Hard Wind Going to Blow

It is deeply satisfying to wake up and read articles like this one from Bloomberg business press on how wind power is putting nuclear plants out of business.  Last year in the US $25 billion were spent and new wind capacity.  This raised the total grid electricity fraction to 3.4% from wind, with a forecast of it raising to 4.2% in 2013.  In 2013 there will be no new nuclear reactors connected to the grid and at least one and possibly several reactors will close this year forever.

So using a rough extrapolation, if these rates continue, in about 7 or 8 years the amount of wind generated electricity will exceed the amount of nuclear power in the US.  It is important to remember that many nuclear proponents continue to say that the entire class of renewables are not up to the job of powering the country and instead we should be investing in new reactor designs, most of which cant even be in prototype phase until early 2020’s.

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And thus it is worth remembering, that highly paid, well educated, well intentioned, nuclear promoters are stunningly wrong yet again.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

13 responses to “Hard Wind Going to Blow”

  1. Ed Zavada says :

    This is great — but it’s probably a stretch to think that this trend will continue, at least based on what is in the article.

    According to the article, energy prices overall have been dropping in a large part because of cheap natural gas (there’s been a massive boom in domestic natural gas production lately due to fracking).

    The boom in wind generator production in 2012 was attributed to people rushing to build before the tax credit expired at the end of the year. They anticipate a significant drop in new wind farms in 2013 and a possible pickup in 2014.

    They also had one person expressing concerns about what to do with the wind power already being generated — since wind energy output tends to be highest at night when energy consumption is lowest. If it’s not used close to the source of generation then it is subject to much greater transmission losses.

    • Paxus` says :

      My read of this is that because the wind tax credit has been extended for any project started in 2013, the trend will continue. But this does not mean that wind will stop growing at the end of 2103. We have seen in Germany constantly reducing wind subsidies have not terribly slowed the investment in new turbines,and that economies of scale and the wind industry maturing has meant a structural shift in favor of renewables. And there definitely are dispatchment problems and if pressed i would even confess that the negative spot prices create market distortions. And

  2. paxus says :

    Dearest Ed:

    While what you are saying is true. I wonder if you would be willing to bet that nuclear will be a larger fraction of grid power in 2023?

    Paxus

    • Ed Zavada says :

      I would definitely not be prepared to take that bet. It’s been 20 years since I was deeply immersed in the economics of power generation 🙂

      And I firmly support renewables over non-renewables, so I don’t mind if we stop using nuclear power.

  3. Anonymous says :

    I am wondering about your take on the Bill Gates talk a few years ago on Terrapower:

    Seems to me, even if we shut down all the existing nuclear reactors yesterday, we’d still have the huge problem of storing the world’s radioactive waste, which this Terrapower design could potentially use up as fuel and thereby render non-radioactive. So I think pursuing this reactor design would be important even if the new reactors didn’t produce any power. And since they could also produce power that could reduce usage of coal-powered plants before we have sufficient renewable energy for the world’s needs, how could that be anything but good? (I’m guessing that if it could, you’ll tell me.)

    Yes, it’ll be another 7+ years before they have a prototype, so this is certainly no substitute for rapid deployment of renewables, but it still seems like a great technology to explore, if only to solve the hundred-millennium storage issue.

    • paxus says :

      Dearest Anonymous:

      The old “give me a few billion dollars so i can build this new reactor design to solve the huge nuclear waste problem” is an old one. GE is tryng to convince the UK now to buy fantastically expensive waste burners which dont produce electricity. The French build the Feonix and SuperFeonix breeder reactors with exactly the mission of turning was into power, less than 1/100th of 1% of the waste got burned and billions we spent before the plug was pulled. I ahve to say i start from a fantastically skeptical place, because this ploy has often been used before.

      • Anonymous says :

        I don’t know anything about Feonix, or anything about Terrapower beyond the Gates talk, but do you actually think it’s a better idea to try to build some kind of containment facility that could somehow have a prayer of safely storing the world’s nuclear waste for 100K years, than to render the waste non-radioactive with a new kind of reactor? Or do you just not believe the latter is something humans are capable of achieving safely? Or do you have some third idea of what could be done about the waste?

        Shutting down the reactors that are continuing to make more nuclear waste is a no-brainer. But we still have the problem of what to do with the waste we already have.

        Seems to me, if Feonix burned up close to 1/100th of 1% of the world’s radioactive waste (if that’s what you meant), that’s a worthwhile start. We just need something, possibly Terrapower, to do 10,000 times more. No?

      • paxus says :

        Dearest Anonymous:

        i was not clear enough. The Feonix and SuperFeonix French breeder reactor program did not successfully burn 100th or 1% of the French waste. And the French are very cagey about what it did burn after billions spent on another failed program.

        I am saying – we have renewables which are competitive today, without a carbon tax. Lets put our money and research into batteries and firming software and other solutions to these quickly scalable, proven technologies and stop creating more nuclear waste that we have no place for.

  4. Anonymous says :

    Thanks for the clarification. And I agree, as I said above, that we need to stop creating more nuclear waste.

    I also agree with your comment about renewables, but that has nothing to do with the main question I meant to ask, which is what to do about the nuclear waste that already exists.

    Do you believe it’s better to try to build containment facilities that would have to work for 100K years (which to me sounds absurdly unlikely) than to pursue a new reactor technology that would render all our waste non-radioactive over, say, the next 50 years (which seems at least a possibility with something like this traveling wave design)? Or do you have a different idea about what we could do about our nuclear waste?

    • paxus says :

      Dearest Anonymous:

      After decades of lying that “this new reactor is going to solve all the waste problems” and repeatedly these new reactors have made it worse. You are asking me “do you trust that this promised new technology will solve all the
      problems of radioactive waste, if you just trust us with tens of billions more
      on this unproven technology?”

      My answer is “No” i have no interest in the next generation of lies from
      nuclear reactor vendors. Or to be more precise i have no interest in funding
      the very same old lie that they have been usign to make the problem worse for
      decades.

      Hopefully, this is clear.

      Paxus at Acorn
      20 Pregnant Communards 2013

      • Anonymous says :

        Surprisingly unclear, actually. You seem determined to answer questions that weren’t asked and ignore what was.

        I am asking about strategy, not trust. The future, not history. What to do about waste, not whether that particular Terrapower project is laudable.

        As simply and directly as I can phrase it: What would be your preferred strategy to deal with currently existing radioactive waste? It’s clear you know a lot about nuclear issues, probably a lot more than me, so I would value your answer.

        Some possible answers:

        – Attempt to build structures that could contain it for 100K years
        – Pursue technologies to render it non-radioactive
        – Launch it into space and pray it doesn’t explode in the atmosphere on the way
        – Ignore it, let it sit and eventually leak out and poison its surroundings
        – Something else I haven’t thought of

        Which of these would you support?

      • paxus says :

        Dearest Anonymous:

        And excellent question you pose, sadly the answer is (if i had disproportionate control over the resources which would be deployed) quite complex.

        We clearly are not launching anything anywhere. Rocket failure rate is about 1 in 25 launches, until they have a five year stretch with failure rates more like airplanes it is suicide to endanger yourself with these toxins.

        And when ever you move it you endanger populations en route. So if the local storage is safe, you want to keep it there. In many cases (like around the great lakes or the Nebraska reactors which flooded last year), local storage is not a desirable option, because the casks are in danger of regional contamination.

        And there is no geologic repository currently available, nor will there be one for any volume for at least a decade.

        So the first thing we need to do is phase out the current reactors to insure that we are not creating more of this waste we can not handle.

        Then we evaluate all the at reactor waste storage sites, int he case of the best ones – we simply harden those. In the case of ones which are at risk especially from severe weather (like Sandy) move them to perhaps region temporary sites which might hold the waste for 40 years while we are waiting for the storage technology we can control.

        We do rapid phase out like Germany, put in a huge solar and wind grid, build up investor credits for these solutions. Admit that we will have a short term increase int eh price of electricity and that this is a completely reasonable way to address climate change.

        Then after 20 or 40 years, when we have some non-reactor based rad waste solution, we move it again OR bring the solution to the regional waste repositories.

        And while it is true that i have worked the issue for a long time, it is not the case that i have looked at lots of alternative solutions to Yucca Mountain, for example. So i am open to their being critiques of this plan.

        But the important part is that Germany and Portugal have made huge leaps in renewable electricity in their grid and the US could choose to do that if we wanted to.

        We will likely not make this choice and the principal reason for that is that the people who control the wealth of the US find such a change unfamiliar and it might actually reduce their wealth, which is an unacceptable solution, even if it might save the planet.

        i hope this is clearer and i have answered your current and future looking question.

        Paxus at Acorn
        21 Pregnant Icy, Claire and Rosie 2013

      • Anonymous says :

        Thank you for the responsive reply. So basically you think reactors are too dangerous and too flawed, so even if there were a design that could theoretically consume waste instead of producing it, it’s better to try to keep containing the waste temporarily until some future non-reactor solution can be invented. I can’t disagree, since I don’t know enough about the likelihood that a new reactor design might actually work, or might fail disastrously. If it’s really just an expensive boondoggle bound for catastrophe, it might make sense not to pursue it in spite of how good it might be if it ended up working well.

        I’m curious, have you heard of any actual ideas for potential non-reactor solutions to nuclear waste?

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