Why “Vehicle To Grid” is a horrible idea

February 5th, 2010
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In the near future, we may see a transition to an electric-based transportation system, specifically with electric vehicle drive trains and vehicles which drive on battery power, with or without an additional internal combustion engine to provide for extended range operation. This is already starting to happen with hybrid vehicles being produced by most manufactures and models like the Chevy Volt coming out, which are equipped with a fully electric drive-train and the ability to travel short distances without burning any fuel.

This is where the idea of “vehicle to grid” power comes in. The idea is that since we don’t drive our cars all the time there will be a large number of batteries and motor-generators connected to the power grid. So why not use them for something? The basic idea is that the vehicles would charge during times of relatively low power demand and that during times when demand is high, these vehicles would instead discharge to provide power to the grid. Owners who back-feed the grid with power from their cars would be paid a premium for the power to make it worth their while. Power would be priced based on grid demand, thus allowing vehicle owners to make money by charging when demand is low and discharging when demand is high.

The image on the right comes from this website.

Apparently those who are behind this concept believe that in the years to come our power grid will be pushed so close to the brink of complete collapse that it will be necessary to resort to vehicles for energy storage and generation in order to avoid regional blackouts becoming a common occurrence.

There are three basic vehicle-to-grid systems proposed, based on the vehicle type:

  1. Battery Electric Vehicles – The vehicle’s battery charges when plugged in during times when there is power available on the electric grid, but if there is a time of high demand when power is in short supply, the process is reversed and the battery discharges electricity back on to the grid
  2. Plug in hybrids/Extended Range Electric Vehicles – These vehicles have batteries which allow them to travel short and medium distances on only battery power. They also have a gasoline or diesel engine connected to a generator to provide power when driving beyond the range of batteries. Since the batteries on these types of vehicles are of limited capacity, they would be exhausted after only a relatively short period of time and most of the electricity back-fed to the grid would come from the internal combustion engine powering the generators.
  3. Fuel Cell Vehicles – These vehicles would never charge from the electric grid and would get all their power from fuel, such as hydrogen, which would be purchased at filling stations just as gasoline is. Today most hydrogen comes from the steam reforming of natural gas, but since the entire point of using hydrogen is to allow for an “renewable” form of energy that is not fossil fuel based, presumably this hydrogen would be produced from water by means of electrolysis or thermochemical reactions. (using hydrogen as a fuel presents other issues that go beyond the scope of this post)

So this sounds like a great idea, right? Actually it’s a horrible idea.

Unfortunately, all of these proposals suffer from some rather extreme problems, which makes it unlikely that they’ll ever actually be used on any large scale. If they are ever used it will be only because of mandates and subsidies, not because they actually are desirable or benefit utilities or their customers.

Some of the big, fundamental problems of the whole concept include the following:

It complicates control and management of the power grid – Even when using only a few power plants, keeping the electric grid up and running smoothly is a twenty four hour a day job. Reserve must be maintained, transmission lines must be utilized efficiently and without overloading and loads must be balanced. At any time, a grid operator needs to know how much power is being drawn, where that power is being consumed and the status of all their power plants, including which ones have additional capacity that can be called up.

The “vehicle to grid” concept would mean that grid operators would need to know the status and availability of thousands or millions of tiny generators. They’d need to know where they are located and whether the local transmission lines had the capacity to transmit electricity to the areas where it is needed. They would need to be able to communicate to each of these vehicles and throttle them up and down, calculating, in real time, which ones were suitable for use. Power would be flowing every which way. Residential areas would be generating some of their own power while transmitting some extra to commercial areas, which would be simultaneously getting some of their power from centralized power plants. Some residential areas would be drawing power and then five minutes later, they would have surplus power. Industrial customers would be drawing power from numerous sources at once.

If this is not complicated enough, power grid management is more complex than just keeping demand and production in balance. Frequency and phase must be maintained across the grid and where non-synchronized transmission lines meet, phase compensation must be used to keep them from experiencing a phase miss-match. Loads must be balanced across the three legs of a three phase system, so that no one leg ever has significantly higher or lower voltage, which could cause severe damage to equipment. Factors like inductive reactance and standing waves need to be taken into consideration.

It is not simply an issue of the current grid not being designed for this. Even if a new grid were built from the ground up, the control and communication issues would be daunting and require numerous complex management systems.

It’s unreliable - One of the biggest issues is the fact that it places a great deal of importance on something that can’t necessarily be counted on. By making vehicles a major contributor to power generation, the habits of vehicle owners becomes a major factor in whether power can be reliably provided. If demand is high on a given day and there are many vehicles connected to the grid, then there will be sufficient capacity. However, if a large percentage of the public is not home or has chosen not to have their vehicle back-feed the grid on a given day or night, then a spike in demand could cause a major power shortage.

Not only must there be enough vehicles connected and ready to generate, but they must be in the right locations and connected to sufficiently high capacity power lines to transmit electricity to the areas of demand. If a major traffic jam stops many people in critical areas from getting home when anticipated, or if an event like a holiday causes many to travel, the generating capacity may suddenly not be there.

It’s undesirable to have vehicles discharge – Imagine coming home from work and plugging your vehicle in to charge. The next morning, when you get in your car, you expect the batteries will be fully charged, or at least nearly fully charged. Likewise if you have a charger at the parking lot where you work, you expect that by day’s end you’ll have batteries that are full for the drive home. If your vehicle has been discharging, however, then you’re going to have a big problem. It has been proposed that vehicles could be designed to only allow discharging a portion of their battery capacity or only when high rates are offered. However, electric vehicles already have issues with range and starting off with less than full batteries is not going to help. Since the capacity of vehicle batteries is pretty low to begin with (in grid terms) if you only allow the vehicle to discharge a relatively small portion of the batteries, it won’t make much difference to begin with.

Of course, if your vehicle is not purely electric, such as a plug-in hybrid, then you’ll be a little better off, because you’ll probably still have some gasoline left to drive on. Of course, once the vehicles batteries are depleted, you’ve defeated the entire purpose of a plug-in hybrid and those big batteries become nothing but dead weight you may as well not even have in the vehicle. If power demand is high enough, your engine will have come on to generate power, resulting in not only your batteries being dead, but a significant amount of your expensive gasoline having been burned. Of course, if you park your car in a garage, this may not even be an issue, because you’ll already be dead from carbon monoxide poisoning before you even realize the predicament you’re in.

A hydrogen vehicle would be no better off, as hydrogen fuel also costs money and the power company would have to pay out astronomically high rates to make burning through your own hydrogen worthwhile.

It’s horribly inefficient - A consequence of thermodynamics is that any time energy is stored, converted from one form to another or transmitted, some of it will be lost. This loss may be very large, as in a thermal engine, or it may be very small, as in an electric transformer. However, the loss always compounds, so if power goes through a series of transformers, inverters, charge controllers, voltage regulators and other such devices, each will contribute some loss that compounds.

There are, of course, ways of keeping this loss to a minimum. One important consideration is the efficiency of systems being used. As a general rule, bigger is better. Huge steam turbines at power plants are far more efficient than small engines. Big centralized equipment can be maintained at higher tolerances than would be economical for millions of tiny engines and it is cost effective to invest more in efficiency when its only one unit. The engine in a car may have a total thermal efficiency of 30%, but a combined cycle power plant can easily be greater than 50%

An example of this would be inverters. If batteries are to be connected to the grid, the current will need to be inverted to produce alternating current. Utility scale inverters are very effecient, some of them achieving close to 99% of total power effeciency. The smaller units that would be used in combination with an automobile are nowhere near this effecient. Considering the compounded loss from transmission, charging, discharging, inversion and retransmission, this loss becomes a big consideration.

The fact that energy would need to be repeatedly transmitted to and from centralized regional lines only makes the situation worse. Electricity companies try to avoid using energy storage when possible, but occasionally methods like pumped storage hydroelectric are used for load balancing. When this is the case, these facilities are located near power generators and connected directly to regional lines to reduce the loss of repeated conversion and retransmission.

It trades cheap fuel for one of the most expensive – Cars run on gasoline because it is easy to transport, tanks can be refilled easily, it’s reasonably stable and has numerous other desirable qualities. They do not run on it because it’s the cheapest fuel around and that is becoming more and more of a consideration. Generating power by burning coal is filthy, but at least its economical. Uranium may be even more economical and natural gas, though more expensive, is still a lot better than burning gasoline.

With the exception of some areas of the Middle East, only a tiny portion of the world’s electricity is generated from burning petroleum and the power plants that do burn petroleum usually burn relatively inexpensive bunker oil or other heavy fuel oils, not highly refined gasoline. Gasoline does burn more cleanly than heavier petroleum-based fuels, but using it for power generation would borders on insanity.

Hydrogen could, in some ways, be even worse. If hydrogen is generated from water (the only way of doing it in a truly “clean” and fossil fuel free manner) then a great deal of energy is lost in the conversion of heat and/or electricity to hydrogen and then back to electricity by a fuel cell. The price of hydrogen would therefore always be higher than the price of an equivalent amount of electrical energy. This may be considered worthwhile if it allows portability of energy, but the idea of paying for hydrogen at a filling station only to convert it back to grid electricity is absurd.

It puts wear and tear on vehicles unnecessarily – Batteries don’t have unlimited charge cycles and are expensive to replace. This is a major issue that is faced by battery electric vehicles. Maximizing battery lifetime is a critical concern when it comes to creating viable electric vehicles for the mass market. One thing that would NOT help the situation is using these valuable batteries for more than propelling the vehicle.

The same is true of fuel cells and internal combustion engines. All engines wear with use, and in addition to reducing their total lifetime, the more an engine is used the more it will need maintenance, such as oil changes and the replacement of everything from spark plugs to air filters.

It would necessarily be enormously expensive – In addition to the gargantuan expense of equipping every car with a static inverter, control interfaces and communication systems the price paid to end users to generate electricity would necessarily need to be very very high. After all, they’re burning your gasoline or hydrogen, putting wear and tear on your expensive batteries and potentially causing you some pretty extreme problems with mobility. It’s going to need to be pretty high a payback to justify that kind of sacrifice and to cover the costs incurred.

If the price paid for electricity is very high then so to must be the price it is sold at, and this creates a huge problem. If you own a car and are a net producer or produce nearly as much electricity as you consume, you might come out okay, but what about those who don’t own a car or who have a long commute and thus can’t afford to have their batteries constantly discharged? They’re going to have a very hard time paying for the exorbitantly high cost of electricity. Of course, the largest users of electricity are industry, so unless they generate their own power, industrial users will simply be wiped out.

There are better, cheaper, more efficient ways of storing electricity – At first it might seem like it’s using a resource free for the taking, but the fact that vehicle to grid requires such enormous upgrades to the system and such uneconomical pricing models, it costs more to use vehicles than it would just to build dedicated energy storage facilities. In circumstances where energy storage is needed for the grid, pumped hydroelectric has been proven to be economical and reasonably efficient. There are also utility scale battery systems which tend to be used for shorter duration and smaller application uses, but offer higher efficiency. If on-demand generation is required, there are modular gas turbine generators that work well for non-spinning reserve.

It’s worth noting that batteries, generators and engines are all optimized to their purpose. Designing something like an engine involves a lot of compromises and trade-offs. Ideally you’d want the engine to be as small as possible, as cheap as possible, as efficient as possible and as reliable as possible. Yet these ideals are often in opposition to each other, thus requiring that the designer choose which ones are most important and which can be compromised. For example, the engine inside a car should ideally be as efficient as possible, but if achieving higher efficiency means making the engine much heavier then it may not be worth the added weight, as the additional efficiency would be lost to the added energy required to move the heavy engine around. Yet in a static application, weight doesn’t really matter, so a heavy and efficient engine is desirable. Similarly, the batteries in a vehicle should have an efficient charge cycle, but it’s also important that they charge rapidly. It may be worthwhile to design batteries with lower charge cycle effeminacy if it means they can be charged rapidly.

Providing power to the grid and storing large amounts of energy in a static location is a much much different job than propelling a car around town. Thus the systems that do one are not going to be that good at doing the other. It’s possible that the same kind of system could do both, but it would not do both very well. One might compare it to the concept of a flying car. It is possible to make a car that can also function as an airplane and there have been many built over the years. However, due to the completely different nature of the requirements, they end up being capable of both driving and flying, but don’t do either very well.

Finally, it should be noted that there’s no environmental benefit to this at all –
If anything, the increase in batteries that need to be manufactured and replaced and the huge losses involved make it a very bad environmental policy. There are many who like to talk about “distributed generation” being better for the environment, but don’t explain why burning fuel in a lot of little put-put engines is better than burning fuel in one place.

There actually have been some who claim that vehicle to grid systems would result in lower emissions of sulfur, carbon dioxide and other pollutants. However these claims are based on the presumption that gasoline engines are used to provide most of the power. Compared to coal, gasoline produces less CO2 and more water per unit of energy and while coal is filthy, gasoline burns reasonably cleanly. However, if you’re going to burn gasoline to make power, you could just as easily do it in a big centralized power plant and at least get a little bit better efficiency. Then again, if you are planning on burning gasoline to make electricity, you may as well consider just burning money instead.


This entry was posted on Friday, February 5th, 2010 at 11:38 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Enviornment, Obfuscation, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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65 Responses to “Why “Vehicle To Grid” is a horrible idea”

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  1. 51
    drbuzz0 Says:

            fireofenergy said:

    Prove to me that machine displacement will “always be a job additive” (as it has for the most part, been in the past). Eventually, machines will “pretend” to out think us. People will use them to further consolidate wealth at the expense of the thousands of laid of workers. What will you do when your job gets replaced (and find out that the other job you wanted also got taken by a machine in China). What will you do when your management position is just “affordable software”, when employees are told what to do by the app that sees and hears through every employee and linked via the “social apps” world wide? What will WE do when we all are in that boat? when only a few % of the people actually have jobs? We will crash unless we FORCE machine made wealth to be redistributed.

    When I lose my job to a machine, I will start working for myself and doing contract work, competing with the machines, building better machines to replace the machines working or creating upgrades for the machines.

    I have no doubt I will be able to compete with them quite well. Machines are faster, stronger and have more endurance than me. Machines are better at math. But… they are not clever, adaptable, creative or insightful. They cannot solve problems beyond the scope of what they were designed to do.

    Look, I’m going to say this as someone who has studied computer science. There is no such thing as artificial intelligence. I hate that term. It’s not intelligence. It’s “Simulated intelligence.”

    It’s not like our AI is just too crude or too small scale and needs to be improved. We have nothing that even remotely thinks like a human, at least in most situations. We do not have even the foundation to do that.

    Some people like to talk about a revolution in machine thinking, but we have not even begun to build that.

    What computers do is very dumb and brutally simple. They do operations that are stupid. They do these operations very quickly and that allows them to do complex tasks, but in a very “brute force” kind of way.

    A human recognizes an image by looking at it and seeing the big picture – seeing a shape and immediately recognizing the pattern. That’s not how a computer recognizes an image. It breaks it into blocks or into vectors and turns their relationship into a massive array of numbers. Then it compares this to a huge database of numeric relationships and quantifies how closely they match.

    When a computer plays chess, it does not use a creative or insightful strategy. It simulates every move and every move that the next move could be etc. It does this even with the stupidest moves that no human would even consider.

    This approach can result in some very powerful and useful software. Powerful, yet very dumb, algorithms can provide valuable search results and so on.

    However, it has its limitations. These approaches can produce massive errors when the data they are analyzing falls outside the expected range.

    But, look, the idea that humans would be replaced by machines has been around for centuries and it’s never resulted in anything but improved living conditions, wages and work standards. You are claiming this trend is hitting a breaking point and will stop. This has been claimed many many times before and until you can demonstrate that the tide is indeed turning, then I am not going to worry about it.


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  2. 52
    Anon Says:

    “The Fathers of the field had been pretty confusing: John von Neumann speculated about computers and the human brain in analogies sufficiently wild to be worthy of a medieval thinker and Alan M. Turing thought about criteria to settle the question of whether Machines Can Think, a question of which we now know that it is about as relevant as the question of whether Submarines Can Swim.” — Edsger Dijkstra

    But I’ll just note here that it most likely possible to simulate a human brain on a sufficiently powerful computer (we’re decades away at the moment), if we can do that then there’s no reason we couldn’t have real AI, some have even speculated that it might appear by accident once computers get powerful enough.


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  3. 53
    fireofenergy Says:

    Not every person that is replaced by a machine will be smart enough to compete with those that design and program the machines (unfortunately, myself included).
    Also, sorry for sounding like a luddite (but I was merely trying to make a point)! Yes, I would be bummed (if a machine takes my job) but I would simply look for another job among millions of other displaced workers. So ya, I stick by my original stance, and conclude that since the machine (owner) collects the wealt of more than one laborer, then that machine owner should by all rights have to pay more in social taxes. I would gladly do so if I was smart enough to displace thousands of workers with machines! Another way to look at it is this:
    If a worker has to pay taxes, then a machine should also have to “pay” taxes. Get it? If not, then the world will be only a place fit for the “fittest”, which in this case will be the only the rich who can afford machine developers and the very intelligent individuals who can design and program. “All else” could be left to die without a tax on machine automation.
    Now, we must not go overboard with such machine taxation, otherwise, we’re back to human labor which does not grow the economy as well as does machine “labor”. Therefore a compromise must be worked out in order for the economy, as well as for ALL people to benefit.


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  4. 54
    drbuzz0 Says:

            fireofenergy said:

    Not every person that is replaced by a machine will be smart enough to compete with those that design and program the machines (unfortunately, myself included).

    Well… not being smart is always going to be to ones detriment and being smart is always to one’s advantage. Nothing is really going to change that.

            fireofenergy said:

    If a worker has to pay taxes, then a machine should also have to “pay” taxes. Get it? If not, then the world will be only a place fit for the “fittest”, which in this case will be the only the rich who can afford machine developers and the very intelligent individuals who can design and program. “All else” could be left to die without a tax on machine automation.

    But the machine is not a member of society. Taxes are paid by people, because they are members of a society and thus support its government and also collect and benefit from the security and services it provides. A machine is an object. A machine is not part of the society or the economic exchange, it is only a tool.

    But whether or not the machine pays taxes, the machine is still taxed. There is sales tax when the machine is bought. The machine may be subject to certain property taxes. Supplies for the machine, whether lubricant, replacement parts or fuel are subject to taxes. Many machines require a license or permit to own and operate, and there are fees that come with that.

    But how would you propose to work these taxes anyway? It sounds like it is somehow based on what number of persons are displaced? Or how much work is done?

    A single operator with a large backhoe can be said to do the work, and therefore replace, a team of perhaps 100 men with shovels. However, a man with a shovel could replace a team of five men digging with their bare hands. So should we tax not only the backhoe but the shovels too?


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  5. 55
    fireofenergy Says:

    ANON SAYS…
    “solar power is NOT…”.
    First, you pick at my EVERY statement (HOW ANNOYING)!

    “mining requires a relatively small use of land”.
    That I know, therefore, solar exponentiation should not be such a big deal AS you, for some, heretofore unknown (and really annoying reason) make it out to be!
    Second, the mere mention of “machines” means that (whatever) will be made CHEAPER (or else there would not be machines in use today, right?).

    Please prove (with links) that solar is NOT coming down in price and that machines are NOT getting more sophisticated enough to be capable in making hundreds of thousands of square miles of it (and install jobs, globally)… The only thing wrong with solar is that it STILL (not always will) costs a little too much (and Solindria lol)
    I am NOT wasting everyone’s time by writing about solar energy’s ability to FIX the problems of global warming and declining FF’s. These things are NOT cheap either!

    (Must I re-read all my other stuff with your “special” attachments)?

    About the calculator… are you calling me stupid? (again, you do not understand what you read!).

    Here’s a nit pik…
    fireofenergy said:

    Hydro is great, just almost already tapped out. (then you said)

    Yeah, but what hydro we’ve got we need to keep unless there’s a very compelling reason not to. (then I say LIKE DUH, so why do you even babble about it? Huh?) To that, I will also CONFIRM, we need to develop MORE energy sources!

    I am not forcing YOU to “go solar” but you are trying to tell me “not to go solar” which is EXACTLY like me telling you that (whatever) your idea is, it sucks!

    To everyone else, sorry for the reproach.
    Do not base the future of solar energy by what it cost in the past. Prices of machine made goods DO actually come down! (It’s a like duh concept).


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  6. 56
    fireofenergy Says:

    DrBuzz0,
    You are right about that we can’t be “taxing machines” at this time because there are already other costs associated with their use. Also, machines can still make more jobs (such as tall buildings would never be built without hydrolic equipment (and hopefully, that solar install jobs will be “created” when machines make solar panels much cheaper).
    I’m just rambling on about what happens when machines operate the backhoe and install the solar, when they “drive” themselves, create more of themselves, and really do simulate intelligence and when software is used for management (via workers).
    Eventually, they will be used by the smartest (or richest) to run and build “everything” else without need pay, without need for human labor laws, without need for time off, and without need for income tax matching.
    For these reasons, I believe that eventually, “machine created wealth” redistribution will become a requirement for healthy people and economies. I don’t believe they could become truly self aware, though.


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  7. 57
    Anon Says:

            fireofenergy said:

    Please prove (with links) that solar is NOT coming down in price and that machines are NOT getting more sophisticated enough to be capable in making hundreds of thousands of square miles of it (and install jobs, globally)… The only thing wrong with solar is that it STILL (not always will) costs a little too much (and Solindria lol)
    I am NOT wasting everyone’s time by writing about solar energy’s ability to FIX the problems of global warming and declining FF’s. These things are NOT cheap either!

    It wouldn’t matter if solar panels were free unless we got an unexpected breakthrough in energy storage.

    That’s the basic problem with solar, the energy it produces may not even be useful (if you’ve got to run a gas turbine at spinning reserve you won’t save much fuel and hence CO₂ emissions).

            fireofenergy said:

    Do not base the future of solar energy by what it cost in the past. Prices of machine made goods DO actually come down! (It’s a like duh concept).

    I’m more interested in how well it has worked in the past, so far we do not have any examples of solar power providing a meaningful contribution to electricity generation or global warming reduction, we have said examples for nuclear and hydro.

    You really need to lay off the vapourware and focus on what is proven to work, not what may work 30 years in the future if blah blah assumptions hold true, because we really should solve global warming now and right now solar just can’t do the job.


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  8. 58
    fireofenergy Says:

    Anon, If solar panels were (almost) free, then people would develop the machinery to make batteries (almost) as free as well.
    However, there is probably a better way. Certain metals and salts, when in a liquid state, will stratify and also work as a battery. This set up is already being developed as a proprietary method (though in small scale) Here’s the link…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Sddb0Khx0yA

    Solar is no where near being tapped out as the PROVEN history of its growth points.

    Nuclear, I will argue, is good if we use molten fuels (not the solid fueled, inherently unsafe and inefficient, waste creating, water reactors relied upon today). Are sure enough about the future of proliferation FEARS and real issues concerning each and every way to fission? I know that it is almost impossible to tear through a LFTR to disperse nasty material because the high radiation levels involved would destroy sensitive “driver” electronics (and kill any human operators). Is it TRULY impossible. Can electronics and heavy duty machines be cladded with lead and die hard haters?
    I would say “go LFTR!” But how will I feel if a LFTR is built for every city and that the sheer numbers enable just that much greater chance of something bad really happening (I would feel great until one out of the thousands were breached)?
    And don’t even promote “regular” nuclear! I live near one and a wildfire burnt its electrical supply lines… the stupid thing was threatening to overheat (it’s (un)spent containment pools, too)… The new ones will be designed to merely have a “swimming pool on top of them” in case of such prolonged power failures (definitely NOT an advanced concept!).

    In 30 years, solar panels should be like everywhere and its storage should be cheap. If not, it is because too many people convinced everybody else that “based on the past, it won’t work”. All I am saying is “based on the past, it WILL work.


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  9. 59
    fireofenergy Says:

    For those that do not like like solar, this must be as alarming as excess CO2 is to me…
    http://images.angelpub.com/2009/12/1865/solar-installation-growth-2000-2008.gif


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  10. 60
    Anon Says:

            fireofenergy said:

    Anon, If solar panels were (almost) free, then people would develop the machinery to make batteries (almost) as free as well.

    That is by no means certain, it has to be possible to make enough batteries for almost free which is not something we can count on (it’d use up all our reserves of some elements if we tried).

            fireofenergy said:

    Solar is no where near being tapped out as the PROVEN history of its growth points.

    The only thing solar has a proven history of is wasting money.

    Can you point to an example of large scale solar power that was actually worth doing? Because I can’t think of one.

            fireofenergy said:

    Nuclear, I will argue, is good if we use molten fuels (not the solid fueled, inherently unsafe and inefficient, waste creating, water reactors relied upon today).

    Never mind that those inefficient, solid fuel, water cooled reactors are the safest means of generating electricity we’ve got along with producing the least waste (quite a bit less than solar).

    Yet it seems crap compared to LFTR and IFR, I contend that nuclear is at a much earlier stage in its development than renewable energy (which has already pretty much made its way up the S-Curve, there’s not all that much you can do to improve it).

            fireofenergy said:

    Are sure enough about the future of proliferation FEARS and real issues concerning each and every way to fission?

    Baseless fears that even much of the public doesn’t take all that seriously (the general public has a better understanding of the difference between a bomb and a power plant than your typical anti-nuclear activist) and issues that are quite a bit less bad than what everything else has.

            fireofenergy said:

    I would say “go LFTR!” But how will I feel if a LFTR is built for every city and that the sheer numbers enable just that much greater chance of something bad really happening (I would feel great until one out of the thousands were breached)?

    Current nuclear technology, which is not as safe as LFTR is already the safest way to generate electricity, you’d need to be insane to object to LFTR on safety grounds.

            fireofenergy said:

    And don’t even promote “regular” nuclear!

    Until we get more advanced nuclear, fusion, space solar or large scale energy storage it’s the best we’ve got.

            fireofenergy said:

    I live near one and a wildfire burnt its electrical supply lines… the stupid thing was threatening to overheat (it’s (un)spent containment pools, too)… The new ones will be designed to merely have a “swimming pool on top of them” in case of such prolonged power failures (definitely NOT an advanced concept!).

    Source? Because as long as the emergency generators are running there wouldn’t be anything to worry about.

    But anyway, if you didn’t live near a nuclear power plant you might live near a coal power plant and those are a lot more dangerous (in fact they kill people even when nothing goes wrong).

            fireofenergy said:

    In 30 years, solar panels should be like everywhere and its storage should be cheap.

    People said that 30 years ago, it hasn’t happened and it’s not for lack of trying.

            fireofenergy said:

    If not, it is because too many people convinced everybody else that “based on the past, it won’t work”.

    It doesn’t matter how much faith you have for mother nature can not be fooled.

            fireofenergy said:

    All I am saying is “based on the past, it WILL work.

    Given that solar hasn’t worked, at least at what you are claiming it will do, why should I believe you?


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  11. 61
    fireofenergy Says:

    All valid points. There is not much to base the past of solar on. The fact that it should still be an exponential curve is what interests me, that it is possible, and that there is hardly any mess associated with it (other than extra power lines and little mining waste compared to coal). I believe the storage issue will not be much of a big deal. But with nuclear, we don’t need utility scale storage. LFTR’s are actually load balancing, huh?

    I want to take back that “And don’t even promote ‘regular’ nuclear!” statement because I would rather live next to nuclear before being next to a coal plant.
    Nuclear is the way to go because it is so much more energy dense and thus a much higher EROEI. I’m just one of those millions who do not completely understand the proliferation issues, however, I DO like to promote LFTR. The main reason I like solar is when it becomes cheaper, it should create a lot of install jobs (100,000 square miles of ‘em?). This is why I thought solar is better. When more and more jobs go to China and machines, then, at least, this solar thing might create some to make up for it.
    And apologies, maybe we should base the future on the past… LFTR!


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  12. 62
    fireofenergy Says:

    Good blog!
    I didn’t know what I was getting myself into!


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  13. 63
    Anon Says:

            fireofenergy said:

    All valid points. There is not much to base the past of solar on. The fact that it should still be an exponential curve is what interests me, that it is possible, and that there is hardly any mess associated with it (other than extra power lines and little mining waste compared to coal).

    Those extra power lines are going to be a nasty headache to build, people really don’t want you to put up big power lines right next to them.

    Whether it’ll stay exponential is another matter (it could be a sech function for all we know), it’s quite possible that it will level off and decline, I suspect rather quickly (on a local level it has done that many times, right after subsidies get removed).

            fireofenergy said:

    I believe the storage issue will not be much of a big deal.

    Can’t see any technology on the horizon that would make it not a big deal.

            fireofenergy said:

    But with nuclear, we don’t need utility scale storage. LFTR’s are actually load balancing, huh?

    Homogeneous reactors do have incredible load following ability so that’s likely to be what they are used for.

    We’d probably also discount off-peak power a lot to try to get energy intensive stuff down at night.

            fireofenergy said:

    I’m just one of those millions who do not completely understand the proliferation issues,

    Probably the best summary is that anyone who wants to make a nuclear bomb would use dedicated equipment, not a converted power plant to do it. Countries are clearly able to do, even pathetic ones like North Korea, but terrorist groups can’t get the infrastructure. http://web.archive.org/web/20100612015542/http://homepage.mac.com/msb/163x/faqs/nuclear_warfare_101.html has some good information about what having nuclear weapons means for a country.

            fireofenergy said:

    The main reason I like solar is when it becomes cheaper, it should create a lot of install jobs (100,000 square miles of ‘em?).

    Construction jobs are temporary, it’s also likely that those jobs will come at the expense of other jobs.

            fireofenergy said:

    This is why I thought solar is better. When more and more jobs go to China and machines, then, at least, this solar thing might create some to make up for it.

    The key to competing with cheap labour is to get cheap energy, which also means as few people working in the energy sector as possible (per dollar spent energy actually doesn’t employ many, if you’re trying to make jobs spend as little as possible on energy so that you can put the money into sections of the economy that employ more people).


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  14. 64
    fireofenergy Says:

    I agree that nuclear is the best option. Solar was my “favorite” and sometimes I forget it’s intermittent and diffuse nature could never match that of nuclear.

    Concerning storage, pumped hydro seems to be the cheapest, most reliable (and entertaining).

    100,000 square kilometers of solar install jobs could be a direct replacement for the necessary, and gradual increasing, displacement of coal jobs for quite some time (at least 30 years). However, I just searched EROEI for solar and found wind to “emit” about 5 x less CO2 than solar (from manufacture). Wind takes less than a year (6.6 mo, says Vestas) and solar, up to 38 months to recoup the energy required for its manufacture, assuming “optimal” capacity factors.

    Solar industrialism may in itself grow the excess CO2 level (not to mention the the economy, to a certain level). All the extra mining, and transmission (beefing up existing wherever possible) and research into the molten metal/salt (mega) battery, is still prudent even without solar. Since, the EROEI of renewables are positive, it could be used in the future for the energy input to complete its build without much need for FF’s.

    I need to figure what the total of the solar (and wind) infrastructure would really cost in order to justify it’s potential, but I can not just give up because it seems too expensive at this time.

    Thanks for being concerned about excess CO2!


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  15. 65
    Anon Says:

            fireofenergy said:

    Concerning storage, pumped hydro seems to be the cheapest, most reliable (and entertaining).

    Yeah, problem is we don’t have enough suitable geology for it to be more than just a minor but useful part.

            fireofenergy said:

    100,000 square kilometers of solar install jobs could be a direct replacement for the necessary, and gradual increasing, displacement of coal jobs for quite some time (at least 30 years).

    That’s long enough that the coal jobs could be eliminated through attrition of workers.

    It would also require the workers to move since it isn’t very likely that the places with the coal plants will be where you’d want to put the solar collectors.

            fireofenergy said:

    Solar industrialism may in itself grow the excess CO2 level (not to mention the the economy, to a certain level). All the extra mining, and transmission (beefing up existing wherever possible) and research into the molten metal/salt (mega) battery, is still prudent even without solar.

    Extra transmission lines you don’t need aren’t really prudent, especially considering the fight you’ll have to get them built and mining things we don’t have any use for is a waste of money (if you want a stimulus you could find things that won’t waste money).

    Better batteries are always welcome though (it is the biggest problem electric cars face).

            fireofenergy said:

    I need to figure what the total of the solar (and wind) infrastructure would really cost in order to justify it’s potential, but I can not just give up because it seems too expensive at this time.

    Once you account for the whole building at least four times need thing and the energy storage and the transmission lines (which themselves cost as much as a power plant) I think it safe to say that it won’t be the cheapest option.


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