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Roadmap to Nowhere: The Myth of Powering the Nation 100% With Renewable Energy

Renewables have captured the public’s imagination, but can they actually be scaled up to power the entire nation, ask Mike Conley and Tim Maloney? In their new ebook, available at RoadmapToNowhere.com, they present their reasons why they are convinced 100% renewables is a myth – and why we should rely primarily on nuclear power.

Extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence.

The claim that the United States, much less the entire world, can be adequately powered by 100% renewable energy is extraordinary, indeed.

The claim that we can have an all-renewables grid with no backup from fueled power plants, and practically no energy storage, is even more extraordinary.

To confirm or dispel our doubts, we ran the numbers on the industry’s most highly regarded proposal, the Solutions Project’s 50-State Roadmap to 2050.

We unpack the 35-year strategy in our short, non-technical online book Roadmap to NowhereWith all due respect to the Solutions Project, it’s not a solution.

Fuel-free systems

For $15.2 trillion, with no fueled backup and next to no energy storage, the Roadmap proposes a 1,591-gigawatt national grid of 100% renewables:

  • A half-million ginormous 5-megawatt wind turbines, on land equal to New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and New Hampshire, and in open sea regions equal to West Virginia
  • 18 billion square meters of solar panels, on land equal to Maryland and Rhode Island
  • Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) with thermal energy storage, on land equal to Connecticut
  • Rooftop solar on 75 million homes, and nearly three million businesses

To compare, a 1,591-GW nuclear grid would cost less than $7 trillion, depending on the reactors used, on land equal to half of Long Island. With factory-built reactors and a streamlined regulatory process, it could be completed in ten years.

The essential difference between nuclear and renewables comes down to this: Fuel is energy storage. Renewables are fuel-free systems.

Mother Nature stores energy in substances we call fuel: stable, storable, portable stuff that we can use to generate power, when and where we want it.

Civilization has advanced by exploiting ever more energy-dense fuels: wood, coal, petroleum, gas and nuclear. The recent interest in renewables appears to be a reversal of this historical trend, in the sense that wind, water, and sunlight are typically regarded as less dense forms of fuel.

After sixty years of worldwide commercial nuclear power, the death rate per terawatt hour is lower than for solar or wind

Except they’re not really fuels at all. Renewables are fuel-free systems that exploit ambient natural phenomena. But the light and motion they exploit are not stable, storable, or transportable. They must either be utilized on the spot to make energy, or converted into something that can be stored for later use, such as the electricity in a battery, or the potential energy of water pumped uphill for hydroelectric power.

Renewable “fuel” may be free, but collecting and exploiting its energy is expensive. Converting it into smooth, dependable, on-demand power is even more expensive. Wind and sunshine ebb and flow, come and go. They should never be relied upon without substantial backup and storage.

Hyped-up fear

Since it’s an undisputed fact that fuel can power the nation, you would think the response to climate change would be a transition to carbon-free fuel, rather than a transition to fuel-free systems. In our view, the hyped-up fear of radiation and waste is the reason we don’t already have a nuclear grid.

No one died from the Fukushima meltdowns or from Three Mile Island, and no one will ever build a reactor like Chernobyl again. After sixty years of worldwide commercial nuclear power, the death rate per terawatt hour is lower than for solar or wind (and of course much much lower than for fossil fuels). And that’s with factoring in the total projected casualties from Chernobyl.

Nuclear’s energy density is millions of times greater than wind and solar, with less than 1% of the footprint. The technology is well proven, the fuel is abundant, and the energy is carbon-free.

Reactors could even power commercial shipping, and the factories to synthesize carbon-neutral fuel for air transport. Either one would make a serious dent in CO2 emissions.

When we run low on our finite endowment of natural gas (which should be any decade now; even sooner if we export the stuff), then what?

But instead of deploying a clean, compact and scalable technology to power the nation, a stupendous inventory of equipment is being subsidized and deployed on vast tracts of land, to collect the fitful energy of wind and sunlight.

And if it can’t be used at once, the energy must either be wasted or stored, if we can afford an adequate means of storage. But just one grid-day of storage for the bare-bones Roadmap raises the price to nearly $23 trillion.

It gets worse: Before the 35-year buildout is complete, we’ll also have to refurbish the 350,000 onshore wind turbines at least once, and the 150,000 offshore turbines three times or more.

And even when it is complete, it’ll never end: Solar panels only last about forty years. To maintain 18 billion square meters of panel, our renewable-industrial complex will have to fabricate, install, and recycle 1.23 million m2 every single day, without a break – forever.

Utility power plants should be compact sources of reliable power, free from the vagaries of weather, climate, season, or time of day, and under the operator’s control at all times. In a word, they should be decoupled from the environment.

Sprawling farms

The Roadmap would occupy over 130,000 square miles, plus the offshore region, and millions of rooftops. Utterly dependent on favorable weather, and without fueled backup or mass energy storage, its sprawling wind and solar farms will be utterly dependent on each other as well.

Fueled power plants are IN-dependent. Wind and solar farms are INTER-dependent. 

Coal, gas, hydro and nuclear can operate on their own, in any weather. But since coal is verboten and nuclear is the work of the devil, the Roadmap’s wind and solar farms will rely on natural gas training wheels, until they get their collective act together and roll with the big boys.

Before that happy day arrives (if it ever arrives), the wind and solar farms that are up and running will actually be natural gas plants, supplemented with renewables. As Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. said, “The plants that we’re building, the wind plants and the solar plants, are gas plants.”

Indeed, his Ivanpah solar farm has been hit with a penalty for excessive CO2 emissions. They apparently used 62% more methane last year than predicted.

One day of storage for the Roadmap would cost more than an entire nationwide all-nuclear grid

Which raises an interesting question: When we run low on our finite endowment of natural gas (which should be any decade now; even sooner if we export the stuff), then what?

Existing battery technology is completely inadequate to back up the grid. All the lithium mined on earth in 2016 would give us a whopping eighteen minutes of all-grid battery storage. If all the vanadium mined in 2015 were devoted to flow batteries, it would provide one minute of storage.

Pumped hydro is the only existing storage technology that can adequately scale up. The problem is, we would need 156 billion cubic meters of water to generate one grid-day of power. That’s our national fresh water consumption (tap water, irrigation, the works) for more than four months.

Even at the bargain-basement price of $0.20 per installed watt-hour, building one grid-day of pumped hydro storage would cost $7.6 trillion, more than the price of an entire nuclear grid.

That bears repeating: One day of storage for the Roadmap would cost more than an entire nationwide all-nuclear grid.

It would be folly to commit to a project like the Roadmap, hoping that a breakthrough storage technology comes along. We don’t have the time, or the money, to explore the possibilities of a fuel-free lifestyle while embarking on a quest for the holy grail of cheap storage. It already exists. It’s called fuel.

In fact, uranium fuel is so energy dense that a nuclear grid would have more than 500 days of storage built right in: the fuel rods in the core of each reactor.  

We only have this one chance at getting global de-carbonization right, so we have to build our energy future with proven and scalable technology. Because we’re not betting the farm, we’re betting the planet. And nuclear is the only carbon-free energy source that we absolutely know is up to the job.

Germany’s Energiewende is a cautionary case in point: Replacing their reactors with wind and solar has actually increased their CO2 emissions, from all the extra coal they’re burning to back up their renewables.

A fuel-free renewables grid would make every region utterly dependent on each other, whether they liked it or not. In a very real sense, a nationwide, interdependent grid would be the essence of Big Energy

And if the rest of the world follows their lead, we’ll have more to contend with than increased emissions: A global Roadmap’s solar panels would monopolize 90% of the world’s proven silver reserves, and one-third of proven copper reserves. (Transmission lines would be extra.)

In contrast, Generation-IV reactors would actually eliminate most long-distance transmission corridors. Since most of them won’t need water cooling, a Gen-4 can be placed wherever the power is needed, even in the harshest desert.

Green elephants

Aside from all the foregoing, the Roadmap has yet another drawback to consider. Once we start down that road, we’ll have to go all the way. Because the only possible chance to make the Roadmap work is to build all of it, or nearly all of it. That’s what a self-supporting, interdependent system is all about.

If we embark on a national buildout of fueled power plants and abandon the effort halfway through, we’d still have a collection of fully functioning, independent power plants. If we abandon the Roadmap halfway through, we’d have a herd of green elephants that will always need training wheels.

For the Roadmap to work, tens of thousands of wind and solar farms will have to be built in favorable weather locales. The problem is, we are nowhere near making long-term predictions about the weather. Climate yes, but weather no.

What if our wind-blown Northern Tier becomes the Northern Doldrums? What if Texas becomes the Monsoon State? A long-term weather shift could markedly degrade the productivity of wind and solar over a wide geographic area.

Go nuclear or go extinct

Supporters of renewables accept the science on climate change, and have great respect for Science Itself. And yet, they have embraced a multi-trillion-dollar scheme with a 35-year industrial mobilization, the success of which will ultimately depend upon accurate long-term weather forecasting, in a future of ever-growing climate disruption.

Political flare-ups are all but guaranteed, when a fiercely independent region finds itself exporting power to another region whose long-term weather luck has gone bad and stayed there.

A fuel-free renewables grid would make every region utterly dependent on each other, whether they liked it or not. In a very real sense, a nationwide, interdependent grid would be the essence of Big Energy.

And what happens if a region backs out of the Roadmap, and switches to, say, nuclear power? Could the Roadmap be re-drawn to work with the states that remain? Nobody knows, until we go down that road and see what transpires.

There is a school of thought that says we need to power down civilization. While it’s true that we as individuals should consume less energy, we as a global civilization actually need to power up.

Simply put, the world needs all the clean, carbon-free energy it can get. But there’s a catch: That energy source will have to be cheaper than coal, and just as reliable. Or the world will keep right on using coal.

Humans are like that. We’ve always had tribal minds, but now we have a global reach – big world, small planet. And there is no Planet B.

The good news is, the technology to cleanly power the planet already exists, without reinventing storage or hoping the weather cooperates. It can be deployed at the scale we need, precisely where we need it, in the time we have to act.

And if a nuclear-powered future seems too risky to consider, imagine growing old in a crowded, desperate, heavily-armed world of +4 degrees C, with rising seas and rolling blackouts.

The road ahead will be rough. But a reliable supply of cheap, clean and abundant energy will significantly improve our ability to adapt to climate change and mitigate its worst effects.

This is the challenge of our era, and will always be our legacy.

Go nuclear or go extinct.

By  and  

Mike Conley is a writer living in Los Angeles who has been studying energy issues for several years. Tim Maloney is a retired community college professor of Electronics Technology and Machine Control, with an MS in Electrical Engineering and a PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Toledo, and a BS in Engineering from Case Western Reserve University. 

The authors are long-time members of the Thorium Energy Alliance, an advocacy group for the widespread acceptance and deployment of thorium-fueled Molten Salt Reactors. 

They stress that they “don’t have a beef with renewables – other than the claim that they can be scaled up to power the entire national grid.”

See RoadmapToNowhere.com to read the free online book, or to download the pdf. An ebook will soon be available. 

Check out the video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7O7bB1ghqvU

Original Post

Mike Conley's picture

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Discussions

Jeff Green's picture
Jeff Green on Jan 9, 2018 6:14 pm GMT

In the argument of your favorite way of energy, you can’t live without my favorite energy, the lights will go out, etc. etc.

The future of automotive driving will be dominated by battery driven mobility. Grid storage capability from the future electric autos will be immense.

This article lacks the complete picture of what’s coming down the pipe.

Leo Klisch's picture
Leo Klisch on Jan 9, 2018 7:52 pm GMT

Once all subsidies are removed from coal,gas,nuclear, wind and solar and a substantial carbon tax is law, then states and regions can decide what’s best for their long term energy supply.
The Citizens Climate Lobby’s (CCL) is laser focused on making a carbon tax a reality.

Harry Saunders's picture
Harry Saunders on Jan 9, 2018 9:37 pm GMT

This article is 100% on the money. And beautifully articulated. Good job, guys.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Jan 10, 2018 2:07 pm GMT

Grid storage capability from the future electric autos will be immense.

Do you even math, bro?

Assume an entire US vehicle fleet with Tesla-class batteries.  250 million vehicles * 100 kWh/vehicle = 25 TWh.  Average load on the US grid is somewhat under 0.5 TW, so your “immense” storage comes to a bit over 2 days of demand.

100 kWh per vehicle is very unlikely due to resource limitations.  Far more likely is 250 million PHEVs at 10 kWh apiece, 2.5 TWh total, roughly 6 hours of storage.  This makes a good buffer for local variations and short time scales but isn’t going to do squat for solar’s overnight outage, let alone wind outages which can last weeks.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Jan 10, 2018 2:27 pm GMT

All in all, the IPNNW concluded that Fukushima cause ~20.000 deaths.

Which tells us that the IPPNW is a pack of liars (they’re apparently a branch/front for PSR).  UNSCEAR, which is an actual authority rather than an agitprop operation, came to a totally opposite conclusion:

No discernible increased incidence of radiation-related health effects are expected among exposed members of the public or their descendants.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

– 2 studies showed highly significant sudden increases of perinatal deaths in up to 9 prefectures affecting a population of ~30 million people.

Also accounted for by UNSCEAR:

The most important health effect is on mental and social well-being, related to the enormous impact of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident, and the fear and stigma related to the perceived risk of exposure to ionizing radiation. Effects such as depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms have already been reported.

You have created damage from years of panicking people over harmless radiation, and now you are attributing the effects of that damage to radiation rather than the stress you have created. 

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on Jan 10, 2018 4:12 pm GMT

Mike,

Several years ago, I wrote an article debunking Jacobson and his WWS mantras.

As yours, my analysis was also based on using the same primary energy numbers as Jacobson, and when I sent it to him, “I was wrong, he was right”, according to him.

We had some emails back and forth. He presented hid WWS report in Paris. Delegates, mostly 100% RE folks, lapped it up.

I brought to his attention his reliance on CSP storage in the US southwest would not work, unless there were a nationwide HVDC system to cover all of the US, as an overlay system, connected at many points to existing grid systems, to instantly distribute electricity to where it is needed, 24/7/365, year after year.

Such a system would cost at least $400 billion.

He did not have it in his cost estimate; at least I could not find it.

In my judgement, he:

Underestimated wind and solar capital costs/ MW.
Overestimated wind and solar capacity factors
As a result his capital cost was about 2/3 of my estimate, which would greatly increase the cost of energy/kWh of the WWS approach.

My analysis included two alternatives each with very high percentages of nuclear for all primary energy.

All is explained in this article:
http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/review-of-the-100-re-by-2050...

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on Jan 10, 2018 4:15 pm GMT

Sustain,

Please read this article about solar costs/kWh in New England.
http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/subsidized-solar-systems-cau...

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 10, 2018 5:51 pm GMT

Mike, another impressive addition to the growing library of books, studies, and academic papers arguing the earth is round, and Santa Claus doesn’t exist.

Like the mountain of evidence supporting those conclusions, the mountain of evidence against Jacobson’s baseless fantasy will never make it go away, however. People want to believe it, as much as they want to believe in Santa Claus. Those who still believe in Santa Clause are mostly under the age of eight, however.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 10, 2018 5:59 pm GMT

renewableguy, some perspective: I’ve been hearing promises about the “complete picture”, about “what’s coming down the pipe”, about the bright future of wind and solar energy for fifty years.

Without exception, those promises have turned out to be lies. Whatever might be your limit for being repeatedly lied to, I’ve reached mine.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Jan 10, 2018 6:06 pm GMT

Is there any evidence that should the U.S. resort to 50% nuclear (for example), that such a scaling would significantly reduce the costs?

France, Switzerland, Sweden, Ontario.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 10, 2018 6:06 pm GMT

Infinergy, “financial justification” is in the eye of the investor. If we base it on profitability over a 5-year investment timeline, nuclear is a loser. It’s awful. We’re better off investing in wine, dressage horses, or fine art.

Over an 80-year timeline it’s not a good investment in carbon-free energy, it’s the best. In practical terms, it’s the only investment we should be considering if we’re serious about addressing climate change.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Jan 10, 2018 6:06 pm GMT

‘Sustain’ is ‘Bas’ from the Netherlands.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 10, 2018 6:21 pm GMT

Ahh, thank you Mark. Bas Gresnigt, aka “Bentvels”, aka “Sustain”.

Sustainable would be a technology to generate electricity from Dutch persistence.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jan 11, 2018 2:58 am GMT

I don’t think we’ll have a non-trivial carbon tax in the US until we no longer need it (i.e. until we use so little fossil fuel that few users are hurt by the tax).

If we just subsidize a few new nukes each year with ITCs (and cut the $$$red-tape$$$), the nukes will get built, and we can let the market price the electricity. Simple.

If we instead try to go the renewables route, we’ll have to subsidize the renewables, then also subsidize the storage, then subsidize the hydrogen infrastructure (batteries are not enough for multiple day production shortfalls), then subsidize the time-of-use electricity use, … the list goes on and on, and gets longer (and the subsidies get bigger) as the fossil fuel penetration decreases.

Don’t forget we are 3 decades into the renewable era. If 100% renewable were viable, then big fossil fuel importing countries like Japan and France would be doing it. Instead the only non-fossil success stories are nuclear powered.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Jan 11, 2018 10:05 am GMT

Well emissions of the power sector are falling again in 2017. but sume like to blame missing advances int he heating and traffic sectors on power generation, which is not a reasonable approach. Blame it on missing political advances in the traffic and heating sector in the last 12 years. This would be worth a discussion.

Robert Hargraves's picture
Robert Hargraves on Jan 11, 2018 11:10 am GMT

The evidence is that Korea builds light water reactors for a third the cost of AP1000s in the US.

donough shanahan's picture
donough shanahan on Jan 11, 2018 12:33 pm GMT

Really?

When the energienwende came into law 2000/2001 so if we take those years and average their emissions from the electricity sector and then take 2015/2016 as comparison, we see a less than 5% reduction* or a 0.32% per year. One of the slowest in Europe mind.

And that is before we note that the BNetzA (2017) monitoring report shows that electricity sector emissions increased by 1%. And that the 2020 target is now toast.

* https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/germanys-greenhouse-gas-emiss...

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Jan 11, 2018 1:47 pm GMT

According your paper CO2 emissions of the power sector in 2002 were 372 Mio t, in 2017 according agora energiewende CO2 emissions of the power sector were 292 Mio t. https://www.agora-energiewende.de/de/presse/agoranews/news-detail/news/g... So going from 372 to 292 is a difference of 5%? please explain. During thi time import/export changed from 6,6 TWh import to about 54 TWh export in 2017 during this time.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jan 11, 2018 4:16 pm GMT

Boom.

In TX Luminant just shut down two of its large coal plants – Monticello and Sandow. Throw in St. Johns – Florida – which shutdown last week and we have a great start to what will be a record year(2018) in Coal shutdowns.

Texas
Monticello – 1,865MW
Sandow – 1,200 MW

Florida
St John’s River Park 1,252 MW

Total = 4,313 MW

You keep can keep whining about how 100% renewables will never work or get to work and cut CO2.

Timothy Maloney's picture
Timothy Maloney on Jan 11, 2018 6:58 pm GMT

“non-fossil success stories are nuclear powered” Yes, namely France, Sweden and until 2011, Japan.

Timothy Maloney's picture
Timothy Maloney on Jan 11, 2018 7:05 pm GMT

Also S. Korea’s KEPCO project in UAE. Priced at about $4.40 /Wavg , now one-fourth finished. So far, on time and on budget. And that’s Gen 3.
After Gen 3+ goes online at Sanmen, China this year, look for scaling to really kick in.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Jan 11, 2018 8:00 pm GMT

What you don’t say, Joe:

1.)  What actually replaced the output from those coal plants.  (Hint:  anywhere near the Permean basin and its massive glut of natural gas, it was natural gas.)
2.)  How far you can actually cut CO2 and climate change by substituting natural gas for coal.  (Only about 50% for CO2, and given the massive GHG-trapping power of leaked methane, natural gas is probably a net negative for the climate right now).

douglas card's picture
douglas card on Jan 11, 2018 8:46 pm GMT

18 M I L L I O N square miles is 5400 GW That’s million with an M
75 million homes plus 3 million businesses is 5000 GW
Why mention concentrated solar?
Nuclear is not remotely evil, its just far more expensive than the author states.

This is NOW. In 20 years the likelihood is VERY small we can’t figure out how to make things cheaper and better. At least based on the last several centuries. Not only will we transition to at the very least 99%, it will happen by mid century. I will fly a car before I die and I’m 65.

douglas card's picture
douglas card on Jan 11, 2018 8:49 pm GMT

Oops. 500 GW on the roof tops

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Jan 11, 2018 10:34 pm GMT

EIA:

Texas. Significant levels of natural gas-fired capacity are under construction in Texas, with 3.2 GW expected to become operational over 2016–18. …. Texas leads the United States in permit filings, with received and pending permits to construct a cumulative 6.6 GW over the 2016–18 period.

Better than coal, but not good enough.

Ike Bottema's picture
Ike Bottema on Jan 11, 2018 11:39 pm GMT

Dutch tender for 700MW unsubsidized offshore wind

No priority dispatch either? A reference would be good.

Ike Bottema's picture
Ike Bottema on Jan 11, 2018 11:46 pm GMT

Well yes. The renewables carpetbaggers foresee all kinds of entrepreneurial opportunities in building such a Rube Goldberg power supply system. And just think of the jobs such machinations provide!The mind boggles when deciding what slice of the pie to take!

Ike Bottema's picture
Ike Bottema on Jan 11, 2018 11:57 pm GMT

Speaking of Ontario, things became royally botched up in 2008 when the government, ignoring advice from power engineer experts, embarked on a wind and solar procurement boondoggle that has raised electrical supply rates much faster than the consumer price index. Our children and childrens’ children will be paying for our mistakes for at least the next two decades.

What’s particularly galling is the common belief that nuclear is causing that dramatic electricity rate increase! In actual fact, the 60% nuclear is our second least expensive power, slightly more than the least expensive 25% hydro. The remaining 15% wind and solar costs are causing all the grief!

Ike Bottema's picture
Ike Bottema on Jan 12, 2018 12:04 am GMT

Jacobson can’t sue everyone … or can he?

Ike Bottema's picture
Ike Bottema on Jan 12, 2018 12:06 am GMT

Coal plants close and gas plants with wind and solar fuel-savers replace them. Is that about right?

Ike Bottema's picture
Ike Bottema on Jan 12, 2018 12:16 am GMT

Thanks PE! It seems Bas will never accept that he’s been deluded. His anti-nuclear radiophobic FUD continues with misguided missionary zealotry. Why does he keep changing his name? I suspect he knows his sermons begin falling on deaf ears so changes his cloak hoping to begin his FUD campaign anew.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Jan 12, 2018 4:56 am GMT

But the coal plant shutdowns have resulted more from cheap natural gas than from renewables. Furthermore, the NG capacity added is sufficient that the renewables aren’t actually needed. The capital cost of the system and the cost of electricity would be lower if the renewables were simply left off.

The reason that’s not done is that ITCs provide quick profits to developers who use leveraged financing to fund the projects. The presence of the renewables does lower the net carbon emissions per MWh, but renewables + flexible NG is an expensive way to reduce carbon emissions. And it provides no evidence whatsoever that 100% renewables is feasible.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Jan 12, 2018 5:32 am GMT

I quite agree with the general thrust of this article — that the Solutions Project’s 50-state roadmap is deeply flawed. But I have to dispute some of the statements about independence vs. interdependence. Most especially the statements about “total” inter-dependence and the assertion that, once started down Jacobson’s WWS road, the roadmap would have to be followed to completion, or it would all come to nought.

There is no inherent interdependence among RE sources. (As many owners of off-grid systems could testify.) Interconnectedness is a feature of Jacobson’s roadmap, because it greatly reduces the amount of storage required. But there’s no “all or nothing” aspect to it. Except in the limited sense that service to regions that are poor in RE resources depend on it, as do the economics of the system as a whole. In the absence of cheap long-distance transmission, the isolated RE resources are local resources, and require vastly more storage capacity to serve their regions. The economic case for the system as a whole falls apart.

But then if falls apart anyway when the underlying errors are exposed. Misleading assertions about inter-dependence aren’t needed to debunk it.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Jan 12, 2018 3:36 pm GMT

“Our wind plants and solar plants, are gas plants!” — Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Mike Conley's picture
Mike Conley on Jan 12, 2018 4:20 pm GMT

18 billion square meters, not square miles.

And do you really want to commit to an all-renewables grid, and shut down all our reactors, with the hope/expectation that a cheap storage technology or a revolution in panel efficiency will magically appear when we need it?

Fuel is storage. Why re-invent the wheel?

Mike Conley's picture
Mike Conley on Jan 12, 2018 4:22 pm GMT

A thorough examination of Jacobson’s Roadmap makes it quite clear that full, nationwide interdependence is an inherent part of the strategy.

It is his assertion, not ours.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Jan 12, 2018 6:52 pm GMT

Thanks Ike. Not sure how the expensive-Ontario-nuclear misinformation gathers traction, given Canada built its last reactor in ’93.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Jan 12, 2018 7:05 pm GMT

I’ve been saying for quite some time that our electric grid relies on stockpiles.  Water stockpiled behind dams.  Coal stockpiled at power stations.  Uranium stockpiled in reactor cores.

Without those stockpiles, it fails almost instantly.  You might find better understanding and acceptance with clearer terminology.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Jan 12, 2018 7:05 pm GMT

Yes methane per molecule is a far stronger GHG per molecule than CO2 though short lived. If the US should eventually build a low carbon energy supply, e.g. via nuclear, then the surplus methane concentration breaks down quickly, seven years IIRC, unlike CO2.

I expect the worst aspect of the US switching to gas instead of nuclear is that the rest of the world, to the extent it follows suit, has no cheap gas and resorts to more coal instead. Another 50 to 100 GW of new coal power came online globally in 2016.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Jan 12, 2018 7:51 pm GMT

Does Jacobson call it interdependence? “Interdependence” implies (to me at least, and evidently to you, judging by what you’ve written) that one part of the system can’t operate without all the other parts. “Interconnected” is what the elements of his hypothetical system are.

I believe that Jacobson’s simulation did employ a control algorithm that had global knowledge of load, supply, and storage status in all parts of the system. It used that knowledge to set the control parameters for all elements in each time slice of the simulation. So all the control settings were interdependent in that sense. There’s much that could be said about that, but it doesn’t mean what you seem to have taken it to mean. There’s no inherent feature preventing operation of one portion of the system independent of others. It’s only an issue of optimization.

Mike Conley's picture
Mike Conley on Jan 12, 2018 8:53 pm GMT

Peak or average? 500 GW peak boils down to perhaps 100GW avg.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Jan 13, 2018 2:01 am GMT

methane per molecule is a far stronger GHG per molecule than CO2

About 120x, if memory serves.

surplus methane concentration breaks down quickly, seven years IIRC

EPA says a decade, chartsbin says 12 years which is more consistent with what I recall as well as other sources.

One major issue for methane is if its removal mechanism can be saturated.  Saturating the removal pathway would make removal linear rather than exponential and makes runaway warming effects much more of a threat.

donough shanahan's picture
donough shanahan on Jan 15, 2018 1:56 pm GMT

@ Helmut

If you are going to comment, at least have the courtesy of responding honestly. I told you how I calculated the 5% figure exactly. If you had had the courtesy of responding to what I wrote in my post, you would have read this.

Furthermore “my paper” is the very same source you are quoting, AGORA.

Further why use 2002 was the baseline. The energiewende was well in force by then. False basis perhaps?

Lastly using the linked to power point slides the 292 figure for emissions is as yet precautionary and not official. But if we take it at face value, then emissions from the average 2 year baseline around 2000-2001 versus 2016-2017 have declined about ~9%. So ~9% over 17 years. Are you trying to say that 0.5% decline a year is good news?

That rate of decline is why they have dumped the 2020 targets and why Germany is very slow to decarbonise. But it seems you advocate for this.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on Jan 15, 2018 4:52 pm GMT

(There’s a reason we call him “Helmut Coal”.)

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Jan 15, 2018 5:05 pm GMT

I cited the numbers presented in the paper of your document, ant this years value, and asked where you see the 5% reduction from 2002 and now. I do neither see a 5 nor a 9% decline please eplain where you see them if not in the numbers you referenced?

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