A friend and I were having a chat on facebook, which became a little too long and unwieldy for facebook, so I’m posting my reply here:
As I understand it, you agree with the renewables dispersal argument, which tries to bypass the storage necessity by fudging numbers. Just how many times are we going to build this electricity grid? How many weather conditions have been modelled? The wind dies down in NSW, so Queensland is going to come to the rescue. But Queensland has their own electricity demand and consumers. What if it’s quiet along the whole east coast? Will we build some solar thermal to backup the grid a bit for quiet days? But then comes a quiet few weeks of overcast weather. This is where the argument gets truly complicated and vast, bigger than our EROEI arguments, because every single continent has to be thoroughly modelled. Professor such and such comes out and says “I’ve done it!” but the other weather modellers tear the assumptions to shreds, and show days or weeks where there would just. be. no. power.
Now I’ve got to ask which model? Because they contradict themselves all the time! Here are some examples, and you’ve already shown that you dismiss the first model! You’ve taken a side in the renewables civil war, and have already dismissed this first renewables expert. You have probably seen this before on A.C.E. but I’ve amended a few parts, and it is worth looking at again now that you’ve taken sides.
ONE: OFF GRID or SUPER-GRID?
a/ We’re all going off grid, and magical storage devices are going to back up wind and solar on our own houses or industrial estates or offices in town. Renewables advocates like Paul Gilding, one of Australia’s biggest sustainability experts, celebrates the ‘death spiral’ of utilities and how they’re going to be stranded with all these inconvenient expensive assets. He says: “The utility death spiral is a great example of system complexity that is simple to understand. Solar energy costs have plummeted – so far that in most places you can get electricity cheaper from your own solar panels than you can from a utility. The impact on the grid of people doing so at scale is to lower the overall cost of electricity generation by reducing both peak demand (and so peak pricing) and lowering volume. Utilities are then stuck with expensive physical assets, less sales and lower margins, so they need to increase either the cost per unit of power or impose grid connection charges to customers. But doing either gives customers more motivation to leave the utility – thus the death spiral.”
He is celebrating people going off-line and threatening the economic viability of the grid.
b. SUPER-GRID: We’re all going ONTO a continent-wide super-grid, and it’s going to cost billions in its own right because it is necessary to get the distant wind and solar to where the consumers are, and if we build it big enough it might even help make our wind and solar (mostly OFF) grid more baseload and reliable. EG: Desertec assumes that Europe are going to build a continent spanning super-grid all the way down through the Middle East into North Africa. (EU-ME-NA, Eumena).
“Key Findings Desert Power 2050 demonstrates that the abundance of sun and wind in the EUMENA region will enable the creation of a joint power network that will entail more than 90 percent renewables. According to the study such a joint power network involving North Africa, the Middle East and Europe (EUMENA) offers clear benefits to all involved. The nations of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) could meet their expanding needs for power with renewable energy, while developing an export industry from their excess power with could reach an annual volume worth more than 60 billion euros, according to the study results. By importing up to 20 percent of its power from the deserts, Europe could save up to 30 euros for each megawatt hour of desert power.
The north and south would become the powerhouses of this joint network, supported by wind and hydropower in Scandinavia, as well as wind and solar energy in the MENA region. Supply and demand would complement one other – both regionally and seasonally – according to the findings of Desert Power 2050. With its constant supply of wind and solar energy throughout the year, the MENA region can cover Europe’s energy needs without the latter having to build costly excess capacities. A further benefit of the power network is the enhanced security of supply to all nations concerned. A renewables based network would lead to mutual reliance among the countries involved, complemented by inexpensive imports from the south and the north.”
This is just one example. Australia’s going to be part of an Asian super-grid.
Even University of Melbourne think tank Beyond Zero Emissions recommends an Australia-wide supergrid.
So which is it? Paul Gilding’s death spiral, or the Pan-Asian-Australian super grid? Are these people even speaking to each other? What’s the plan? And if we go down the Zero Carbon Australia (2010) plan, have all Australians been told about their brave new lifestyles? Have they been consulted? Will they vote for it? Or are we just going to have a Greenie Dictator come in and impose it on us? Because there’s a lot that doesn’t make sense about the nation-spanning plan from BZE, and I’m wondering how many Australians would actually vote for this kind of wishy-washy uncertainty if they knew that an old Professor like Ted Trainer can pull it apart in one short blog post.
TWO: BASELOAD RELIABLE ELECTRICITY, OR JUST IN TIME ELECTRICITY?
The American NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) assures us that if we just charged all our cars at *night* on overnight *spare capacity*, we could charge at least half of American driving without building a new power plant or upgrading the grid at all!
But hang on. This is the same NREL that pushes Amory Lovin’s studies that claim we don’t *need* reliable baseload power overnight. He understands that solar and wind work mostly during the day, and that there are challenges moving from a power supply that is baseload and reliable (or mostly ON) to intermittent and unreliable (or mostly OFF!) Amory says there will be no baseload power. With all his efficiency measures, we’ll only need a trickle of power at night. He doesn’t understand that baseload power *is* a massive efficiency measure because it lets you charge half your electric car fleet at night, on existing transmissions lines and power plants. But no. Forget charging half the fleet on spare night-time capacity. That’s gone! Amory is relying on intermittent solar and wind power to run a tiny fraction of the grid at night, and wants to both run all our daytime industry and charge ALL our cars during the day!
So how are we going to charge our cars during the day? If the *huge* spare night-time capacity we have on a baseload grid could only charge half the fleet, then what happens when we are trying to charge the *whole* fleet during the day when we’re already struggling to meet demand with an intermittent power supply? Just how many times over are we going to build out the grid again? How are we going to charge all those EV’s? Are we going to double the grid? Triple it? Quadruple it?
No. Amory Lovins pretends we’re going to roughly *halve* daytime capacity!
To which I say, pull the other one!
So what is it NREL? Baseload reliable night time power charging our EV’s, or only a tiny trickle, and the day time grid being beefed up to some kind of industrial super-grid? How much is *that* going to cost? Talk about magical *and* contradictory thinking! This kind of wishful thinking is just not good enough for deep sustainability. I haven’t even talked about the costs of building out the so-called smart-grid either. It’s not just a super-grid, it’s a super-sized super-smart super-grid!
Or we could end these silly debates, and just plug nuclear power into today’s dumb grids and clean up our energy in a few decades as France did. (Building today’s AP1000’s not waiting for tomorrow’s GenIV reactors: so I agree with you there!) Then we’d charge a bunch of our EV’s overnight as NREL said, and the other half would probably require a few extra nukes during the day. We’d upgrade today’s dumb grid a bit for that, but pump most of our money into building out clean, reliable, SAFE baseload power. There’s no reason not to! It’s clean, reliable, affordable, and SAFE. Only FUD stands in the way.