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New Michael Moore-backed doc examines "false promise" of renewable energy

Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

What if alternative energy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? That’s the provocative question explored in the documentary “Planet of the Humans,” which is backed and promoted by filmmaker Michael Moore and directed by one of his longtime collaborators. It premiered last week at his Traverse City Film Festival.

The film, which does not yet have distribution, is a low-budget but piercing examination of what the filmmakers say are the false promises of the environmental movement and why we’re still “addicted” to fossil fuels. Director Jeff Gibbs takes on electric cars, solar panels, windmills, biomass, biofuel, leading environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club, and even figures from Al Gore and Van Jones, who served as Barack Obama’s special adviser for green jobs, to 350.org leader Bill McKibben, a leading environmentalist and advocate for grassroots climate change movements.

Gibbs, who produced Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11,” didn’t set out to take on the environmental movement. He said he wanted to know why things weren’t getting better. But when he started pulling on the thread, he and Moore said they were shocked to find how inextricably entangled alternative energy is with coal and natural gas, since they say everything from wind turbines to electric car charging stations are tethered to the grid, and even how two of the Koch brothers — Charles and David — are tied to solar panel production through their glass production business.

"It turned out the wakeup call was about our own side," Gibbs said in a phone interview. "It was kind of crushing to discover that the things I believed in weren’t real, first of all, and then to discover not only are the solar panels and wind turbines not going to save us ... but (also) that there is this whole dark side of the corporate money ... It dawned on me that these technologies were just another profit center."

 

Bob Meinetz's picture

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Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Aug 25, 2019 4:13 pm GMT

Interesting.  I will be interested to see this.  

Gene Nelson, Ph.D.'s picture
Gene Nelson, Ph.D. on Aug 28, 2019 4:43 am GMT

Audra: Please see my comments below.

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Sep 5, 2019 9:56 pm GMT

We are many who have tried to find out, where the video can be bought, downloaded etc. - still I have had no success. Have you found it?

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 26, 2019 1:24 pm GMT

It dawned on me that these technologies were just another profit center

I feel like this is a bit of an obvious conclusion, that those who are in the renewable energy industry (like any industry) are looking to make money. They're not non-profits, and real penetration into the energy mix never had a shot until they started to win economically to save customers money and make the producers money. That alone feels like a pretty hollow 'gotcha' but I'll be curious to see the whole thing to see where the rest of the doc goes

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 26, 2019 3:31 pm GMT

*Just* another profit center, Matt - like coal, or hamster wheels. Without benefit to the environment.

All the evidence I've seen says solar and wind, like coal, don't deserve real penetration into the energy mix - whether profitable or not. To me that's been an obvious conclusion for a long, long time.

Though it might be anti-intuitive to some, so is a round Earth. If it takes Michael Moore to get on a soapbox about it, so be it.

Gene Nelson, Ph.D.'s picture
Gene Nelson, Ph.D. on Aug 28, 2019 4:44 am GMT

Bob: I agree with your comments. See my further comments below.

Jeff Green's picture
Jeff Green on Sep 2, 2019 4:31 pm GMT

In Illinois where I live nuclear now costs even more. They (nuclear) gets subsidies because they can't compete against natural gas and now can't compete against solar and wind. Global warming is the real boogeyman for all of this century and the benefits of renewable energy is really undisputed except for the fossil fuel industry backed ideology.

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Sep 9, 2019 7:53 pm GMT

Dear Bob, 

I have reported your comment above as abusive, in that you are not substantiating your "All the evidence I've seen says solar and wind, like coal, don't deserve real penetration into the energy mix - whether profitable or not."

I learned that this good debate here must be substandiated with facts. Otherwise this become hearsay, rumours and very non-scientific.

Sincerely

David Svarrer

Geoff Thomas's picture
Geoff Thomas on Sep 10, 2019 4:21 am GMT

Bob, the Nuclear industry was 'forced' by the Military, but coal by the super rich, as it competed successfully against Nuclear. 

Really the only way Coal can be displaced by renewables, is if they are cheaper, - the which they undoubtedy are, and seriously so, the figures don't lie. This is capitalism, the greatest propounder of which is America, so it is a good bellweather for what will happen in this currently capitalist world.

Films, to be successful, must be controversial, at least, but alas, idealism yields to Economics at this time, and truly, Faced with Global Warming and the destruction of much of our society by  same, just as bloody well! 

In regard to your denial that connecting all sorts of renewables to gether, plus pumped hydro, plus using the National Hydro system as a giant battery, plus whatever else us inventive humans can find, I feel that that is a last shout of your Nuclear Will Save The World, belief system, - well it won't, indeed can't in this day and age, but I share your regret that the Neo-Liberalists, that totally immoral cadre, - "rich is good rich is clever", - rich should rule" have done their normal thing and invested in the cheapest technology, - you get that.

Well that is where America is at, whether it is good in the long haul some of us wonder, - that corruption is biting deep, and destroyed Rome. 

Perhaps you could divert your antagonism about Renewables, by looking at all the possibilities, and how they actually support your original idealism, and make positive suggestions, - I am sure you are smart enough so to do. 

Cheers,
Geoff.

 

 

Mark Goldes's picture
Mark Goldes on Aug 27, 2019 1:51 pm GMT

To the surprise of almost everyone, any engine can soon be converted cheaply and easily to running on water, taken from humidity and saving most adult individuals the annual cost of fuel. That will get universal attention. Since vehicles that run on water can be power plants when suitably parked - providing a new source of income, that icing on the cake will insure enthusiasm. Millions of vehicles selling electricity can replace any need for central power plants using coal, natural gas or nuclear. This is a cost effective way to insure massive public support for wise approaches to the climate emergency.

Water as fuel is a Green Swan, a highly improbable innovation with huge impact potential. Learn more about this and a few more at aesopinstitute.org Green Swans in energy and economics can change the world - at a cost voters across the political spectrum will find acceptable. A Green Swan Movement can mobilize students of all ages. The time is ripe to launch that unrecognized possibility. Millions of students have recognized the fact that their lives are at hazard. They have accepted the climate science that underlines that reality. Those with an interest in learning not yet generally accepted new science may find they can change the world - faster than most assume is possible. Imagine!

Gene Nelson, Ph.D.'s picture
Gene Nelson, Ph.D. on Aug 28, 2019 4:25 am GMT

Sounds "too good to be true" - and that is very liely the case with the above narrative. Please see the Wikipedia entry for "Water fueled car" for additional background.

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Sep 6, 2019 6:46 pm GMT

Please provide the links and references for this interesting news / information. I was of the impression that we have still not yet found out how to split water and use it as fuel. Due to the usual law of entropy and all that it comes with, we would need 6,000 Joule to split water in to that same Oxygen and Hydrogen as would then deliver 6,000 Joule when combusted.

So I had understood that producing for instance these typical 100 kWattHours needed to split the water, such that you could put the very same Hydrogen into your vehicle - is still the problem.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 11, 2019 9:19 pm GMT

David, as much as we disagree on other topics, I couldn't have said it better myself.

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Sep 9, 2019 7:55 pm GMT

Mark Goldes, I requested you to provide links and references, on September 6, 2019. Please do. I understand that this Energycentral.com is a professional environment, so we should not post non-substantiated content.

SIncerely

David Svarrer

Gene Nelson, Ph.D.'s picture
Gene Nelson, Ph.D. on Aug 28, 2019 4:22 am GMT

The AP review of "Planet of the Humans" is available at https://www.apnews.com/933b49681b0d47d3a005d356f35251ab

The AP review was available at the New York Times website, but is no longer available there.

Gene Nelson, Ph.D.'s picture
Gene Nelson, Ph.D. on Aug 28, 2019 4:41 am GMT

Here is an article that documents some of the problems with solar and wind power in California - and the superiority of nuclear power.

"NECG Commentary - Diablo Canyon Retirement" by Gene Nelson, Ph.D.  January 11, 2018    https://tinyurl.com/Wind-And-Solar-Scam 

Since this article was written, independent CPUC intervenor Californians for Green Nuclear Power, Inc. (CGNP) has gathered California natural-gas-fired generator performance data which supports the contention that a power grid WITHOUT solar and wind has lower emissions than a grid which includes solar and wind.  The twin problems are the "back down mode" in which a natural-gas-fired generator is kept ready as "spinning reserve" via natural gas combustion. The bigger problem is the inefficient, intermittent dispatch of the natural-gas-fired generation that "firms" the solar and wind generation. The latter problem increases the "heat rate" of the natural-gas-fired generators. Natural gas consumption rises, as do emissions.

California already has more than 12,000 megawatts of solar and more than 6,000 MW of wind dispatched by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO,) so there is strong evidence of this folly. However, the subsidy-seekers continue to press for more solar and more wind. To learn more about this problem, please see the August 11, 2016 Chris Mooney article, "Turns Out Solar and Wind Have a Secret Friend: Natural Gas."  http://tinyurl.com/Natural-Gas-Secret

For additional background see: 

"Bridging the gap: Do fast-reacting fossil technologies facilitate renewable energy diffusion?"  Energy Policy 116 (2018) 242-256

Elena Verdolinia, Francesco Vonab , David C Popp <dcpopp@maxwell.syr.edu> (Accepted January 29, 2019)  

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2018.01.058

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Aug 28, 2019 3:37 pm GMT

California already has more than 12,000 megawatts of solar and more than 6,000 MW of wind dispatched by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO,) so there is strong evidence of this folly. 

Plus a hell of a lot more coming - and then there is that storage thing.

Note: obviously all these projects won't get built.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Aug 28, 2019 3:48 pm GMT

Here is an article that documents some of the problems with solar and wind power in California - and the superiority of nuclear power.

For such a superior resource - it doesn't seem to be performing very well.

Is the generation number for nuclear going to go up or down in the next decade Gene?

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Aug 29, 2019 4:46 am GMT

Bob,

What is clear from the chart is that nuclear has provided ZERO additional generation in the US since 2007. 

in the meantime CO2 emissions in the US electric power sector have dropped by 662 MMT betwen 2007 and 2018 and have dropped another 39MMT so far in 2019. All of this with absolutely ZERO help from nuclear.

The scammers in this case are nuclear advocates who pretend otherwise.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 29, 2019 3:53 pm GMT

Joe, anyone who thinks nuclear is a scam, that there's big money to be made, is a fool. It's so economical, so cheap, so effective, there's not enough stuff to sell.

Solar panels and wind turbines are cash cows by comparison.

Jeff Green's picture
Jeff Green on Sep 2, 2019 5:52 pm GMT

The owners of nuclear in Illinois disagree with you on this. Nuclear is getting subsidies which was part of the deal made to increase renewable energy in Illinois. Nuclear is getting old and uneconomical in Illinois. It is also very expensive to build and cannot even come close to the speed needed to avoid climate catastrophy.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source#Lazard_(2018)

Lazard (2018)[edit]

In November, 2018, Lazard found that not only are utility-scale solar and wind cheaper than fossil fuels, "[i]n some scenarios, alternative energy costs have decreased to the point that they are now at or below the marginal cost of conventional generation." Overall, Lazard found "The low end levelized cost of onshore wind-generated energy is $29/MWh, compared to an average illustrative marginal cost of $36/MWh for coal. The levelized cost of utility-scale solar is nearly identical to the illustrative marginal cost of coal, at $36/MWh. This comparison is accentuated when subsidizing onshore wind and solar, which results in levelized costs of energy of $14/MWh and $32/MWh, respectively. ... The mean levelized cost of energy of utility-scale PV technologies is down approximately 13% from last year and the mean levelized cost of energy of onshore wind has declined almost 7%."[40]

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 3, 2019 1:48 am GMT

Jeff, Lazard is an investment bank, with $billions invested in selling solar panels and wind turbines to the public. Apparently they're doing a good job - it's certainly not the intermittent, unpredictable electricity their products generate.

"The owners of nuclear in Illinois disagree with you on this...Nuclear is getting old and uneconomical in Illinois."

Sounds like something Lazard might write. Instead of salesmen in the throes of a dying industry, let's ask Exelon, the owners of Illinois nuclear, how sad and disappointed they've been with their nuke plants:

"Nuclear power plants produce more than 60% of the nation's clean energy - more than all other clean-energy sources combined. Without emitting carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, or nitrogen oxides as part of the power generation process, nuclear energy is the only large-scale source that operate consistently in even the most extreme weather conditions, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Exelon runs the largest nuclear fleet in America. We're proud to play such an important role in protecting our environment and our future."

Jeff Green's picture
Jeff Green on Sep 6, 2019 1:15 am GMT

Bob

 

 

live in Illinois and Nuclear here needed subsidies or they were going to shut it down. That was their barganing position. 

 

 

Cost of electricity by source from wiki

 

Bloomberg (2018)[edit]

Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates a "global LCOE for onshore wind [of] $55 per megawatt-hour, down 18% from the first six months of [2017], while the equivalent for solar PV without tracking systems is $70 per MWh, also down 18%." Bloomberg does not provide its global public LCOEs for fossil fuels, but it notes in India they are significantly more expensive: "BNEF is now showing benchmark LCOEs for onshore wind of just $39 per MWh, down 46% on a year ago, and for solar PV at $41, down 45%. By comparison, coal comes in at $68 per MWh, and combined-cycle gas at $93." [41][42]

IRENA (2018)[edit]

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released a study based on comprehensive international datasets in January 2018 which projects the fall by 2020 of the kilowatt cost of electricity from utility scale renewable projects such as onshore wind farms to a point equal or below that of electricity from conventional sources.[43]

Banks (2018)[edit]

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) says that "renewables are now cheapest energy source", elaborating: "the Bank believes that renewable energy markets in many of the countries where it invests have reached a stage where the introduction of competitive auctions will lead both to a steep drop in electricity prices and an increase in investment." [44] The World Bank (World Bank) President Jim Yong Kim agreed on 10 October 2018: "We are required by our by-laws to go with the lowest cost option, and renewables have now come below the cost of [fossil fuels]." [45]

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 6, 2019 5:58 am GMT

Jeff, nuclear works all the time. Wind does not. You're comparing apples to coconuts.

To compare the price of intermittent renewable energy to that of dispatchable baseload electricity, you'd need to include the cost of the energy necessary to fill in the blanks - times when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing. Almost exclusively, natural gas fills that role, and on average it's about 70% of every day.

Get back to me with the cost of what it would cost for gas to fill in for Topaz Solar Farm when it's useless - to provide 450 MW for 70% of every day. Add that to the costs of running Topaz, and we have a comparison.

Otherwise, it's only the same tired sales pitch renewables advocates have employed to sell sources of energy that don't work very well, and never will.

 

Stephen Leftly's picture
Stephen Leftly on Sep 3, 2019 3:36 pm GMT

The basic premise of the Nelson paper is wrong. 
If a large nuclear power station is retired before there is sufficient renewable energy there to replace it, AND every other fossil source has been not been retired,  it is inevitable the consumption of fossil fuels will increase unless magically people stop using energy  (not going to happen).
The sequence of events should be:
1)Add renewables then retire coal power stations.
2)Add more renewables then retire “natural” gas power stations.
3)Add more renewables then retire nuclear.
(also we need to understand that as part of this process we are moving all other energy users , transportation etc. etc. to electricity so it is far from a one to one scenario).

This paper you cite is yet another false dichotomy put forward by the nuclear power industry and its supporters.   Retiring a nuclear reactor does not need to increase fossil fuel consumption… unless it is done in the wrong order.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 5, 2019 6:02 pm GMT

Stephen, your sequence omits the fact consumption continues at night and when the wind isn't blowing.

That alone is a deal-breaker for renewables.

Stephen Leftly's picture
Stephen Leftly on Sep 7, 2019 1:52 pm GMT

That is why we need (a) a much better grid system (b) more renewable generation with energy storage - ie we over produce when conditions are favorable and store the excess for when conditions are not. 

Apart from the usual mentioned options ( ie hydro and battery) an option I like is to generate hydrogen and store that and burn that in current gas turbines insteead of fossil fuels as it reuses existing genration infrastructure.  Current I am pretty sure we can add up to 50% hydrogen to existing gas pipelines without issue  -beyond that I have not see numbers that I can trust - not that we can't go higher I just have not seen good research on it.   

There are those that would say that if you look at the round trip cost of creating hydrogen and then burning it is very inefficient - they have a point but the bigger issue in this case is notefficiency per se but what is the cost of energy going into producing the hydrogen.  Since the premise is that we are using excess generation capacity the variable cost is effectively zero.

I also think it is wrong to only look at "cost" as the deciding issue.  It is important but there are other factors that are more important.  It is a bit like buying car tires - you CAN by really cheap ones and save money but that does not help you when need to brake hard on a wet surface... cheap tires, like cheap energy, can be a very bad investment.     

The problems I have with nuclear are (a) when it goes wrong it goes VERY badly wrong - so much so there is no commercial insurance that covers it.  Just from a mere monetary viewpoint you and I the taxpayer are on the hook after the first $500 million.  and (b) nuclear proliferation.  

I have done a very rough estimate as to how many existing sized reactors we would need in the US to totaly decarbonize our  economy and the number I come up with is in the range of 1,000 to 3,000 depending on assumptions.   I must admint that number suprised me!  I just can't see us building that many reactors over the next 30 or 50 years...or fankly anywhere close to it.  ( if for no other reason we don't have enough nuclear engineers to support a program that size - in fact we have probably reached the point we don't have enough to even properly support the current fleet of ~100 reactors and those that are around are rapidly retiring..I kid you not on this - but that is another story.) 

     

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Sep 5, 2019 5:00 pm GMT

I am sorry to say, that in these "Donald Trump times", we need rock solid, hard evidence for your allegations. 

When any generating source - ie. natural gas powered sources - are "spinning" as you say - they are down, using almost NOTHING in terms of energy. They are on stand by, spending maybe 1% of the usual power consumption when generating power.

With the new heat storages and Thermal Electricity Generators - whether these are Peltier based or Stirling or Steam - (there are even others..) - have no emissions what so ever. I have personally worked with those in many contexts, and most recently, the Danish RISØ - research laboratory in Energy has set full sails - put top priority on such kinds of energy generation. This is dated March 2019 - only 6 months ago. They expect to have solutions ready within 5 years to provide fully implementable solutions. I have in the company Nexus 7 (some years back) worked with similar solutions. Right now, working for Rational Intuitive, we are setting up a prototype with stone storage. We are in conversations as I write these lines - with Geothermal Energy providers on establishing a mid scale solar concentrator solution which will heat up a mountain (!), and then them boys from the Geothermal will extract the energy starting some 3-4 months after we have started heating the mountain.

NONE of the above solutions poses any of the 70,000-years-with-highly-dangerious-and-radioactive-nuclear-waste. 

NONE of the above thereby implicitly backs any proliferation of nuclear arms.

It is key, when we discuss renewable energy, to discuss facts. I would like more people who have their own, personally experienced experiences to share, and hear what you guys have tried, what you have failed, what you did to mitigate.

I would like to know more about these idling scenarios - and I would like the detailed reports shared, such that we are not basing our conversations here in this professional industrial forum on hear-say and rumour mongering.

Therefore, Gene, please share the reports with us, here. You can upload them on Google Drive and share the link in public with us here for our information and discussion.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 5, 2019 6:11 pm GMT

David, where did you see 70,000 Years With Highly Dangerous And Radioactive Nuclear Waste? Is it available on DVD?

Just in case you weren't kidding, there's no such thing. But it's kind of fun to pretend.

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Sep 6, 2019 6:41 pm GMT

Sorry. I was wrong. The Plutonium-239 half life is 24,100 years, leading to several hundred thousands of years, before we have even just reduced the Plutonium-239 to maybe more workable sizes. 

You are right - it was not 70,000 years - but hundreds of thousands of years. One seemingly credible reference is here: https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/plutonium.html

Please correct me if I am wrong, and please let me know if a process has been created by which we break down Plutionium-239 to less dangerious substances - if we actually do this?

The way I have understood it, Plutonium is so poisonous, so a small ball of the size of a grapefruit - distributed well - would kill mankind. 

We are therefore discussing that nuclear power leaves us with super toxic, and super radioactive, and dangerous, nuclear waste, which mankind has not yet found a solution to. 

There are thousands of reports out there, amongst which, one book "Radioactive Wastelands" may be the toughest compilation of them all, documenting these Radioactive Wastelands. 

We are also discussing that for instance Tjernobyl - which together with 3 Mile Island, Fukishima, and more than 50 documented serious disasters and other accidents - some nature caused, some man-made - would not take place in an environment without nuclear power. 

I am therefore discussing ways to produce the energy we need, on a way where we produce it via what we have - being it sun, wind, water, geothermal - and store it for use outside of the windy, sunny, watery times - and then harvest it without these dangerous consequences. 

If we discuss the storage of radioactive waste - then it is hard evidence documented that several of the waste areas are leaking - that the containers decompose due to the radioactive radiation from the stuff they contain - and start leaking. There are several such storage stations where governments do not know what to do.

I stand to be corrected - but Nuclear power seem to me - unless you correct me - to be one of the worst disasters created by man.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 9, 2019 7:04 pm GMT

David, half-life is often inaccurately used as a barometer of danger to human health, a metric without any basis in physics, being perpetuated by the unlimited capacity of the anti-nuclear imagination alone. Now for some fact:

• The most dangerous radioactive materials are the ones which decay the fastest.
• Yes, plutonium-239's half-life is 24,100 years. It's safe enough to hold in your hands.
• Radiation emanating from uranium-235, a softball-sized sphere of which destroyed Hiroshima, is incapable of penetrating human skin (don't eat it though, it's toxic).
• Nuclear waste (or more correctly, spent fuel) is dangerous due to the presence of decay products - radioactive isotopes generated by nuclear fission - and like chlorine, benzene, arsenic, or mercury they can be deadly.
• Again: the most dangerous radioactive materials are the ones which decay the fastest. After ~500 years of storage spent fuel will be less radioactive than the ground you walk upon every day.
• Arsenic and mercury remain deadly forever.

I don't mean to scare you with the last point, only to let you know that if you're not trembling in bed over the 50 tons of mercury released into the environment by U.S. coal plants each year, you certainly have no reason to be worried about nuclear waste. Nuclear engineers are responsible types; they properly dispose of their waste.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 9, 2019 8:41 pm GMT

only to let you know that if you're not trembling in bed over the 50 tons of mercury released into the environment by U.S. coal plants each year, you certainly have no reason to be worried about nuclear waste

I wouldn't jump to 'if coal is healthy than so is nuclear' as a good go-to argument, though. Many people don't want those pollutants from coal either

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 10, 2019 4:48 am GMT

There aren't any pollutants from nuclear, Matt. Nuclear engineers properly dispose of their waste.

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Sep 10, 2019 7:27 pm GMT

Bob, if you were right about what you write, then why do we have these waste fields which nobody knows what to do with? 

If you were right about this, then why is Tjernobyl and other disaster locations sealed off from the public, 5, 10, 20, 30 and more years after the disasters?

Scare? Me? I have survived - by Gods Grace - reading your articles :-)

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 18, 2019 12:49 am GMT

Not sure which waste fields you're talking about, David, but they sound like social media marketing used to generate page clicks.

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone remains in effect, it's roughly 34 miles in diameter. Though people are supposed to stay out of it, it's not generally known that after Unit #4 exploded in 1986, Units #1-3 right next to it continued to generate electricity for another 14 years. Workers showed up each day, did their shifts, then went home.

33 years later, radiation is less than one-hundredth of what it was day-of:
Chernobyl radiation

and there are ~200 residents who live in nearby Pripyat who show no ill effects from living there.

You may have noticed Chernobyl looked like more of a Wal-Mart than a U.S. nuclear plant - that explains why radioactivity was spread far and wide. Unlike the concrete domes surrounding U.S. nuclear plants, there was virtually zero containment - a dangerous, poorly-designed nuclear plant being run by incompetent people. Lesson being - power entails responsibility.

Maybe humans aren't responsible enough to clean up the mess they made with climate change; I hope we are. I advocate for nuclear here because it shows real promise for addressing it, and because I know the disaster we face with climate change will render Chernobyl irrelevant.
 

Stephen Leftly's picture
Stephen Leftly on Sep 17, 2019 8:02 pm GMT

I would like to agree with you Bob on "Nuclear engineers are responsible types; they properly dispose of their waste" but sadly I can't.  My evidence: Hanford,  Waste Isolation Pilot Plant  NM,  Sellafield (UK) just to name three.

In regards to WIPP : how bad is it when using the wrong sort of kitty litter causes a radiation leak and overcomes something that was supposed to last thousands of years!   See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_and_radiation_accidents_and_incidents#Radiation_and_other_accidents_and_incidents.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 18, 2019 12:46 am GMT

Hanford? Sellafield? Stephen, if we evaluated aviation safety based on records from 60 years ago, no one would ever set foot in an airplane.

We don't, of course - fatalities have been reduced by at least a factor of ten. When I was a kid in the 1960s-1970s, at least one commercial U.S. airliner went down every year.

"...how bad is it when using the wrong sort of kitty litter causes a radiation leak and overcomes something that was supposed to last thousands of years!"

The leak at WIPP was never a danger to anyone, and never will be. So if you ask me how "bad" it was, the mundane answer is simple: it wasn't bad at all.

But fear has never depended on an accurate assessment of danger; more often, it's the product of an exaggerated one. The people who create anti-nuclear articles on Wikipedia, like the one to which you link, are actually excited by the fear nuclear energy inspires. It's a well-understood psychological phenomenon:

"For viewers to get enjoyment from a scary situation such as watching a horror movie, they must also be aware that they’re in a safe environment. Horror entertainment can trigger the fight-or-flight response, which comes with a boost in adrenaline, endorphins and dopamine while viewers are in a safe space. The brain can process surroundings and conclude that the experience isn’t a true threat. This is part of the reason horror fans habitually watch things that elicit this response."

Don't try to explain radiation to them - if they understood it, it wouldn't excite them anymore. Quite literally, they don't want to know the truth - and in 2019 that's become the only real obstacle standing in the way of nuclear energy, and a realistic, practical solution to climate change.

Stephen Leftly's picture
Stephen Leftly on Sep 19, 2019 3:04 pm GMT

For some reason I can not reply to Bob Meinetz post below - so I will do it here:

1) It was you who made the catagortical claim that Nuclear engineers are responsible types: they have not been in the past and they may not be today and who the hell knows what they will be in the future. 

2) If you look at the wikipedia entry is goes from the begining all the way up till today.  Not so much "60 years ago" those mentioned were just stunningly clear examples of so called "responsible nuclear engineers" being anything but responsible. 

3) As regards to WIPP it was an example of extreame carelessness.  These containers were supposed to be good for 10,000 years... given that they could not even withstand somebody using the wrong "kitty litter" who the hell knows what other flaws in specificantion, manufacture usage  etc..  exist.  The fact that such a stupidly, stupid mistake could be made AND WAS NOT CAUGHT till the container ruptured tells us a whole lot about the systems and quality control in place.     

4) Nuclear proliferation is a huge issue.  More reactors, more chances something to go wrong and more chances for terrorist to gain access. 
  
5) I don't need "radiation" explained to me.  I covered that as a part of my Phyics degree.   

6) Bring in airlines is just an example of "whataboutism".  We don't have to live with flying in aircraft made 60 years ago... while nuclear reactors and their waste products will be with us for millenia. Totally differnt.  Just a totally lame arguement. 

          

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 20, 2019 6:28 am GMT

"1) It was you who made the catagortical (sic) claim that Nuclear engineers are responsible types: they have not been in the past and they may not be today and who the hell knows what they will be in the future."

How many people have died from radiation at Hanford, Stephen? None. How do I know? In 1986, responsible radiation biophysicists from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducted a thorough investigation into that possibility, that's how:

"Data presented at Symposium on Hanford The Public Health and the Law
Spokane, Washington May 3, 1986

Radiation exposures at Hanford have been deliberately limited as a protection to the worker. This means that if current estimates of radiation risks, which have been determined by national and international groups, are correct, it's highly unlikely that noticeable radiation-induced health effects will be identified among Hanford workers.

These estimates come primarily from studies of groups of people who have been exposed at very high levels of radiation. A study of particular importance in determining these estimates is that of the Japanese atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Extensive efforts have been made to estimate the doses of these individuals and to determine whether or not they eventually develop cancer and other diseases. Because of these efforts, we have fairly good estimates of the health effects resulting from high level radiation exposure."

Re:

2) If you look at the wikipedia entry is goes from the begining all the way up till today.  Not so much "60 years ago" those mentioned were just stunningly clear examples of so called "responsible nuclear engineers" being anything but responsible.

I did look at the Wikipedia entry, it's a textbook example of elevating mundane maintenance events to the status of pending Armageddon, an example of the irrational hysteria surrounding nuclear energy from its inception. It's also evident in the tone of your response. Me? I'm done trying to educate someone who is viscerally excited by fear - that, I know from experience, is a losing battle. Have a nice day.

Geoff Thomas's picture
Geoff Thomas on Sep 18, 2019 10:05 pm GMT

One of the great benefits that Gas powered electrical generation was touted, was it's ability to start up quickly, as opposed to the old coalfired plants that took many hours to start up and even significantly ramp up so often best to keep them running as spinning reserve. Has it now been found necessary to keep gas fired as spinning reserve? - was it always a con or are there some very poorly built gas gens out there?

Another strength of gas was it's ability to fill in for renewables, although as they get more and more connected and diversified, and more and more storage built, that need is shrinking, - and as gas gets used up and more fracked gas is found, sometimes aqifers are damaged and the farmers lose their livelihood, so best if less and less gas is used.

That example of  18,000 megawatts of renewables is not a testament to folly but a success event.. 

And it is just common sense, whenever you have renewable input you don't have to pay for Gas, so the more renewables the cheaper can be the electricity, which makes for happy customers and a more competitive economy.

Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Aug 29, 2019 9:13 pm GMT

Here is more on this - I just read this article -https://www.nonfictionfilm.com/news/planet-of-the-humans-possibly-most-bracing-environmental-documentary-ever-made-premieres-at-traverse-city-film-festival.  This is an eye opener for sure - things we dont think about - the resouces it takes to make solar panels and wind turbines.  The life cycle of these products and what happens when they no longer work? Landfills?  The question here is are we just replacing one bad for another or does one have less impact than the other?    

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Sep 2, 2019 1:54 pm GMT

See my response elsewhere in this thread. We are constructing solar concentrators for domestic use. We have indeed calculated any and all environmental impacts, and in short - the CO2 being used to produce materials etc. for at least our solar concentrator - comes back within 1.8 week of operation. Our system does not contain one single compound material - thereby 100% of the materials are reusable (with exception of the printed circuit board - which we are working on making recyclable too). Etc. etc. - read the article. It contains any and all factual calculations we have done ourselves. Please challenge those - or have someone challenge them. We deliver energy, 99.16% less costly than the usual grid electricity (based on Danish figures). You would have to adjust the savings to your kWh price in your grid.

Sincerely

Rational Intuitive IVS

David Svarrer

CEO

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 3, 2019 5:50 am GMT

David, if solar concentrators deliver electricity 99.16% less costly than "the usual grid electricity (based on Danish figures)", why are Danish electricity prices the highest in Europe?

Stephen Leftly's picture
Stephen Leftly on Sep 20, 2019 11:43 pm GMT

Wind and solar have very significantly less environmental impact  than just about any other form of generation.   Below is a link to a research paper on the subject.  In summary the newest large wind turbines have an enery payback vs fossil fuels of less than a year. 

https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy13osti/57187.pdf

 

Or for a deeper analysis see: 
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321683340_Understanding_future_emissions_from_low-carbon_power_systems_by_integration_of_life-cycle_assessment_and_integrated_energy_modelling 

(but this paper is harder to get and you have to request it . However from the  abstract:   " For a climate protection scenario, we project life-cycle emissions from fossil fuel carbon capture and sequestration plants of 78-110 gCO2eq kWh⁻¹, compared with 3.5-12 gCO2eq kWh⁻¹ for nuclear, wind and solar power for 2050. Life-cycle emissions from hydropower and bioenergy are substantial (~100 gCO2eq kWh⁻¹), but highly uncertain. )

However one should be aware that these estimates range widely and basically the best that can be said is that renewables and nuclear are much, much lower than any fossil fuel technology including carbon capture and storage.

 
As for when they no longer work most of the energy intensive materials are highly recyclable. Steel is already highly recycled as is copper​​​​​​​ and the market for the very powerful magnets is growing. 

As usual though some of the cheapest and lowest carbon costs are efficiency gains. According to the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory something like two thirds of the energy we consume is wasted, so there is room for improvment. 

   

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Sep 2, 2019 1:50 pm GMT

Dear Clean Power Professionals Group

This is naturally an interesting little movie, and I guess it has potential to stir the waters. 

However. 

Renewables fake? Let me reveal some factual figures which may leave your jaws hanging down on the table, as you are currently wasting your money paying for Grid-based energy

I am, as I write these lines here, spearheading a development of a heat generating solar concentrator for domestic use (from 6 square meter reflectors up to some 60 square meters (the latter for homes in Denmark, sized 400 square meter and above)), which, based on prototype cost pricing, delivers heat energy from the sun at a cost, 119 times lower - let me repeat such that we do not swallow the breakfast with the wind pipe - hundred and nineteen times lower - cost per kiloWattHour delivered, than hitherto known pricing.

If you still did not get it - because some asks us severally: Yes, you will be SAVING 99.9916% in your heat energy bill

This is based on Danish pricing of kWh - which is - in Danish Kroner - DKK 2.26 per kWh delivered to the house/building. This Danish cost would resemble some USD 0.33 or thereabout per kWh delivered to your home in the USA. USA pricing is different, so do your math. Maybe if you pay USD 0.166 for the kWh delivered to your homes in USA, your savings are only 59.5 times. Well - worth going for, I would presume?

What is the CARBON FOOTPRINT of this solar concentrator monster?

The carbon footprint of the biggest system - a 60,000 Watt solar concentrator - resembles 244 liter of petrol. The energy equivalent of 244 liter of petrol resembles pretty accurately 10 times more in kWh - namely 2443 kWh. This system of 60,000 Watt solar concentrator would, in some of the least solar influxed regions (1200 kWh per square meter per year) produce a whopping 72,000 kWh in a year.

Saving 99.9916% on your heat energy budget

Thereby, the net savings in CO2 (if one calculates that angle) - resembles that after operation in 2443 / 72000 * 52 weeks  = 1.8 weeks time, the CO2 has been balanced out. The remaining 49 years and 50 weeks, the CO2 savings are of a similar level - 244 * 2.68 =  653.92 kilogram of CO2 ever 1.8 weeks. this resembles that the net savings of CO2 over the life span of the solar concentrator of 60,000 Watt, resembles 244 * 2.68 / 1.8 * 52 * (49 + 50/52) = 943824 kilogram of CO2, or, net saving 943.824 TON of CO2.

The system itself pays for itself after a maximum of 2 years (this is including the cost of maintenance for 50 years).. 

 

Why 50+ years?

The system life span is estimated to be some 50+ years (It is made by stainless steel throughout, and particular plastic polymers with 50+ outdoor life span).

The CO2 waste from producing the solar concentrator has been saved after 1.8 week of use - or - 12 days of use. The remaining 49 years, 50 weeks and 2 days - it saves 944 Ton CO2...

Even so, we have designed it with 100% return to base of all materials and components, either due to repair, maintenance or end-of-life. Due to that we do not glue even 2 components together, the only thing we have not yet solved the return of, is the microcomputer, which is 6 x 8 centimeter in measurement (a typical printed circuit).

 

The last 1 centimeter to Cradle-to-Cradle?

We are working on that one too - such that we, without failure, can promise a 100.0% return of all goods - and not only that - we can promise an environment friendly reuse of all components, or end-of-life service leaving no environment footprint. 

We are then - subsequent to that - going to go backwards, up the supply chain, to ensure that when we grow bigger - we safeguard the production facilities who deliver to us the spareparts.

So, to be a bit particular - we can provide energi for something like USD 0,0028 per kWh - at the prototype stage. We expect that the cost will come down when local production of this system comes up on a license, in every country between 65th Northern latitude and 60th Southern latitude in this world. 

Therefore, Mr. Michael Moore - while I indeed admire your initiative, to keep the renewable energy sectors on their toes - which is indeed commendable (!), there ARE indeed providers of such renewable energy, where no other known form of energy can get any foothold in competition. 

Blue energy? 

Maybe not - but surely - Blue Ocean Business...

Please, Mr. Moore - challenge me on this. Any and ALL calculations are laid bare above. Only thing missing is you to pick the figures apart, and confront us if we have made any errors. 

Sincerely

Rational Intuitive 

David T. Svarrer

CEO.

 

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Sep 2, 2019 3:10 pm GMT

Amazing.  Some people will believe anybody if what they say confirms their existing beliefs.  Conversely, they reject anything that puts those beliefs in question. 

Michael Moore is, if nothing else, a shit stirrer! That´s why we love him.  But, for heaven´s sake, don´t take him too seriously, much less literally!

John Gage's picture
John Gage on Sep 2, 2019 3:36 pm GMT

The efforts of the past 30 years have been ineffective.  Subsidies, incentives, and regulatory efforts did not do the job.  Look at the Keeling Curve (1700-present - https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/) and the two-page Highlights section in the Executive Summary of the Fourth National Climate Assessment v1 (https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/executive-summary/) - our global warming progress report and teacher remarks.  We failed to address the underlying market failure, so the efforts were insufficient.  Carbon Fee and Dividend addresses the fundamental external costs market-pricing problem, so it will reduce emissions in the US and globally rapidly and effectively.  It also protects families, helps the poor, and creates jobs:  http://citizensclimatelobby.org/why-carbon-fee-and-dividend/.

Jeff Green's picture
Jeff Green on Sep 2, 2019 6:37 pm GMT

 

The nuclear plants in Illinois are not any where near flexible nor is the utility going to invest in them to make them that way. They are basically waiting for their end of life scenarios. Most likely the customers will pay for decomissioning of them. VRE (variable renewable energy) is the future and nuclear just may not fit the scenario.

 

https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/5/18/17359730/wind-solar-power-grid-electricity-managers

 

If nuclear plants are to survive in a high-VRE scenario (and climate hawks should want them to), they must become must more flexible, capable of ramping up and down in response to swings in VRE. That means “increasing R&D on flexible nuclear plant design and operations, addressing technical regulations on nuclear plant operations, or considering the size of the required incentive (if at all) to either keep nuclear plants operating in a low or high VRE future despite output curtailment, or to increase operational flexibility via plant retrofits.”

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 3, 2019 1:47 am GMT

Either that, Jeff, or we could cart solar panels and wind turbines to the hazardous waste dump, and generate all of our electricity with nuclear.

Nuclear is perfectly capable of load-following the smooth curves of consumer demand, but not the erratic spikes of VRE. Dump VRE, and our problem is solved.

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