Science show pushing renewables contradicts itself

  • Try listening to the interesting (but for me ultimately infuriating) ABC Science Show podcast below, and spot the contradiction. I see contradicting renewable philosophies all the time. They push conflicting ideas.
  • Baseload or not? Some claim they’ll make renewables baseload and reliable 24/7, but others like Amory Lovins say instead of baseload they’ll demand-model the need for baseload away.  We don’t need much power at night, right?
  • Except when we’re going to charge about half our car fleet on night time electricity! (NREL model says 45% of American cars could be charged at night). That’s the way we’re going to replace oil isn’t it? Oh, no one told Amory Lovins that baseload power *might* be important because we’re going to charge cars at night when there is spare capacity?
  • Of course renewables are going to need storage!
  • Of course renewables are NOT going to need storage! (Amory Lovins).
  • Of course we’re going to need an Australia wide super-grid (to cope with intermittency, spread the supply and demand, and move power from deserts to cities)!
  • Of course we’re all going off grid!
  • I often hear totally contradictory POV’s in the same science podcast celebrating renewables! Try listening to this recent ABC Science show report and see if you can spot contradictory ideas being pushed in the same podcast, and no one hardly blinks an eyelid. To me it stood out like a bright neon light warning “Danger!” ahead.…/ite28099s-happening…/5987784
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4 Responses to Science show pushing renewables contradicts itself

  1. Patrick says:

    Hey, I’ve been following your blog for a while now and think you make some interesting points. I think the nuclear vs renewables debate is a little bit of a red herring- we need to get off fossil fuels now, no matter what the cost, because letting the planet be destroyed by global warming is the most expensive option of all.

    To try to clear up some of the confusion regarding storage, overbuild, etc, there is a study which modeled thousands of combinations of wind, solar, hydro, etc. and storage. The lowest cost option was to not have hardly any storage at all, but to build 3x the generating capacity needed to meet load instead. Around 90% of the energy in the lowest cost option came from wind with the rest from solar, biomass, hydro, etc.

    There are 4 reactors being built by South Korea for Abu Dhabi at an installed cost of $3,500/kW, I believe. Current installed costs for solar are around $2,000/kW and wind is around $1,600/kW. Adjusted for capacity factor, which is 25% for solar and 33% for wind, we get $8,000/kW for solar and $4,800 for wind.

    So, solar and wind are not that much more expensive than the most advanced reactors being built- solar costs would need to drop by about 50% and wind by 30%. That will probably be achieved in just 5 years or less- the price of wind dropped 50% in the last 4 years, and solar has dropped even faster- 1500% since 1970, which is around 33% per year.

    In short, I think we should just drop the whole “renewables vs nuclear” debate. Instead we should just say “anything but fossil fuels.”

    Sent from my iPad


    • sjschen says:

      Let us also not forget to the wind, solar, and hydro if deployed in a manner for replacement of fossil fuels will have widespread impact on wilderness. This will be less of a problem in urban environments, but looking at wind and solar farms already installed on farmland and in the desserts, building enough of the to replace fossil fuels will likely be environmentally unsustainable.

      Current commercial nuclear technology is the same terrible 50-60 year old technology with less than 1% effeciency in fuel to energy conversion. But even then the long-lasting “waste” produced is still better than the health and evironmental impacts of fossil fuels. Not to mention even at their current miserable efficiencies and radioactive waste producion, their abiliy to operate continuously, support baseload, and high eneger production to land use ratio (even with waste disposal) makes them better alternatives to the renewables.

      Now if they can only finish the research on those next generation “nuclear waste” burning reactors and get them to market…

      • Eclipse Now says:

        Hi sjschen,
        the research into some of them has been fully funded and finished. The EBR2 at Argonne ran for decades, and that whole line of Integral *Fast* Reactor had many billions of dollars of funding. GE have a reactor called the S-PRISM, based on the IFR, ready to go. They just need permission to build the first *commercial* prototype, and then they can mass produce them!

        China are looking into building out a fleet of GenIV waste-eating reactors within 8 years, but these are water-reactors. From Kirk Sorenson’s talks, my understanding is that water is the least preferred coolant & heat exchanger because it has to be under very high pressures to remain steam (and not a gas) at 300 degrees, and these high pressures and high atmospheres create some real challenges and the requirement for an enormous containment dome! But at least these guys do eat waste, and could end up cheaper than coal.

        Sadly, Kirk Sorenson explains that my favourite reactor has had hardly any real funding. The Molten Salt Reactor (with a focus these days on the specific type called the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor) works at one atmosphere, uses inert hot salt, and also eats waste and warheads. America didn’t fund it because of the Cold War. Thorium reactors don’t produce the best material for bombs!

        But at least China are fully funding a whole new MSR program, and could have MSR designs ready to mass-produce these nukes on the production line! See down the bottom of this post for details on their fast-tracking $350 million program under the leadership of the son of a former Premier of China!

  2. Eclipse Now says:

    I understand and partly agree. My emphasis on questioning renewables is because I don’t think they can work for 100% of the grid. Whether the final split is half renewables, half nuclear, or a third one and the rest the other remains to be seen. But what I’m saying is that the nuclear debate *IS* important because major people, like Dr James Hansen himself, say things like this:

    “Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”

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