Tuesday, May 31, 2011

To do list for proponents of various energy technologies

What solar power proponents need to do:

- Demonstrate that solar power can be a baseload provider. How: Recruit a city of 50,000-60,000 to be powered by solar power (and maybe wind) with no fossil fuels or nuclear power as backup.

- Construct a modeling study from now until 2050 where:

- No new nuclear has been constructed and fossil fuel energy generation has
been reduced to at least 0-5% of 2011 levels (assuming some potential for
application of CCS).

- Slow, but rational rates of growth for biomass and geothermal (0.5-1.5% per year).

- Assume three principle scenarios of future global energy use: down 10%, up 10% and up 33% (despite the publicity about the gains that could be made by improving efficiency it is reasonable to anticipate more global energy use in the future due to continued economic development in Brazil, parts of
Africa, India and China).

- Wind power can represent anywhere from 3% to 15% of global energy generation with an average real-world generation capacity of 25%.

- Model energy demand over four distinct periods: early morning, early
afternoon, late afternoon/evening and late night and how available energy
generation technologies would meet this demand;

- Create a specific plan for the construction of solar power infrastructure asking exactly where, how much, at what cost, etc. This information must be very detailed, ‘this area here from latitude coordinates x and y and longitude coordinates a and b will house x number of mirrors, PV or whatever generating an average of x between hour x and hour y’ instead of ‘built a lot in the Mojave Desert over some arbitrary x by x area’.

- Calculate how much raw materials, including rare earths, will be needed to construct all of infrastructure for solar power including material extract rates relative to construction rates. In addition determine where these materials will come from and what production rates will be required to ensure stable and clean acquisition streams;

- Identify the best storage system apart from pumped hydro, which will normally not have applicable association with high quality solar locations (not a lot of pumped hydro availability in deserts). Calculate storage scale requirement and associated economical costs for this storage medium for required backup amount (still uncalculated due to lack of real-world large scale solar applications).

What wind power proponents need to do:

- Demonstrate that wind power can actually significantly contribute to the energy profile of a future energy infrastructure. Currently most wind power, even in countries with very high wind power penetration like Denmark and Germany, is heavily supported by the existing fossil fuel baseload. Due to this support most anti-wind individuals argue that for all of the wind power that has been installed, very little actual absolute carbon emission reduction has occurred in response. Wind power proponents need to produce a very specific report describing exactly how highly variable would operate without the fossil fuel baseload backbone to fill in the gaps.

- Create new energy generation models accounting for future wind speed predictions based on the anticipated change in global wind speeds due to the shrinking deltaT between Arctic and Temperate regions. There appears to be information that wind speed in most scenarios will decrease with larger standard deviations from the mean average due to the higher probability of tornadoes and hurricane formation. More Information

- Plan out the necessary elements balancing production between further wind power penetration and manufacture of electrical vehicles due to competition between rare earths and their potential shortages, especially yearly production shortfalls in neodymium and dysprosium. More Information

- Determine if constructing more conventional wind turbines is practical due to the increasing demands for conventional raw materials such as steel and concrete. The inherent low MW/single structure ratio of wind power will especially become difficult to manage in their production and transport if the issue of Peak Oil comes to pass. Therefore, is it even relevant to continue to produce convention wind turbines when other energy alternatives are available?

What geothermal power proponents need to do:

- Significantly increase the number of experimental EGS-Geothermal test pilot plants to determine future problems that may arise from EGS systems. The construction of these plants is also needed to generate further experience EGS system design to potentially lower economic costs.

- Demonstrate future drilling techniques that can be used to meet the increased depth demands of EGS systems over those depths used for oil or gas extraction, will be viable.

- Develop better heat pumps or other heating systems to optimize power generation from EGS systems as well as reduce potential seismic side-effect activity.

What biomass power proponents need to do:

Nothing, because there is no rational reason to pursue any further increase in biomass based energy. Economically viable biomass demands the use of land which will be in direct competition with food production and potential carbon sequestration through bio-char production. In such a competition biomass based energy finishes a distant third in importance. Non-economical biomass based energy can evade excess land use, but there is no reason to invest in expensive trace energy sources over other alternatives. Basically biomass-based energy fails because there are other energy generation alternatives available, but no legitimate food generation alternatives available with regards to required land use.

What tidal power proponents need to do:

Nothing, because there is no rational reason to pursue offshore hydro (tidal) power at all. Tidal power is not economical and will take a technological miracle for tidal power to produce large amounts of uninterrupted energy.

What nuclear power proponents need to do:

Three major reasons are used to justified opposition to nuclear power: cost, residual nuclear waste and its storage and pure personal morality. The first two reasons can be and should be addressed.

- Discuss the variance of cost between countries for construction nuclear power plants including the potential for global safety recommendations that will apply to all nuclear power plants around the world. These recommendations could also involve an independent inspection organization to ensure compliance.

- Develop a storage strategy for nuclear waste. Nuclear proponents cannot simply rely on the hope for the future development and commercialization of Type III and Type IV generation technology to address future nuclear waste accumulation as the possibility does exist that nuclear power will be needed, but these advanced nuclear technologies will not be readily available.

In addition to answering these issues the environmental community itself needs to be much more proactive in addressing the number of reports that come out from various institutions both in objective criticism and publicity. Currently there appears to be no ‘warehouse’ of sorts where individuals can go online to view any major report on a given energy medium regardless of what individual or organization produced it. One would think that if an organization like the newly merged 1sky/350.org actually cares about the environment organizing such an archive would be one of the first things they would do, but yet no easily accessible archive exists. Basically the environmental movement needs to create a ‘Cochrane Collaboration’ for energy putting all of its personal bias aside and look for the best solution.

Overall the important goal that solar, wind and geothermal proponents need to accomplish is demonstrate that at least one of these technologies can provide baseload electricity in a future energy infrastructure. If not then there exists almost no point in constructing these technologies over nuclear, despite any ‘excessive’ costs associated with nuclear power because it makes more sense to develop a future energy infrastructure around an expensive, but capable baseload provider than an expensive or inexpensive, but incapable baseload provider.

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