I can see smoke rising in the air
    Every move has a counteract, to turn the tides with a planned attack
    You push me down and the rest will rise but first I'm singing a battle cry

  6. #36
    If you want to use storage as the solution then why solar from summer stored to get us through the winter rather than wind from past 24 hours stored?

    Wind beats solar because it: works, is more reliable, is cheaper and already consistently provides 10-20% of our energy.

    Solar is amazingly good in sunny climes that need air conditioning during the daytime.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ominous Gamer View Post
    ℬeing upset is understandable, but be upset at yourself for poor planning, not at the world by acting like a spoiled bitch during an interview.

  7. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    You can make solar panels much more efficient during winter than they currently are. Newer models absorb a broader range of light, include wavelengths which are more able to get through clouds. You can also make them so the track the suns position in the sky, so you don't have a problem with the sun being lower in the sky during winter. No getting around the shorter days, though.
    I have no doubt all these improvements are valuable, and I generally support ramping up deployment of solar panels, but I think it's important to note that there will nevertheless be a substantial shortfall in the winter months--even with the improvements you list. It's possible that, in many cases, from an environmental perspective, that money may be better spent on improving insulation and the like first, or investing specifically in better heating solutions such as ground source heating & cooling first.

    RB is exaggerating the predictability & variability of wind-farm power output, but it is true that, with large-scale deployment--at the level some regions already are at--the variability is smoothed out. This is even more true of offshore wind farms. The issue of big-ass turbines everywhere is of course a disadvantage. And deploying solar panels is much, much easier--wrt regulatory issues, political issues, and installation issues--than deploying a bunch of wind turbines.

    RB's criticism that we'd need 5x over-capacity is misguided. As you note, we'd get power from several different sources; there would be no reason to rely exclusively on one or the other. Even if you were to generate much more electricity in the summer than you think you need, I am certain that electricity could be put to good use moving tourists about everywhere in electric vehicles, cooling servers, exporting or whatever. There's always a use for electricity.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
    — Bill Gates

  8. #38
    Storage (and transmission) tech is vital if we go full renewable, whatever flavour or combination we use. There was a period of 9 days with basically no wind last summer.
    Sticks and stones take a toll on me but they aren't your strongest weaponry
    You can take your shots but you'd best prepare, I can see smoke rising in the air
    Every move has a counteract, to turn the tides with a planned attack
    You push me down and the rest will rise but first I'm singing a battle cry

  9. #39
    For sure. I have high hopes for gravity-based storage like Energy Vault's solution, but would also like to see more countries explore seasonal thermal energy storage: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Season...energy_storage
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
    — Bill Gates

  10. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    People are talking about fusion power and orbital solar installations in this thread and I can't get a bit speculative about future development of renewable tech and storage? We can't do the extinction rebellion thing and transition from carbon in 5 years, as nice as that would be, so we need to account for future tech developments.
    In fairness, the speculations others are engaging in are regarding forseeable developments or technology which we have but aren't really using right now. Whereas development in storage has been hitting diminishing returns and walls for some time and with no suggestion of breakthroughs to move things along.
    Last night as I lay in bed, looking up at the stars, I thought, “Where the hell is my ceiling?"

  11. #41
    Lack of demand for power during COVID lockdown has allowed fossil fuel supply to be switched off ...

    Quote Originally Posted by BBC
    Britain goes coal free as renewables edge out fossil fuels

    Britain is about to pass a significant landmark - at midnight on Wednesday it will have gone two full months without burning coal to generate power.

    A decade ago about 40% of the country's electricity came from coal; coronavirus is part of the story, but far from all.

    When Britain went into lockdown, electricity demand plummeted; the National Grid responded by taking power plants off the network.

    The four remaining coal-fired plants were among the first to be shut down.

    The last coal generator came off the system at midnight on 9 April. No coal has been burnt for electricity since.

    The current coal-free period smashes the previous record of 18 days, 6 hours and 10 minutes which was set in June last year.

    The figures apply to Britain only, as Northern Ireland is not on the National Grid.

    But it reveals just how dramatic the transformation of our energy system has been in the last decade.

    That the country does not need to use the fuel that used to be the backbone of the grid is thanks to a massive investment in renewable energy over the last decade.

    Two examples illustrate just how much the UK's energy networks have changed.

    A decade ago just 3% of the country's electricity came from wind and solar, which many people saw as a costly distraction.

    Now the UK has the biggest offshore wind industry in the world, as well as the largest single wind farm, completed off the coast of Yorkshire last year.

    At the same time Drax, the country's biggest power plant, has been taking a different path to renewable energy.

    The plant, which is also in Yorkshire, generates 5% of the country's electricity.

    A decade ago, it was the biggest consumer of coal in the UK but has been switching to compressed wood pellets.

    "We here at Drax decided that coal was no longer the future," explains Will Gardiner, the chief executive of the power group.

    "It has been a massive undertaking and then the result of all that is we've reduced our CO2 emissions from more than 20 million tonnes a year to almost zero."

    He says the plant now uses seven million tonnes of pellets sourced from commercial forests in the US a year and says Drax will phase out coal entirely by March next year.

    And it is not just coal that is being eclipsed by renewables.

    Click to view the full version

    So far this year, renewables have generated more power than all fossil fuels put together.

    Breaking it down, renewables were responsible for 37% of electricity supplied to the network versus 35% for fossil fuels.

    Nuclear accounted for about 18% and imports for the remaining 10% or so, according to figures from the online environmental journal, Carbon Brief.

    "So far this year renewables have generated more electricity than fossil fuels and that's never happened before", says Dr Simon Evans of Carbon Brief.

    "With gas also in decline, there's a real chance that renewables will overtake fossil fuels in 2020 as a whole."

    Setting the figures for this year context shows just how quickly this turnaround has happened.

    The first day when renewable power out-generated fossil fuels was in December 2016.

    Before this year, there had been a total of 154 days when the combined power created from renewable sources exceeded those from fossil fuels.

    Carbon Brief says that 91 of those days occurred in 2019.

    The decline in the role of fossil fuels in general and coal in particular looks set to continue.

    The remaining three coal plants in the UK will be shut down within five years.

    Then the fuel that sparked the industrial revolution here in Britain almost two centuries ago will be a thing of the past.
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    It's actually the original French billion, which is bi-million, which is a million to the power of 2. We adopted the word, and then they changed it, presumably as revenge for Crecy and Agincourt, and then the treasonous Americans adopted the new French usage and spread it all over the world. And now we have to use it.

    And that's Why I'm Voting Leave.

  12. #42
    It's a remarkable decade long turnaround of our energy and is much more than just COVID. I used to live near a major coal power plant, Fiddler's Ferry, and my car was covered in soot regularly even just from driving past it at 40mph. It was one of the last to be mothballed but the area nearby now is surrounded in giant wind turbines and they are elegant and beautiful in a way the coal plant never was.

    One mistake that has been made in the past decade - and I'll admit it was one I wholeheartedly recommended and supported at the time - has been the commitment to build the Hinckley nuclear power plant. That's going to take years to build, it will provide a lot of power and the price committed to it is massive compared to what we are seeing now for renewables.

    I thought nuclear was clean compared to compared to coal and it was. But we don't need it anymore! Simply for economics not the environment it's too expensive but we are locked into a contract with the Chinese to build it.

    I read yesterday that if the government goes back and reverses the Huawei 5G decision the Chinese are threatening to pull out of building Hinckley. For that reason alone we should reverse the 5G decision! If the Chinese are threatening to pull out of that white elephant then we should get them to do it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ominous Gamer View Post
    ℬeing upset is understandable, but be upset at yourself for poor planning, not at the world by acting like a spoiled bitch during an interview.

  13. #43
    Quote Originally Posted by RandBlade View Post
    It's a remarkable decade long turnaround of our energy and is much more than just COVID. I used to live near a major coal power plant, Fiddler's Ferry, and my car was covered in soot regularly even just from driving past it at 40mph.
    Imagine what that does to your lungs.

    It was one of the last to be mothballed but the area nearby now is surrounded in giant wind turbines and they are elegant and beautiful in a way the coal plant never was.
    Agree with you here. A frequent criticism leveled at wind turbines is that they are ugly, and their presence damages the country-side or coastal aesthetic. I myself don't mind their look - elegant enough indeed. I remember being struck the first time I saw a few of them clustered together, in the Wiltshire hills near where my father lived at the time. Modern-day windmills ...



    One mistake that has been made in the past decade - and I'll admit it was one I wholeheartedly recommended and supported at the time - has been the commitment to build the Hinckley nuclear power plant. That's going to take years to build, it will provide a lot of power and the price committed to it is massive compared to what we are seeing now for renewables.

    I thought nuclear was clean compared to compared to coal and it was. But we don't need it anymore! Simply for economics not the environment it's too expensive
    My current understanding is the gap to power requirement without fossil is still too large a gap for renewable to fill, and nuclear fills that gap. And will do for decades to come. But then the transformation toward renewable in this last decade has been so significant ... who knows what'll happen in the next.
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    It's actually the original French billion, which is bi-million, which is a million to the power of 2. We adopted the word, and then they changed it, presumably as revenge for Crecy and Agincourt, and then the treasonous Americans adopted the new French usage and spread it all over the world. And now we have to use it.

    And that's Why I'm Voting Leave.

  14. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by Timbuk2 View Post
    Imagine what that does to your lungs.
    Indeed!
    My current understanding is the gap to power requirement without fossil is still too large a gap for renewable to fill, and nuclear fills that gap. And will do for decades to come. But then the transformation toward renewable in this last decade has been so significant ... who knows what'll happen in the next.
    Currently yes but more and more renewables are regularly being built. The difference though is the cost, the price for Hinckley C is £92.50/mWh in 2012 prices, guaranteed for 35 years and index-linked. Due to inflation that's £109.95 today and rising each year with inflation.

    In comparison wind power has come down to £39.95/mWh and is falling every year.

    So Hinckley's power is roughly three times as expensive as wind, it is a ludicrous white elephant now.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ominous Gamer View Post
    ℬeing upset is understandable, but be upset at yourself for poor planning, not at the world by acting like a spoiled bitch during an interview.

  15. #45
    I'm amazed at how little discussion there is here of nuclear fission. Better grid management coupled with hydro, wind and nuclear (PLUS efficiency improvements) seems to be able to cover large portions of demand. Building energy storage with mechanisms such as hydro (or using wind to store water for controlled release as hydro) seem like valuable investments.

  16. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    For sure. I have high hopes for gravity-based storage like Energy Vault's solution, but would also like to see more countries explore seasonal thermal energy storage: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Season...energy_storage
    I'd say that some kind of Redox Flow battery is likely more scalable. There are research batteries which use lignin as a basis and some projections arrive at a cost of a mere 3 ct/kWh.
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