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buffalonate (56.54)

What Will Power The Future?



May 26, 2011 – Comments (9)

People on here keep trying to argue that solar and wind must be the power of the future.  The problem with this argument is that energy experts and power utility ceo's know that this cannot be because they are not reliable.  When the wind is blowing and the sun is out they are economically competitive with other forms of power but for them to be used on a wider scale there must be a way to store the power.  There isn't currently an economical way to store the power.  There are multiple new battery technologies available but if they were used the cost would double the cost of solar and wind.  This fact makes them more of a novelty than anything.  If you use wind and solar you must have some type of backup power plant waiting to come online if solar and wind power should die down.  Offshore wind turbines in the ocean or in the great lakes are economically viable because the wind is much more powerful and consistent.  The problem with this is it messes up the view for rich people and they have a lot of money to sue and delay projects for seven years(see Cape Cod offshore project). 

From what I have read and heard from power utility CEO's is that pretty much the only power plants that will be built in the next 10 years will be powered by natural gas.  The reason being that we have huge natural gas reserves which will make natural gas cheap for a long time.  The other reason is that they are trying to stay away from coal because they know eventually some type of carbon cap and trade bill will pass.  AEP is continuing to build coal powered plants but they are the exception and not the rule. 

After that I believe I believe that new nuclear technologies will take over because the effects of global warming will be obvious and impossible to ignore.  Current nuclear technology requires subsidies to build new nuclear power plants because they take so long to build that the interest on the loans is prohibitive.  The fact that they can go critical, no matter how unlikely will make treehuggers oppose nuclear energy in the future.  2 new nuclear power technologies will make nuclear power both safe and economically viable.  Westinghouse has just announced that they are designing a small modular reactor that can be built in a factory quickly and shipped to the site.  They can also be buried under ground which gets rid of the need for a containment dome to combat terrorism.  This will bring the cost down 20% to 30% in the future because they can be built quickly and without a containment dome.  China is also building a new reactor called a pebble bed reactor which encapsulates the nuclear fuel balls with an inch of graphite.  This graphite covering makes it impossible for the nuclear fuel to become critical.  They know this because they tried to make these balls become critical and could not.  This graphite covering also makes nuclear fuel storage much easier because it is much less radioactive. This technology will make nuclear energy safe and therefore our future energy source for many years to come.  I believe a combination of the small modular reactors and pebble bed reactors will eventually be the only power plants built because they will be safe, economical, and emit zero greenhouse gases. 

9 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On May 27, 2011 at 4:56 AM, jaagu (< 20) wrote:

Wind, solar, biomass and geothermal are going to be major energy players in 10 to 20 years. Already wind is generating the power of a dozen operating nuclear power plants.

Yes natural gas fired power plants will dominate the new build generation for the next 10 to 20 years. These plants will mostly replace the old, dirty and inefficent coal fired power plants. 

The small nuclear power plants and underground nuclear plants have 10 to 20 years of design, testing and NRC licensing before any start of cost and schedule estimates and construction estimates are made for utilities. The Energy Information Agenecy should be consulted for estimates of new build generation.

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#2) On May 27, 2011 at 7:05 AM, devoish (78.10) wrote:


This study of wind and solar energy shows that a combination of the two could be used for baseload without any storage capacity with less efficient wind turbines than are available today.

In a nutshell it says there is wind or sunshine all the time. 

Personally, I think the list of problems you gave us is trumped up marketing BS by the fossil fuel industry and very far from todays truth.

Nuclears problem is that it is already more expensive than wind, will soon be more expensive than solar, and by the time a nuclear plant is actually built, solar and wind will have made even more improvement.

Nat gas has a very expensive water cost, not currently included in its price.

At the Central Islip train station in NY there is a parking lot going up with a canopy of solar panels to recharge electric commuter cars.

In Hauppauge there is a Clean energy refueling station that services only government cars/trucks.

Best wishes,


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#3) On May 27, 2011 at 9:49 AM, buffalonate (56.54) wrote:

Westinghouse's reactor design is already approved.  The smaller version will therefore be approved really quickly.  The modular design means they can be built quickly in a factory and shipped by rail and put online and you can add as many 200mw reactors as you wish.  The fact that they can be built and put online quickly brings the cost down dramatically.

 Yes there is wind and solar all of the time but how are you going to transport this power from where it is to where it needs to be.  That would require $100 to $200 billion dollars worth of new transmission lines that we don't have the money to build.  They stopped putting up wind turbine in Texas because they had a huge amount of power already and no power lines to send the power elsewhere.  I am a treehugger but I am also a realist. If we could get a large cap and trade program through congress to pay for the new power lines it would probably be viable but the Republicans won't let that happen. 



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#4) On June 02, 2011 at 2:45 PM, chk999 (99.96) wrote:

Excellent blog nate. The reliance on nat-gas peaking turbines going forward is one of the reasons I own GE stock. At some point people will get tired of an unstable grid and we'll go build some baseload plants, but it will take a while for this to work its way through the system.

devoish - given that wants that to be true, I don't put much weight on that report. They might as well be planning to get power by having tame unicorns running on magical treadmills.

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#5) On June 02, 2011 at 3:01 PM, mm5525 (< 20) wrote:

Nat gas isn't going to be below $5.00 for long. Even the idiots in DC will eventually figure out it is the bridge fuel in all facets. Good blog, as usual, from buffalonate, except the "large" cap and trade aspect. Ummm, large? You've got to be kidding me. No cap and trade. Do not punish some forms of energy and prop up energy sources that are being subsidized and are decades away from realization. As long as markets such as China use energy without cap and trade, it is a futile and boneheaded measure to even attempt a cap and trade measure. We already know there's an energy crisis, why kill the market on top of it with doubling our energy costs? Use natural gas. Water loss or not. Or would cap and trade advocates like to see the dow back at 8,000 with such a dumb law and unemployment in the USA at 11+%?  New techonology or not, nuclear power is not going to be the future. There are too many natural disasters that will make the fear-mongering continue regarding that fuel.

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#6) On June 02, 2011 at 3:33 PM, mm5525 (< 20) wrote:

Oops, to elaborate, there are too many natural disasters that will make the fear continue regarding that source of energy (nuclear). If people think rich people don't want wind turbines affecting their view of Cape Cod or the Hamptons, but are fine with them all over Kansas, all we need is a major nuclear scare in the USA to wipe out nuclear or seriously put enough public pressure against it. The scare in Japan is enough to hopefully teach people we don't want to repeat history. While the tragic events in Japan are, indeed, tragic, can you imagine what would happen if something like an earthquake happened in California (which is bound to happen eventually) or a hurricane hitting the NE? Whether the masses are clueless or not to the pros of nuclear energy, the masses still vote. There are too many jobs to be created with domestic drilling for oil and natural gas to offset the nuclear trend IMO.  



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#7) On June 03, 2011 at 8:54 PM, devoish (78.10) wrote:

devoish - given that wants that to be true, I don't put much weight on that report.

Funny. I apply the same thinking to the fossil fuel industrys.

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#8) On June 05, 2011 at 9:10 PM, buffalonate (56.54) wrote:

I don't support a large cap and trade bill I was just saying it would be necessary in order to pay for a huge national power transmission system.  I do support a mild version of a carbon tax on coal power generation.  That would provide enough funds to build a battery network to make solar and wind more viable on a large scale. I think nuclear power is inevitably our future power source.  Innovation will make it safer and economically viable.

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#9) On June 05, 2011 at 9:15 PM, buffalonate (56.54) wrote:

devoish, did you read that study?  The way they made solar and wind power viable was by shutting off their hydropower plants totally and only using them when wind and solar were weak.  That doesn't make any sense to turn off reliable clean hydropower and use it as a backup to intermittent power sources.  That is a dumb plan.  They are replacing hydropower with solar and wind power and achieving nothing. 

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