What do I make of Powerwall?

While Tesla’s Gigafactory is bringing down the *financial* cost of batteries, the *energy* cost of building them is still the same. And that cost is huge. So huge that once counted in the energy accounting of a wind and solar system, it really starts to eat into the EROEI. Sure wind and solar have good energy profits on their own. But read the papers! Where are the energy costs for storage for a system that is only on a third of the time? Where are the energy cost measurements for winter, when there’s far less sunlight? How much storage is required, and forget financial cost, how much *energy* is it going to cost to build storage for an energy system that is *mostly* off!?

If we include the *energy* cost of all the batteries required (because we’re moving from a power system that is mostly ON to mostly OFF), the sheer energy required to build all those batteries in the first place eats into the EROEI of wind (around 30?) and the EROEI of solar PV (around 7?) till wind is only 3 and solar PV’s struggling to break even!

Today’s nukes have an EROEI of 75, and that includes moving millions of tons of rock to get to the uranium. Tomorrow’s nukes won’t need to do that, because they’ll eat the nuclear waste which could bless them with an EROEI in the high hundreds, some say even over a thousand!

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6 Responses to What do I make of Powerwall?

  1. mikestasse says:

    What about the cost of decommissioning nukes…….???

    At the edge of Humboldt Bay in northern California lies a relic from the heyday of U.S. nuclear power.

    The reactor was shut down in 1976. The remaining cost to decommission the plant once and for all -– cleaning up lingering radiological dangers, dismantling the remains — will be about $441 million, according to its owner, PG&E Corp.

    The question is who will pay — for Humboldt Bay, and for dozens of other reactors that are in the process of closing or might soon. Nuclear operators like PG&E are supposed to lay up enough money to cover the costs, similar to how corporations fund pensions. Turns out, most haven’t.

    PG&E’s Humboldt Bay trust fund, for instance, is currently $308 million short, according to a company filing to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. PG&E customers will shoulder the cost in the form of higher electricity bills.

    82 of the 117 U.S. nuclear power plants, including seven in the process of shutting down, don’t have enough cash on hand to close safely, according to NRC records. And closing tends to cost more than operators expect. Based on NRC filings, the actual combined cost may be somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 billion — $43 billion more than the current balance of the trust funds.

    So the coming closures could drag on for decades and place unexpected burdens on investors, consumers or taxpayers.

    “The public has a right to demand that all nuclear power plant operators are secure in their funding,” Senator Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement in response to questions from Bloomberg.

    As John Michael Greer wrote recently about the looming end of the internet, it won’t be because of Technology, it will be because of MONEY…. the same reason the fossil fuel, renewable, and nuclear industries will all go tits up.

    In any case, every time a new nuke, a new solar panel, a new wind turbine, or a new battery bank is made, more CO2 goes up in the air, and we must end emissions NOW. Not tomorrow, but yesterday. ALL consumption requiring emitting CO2 must stop……… including making concrete to build nukes.

    • Eclipse Now says:

      Not tomorrow, but yesterday. ALL consumption requiring emitting CO2 must stop……… including making concrete to build nukes

      That’s ridiculous, and NOT going to happen!
      Sounds like you need to watch Bill McKibben’s Do the Math again.
      Here’s the 3 minute summary.

      We have a carbon budget of 2 degrees, and 15 years. We’ll probably go over that: I wish we wouldn’t, but we probably will. That’s where emergency geo-engineering may have to come in. We can and will burn all the oil and gas and coal it takes to get off these foul substances. I like passive removal of CO2 like biochar and greening deserts, but we all know the solar shield is the cheapest.

      Older reactors were far more expensive to build, and far more expensive to decommission. Today’s reactors are modular, and I understand easier to take part and bury radioactive bits. All technologies have a learning and price curve: just look at solar!

      Have you got evidence for your claims about decomissioning?

      Plant operating costs, which include the costs of fuel, operation and maintenance (O&M), and a provision for funding the costs of decommissioning the plant and treating and disposing of used fuel and wastes. Operating costs may be divided into ‘fixed costs’ that are incurred whether or not the plant is generating electricity and ‘variable costs’, which vary in relation to the output. Normally these costs are expressed relative to a unit of electricity (for example, cents per kilowatt-hour) to allow a consistent comparison with other energy technologies. To calculate the operating cost of a plant over its whole life (including the costs of decommissioning and used fuel and waste management), we must estimate the ‘levelised’ cost at present value. It represents the price that the electricity must fetch if the project is to break even (after taking account of the opportunity cost of capital through the application of a discount rate).


      Of course, the ‘costs’ of managing ‘waste’ are totally blown out of the water when one realises that today’s nuclear ‘waste problem’ is actually an asset worth $30 TRILLION dollars! Please make sure you fire up your spreadsheet and add that to the equation!

  2. Eclipse Now says:

    Agreed. But we’re not going to voluntarily collapse back to an Amish lifestyle or voluntarily go “Mad Max” and turn off all our power and oil overnight, are we? We’re going to HAVE to sell a nuclear-green world to the public, and if each nation deploys it as fast as the French did, we’ll be OK and adapt to the 2 degree changes that are coming.

    Mitigate + Adapt

    If we keep on burning fossil fuels, then heaven help us. Billions may die. But even then there will be shiny Logan’s Run domes covering some cities, growing food in some places, with some last pockets of civilisation surviving. But with geo-engineering, it may not get that back. A sulphur shield is so cheap even an *individual* billionaire could afford it to deploy it.

  3. Eclipse Now says:

    Yep, that Guardian piece is right about the infrastructure. Even more reason to prepare for a world with White Skies! (From the Sulphur Shield).

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