LENR vs Solar/Wind, and emerging Green Technologies.

  • This thread makes the assumption that LENR will one day be proven commercially viable. Therefore, it is a hypothetical, so no need to point that out.

    I’ll buy that. If LENR is hypothetically proven to be commercially viable, then hypothetically it may turn out to be simple to engineer and economical as well, based on various unproven assumptions about it. Therefore, hypothetically it is a superior solution to our energy problems and is hypothetically worth trillions.


    Given such a rosy state of affairs, it is sad that a cabal of relatively obscure academics have successfully quashed the salvation of humanity to protect their meager turf.


    N.B. This is all a “meta” discussion. I am not espousing a particular assessment of LENR. Despite the fact that Jed always insists that I am not entitled to do so, I hold no definite opinion on its existence or its prospects. In an eerie resemblance to Adrian, I am content to “wait and see what happens.”

  • I’ll buy that. If LENR is hypothetically proven to be commercially viable, then hypothetically it may turn out to be simple to engineer and economical as well, based on various unproven assumptions about it. Therefore, hypothetically it is a superior solution to our energy problems and is hypothetically worth trillions.


    My goal was to relieve non believers (with you in mind), of having to first state it was hypothetical, and that said..... continue on with their argument. I should have known you would make mischief! Now what is it you had to say on the topic? Oh yeah...."who needs LENR, when we have Solar". :)

  • It is interesting that you are a big fan of the renewables, considering you don't seem to think they can take over the energy system. At this point, whether they will or not is not primarily dependent upon technology advancements, it is more a matter of political will and industrial power struggles.

    I think the problems are mainly:


    Money. It would cost a terrific amount to generate all energy from renewables, or most energy. Because you have to have storage and an upgraded distribution network. You need long distance transmission because most people don't live in very windy places such as North Dakota, or very sunny places such as Death Valley. You can generate a certain amount of renewable energy at a modest cost, but when it goes above 30% of the total, the cost starts to rise.


    The technology is not ready. I mean the peripheral energy storage and long distance transmission. It needs a lot more development. I don't think zillions of batteries will work.


    Solid waste. PV in particular would generate a mountain of toxic solid waste from used-up panels if it generated more than a few percent of electricity. Look at the picture in my paper on cold fusion to see what I mean.


    Intermittancy, which is why you need storage, but storage can only get you so far. Thanks to improvement in weather forecasting wind power output can now be predicted days in advance. That's a big help. Maintenance on natural gas plants can be scheduled for days when you know there will be wind. But it is still a problem. Producing too much power from wind is also a problem. Typical output is 30% of nameplate, so when there are strong winds and it goes up to 100% of nameplate, power companies are overwhelmed. That is why electricity is free in many parts of Texas at night. Good for consumers, bad for the power company.


    One problem renewables do not have is supply (total capacity). If wind turbines were set up in approved, environmentally safe locations in North and South Dakota, and they were used to generate a stream of synthetic liquid fuel, they would produce more fuel than the Middle East produces in oil. If they produced electricity they could power all of North America. Unfortunately, either option would cost a tremendous amount of money, and both are technically impossible at present. Synthetic liquid fuel production from coal has been done, but big improvements would be needed. There is no way to economically transmit power from the Dakotas to where it is needed. Perhaps HTSC could help.

  • Jed, those are all sensible arguments. Of course, there are counterarguments for all of them and there are a spectrum of opinions with regard to each as well. For example, your position on battery storage is a very pessimistic one. If you are bullish on the prospects for electric vehicles (get a Tesla and you will be), then the prospects for continued drastic cost and performance improvements in battery technology are extremely good. In that case, behind-the-meter and even utility-scale storage just keep getting more attractive.


    As you point out, supply is not a problem. The amount of solar energy striking the earth is so enormous that the amount we need to exploit to meet our needs is a pittance. Yes, the infrastructure is not cheap, but if the fuel is free and the stuff lasts a long time, the economics are just fine and, in any case, far cheaper than paying for the destruction caused by climate change.


    As for the toxic solid waste... really? Discarded solar panels? Sorry, but that is not a looming threat to civilization.


    Anyway, at least since I have been involved with the technology, nobody has looked real smart low-balling estimates for the rate of progress in solar. Quite the contrary, in fact.

  • As for the toxic solid waste... really? Discarded solar panels? Sorry, but that is not a looming threat to civilization.

    It is not threat to civilization, but to deal with it safely will cost a lot of money. That makes solar much less cost competitive. It produces far more toxic waste than alternatives such as coal, but fortunately it is solid waste and can be confined. There are presently no realistic plans to recycle it. It is not a problem yet because solar is less than 2% of electricity.


    The embodied energy in PVs is also high, and payback time is long, because output is low. The embodied energy used to be higher than total output over the life of the device, making a PV an interesting battery.


    The worst source of energy is ethanol. It is an energy sink. It takes considerably more energy to produce it than you get out of it, according to Prof. David Pimentel, who is the go-to expert. It is a gift to OPEC. See:


    https://www.amazon.com/Energy-…id-Pimentel/dp/1420046675


    Massive numbers of small batteries to store energy would also be a solid waste nightmare, when they start to wear out.

  • I think that if you do some digging, you will discover that the embodied energy argument about PV is out-of-date information. Things have changed rather considerably since such arguments were being made. The energy payback period is now quite short.


    As for ethanol, corn ethanol is a farce that our wonderful congress inflicted on the country. Sugar cane ethanol - as used in Brazil - is great stuff, however. The energy analysis is wildly different in the positive direction.


    Battery recycling and reuse is essential and intelligent. Nobody with more than 5 brain cells is going to dump a 75 kWh Tesla battery pack in a landfill.

  • I think that if you do some digging, you will discover that the embodied energy argument about PV is out-of-date information.

    Yes, that is what I said.


    The energy payback period is now quite short.

    No, it is 1 to 4 years depending on various factors. This is far longer than other conventional systems (except fission nuclear plants). The PVs last about 16 years at which point output is significantly degraded (not stopped completely), so this is about 25% of their total output. The payback period for natural gas turbines and wind turbines is 3 to 6 months, depending on various factors, and they last a lot longer than 16 years.


    https://cleantechnica.com/2018…ack-time-now-super-short/


    The payback time for a cold fusion cell that is left running would be a few days at most. About the same as an automobile engine run continuously.



    Battery recycling and reuse is essential and intelligent. Nobody with more than 5 brain cells is going to dump a 75 kWh Tesla battery pack in a landfill.

    Yes, but when you add in the dollar cost and the energy cost of recycling the Tesla battery pack, the overall performance is not as good as it looked when you ignored these costs. PV are even worse. Look at the size of the solar roof in the paper I published, versus the likely size of a cold fusion generator. The generator is far smaller yet it produces 24 times more energy. The solar roof cannot produce even half the energy needed by a typical U.S. family, even in an ideal location, so it has to be augmented with another generator and a power distribution infrastructure. When you add up the total mass of the solar panels, the other generator, and the family's share of the distribution infrastructure, you are looking at a hundred times more equipment, a hundred times more mass to recycle when the equipment wears out, and far more cost. This is one of the reasons cold fusion would be so much cheaper and more compact than any alternative.


    http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/RothwellJcoldfusionb.pdf

  • For a “fan” of solar power, you seem determined to use the most negative statistics you can dig up to bolster your arguments. First of all, where you get the 16-year lifetime for panels as typical is a mystery. Most are warranteed for 25 years and probably will last much longer. There are plenty around that already have. So your math is simply misleading.


    As for costs, your table is just wrong. $4/W solar is ancient history. Do your homework. Try $2/W instead and you can beat that these days.


    In any case, you can go on and on all you want about the cost of a hypothetical cold fusion system as an energy source. When you can produce even a prototype system whose operation can be verified by a third party without lots of provisos and excuses, then we can talk. There are all kinds of novel futuristic photovoltaic technologies that are really cool too. Hypothetical machines can perform miracles. I am more interested in the performance of things that actually exist.


    Meanwhile, you are convinced that cold fusion will never be developed because of the forces of evil. So what is it you are hoping for? You don't think solar is the answer for dubious economic reasons. Surely you don't see natural gas as anything but the slightly less dirty technology that it is. So is it: if we can't have cold fusion then let's all go to hell?

  • Personal observation of mine. As you may know, I was a pilot for 34 years. The last ten I flew mainly out of DFW, mostly westward. Meaning I spent many, many hours over west Texas. Starting a few miles north, and west of DFW, all the way to New Mexico, south to the Gulf Of Mexico, and north to the Oklahoma line, almost as far as the eye could see, were wind turbines. Everywhere. Big ones too. Beautiful IMO. Out of curiosity I checked to see how much of Texas they powered (yes, the power is distributed regionally), and I was surprised at the time to see they represented only 17% of Texas' energy needs.


    Texas is an almost ideal situation in terms of the winds, geography, little interference from the environmental groups, and governmental support in the way of subsidized power lines back east to the densely populated areas. So in a way, it is the best case scenario for wind production, yet still can only muster a minority portion of their energy needs. Wind will always play a role, but it will be limited.

  • Shane D. Did you pay attention of home many of them were actually spinning or all of them all the time?


    Sure, got nothing else to do up there. :) Seriously yes, I did. West Texas is almost ideal in their wind distribution. Most of the generators are located on ridge lines to catch the slightest of winds. Even on low wind days, those blade tips are getting some traction in the upper airs. The difference in wind velocity from ground to say 100 meters elevation, can be significant. Coming in to land for instance, we often had 30 kts at 150meters, but only 5 on touchdown. That said, there were days when not one blade was turning in a portion of the farm. However, because of the vast area those wind farms cover, there was usually some production on the whole. But not always.


    That said, there are many other states building wind farms. Some of those are not ideally located. Illinois is a very good example. A very big farm is located to the south and west of ORD. Passing over them, many times I saw no blades rotating at all. I do not even see how they are profitable. The terrain is flat, and not topographically suited to create winds.

  • Shane, do you have reason to believe that Texas has maxxed out on wind power? Have they run out of land? Have they run out of wind? When wind gets to 30% in Texas, will you lament that it only provides 30% of the state’s needs so it just won’t cut it?


    Displacing entrenched technology is a slow process. Even though wind and solar are actually cheaper than fossil fuels in an increasing number of places, that doesn’t mean the transition will happen overnight. For one thing, there is a $5 trillion industry that owns an appreciable number of politicians and isn’t real anxious to see their business decline. So there are man-made barriers to overcome.


    When there is good evidence that renewables have peaked with regard to cost, performance and penetration, then we can talk about the need for some other magic bullet. Take a look at some of the countries in Europe. They already are getting more of their energy from renewables than the naysayers claim is practical.

  • Shane, do you have reason to believe that Texas has maxxed out on wind power? Have they run out of land? Have they run out of wind? When wind gets to 30% in Texas, will you lament that it only provides 30% of the state’s needs so it just won’t cut it?


    IO,


    I think they are close to taking all the choice areas in Texas, and it is a very big state. There are just so many peaks, mesas, and ridge lines left to build atop, and that is where wind turbines are most efficient. For every high area, there has to be a low, and that is where the new ones will have to go. Is that worth it? What is the ROI going to be?


    And like I said, it is not all about topography that limits development, but also there are the politics. For instance, California has many ideal sites for a wind farm, but all they have is a small farm on a hill in the central valley, and a pathetic 10 or so turbines in the mountains east of San Diego. Another good example is offshore in the Great Lakes, and offshore New England. Both would be great locations, but just recently, after 15 years fighting, we have one wind farm off NE.

  • Shane, I’m totally with you on the politics problem. It is pitiful that Block Island is all we have in the way of offshore wind in the US while Europe has over 4,000 turbines in 11 countries. One can only hope that someday we may be a less stupid country. So far, that does not seem to be the direction in which we are heading (pardon the politically-tinged aside.)

  • Shane, I’m totally with you on the politics problem. It is pitiful that Block Island is all we have in the way of offshore wind in the US while Europe has over 4,000 turbines in 11 countries. One can only hope that someday we may be a less stupid country. So far, that does not seem to be the direction in which we are heading (pardon the politically-tinged aside.)


    IO,


    I do not see a problem with talking about the politics of NIMBY (not in my back yard). That is what is preventing solar/wind from reaching it's full potential. It is non -partisan issue, or at least it should be. I would love to sit on a beach and watch wind turbines in action. So majestic, and beautiful (did not know I had a soft side did you :) ). Others think they are an eyesore, and block their development. I know the offshore farms greatly benefit the environment by serving as artificial reefs. Others think they are bad for the environment, so don't want them.


    NIMBY.

  • Starting a few miles north, and west of DFW, all the way to New Mexico, south to the Gulf Of Mexico, and north to the Oklahoma line, almost as far as the eye could see, were wind turbines. Everywhere. Big ones too. Beautiful IMO. Out of curiosity I checked to see how much of Texas they powered (yes, the power is distributed regionally), and I was surprised at the time to see they represented only 17% of Texas' energy needs.

    I don't see your point. Physically, there is plenty of space for additional wind turbines. Texas is nowhere near tapped out. Physically, wind turbines are large and visible compared to, say, coal plants or natural gas plants, but they do not actually take up more space or more materials. It only looks that way because you see the entire structure in one place. Coal takes a lot more than you see at the plant because it requires coal mines and trains, and a natural gas generator needs a pipeline.


    Wind is now cheaper than these alternatives, so who cares how much space it takes up, or how many towers there are?


    Also, you saw the parts of Texas that has towers. Look at a map of them and you will see that vast areas in Texas do not have them. (Google "Texas wind turbine map.") If they were everywhere they could be erected according to environmental regs and restrictions, Texas would generate enough electricity to power the entire U.S.: 1.3 million MW. Total U.S. summer capacity is 1,074,000 MW.


    https://windexchange.energy.gov/states/tx


    I believe this is actual and not capacity factor. In other words, you would need towers with 3.9 million MW of capacity. Plus a way to store the energy. It is not practical or economical, but the potential energy is there.


    NREL estimates used to show North and South Dakota with enough capacity for the whole U.S. It now shows 0.7 million MW. Way more than they can use, but not 1.0 million MW. The middle of the continent is where the wind is:


    ND 0.3 MW

    SD 0.4

    NE 0.5

    KS 0.5

    OK 0.4

    TX 1.3 (because it is so big)


    Total: 3.4 million MW


    Regarding additions to capacity: "Of the 2016 total utility-scale capacity additions, more than 60% were wind (8.7 GW) and solar (7.7 GW), compared with 33% (9 GW) from natural gas. Because of differences in the capacity factor across different types of plants, shares of new capacity additions are not typically a good indicator of the shares of generation provided by new capacity across technologies. In addition to varying across generation technologies, new plant capacity factors can also vary significantly across regions."


    https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=30112


    In other words, when you take into account actual capacity factors and not nameplate, wind is still far below natural gas in additions as well as total capacity. Wind has made significant contributions to the reduction in coal. Because it is cheaper than coal, as is natural gas. Meanwhile, poor old nuclear fission is hemorrhaging billions of dollars here in Georgia. The estimated price of our ever-under-construction reactor mysteriously went up $1.1 billion dollars a few weeks after an official cost estimate from the power company.


    https://www.myajc.com/business…s/UABAtyEgT0N58ObAgdro8K/

  • I think they are close to taking all the choice areas in Texas, and it is a very big state.

    I doubt it. They only tap about 2% of their potential wind energy. Granted, it might be a higher percent of the choice locations. On the other hand, if they can make taller towers and longer blades, they can then tap much more wind energy per location, as the old equipment wears out. Plus I think they have hardly begun to tap the Gulf of Mexico. Wind energy at sea is almost always more reliable and more powerful. That's why sailing ships worked so well. The North Sea could power all of Europe several times over.