Comments by Jesse Jenkins Subscribe

On Talking Transitions: Markets for Wind and Solar

Ben, thanks for continuing the dialog. I look forward to listening to the podcast as soon as I can!. For now, a few brief reactions to the post:

You write: "[Wind and solar] don't fit in with an Econ 101, clearing-price, merit-order-dispatch market, since they don't respond to short term price signals."

This is a pretty strong thesis!! Also not one energy economists would support. I think this is where our friendly disagreement arises.

"[The merit order effect] will put a cap on [wind and solar] deployment at a level far below what we need them to achieve in order to decarbonize the planet. This is not a technical limit, but a self-imposed financial limit due to market design."

Again, no. The fact that wind and solar stop deploying at some point under sound market designs is a sign of the declining societal value of further renewables deployment. The fact that wind and solar stop deploying under a sound market design is precisely because it is cheaper to deploy something else to reach our climate goals.

Unfortunately, I really do think you are still substituting means for ends. I'll listen to the podcast as soon as I can (looking forward to it!) but from your post, it seems like we may still be talking past one another. Hope we can fix that soon.

If your thesis is that there simply is nothing else to deploy to reach our climate goals, that "wind and solar are the winners" because all other renewables are constrained and nuclear and CCS are off limits a priori, then wind and solar won't stop deploying. There is no alternative, so under a strict carbon limit, they'll keep deploying (and the costs of complying with the carbon limit will keep rising).

But if there are other alternatives, wind and solar will stop deploying once their marginal value is less than their marginal cost, which occurs exactly at the point when wind or solar become more expensive than other zero-carbon alternatives. And that's exactly what we should want as society. Forcing wind and solar past this limit only implies higher costs to reach the same goals -- in other words, a waste of resources that could be better spent on other societal goals (curing cancer, electrifying Africa, climate adaptation, buying whiskey etc.). That's my concern with substituting means for ends.

To be continued...

October 21, 2015    View Comment    

On How Much Land Does Solar, Wind and Nuclear Energy Require?

Dear Mark,

The Brook paper actually assumed a Gen IV nuclear design apparently. A reader brought this to my attention and I verified in the supplemental material for the article. 

I've updated teh post to include data from actual U.S. reactor sites now. Cheers,

Jesse

June 26, 2015    View Comment    

On How Much Land Does Solar, Wind and Nuclear Energy Require?

Thanks for the link to the NRC resource! I've updated the post with data from these figures on the U.S. fleet.

June 26, 2015    View Comment    

On How Much Land Does Solar, Wind and Nuclear Energy Require?

Mark,

The land use figures for solar are not mind, but are from the MIT Future of Solar Energy report, which I clearly referenced. A vareity of assumptions go into any of these calculations, and I wouldn't be surprised if two different papers/studies differed by a factor of 2x. If they are in agreement on the order of magnitude, that is what I would expect. And note that a 2x increase in the land use figure still doesn't change the general conclusion at all. If solar took up 7-22,000 sq-km rather than 4-11,000, would that change much of anything about my post? I don't think so. 

Second, I am in no way advocating any particular shares of any resource in this post, just providing land use figures for comparison. So "my solartopia" is a figment of your imagination. If you've actually read any of my articles, you know I take a pretty nuanced view on the role of variable renewables in our energy system. You may want to try adopting some nuance yourself. 

Jesse

June 26, 2015    View Comment    

On How Much Land Does Solar, Wind and Nuclear Energy Require?

Joris, you are correct that Mackay's figures are for the mass of natural Uranium required to produce nuclear fuel. So that's for the fissionable U-235 as well as the remaining isotopse that are not utilized. I think it's worth considering the fuel mass of Uranium required however, as that gives you a sense of how much material has to be mined, then processed into fuel. I link to the chapter of Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air which discusses this figure in the post, and I highly recommend the free e-book to anyone interested.

June 26, 2015    View Comment    

On How Much Land Does Solar, Wind and Nuclear Energy Require?

Hi Peter,

I've updated the post to include a summary table at the end. 

Jesse

June 26, 2015    View Comment    

On A Look at Wind and Solar, Part 2: Is There An Upper Limit To Variable Renewables?

Nice try "Godo." If you want to know who I am and what I have spent my professional career advocating and supporting, please see my LinkedIn CV. As someone who helped pass, negotiate, and implement a state renewable portfolio standard and has testified in Congress in support of sustained investments in renewable and other forms of clean energy technology, your comments are laughably off the mark.
Jesse

June 10, 2015    View Comment    

On A Look at Wind and Solar Energy, Part 1: How Far We've Come

Hi Michael,

If you have reservoir hydro (rather than run of river), what we mean here is that you can effectively "store" the excess wind production by just not running the hydro units, holding the water until later when the wind dies down, and then running the hydro then. That's what's happening now in the Nordic system, as well as the Pacific Northwest of the United States and New Zealand and other hydro-rich regions. It's technically not storage I suppose, at the full grid level. I just mean that Denmark can export power to Norway or Sweden, which back off of hydro production, and then later it can import power from said hydro dams when the wind dies down.

This is similar to how people with solar on their rooftops often use the grid as a "battery," exporting solar during the midday peak and importing from the grid in the evening. It's not really storage, just taking advantage of a much larger, flexible system. 

Both examples aren't truly storage. That's why we put it in scare quotes ("store"). Sorry if that wasn't clear.

Pumped hydro amounts to true storage: you use excess electrical generation to pump water up into the reservoir and then release it later when needed to generate electricity. 

May 30, 2015    View Comment    

On A Look at Wind and Solar Energy, Part 1: How Far We've Come

Joe, in the interest of full discolure: I'm a native Oregonian as well, and had a part to play in helping negotiate, pass and implement that state RPS policy in 2007. Management of competing uses of the federal hydropower system in the Northwest has always been a challenge. With the right input from stakeholders (including when necessary through suits), BPA and regional policy makers can carefully manage the inherent tradeoffs here. But you point out another key challenge to integrating large amounts of variable renewables. Even relatively flexible hydropower has it's limits.

May 30, 2015    View Comment    

On A Look at Wind and Solar Energy, Part 1: How Far We've Come

Thanks. I included this information in our Part 2. The recent iteration of the Western Grid Integration Study (by GE Consulting) for the Western North America interconnect (WECC) found that this limit on the instantaneous production of asynchronous generators (i.e. wind and solar) could be about 55-60 percent with application of current technology. It's another important factor to consider. Please see our second part in the series for more...

May 30, 2015    View Comment