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LINK Why Renewables Can’t Save the Planet - Quillette

FTA: Nuclear plants are thus a revolutionary technology—a grand historical break from fossil fuels as significant as the industrial transition from wood to fossil fuels before it.

The problem with nuclear is that it is unpopular, a victim of a 50 year-long concerted effort by fossil fuel, renewable energy, anti-nuclear weapons campaigners, and misanthropic environmentalists to ban the technology.

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1

Our planet will survive, it’s in no danger. It’s the current life on it, particularly the higher, more complex forms, including us, for whom the bell is tolling.

To the point, I see current renewables as a temporary fix. Grid battery storage for windfarms, solar, and tidal generation is a dead end, as are battery powered vehicles, etc, without a massive leap in battery technology to obviate the current need for rare earths. Mining those is already destroying, polluting, and despoiling previously unravaged parts of the planet.

Nuclear fusion is the only long term way out, assuming we survive for long enough. At the moment, it still requires more power to get a fusion reaction going than it produces itself, but much progress has and is being made. It’s an area of research that needs a lot more resource thrown at it. Don’t hold your breath for now though.

But I will also throw in the almost sinful thought about traditional nuclear fission power. Not uranium based though. Thorium reactors. Not dangerous, not polluting, can’t melt down, can be made almost portable size (at least with a large truck, for now), and no hideous very long term waste management problems. And there’s lots of easily obtained thorium about. Check them out. A very viable stop gap until practical fusion arrives (and it will).

1

Interesting post. It's good to be reminded no energy source is completely 'clean' but I still can't get over the fact that nuclear waste will be radioactive for thousands and thousands of years. How is it possible to guarantee safe storage of nuclear waste for that long?

kmdskit3 Level 8 Mar 7, 2019
0

Renewable energies are not cheap enough yet. Most of them are growing on subsides or to avoid fines. But it is important for technology development, the hope is that we will have a breakthrough before climate change goes to hell.
Nuclear is a good option, it polutes less than coal mine or the current standard of oil spillage.
But see, the coal mine kills people in a small town of poor people that do not matter, and not on your yard if an accident happens. So it feels safer. More people died per power generated of coal than the same from nuclear. But is analogus to car/plane accident, you know that plane is safer, but a plane accident is a huge headline.

Wind/solar/batteries biodigestors, mini hydroeletrics, geothermal, all can be done and used and they are evolving, but the cost NOW is still higher than coal, oil and gas

Renewable energies are not cheap enough yet. Most of them are growing on subsides or to avoid fines. But it is important for technology development, the hope is that we will have a breakthrough before climate change goes to hell

Sorry but I have to disagree: that's only true if we dont' cost fossil fuels an nuclear accurately.

When we fully cost the alternatives I believe that green energy is by far the cheapest. It's just there is zero appetite for that full costing. There never is. (I'm an accountant by the way).

@OwlInASack But you are telling me the same thing with different words. The cost of fuel fossil cannot be measured, unless you pay a tax per kg of net carbon emitted like a garbage collecting tax.
That's what makes it cheap. So the gov needs to put those taxes, then you can even lower the subsides on clean energy because you will make the tables even.
A mine that generates ore to produce batteries must deal with the residues, but the coal power plant no.

@Pedrohbds OK - we're agreed....

It's even worse than that. The coal power station in the UK ignores what it is doing to the Great Barrier Reef.

2

I call BS, the author has some backer that is embracing this position, just like everyone else pushing the idea that renewables won't work.

He claims that:
"Despite what you’ve heard, there is no “battery revolution” on the way, for well-understood technical and economic reasons." but all you have to do to disprove that is look up Australia's Big Battery, and it is only a first generation grid battery.

icolan Level 7 Mar 6, 2019

Excess electricity is also being used to pump water back into hydroelectric dams. There are also industrial scale compressed air storage systems.

Sorry, but the big battery in SA can't supply baseload. It's bloody amazing at what it does, and can respond to grid fluctuations way quicker than any fossil fuel or nuclear generator, but it can't supply 10+ hours of peak supply overnight when the wind isn't blowing.

@MrBeelzeebubbles Hence my comment that it is only a first generation grid battery. Give the technology another 5 or 10 years and where do you suppose it might be then? It is the first step in the battery revolution that the author claims is not happening.

0

Several wind farms were constructed in my area. A lot of them are not producing enough power to turn a profit from electrical production alone, thanks to lowering costs of natural gas, industries moving away from the area, and energy conservation efforts. They are only still in operation thanks to government subsidies.

1

One issue with the article talks about solar panels and the sun going down. Well the simple solution is to just store the energy from the sun and when it doesn't shine you use the saved energy. It might not be viable all the time or in some places on Earth, but it's no reason to scratch solar energy.

Another issue is costs, but costs will always be at their greatest when you first start. Solar energy cost is falling. [news.energysage.com] [solar-estimate.org] [utilitydive.com] [greentechmedia.com] [news.mit.edu] [pv-magazine.com] [businessinsider.com] (<--- look at the huge decline in solar costs in the graph - this one actually shows nuclear is more costly than solar and actually the most costly)

Have you ever heard of any solar energy disasters on any level you hear oil or nuclear disasters? I think there has been one accident with a solar plant and some panels and pipes burned. This author is telling us that nuclear has never killed anyone? What about the most recent Fukushima and all the material it let out in the ocean? Not exactly something they can get concrete numbers on deaths from anyway. [large.stanford.edu]

Needing big amounts of land isn't a problem either. Most of the land in the U.S. isn't even used. Outside of the big cities, there is tons of land. There are other countries that have done it and have no problem. The author is worried about killing large birds, but does he care about what logging does to entire habitats for animals? Or what about oil spills? Or any other industrial activity that kills plenty of animals or takes away their habitat? I don't buy the idea he is peddling about the land.

He also talks about the cost. What is the cost of the defense budget every year that is required for the U.S. to have resource wars, and what about the cost of the loss of human life? The innocent people killed in these wars? The sanctions put on countries like Venezuela by the U.S. that kills Venezuela's citizens because Venezuela (country with the largest oil reserves in the world - more than Saudi Arabia) doesn't want to obey the U.S.?

Here's more on the author of that article:

Exposing the misinformation of Michael Shellenberger and 'Environmental Progress'
[wiseinternational.org]

Michael Shellenberger’s pro-nuclear lobby group ‘Environmental Progress’
[nuclear.foe.org.au]

A radioactive wolf in green clothing: Dissecting the latest pro-nuclear spin
[independentaustralia.net]

The Breakthrough Institute's Inconvenient History with Al Gore
[ethics.harvard.edu]

“Environmental Progress”and Michael Shellenberger -spreading nuclear lies and quack science
[nuclearinformation.wordpress.com]

Even alternative energy only slows down the crisis though, but it's better than nothing. Maybe something actually sustainable will come along. Maybe growing hemp should be incorporated into alternative renewable energy where solar panels can be made of hemp instead of oil. I don't know if we would need oil in the production of these hemp solar panels though, but it would seem we would need it for the machines that help produce the solar panels on a larger scale. You see the issue? Everything seems to need oil in production of the energy that we use. Also, with some alternative energies, if it takes more energy to create than we get out of it, that's also a problem. It's one of the reasons why companies will stop past a certain point of drilling for oil. There is still oil in the Earth, but a lot of it is too deep for us to economically make it worth it.

Al Bartlett gives a good lecture on energy:

"Well the simple solution is to just store the energy from the sun and when it doesn't shine you use the saved energy."
How is a large amount of energy stored/saved?

@dahermit

[energysage.com]

[energysage.com]

[ucsusa.org]

[revisionenergy.com]

Right now I don't think there is a lot of storage for individual home batteries, but the technology should only get better. The price of batteries also has to come down, but they should. This is still in the infant stage, but I think it's better to develop this than keep the current route.

@Piece2YourPuzzle I've been in the home energy storage business for 39 years. Storage has changed greatly in that time. There are now many homes and subdivisions powered by solar and serviced with storage. Attached is a 24,000 watt-hour Lithium battery rack that powers an all elect home, 2 rental cabins, and a workshop. Be well.

@rogueflyer Nice. I don't know much about specifics or new tech yet. How many storage hours of electricity can you get out of that? How much does it cost for the unit etc?

@Piece2YourPuzzle Well this unit has 24,000 watt-hours and has a retail of $18,000. It has a 20-year design life. The individual 4,800 watt-hour lithium batteries run $3,500. We also carry a tubular gel (OPZV) with 50,000 watt-hours that retail $12,000 and has a 15-year design life. These are large storage systems.

@Piece2YourPuzzle My question was about "large power" storage...not individual homes (which still need to use power from the grid). And the answer is...there is no good, efficient way of storing large amounts of power...that is one of the draw backs of solar and wind. For instance, the pumped storage plants like that in Ludington, MI., loose about 20% of their power over that recovered from the water flowing back. Added to that is the 15% or so lost to transmission over power lines. So what you have is fossil fuel plants still generating the electricity and 35% of it lost if pumped storage or other methods are used in an attempt to store large amounts of electricity. Those pumped storage plants are very expensive to build...way more than a conventional plant lowering the incentive to build them. Batteries in individual homes are very inefficient and their manufacture is harmful for the environment. But admittedly, the technology needs to mature inasmuch as new technologies are very crude and need time to mature into something more efficient. Consider the first WWI airplanes...they could hardly fly. I am impatiently waiting for electric cars that have their entire surface painted with solar electrical generating substance so that it recharges the batteries while parked in my driveway...without the need of being plugged in. It is my understanding that such a possiblity is very near.

@dahermit Sure there is. Another poster mentioned Australia's Big Battery by Tesla. Plus like you said, it's still in the infant stages pretty much for home batteries. Another poster that has worked in the industry for almost 40 years has shown larger batteries for homes. Obviously not as large as the Big Battery from Tesla. The biggest problem is the price coming down, but I think if money was invested in these technologies and mass produced for consumption then the prices would come down. It definitely needs work, but I still think it's better than the current policies on energy. The potential is huge.

Here are a few articles on Big Battery by Tesla:

[electrek.co]

[electrek.co]

[pv-magazine.com]

[teslarati.com]

"Tesla CTO and co-founder JB Straubel recently revealed that the company’s energy division had hit a milestone — since 2015, Tesla has installed a worldwide total of 1 GWh worth of energy storage. Such a figure is almost half of the total energy storage installed across the world in 2017."

2

Nuclear is also one of the most expensive electrical generation. Solar is the least expensive new electrical generation and then wind. "Japan's economy, trade, and industry ministry recently (as of 2016) estimated the total cost of dealing with the Fukushima disaster at ¥21.5 trillion (US$187 billion), almost twice the previous estimate of ¥11 trillion (US$96 billion)." I believe the estimated clean up has increased even more now.

Fukushima was a bad design.

3

The problem with nuclear is that produces waste for every future generation. And that’s profoundly immoral.

Exactly. It is great until it isn't...and then it's catastrophic.

2

If only we could drill past the Earth’s crust and deposit nuclear waste in the mantle. That’s my amateur idea.

1

countries like germany will rue the day they decided to abandon nuclear power.

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