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How (Not) to Run a Modern Society on Solar and Wind Power Alone


While the potential of wind and solar energy is more than sufficient to supply the electricity demand of industrial societies, these resources are only available intermittently. To ensure that supply always meets demand, a renewable power grid needs an oversized power generation and transmission capacity of up to ten times the peak demand. It also requires a balancing capacity of fossil fuel power plants, or its equivalent in energy storage.

Consequently, matching supply to demand at all times makes renewable power production a complex, slow, expensive and unsustainable undertaking. Yet, if we would adjust energy demand to the variable supply of solar and wind energy, a renewable power grid could be much more advantageous. Using wind and solar energy only when they're available is a traditional concept that modern technology can improve upon significantly.
 

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when I was hauling nuts and bolts around for heat trating one hot summer (AC induced brown-out season) The guy running the plant (only 2 or 3 there, its a pretty automatted thing) had 3 different phones ring at the same time. It was auto dials calls telling him they were going to crank his electric cost. once it hit $X, he would just shut down. Economics can incentivise using power when it is availiable pretty easily.
 

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When it comes to renewable power like wind and solar even if it provides a percentage of our larger needs its still worthwhile IMHO. Certainly those aren't as reliable or predictable and might require us individually to cut back a bit at times anything that reduces our demand works to all our benefit, at least I think so.
 

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One thing I don't like about energy policy is how they artificially give preference to new styles of renewable energy while putting so many regulation in place on dams they basically force them to get ripped out. Some crap about them chopping up fish, all while windmills chop up bald Eagles and other protected birds and some solar reflector actually catches birds on fire mid flight.
 

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when I was hauling nuts and bolts around for heat trating one hot summer (AC induced brown-out season) The guy running the plant (only 2 or 3 there, its a pretty automatted thing) had 3 different phones ring at the same time. It was auto dials calls telling him they were going to crank his electric cost. once it hit $X, he would just shut down. Economics can incentivise using power when it is availiable pretty easily.
I'm not getting what you are saying. Cost is from market and availability. Cost is what it costs. Worth is totally different. He didn't shut down because his cost was manipulated. He shut down because his worth was less than cost.
 

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One thing I don't like about energy policy is how they artificially give preference to new styles of renewable energy while putting so many regulation in place on dams they basically force them to get ripped out.
Same for coal.
 

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Same for coal.
It's not that simple. Many many drivers today reshaping power industry. It's not all gov regs. Xcel is shutting down 700mw of perfectly good scrubbed coal right down the road. Replacing with wind. Claim they will be 60% renewable by 2030. That's a marketing decision, not a compliance decision.
 

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It was also a business decision that has bankrupted Westinghouse building two nuclear plants as well.

But that doesn't mean that someone won't step in do something else if there are no federal reg's preventing it.
 

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Far to often, politicians and business executives make decisions that make them look good short term knowing (hoping??) they reap the benefits now and someone else will pay the costs of those decisions in a few years. Seen it so many times in the place I used to work.

People are usually okay with off the wall stuff as long as it doesn't directly affect them when it goes south (fails to live up to the hype.) Once it starts to hurt them they start looking for someone else to blame.
 

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It was also a business decision that has bankrupted Westinghouse building two nuclear plants as well.

But that doesn't mean that someone won't step in do something else if there are no federal reg's preventing it.
Well, again not that simple. Nuke plants weren't built because Xcel, and that's not why Westinghouse went bankrupt.

At this point, public opinion and consumers gave shifted and there are many reasons.
 

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Listen... Central power affords logistical efficiencies. Power plants got bigger and bigger which lowered cost with increased efficiencies and economy of scale. Coal, nuke and gas both.

Coal and nuke are the same in that its a heat source, a steam turbine, and a generator. So the plants got bigger, but now, a single point failure can take the whole plant. Plenty of ways to add redundancy, but still, it's a single turbine generator set.

Nuke has its own problems, and the biggest threat to coal was never Obama, it's gas. Those have gotten bigger, more efficient, and more flexible. They been adding small peakers, large combined cycle, and multi combustion turbine and steam turbine units. And gas has gotten much cheaper.

But most work has been done with distributed power. Lots of places have been looking at less costly smaller investment solution. But even currently, with great recession all... Forecasted growth is very very flat. Most places don't need to add generation.

So now with wind and solar.... Not big huge plants... How many panels or turbines do you want? Easily expandable. Not many single point failures. Instead it's a percentage of capacity. Not to mention... A lot of people have no problem with them. You don't have to be a tree hugger to not mind solar and wind.

Also we have identified transmission constraints for a long time. We need more. And we need more redundancy and less vulnerable bottlenecks. So adding more transmission for wind and solar doesn't bother anyone.

And what can't be ignored... Gas takes much less labor than coal and nuke. Wind and solar need even less. I have 35 operators running 2 units with a total of 220mw. We have 10 people on coal crew. Our gas plant... 450 mw.... 13 operators, no coal crew. How many people does it take to run solar or wind. We are looking at replacing my plant with 175mw of reciprocating engines. All remote dispatch, start or stop what you want, efficiency is good and the same at half load or full... Actually a really flexible solution... How many people for that... A night watchman?

There are many many drivers changing my industry. I'm a dying breed. It's not all regs or subsidies....
 

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Cost wise, coal is cheaper. Nuke is very competitive. But even still... Do you know the labor, training requirements for nuke? Lots of people and regulatory compliance compared to others. Obvious safety concerns besides millions of pounds of waste piling up around the country. If we are not going to deal with the waste, there is no point making more.
 
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