Saturday, November 11, 2017

Renewable Energy Better Than All Else - Unsubsidized

Subtitle: Lazard Study Shows Wind is Lowest Cost for Generation

One of the ongoing debates is what is the best technology, or mix of technologies, to provide safe, reliable, affordable, and low-polluting electric power for public consumption.  SLB has quite a few articles on this to date. see link   SLB holds the view that renewable energy systems, especially wind turbines and solar power systems, were not economically viable for many years, but that has changed for the better in the past few years due to ongoing federal and state subsidies.    In addition, SLB holds the view that commercial nuclear power plants are far too expensive to build and operate, plus those that presently are operating should be shut down because they are 1) unsafe, and 2) not economic.  Also, SLB holds the view that coal-fired power plants in the US should be forced to curb their emissions to meet the Clean Air Act requirements, and compete in the power market if they are able.   The stark reality for coal plants is they cannot compete after making the
Figure 1.  Lazard LCOE v 11.0 - page 2showing Wind as lowest, Nuclear as 4X Wind(Wind, Nuclear, and Coal circled in blue)
expenditures for pollution abatement equipment.   SLB also holds the view that natural gas-fired power plants that use the combined-cycle technology, CCGT, should be installed to the maximum extent possible due to the low capital cost, low operating cost, effective load-following ability, and almost zero pollution.    These views are based on the best data available, both recent past and current.   Despite being data and evidence-based, these views provoke howls of outrage from many commenters on other blogs.  

In the midst of all this, the Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, has proposed that the US provide yet another subsidy for nuclear plants and coal plants.   The basis for that new subsidy is the supposed benefit to electric power grids from steady, almost continuous baseload power that the nuclear plants and (some) coal plants provide.   That topic will be the basis for another post, however.   It should be noted that a grid does not need nuclear power for baseload, indeed, several states and many grids have no nuclear plants operating.   Also, coal-fired power plants are not required for baseload for a stable grid.   

Today's article is to highlight and discuss a recent study by Lazard, (worldwide financial advisory and asset management services firm), titled "Lazard's Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis - Version 11.0" see link 

LCOE Calculation

Lazard has (on p. 17) a brief description of how it calculates the LCOE, Levelized Cost of Energy:  for each technology, using installed capital costs, operating costs, financing via debt and equity, Lazard solves for the $/MWh that provides the required Internal Rate of Return (IRR) for the equity investors.    This is a sound methodology, one that SLB has also used in such calculations.   Note that the Lazard LCOE is a leveraged financing calculation, for example in Wind power, 60 percent debt is allowed at 8 percent per year (presumably long-term bonds), and 40 percent equity is at 12 percent (presumably Preferred Stock with a 12 percent annual return).   This is a slightly more complex calculation than others use, where the $/MWh LCOE is determined with a simple 10 percent return on installed costs, plus all operating costs.   (But, note that the Lazard cost of capital for Wind is then 9.6 percent (0.6 x 8 + 0.4 x 12 = 9.6), almost the same compared to the simpler case of 10 percent). 

The primary results, as shown in Figure 1 above, show that Wind LCOE, unsubsidized, is $30/MWh, (3 cents per kWh).   The vertical red line shows that literally nothing, renewable or conventional technologies, has a lower LCOE.  

A note on the unsubsidized aspect of the Lazard study.   First, the results for nuclear power plants are entirely suspect because nuclear plants would not be built at all, absent a huge number of subsidies.  Several articles on SLB discuss the many and quite substantial subsidies that nuclear plants enjoy, summarized here as very limited liability from a meltdown and radiation-induced harm, construction loan guarantees, direct Federal payments for all power produced at 2.3 cents per kWh (for the first 10 years of operation), safety regulations relaxed to allow plants to continue operating, protection from almost all lawsuits during construction, laws changed to allow builders to charge existing customers for construction funds, state funding in the millions per year to "preserve jobs" and keep uneconomic nuclear plants operating, and Federal payments for spent fuel disposal and handling. 

It is also not quite clear on the coal plant LCOE, if these include or exclude pollution abatement equipment - not including Carbon Capture and Storage, or CCS.    If no pollution abatement costs are included, then the LCOE is too low because that is a form of federal subsidy.  

Finally, a note on the low-end costs of nuclear power: Lazard shows installed costs of $6,500 per kW (low end), and $11,800 at the high end (study, p. 11).   Certainly in the US, no nuclear plant could be built for under $10,000 per kW, so the low end figure is suspect.  Part of the trouble is the time for construction, 69 months (study, p. 20).   New nuclear plants in the US and Europe require at least double that, more than 10 years.  


The Lazard study has some questionable assumptions that produce the LCOE for Wind, at $30/MWh for the low end.   Per p. 19, that is based on on-shore, installed cost of $1200 per kW, and 55 percent annual capacity factor.   DoE annual reports thus far have nothing quite so optimistic, instead having $1600 per kW, and 38 percent capacity factor in the best areas.  It is not clear to me exactly how Lazard obtained the low-end data for Wind.   


The results for wind, onshore and with 2016 results, should be approximately $43 per MWh (since projects are operating today with that total sales price).   For US policy makers, it must be noted that the nuclear LCOE of $112 per MWh, low-end per Lazard v. 11.0, is essentially unattainable. 

Still, it is nice to see such a study.  The general impression that wind is cheaper, and nuclear more expensive, is correct.   Other studies have also arrived at the same conclusions. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power
Climate  and here
Fresh  and here
Free Speech.................... here

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Truth From The Marketplace of Ideas

Subtitle:  Climate Science has Few Negative Consequences

In a follow-up to yesterday's article on the failings of science in the marketplace of ideas, this post describes what truth would look like in science, if a workable marketplace of ideas existed in science.  see link

Others who write on this suggest that truth is not ascertainable, that is, we cannot know what is true even if a perfect, impartial marketplace of ideas existed.   That may be true in a philosophical or existential sense, but in more practical matters such as engineering and hard science, truth is not nearly so elusive.   To put it bluntly, "We've seen it done, son."   As one with more than 40 years hard experience in chemical engineering, I for certain have seen the truth in engineering.   And, since much of engineering is based on hard science, there is much truth there, too.  

As just a brief excursion, my engineering experience thus far has encompassed more than 75 oil refineries, chemical plants, and petrochemical plants located around the world.   The countries with those plants range from the far north of Canada to southern Brazil, and China to Poland.   The simple truth is, those process plants all behaved as engineers expect them to behave, because the truth is known about the chemistry, physics, mathematics, economics, and engineering that are used to design, build, and operate those plants.  

In short, my discipline has the version of truth that holds, truth is "a mathematical model that adequately predicts future results."   And, that is precisely what we have in chemical engineering: e.g. a model that predicts a pipe of a certain diameter, made of a certain type of steel, and with a certain wall thickness, will not only keep the fluid inside at the specified temperature and pressure, but will also allow the specified volumetric flow rate to occur with a predicted decrease in pressure (pressure drop) as the fluid moves through the pipe.   We have thousands of similar truth-telling models, for chemical reactor design, distillation tower design, fired heaters, heat exchangers between fluids, pumps, compressors, control systems, water cooling towers, flare gas systems, and a multitude of other items in the process plants.  

So, how did chemical engineers get so much right, when climate scientists can't seem to get much of anything right?  Climate science has a terrible track record of predicting their truth, with their multiple climate models all failing miserably at predicting future average global temperatures (the models claim the average temperature should have increased substantially, but the measurements show no increase has occurred for 19 to 20 years now.)  

In stark contrast, chemical engineers have almost a 100 percent success rate in designing, constructing, and operating many hundreds of thousands of entire chemical plants, each of which has within it hundreds and hundreds of individual process systems.   (for just two examples, the reader is encouraged to look into the enormously complex chemical processing facility by BASF in Ludwigshaven, Germany.  see link.  The site has 200 different chemical production plants housed in 2,000 buildings (it's cold there), all integrated to achieve maximum efficiency.  Secondly, the gigantic refining, chemical, and petrochemical complex located along 500 miles of the US Gulf of Mexico from Corpus Christi, Texas to Pascagoula, Mississippi)

We can examine several sources of error for truth for engineering, and for climate science.  Among those sources of error would be access to the marketplace of ideas, bias in evaluating ideas in the marketplace, and importantly, consequences of failure to eliminate false ideas.   A more insidious source of error is the failure to understand, then critically examine the basis for each published paper.   What is worse, is a full understanding of what constitutes good science, but deliberate acceptance of erroneous data and calculations to further an agenda.

Access to the marketplace of ideas

The previous article on SLB discussed access to the marketplace of ideas.  In science as well as engineering, there are only a few reputable sources where publications are made.  These disciplines are not like the political arena, where literally thousands of arenas exist where politics are discussed.  Instead, there are a few journals and a few more technical or scientific societies that publish or present papers at their meetings.   A journal has an editor and editorial board that may accept or reject a paper for publication, simply based on its content or conclusions.   In some sense, that is acceptable, because crack-pots should not be given access to publish demonstrably false material.  Here, the false material would include perpetual motion machines, and the famous (but fictional) automobile carburetor that achieves 200 miles per gallon.

Bias in evaluating ideas

In climate science, there are concerted efforts to keep out papers with data and conclusions that show there is no cause for alarm from the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) that is released by burning fossil fuels.  This is an example of bias in evaluating ideas.   There may be bias due to agendas rather than a desire for the truth.  The old saying of 'The ends justifies the means' may be at play.   It may be that bias is due to editors who fervently believe the Earth is in imminent danger of overheating and melting the polar ice caps. 

That brings up the source of bias mentioned above: editors and peer-reviewers that have a full understanding of what constitutes good science, but deliberately accept erroneous data and calculations to further an agenda.  This blog will have much more to say about this.  For today, it is simply noted that the global temperature record has within the database hundreds and thousands of temperature measurements from locations such as cities, where increased temperatures over the decades are due entirely to factors other than CO2 increases in the atmosphere.  see link to SLB article on non-CO2 causes of warming.

Figure 1; False Warming Trend from End-Points
Warming Trend is 3.1 deg C per Century 
Another issue is accepting and publishing papers with data that has end-point problems, where the average trend over time is grossly influenced by a few data points at each end of the plotted data.   This blog has several articles on this, with the phrase "Abilene Effect."  In summary, three very cold winters in 1977, 78, and 79 gave the false impression of a warming trend from 1975 to 2000.  That also included a fortuitous El Nino year in 1998, that produced a temporary upward spike in the temperature record.  The combination of low temperatures around 1979, and a high temperature in 1998 gave a false warming trend over that time period.   It must be emphasized that the warmists in the climate science community frequently insist that the warming in the latter part of the 20th century (1975-2000) is unprecedented; and they (falsely) link that to an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere.   see link to SLB article on the Abilene Effect, and Figure 1 nearby.  Note that the cold winters near 1980, and hot year in 1998 occurred in almost every location in the US. 

Consequences of failure to eliminate false ideas.

What happens in engineering when false ideas are not screened out but are placed into the practice of engineering?  In many cases, the engineered process or item fails, with economic loss or harm to humans.   Sometimes, the harm includes death.  In other cases, there may be enormous devastation, such as from a dam's failure.   Engineering typically has serious consequences when bad ideas are not identified.   Engineers are held accountable in the courts and by licensing boards for their failures.   One notable, and very recent, example is the engineering fiasco in the design and construction of the twin-reactor nuclear power plant in South Carolina at the V.C. Summer site.   There, billions of dollars have been spent over a few years in the construction of a nuclear power plant.  However, numerous errors resulted in the project being halted and abandoned.  Government and private attorneys are sorting out the mess over who did what, and who owes how much to whom. 

In contrast, climate science has, to this point in time, very little adverse consequences for advancing false ideas.  In fact, there are claims that climate scientists actually benefit from adhering to the false dogma.  Publish or perish is certainly true for scientists, and if one can only publish papers based on data that furthers the agenda, then that is what is written for publication.   There have been several scientists who have published, somehow, contrary data and suffered career-damaging results.  

The false-alarmists in climate science have a long horizon, they say, before real damage occurs.  This is not at all like engineering, where we start up a process plant within 2 or 3 years from start of construction.  If the plant fails, we know about it right away.   Climate science predicts calamity 50 to 100 years in the future.  

One more immediate negative consequence to society from a belief in the false dogma of climate science is the approval of new nuclear power plants because the CO2 released is very small from such power plants.  (note that electric power is consumed by each nuclear power plant during shutdowns for maintenance and refueling, typically from non-nuclear plants on the grid that produce CO2 in their operations.  The CO2-producing power consumption represents approximately 10 percent of the year in terms of time, and a few percent of the nuclear plant's design output.  Even after permanent shut-down, a nuclear power plant consumes electricity from the grid for decades to keep spent fuel properly cooled)


What can be done about the false ideas from climate science?  The best antidote to bad speech is more speech, to paraphrase a court opinion.  What is needed is more debate, more clear and convincing proof that the warmist climate science is based on bad data, has bad statistics, and demonstrably erroneous conclusions. 

The Abilene Effect above is merely one of the many false ideas put forth by the warmist climate camp.  There are others, which will be written on soon on SLB.   For a preview, one can simply consider the implications of claimed sealevel rise in a few locations that should have resulted in beaches being underwater by many feet by this time.   None of those beaches are underwater.   For another instance, one can consider the Arctic sea ice concentration results for the past 12 years - no decline but instead a slight increase in trend over time.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power
Climate  and here
Fresh  and here
Free Speech.................... here

Saturday, October 28, 2017

On Science and the Marketplace of Ideas

Subtitle:  Truth Depends on Which Marketplace

This article delves a bit into the philosophical arena, as it deals with What Is Truth?   This article also deals with engineering (truth is very evident there), science (where truth is sometimes evident but more times depends on agendas), and just a bit on politics (where truth is clearly absent).  

In the US, a well-known principle of government is the right of the people to have Free Speech, as that is a guarantee in the First Amendment to the US Constitution.   SLB has articles on this very topic.  see link 

What is not as well-known excepting perhaps to attorneys, is how the Free Speech idea was incorporated into the Constitution.  Also, how the early court cases came to decisions on what sorts of speech would indeed be free from government regulation, and which forms would incur regulation and how much regulation.    The "Free" in Free Speech means that the type of speech is free from government regulation.   After more than 200 years of the Constitution's Bill of Rights ratification (December, 1791), there are now at least one dozen categories of speech that have government regulations.   These range from regulations on defamation (both libel and slander), commercial speech (bait and switch, false advertising, and others), speech that is a clear and present danger, death threats, pornography, inciting a riot, treason, and of course others.    see link

The basic idea behind the Free Speech clause is that government, and society as a whole, will function better when many ideas are presented and discussed.   The marketplace of ideas is supposed to allow ideas to be discussed, with the intended result that good ideas are accepted while bad ideas are rejected.     Many articles exist on this subject, discussing the marketplace and how the ideal marketplace does not exist.   Failings are listed such as inadequate access, various forms of censorship, bias in evaluating ideas, poor communication, government agendas having inordinate influence, and even defining what is "good" as opposed to "bad."

An example from industry illustrates one aspect of the marketplace of ideas.  The international corporation typically has offices, manufacturing, and sales points in many countries.  The operations are far-flung, it is said, and some operations perform better than others.   Advanced corporations make an effort to identify the best practices across the company, and communicate those practices to everyone in the company.  Implementing the best practices is sometimes achieved, but other times not due to many difficulties.  

In the non-commercial world, communications as applied to the marketplace of ideas have changed over the decades.   For example, in 1960, communication was by newspaper, radio, magazines, and television news for some.  By the year 2000, all of those still existed, but some were greatly expanded by, for example, multiple cable news stations on television.  One of the most important new forms of communication must be the Internet, where literally millions of websites exist, and billions of users world-wide can communicate almost instantly.   Portable, cellular or wireless telephones with computer access over the internet also are a new form of communication.   The vast amount of information that is presently communicated has become a problem by some definitions, as "fake news" or false information is readily spread, but not as easily identified.  

The problem, it seems, is no embarrassment and few or no adverse consequences to those who presently make up false information and communicate that false information as if it were true.  In 1960, for example, with three TV networks and hundreds of newspapers and magazines, false news was identified and repercussions existed.   It was an embarrassment for a news media outlet to admit it had published a false story.  

There are famous examples of fake news being reported as the truth, with newscaster Dan Rather readily coming to mind with a false story about George W. Bush.   

Sometimes, the news is simply wrong, as in the news stories with election forecasts that predicted Hillary Clinton the winner of the 2016 presidential election, which she lost as it turned out.  Other stories are not quite as blatant, for example the result of the US presidential election in 2000 where Al Gore was declared the winner, prematurely as it turned out.  The famous Dewey Defeats Truman newspaper is another example. 

These are given as examples of problems that still exist, even though access to the Internet is now in the billions of users, and news media outlets are far more numerous than in 1960.    Perhaps, access to the marketplace of ideas is not a cure for obtaining good ideas and rejecting bad ideas.   There is plenty of access now, so much that it may be difficult to be heard over the racket from millions of people expounding their ideas. 

To the point of engineering and science, where mass media play small roles, but at times significant roles.   These fields typically advance ideas based on the weight of authority, not the vote of the masses as in politics.   (An aside, engineering and science are not the only fields where appeals to authority are the norm, one can include medicine, accounting, and perhaps law.  More recently, a field that should be added is computer science and especially artificial intelligence within computer science).    The marketplaces for the ideas in these fields should be smaller than that of politics, and they are.   

Typical venues for the marketplace of engineering ideas are articles published in technical journals, plus papers presented at topical conferences.    Patents also come to mind.   A more rigorous marketplace of ideas exists for the scientific topics, where it is usual for a paper to be reviewed by a panel of experts, or peers, before a paper is published.   Peer review, however, has a number of deficiencies and many times fails to exclude a paper that is later found to have false information or conclusions.  

In the field of climate science, even more obstacles exist to seeking and finding the truth.  For the broad view, one can see that the world community had the terrifying experience of reading the scientific opinion, perhaps consensus, in the late 1970s and early 1980s that the world's climate was rapidly getting colder.  see link  Only 30 years later, the scientific community reversed their opinion and scare stories of global warming were all the rage.   By 2010, though, enough thoughtful, knowledgeable people had examined the changing climate issues in depth and found that many, many reasons exist to doubt the conclusion of inevitable global warming.   This blog has many articles on those reasons to doubt that global warming is a problem, and certainly not a problem that justifies radical reductions in fossil fuel use.   see link 

Part of the means that a group of climate scientists used to develop the imminent global warming disaster conclusion was, and still is, to use the limited number of peer-reviewed science journals to publish pro-warming articles.    That was not entirely effective, though, as hundreds of peer-reviewed articles exist that refute the imminent warming conclusions.  

The issues have become polarizing, evoking anger among some and ending friendships.   The US has a Republican president since January 2017, with a view to re-examine the issues of imminent global warming.   The warming contingent now must face a rigorous re-examination of the data, the methods, and the conclusions via what is popularly called a "Red Team, Blue Team" approach.   The warming contingent is hopping mad over this, as they claim there is no reason to even give a voice, a platform, to legitimize those with a dissenting view.  

And that brings us back to the marketplace of ideas for climate science.   It is quite clear that there is zero reason for haste, as the climate has not warmed at all in the past 20 years.  That is true, even by the measurements taken by the warmists themselves.   Those measurements include data from locations that have warmed, and are still warming due to many factors other than carbon dioxide (CO2) released from burning fossil fuels.  

The marketplace of ideas for climate science would benefit greatly from a grand debate, with clear and simple articulations of the issues by both sides.     The evidence is quite clear that there is no cause for alarm, both now and in the future based on CO2 released by fossil fuel burning.    More on this will be forthcoming. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power
Climate  and here
Fresh  and here
Free Speech.................... here

Sunday, October 15, 2017

SLB Reaches 250,000 Pageviews

Subtitle:  Blog Views Exceed 250,000 - top articles listed

A small event occurred in the past few days, when the view counter for this blog reached and surpassed 250,000 hits or pageviews (see screenshot at right).     That is not much in the internet world, but still is quite surprising to me that so many people would view what I write so many times.  

Below is a simple table with the most-viewed articles shown, with those having 1,000 or more views displayed.    These 41 articles account for just over 70,000 pageviews, or a bit less than one-third of all the pageviews.

Warmists are Wrong; Cooling is Coming
Chemical Engineer Takes on Global Warming
From Man-made Global Warmist to Skeptic, My Journey
The Truth About Nuclear Power – Part 30 (Conclusion)
The Truth About Nuclear Power - Part 28 (Thorium)
The Truth About Nuclear Power - Part 13 (Subsidies)
NPRA Sues Air Resources Board over Biofuels
Tire Inflation Rule Causes Liability
Radiation Illness in Japan after Fukushima Meltdowns
California Worst Drought Ever - Myth or Fact
Driessen on Renewable Energy as Racism
US Accelerates Offshore Wind Power Development
CO2 Capture That Produces Electricity
Hinkley Point C Nuclear Plant Approved - For Now
A Few More Reasons To Oppose Nuclear Power Plants
Improved Solar Cell with Doubled Efficiency
Renewable Energy Saves California from Grid Blackouts
Aliso Canyon and Duck Curve Demand in SoCal
Nuclear Unreliable In A Hurricane - St. Lucie Shut Down
US Nuclear Reactors Shutdown - Operating Lifetime
Wind Power Facts and Trends 2015
Sun's Impact on Clouds via Cosmic Rays
Idiotic Claims About Carbon Capture Plant - CCS
Why California Electricity Costs More than US Average
Free Speech and Opus 400 - A Look Back at SLB
New Solar Power Record in California 2 Sept 2016
California Electricity Rates - Residential - Not That High
A Nuclear Nut Claims 90 Percent Cost Reduction
A Perfect Correlation - US Electricity Price v Consumption
US Still Has the Can-Do Attitude from the Apollo Program
Another Convert to the New Electrical Grid Paradigm
The Four By Sixteen Rule for Pipe Flow
Skeptics Wrangle While Cooling Is Coming
US Coal Supplies Dwindling Rapidly
Another Record for Solar Power in California
A Week That Was July 2016
President Trump and the Future of American Oil
Global Warming Laws at AIChE Meeting in Nashville
US Long-Term Temperature Trend from NCDC
Designing an Electrical Grid From Scratch
High Speed Rail in California Stuck At The Station

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power
Climate  and here
Fresh  and here
Free Speech.................... here