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Clean Power UK rooftop solar courtesy of DECCC.

Published on April 6th, 2014 | by Tina Casey

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UK Bets On Solar But Nukes Lurk In The Shadows

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April 6th, 2014 by
 
First, the good news for solar fans. In what is being billed as “the first of its kind in the UK,” the Department of Energy & Climate Change announced a new UK Solar Strategy that focuses on building a vast network of “solar hubs” on buildings and brownfield sites. This updated plan dovetails smoothly with the decentralized, low risk, low cost, distributed generation model that favors renewable energy and local control.

Unfortunately for nuclear opponents, last month the UK also updated its low carbon strategy to re-emphasize the role of nuclear energy, which puts the nation back to square one in terms of high risk, high cost, centralized power stations.

rooftop solar hubs are the focus of new UK Solar Strategy

UK rooftop solar (modified) courtesy of DECC

The UK Solar Strategy

The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) announced the new UK Solar Strategy just last week. By focusing government resources on developing public facilities for solar energy, DECC aims to encourage the private sector to follow suit with factories and commercial buildings as well as residential sites.

The new strategy highlights a trend that we’ve noted frequently at CleanTechnica and our sister site PlanetSave, which is the green and bottom line twofer involved in solar energy. That consists of the potential for multipurposing the built environment for renewable energy generation, turning buildings and other pre-developed sites into dynamos that add value to a property, rather than exploiting virgin land to develop new power stations.

As we’ve also noted, the new UK Solar Strategy also recognizes that the distributed model offers more community control and support for local economic development and local job creation.

Here are the money quotes from DECC (breaks added):

We want to move the emphasis for growth away from large solar farms and instead focus on opening up the solar market for the UK’s estimated 250,000 hectares of south facing commercial rooftops.

Solar increasingly offers efficient and cost effective onsite generation opportunities to both businesses and domestic consumers, and our strategy makes a step change in our ambition for both, as a means to generate renewable energy.

Widespread solar will ensure a better deal for hard pressed consumers and help move towards a greener, more local energy sector.

The UK Solar Strategy also dovetails with another UK  Department for Education initiative aimed at incorporating more solar power into school grounds while making school buildings more energy efficient.

More Nukes!

The Solar Strategy updates the UK’s “Roadmap to a Brighter Future,” which launched in October 2013, but that’s not the only element of the Roadmap that’s been updated.

The Roadmap also includes a nuclear element that the UK updated this year, on March 7. The update confirms the UK’s commitment to nuclear energy, with the expectation that multiple new power stations will be up and running by 2019.

The update lays out a nuclear-friendly regulatory environment aimed at removing uncertainty and risk to investors.

The UK still seems to be banking on the idea that nuclear energy can insulate it from the kind of supply uncertainty and energy geopolitics at play in the Russia/Ukraine conflict, but one more Fukushima-style disaster could sour the public on that approach.

We’re also thinking that despite lobbying from the nuclear industry, the emphasis on nuclear power will fade as advanced energy storage technologies come into mainstream use, but that remains to be seen.

Solar Hubs In The USA

Although new to the UK, the Solar Strategy echoes a number of programs initiated by the Obama Administration here in the US, including the Energy Department’s SunShot low-cost rooftop solar initiative and an EPA brownfields/clean energy redevelopment program called Re-Powering America’s Land.

The US list also includes a $1 billion rooftop solar initiative called Solar Strong, partnering the Department of Defense with Elon Musk’s (yes, that Elon Musk) SolarCity.

Not to pile on but New York State also recently announced a comprehensive, community based rooftop solar initiative. A core part of the strategy is leveraging government and school facilities to serve as best practices models for the private sector to follow.

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About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • TinaCasey

    Best. Discussion. Ever. A couple of you brought out a good point about energy independence, which we haven’t really explored all that closely at CleanTechnica. Energy independence is a means to an end, the goal being national security and domestic stability, including public health and safety as well as economic health. Pursuing energy independence as an absolute end can undermine other goals, the Fukushima disaster being a worst case scenario (here in the US we have had an epic string of fossil fuel disasters to remind us of that).

    Another point to consider is energy history. At one point in time, nuclear energy could easily be argued on the merits against wind, solar, and other renewables. But that was then. Throw next-generation energy storage and smart grid technologies into the mix, and the arguments for building new nuclear infrastructure begin to fall apart.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Good jump back in, Tina. I wish more CT authors would pay attention to comments rather than just drop and run.

    • Kompani

      I think one of the problems is that, in general, LinkedIn users tend to assume your from the US, it’s happened in several groups, which leads to some people being frustrated as we’re comparing apples with oranges. I think from now on I shall ensure I mention my country (UK) in a first comment on a topic. Hugely interesting topic, thanks Tina.

  • Matthew

    Concentrating solar plus salt is really the number one tech we should be focusing on.

    • mike_dyke

      The problem with focusing on one type of power generation over another is that whatever you choose isn’t the best in all situations. Solar works best where it’s sunny, Wind works best where it’s windy, hydro works best where you’ve got a lot of water in lakes. Nuclear works best in submarines (and in the sun!)
      What we need is to have a broad range of generating methods and pick the best one for the job.

      • dgaetano

        “Nuclear works best in submarines (and in the sun!)”

        Our reactors are nuclear fission (large atoms breaking into smaller ones), suns are powered by nuclear fusion (small atoms crushed into larger ones), they’re really two different things ;)

        • Bob_Wallace

          So we’ve one fusion reactor that works and it can replace all the fission reactors except in submarines.

  • Kompani

    Thank you all for a very interesting session. I hope we can discuss further in the future but it is 2:05hrs here in the UK and I need to go to bed. You have provided me with some excellent points for consideration and that is what I shall do. Goodnight.

  • Raymond Del Colle

    “Global clean energy investment hit a record $260 billion in 2011. That’s five times as much as 2004. The shift to clean energy is already happening.” http://clmtr.lt/c/FpE0fz0cMJ

    • Omega Centauri

      It has since stalled, net investment was down in both 2012 and 2013. It needs to be reinvigorated.

      • Doug Cutler

        Very true. But investment stall is somewhat offset by new and improved renewable tech yielding more watts/dollar invested.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Here’s world installed wind through 2013 and solar through 2012. Haven’t found a total for solar in 2013 yet.

          Dollars invested doesn’t look like a good indicator of how much capacity is being added.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here’s how the US and China did through 2013.

  • Ronald Brakels

    Kompani, renewables are cheaper than new nuclear. The cost of electricity from Hinkely C makes that abundantly clear. So a dollar spent on renewables will cut more CO2 emissions than nuclear. When this changes then you can invest in nuclear without Australians wondering if there is something wrong with British maths ability. (But actually, please do build lots of nuclear reactors. Buy your uranium from South Australia. We need the demand.)

    • Kompani

      Please read my comments above regarding the type of nuclear reactor. Existing nuclear is bad news and they should be phased out. I am against the UK building further nuclear as I think LFTR or molten salt reactors may, and I repeat may, be a much safer nuclear possibility and could get rid of most of our ‘spent’ fuel stockpiles in Windscale. Both China and India are pushing ahead with research into this type of reactor. The UK is a very crowded island with mainly old housing stock and buildings very close together. In general much is unsuitable for solar pv and hence the drive to put them on factory roofs with the odd house sprinkled in.
      I agree about renewables being cheaper than nuclear.

      • Bob_Wallace

        “Pushing ahead” is not the same as “have working reactors on line which have proved reliable and are producing competitively priced electricity”.
        A few years back pebble bed reactors were going to change the world. They didn’t.

        The nuclear industry has a history like Lucy’s. They promise they’ll do it right the next time, just give them one more chance.

        • jeffhre

          Lucy Van Pelt?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Herself…

          • jeffhre

            Hilarious – LOL!

      • Ronald Brakels

        England is not a good place for solar compared to Australia, but the fact that it is possible to put solar panels on one’s roof right now and generate electricity at a lower cost than new nuclear will sometime next decade demonstates that new nuclear is not very competitive. “Nuclear Power – Not even competitive with solar in England,” isn’t a very catchy slogan, but it is true.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Do you have some CF numbers for the UK?

          • Ronald Brakels

            Sure. Example Solar Capacity Factors are:
            Dreary damp Midlands – 11.8%
            Astoundingly sunny Plymouth – 13.8%
            Dreary old London – 12.0%
            Bristol (Not too far from Hinkley C) – 11.6%
            Disgusting Liverpool – 12.0%

          • Ronald Brakels

            Homeloan rates are about 4% in England at the moment. Let’s say 5%. So if a London homowner finances a rooftop solar system through home equity at 5% at an Australian installation cost of about $1.80 US a watt and with a sub optimal position that produces 90% of maximum output, it will produce electricity at about 8.7 pence or 14.5 cents US a kilowatt-hour, which is less than the minimum price of electricity from Hinkley C and much less once distrubution charges are added onto that. And at German installation costs solar becomes considerably cheaper.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Thanks.

            Is there somewhere special you’re getting those numbers?

            I’d like to build up a database.

          • Ronald Brakels

            This site gives a lot of detail:

            http://solarelectricityhandbook.com/solar-irradiance.html

            Too much detail for most purposes, actually. But, it can be used to work out capacity factors with a bit of mucking around and if you to do something like work out the capacity factor of a solar panel hung vertically on a south facing wall in the City of London it’s got you covered. (It’s 8.9% which means that with a 5% discount rate and Australian installation costs sticking solar panels on walls will produce electricity at a lower cost than Hinkley C once distribution costs are included.)

          • Ronald Brakels

            And south facing walls are a worse choice for solar than west and east facing roofs, so if all solar has to do is compete with electricity from Hinkley C then there is definitely no shortage of space for panels in England.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Thanks. I’ve used that one. I was hoping for something requiring fewer clicks.

            What might be sweet would be a graph that let you set panel direction and angle, then hover over a city/region and see the CF.

            If I had the skills….

      • eveee

        Uh oh. Nuclear dreams. Not again. Nothing like a fantasy blog designed reactor to solve all the worlds problems. And in only another twenty years,… or maybe forty…

        Finally, the LFTR fanatics need to come off the Kool-Aid. I’ve gone to great lengths to debunk many of their crazy ideas because such cargo cult science as they are promoting does a great disservice to science, and gets in the way of more realistic and practical proposals.

        http://daryanenergyblog.wordpress.com/ca/part-8-msr-lftr/

        • Kompani

          Thank you for your input and excellent link. I am learning a great deal from this interaction I have had over the past few days. I have lots of great web resources to read through and I’m sure some of my opinions will be modified. I’m sure that is the purpose of these robust interchanges of ideas and opinions. With closed minds we don’t progress only stagnate. As you will see from my comments I am not a fanatic but someone with an opinion that can be changed by a good argument backed by statistics using the scientific method. Being shouted at or talked down to is unprofessional and rather silly.

  • jimbo

    This shifting of emphasis away from solar greenfield sites to commercial rooftops could be a way to divert the Nimby factor blocking more farm based systems. I think we’ll need both, but if the figure of 250 00 hectares is correct, then that would equate to about 250GW peak, if you assumed an average of 50% roof space solar array at 200W per m2. that would be equal to about 25GW continuous on a hypothetical 24hr average with UK insolation. I Know it’s a silly way to calculate it, but it would be over 50% of UK average electricity comsumption.

    • Kompani

      Assuming the roofs are all pointing south(ish) and around 30deg pitch and the 250,000 hectares are not being used for food/feed production. How will this energy be stored for the night time,assuming you are powering a steel plant, car plant, hospital? My 40yrs as an engineer in the energy controls business, a degree, and several courses in sustainable energy from the Universities of Exeter and Bath says the renewables are good and must be used and idealy should provide 100% of our requirements but the figures don’t add up and we will need an amount of base load provision. We can use coal, too dirty and finite, oil, too expensive, dirty and finite, gas is cleaner but finite, generation 1 & 2 nuclear has safety problems and high waste production, generation 3 nuclear is safer but still has waste issues. Personally I don’t want nuclear, of any kind, if it can be avoided but I have studied hard and agree with the Chinese and Indians that LFTR reactors or something very similar could possibly be worthwhile. I am open to better ideas.

      • Russell

        Batteries are getting much better. EOS has a promising solution, Tesla batteries quite possibly will be cheap enough before the next nuke is built, Ambri, etc are all working on it. If there was nothing in the pipeline and an reason to expect a cheap battery/fuel cell/energy storage method was possible then you would have a good point, but I don’t think that is the situation anymore. Someone is almost certain to succeed with cost effective energy storage before nuclear would be essential. This is worth checking out:

        https://docs.google.com/file/d/1NrBZJejkUTRYJv5YE__kBFuecdDL2pDTvKLyBjfCPr_8yR7eCTDhLGm8oEPo/edit

        • Kompani

          The company I worked for was, as one of its subsidiary’s, was the largest after market producer of vehicle batteries in the US and yes battery technology is moving along at a pace. Having seen UPS systems for large buildings, computer centres and R&D sites, just to keep essential equipment running for a matter of minutes requires huge battery stacks. Even with modern batteries to run a large steel plant or computer centre on batteries for say 6 hours would be a huge problem. This would especially be true for smaller countries such as the UK.

          • Omega Centauri

            I don’t see the recent changes in storage tech as changing this picture much. Storage might be reaching the point where a couple of hours of load shifting will be possible, but that is still a far cry from covering a three day cloudy windless period. Some sort of baseline power, and/or dispatchable resource is going to be needed to balance it out.

            Now maybe, todal can become part of that baseline for the UK. And maybe you can develop enough pumped storage to make a big dent in the rest of it?

          • Russell

            Do you have figures for your 3 day windless (and sunless, there is still some sunlight thought clouds) period? For a start If a country like the UK has connections to other countries then that can help a lot. You are never going to get completely zero power for 3 days, say a 50% drop average. If it only happens once every 10 years and you have say 20% of vehicles are PHev then I was under the impression that could get you though with minimal economic disruption. Power cuts happen on a regular grid also, a renewable/battery grid is more resilient to sudden power plant outages.

          • Russell

            OK but a point about the latest batteries is they wouldn’t need to be as big. The main point is simply cost however. If you can get $160-200 per KWh is size an issue? Its not like such a system is going to be affordable but simply too big to fit in a warehouse. Isn’t $200 per KWh/$1000 per KW peak output affordable for most factories whatever the size?

          • Bob_Wallace

            You didn’t even bother reading the Budischak paper, did you?

            You just showed up to spread FUD?

          • Kompani

            As I stated elsewhere I read the paper last year and have skimmed through it again (it is past 1am here). It is an excellent paper for the USA, however it has shortfalls for countries with smaller land mass such as the UK. The US is 40 times larger than the UK in land mass, we have approx 20% of the US population and the US grid is, according to yourself, 2.8 times larger.
            I’m not hear to spread FUD, I am here to learn and adjust my thinking accordingly. I hope for robust debate of a professional nature. Up until 5 yrs ago I was total anti nuclear everything but through research, attending meetings, web sites etc., I am seeing there may be more than just renewables. In a small country, in a temperate environment, renewables are not enough.
            I value everyones opinions and by reading/listening to the arguments, seeing the data, I can modify my understanding of the situation. I want my 3 children and 5 grandchildren to live on a planet that is not fucked up, unsafe and energy poor and it be my fault.

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, but you need to understand that we get a steady stream of “only nuclear works” people drifting through here.

            We have one person who has been kicked off several times who keeps coming back under new IDs. He is totally in love with nuclear energy, blinded by love.

            I’d suggest you show some responsiveness. Read the Budischak paper. Show us some realistic land use math. Don’t start going all fanboi/girl about the wonderful promise of unproven GenIV nuclear. Be ready to back up your claims.

            This can be a tough room but it’s a fair one. Facts rule. BS walks.

          • Russell

            Think you are being a bit harsh on Kompani

          • Bob_Wallace

            Could be, but I’ve had to deal with the reappearing nuclear troll so many times I sort of have a hair trigger.

            Let’s she how she plays out. Our reappearing troll starts reasonable and then gradually become rabid.

          • A Real Libertarian

            The PJM Interconnection covers 214,000 square miles and has a population of about 60.1 million:

            http://www.upenn.edu/sustainability/resources/electricity-iq

            Great Britain has an area of 88,745 square miles and a population of about 60.8 million.

            That makes Great Britain’s population density ~2.7 times that of the PJM Interconnection.

            The PJM Interconnection uses 2.8 times the electricity of Great Britain.

            Unless I’ve made a math error, it all works out.

          • eveee

            It would help if you expanded thinking beyond national borders. Think EU. Maybe even think N Africa. It is pointless to say UK can’t meet all its needs from renewables. If you think that way then Scotland will be 100% renewable soon and exporting electricity. How about the continent? Then there is no need to consider that the land mass is too small. There is wind and solar over a wide area IF you think that way.

          • eveee

            You are looking at solving the whole problem right now, with todays technology. Not necessary or practical. The road to the future starts with wind, water, and solar integration into the existing infrastructure. It is not necessary to take an all or nothing approach. 80% would be great as a plan right now. There is no way to fully predict the exact kinds of storage that will appear in the next 40 years. Its enough to know that storage costs and solar costs are dropping exponentially. The biggest sector needing effort is transportation. That is where we need a revolution in affordable EVs. Same thing there. Exponential growth.

      • Omega Centauri

        How much hydro does UK have? Already developed, and potential? This should be at least partially dispatchable. I inderstand about the desire for a decent level of baseline, and as long as the price doesn’t bite too hard, Nuclear could provide it. I think there is a risk with nuclear, that should some other country maybe thousands of miles away botch the regulation and have a bad enough accident, that the politics might rapidly demand that they be shut down as quickly as possible. So nuclear baseline is a kind of insurance policy, but the potential for precipitate abandonment of it has to be taken into account.

        • Kompani

          UK produces around 1.6GW / 1.8% via hydro generation. Regarding nuclear, your point is correct about its perception to the public/politicians. I think that is why a different type of nuclear could be a possibility. Both India and China are investing very heavily in R&D for molten salt reactors and I think this avenue has some possibilities and advantages over conventional nuclear. At the same time we must evaluate the German experience and learn from that approach.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Kompani, does the UK grow it’s own coffee, tea and bananas or do you outsource them?

            Why would the UK need to be 100% self-sufficient when it comes to electricity?

            You’ve got excellent offshore wind. Southern Europe and North Africa have excellent solar. Parts of Northern Europe have both excellent hydro and great potential for pump-up hydro. Iceland wants to sell you hydro and geothermal. There’s very good tidal in various parts of your islands and the islands around it.

            Do you know we ship power from the Pacific Northwest to Southern California and are likely to be shipping solar back up in the future? That’s a long way.

            SoCal will soon be getting wind from Wyoming. Even further.

            The US gets electricity from Canada and Mexico – foreign countries.

            Think bigger.

          • Omega Centauri

            Bob has really good points. Power independence at every instance could end up being quite an expensive luxury. IMO it is taking economic nationalism too far. German renewables play with French Nuclear, Dutch wind and Norwegian hydro, and all of these countries benefit from sending pwer back and forth. The wider your grid connections, the better, as far as balancing out variable supply (or variable demand).

            As Bob has already noted, the way solar is growing in California, the relationship with with Pacific Northwest hydro power may have to change from one of imports only, to two way traffic balancing out the different temporal characteristics of the different regions.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The beauty of turning the Pacific Intertie into a two way street is that the PNW can hold back some of the hydro it would be using during sunny hours and use SoCal solar.

            It’s zero loss ‘storage’.

          • Omega Centauri

            Zero loss isn’t strictly correct, there are transimission loses. Its really an issue of optimizing cost, in both capital and energy. I suspect the PNW won’t be thrilled if they have to replace the revenues from being a large scale power exporter, to the presumably lower net revenues that would come from serving as an energy storage hub.

          • eveee

            You nailed it. There is no sense in looking at narrow regions. The plan and thinking have to be regional. Hydro in Nordic countries. Wind and solar in Germany…. etc. All linked in a regional grid. Nobody is going to say, hey, AGW ravaged the planet, but Denmark met its GHG goals, so who cares…

          • Kompani

            I’m sure when they built the gas pipelines from Russia, through the Ukraine, into the EU someone was thinking big. Russia, because it is now upset with Ukraine has doubled(?) there gas price. Think Saudi Arabia in the 70′s with thier effect on the world oil prices. Think of the scramble for oil/gas around the world. If your 100% self sufficient it is a load of potential headaches that will not occur, we set our own costs and not another country.
            I have learned more on this site in the few days of interactions than months of surfing the web and some University courses.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yes. Now would you argue that every house in the UK should be 100% self-reliant producers of electricity? Or do you think it a reasonable risk to share generation over a neighborhood, village or the entire country?

            Europe is turning into one big loosely connected “country”. Taking a risk on Spain continuing to sell solar north and Scandinavia continuing to sell hydro south seems like a reasonable risk to me.

          • Kompani

            At the moment the UK is seeing a possible split between England and Scotland, a vote to leave the EU has been promised and is on the statute books. If each individual country is energy independent then interconnectors can still be used to ‘move’ cheaper sources/genration about to cover various requirements but if the worst happens they are not absolutely essential. This ensures reliability, self dependence and all energy sourcing options are still open.
            If each house/factory/user was completely energy independent then that would be ideal, not necessarily the most reliable without run/standby systems etc, but the UK does not lend itself to this scenario due to climate, available land and housing stock. Again a mix of interconnectivity, local, district, large scale generation ensures reliability at point of use especially for some intermittent sustainable energy sources.
            The coming years will be a fantastic opportunity to rethink our whole energy generation, distribution, conservation and use strategies based on new and upcoming energy generation sources. I fear we are going to go for the least cost, easiest and short term options to suit the short termism of Government thinking.
            One would say energy is too important to leave in the hands of governments.

        • Matt

          If you listen to the TED talk they start with 2 assumes. You can only looks a green power options that already produce at least as much as NUC, nice side step of other get others except hydro. The he mentions nuclear’s weak spot and ignores it. “Soft issue” people have to build, check quality, and maintain the plants, waste. Now look at China’sIndia’s worker heath/safe record. And you really think they will have less soft issues than Japan or US? And then the big NUC weak spot, cost. In UK they have to offer twice the current retail rate for all the power that can be make, even ahead of cheaper green power.

      • eveee

        Solar does not have to have south facing roofs or even a tilted roof. Thats a simple mechanical installation issue, not a show stopper. As for storage, one needs to look at the exponential improvements and see how soon, how much. With an exponential relationship, things happen fast.

        http://rameznaam.com/2013/09/25/energy-storage-gets-exponentially-cheaper-too/

  • No way

    Brilliant. It’s a win-win for the environment and if they add wind power to that then UK might have a chance to have emission free power generation within 20-25 years.

    There is still hope for clean air and a better tomorrow.

  • JamesWimberley

    ” … with the expectation that multiple new power stations will be up and running by 2019.
    That’s impossible. Construction on Hinkley C hasn’t started, and can’t until the EU Commission clears the favourite-son contract – and it will take even longer if the finding is negative. Not even the Chinese can build a reactor in under 5 years.

    The UK emphasis on brownfield and commercial solar is welcome and sensible. I suspect there’s some alarm in the weekend country-gent class (which includes many politicians) about the enthusiasm of real farmers and professional landowners for greenfield solar. It’s unclear why the UK commercial sector has lagged, they get the same incentives. Perhaps it’s simply far more complicated for solar developers. Fields are all very much the same, but factory roofs are all different.

    • eveee

      Yes. And while we wait for Hinkley, the carbon is generated. Meanwhile, wind, solar, and storage will be cheaper than nuclear by the time it is built in ten years, and a lot of carbon could be avoided if the money had been spent on wind and solar instead.

  • Will E

    When will governments start to say nuclear radiation is good for your health and wellness, they also use it in hospitals.

  • Will E

    In the UK nuclear plans there must be a military interest.
    If there is no more nuclear utilities, the military have a problem for their nuke rocket programs.
    its not the cost to build nuclear plants, its the cost of decommission nuclear plants
    Sellafield 70 billion, not done.
    and the TED talk is dumb and dumber 2

    • Kompani

      I campaign for the removal of all UK nuclear weapons from the UK and the money partly invested into future electrical energy research, alternative renewable energy sources and self reliance for our electrical energy generation and supply plus a smart grid system. Coal power plants to be shut down, no such thing as ‘clean’ coal. Gas only to be used for ‘topping up’ at peak times. Wind, wave and local solar pv a must. Much better building regulations to make building carbon neutral and energy efficient.

  • Kompani

    The following TED video is well worth a watch regarding the future of energy production; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAFWeIp8JT0#t=45

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Meh.
      Don’t think so.

      • Kompani

        So your solution is?

        • Bob_Wallace

          Faster, safer, cheaper. (Renewables)

        • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

          What Bob said.

          • Kompani

            So for your steel plant you would put a load of solar pv cells in the fields and a load of wind generators on the hills and those would guarantee 24/7 electrical generation because if not the furnace goes cold. If your running a hospital can you produce enough electrical power 24/7 even when it’s a windless night? Then multiply that up for the whole of the UK’s requirements. Have we enough fields to stop growing food and make way for solar pv and suitable hills?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Absolutely. Not a problem.

            Want to see how one would run the largest wholesale power grid in the United States on nothing but wind, solar, storage and a tiny dab of NG?

            Four years of real world demand, wind and sunshine data.

            https://docs.google.com/file/d/1NrBZJejkUTRYJv5YE__kBFuecdDL2pDTvKLyBjfCPr_8yR7eCTDhLGm8oEPo/edit

            If you want I can look up how much larger the PJM grid is than the UK grid.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Actually, I thought the question interesting.

            In 2012 the UK used 346,000 GWh.

            The linked study is based on an assumption of 967,596 GWh for the PJM grid. 2.8x larger than the UK grid.

          • Kompani

            I did read the report last year. The problem with the UK is it’s geographic size. We do not have the land mass (USA 9.8m km2, UK 243,000km2 i.e. USA is 40 times larger than UK) to be able to install enough land based generation, wind/solar, to ensure the consistent supply. Off shore wind, wave and tide would have to be included and that is very expensive. We have gas but that is finite.

          • Banned by Bob

            I suspect that you will agree that 90-99.9% as referenced in the report is not 100%. It’s silly to strand perfectly good assets that guaranty reliability. Renewables can take a much bigger share of generation than they do today, but it’s silly to think that high reliability operations will accept even 99.9% as a standard of power reliability. Broken down by minutes, that would mean a one minute outage every other day.

          • Omega Centauri

            The difficulty with maintaining rarely used assets is nontrivial. People and institutions want to economize, so that fossil fuel plant which isn’t economically viable because its only used 1% of the time, is going to require some pretty substantial capacity payments just to be maintained in operational status, let alone ever returning the captal investment in it. For this reason, those 1% (or .1%) events are going to require a certain nontrivial and probably not-seamless demand management system.

          • Banned by Bob

            It’s just silly to be conjecturing over this level of Renewables at this stage of the game. Plenty will change between now and when/if Renewables even get to a 50% share in major markets.

          • jeffhre

            Seriously? Is it inconceivable that 99.9% of any nationwide electricity generation system could not afford to pay capacity charges for what amounts to .1% of system-wide needs? At thermal capacities of .1% or 1%, would not demand management be nearly entirely directed at the 99 to 99.9 percent providers, where adjustment provisions would be designed to cover the overhead of the remaining .1 to 1%?

            Let’s say this provision’s need rises 500% in a black swan event. Wouldn’t this result in the need for only 5% of existing demand management provisions to be allocated to maintain the integrity that 1% of retained standby from thermal assets needs? And wouldn’t 5% of demand management requirements allocated for 99.9 – 99% of the system, provide an overwhelming level of security for only .1 – 1% of such a system?

            Considering that spinning reserves can have greater than 5% in redundancy. That most decades will not see a black swan event. That 100% of needed demand management will be in effect for 99.9% of system requirements. That some existing thermal assets are evolving today toward lower capacity use from merit order effects and falling renewable prices. That storage capacity is slowly creeping into the grids. That demand management and smarter grids are growing more capable.

            And that even EV’s which can shift their charging timing automatically in response to price and nest thermostats which can automatically provide demand management, are growing exponentially. Though not trivial in absolute numbers, in essence a concern over a rounding error W.R.T. yearly consumption?

            Purely speculative gazing…

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, let’s see your math.

            Assume you get 20% of your power from onshore wind and 30% from rooftop solar. The other 50% from offshore wind and tidal.

            How much land would that take?

            Offshore wind will be cheaper than nuclear. Early days with offshore, efficiencies to be had.

          • Omega Centauri

            I think Bob is being too optimistic about offshore and tidal. Sure it is early days, and improvements will be made. But the offshoare stuff is going to be a lot more expensive than the onshore stuff, we just aren’t going to get 50% of our energy that way. I think we will get some much more modest portion by these means. It won’t be zero, because even though it will be more expensive, having a diversity of sources will allow some level premium price to be supported.
            Maybe tidal can become affordable, but there are only a few good sites, and the net resource isn’t very large.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “The present LCOE for Germany’s 400 megawatts of operational offshore wind is $0.169 to $0.188 per kilowatt-hour, according to the report *Cost Reduction Potentials of Offshore Wind Power in Germany .* The
            report estimated that thosecosts can come down between
            32 percent and 39 percent by 2023.

            The present cost of offshore wind in the U.K. is estimated at $0.203 to $0.219 per kilowatt-hour. The U.K.’s June 2012 *Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Task Force Report* concluded
            that it is feasible to bring the price down to $0.156 per kilowatt-hour by 2020.

            In the U.S., electricity from the 420-megawatt Cape Wind project in
            Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound, set to begin construction soon, is contracted with National Grid and NSTAR at $0.187 per kilowatt-hour in its first year. The fifteen-year contract has a 3.5 percent annual escalator.” http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Solar-or-Offshore-Wind-Which-is-Cheaper
            Let’s use median numbers for German offshore. $0.179/kWh presently. A 35.5% price drop brings it to $011.5/kWh.

            “LONDON — Dong Energy A/S, Denmark’s state- controlled utility, is leading a drive to cut offshore wind- power costs by as much as 40 percent by the end of the decade.

            Dong is working with six other companies and three British and Irish universities to study ways of using less steel in wind-turbine foundations at sea to make the technology more affordable, it said today in an e-mailed statement.”
            http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2013/08/dong-energy-working-to-cut-offshore-wind-cost-40-by-2020
            And here’s some Germans talking about getting offshore down to 10 cents/kWh within ten years.
            http://www.renewablesinternational.net/bringing-down-the-cost-of-offshore-wind/150/435/72236/
            Offshore wind is a very new technology. We haven’t turned the big guns on it yet like we’ve done for onshore and PV.

            What I’m seeing is as much as 20% of the UK’s power from tidal.

            Those nukes lurking in the shadows are at 16c plus subsidies including a 35 year power purchase agreement that says that UK taxpayers will pay the reactor full price for every kWh produced. 16c rising with inflation.

          • A Real Libertarian

            Bob, links.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Thanks. If I would remember to ‘Paste as plain text’ into the email reply that probably wouldn’t happen.

          • A Real Libertarian

            You’re welcome.

          • Baz

            No point arguing with reactionary hippies with little to no knowledge in science. According to Zach and Bob we can power the world on hopes and dreams.

            If nuclear is so expensive as you seem to suggest why is it that electricity in France is one of the cheapest in Europe?

            Also the energy density issue see link below created by the UK’s DECC.
            http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/files/2013/10/infographic.jpg

          • A Real Libertarian

            What capacity factors are the infograph assuming?

            Does it take into account the other uses of wind farm land (e.g. agriculture)?

          • Bob_Wallace

            My god man! Do you really not know why French nuclear is cheap?

            That’s really hard to believe. Makes me think you’re trying to troll us.

            French reactors were built years ago and are now paid off. Running a paid off reactor can be cheap (isn’t in all cases, but some).

            Running a paid off solar panel is even cheaper.

            BTW, the wholesale price of electricity has been lower in Germany than in France for the last 6 out of 7 days…..

          • Bob_Wallace

            Oh, and your graph leaves off land used for uranium mining.

          • Bob_Wallace

            250,000 acres.

            One quarter acre per turbine.

            1,000,000 turbines. One million turbines.

            130,000 acres is about 0.3% of UK farm land. Subtract out the amount of solar that could go over wasteland and on rooftops. Over parking lots. Over highways and railroad tracks.

            Can you smell the BS coming off this graphic?

          • eveee

            Yup. And the all the land between turbine towers is unusable trope, too. Sounds like a real troll.

          • eveee

            Or reactionary whatever with knee jerk responses to renewables? You are making the argument that all the area between wind turbines is unusable. That is an old canard. By the same reasoning, all the area under parking lot street lamps is unusable. NOT. So your estimates are all wrong. Energy density is a distraction, not an issue. If nuclear is so cheap, why is France moving away from nuclear and moving toward renewables? Why is the cost of decommissioning all the old French nukes dogging the French government? Why does every reputable financial institution say wind is cheaper than nuclear?

      • wattleberry

        Thought you’d like to know the promise by Ed Davey to refer to his department has not yet produced anything further.

    • Ross

      Nice to know there are nuke fangirls too.

      • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

        haha, yes, we need to adjust our terminology :D

      • Kompani

        Very grown up.

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