Saturday, October 1, 2016

Renewable Energy Saves California from Grid Blackouts

Subtitle: Record-Setting Solar Power Reduces Natural Gas Demand

The peak summer heat is now ended in Southern California, indeed, a winter storm warning was issued for the central Sierra Nevada mountains.  One short and fairly mild heat wave occurred last weekend, with temperatures measured at Los Angeles (USC Campus)  reaching 104 degrees F for one day.  (see adjacent Figure 1).   The orange oval shows the period in which heat waves typically occur, this year only twice did temperatures break 100 degrees F.   The major conclusion is that zero blackouts occurred, because renewable power from solar PV, solar thermal, and wind turbines produced electricity at rates up to 10,000 MW throughout the summer. 


Figure 1  -  2016 year-to-date temperatures
at Los Angeles, California
As is well-known, officials have concern that grid instabilities or blackouts would occur this summer during heat waves, because the natural gas storage supply is much reduced due to the Aliso Canyon storage facility being out of operation.  

However, solar power and wind power need no natural gas, and provided power routinely through the summer.   Solar PV actually broke records for power production.    

The California grid has many efficient, combined-cycle gas turbine power plants with quick response capability to adjust their output when solar or wind output changes suddenly.    The state also imports some power from adjacent states, notably nuclear power from Arizona, hydroelectric from Nevada (Hoover Dam), and both wind and hydroelectric from Washington.    It is notable that long-distance transmission lines are required to ship the power into California.  It is also noteworthy that the adjacent states have surplus power to sell to California and do so profitably. 

Now that Fall and Winter are here or looming, the gas shortage continues due to Aliso Canyon's problems.   However, wind power increases in those seasons, which offsets the declining solar power production.    Next year will have even more solar power production as California installs even more PV power plants.   The state's renewable energy plan requires approximately 3,000 MW of renewables installed each year.  Almost all of that will be solar PV, since wind locations are essentially built out, and solar thermal has much worse economics. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.





Saturday, September 24, 2016

Improved Solar Cell with Doubled Efficiency


It seems the breakthroughs just keep coming on the energy front, with this week's announcement "Columbia Chemists Find Key to Manufacturing More Efficient Solar Cells".  Columbia Professor of Chemistry Xiaoyang Zhu and his team developed a solar cell using Hybrid Organic Inorganic Perovskites (HOIPs). Their results were reported in the prestigious journal Science.  see link

The HOIP cell has 22 percent efficiency, but scientists see much higher possibilities with this material.  Efficiencies in the mid-40 percent range are expected. 

The material also has a lower cost of production compared to silicon wafers. 

This, too, is one to watch. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

CO2 Capture That Produces Electricity

Cornell Researchers Develop Process for CO2 Capture That Produces Electricity

Paper:  “The O2-assisted Al/CO2 electrochemical cell: A system for CO2 capture/conversion and electric power generation”, published in Science Advances.  Science Advances  20 Jul 2016: Vol. 2, no. 7, e1600968,  DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600968  
see link to the paper. 

Cornell University Prof. Lynden Archer, chemical and biomolecular engineering, the James A. Friend Family Distinguished Professor of Engineering, and Wajdi Al Sadat, graduate student, have created a cell which can use carbon dioxide and aluminum to produce electricity via electrochemical reactions.

The warmist-alarmists continue to claim that carbon dioxide capture and removal from the atmosphere is vital to preventing runaway global warming and a host of civilization-ending catastrophes.  They conveniently ignore the facts of zero warming occurring in the past 18 years, even with their manipulated temperature measurements.  

But, enterprising engineers work on processes to capture carbon dioxide, CO2.  Some processes require energy input to create the chemical reactants, such as sodium hydroxide that is used in the Skyonic company's patented SkyMine process.   This development by Archer and Al Sadat actually produces electricity while capturing CO2.  

The paper's abstract:

"Abstract


Economical and efficient carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration technologies are a requirement for successful implementation of global action plans to reduce carbon emissions and to mitigate climate change. These technologies are also essential for longer-term use of fossil fuels while reducing the associated carbon footprint. We demonstrate an O2-assisted Al/CO2 electrochemical cell as a new approach to sequester CO2 emissions and, at the same time, to generate substantial amounts of electrical energy. We report on the fundamental principles that guide operations of these cells using multiple intrusive electrochemical and physical analytical methods, including chronopotentiometry, cyclic voltammetry, direct analysis in real-time mass spectrometry, energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and coupled thermogravimetric analysis–Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. On this basis, we demonstrate that an electrochemical cell that uses metallic aluminum as anode and a carbon dioxide/oxygen gas mixture as the active material in the cathode provides a path toward electrochemical generation of a valuable (C2) species and electrical energy. Specifically, we show that the cell first reduces O2 at the cathode to form superoxide intermediates. Chemical reaction of the superoxide with CO2 sequesters the CO2 in the form of aluminum oxalate, Al2(C2O4)3, as the dominant product. On the basis of an analysis of the overall CO2 footprint, which considers emissions associated with the production of the aluminum anode and the CO2 captured/abated by the Al/CO2-O2 electrochemical cell, we conclude that the proposed process offers an important strategy for net reduction of CO2 emissions."

This is one to watch. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hinkley Point C Nuclear Plant Approved - For Now

UK has given approval to build the controversial, and very costly, twin-reactor nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C in the southwest of England. 

The plant is reported to cost $24 billion US, which will quickly escalate to more than $32 billion.  That brings the cost per kW to $10,000, and this in an era with very low interest rates for financing costs, and very low inflation for escalation. 

Proponents are claiming the plant will last for 60 years, but there is reason to doubt it will ever run at all.  The thick steel in the reactor heads has questionable toughness and may not be approved by regulators. 

 Stay tuned, sports fans.  The fiasco at Hinkley Point C is just beginning.   This blog will chronicle the sad, sorry saga.    Those will include, without doubt, cost over-runs, delays in construction, squabbling between designer, owner, builder, and regulators. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Driessen on Renewable Energy as Racism

Subtitle:  No Racism In Renewable Wind and Solar Power

Every week or so, I receive another article from Paul Driessen, Senior Policy Analyst for CFACT (Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow), and this week’s article has so many things wrong I take keyboard under fingers to respond.   Driessen exhorts recipients in his prelude to each article to post his article, quote from it, and forward it. 

This week’s article concludes, falsely, that renewable energy policies and increased renewable energy use are racist because they have, or will have, serious negative economic impacts on black people, who Driessen describes as poor people.   His statements are in quoted italics below, my responses in normal font. 

"Few if any developing nations will reduce their oil, natural gas or coal use anytime soon. That would be economic and political suicide."

This statement is about the Paris Agreement on climate change (see link), under which various nations strive to reduce their man-made carbon dioxide emissions to (they say) reduce global warming.    

What Driessen fails to grasp is that energy production and use world-wide is already undergoing a massive and permanent structural change.   This has precedent.   As but one example, oil use for power generation dropped dramatically in the late 1970s and 1980s after the oil price shocks and the Arab oil embargo.   Oil-burning power plants were replaced in many countries by nuclear power plants.  The US, Japan, France, and many other countries built nuclear and shut down the oil-fired plants.  

Developing nations, the subject of Driessen's article, almost always have severe limits on capital, the money needed for infrastructure and for on-going expenses.  Some of those on-going expenses include fuel for transportation, such as gasoline for cars and diesel for trucks, but also fuel for power generating plants.   With limited funds, it is crucial that developing nations obtain the best results for the money they do have.   That means smaller, more efficient cars.  It also means building the most cost-effective power plants.  

Driessen then says, 

"Meanwhile, the United States is shutting down its coal-fueled units. Under Obama’s treaty, the USA will be required to go even further, slashing its carbon dioxide emissions by 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. That will unleash energy, economic and environmental impacts far beyond what the Administration’s endless, baseless climate decrees are already imposing."

In this statement, it is false to call the Paris Agreement a treaty.  It is not, under US law.  A treaty must be ratified by the US Senate.   The Paris Agreement is a non-binding agreement among nations to try to do various things.   

It is true that the US is shutting down coal-fired power plants, however, the shutdowns are occurring because US pollution laws are finally imposed on such plants.   For decades, many coal-burning power plants in the US were exempted from air pollution regulations under the Clean Air Act.  No more.  Now, they must comply or shut down.   The plant owners are choosing to shut down.  (see link and this link to articles on SLB)

The power grids remain stable as coal-fired plants are closed, primarily because natural gas-fired plants are being built.  However, wind power and solar power are also being built in record numbers in the US.   These developments have important ramifications for developing nations.    

Burning natural gas for power produces far less carbon dioxide that does burning coal, for the same amount of electricity produced.  The ratio is approximately 2-to-1.  Having wind power and solar power in production, as their respective natural energy sources blow or shine, further reduces carbon dioxide emissions.  

The simple and orderly change-over from coal burning to natural gas with renewables will easily reduce carbon dioxide emissions by much more than 28 percent that Driessen mentions.   

The important point, though, is that electric power prices will not increase, indeed, they remain stable or decrease as coal-burning plants are closed. 

"Wind turbines, photovoltaic solar arrays and their interminable transmission lines already blanket millions of acres of farmland and wildlife habitats. They kill millions of birds and bats (but are exempt from endangered species laws), to provide expensive, subsidized, unreliable electricity. Expanding wind, solar and biofuel programs to reach the 28% CO2 reduction target would increase these impacts exponentially."

Here, Driessen shows his bias against wind power and solar PV plants.   This is the common cry of the anti-renewable crowd, the death of birds.  The fact is that many more millions of birds are killed each year by artificial structures than do wind turbines.  Solar PV plants do not kill any birds nor bats, to the best of my knowledge and research.   Yet, anti-renewable advocates refuse to admit what US Fish and Game experts report: renewable power plants have had zero impact on species populations.  

Driessen also seems unhappy over power transmission lines being added as renewable power plants are built.  One has to be happy that his mind-set did not prevail back when electricity was being expanded across the country, many decades ago.  

He then rants about expensive, subsidized, unreliable electricity.    Perhaps Driessen would like to point out any electricity rates that are outrageously priced in Iowa, Kansas, Texas, or even California that can be attributed to wind power or solar power.   The answer is, he cannot because there are no high prices due to renewables.    What is indisputable is that solar power and wind power allow utilities to run more efficient power plants, not the horribly expensive peaker power plants with simple cycle gas turbines.  

As to subsidized electricity from wind and solar, this is no different from almost every form of power generation in the US.  Subsidies, and in some cases almost full subsidies, exist for nuclear, coal, hydroelectric, and geothermal power production.   One must wonder why Driessen does not object to subsidies for those forms of power generation. 

The last claim is that electricity is unreliable when it is from renewable sources.   Again, Driessen cannot point to any grid in the US that has reliability issues due to wind power or solar power.   They simply do not exist.  Grid operators are well-aware of the wind conditions and sunshine conditions, and operate load-following power plants quite effectively to compensate for any changes in wind and sunshine. 

"This racism is the sneaky, subtle, green variety: of government policies that inflict their worst impacts on the poorest among us, huge numbers of them minorities."  

Here, Driessen equates renewable energy production and the policies that encourage it to racism.   That is despicable, playing the race card.  There are plenty of issues in which race is a valid issue, but this is not one of them.   For one thing, where utility prices are increased, and where any poor people are impacted, government in the US has subsidy programs for the poor, based on demonstrated need.   

For another, when coal runs out, as it certainly will at present consumption rates within 20 years in the US, there must be power plants installed and running to keep the lights on.  The alternative, to blindly keep burning coal until one day there is no more and the power grids fail, is simply not tenable.  There won't be just poor people impacted, everyone will be impacted.  

"In the Real World, soaring energy prices mean poor families cannot afford adequate heating and air conditioning, cannot save or afford proper nutrition, and must rely on schools, hospitals and businesses whose energy costs are also climbing – bringing higher prices, reduced services and lost jobs."

Here, Driessen finally gets something right, but it is not renewable energy that should be the target of his ire.   That same sentence, almost verbatim, is what I wrote about nuclear power plants, if they become a major supplier of world electricity.  see link to my article "Preposterous Power Pricing if Nuclear Power Proponents Prevail"

Renewable power from wind, and from solar, have negligible impacts on electricity prices in the US, even at penetrations of 30 percent as shown in Iowa.   The impacts on prices will be even smaller in the very near future, as low-cost grid-scale storage batteries are installed to allow utilities to stop running those horribly expensive simple-cycle peaker power plants mentioned just above. 

Conclusion

I agree with Driessen on one thing, and that is there is zero global warming due to carbon dioxide and no reason to curb fuel consumption to stop global warming.  That is a false issue.   

The real issue, though, is running out of coal world-wide in a couple of decades in the US, and within 50 years worldwide.  Coal provides 40 to 50 percent of all electric power worldwide, and that must be replaced long before the coal runs out.  Nuclear cannot do the job, and there is not enough hydroelectric power nor geothermal resources to replace coal.  The only viable option is natural gas with wind power and solar power where the wind and sunshine resources are sufficient.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.






Saturday, September 10, 2016

US Accelerates Offshore Wind Power Development

Subtitle:  Government accelerates offshore wind development in United States.
Offshore wind power is a very much-needed energy source. It is Clean, renewable, affordable, reliable, and domestic. It Meets all four legal critieria for grid-electricity: safe, reliable, affordable, clean enough to meet all environmental regulations.
“Today at the Wind Technology Testing Center in Boston, Massachusetts, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz was joined by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Deputy Assistant to President Obama for Energy and Climate Change Dan Utech to announce a new strategic plan to accelerate the development of offshore wind energy in the United States. The National Offshore Wind Strategy: Facilitating the Development of the Offshore Wind Industry in the United States provides a snapshot of the current state of the industry, refinements in resource assessment and cost reduction trajectories, and a roadmap for how the agencies can support the industry’s future growth and success. Four technical reports that helped to inform the National Offshore Wind Strategy were also released today, one of which provides a detailed assessment of the resource potential for offshore wind off U.S. coasts and is featured on the EERE blog.”
Link to the National Offshore Wind Strategy report is at this link.
Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.





Monday, September 5, 2016

Nuclear Radiation Illness in Japan after Fukushima Dai-Ichi Meltdowns

Subtitle:  Are Children Cancer-Free With Nuclear Plants Shut Down?

A couple of years ago, June 2014, I wrote article 19 of the Truth About Nuclear Power series, titled "Nuclear Radiation Injures People and Other Living Things."  see link.   One of the references in article 19 is the study on cancer incidence in the population surrounding
California's Rancho Seco nuclear power plant that was shut down in June of 1989.  The rate of cancers dropped significantly in the years following the plant's shutdown.   see link to Mangano and Sherman study: 

Biomedicine International, 2013, 4: 12-25, "Long-term Local Cancer Reductions Following Nuclear Plant Shutdown," authors Joseph J. Mangano, Janette D. Sherman, Radiation and Public Health Project, New York, NY, USA

It is time that similar studies be conducted near reactors that have been shut down, not only in the US but in other countries.  Japan, for example, has multiple reactors not operating for more than 5 years after the Fukushima Dai-Ichi meltdowns in March, 2011.    Germany shut down 8 reactors after the Japanese disaster. 

It is time to see what the modern data shows us, whether the people of Sacramento, California are alone in enjoying better health and fewer cancer diagnoses, or millions of people around the world are also enjoying better lives.    Sufficient time has passed, the data is there if we but find it, analyze it, and report it.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.