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On Will 2016 Be the Turning Point for Batteries in NYC?

Matthew, no doubt your sponsor, Shell, is licking its chops at the potential to replace Indian Point with LPG from either domestic fracking sources or Qatar. Battery storage would help with that, but the truth is 125MW is a drop in the bucket. If we look at realtime electricity consumption in NYC, today's daily differential is 2.5GW. At $1000/kwh for Li-Ion grid scale batteries, New York residents will have to come up with half a $billion to shift 1/16 of NYC's daytime October peak to nighttime. In the summer it would be a much smaller fraction.

With all the buzz about renewables and storage there might be the impression that clean energy will be filling those batteries, but nothing could be further from the truth. In California - the state with the most solar in the country - the closure of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station resulted in 8 million tons of extra CO2 emissions, mostly from burning gas. In NYC renewables' contribution will be insignificant, so if Indian Point closes we can expect even more gas to make up the difference. The contribution of storage? It will permit polluting gas plants to run day and night, instead of just day.

The petroleum industry's windfall would be expensive for NYC residents and environmentally disastrous. Let's hope reason prevails and Indian Point continues to produce clean, carbon-free energy.

October 21, 2014    View Comment    

On Germany's Energiewende Proves Electricity can be Clean and Reliable

200,000 blackouts exceeding three minutes? Higher carbon emissions? Reduction targets missed through 2030? The second-highest electricity prices in Europe (after wind energy stalwart Denmark)? Peter, we know renewables doublespeak has reached Orwellian dimensions when advocates characterize the Energiewende as an "unequivocal success".

Germany is the poster child for the failure of renewables to address global warming on a national scale.

Sunny, Windy, Costly, and Dirty

October 21, 2014    View Comment    

On New Gas Plant Venture Aims at Carbon Capture From a Different Angle

Christina, thanks for that clarification. Of course the real problem is having a place to put the CO2 once it's extracted.

October 21, 2014    View Comment    

On New Gas Plant Venture Aims at Carbon Capture From a Different Angle

Christina, although enhanced oil recovery (EOR) is not new, describing it as an "angle" is most fitting.

That this technique might ever sequester meaningful quantities of atmospheric carbon is ludicrous to anyone with a rudimentary handle on the scale of the problem. It's noteworthy only for the skill in which accomplishes two objectives:

  • enlisting the environmental movement to help provide it with a cheap resource to extract more oil, and
  • establishing the (false) "green" credibility of the world's second most polluting industry, in the same manner that industry has promoted the inconsequential contributions of solar and wind energy
October 21, 2014    View Comment    

On Abandoned Solar Energy Project Highlights Pitfalls of Tax Uncertainty

Tom, taking a bigger view of the situation might suggest it highlights the pitfalls of solar energy.

October 21, 2014    View Comment    

On Deniers Mistakenly Say that Global Warming Has Ended

Ross, of course I can explain those occurrences.

They are what are known as anomalies, or "something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected." They're often used to extract general conclusions which are unwarranted by those who seek to challenge scientific findings for ideological purposes.

Another tactic occasionally employed is challenging evidence based on some arbitrary standard without offering more convincing evidence to refute it, as you've done with the historical record. Fortunately, both tactics are fairly obvious, and are more interesting as psychological studies than in anything relating to earth sciences.

October 21, 2014    View Comment    

On Deniers Mistakenly Say that Global Warming Has Ended

Ross, one could use equally legitimate logic to prove the existence of the Easter Bunny.

Without giving your post more consideration than is due - the current reduction in Arctic sea ice is unmatched over the last few thousand years, and by 2040 Arctic sea ice will be completely absent for the first time in at least 13 million years. It's because of anthropogenic global warming, and there is no Easter Bunny. A study by real scientist:

History of Sea Ice in the Arctic

October 21, 2014    View Comment    

On Deniers Mistakenly Say that Global Warming Has Ended

Henry, ironically the more progress we make in the fight against climate change, the more ammunition deniers have to say it's a hoax.

How that story will end is anyone's guess, but my intuition leads me to believe it's going to have to get a lot worse before most of the world takes it seriously. Then, it may be too late.

October 20, 2014    View Comment    

On Britain's First Nuclear Power Plant In A Generation Isn't A Great Deal, But Neither Are The Alternatives

Jeffrey, I'm pasting part of an online debate which originally appeared on PhysicsWorld.com between physicists Peter Hodgson and Dennis Anderson. It was titled "Do We Need Nuclear Power?" and it made similar points over ten years ago.

Meeting the world's energy needs is an urgent problem - and all practicable energy sources must be used to solve it. The exact mix in different regions will depend on many factors, particularly the indigenous fuels as well as local geography and economics. Developed countries must help developing nations to increase their energy supplies and curb existing wasteful habits. Continuing efforts must be made to reduce pollution and carbon-dioxide emissions. To make progress in discussions about energy production and the effects on the environment, it is essential to have numerical data. Without such information, it is impossible to know whether a proposed source or effect is important or negligible.

If we are to stabilize the emission of carbon dioxide by the middle of the 21st century, we need to replace 2000 fossil-fuel power stations in the next 40 years, equivalent to a rate of one per week. Can we find 500 km2 each week to install 4000 windmills? Or perhaps we could cover 10 km2 of desert each week with solar panels and keep them clean? Tidal power can produce large amounts of energy, but can we find a new Severn estuary and build a barrage costing £9bn every five weeks?

Nuclear power, however, is a well tried and reliable source, whereas the alternatives listed by Anderson are mainly hope for the future and have yet to prove themselves. At the height of new nuclear construction in the 1980s, an average of 23 new nuclear reactors were being built each year, with a peak of 43 in 1983. A construction rate of one per week is therefore practicable.

October 20, 2014    View Comment    

On World's "First Fuel" - Energy Efficiency - Coming Out of Hiding

Oliver, at this point there probably is no solution to the problem of climate change. Nonetheless, it can and will be mitigated. The strategy will undoubtedly include both making carbon more expensive as well as preventing additional carbon from entering the atmosphere.

It's important to differentiate between carbon fuels and fossil fuels. Though fossil fuels are carbon-based, burning them releases carbon which has been stored deep underground, disrupting a biosphere carbon balance which has existed for millions of years. Carbon-based biofuels use carbon that's already here, essential acting as a storage medium for solar energy. Moreover, there is tremendous potential for using nuclear to synthesize gasoline, methane, ammonia, and other carbon fuels from ambient CO2, which would allow us to maintain current modes of transportation without any increase in atmospheric carbon whatsoever.

CCS and geoengineering are superficial bandaids which will provide no real assistance in slowing climate change. False hope derived from them will likely even exacerbate the problem.

I and others see tremendous potential in aggressive deployment of nuclear. It would permit robust increases in trade, productivity, and quality of life with far less environmental impact than fossil fuels. There are indeed serious technological hurdles and expenses to be faced, but none as serious or expensive as the damage which will unquestionably be wrought by climate change.

October 19, 2014    View Comment    

On Britain's First Nuclear Power Plant In A Generation Isn't A Great Deal, But Neither Are The Alternatives

Michael, dredging up a 60-year-old U.S. commercial nuclear reactor (the first one, in fact) as an example for the future is ridiculous. And the reliability of nuclear plants, their regulation, misguided activist intervention, their generation, and yes, their price - all are headed "inexorably upward". So what? And when did I become an advocate for Chinese labor?

Nonsensical grasping at straws - the last refuge of a dysfunctional, rusting argument.

October 18, 2014    View Comment    

On Britain's First Nuclear Power Plant In A Generation Isn't A Great Deal, But Neither Are The Alternatives

Michael, from personal experience - here is what happens to aging wind machines:

 

They break. They don't get fixed. They rust, and remain indefinitely.

If the wind industry was half as environmentally responsible as the nuclear industry, a "decommissioning" fund would be set up for every new park, so when it goes under at least the hauling away of rusting junk would be taken care of.

You write:

I could even support building expensive new nuclear plant, though history tells us not to expect any significant improvement in cost and performance as a result of doing so...

as if we can use nuclear plants built 50 years ago as a basis for the performance of future plants. Can we do the same with 50-year-old wind turbines?

October 18, 2014    View Comment