Clean Power mountain of coal pic

Published on March 24th, 2013 | by James Ayre


“Clean Coal” In The Near Future? Technology Reaches New Milestone

March 24th, 2013 by  

A commercially viable way to burn coal while capturing the CO2 emissions is moving closer to reality. Researchers at the American Chemical Society (ACS) recently reported the achievement of a new milestone on the path to commercial use, a successful 200-hour test on a sub-pilot scale version of the technology while using two of the most highly polluting forms of coal.

mountain of coal pic

Image Credits: Mounds of Coal via Shutterstock

The test was recently detailed in a study published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

While a clean and rapid break away from coal use within the next few years would be the ideal, it is very likely that coal will continue to be used in some capacity into the near future. So perhaps this technology has a place, potentially helping to reduce carbon emissions, and limit the speed and extent at which future climate change will occur.

The technology works by separating and collecting the carbon dioxide before it is released from the smokestacks. The research team has been working for more than 10 years on their two versions of carbon capture, dubbed Syngas Chemical Looping (SCL) and Coal-Direct Chemical Looping (CDCL). The ACS release says:

“They involve oxidizing coal, syngas or natural gas in a sealed chamber in the absence of the atmospheric oxygen involved in conventional burning. Metal compounds containing oxygen are in the chamber. They provide the oxygen for oxidation, take up coal’s energy, release it as heat in a second chamber and circulate back for another run in the first chamber.”

This new 200-hour test is, to date, the “longest continuous operation of the CDCL test system. It operated successfully for 200 hours without an involuntary shutdown. The system used sub-bituminous and lignite coals, which are the main source of carbon dioxide emissions at U.S. coal-fired power plants. Carbon dioxide captured during operation had a purity of 99.5 percent.”

99.5% isn’t bad. The economics of the technology aren’t entirely clear yet though, and it’s hard to imagine an expensive add-on to coal burning gaining much traction, even if it does reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, beyond carbon emissions, coal has many dirty sides to it, so there’s no such thing as truly clean coal.

I’m curious to hear what everybody thinks. Any thoughts?

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Janearther

    Grownups don’t believe in the tooth fairy because she doesn’t exist. And grownups don’t believe in clean coal, because it doesn’t exist either. Wind and solar are real clean energy technologies that create both reliable energy and jobs.

  • njconcreteman

    Tell these “researchers” there wasting our time my kids time and there kids time….we don’t want coal,oil or nukes..give us clean, quiet peaceful renewable energy and give it to us now! Coal is as bad as tarsands in my book.

  • Otis11

    As long as they don’t subsidize it, I’ve got no problem with it – Never going to be built without subsidies.

    I mean if it adds any significant cost to production, wind in going to be cheaper… and solar will be there soon enough too.

    • George Stevens

      Yes wind and solar could have comparable costs to CDCL when their contribution to the overall grid is minimal (>10% of generation, currently less than >5% in most places). However if we want to create the majority of our electricity from a clean source, which should be the goal, then wind and solar become much more expensive because there is the business of maintianing grid stability with an intermittent source. This involves expensive storage technologies, or back-up generation plants, and potentially a smart grid network.

      Creating even 15% of our energy from wind and solar isnt going to make all of that much of a difference in regards to global warming. We need to do more and this is why we must consider ‘all of the above’ including clean baseload sources such as clean coal and nuclear along with storage and grid technologies that could enable renewables to serve as baseload. We need to stop being so ignorant and biased, allow the facts to speak for themselves.

      • Bob_Wallace

        The wind/solar/storage threshold is more like 40% of total grid generation and will rise as we add EVs to the mix.

        Even 15% of our power from renewables means 15% less carbon producing generation. 40% will mean that we can get all coal off the grid and start cutting NG use.

        I suspect you aren’t aware of the cost differences between storage and coal/nuclear.

        • George Stevens

          Bob, wind solar AND storage costs are likely to be high, that was my point. While I cant say clean coal will be cheaper, I also can’t say it won’t be cheaper at this point. We have to let the facts speak for themselves rather being so tremendously biased. You and others commenting here have already written clean coal off, but it may be a tremendous and temporary solution for human-kinds pollution problems.

          You comment an awful lot on these sites and are incredibly arrogant and biased and I don’t appreciate the way you mislead other less educated users. You are smart enough to know better.

          For example it is pretty well agreed upon that making large amounts of intermittent generation sources grid compatible is a hurdle still to be overcome. It will take innovation and cooperation, and also a lot of investment. The subject is presented very well here:

          Yet you will not acknowledge the difficulties and costs that may be involved and wrongfully discredit other potential solutions such as clean coal or next generation nuclear power. I am not saying these two specifically are the answer, they also have their drawbacks. I am saying there is no clear answer for future clean and affordable energy generation at this very moment in time. You should be honest and get off your high horse and admit the same. The Obama administration has an “all of the above” energy strategy for a reason. Let the facts speak for themselves and don’t bury a technology before it has had a chance to mature.

          • Bob_Wallace

            George, we know the cost of new coal and we know that capturing CO2 and safely storing it around for centuries would make coal even more expensive. Since the price of new coal-electricity would be greater than 10 cents per kWh it is not a stretch to assume that the cost of CO2-free and non-polluting coal would be well over 15 cents per kWh. And that’s before we add in health costs.

            We know that wind is now producing electricity for around 5 cents per kWh and solar is dropping under 10 cents, on its way to 5. We know that pump-up hydro storage is around 2 cents per kWh.

            It isn’t hard math to figure out that getting roughly 50% of our electricity directly from wind, 20% directly from solar and the last 30% from stored wind is less than the cost of new coal. Even if we allow that new coal to spew CO2 and pollutants.

            (0.5 x 5) + (0.2 x 10) + (0.3 x (5+2)) = 6.6/kWh

            You’ll notice I used 5 cents for wind and 10 cents for solar, while both are expected to drop in price.

            You might wish to argue that we can’t store electricity for 2 cents/kWh. Go up to the formula and store electricity for 15 cents rather than 2 cents and you still end up at 10.5 cents/kWh, a price cheaper than either new coal or new nuclear.

            Coal, and new nuclear, are simply priced off the table.

            ” it is pretty well agreed upon that making large amounts of intermittent generation sources grid compatible is a hurdle still to be overcome”

            No, only those who haven’t taken the time to read the available research agree with that statement.

            Go up this page and look for the “Clean Power” heading on the right hand side. Click on “100% Renewable Energy” and catch up.

            You are correct that it will cost considerable money to build our future generation sources.

            It would be a lot more expensive to not build new CO2 free generation and suffer extreme climate change.

            So the issue is which to build. Do we build coal and nuclear which will be more expensive, slower to bring on line, and leave us with waste problems? Or do we build renewable generation which is gives us cheaper electricity, comes on line much faster and leaves no dangerous waste stream?

            I arrogantly think that an easy question to answer.

          • George Stevens


            You are totally sidestepping the fact that there are going to be accessory costs to wind/solar to compensate for intermittency that will not apply to a clean coal plant.

            You are also ignoring the fact that clean coal would likely be heavily funded, and heavily government subsidized due to its clean base-load merit, and therefore be cheaper than you project.

            Have you spoken to many people at Utilities? A clean coal plant fits the business model and mode of expertise much better than a large distributed network of renewables.

            I must concede that after all of this is said and done renewables may still be cheaper, and if they are thats great. But you can’t assume that clean coal would be more expensive than an equivalent amount of energy produced from renewables when intermittency costs are accounted for.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, George, I am not sidestepping anything.

            Wind generation costs what it costs. It is cheap. When it isn’t available we will have to look for another source of power. The critical issue is whether wind + something else is more or less expensive than new coal or nuclear.

            Wind + NG is cheaper than wind and nuclear.

            Wind + storage is cheaper than wind and nuclear.

            Using taxpayer money to fund clean coal does not make clean coal cheaper. It just hides some of the cost from those who look only at their monthly utility bill.

            Many people don’t realize that coal is our most expensive source of electricity right now because a large part of the cost is hidden in tax dollars and health care insurance premiums.

            The old utility model is broken. As much as the old dinosaurs on the boards would like to keep on with BAU, those days over.

            The Department of Energy believes that ‘clean coal’ will be more expensive than renewables.

            Utility companies much believe the same, since they aren’t building any coal with CCS.

          • George Stevens


            Some issues with the Budischak paper:

            -Transmission costs are not accounted for: this is a significant omission for such a distributed network as proposed.

            -Data resolution is hourly: This is far to coarse for realistic modeling considering that a PV plant can lose large amounts of power in a matter of seconds, and a windfarm in a matter of minutes. A bit more fossil back-up would likely be needed.

            -No consideration for the costs involved in grid management: The proposed regional grid would require new management techniques, technologies, and additional man-hours. This all has to be accounted for in cost one way or another. The likely scenario is that current utilities would shift from power producers to simply grid and distribution managers. There would be a cost involved here…. but this leads to the biggest flaw with entire notion, why would the utility willingly take on such a reduced role?

            -A 100% RE electrical grid does not fit into the utility business model: Utilities make money off of power generation. It would be nearly impossible for a utility to cost effectively get the land rights necessary to fulfill the scenario proposed in the paper and make a profit off of the sold energy (Land costs for such a scenario are another issue altogether). The beauty of RE is that any person or organization can become a power producer, but a network of independent power producers leaves the currently big and powerful utilities with no role to play, or a reduced role of grid manager. They will and are trying to avoid this, and so are the coal and nuclear industries. Those special interest groups are very powerful, and their influence on public policy and technology adoption can’t be ignored.

            For the sake of business utilities will favor any form of clean energy that is centralized and controllable over an equal amount of widely distributed wind and solar. I can’t say I am in favor of this, I rather prefer a future where we all collectively take part in producing the world’s energy, but I am willing to wager very heavily that in two decades time the majority of US electrical power generation will take place at centralized and utility owned power plants.

            Finally I have strong doubts about the 2030 projected costs of solar. I can definitely see wind meeting the projection by virtue of advanced blades, larger turbines, and possibly even air-borne turbines, but solar prices will likely become stable soon and have even been projected to take a slight uptick. Panels are now a commodity with a mature supply chain, and as such nothing short of a breakthrough cell technology that decreases waste (vapor deposited C-Si) or allows for PV on cheaper substrates will bring the price down significantly.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Transmission costs would add a little. Including hydro, geothermal, remaining nuclear, load-shifting and power trading with other grids would lower costs.

            Wrong about the minute/hour stuff. That’s the role of storage. (And the grid can loose an immense amount of supply when a nuclear or coal plant suddenly goes off line. Wind and PV do not go off line as abruptly as do thermal sources.)

            Integration of wind onto grids is extremely cheap. About $0.0005/kWh.

            Utilities will switch from fossil fuels to renewables because they will be forced to. Either by simple economics or by a combination of economics and regulation. If you look at what is happening right now you will see it happening.

            Utilities will have to adjust their current model to fit the future grid. Most already are. Utilities will have no control over distributed solar, rooftop owners will see to that. Wind farms will be built where wind it the strongest.

            Two decades from now it may be the case that 50% of our power still comes from large plants, if large plants include hydro and nuclear.

            I’m willing to bet that fossil fuels will be well under 50%. That will require only 11% more generation from renewables. We’ll likely still have more than half the nuclear we now have and all the hydro.

            Budischak, et al. in Table 1 on page 64 list capital cost of solar at $6,350/kW. Fourth quarter, 2012 utility scale solar was $2,270/kW. We’ve already dropped 64% from their 2008 number. That’s far more than they projected for 2030.

            BTW, industry projections are that panel prices will fall another 35% by 2017.

          • George Stevens


            I think you are a smart guy and it is good that you so strongly advocate RE and educate others, but you kind of flippantly dismissed my point while also acknowledging that centralized power plants (nuclear and hydro) will continue to play a heavy role in the future. The fact that utilities cannot control or profit off of rooftop solar (unless they own it), but instead accumulate extra costs in managing for larger penetrations of it and lose some of their own retail business, makes them disinterested or even opposed to its adoption. You wouldn’t believe the hurdles that Arizona utilities underhandedly place in the way of rooftop solar, through usage rates etc. This concealed opposition is why solar is being adopted rather slowly compared to other areas despite Arizona’s amazing solar resource.

            As you’ve said wind will be sited where the wind resource is best…. but what if the land where the wind resource is best is already owned by a private party that wishes to erect the turbines themselves rather than sell or lease the land to the utility for turbine development? Then the utility once again loses some retail energy revenues and has to manage for the intermittent source. The only plus for them is that they get closer to meeting the RE mandate. Perhaps the government will step in and make the adoption of RE more advantageous for all parties involved, or maybe not…..

            If not then the utilities and other special interests will be heavily motivated to develop and adopt a form of clean energy that they can have complete control of and profit off of to maintain their business as it is currently run. This is why I believe that development of clean coal and next generation nuclear will be heavily funded and can’t be ignored in the future energy mix. After over $35 billion in world-wide subsidy, solar has become practical, could the same not be done for clean coal or modular reactors or uranium extraction from seawater?

            My only point is that the energy technology that dominates in the next 30 to 100 years is still completely up in the air, and any assertion to the contrary is just a wild guess.

            “Wrong about the minute/hour stuff. That’s the role of storage. (And the grid can loose an immense amount of supply when a nuclear or coal plant suddenly goes off line. Wind and PV do not go off line as abruptly as do thermal sources.)”

            No I am absolutely right about this, though it isn’t that big of a deal in the overall conclusion of the paper. The Budischak paper proposes adding more capacity rather than more expensive storage. The data resolution is hourly averages but there are bound to be instances within that hourly data that aren’t represented by the averages in which demand exceeds supply for even seconds or minutes, meaning that either more storage, more RE capacity, or more FF backup than projected is needed. I can tell you this from experience of sifting through MWs of PV plant data. Also a coal and nuclear plant only goes offline without warning in rare instance. Depending on serial/parallel connections and size of a PV plant it can lose a large fraction of its power in a matter of seconds due to cloud cover and this can happen dozens of times a day. Its not a problem that can’t be overcome with a combination of extra capacity or storage, but the coarse data resolution in the paper yields results that are a bit more optimistic than reality.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Are utilities (many of them) going to be opposed to giving up their current model and moving to a new one? Are they going to fight to keep from encountering stranded assets? Yes to both. Are they going to win? Unlikely. At best they will delay.

            The most reluctant will be forced into adding some renewables to their grid. They’ll find out that incorporating renewables is not expensive and that renewables help their bottom line. They will come around.

            Will large nuclear and hydro play a large role in the future? Hydro almost certainly will. Nuclear’s role will likely fade over the next 40 or so years until the present fleet is all worn out. It is very unlikely we will build many more reactors. And we’re likely to see about 25% of the present fleet fail for financial reasons over the next decade or so.

            I hesitate using anything that happens in Arizona as an example of what is likely to happen in other states or countries. Arizona has its own “unique” collection of citizens.

            Wind farms (and large solar installations) are already being built by private companies and the energy sold to utilities. It’s common for a utility company to sign a PPA (power purchase agreement) before construction begins. The builder/owner has as a guaranteed market and a guaranteed price before the first shovel full of dirt is tossed. And investors are buying those completed projects with a 20 year PPA in hand.

            You seem to think that the government will fund clean coal and make the taxpayer eat the loss over using renewable sourcing. I don’t see that happening. Even right-wingers opposed to wind and solar are seeing that there is money to be made in wind and solar. Coal is losing its political power.

            Utilities are not going to build clean coal or nuclear which will cost them well over 10 cents per kWh when they can build wind/solar/storage for well under 10 cents per kWh. The math no longer works for nuclear and coal.

            Less than one hour storage. If you’re right and more storage would be needed, then it would be needed and that would add in some cost. But remember, the Budischak paper did not include existing hydro/storage/nuclear, power exchanges with other grids and load-shifting, all of which will lower costs.

            Calculate in what looks to be our first large scale utility battery technology. Eos claims they are marketing storage for under 3 cents per kWh, perhaps for under 2c. That’s cheaper than any of the storage solutions used in the Budischak paper.

            And don’t forget, wind and solar are already cheaper than the 2008/2030 numbers they used.

            I think the Budischak paper not at all optimistic. I think they underplayed their case.

          • George Stevens

            I know what a PPA is, and right now a PPA is fine for a utility because they have an RE mandate to reach. But once the mandate has been reached or is close to being reached then the utility has zero motivation to bring new RE form a PPA online and it actually works against their business by decreasing their retail revenues and creating more oversight for them. So I think it could be very likely that there could be additional charges for interconnection of intermittent sources in the future unless the government steps in and says no. It could be interesting to see how that plays out.

            “Utilities are not going to build clean coal or nuclear which will cost them well over 10 cents per kWh when they can build wind/solar/storage for well under 10 cents per kWh. The math no longer works for nuclear and coal”.

            Its not so straightforward. If the utility wants to bring online an equivalent capacity of wind as they can get from one Nuclear or coal plant then they have to obtain or lease the large amount of land necessary to do so, and if the land is in a remote area then getting permission to build the costly and required transmission lines could be a difficult task as well. Land with high wind resource is going to come with a premium as well. It is more likely that If RE is going to provide the majority of our power in the future, that power is going to be produced independently, and the utility will have a much reduced role. I don’t see that transition being made without the utility demanding heavy concession (additional fees) for interconnection and management services, or without the utilities collectively doing everything possible to try to preserve their business model as it currently stands i.e. centralized but cleaner utility owned plants. You also have to recognize the facts that the costs of other forms of energy also have the potential to drop given that enough is invested in them.

            I don’t have to think that the government will heavily fund clean coal and next generation nuclear at the expense of taxpayers, they are already doing it under the direction of a liberal administration. Powerful special interest groups (utilities, coal and nuclear industries) are a primary reason why. I am talking more about R&D to make these technologies viable than deployment subsidies at this point, and I am talking about international governments such as China as well as the US. The US DOE is already offering significant funding for clean coal (a process now actually exists, costs unknown) and modular nuclear reactors. Private entrepreneurs are really keen on nuclear, especially technologies that could potentially recycle waste. Have you been following Terrapower? The implications of that work could be quite significant and if we are going to talk about energy sources in 2030 it can’t really be ignored.

            Like you have said before, even conservatives are starting to deploy a lot of wind when they realize it pads their pocket-book. The whole future energy mix is going to be determined by cost, and how regulation effects cost. The actions of powerful special interest groups jockeying for position in the energy industry could definitely shake things up a bit, and I am really looking forward to how if plays out.

            And the Budischak paper was certainly an underplayed case in the fact that the RE was to be deployed in the northeastern US. They probably didn’t have access to data with a higher resolution, so its not a major critique but that inaccuracy is there nonetheless and should have been elaborated on in the paper.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Utilities are signing long term purchase agreements with wind farms because it allows them to lock in a fixed price for the next 20 years and protects them from rising natural gas prices. Solar is now signing PPAs for under 6 cents/kWh which is the current price of producing electricity with NG. That, also, is a locked in 20 year price.

            Real estate costs cut both ways. Which do you think is cheaper, a piece of dry land for wind/solar or a piece of land with an adequate supply of water for thermal cooling?

            You need to look again at what the government is funding. There are some modest amounts being spent on clean coal and nuclear research. The government is spending no money to build either.

            Private money is not at all interested in nuclear. Private will only loan to a new nuclear build if the rate is high and taxpayers assume the risk.

            Private money won’t even purchase existing nuclear reactors. Private money is buying wind and solar farms.

            China has cut their nuclear plans by one third. They have increased their wind and solar plans many times over. The energy world is changing.

            If the Budischak group wanted to overplay their hand they would have chosen a grid that has more wind and solar than does the one they used.

            Using weather data in one hour blocks was quite good enough for what they were doing. Wind and solar do not quickly drop off line as some assume they do. It’s large thermal plants that suddenly go off line.

            Arizona has a “unique” state government at this point in time. California, NJ and several other states are trying to assist moving into the current century rather than fighting against it.

          • George Stevens

            Under 6 cents/kwh ppa has happened in NM but is not the norm for the rest of the US right now. The locked in price of a PPA is a big plus, but RE mandates are the primary driver. We’ll see how First Solar panels stand in a decade, I’m a bit skeptical on their reliability based on what I’ve seen in the field. I think well-built C-Si panels are much more durable.

            “Real estate costs cut both ways. Which do you think is cheaper, a piece of dry land for wind/solar or a piece of land with an adequate supply of water for thermal cooling”?

            Given energy density of nuclear the land requirement is much smaller than wind or solar, so cost implications of land required for a fleet of utility owned RE equal in capacity to one nuke plant is much larger.

            The US DOE had pledged funding for modular nuclear and clean coal well over 1 billion each. I wouldn’t call that modest.

            You are right, private investors are not interested in erecting current versions of nuclear plants in the US (though they most definetely are in Saudi Arabia and UAE). But I was talking about next generation nuclear research where funding in the private and international government sectors is quite healthy.

            Actually solar PV plants have very significant fluctuations in the amount of power produced within one-hour even at the multi MW scale. An hour time resolution is not adequate to size capacity and storage. Like I said I can tell you that with 100% certainty from direct experience. The paper is still good.

            CA as a state is perpetually in very large debt, their way of doing things wouldn’t work for the rest of the country. I don’t stand on either side of the proverbial political fence, but I realize that we need to balance our progressive desires through calculated and practical means rather than through blatantly irresponsible spending. Many conservatives are very backwards and would like to abolish the EPA and burn FF for centuries onward. But many of them have sense enough to support renewables. Texas is an example of a conservative state making progressive strides towards cleaner energy. Iowa too.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The 6c PPA is a wake up call. Add back in the US and NM subsidies and you get a LCOE of 11c. Utility scale solar fell to $2.39/watt in the fourth quarter of 2012. That’s 11c electricity in a lot of the US. It’s cheaper than new coal or electricity and will continue to fall in price.

            Try to find 100 places with adequate cooling water to build coal or nuclear plants in the US, George. They just aren’t there. Our ocean side property is too expensive and NIMBY too strong. We are not going to be building coal and nuclear.

            Grids will not get their solar or wind from a single geographic location. Generation will be spread over a very wide range. That greatly lowers variability.

            Don’t worry about California. We’re doing fine.

          • George Stevens

            Cost of ocean side or river side property required for a nuke plant pales in comparison to the overall cost of the plant itself, its just not that significant given the energy density of the operation. A lot of current nuke plants are built by riversides, and coincidentally so are the population centers that they serve. Siting nuke and coal plants isn’t something that can’t be overcome quite easily, you are kind of making that problem up. In contrast, the land and transmission requirements for a large network of solar and wind could be quite significant if the utility needs to purchase or lease all of this land. In the case of an IPP then the land is already owned eliminating that problem, but transmission costs still need to be considered and as discussed the reduced role of the utility could create problems.

            Heavily distributed wind or solar will absolutely dampen the affects of intermittency but the scientific community is still studying and proposing to what extent distributed generation will mitigate intermittency in a given geographic area. The weather scenarios affecting the real-time power output of a large distributed network are literally endless. I have seen some papers on this subject at the IEEE PV specialists conference, and its not at all a ‘non-factor’ as you have described. There are countless weather dependent scenarios that can arise to effect the output of this distributed network. But you aren’t going to acknowledge that the data resolution probably should have been greater because I guess thats the kind of guy you are. A yes man to the wind and solar industries. Good for you, good for California, but I’d rather be honest and pragmatic about the whole thing.

          • George, the math is pretty clear. not sure where you are stumbling over this. ?

        • George Stevens

          And also I happen to be fully aware of storage costs, I spent a year working on a solar and LI-ion storage system. Perhaps flow batteries (aquion), compressed air (lightsail), or flywheel (Velkess), technologies can make storage more practical but right now it isn’t cheap enough for free-market developed countries such as the US to integrate at a large scale.

          I am for any clean source of energy that a free-market country like the US will adopt at a large scale, and can subsequently be used in the electrification of developing countries where cost is even more imperative and global footprint will be even more dramatic. If we are to do anything about global warming the energy source needs to be cheap in order to be adopted…no clean energy source is cheap right now compared to ng and coal. You can suggest a carbon tax and I would be all for it but I think the chances of that happening in capitalist and corporatized societies is 1 in a million. I have an open mind for how Wind, Solar, Nuclear, and other fuels could become both clean and cheap and power the entire world. I ask that you have the same mind-set and speak factually with a long-term vision on the subject. Opposition to clean coal at this point is as foolish as opposition to solar energy.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Let’s use some real numbers, shall we?

            Wind is roughly the price of natural gas combined cycle. The price of natural gas will rise and the cost of wind is expected to fall.

            Natural gas is temporarily cheap in the US. NG is not cheap in other countries. And we probably don’t have a long term supply of NG, our shale gas fields seem to be depleting faster than expected. NG is, at best, a bridge fuel we can use while developing our storage technology. NG allows us to shift a large portion of our generation to wind and solar now and shut down coal plants.

            New coal is quite expensive.

            Clean coal in which all CO2 is captured and safely stored away for hundreds/thousands of years has not been invented. We do not know how much it would cost to generate electricity with CO2-free coal plants but since new dirty coal is already priced off the table we can be fairly certain that CO2-free coal would be even more expensive. We would loose energy capturing and storing the CO2.

            New nuclear is quite expensive. Even companies that own and operate nuclear plants acknowledge that nuclear is too expensive to consider.

          • George Stevens

            NG reserves are quite large and this is the reason why Chinese and american companies alike are investing heavily in a liquid NG infrastructure for refueling the US fleet of semi-trucks.

            You are once again not accounting for the costs of intermittency. I am talking about creating large percentages of our energy from clean sources, not mere percentages.

            You are so biased it is appalling. I love renewables but open your mind up you jaded old fool. The US adopted an “all of the above” strategy because no cost-effective solution exists yet.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Natural gas reserves, proven and likely reserves, will run out in 66 years at 2010 burn rates. Since 2010 we have increased our use of NG in electricity generation by almost 50%. Add in transportation and exporting and we’ll burn through that 66 years a lot sooner.

            (And that was before the EIA lowered their estimates of the amount of NG we had in the US by 40% last year.)

            As for your personal attacks, I figure you’re in that denial/anger stage that happens when one starts to realize that their old beliefs are failing them. Rail away, get it out of your system.

          • George Stevens


            I am enjoying our conversation. I appreciate your input and am currently reading through the Delaware Technical College paper on the regional grid run on 99.9% renewables in 2030. (Budischak et al)

            I am also going to read the critique of that article written here:

            I would like you to read the critique as well, and we can discuss how accurate the claims in the paper are. I am very very interested in this topic to say the least because it is a very important issue and there is absolutely no consensus about it in the scientific community as of yet.

          • George Stevens

            Some background on Zachary Shahan: he is too lazy to skim through the critique to see if some of the points might be valid. He isn’t open to all possible energy solutions but is instead opposed to anything not in the wind or solar category.

            I am interested in talking about the facts, and don’t have time for those who are clearly biased and closed-minded from the start so don’t waste your time writing a reply. There are enough yes-men in the world, be something different.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Reel it in, George.

            Stick to facts and leave the personal attacks out.

          • i’m simply responding with some perspective on who wrote up this critique. Bob does an excellent job of replying to the “critique” provided by IER. i don’t see a need to add on there. everyone is welcome to their own perspective and preferences on the energy front, but i don’t think this critique is worth one’s time,

          • George Stevens


          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, George, I’ve read the critique you linked. Here’s what I found…

            “The model requires that electrical load must be satisfied entirely from renewable generation and storage”

            No, the authors are quite clear that they are simply addressing the question of whether a large grid could be run with (almost) nothing but wind and solar. They are very clear that would not be the optimal way to power a grid.

            “Since only existing fossil plants are used, the authors assume the cost associated with them is just fuel and operations and maintenance costs; there is no new fossil plant investment.”

            The authors clearly point out that we have already built enough NG capacity to satisfy the needs they identified. By the time we could get that much wind/solar/storage installed those NG plants would be paid off. Plus, as other sources such as hydro, tidal, etc. are added that NG need will decrease.

            ” according to the authors, the projected capital costs for wind and solar in 2030 are roughly half of today’s capital costs”

            Half of 2008 capital costs. Solar has already fallen that far and more. Just going from the wholesale price of wind we’ve had almost a 50% drop in overall costs since 2008. Remember, back in 2008 the price of wind turbines had spiked and are now back down.

            “First, the methodology is not representing the probability that the renewable technology (energy from the wind or the sun) will be available to meet peak demand because the authors are using a randomly selected 4-year hourly weather sample”

            The authors used a four year block of data. Are these people trying to say that the weather for those four years unique and unlike all other years?

            “Hourly data cannot indicate problems that arise due to very short drops in voltage caused by intermittent power.”

            Bull. That’s the role storage fulfills. We’re already installing battery storage on our grids to deal with short drops in voltage, come they from wind, solar, fossil fuel plants or demand increase.

            ” California faced record heat conditions that strained its ability to meet a peak demand of 50,000 megawatts.”

            The authors did not study the CA grid, nor did they make any assumptions about it. Each grid would have to have its own mix of renewables, storage and backup. If, for example, CA has heat waves accompanied by low wind output then CA would need to have more storage or NG backup.

            “Further, the prime wind areas in the continental U.S. are already largely taken.”

            That is a huge load of horse shit.

            “IER found a number of flaws with the methodology,”

            No, the IER produced a paper that would have earned a sophomore an F.

            The Institute for Energy Research –

            “The Institute for Energy Research (IER), founded in 1989 from a predecessor non-profit organisation, advocates positions on environmental issues including deregulation of utilities, climate change denial, and claims that conventional energy sources are virtually limitless.

            It is a member of the Sustainable Development Network. The IER’s President was formerly Director of Public Relations Policy at Enron.

            IER has been established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit group. It is a “partner” organization of the American Energy Alliance[1], a 501c4 organization which states that it is the “grassroots arm” of IER.[2] AEA states that, by “communicating IER’s decades of scholarly research to the grassroots, AEA will empower citizens with facts so that people who believe in freedom can reclaim the moral high ground in the national public policy debates in the energy and environmental arena.”[2] AEA states that its aim is to “create a climate that encourages the advancement of free market energy policies” and in particular ensure drilling for oil is allowed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and in US coastal waters.[2]”


      • Otis11

        I’m more than happy to allow the fact to speak for themselves – but that doesn’t mean staying dependent on FFs.

        First, Wind and Solar can go much higher without needing storage as a backup. Minimum of 40% of peak before it really becomes an issue, and that even becomes questionable when you start adding smart-grid technology (which is good for efficiency, even without renewables)

        Also, we already have a cheap backup system in the form of pump-up Hydro-electric dams. Sure, we will probably need to retrofit a few of these as we go along, but overall they are fairly cheap storage.

        Also, these are not our only sources of renewable energy – some places get very good tidal power (incredibly predictable). We also have Geothermal we can use as a base load (if a base load supply is even needed – which is debatable).

        While these technologies alone won’t be enough to get to 100% renewables economically (ignoring externalities) without storage, the technology we have right now is more than enough to deploy 40%+ renewables, which will significantly decrease our FF demand. Add in the fact that these technologies are getting more and more economical, and the fact it will take us 20 years to get there baring some major change in policy, and I don’t see a problem focusing full steam ahead on renewable solutions over carbon-capture solutions. (In my mind carbon-capture and storage is a great technology, but it’s a little to late. It’s successor, true renewables, has already begun to come into the lime-light and is here to stay, at least until we develop fusion… if that happens to be cheaper, but I digress)

  • Ross

    Of academic interest only. All the fossil nukes must go.

  • anderlan

    Talk about clean coal, just like love of natural gas as a bridge is PREDICATED on a high bloody price on carbon. SO SAY WE ALL.

  • The insanity continues. The only rational course for humans, if they would like to have a ‘long run’, (and it may already be to late for that) is to develop an energy infrastructure that eschews all fossil fuels. Every dime spent on any delusional ‘clean coal’ scheme (BS lie) is a dime wasted. The monkeys who ‘own’ the coal will go to any end to continue using it. Paying ‘lip service’ to the environment while continuing to debase it is their disingenuous tactic to make sure that they squeeze every last penny from our commons, is just business as usual.

    • George Stevens

      Did you even read about the CDCL process or have you just made up your mind already? Nice that you are so open minded lol. Go be a grumpy old fart elsewhere, leave it to the younger generation to find the solutions to create clean and cheap energy.

      • Bob_Wallace

        You seem to believe that clean coal is a great idea.

        How do you imagine getting the captured carbon safely stored away for a few thousand years? What might the cost be?

        Syngas Chemical Looping isn’t anything we should pursue. Burning the syngas puts the carbon into play.

        • George Stevens

          There is a cost to be considered, and a method to be developed for storing the carbon. Clean coal is far from being proven viable, that is for sure.

          My point isn’t that clean coal is a ‘great idea’, my point is that it is an idea worth pursuing, and we shouldn’t have so much bias and bury it without all of the facts.

          It is far too early to have any implication that clean coal could be remotely competitive with RE, but your assertion from earlier that it for sure be above the cost of conventional coal plants is flawed. In your cost equations you didn’t consider the following:

          -Clean coal would benefit from the same clean energy subsidy that wind and solar have had for years.
          -Clean coal plants may also be free from some of the environmental, and regulatory costs of conventional plants.

          -Clean coal would likely fit the current electrical grid infrastructure and avoid investment in storage/overcapacity/grid analytics required for a network of intermittent resources.
          -Most importantly, if remotely viable clean coal will be embraced by powerful special interest groups, such as utilities and the coal industry, that will benefit greatly from the existence of a clean (relatively), centralized, baseload form of power.

      • OK, young man. Just what do you do to, as you put it, find the solutions to create clean and cheap energy? Yes I am aware of the CDCL process. But have you ever seen a mountain top removal site? Regardless of how “clean” you believe this process to be, do you think that coal has anywhere near the longevity of the sun. Can you, in your snide little mind, imagine that humanity just might have better uses for those carbon atoms? Perhaps you missed the last sentence of this article, so let me remind you of the truth.

        “Of course, beyond carbon emissions, coal has many dirty sides to it, so there’s no such thing as truly clean coal.”

        When you have a better answer than the CDCL process I’ll be glad to hear it. For now my mind IS made up concerning coal for energy and I’ll be as grumpy as I like. Grow up and get over it.

        • George Stevens

          “Have you ever seen a mountain top removal site”?

          Yes, coal mining is a very environmental destructive process, even if that coal is somehow burned cleanly. Im not sure however, if it is any more destructive than the resource intensive mining for the raw materials needed for the hundreds of thousands of wind-turbines and billions of solar panels (yes BILLIONS, thats a lot of glass and aluminum huh?) we would need to power the entire world without fossil fuels. The most cost effective solar panels on the market these days contain cadmium telluride semiconductors, billions of those panels isnt so clean. Wind turbines require rare earth metal permanent magnets that are quite dirty to obtain in their own right. So does that perspective change your mind a little bit?

          “Do you think that coal has anywhere near the longevity of the sun”?

          Of course coal resources will eventually be exhausted if we continue to use them, but that timeline is centuries away and if clean coal could provide a temporary clean and cost effective way to produce our energy for even 50 years I think it is worth considering. I am confident that man-kind can find a much more permanent solution in that time-frame, and if not we probably don’t deserve to reside on this beautiful planet, at least not with the luxuries of widespread electricity.

          Integrating renewables as a major source of our energy has many hurdles including cost, grid compatibility, land foot print, shear volume of raw materials required, and utility opposition. Clean energy is a very complicated subject and there is a good reason that the US DOE has an ‘all of the above’ strategy and funds things as diverse as clean coal as well as wind solar and nuclear at this point in time. The reason is because none of these energy technologies is yet a fitting solution to create clean energy while maintianing low costs. They are all just candidates at this point. Wind and solar have the upper hand as a clean energy source today and I totally support them. But they aren’t yet implementable at a large scale. There is reason to at least consider clean coal via the CDCL process until it is proven to be non-viable. The cost of such a technology would be aided by the same clean energy subsidy that wind and solar have enjoyed, would be free of some of the environmental costs that traditional coal bears, and will be heavily funded for commercial cost reduction IF if is proven viable. It would also be embraced by our utility network and completely compatible with current grid infrastructure. I suggest you arm yourself with facts rather than simply being opinionated.

          • The issue of resource limits for alternative energy production is a daunting situation. Agreed! However, it cannot allow us to continue BAU for that road leads to death.

            By my calculations we will need about 3 million wind turbines and a global grid…ain’t gonna happen. Aside from solar panels concentrated solar is promising. Strides are being made is panel efficiencies that will semi-solve the cadmium problem.

            Algae, which produced all of the fossil oil could be grown with minimum H2O use to provide carbon neutral liquid fuel. Algal oil is a drop-in for today’s refineries. Massive improvements in mileage would allow economic growth (of a sort) without using more oil. ( they even have a 2 cylinder that is looking at 282mpg.

            There are a lot of things that we could do to power this world without the committing of suicide that fossil fuels will bring.

            So, to answer your question, my perspective remains the same.


          • George Stevens

            Hey, as long as you are willing to acknowledge that the problem of providing cheap and clean energy is far from being solved I respect you and your opinion.

            I know PV, and I don’t think panel efficiencies will rise significantly enough to drop costs where they need to be. More efficient cell manufacturing techniques, or the ability to print cells onto cheaper substrates might do it.

            I’ve had the opportunity to tour an algal fuel lab at a US university, very interesting stuff. Bioengineering seems a likely solution to the big problems, when nature essentially becomes a factory for food and energy.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I think you are underestimating what is happening with the price of solar. We’re pretty much at solar for a dime and headed to solar for a nickel.

            Solar at just under a dime per kWh is good enough. If we can power the midday peak for less than ten cents we’ve cracked that nut.

            Remember, while the cost of NG generation might be reported at about six cents that’s based on spreading capex over more than just the midday hours and the price of gas is almost certain to rise.

            Installed solar locks in a price for a couple of decades with much cheaper prices following when the “20 year LCOE” period is over.

          • George Stevens

            It all depends on the scale you are talking about. For a marginal share of our overall energy production then the current prices already allow solar to be a good investment. But when we talk about powering entire cities on solar that is a different thing and that is the framework that I am thinking in. I am trying to find info on the estimated current install price of PV per kwh in 2013…

            NG is slightly under 5c currently

            The fracking industry and processes are just reaching maturity and the domestic resource is just beginning to be tapped. NG prices are bound to fluctuate but I dont see them going up significantly anytime soon which is bad news for basically any clean form of energy, but at least NG is a good complementary technology to bring more renewables online.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Take a look at midday wholesale prices. Locking in the top at 8 to 9 cents would result in lower overall electricity prices. And remember that with merit order pricing everyone gets paid the cost of that expensive peaking plant when it is brought on line.

            From April of last year…

            “Warmer-than-normal temperatures across Texas drove the hourly, day-ahead wholesale electricity prices between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on April 26 and 27 above $500 per megawatthour (MWh) in ERCOT, the electric system operator for most of Texas (see chart above). Very high prices for just part of an upcoming day, especially during “super peaks”, can yield high average prices for the entire on-peak period.

            $500/MWh is $0.50/kWh. That’s the wholesale price that all providers got. Some solar on the grid would create a 10 cent “ceiling” price.

            Natural gas is very unlikely to drop in price. New wells are not profitable at $4 and old wells are fading out much, much faster than was predicted. While there is a lot of gas left in the ground it will take frequent re-drilling and re-fracking to keep supplies up.”

          • George Stevens

            Solar is great for peak shaving, no doubt about it. And the ROI, while not substantial, is there for residential rooftops. That is a pretty ideal niche for it long-term.

            About NG, Im not sure where you are getting your info from – “new wells are not profitable” – but that industry is currently booming, new extraction sites included. Now that they have some experience these drilling operations are increasingly able to cost-effectively extract gas from areas where it wasn’t previously possible. Have you seen the operations in Texas or North Dakota in person? Seeing it and talking to some of the Engineers working there might change your mind as to what is really going on in that industry.

            Its not clean but at least all of this NG is pushing coal offline and boosting the economy. It also serves as a good bridge to something else. Maybe it will be in our semi trucks soon curbing some of their emissions.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Hughes, who recently published his findings alongside an analysis by the Energy Policy Forum‘s Deborah Rogers of Wall Street’s role, calculated that nationwide, 7,200 wells will need to be drilled annually, at a cost of more than $42 billion each year, simply to keep shale gas production from falling. But last year, drillers didn’t even make enough money to cover that $42 billion, Hughes discovered.

            “In 2012, US shale gas generated just $33 billion (although some wells also produced substantial liquid hydrocarbons, which improved economics),” Hughes wrote in a February 21article in the journal Nature.”


            I agree that NG is helping us push coal off the grid. But it seems that we should not expect NG to be a long term fill-in for wind and solar. Most likely NG is a place-holder while we get storage technology better sorted out.

          • George Stevens

            NG is definitely a place holder for something else. But in lieu of cheap storage or an commitment to revamping the US electrical grid it is doubtful that something else will be for Wind and Solar, those technologies will be reserved for the less prominent niche of fuel offsetting/peak shaving where it proves economical. That will still amount to an awful lot of solar panels and an awful lot of turbines, an important player in the energy mix but doubtful to be greater than 15% overall.

            It doesn’t take much digging to realize that the heavily biased claims made on thinkprogress that you linked are untrue. NG reserves have been recalculated to be higher than ever before:


            And one only has to pay a little attention to the stock market to know that players in the fracking industry are more than turning a profit.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Do you understand the difference between reserves and the cost of bringing those reserves on line?

            The math is fairly simple. In 2012 we produced X amount of NG. That earned $33 billion. Those wells are failing quickly.

            The cost of drilling/fracking enough new wells to bring X amount to the surface would be $42 billion. $42 billion > $33 billion. Production will be maintained only if gas prices rise.

            The stock market operates on short term profit. Few people are long term investors any longer. And that means that a lot of people jump on board a fast moving horse without considering that it might break down before it reaches the finish line.

            And as long as money is the issue, wind and solar (and geothermal) are on route to being our cheapest non-carbon electricity sources. They will dominate the grid.

            Even if someone managed to figure out how to generate electricity for wind/solar/geothermal type prices the grid would still need to be upgraded and we would still need to build storage. The storage we have now, ~20GW of pump-up, was built because that was needed to make nuclear work.

          • George Stevens

            What you and the the article are asserting makes little sense at all economically because a newly drilled well is online and creates revenue for more than one year. The capital required to drill a new well can easily be found given that natural gas is a commodity in high demand. Where do you think the capital came from for all of the new extraction sites that rapidly sprang up when the fracking boom began? The resource is there, it is extractable, and demand is guaranteed. Capital to drill new wells will be available. Land or environmental issues are much more likely to cause major price increases in the immediate term.

            The gird needs some infrastructure upgrades, but not necessarily to the scale that would be required for a large network of intermittent sources. The scope and cost of that is altogether different. The storage we have online now isn’t in the right location to be utilized by renewables.

            Wind and solar “dominating” the grid is a little far-fetched at this point. The California netmetering program is capped at 5% of non-peak system
            load, and the program is scheduled to end in 2015. At that point the utility will purchase power put into the grid by an outside source for a lower price than retail unless the government intervenes. This is all driven by the fact that solar and wind drive up fixed costs for a utility because of the required and underutilized backup. In certain situations this extra fixed cost can be offset variable cost savings that wind and solar offer through fuel offsetting and peak shaving.

            Terrapower is a pretty interesting company.

          • Bob_Wallace

            After one year NG wells produce far less income than they do in their first year. As I pointed out some quickly fall to 5% of their initial production. This is unlike oil wells which keep production high for many years.

            Natural gas is unlikely to become cheaper or even stay at the current price due to the cost of drilling new wells.

            The capital to drill the first round of wells which created the current supply and surplus which we are now burning through came from a rush of money via investors who jumped on the “get rich quick” NG drilling/fracking wagon.

            The resource is there (for a limited number of years), demand will continue but likely be damped by rising costs. New capital will come only if there are profits to be made. And it seems that NG prices will need to rise in order to attract sufficient capital.

            The grid needs upgrades regardless of supply source. Wind will require some new transmission to be built. Solar will require little, if any.

            (New nuclear, were we to build any, would require new transmission.)

            The storage we have now is on the grid. That means that it is in the right location. There are these things called “wires” that carry electricity from one spot to another.

            “the fact that solar and wind drive up fixed costs for a utility because of the required and underutilized backup”

            This is not a fact. It is, in fact, false.

            You think that there will be some breakthrough in nuclear energy which will make it cheap, safe and easy to site. I can’t prove that won’t happen.

            If you want to hang on to that dream, that’s your right.

            Watching what is happening around the world leads me to believe that we are going to have grids dominated by renewable energy. Since we already have the technology and since it is already affordable, and since it’s already being installed – I’ll stick with my belief.

          • George Stevens

            “the fact that solar and wind drive up fixed costs for a utility because of the required and underutilized backup”

            Ummm thats actually completely true Bob. Solar and wind often cut variable costs for a utility but their intermittency, unless always offset by some other complementary renewable source (nearly impossible given weather scenarios), will always require a supplemental back-up or storage supply that raises fixed costs.

            Generally solar storage is built on-site my friend, It electricity more or less fills cavities but the trading part of it is a bit more complicated. Im not sure about the logistics of having a storage supply 500 miles away from a large PV plant.

            Hang onto your dreams I respect wind and solar pioneers.

            Next gen nuclear is a very interesting dream, I will hang onto it as well. Thanks

          • Nature has always been our source of food and energy. Problem is, it’s not infinite and it is fragile in many aspects. This planet, like all planets, is driven by the star that it orbits and our star provides more “free” energy than we could ever use. Turning that free energy into useful energy , sadly, isn’t free.

            But let me ask you this. Say you come into my restaurant looking for some mushroom soup. I have two offerings. One is delicious but costs three times the other. The other is also tasty but is really toad stools and will kill you. Which soup would you choose?

            My point is, alternatives might be a bit expensive in capturing free energy but they are NOT toad stools.

            Our energy problems are far from being solved but I see little happening that will solve them and I see a lot happening that will make the issue moot.

          • George Stevens


            I absolutely understand your viewpoint with the soup analogy, I myself have chosen the very expensive soup – I have 6 kw of PV on my rooftop, bike to work everyday, and reside in a very efficient home.

            But the flaw with that thinking is the notion that we could reasonably expect the billions of others to choose the same soup. We live at the whim of a capital driven world that values convenience over preservation of the natural world. Unless global warming is proven to pose imminent and life-threatening danger then developed societies will continue to act very slowly in response to it.

            The way to overcome this is to provide energy that is both clean and cheap. You probably appall it, but next generation nuclear could fit the bill.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Most people won’t put solar on their roofs. But we need only 1/5th of all households and businesses to install solar and we’d have all we need.

            Most people won’t bike to work but will move to EVs as ranges increase and purchase prices fall.

            Most people won’t intentionally make their homes efficient. But they will beydefault as the electronics/appliances they purchase become more efficient and the heater/AC units that wear out are replaced by more efficient units. Just stopping the manufacture of incandescent bulbs is going to make a large difference.

            Next generation nuclear is not yet invented. And may not be.

          • George Stevens

            If we really want prevent global warming I think we need to produce >75% of all of our energy from a clean source, and we need to allow other poorer countries to do the same. I’m not sure wind and solar can get that done in a capitalist climate.

            a next generation nuclear prototype is nearly a decade off if it is to ever arrive, but that doesn’t mean we can’t at least discuss its potential a little bit, and some of the development in that area. If you want to talk about 20 MW wind turbines with blades that morph and respond to turbulence via hydraulic cavities I’ll be just as willing 🙂

            Im really just interested in how the world will move forward and don’t think any of these ideas deserve to be so quickly discarded.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Let’s see…

            A capitalist climate in which companies compete to gain market share is going to result in companies building new nuclear and trying to sell $0.15/kWh electricity rather than installing wind and solar and offering electricity at $0.05/kWh.

            Yep, that’s how things work in a capitalist climate.

            I’m not saying that we should discard ideas. I think we should continue researching nuclear and clean coal (not spending a fortune on that research, but pursuing promising leads).

            I’m saying that we have a problem to solve right now and we have technology in hand that will replace fossil fuels at an affordable price. We need to go to war with the army we have, not the army we might have decades from now.

          • George Stevens

            Bob, next generation nuclear isn’t projected to cost $0.15/kWh.

          • George Stevens

            I think the world is going to choose to go to war with FF until something cheaper comes along….

          • Bob_Wallace

            This is part of a comment on REW…

            “Lark energy recently installed a 34 MW utility scale solar farm at a cost of £35 million.


            This is a cost of $1.60 at today’s exchange rate – completed at the end of March this year after an 8 week build.”

            I plugged $1.60/W into a LCOE calculator. That installed price would produce electricity for 5.6 to 7.7 cents per kWh. The sunny part of CA to the least sunny parts of the lower 48 (except the foggy Seattle coast).

            If the Brits can install for $1.60/kWh, so can we.

            Prices at this level will turn the utility business upside down.

          • George Stevens

            Well the PV plant you mentioned above is heavily subsidized (on a $/kWh basis) for one (dont bring up FF subsidies, on a $/kWh basis they aren’t even comparable), and utilities will likely no longer offer net-metering once grid-parity is reached or it would lead to the extinction of their business. Then there is the issue of scalability, so yes solar is dropping rapidly in price but it still has a far ways to go before it is contributing largely to the United States electrical grid.

            One thing I am sure of is that I will be happy and support the use and research of any clean energy source. Have a good day Bob.

          • Though I am against nuclear from uranium-plutonium, I find the thorium reactors acceptable. They don’t have the inherent risks of current reactors and should be relatively easy to ramp out. Would also serve the “concentrated energy production” capitalists well. They can continue to enjoy monthly income.

            Global warming has already shown itself to be an imminent danger and it could possibly already be too late to save our skins. A few people are already breathing the “extinction” word and having looked closely at the science I can’t debunk their assessments.

            Overview: { }
            Specifics: { }

            Like any sane person I hope that they are somehow wrong. Time will tell. All that I know is that if we don’t get serious, like you have, we are f*ck&d….

  • RobS

    This uses approx. twice the coal per unit of energy and the equipment is far more costly then standard coal fired power. This will at least double the cost of coal power at a time when new renewables are already starting to reach parity with existing coal power production. As this cant really be retrofitted and requires a new plant build which will take 6-8 years vs renewables which generally take 1-2 years to build out this isn’t even competing with the current cost of renewables its competing with the cost of renewables in 2-4 years time. I guarantee no company will ever build one of these on their own dime, if one gets built it will be based on grants and subsidies.

    • George Stevens

      Renewables aren’t baseload energy unless they are supplemented with back-up power (usually nat gas), energy storage (cost prohibitive) or a demand managing smart grid (doesn’t exist yet at large scales). Coal whether clean or not is a form of baseload electricity generation that doesn’t require any of the costly accessories mentioned above to reach high grid contributions and maintain grid stability. This fact has huge implications in regards to unreported comprehensive costs that most people commenting here do not understand.
      It remains to be seen whether this CDCL coal technology would be economically viable on its own, but I believe that it is quite likely that it will be cheaper than wind or solar for a baseload energy source. The Obama administration has an ‘all of the above’ strategy for practical reasons. We shouldn’t be biased toward one technology or the other, but instead let the facts arise before forming such strong opinions.

      • Bob_Wallace

        There is a certain “base load”, a minimum below which demand never drops. Then there is other load over and above this absolute minimum.

        There is absolutely no reason why this minimum need be supplied with any sort of “always on” generation. There’s no difference to the end user if the base is supplied from a coal/nuclear plant or a combination of renewables, storage and dispatchable gas.

        Well, there are differences beyond having your lights come on when you want them.

        There’s cost. New coal, especially coal with carbon capture and nuclear plants would cause our electricity costs to greatly increase and that additional cost would damage our economy.

        There’s health. Coal is killing us and costing us around a billion dollars a day in taxpayer and health insurance premiums.

        Storage is something we don’t yet need to make renewables 24/365 reliable power. For now existing dispatchable generation such as gas and hydro allow us to use wind and solar for about 40% of our total electricity supply. It will be years before we reach that 40% level.

        Renewables with storage will be cheaper than new nuclear or new coal. Would you like the numbers?

  • Ronald Brakels

    This is not something that could be bolted onto an existing plant and reduce its emissions. It would require an entirely new plant that uses more coal per kilowatt-hour produced than a normal coal plant. Australia will never build another new coal plant because normal coal plants cannot compete with the low cost of solar and wind which will result in low wholesale electricity prices during the day and late at night and the rest of the world is or soon will be in a similar position, so we’re not likely to see clean coal plants in the future.

    It would be possible to use such a power plant in load following mode and have it produce electricity in the evening and then use low cost wind or solar energy to reduce the oxidised material and extract the CO2 but this would have to be cheaper than just using energy storage or burning natural gas as usual and then removing the CO2 from the atmosphere. It could also be used by biomass power plants to remove CO2 from the atmosphere but it might be easier to just dump the biomass in the ocean and let it sink.

  • Sure it is economically, just set the price for release CO2 at twice the price to remove it with this system. And include all plants that release more that 1ton a year. Can be lower later. Yes, no one will build new coal, oh well.

  • The day that clean coal becomes a reality is the day that you can take a washcloth and scrub coal clean. You can put a heck of a lot of energy INTO the process and never get the desired outcome. There are just certain natural-property realities regarding the use of coal as a fuel source!

    • George Stevens

      You obviously didn’t read the report. Be informed not opinionated.

  • Marshall Harris

    I will believe the coal industry when they actually spend their money on reducing emissions instead of spending it on lobbying, climate change denial, and public propaganda.

  • Alex S

    “economics of the technology aren’t entirely clear”
    They are to me. This is just more BS stall tactics and distractions from big coal. 99.5% is still less than 100%, and at what cost? We could be building gigawatts of clean renewable energy TODAY on the amount of money wasted on “clean coal” research to develop some commercially impractical technology with totally unproven reliability or safety that may or may not be available for decades

    • boldgandydancer

      Not to mention the disfigurement of earth!

  • This could be good to sell to India and China

    • Jack Smith

      India is emphasizing more on renewable energies since they are faster to come up and have a faster payback time than other modes. Also land acquisition in India is troublesome and they are preferring nuclear power rather than coal for new power plants that come into production.

  • You have to burn almost twice the amount of coal per unit of energy if you want to burn it clean… vs. typical polluting coal burning…


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