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Recently I attended parts of a series of lectures hosted by the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

The most recent lecture was by Dr. David Eaglesham (formerly) Chief Technology officer of First Solar, another basketcase in the "solar will save us" industry that according to Amory Lovins, writing in 1976, was supposed to save our asses by the year 2000 except that it now seems to be 2012 and our asses, um, aren't saved by solar energy or anything else.

A small matter, one supposes.

Dr. Eaglesham's lecture was entitled Challenges for the Photovoltaic Industry.

Here is the sum total of what Dr Eaglesham's lecture - according to me at least, although I admittedly hold a jaunticed view of such things - about the problems of the solar industry came down to:   "Not enough subsidies."

If you ask me, one of the problems of the photovoltaic industry is that its products don't work very well, but, again, no matter.   I may remark below on some more substance about Dr. Eaglesham's lecture, and some of the questions I posed, and also questions that were not asked by anyone in the audience, which may well have consisted of a set of people 100% of whom may have been much smarter than I am.

(A good goal in life is to try, as often as is possible to be in rooms where one is the dumbest person in the room.)

However this diary is not about "problems of the solar photovoltaic industry."   This is about the technology that is - whether you believe it or not - far more critical to the issue of climate change than, in my opinion, than solar PV energy will ever be.    This is a diary about turbines.

In any case, I was just speaking of people who are much smarter than I am.  To that point, the director of the Andlinger Center is Dr. Emily A. Carter.   The paper I will discuss in this diary was written by her on the occassion of her election to the National Academy of Science and was published in the Proceedings of that Academy, PNAS April 5, 2011 vol. 108 no. 14 5480-5487.

Here is the title of the paper:   "Atomic-scale insight and design principles for turbine engine thermal barrier coatings from theory."

It's a paper about refractory materials and superalloys, a topic in which I am very interested and about which I commented, albeit peripherally, in my last diary about the radioactive metal Technetium, a diary which, upon review, seems to have contained one statement that may have been misleading.

NNadir is a liar.

Superalloys are alloys - they almost always contain a large amount of nickel - that can withstand high temperatures as well as corrosive environments without losing their mechanical strength.

Examples of superalloys include Hastelloy®, Inconel as well as others, some of which are actually proprietary.   Superalloys are widely used in turbines for jet aircraft as well as turbines in powerplants as well as in other applications such as spacecraft.

Doctor Carter is one of the world's leading authorities on - and developers of - what is called "Orbital Free Density Functional Theory."

Orbitals, as many people know - unless one has joined Greenpeace and has thus remained blissfully unaware of the contents of science books - may be thought of as three dimensional distributions of the probability of "seeing" an electron in a particular area of space - this definition is somewhat chemist centric inasmuch other particles, which are not fermions (as electrons are) also can have 'orbitals' which do not obey (as electrons do) what is known as the "Pauli Exclusion Principle."   (Particles that do not obey the "Pauli Exclusion Principle" are called bosons.)

One often sees electronic atomic orbitals depicted as a set of shapes, but in the larger sense, these representations are often for heuristic value:  The real value of this constructs is to utilize the mathematical forms of these orbitals (which are considered as waves) in constructing more physically meaningful mathematics.   In practice, in molecules, the situation is very much more difficult to handle.   One may use the conception of atomic orbitals and "mix" them in various ways - for instance one approach has been to use linear combinations of wave functions to make "molecular orbitals" - but the calculations can and do become very complex.

In one of her papers, Dr. Carter gives a feel for this level of complexity.   She writes, in a paper about a new software tool she has helped to develop called PROFESS:

In general, in order to solve for the electronic structure and properties of matter, one must solve the time-independent Schrödinger equation ℋΨ = EΨ, (1)where ℋ is the Hamiltonian operator, E is the total energy, and Ψ is the many-body electronic wavefunction under the Born– Oppenheimer approximation. The Ψ that corresponds to the lowest E then contains all information about the ground state of the system. However, Ψ contains 3N degrees of freedom (N is the number of electrons), and is expensive both to compute and to store. For example, accurate ab initio electron correlation methods that directly use this approach (e.g., configuration interaction and coupled cluster theories) generally tend to be too expensive for studying more than tens of atoms, even with linear scaling versions, which have been used to handle up to ∼130 atoms [1,2].

An alternative scheme to solve for ground state properties is put forth in the Hohenberg–Kohn theorems [3]. The first theorem states that the ground state electron density ρ contains everything necessary to recover all information about the electronic ground state, including, e.g., the electronic wavefunction, the total energy, the associated forces on the nuclei and the stress in the unit cell. In theory, using the density entirely obviates the need to compute or store a full N-body electronic wavefunction. Since the electron density only has three coordinates associated with it, this theorem formally reduces the number of degrees of freedom from 3N to 3, an enormous simplification. The second theorem is a variational principle that provides a way to find this ground state electron density by minimizing the electronic total energy with respect to variations in the electron density.

Carter, et al, Computer Physics Comm. Volume 179, Issue 11, 1 December 2008, Pages 839–854

If the Schroedinger equation above looks deceptively simple, one should certainly magnify the word "deceptively" considerably, perhaps not as much as the scientifically illiterate anti-nuke community magnifies the possibility that any death in a nuclear related system in a period of half a century is worthy of infinitely more attention than the 3.3 million deaths that occur each year, every, from air pollution, but close to that much.

The Schroedinger equation for a many body system - and even the simplest molecules are such systems - is very, very, very, very complex, because all of the electrons in a system of atoms push each other around, and in fact, pull the atomic nuclei around, and moreover do so in a way in which the ordinary laws of macroscopic physics do not apply, but are instead subject to the laws of quantum mechanics.

Some simplifying assumptions are made, the most famous of which is the Born-Oppenheimer approximation (yes, that Oppenheimer) - to which Dr. Carter refers - that ignores, essentially, the movements of nuclei and focuses instead on electrons.   This simplifying assumption has proved very useful although it is well known that nuclei do, in fact, move in the kinds of electric fields that comprise all matter, and in fact, the entire point of approximating the solutions to the Schroedinger equation is to show how atomic nuclei are pulled into specific geometries by electrons.

But no matter.

Now, if I carried on for a long time about these energy minimization modeling schemes of Dr. Carter's, I would be in the position of rote dogmatic anti-nuke - and there are no other kinds of anti-nuke - that is, I would be speaking on a subject I know nothing about, so that's all I'll say about PROFESS, except to note that the quantum mechanical concepts with which Dr. Carter works are relevant to what I will now discuss.

I said this diary is about Dr. Carter's paper on turbines and it is.

Almost all of the electricity produced on earth is generated using turbines.   Turbines are involved in nuclear plants, gas plants, coal plants and in fact in hydroelectric plants.   (There are some powerplants that are diesel powered and these represent only a small fraction of the world's power supply.)

The turbines in those plants that are heat engines (which excludes hydroelectricity) operate on two different kinds of cycles, one of which is the Rankin (steam) cycle and somewhat less common, Brayton cycles.    There are a small number of plants - largely gas plants - that operate on both cycles, and predictably enough, these are called "combined cycle" plants.

Combined cycle plants can have very high thermal efficiency, as high as 60%, whereas plants that operate on only one cycle have thermal efficiency that is typically on the order of low thirties percent efficiency.

One way of increasing the energy efficiency - the amount of useful work - that one can get out of a system is to operate it at high temperatures.     The thermal efficiency of a Brayton system is typically written as follows:

η = 1 - T1/T2
Here η is a dimensionless number defined as the "efficiency" (often written in percentage terms, and thus multiplied by 100) and T1 and T2 are the temperature of the surroundings (generally determined by the weather) and the temperature of in the hottest part of the plant, which is generally right before the gas (be it steam or fuel exhaust) hits the turbine.    Thus the hotter the engine is run, the higher the efficiency.   (Note too that power plants are more efficient in winter than in summer.)  

In a Brayton cycle plant, very high temperatures are involved.   In a gas plant (or in a special - and rare - type of coal plant that is sold as "lipstick on the pig" by the coal industry, an IGCC plant) the gas hitting the turbine is extremely hot.

I now return to Dr. Carter's work, in which she describes something about these conditions, in the PNAS paper referenced at the outset.   She writes:

To maximize energy efficiency, gas turbine engines used in airplanes and for power generation operate at very high temperatures, even above the melting point of the metal alloys from which they are comprised. This feat is accomplished in part via the deposition of a multilayer, multicomponent thermal barrier coating (TBC), which lasts up to approximately 40,000 h before failing. Understanding failure mechanisms can aid in designing circumvention strategies. We review results of quantum mechanics calculations used to test hypotheses about impurities that harm TBCs and transition metal (TM) additives that render TBCs more robust. In particular, we discovered a number of roles that Pt and early TMs such as Hf and Y additives play in extending the lifetime of TBCs.
The bold is mine.

Hf and Y refer to the elements hafnium and yttrium.   By the way both of these elements are byproducts of the nuclear industry.  Yttrium is a fission product produced in about 4% of nuclear fissions and the element has no long lived radisotopes.   Thus it can be isolated from used nuclear fuel and used essentially in any application for the element.

Hafnium is always found in zirconium ores.   Because it is a very efficient neutron absorber, and because nuclear fuel rods and other constituents of reactor cores need to be transparent to neutrons, hafnium must be removed from zirconium before the zirconium can be used.   Historically this was a very difficult challenge, because the chemistry of hafnium and zirconium are very close, particularly because the former element occurs in the periodic table after the so called "lanthanide contraction."   However obviously this challenge has been met on an industrial scale.    Hafnium free zirconium can also be obtained from used nuclear fuel because it is a fission product and hafnium is not.  Yttrium is also a fission product, and is, in fact one of the most common fission products.  

Both hafnium and yttrium are relatively rare elements, although supplies of the latter are higher.   Hafnium is used in the control rods of nuclear reactors because its physical properties with respect to things like corrosion are very similar to zirconium and, as said, it absorbs neutrons.

Interestingly, when used in control rods, small amounts of hafnium are transmuted into the element tantalum.   Tantalum - if you are familiar with it - is obtained from the mineral "Coltan" the mining of which has caused great tragedy in parts of Africa, where people are enslaved or even killed - particularly in the war ravaged region of the Congo - in efforts to obtain it.    However this matter is certainly understandable since tantalum is used to make very high efficiency capacitors, which are important to the electronics industry that makes cell phones and computers using them, the latter being very useful for smug and superior westerners to disseminate information about how wonderful Greenpeace is, for instance, and about how the world will be saved by efficiency and stuff like that.  

The author of this diary, who recently had the privilege of being the dumbest person in the room also makes use of these capacitors, just to be clear.   The author of this diary is hardly an innocent, since he knows what's involved in his lifestyle, something he has cheerfully confessed in this space for many years, here for instance:

The Utility of Light: Getting Real with the Existing Energy Infrastructure.

NNadir is a liar, and more recently was the dumbest person in the room.

Anyway, to return to the point of turbines.

Dr. Carter writes in the PNAS paper:

Turbine engines operate via the Brayton cycle, which offers lower carbon dioxide emissions and lower cost for power generation than other possible alternatives. Their efficiency can be increased by increasing the inlet temperature, which allows more expansion of gas that creates more pressure to drive the turbine. However, high-temperature operation, under oxidizing conditions, poses serious demands on the materials used to construct jet engine components. Materials must be found that are robust under such harsh operating conditions. Engineers over the past few decades have improved greatly the thermomechanical properties of the metal alloy comprising, e.g., the turbine blades, and have created a multilayer coating for the blades that protects against both heat and corrosion, referred to as a thermal barrier coating (TBC).
This - along with her more sophisticated and elegant way of saying what I said above - is the crux of her paper, in which she gives a solid theoretical footing to the empirical development of thermal barrier coatings.   And the development of said coatings has been, up to now, empirical.

Dr. Carter writes:

Despite these advances, more robust TBCs are desired, either to extend TBC service lifetime under present-day operating conditions or to operate at even higher temperatures to achieve more efficient energy conversion. As a result,  characterization and optimization of TBC properties have continued to be active areas of research. As is the case for most materials development, the usual path to improve TBCs relies on trial and error. Many materials compositions are fabricated, characterized, and tested. Unfortunately, characterization typically is performed postmortem, as virtually no instruments exist to characterize a TBC in situ during operation.
She gives us a little basic tutorial on what thermal barrier coatings are and how they work and what the current state of the art is:
Turbine engine components are made of nickel (Ni)-based superalloys, the microstructure and composition of which has been tailored to minimize deleterious changes at high temperature (e.g., creep). The idea of coating the metal parts with a material with low thermal conductivity has been around since the late 1950s, and TBCs have been used since the 1980s, but it has been an ever-present challenge to make these coatings durable and prevent them from spalling (chipping off) after some time in operation (1). The structure of a state-of-the-art TBC consists of three layers (Fig. 1). The topmost layer is a ceramic material that  constitutes the actual heat shield. The material of choice is yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ), because it possesses a unique combination of properties. First, doping ZrO2 with 6–8 wt%Y2O3 ensures that the resulting YSZ adopts the tetragonal phase at all temperatures of interest, so that thermal-cycling-induced phase transitions—which otherwise would occur in pure zirconia, causing stress buildup—are avoided. Second, YSZ has one of the lowest thermal conductivities of all ceramics, because it possesses an unusual defect structure that scatters phonons, thereby hindering heat transport. Third, despite being a ceramic, its coefficient of thermal expansion is well matched to that of the metal superalloy so that stress buildup due to thermal expansion mismatch is minimized. Finally, YSZ has a low density, which minimizes weight, and it is very hard and therefore quite resistant toward foreign-body physical damage (2, 3).
A word about the mechanism of "foreign body physical damage" to turbines involves steam itself.  When you hear someone using the term "clouds of steam" you are in fact listening to an oxymoron.  Steam is clear and colorless; it is like air, invisible.  Any "clouds" one sees associated with the presence of steam involves the condensation of steam to form small suspended drops of liquid water.    The momentum of water can be quite abrasive, which is clear on a little reflection when one has been in a driving rain, where the water can collide with one's face in a way that is, if not painful, is at least uncomfortable.   The commercial and consumer use of devices like power washers also shows that liquid water can be reasonably abrasive.   In a large steam turbine system, where the steam and any liquid water that condenses in it can be traveling at very high velocities, it is possible to actually abrade the surfaces of turbines.    This is a non-trivial point.   I mention it because it is important to note that mechanical strength and resistance is also an issue.  (In order to prevent this kind of damage, many steam type plants include a device called a "steam separator" in the line before the turbines.)

One tries to minimize the presence of condensate my manipulating via engineering and heat flow via operating conditions the presence of condensates, of course, since almost by definition they will reduce turbine efficiency.

Anyway.  

Now for the interesting part which I will paraphrase rather than produce via quotes from the PNAS paper, which in any case requires no special access restrictions as it is freely available on the internet.   Also this diary is becoming too long.

One of the issues that Dr. Carter addresses is the relationship between the thermal barrier, which is generally yttrium stabilized zirconia, and the alumina layer - alumina, sometimes rendered as synthetic sapphire is a powerful refractory (heat resistant) material  -and the superalloy itself.   The superalloy, it turns out will begin to degrade when oxygen atoms migrate into it, as compounds like NiO form.   Another effect of some importance is the effects that oxygen will have on the bonding layer between the thermal barrier coating and the superalloy, itself a specialized alloy containing cobalt, yttrium, aluminum and chromium, or alternatively (although almost certainly at higher cost) a platinum aluminide.

It is interesting to note - although it is not discussed in Dr. Carter's paper directly but perhaps indirectly alludes to it - that oxygen deficient perovskites (also tetragonal) that are in effect oxygen conductors, although those that are YSZ type are often doped with elements with multiple oxidation states.  A paper in the journal Solid State Ionics refers to the use of cerium doped yttrium stabilized zirconia as an oxygen permeable substance in, as an example, a solid oxide fuel cell.   (cf. Solid State Ionics 180 (2009) 314–319)

Moreover, according to Dr. Carter, the integrity of the bonding layers can be degraded by the presence of sulfur, often a constituent of dangerous fossil fuels - including dangerous natural gas as well as gasified biomass.

The purpose of the paper is to discover the theory behind the empirical properties of bond coatings and thermal barrier coatings on superalloys that are currently employed, and succeeds at explaining through bonding theory, why hafnium in particular is particularly valuable in the coating systems of turbine blades:   It has excellent bonding properties to alumina formed in the thermally grown alumina oxide layers that form during the preparation and use of coatings of these types.

She has less success explaining the role of platinum.

She also suggests that her results suggest that early d transition elements, including the light and strong elements scandium and titanium might have fair properties in these types of systems, albeit not as good as those of zirconium and hafnium - but maybe compensated by their lower weight.

The considerations involved in this program are mostly relevant to the use of dangerous fossil fuels, since in effect - this is especially true in the case of gas turbines - the operation of these kinds of facilities can be tantamount to focusing a blow torch on a turbine.

By the way, if you have heard that gas is "clean energy" you are engaged - in my opinion - in self delusion.   Gas is not clean.   It accounts for more than 20% of the 30 billion metric tons of dangerous fossil fuel waste (as carbon dioxide) dumped into the earth's atmosphere.   Even if we manage to shatter every cap rock in North America to get the last gasp of it, it will not prove sustainable.

If you have any familiarity with my writings, you will know that I oppose all dangerous fossil fuels, coal, gas and oil and want them all phased out.   However this does not mean that I am indifferent to turbines, in particular turbines involved in direct chemical reactions.   And let's be clear, combustion is a chemical reaction.    So are chemical reactions that can kind of be thought of as anti-combustion reactions, including some that are in fact, mildly exothermic.   I can imagine the need to place turbines in lines involving these, if for no other purpose than to increase efficiency.

The kinds of systems I would imagine would involve very different chemistries than the type depicted here.   Indeed there would be excellent reasons for avoiding nickel (and thus superalloys) entirely.   Nickel is not, for instance, really compatable with carbon monoxide.  

An example of the kinds of systems I think about is the supercritical carbon dioxide brayton loop being developed at Sandia National labs.   It is said to offer a giant leap in thermal efficiency in power plants.   This type of system is not really all that applicable to dangerous natural gas systems - although one could imagine it in a type of combined cycle dangerous natural gas plant, but it would be applicable to dangerous coal plants - albeit without limiting the enormous environmental costs of coal - and to nuclear plants.

(My oft stated contention is that the latter type of plants - nuclear plants - are the only environmentally acceptable form of energy production for a planet with 7 billion people on it.   Nuclear energy is not risk free, but it is certainly risk minimized.    There are no other energy alternatives that can match it for sustainability, environmental impact and yes, safety.)

But for now, the ideas surrounding things like supercritical carbon dioxide brayton cycle systems or other types of working fluids are still (regrettably maybe) exotica.

The point is that Dr. Carter's work - she claims her PROFESS type programs can now model millions of atoms, whereas other types of approaches were capable of modeling accurately less than 100 atoms (at best) - is that she has provided new tools for materials scientists to use in designing and engineering energy systems.   The current work is really applicable to dangerous natural gas fueled systems, but could be applied to other types of systems with other materials science demands.

Dr. Carter is the author of hundreds of scientific papers - she's a leader in her field - and her work suggests that science and engineering in the United States are not quite dead yet.

The reflection on gas brings me back to the ex-chief technical officer of First Solar, Dr. Eaglesham, who, as I stated at the beginning, gave a well attended talk recently at the Andlinger Center Lecture Series.

Dr. Eaglesham is a very, very, very, very nice guy and very smart too and was very gracious during the Q&A session during which I kind of felt guilty for being such a pain in the ass, even though it is hardly my fault that no asses were saved by solar energy in 2000, as predicted by Amory Lovins in 1976, earning him "genius" status.

His reasons, again, for the failures of solar companies around the world was "not enough subsidies."   Although I didn't argue the point, I'm somewhat incredulous about that statement, since 100's of billions of euros, dollars, yen, yaun and other currencies, historical and current have been thrown at solar energy schemes, much of it public money.

As of 2010, according to the the most recent figures for solar energy production on the entire planet solar produced just 0.1 exajoules of electricity (27.918 billion kilowatt hours).   For the record, humanity consumes about 520 exajoules of energy each year.   The amount of electricity produced by the entire planetary effort to engage in the "solar will save us" fantasy produced the equivalent of the energy production of three average sized nuclear plants, the main caveat being that nuclear plants do not require gas plants to back them up.

Dr. Eaglesham told me and the audience by the way that it would be a bad idea to phase out natural gas, a point, again, on which he and I disagree.  I favor the immediate phase out of all dangerous fossil fuels, including natural gas.   He's against it.

(He was proud of the fact that most of First Solar's "big" installations are next to gas plants.   No surprise there.)

Oh, yes, and then there was "China is powered by coal, and therefore they're cheating" argument that Dr. Eaglesham advanced.   According to Dr. Eaglesham, China lost 15 billion dollars in the price war that has overtaken the solar industry and driven so many companies out of business around the world, fleecing the investors.  This, he said, is because they can.    

Well then.

Actually the United States, where Dr. Eaglesham's former company covered many thousands of acres of pristine desert with cadmium telluride laced glass also burns coal.

I'm not a nice person, but even I felt uncomfortable with asking so many pointed questions about the failure of the solar industry to produce even one of the 520 exajoules now used each year by the human race, so uncomfortable that I held back - even though I did use the unpleasant words "capacity utilization" at least once - on the question of how solar energy is an alternative to coal given the well known problem of inevitable energy losses whenever a coal plant is run flat out:    This question - the audience consisted of people who are generally much smarter than I am - relates to the thermal heat capacity of water and the zeroth law of thermodynamics, and incredibly, everyone let it fly.    When you shut a coal boiler down by cutting off the coal supply, it is inevitable that, no matter how well the boiler is insulated, that it will cool.   As anyone who has ever operated a teapot can tell you, that once a system of liquid water is allowed to cool you have to reinvest energy, the energy connected with the heat capacity of water, to bring it up to boiling again.   In other words, shutting a coal plant for a few hours a day, when the sun is shining, actually costs energy rather than saves energy.   This is the economic reason that coal has the second highest capacity utilization, 72%, in the United States, after nuclear, which is about 90%.

Again, these were very smart people in the room and I was the dumbest guy in the room and it was somewhat startling that no one sought to raise the point.

What gives?   Maybe it was about being polite.

Oh well then.

Dr. Eaglesham is a very nice guy, and clearly a very smart guy, but even smart guys can be trapped by their "vision" and their need to believe what they want to believe.

By the way, if solar energy is an alternative to gas, it's not showing up as one, even as late as 2010, nearly 60 years after the invention of the solar PV cell, during 50 years of which the solar enterprise has received nothing but wild, blind cheering and - more recently, very expensive enthusiasm.

In 2010, according to EIA figures, the world burned 123.74 exajoules (116.753 quads) of dangerous natural gas and dumped the waste unceremoniously in humanity's favorite waste dump, the planetary atmosphere.

This was an all time record for burning dangerous natural gas and dumping the waste in the atmosphere.

As stated above, the entire solar energy industry, after 50 years of cheering and the consumption of 100's of billions of dollars, euros, yen and yuan, barely produced 0.1 exajoules.   The whole damn industry was not even able to match 1% of the increase in the use of dangerous natural gas (as measured in units of energy) from 2009 to 2010.

If that faith based expenditure doesn't make you angry, it should.

Oh, and about my last diary, which was about the element technetium, I suggested that rhodium dioxide was sufficiently volatile to effect separations from used nuclear fuel via distillation or sublimation of the oxide.    This idea intrigued me, but as I poked around in the literature further to check it out - in some cases looking at papers that were half a century old - it seems to me that this is at best an exaggeration and at worst simply not true.   The vapor pressure of rhodium dioxide seems to be on the order of 1 torr even at 2000C.  However modern analytical techniques such as vapor phase ICP-MS might be applied to the case, and seems not to have been.

NNadir is a liar.

Have a wonderful day.

Originally posted to NNadir on Sun May 20, 2012 at 05:07 AM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Oxygen atoms flailing around like crazy in (5+ / 0-)

    gas turbine thermal barriers, oxygens atoms bumping their electrons into alumina in thermally grown oxide layers, hafnium waste, diaries on political websites about science, insufficiently efficient energy systems, the hidden costs of the degradation of turbines, other kinds of hide rates, and pure thermally resistant troll rates all go here.

  •  I am not a scientist (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NNadir, gzodik, eeff, palantir, freerad

    I am not a scientist, unlike Batman, but I try to slog through your dense diaries anyway on the theory that even I can become more scientifically literate.

    Buried deep in this piece I found a very interesting point that I wanted to highlight for those too busy to read the whole thing.

    This question - the audience consisted of people who are generally much smarter than I am - relates to the thermal heat capacity of water and the zeroth law of thermodynamics, and incredibly, everyone let it fly.    When you shut a coal boiler down by cutting off the coal supply, it is inevitable that, no matter how well the boiler is insulated, that it will cool.   As anyone who has ever operated a teapot can tell you, that once a system of liquid water is allowed to cool you have to reinvest energy, the energy connected with the heat capacity of water, to bring it up to boiling again.   In other words, shutting a coal plant for a few hours a day, when the sun is shining, actually costs energy rather than saves energy.   This is the economic reason that coal has the second highest capacity utilization, 72%, in the United States, after nuclear, which is about 90%.
    Instead of backing solar up with coal, what about the new methods of energy storage> At a very simple level, I have heard of plans that use the solar energy at its peak to lift water to a higher position. When there is no sun the water is used in a hydroelectric method to generate power. Is this not scalable or perhaps too inefficient to be of use?

    www.dailykos.com is America's Blog of Record

    by WI Deadhead on Sun May 20, 2012 at 05:28:50 AM PDT

    •  Energy storage, despite all the hype about it, (5+ / 0-)

      always - because of the second law of thermodynamics - involves increased inefficiency.   It is a law of physics that you lose energy when you store it.

      Despite the (in my opinion faith based) popularity of solar energy, as of 2010 the amount of energy produced by solar technologies is in fact, less than trivial.    There is essentially nothing to store.

      Solar is not backed up by coal.    It's backed up by gas.    If you attempt to back up solar by coal you will in fact lose as much energy has the solar can produce.   As I pointed out, on this entire planet, as of 2010, the solar enterprise produced about as much energy as three or four coal plants.   If you shut those coal plants for a few hours when the sun is shining, you will simply need to burn more coal to reheat the boilers when the sun goes down.

      Whether the bulk of humanity recognizes it or not, the industrial solar enterprise has been a failure, an expensive failure.

      The solar enterprise has been as useless to humanity as was the building of the pyramids was to preserving the pararohs in the afterlife.    Probably everyone in Egypt was involved in pyramid building and there was great enthusiasm for doing it, but overall it did very little for the people of the time except to consume resources that might have been better spent in other endeavors.

      Thank you, however, for trying to educate yourself about science.   I wish this were a more highly valued practice in this culture.

      •  I have long delighted (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NNadir, bryfry, palantir, Blubba, malenfant

        in pointing out to the "electric car" enthusiasts (in quotes because the "electric" part has to come from somewhere) that once battery technology gets to the point of being able to store the energy equivalent of a tank full of gas in a car-sized package it would better be called "a bomb".

        Energy doesn't like to be "stored".  It will find a way out.  Low density energy storage is inefficient, with low recovery.  High density energy storage excites the NIMBY in me . . .

        Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

        by Deward Hastings on Sun May 20, 2012 at 06:53:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Pumped storage is not new. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NNadir, bryfry, FarWestGirl

      If I may simplify NNadir (always a good idea), there are energy losses in the pumps, energy losses in the flow of water through the pipes, and energy losses in the generators. Add the high costs of construction, operation, and maintenance.

      GOP: Bankers, billionaires, suckers, and dupes.

      by gzodik on Sun May 20, 2012 at 06:09:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Problems With All Arguments Here (6+ / 0-)

      Disclaimer: I am not an expert on this, but close.

      1. NNadir - I love you man!
      2. In defense of solar:  I realized recently that we must look at solar differently than nuclear or coal.  Nuclear and coal, because of the heat loss, among other things, are and should be base-loaded, and basically set to run all day long, every day.  Solar only produces power when the sun is shining, but the power can be used to run all the air-conditioners that - here's the cool part - are needed because the sun is shining.  This is the true advantage of solar.  With enough solar we could, in theory avoid starting up some of those DANGEROUS FOSSIL FUELED power plant.  The electrical business has always distinguished between the base-load power that they make tons of money on, and the peaking power that is usually a money loser for them.  So, losses on solar generated power would probably be acceptable to them - to a point.
      3. The electric industry has long sought the development of viable electric cars. The reason is obvious: Electric cars would largely be recharged at night when the power companies are having to shut down plants because there is no demand for their output.  They shut down the coal plants first, and they used to partially shut down some of the nuclear plants, but the base load now requires them to stay on all night.  Electric cars would allow them to use the exact same infrastructure but allow them to sell significantly more product by increasing the night-time demand.  With electric cars, the profitability of electric power companies would soar - there's a stock tip in that if you are paying attention.
      4.  If you could fill your car's "tank" with electricity, the cost per "gallon" of electricity would be about $1.  That is the major motivation for the development of the electric car from the consumer standpoint.  It is a testament to just how efficient the current electric industry is.  When gasoline and electricity become fungible, the value of electricity will soar.  I'm hoping that a lot of the additional energy will be generated by nuclear, reducing the use of those dangerous fossil fuels NN talks about.

      The Republicans are begging for more rope. Give it to them!!!

      by nuketeacher on Sun May 20, 2012 at 07:29:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Please work on your writing style (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eeff, gzodik, sphealey, Kingsmeg

    Your interesting and possibly useful info is buried under a huge, huge mountain of words. If you have the best idea in the world, but no one understands it, you have not succeeded.

    The best science writers are more like translators; put the concepts into a simpler, less precise, different language. Yes, you lose precision and detailed understanding, but you are far more likely to get across the basics to those willing to learn. Then the reader can go back and pick up the details if they have the desire and time.

    Less "WAAAAH!", more progress.

    by IndyGlenn on Sun May 20, 2012 at 06:06:33 AM PDT

    •  Hear, hear! (n/t) (0+ / 0-)

      GOP: Bankers, billionaires, suckers, and dupes.

      by gzodik on Sun May 20, 2012 at 06:48:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I've been writing here a long time. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fly

      For better or worse, this is my style.

      •  I'm and engineer & I followed everything you wrote (7+ / 0-)

        but I'm not going to mince words because you don't.

        Your writing style make you sound like a pompous arrogant ass. Just make your points and stop taking gratuitous shots at those you disagree with. It makes an other wise informative diary appear to be a cacophonous mass of petty grievance against what you consider to be naive environmentalist.

        I share some of your concerns with non-science based environmentalist what I don't share is your contempt for them.  

        -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

        by dopper0189 on Sun May 20, 2012 at 07:32:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for sharing your opinion. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          PeterHug

          I appreciate your efforts to increase civility by using words that offer generally helpful hints about how to improve on being "pompous arrogant ass."

          This reminds me of the time that a guy who would later be water boarding people without trial criticized the 2000 Democratic candidate for President for being "rude."

          Thanks for your comments.   I'll take them under advisement but most likely will not write future diaries, if any, differently.

          •  NNadir there was no civility in your (6+ / 0-)

            comments, and I don't see them as being inadvertently or unintentionally rude.

            Statements like "Orbitals, as many people know - unless one has joined Greenpeace and has thus remained blissfully unaware of the contents of science books - may be..." are there only to generate pie fights.

            Someone of your obvious intelligence can't write things like this on a progressive blog and NOT expect a backlash. There are multiple instances of it in this diary, that leads me to believe  it was intentional. Am I wrong?

            I feel I'm just calling a spade a spade.

            -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

            by dopper0189 on Sun May 20, 2012 at 08:41:40 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Unless, of course (6+ / 0-)

              it was written specifically to cause a backlash, thus allowing the Author to claim that he or she was being "picked on".

              Diaries that contain pejorative comments aimed at likely opponents to the ideas contained within the Diary are, in the end, unhelpful.

              In this instance it is a particular shame as this Diarist is knowledgeable, passionate and well placed to host an interesting discussion.

              Shame that such input is shut down before it can get going.

              I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
              but I fear we will remain Democrats.

              by twigg on Sun May 20, 2012 at 08:55:40 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I am completely unapologetic for my position (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              bryfry, Deward Hastings, Mcrab, malenfant

              on Greenpeace.

              I certainly am not afraid of offending this blundering bourgeois band of blathering boobs.

              They oppose the world's largest, by far, source of climate change gas free primary energy.

              They also attack - again from a position of ignorance, fear and superstition - other scientific and technological efforts to save humanity from itself; here I am thinking of genetic technology.

              (There is a fine writer here - I trust she will not object to me mentioning her handle - MEM from Somerville - who can hold forth on the subject of this set of unconcionable luddites from a completely different perspective.)

              I've been writing here for roughly six years on and off, and at no time in that tenure have I ever felt any compunction to give any quarter to the Greenpeace mentality.

              These are, after all, the kind of people who engage in "by 2050" or "by 2090" types of talk.    I have a moral problem with that.   To me that is an effort to dump one's own responsibility for one's own actions on future generations - generations who may be impoverished by the smug indifference of Greenpeace types to the fact that climate change is happening now.

              Climate change is not something that humanity will need to worry about after most of the people here today have died from old age.   Climate change needs to be addressed now.

              The best tool - the only industrially mature tool - for addressing climate change right now is still nuclear energy.

              Right now and in fact for the last 3 decades, nuclear energy - which those folks in Greenpeace know nothing about and for which they express contempt from a position of ignorance - is the world's largest, by far, source of climate change gas free energy.

              They're against that form of energy.

              That says everything I need to know.

              I think if you read between the lines - however prolix and obscure my lines may be - I am definitely trying to shake things up by exposing a type of complaceny that is not well thought out.

              There is nothing honorable about Greenpeace in my view, and their is nothing in their rhetoric that cannot be discounted by merely opening and comprehending the contents of a science book.

              I regard the membership of Greenpeace in precisely the same way I regard creationists.

              I will not and cannot ethically apologize for how I feel about Greenpeace, nor am I inclined in any way to conceal those feelings.

            •  No, he's not civil, but I just ignore those parts (0+ / 0-)

              and concentrate on what I can glean from the rest. He's not interested in gaining a readership or really engaging constructively with readers so I generally just browse on whatever I can understand & move on. ::shrug::

              It's usually good info and interesting, tho, so he generally gets my rec's for that when I catch his stuff.

              Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

              by FarWestGirl on Sun May 20, 2012 at 04:54:30 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Just a few minor points (5+ / 0-)

    1- Nuclear power is not sustainable because of two factors, extraction and waste plus no technology exists to clean up dispersed radioactive sources from an accident, that is, nuclear accidents are contrary to the principle of sustainability. Fortunately we don't have many plants or we would be talking about major accidents per year.
    2- Wind turbines are capable of producing many times the electrical energy used in the US. Known offshore sites near populous areas can produce four times our current energy usage.
    3- Citing current energy production for emerging sources is scientifically weak. We want to know about the technology and projected specific costs. I just got a quote for covering the roof of my new factory for 20% efficient solar panels that would produce 56Kw with a average equivalency of 4.3 hours/day. This would produce four times the energy that I need to run the factory and the rest is put into the grid. Payback on this is estimated at 6+ years. We have along way to go before solar would displace enough fossil fuel to require solar stored base power.
    4- Just how many BTUs does it take to restart a coal boiler? I am hearing a lot of qualitative conclusions without a lot of quantitative backup.
    5 - The point of this diary is what? What I got out of it is that there is a professor, Dr. Carter, who has improved modeling software for millions of atoms. Other than that it seems to be a diatribe as to how solar power is a sham and Nukes are the answer.

    •  Very minor and rather inaccurate (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gzodik, Mcrab
      Fortunately we don't have many plants or we would be talking about major accidents per year.
      Worldwide electricity generation in 2010 by source:

      Nuclear - 2,620

      Wind - 328

      Solar - 28

      (Units: TWh; Source: www.eia.gov)

      I guess it's fortunate that "we don't have many plants," or nuclear power would generate more than eight times the amount of electricity as wind and more than 93 times the amount of electricity as solar.

      Do you really run your factory only 4.3 hours each day?

      Quid novi ex Africa

      by bryfry on Sun May 20, 2012 at 06:58:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  asdf (0+ / 0-)
        Do you really run your factory only 4.3 hours each day?
        This wasn't really the point, was it?

        The "hours required per day" is a standard calculator, and 4.3 is low. It simply means that the factory electricity meter will be running backwards most of the day, and if enough consumers do this then the electricity companies could use the excess power to keep the coal or gas fired boilers hot, ready for night time use (when the demand for power is, in any event, lower).

        I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
        but I fear we will remain Democrats.

        by twigg on Sun May 20, 2012 at 09:14:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It was a joke, BTW (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          twigg, gzodik

          and don't worry, I know what the person meant:

          4.3 hours / 24 hours = 18% capacity factor

          That is, the electricity generated by the panels during the course of a day is equivalent to producing their full rated power for about 4.3 hours (which the panels never do). This is not low value, by the way. This a typical capacity factor that is given for a photovoltaic system in Arizona, which is a particularly dry and sunny location. In most locations, it's a rather optimistic value.

          Behind my little joke, however, is a bit of serious inquiry. Does this person's factory only operate when it can be powered by the solar panels, or does it rely on other sources (most probably coal and natural gas) to run?

          Quid novi ex Africa

          by bryfry on Sun May 20, 2012 at 10:01:51 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well most grid tied systems (0+ / 0-)

            Do exactly that.

            During peak sun they run the place AND contribute excess power when it is most needed.

            When there is less sun they take ... some.

            Thing is ... If we all did this, if grid-tied systems were part of the building code, then much smaller, and much more local central generation could be used to fill in the gaps.

            Plus they could use some of the excess daytime power to store energy (in the form of hot water), for the less sunny periods.

            I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
            but I fear we will remain Democrats.

            by twigg on Sun May 20, 2012 at 11:08:04 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes, I've heard this kind of thing (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              gzodik

              from natural gas companies ... er ... renewable energy boosters (if you prefer the "PC" term) for many years now.

              Please explain how "much more local central generation" is a good thing for anyone other than those who want to sell a small natural-gas-burning power plant in every town's backyard?

              By the way, do you know what the largest source (by far) of "locally generated" energy on this planet is and where it comes from?

              Plus they could use some of the excess daytime power to store energy (in the form of hot water), for the less sunny periods.
              Huh? What is someone going to do with "hot water"? (Other than take a bath with it, that is.) If you want hot water from the sun, then you should install a solar hot water heater. Using the electricity generated by a PV solar panel to heat up water is simply a stupid idea. You might be able to make tea out of it, but you won't be able to recover the energy that you just wasted.

              You might want to google something called "the second law of thermodynamics."

              Quid novi ex Africa

              by bryfry on Sun May 20, 2012 at 11:55:14 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well one of the issues (0+ / 0-)

                with running coal and gas turbines part time is that the energy required to reheat them, if they are allowed to cool, is a waste, and reduces efficiency.

                So some of the excess could be used to keep the boilers hot when not running.

                I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
                but I fear we will remain Democrats.

                by twigg on Sun May 20, 2012 at 01:41:20 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  From my solar powered home, BS! (5+ / 0-)

    Your attacks on solar, lack reason, accuracy, and have nothing to do with science, and everything to do with a rant.

    I'm not a fan of nuclear, for many of the reasons that the Japanese would gladly tell you about, but even if it were safe and we had a method of disposing of the crap it produces, there just isn't enough uranium around to substitute for NG production.  Yes, I know about all the arguments for pebble beds, and fast breeders... technology that is 10 years away and has been for 50 years.

    In the mean time, my solar panels are producing all the electricity I need today.  Have a nice sunny day!

    •  Really, even at night? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bryfry, Deward Hastings, Mcrab, gzodik

      Maybe you're here to tell me that the people at the EIA are all liars.

      Despite the irrational rantings of anti-nukes, not one of whom are familiar with the concept of something called "numbers" the failed reactors at Fukushima about which they obsess did not kill as many people as buildings, cars, or standing outdoors killed in the famous earthquake.

      Your contention that the only issue of importance in the earthquake is ridiculous.

      More people will die from the dumping of dangerous fossil fuel waste that replaced the destruction of the reactors - about which scientically illiterate anti-nukes have been cheering insipidly ever since the earthquake - than will die from all nuclear operations in the last 50 years.

      3.3 million people died last year from air pollution..   It's very, very, very, very difficult, nearly impossible in my experience, to find a single rote dogmatic anti-nuke who cares about even one of those people.

      I note, with due contempt, that some of this air pollution was generated to provide back up energy for disconnected smug homeowners - generally included in that rubric of "well off" or rich people, at least on a global scale - who want to prattle on about their wonderful solar PV systems.

      I'm very glad that you have a highly subsidized toxic nightmare on your roof, but the subsidy moneys were taken out of health care, education, help for the impoverished, the maintainence of parks and many other enterprises that would have been better for humanity.

      Despite your absurd fantasy that nuclear energy is a failure, for more than 3 decades nuclear energy has been the world's largest, by far, source of climate change gas free primary energy.

      I have, as said, never encountered a rote anti-nuke who is remotely informed about any technical issue, but with a few clicks on the EIA website, one can easily establish this readily verifiable fact.

      •  Nukes killed less than the earthquake?! (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean, TourDeMike, Russgirl

        That's your argument?!  Gee, Mussolini killed less than Hitler so let's give fascism a try (although it seems were going to).

        And you've got the guts to complain about subsidies for Solar, and then support the what maybe the most subsidized industry in the history of the world, NUCLEAR?!

        And as far as solar only for the "rich", I live below the poverty line, I may have made slightly more than the median national income for about 4 of my many working years.  My solar panels, which I purchased about 7 years ago, will have paid for themselves in about the next 3 years, And solar panels are now about 1/2 the price!  And there are plenty of business models that installers are using so some people don't have to put up a penny to install a system.

        Let's see, Solar and wind have by far the fastest energy growth rates of any energy production method around, and solar panels are dropping in cost like a rock.  And how many nuke plants have been built in the U.S. in the last 40 years?  Investors won't touch the expensive, dangerous monstrosities without a "too big to fail" guarantee from the government.

        This reasoned reply to your rant was brought to you from 93 million miles away thanks to the free energy from the sun.  

        •  You are terribly misinformed (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mcrab, gzodik
          Let's see, Solar and wind have by far the fastest energy growth rates of any energy production method around, and solar panels are dropping in cost like a rock.
          No they're not! They're not even close.

          While you still have a few hours of daylight left to power your computer, perhaps you should check out the statistics that the US Department of Energy compiles on energy and electricity. On their website, they publish a table of net generation by energy source (Excel Spreadsheet). If we compare 1998, the first year on the table, to 2011, the last full year on the table, we can see the increases electricity generation for the following two sources:

          Nuclear - 117 TWh increase (1998-2011)

          Other Renewables - 118 TWh increase (1998-2011)

          Neither wind nor solar has been able to keep pace with nuclear power in the US, despite the fact that the last completely new nuclear reactor came online in 1996. Together, their combined output is just barely able to keep pace, but the category "other renewables" includes more than just wind and solar. By the DOE's definition, this category includes the combined output of all of the following: wood, black liquor, other wood waste, biogenic municipal solid waste, landfill gas, sludge waste, agriculture byproducts, other biomass, geothermal, solar thermal, photovoltaic energy, and wind.

          Until 2009, just the increase in the amount of electricity generated by nuclear power since 1998 was larger than the entire generation by all "other renewable" sources combined.

          But the winner of the award for the "fastest energy growth rates of any energy production method around," by far, is

          Natural Gas - 485 TWh increase 1998-2011

          For the arithmetically challenged, this is over four times the rate of increase of all of the "other renewable" sources combined, and just the additional amount of electricity generation by natural gas is about two and a half times the total amount of electricity that the "other renewables" generated in 2011. I point out these comparisons, because I have yet to meet a solar energy proponent who was good at math.

          And how many nuke plants have been built in the U.S. in the last 40 years?
          I have no idea what point you were trying to make other than to demonstrate your considerable ignorance of energy and electricity production, but since you asked ...

          Of the 104 nuclear plants currently in operation in the US, 94 of them came online within the last 40 years. The remaining 10, which were connected to the grid more than 40 years ago are Dresden-2, Dresden-3, H.B.Robinson-2, Monticello, Nine Mile Point-1, Oyster Creek, Palisades, Point Beach-1, Quad Cities-1, and R.E. Ginna.

          In addition to the 94 reactors mentioned above, there are three reactors currently under construction in the US today: Watts Bar-2, Vogtle-3, and Vogtle-4.

          This reasoned reply to your rant was brought to you from 93 million miles away thanks to the free energy from the sun.
          Assuming that you are somewhere in the continental US, I'm glad that I was able to respond to your so-called "reasoned" — but breathtakingly misinformed and inaccurate — reply before the sun sinks too low in the sky.

          Quid novi ex Africa

          by bryfry on Sun May 20, 2012 at 09:50:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  please go back and read again (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            TourDeMike, Russgirl
            Solar and wind have by far the fastest energy growth rates
            I'm not talking about raw energy production, which is what you quoted, I'm talking about growth RATES.
            Demand for solar energy has grown at 30% per annum over the past 15 years
            Even your own numbers for nukes show new nukes are creeping along at best.  And about those nuke numbers;
            The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved licenses to build two new nuclear reactors Thursday, the first authorized in over 30 years.
            new nukes from cnn money

            Misinformed? inaccurate?  Not if we keep talking apples to apples, and you don't try to convert my apples to your oranges.

            •  Wow, a double-down on silliness (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              gzodik

              This comment is even worse than your last. (I know ... I'm amazed too.)

              A growth rate, or "rate of growth," is the increase (the growth) in something divided by a time (the duration over which the growth occurred). If you had meant something different, then you should have said, "relative growth rate" or "percentage growth rate" or even "compound growth rate."

              Rereading your ill-informed comment will not fix the problem with your poorly and ambiguously phrased words. I'm sorry, but it just won't.

              Nevertheless, the problem with these relative measures of growth is that they tend to artificially inflate the value of the trivially small. In other words, 30% more of something that is trivially insignificant is still trivially insignificant. The energy produced by solar is an excellent of what I'm talking about.

              I'm disappointed that I have to explain this to you, but then again, my expectations for solar boosters is already pretty low and declining.

              Misinformed? inaccurate? Not if we keep talking apples to apples, and you don't try to convert my apples to your oranges.
              What? No quote this time from your earlier comment? Here, I'll provide the quote (you can thank me later). You wrote:
              And how many nuke plants have been built in the U.S. in the last 40 years?
              If you say apples (built) then I assume that you wanted to talk about apples (construction). If you really wanted to talk about oranges (licenses) then you should have asked about oranges (licenses) in the first place.

              Quid novi ex Africa

              by bryfry on Sun May 20, 2012 at 10:50:06 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Blahblahblah Only Nuclear can save us, right? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean, TourDeMike

    Nuclear is safe. Nuclear is the messiah. Nuclear waste and errant radionuclides drifting on the jet stream are healthful. Nothing bad can ever happen with a nuclear plant, and even if it does you should rejoice in the glow of the strontium in your bones.

    Nothing is happening at Fukushima. Everything is fine. we know where those three cores are, and the SFP in #4 is full of delicious M&Ms. Cold shutdown!

    Building a bridge across the bay will never work, ferries are the answer. How does Nnadir know this? well, because if a bridge across the bay was going to work, it would have built itself without any investment from us. Beside, ferries have never killed anybody, it's the water that kills people.

    "'club America salutes you' says the girl on the door/we accept all major lies, we love any kind of fraud"--The Cure, "Club America"

    by Wheever on Sun May 20, 2012 at 07:25:12 AM PDT

    •  Actually, you have only approximated my position. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bryfry, gzodik

      I do not believe that "nuclear energy can save us.

      It might have been in a position to "save" us two or three decades ago, but fear, ignorance and superstition have prevented it from doing what it might have done.

      Your comparison about bridges is typical of the anti-nuke mentality, wherein irrelevant comparisons are made.

      As for Fukushima, your contention that Fukushima is the worst energy disaster of all time is also typical of the anti-nuke mentality, specifically that because of your fear, ignorance, and superstition entitles you to ignore the 3.3 million people who die each year from air pollution.

      I would argue that air pollution - which killed approximately 60 million people in the last two decades is the worst energy disaster of all times.

      Probably the second largest energy disaster of all time was the renewable energy disaster at Banqiao in August of 1975 that killed more than 200,000 people.

      Oceans - Europe, 2009 conference.

      Here is the text from the above reference:

      During the past century the typhoon brought the great losses of lives and property in China. The historical records showed: in 1922, typhoon brought 34500 deaths; in 1956, typhoon brought 20000 deaths; in 1975 the landed typhoon induced Banqiao dam of reservoir collapsed and led to downstream 62 dams collapse, brought 230000 deaths and 12000000 people hit by typhoon induced flood; 1980: 414 deaths, 3133 ships sunk; 1992: 12256 dams and sea wall collapsed, 5258 ships sunk, 200 deaths 。1994: 1216 deaths; 1997: 330 deaths. For the offshore structures: in 1979, a jackup platform sunk and 72 deaths; in 1983, a semisubmersible Java Sea sunk in South China Sea and 81 deaths.
      The bold is mine.

      Ever hear of it?

      No?

      Why am I not surprised?

      It's pretty telling that we never hear from anti-nukes about that one.

      How come?

      How come there are zero anti-nukes who are obsessively (and in my opinion stupidly) prattling on about their nuclear death fantasies at Fukushima who are whining similarly about the Three Gorges Dam?

      The fact that you have a freaky Fukushima fetish does nothing to bring back the 60 odd million people who died in the last two decades from air pollution, and nothing to ameliorate your unstudied indifference to dam safety and dam failures.

      I note, that like most anti-nukes, you have not called for banning coastal cities and towns, even though more than 200,000 people died from living in them in 2004, and approximately 20,000 people died from them (in Japan) in 2011 from earthquakes and tsunamis.

      But you have lots to say about the reactors.

      What is it then?  That if its not nuclear you simply don't give a fuck.

      No suprise there.   The childish and churlish anti-nuke mentality is wholly a function of selective attention.

      In the next 5 days, more people will die from air pollution than died from all causes - including the infinitely larger number of deaths that were not in any way connected to radiation - from the entire tsunami and earthquake in Japan.

      Predictably, you couldn't care less.

      Excuse me if not surprised.   I have never met an anti-nuke who could think in terms that outlast the typical soundbite.

      Nuclear energy need not be perfect; it not be risk free; it need not satisfy the objections of people who know nothing about the subject to be infinitely superior to everything else.   It only needs to be infinitely superior to everything else, and, um, it is.

      Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

      •  As a matter of fact I have (0+ / 0-)

        heard of Banqiao, but I was alive and sentient in 1975.

        Blah blah blah. Deny the causal relationship between radioactive pollution and death, variously, because the temporal disconnect makes it hard to prove, blah blah blah assert Fukushima is safe because most people don't have the equipment or knowledge to understand otherwise, plus that temporal disconnect, blah blah blah false equivalency, false equivalency, false equivalency.

        Blahblahblah, don't try to invest in other forms of energy because Nuclear is jesus.

        I say again:

        Building a bridge across the bay will never work, ferries are the answer. How does Nnadir know this? well, because if a bridge across the bay was going to work, it would have built itself without any investment from us. Besides, ferries have never killed anybody, it's the water that kills people.
        And that is the summary of your argument, shuck-and-jiving aside.

        Nothing can save us from global warming, old sod, I've known that for a decade, so let's spray radionuclides all over everything, right? Right.

        "'club America salutes you' says the girl on the door/we accept all major lies, we love any kind of fraud"--The Cure, "Club America"

        by Wheever on Sun May 20, 2012 at 03:46:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well Kudos for you. You HEARD of it. (0+ / 0-)

          You still, apparently aren't able to grasp what it means apparently, nor are you capable of grasping that air pollution kills as many people as World War II killed ever 15 years.

          Instead you insert some blather about radioactivity.

          Radiation kills millions and billions of people each year?

          Do tell.

          The anti-nuke ignorance squad has a conniption when one person dies from radiation, and now you want to represent that there's 10's of millions of such people?

          Maybe you think you're speaking to some fellow credulous anti-nuke knucklehead shit-for-brains, but, um, you're not.

           I'm sorry to disappoint you and the rest of the rote anti-nukes but the Fukushima reactors didn't kill as many people as you hoped.    

          Tough shit kiddie.  Better luck next time.

          The numbers are in.   Which part of the numbers from the Energy Information Agency for the 2010 were you not able to grasp?

          Any of them?

          No surprise there.

          In fact, it's not clear Fukushima killed anyone, almost certainly not as many people as died during the 5 minutes it took you to cut and paste your insufferably arrogant blather about - what was it again? - bridges.

          As a comparisons to make about the arrival of the grand solar nirvana, you choose to blather insipidly about bridges - which have been, by the way, in use for many thousands of years.  

          To my mind, a better analogy would be a case in which people were waiting for Jesus to arrive to cure the bubonic plague.

          It, um, didn't happen, and after 50 years of stupid cheering and 100s of billions of dollars, euros, yen and yuan sacrificed to your little sun power worshiping religion, the grand solar miracle isn't going to happen.

          Never trust an anti-nuke to know shit from shinola about history or anything else.

          It took me, about 5 minutes to respond to your insufferably repetitive blather, in fact.

          Once again, to repeat - since we're into repeating - 3.3 million people die each year from air pollution.  

          If you can do math - and I find very few members of the "we're all dying from radiation" cliques who can add, subtract, multiply and divide, and you're almost certainly no exception - between 6 and 7 people die from air pollution each minute.

          That means while you and I have been chatting pleasantly about your fear, ignorance, and superstition, about 60 people died from air pollution.

          Heckuva job.   You must be very proud.   Congratulations.

          This year, observatories around the world wil record levels of dangerous fossil fuel waste in the atmosphere that reaches 400 ppm.

          Heckuva job.   You must be very proud.   Congratulations.

          I have never met a rote dogmatic anti-nuke ever who had the moral depth of a turnip, although I hesitate to insult turnips with the comparison.

          Excuse me if I go somewhere to throw up.

          •  asdf (0+ / 0-)
            In fact, it's not clear Fukushima killed anyone,
            And yes, by your "standards of evidence," it will never be clear. you count on the temporal disconnect to cloud causation and create deniability. That is the entirety of your position, and is the entirety of my fucking point, NN.

            You cannot admit that nukes could ever be dangerous, which is--since you're conjuring Jesus--proof that Nukes are your religion.

            The rest of the post I won't bother with, because it's your usual blahblahblah shuck and jive.

            "'club America salutes you' says the girl on the door/we accept all major lies, we love any kind of fraud"--The Cure, "Club America"

            by Wheever on Sun May 20, 2012 at 07:18:18 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Pretty much my sentiments exactly (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FarWestGirl
    (A good goal in life is to try, as often as is possible to be in rooms where one is the dumbest person in the room.)
    Tipped, Rec'd, & Reposted
  •  Just so I understand your general thrust... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    askyron

    ...not just this diary but the theme that ties most of your writing together:

    Nuclear Power is the only practical replacement for our currently Carbon-dominated baseline energy requirements, and the inefficiencies inherent in all energy transmission from source to end use are significantly less consequential because there will be more than sufficient Nuclear energy created to overcome those inefficiencies.

    Or am I completely missing it?

    When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Sun May 20, 2012 at 08:02:08 AM PDT

  •  Small nit- I think water is more correctly erosive (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NNadir

    than abrasive.

    I have an interest in low rpm turbines, propellers, etc, where  the friction, turbulence and cavitation of air/fluid movement over them in impacted by the surface texture of the blades. But this was interesting, thanks for posting.

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

    by FarWestGirl on Sun May 20, 2012 at 05:03:40 PM PDT

  •  2 nits (0+ / 0-)

    the new big solar plants also use turbines so better technology will also benefit solar power generation.

    Higher combustion termperatures for gas/coal combustion turbines will produce higher nitrogen oxide emissions, won't it?

  •  capacity utilization (0+ / 0-)
    As anyone who has ever operated a teapot can tell you, that once a system of liquid water is allowed to cool you have to reinvest energy, the energy connected with the heat capacity of water, to bring it up to boiling again.   In other words, shutting a [thermal] plant for a few hours a day, when the sun is shining, actually costs energy rather than saves energy.
    sigh... Costs some energy. Saves some energy. Can you show, quantitatively, that it costs more than it saves? Why don't you keep your teapot boiling all day? Wouldn't that save energy because you wouldn't have to reinvest the energy to bring it up to boiling again? Why, no. That doesn't seem to make much sense at all, now does it?

    So, imagine you are running your dream grid of 100% nuclear. How do you deal with networks that peak? As in, all of them... How do you deal with weekends? Like the French, shut down some nukes for the weekend? But, but, but, but, that would be inefficient! That would actually cost energy rather than save energy, wouldn't it?

    The problem with "base load" is that our energy uses fluctuate. A lot. So if the unit is a pure base load, it can't ramp up and down, it depends on a technology that can (such as gas). If it can ramp up and down, then it should be able to seamlessly handle the insertion of intermittent power (analogous to intermittent demand). Of course, up to a certain point.

    Causation was, is, and ever shall be a slippery bitch, so we're best sticking with noting the facts

    by jam on Mon May 21, 2012 at 07:10:30 AM PDT

    •  This conversation would be useful if you (0+ / 0-)

      could show that solar PV energy produces one exajoule of the 520 exajoules used by humanity.

      As it is, right now, it produces 0.1 exajoules, making it essentially useless in any discussion of coal, which provides about 160 exajoules of humanity's energy demands.

      By the way, in 2010, 58 years after the invention of the solar PV cell, the world burned a record amount of coal.

      One hundred percent nuclear will not happen in any case, because ignorance, fear, superstition have prevented it.

      As the poll question implies, we are now in the region of "too little, too late."

      If however, the world were not run by fear, ignorance and superstition, there would be many excellent strategies for dealing with peak power using nuclear energy.

      But since we're discussing peak loads, maybe you should avail yourself of a quick look at how loads follow the sun and the wind.

      For instance, you could look here.

      What's your plan for making the sun shine the most brightly in the late afternoon and early evening when on an arbitrary day loads (I chose to look at yesterday) peak?   A big chain attached to a lever at the earth's equator to change the angular momentum of the planet?

      Should we cancel consumption peaks when it's raining or snowing?

      Your plan for using solar energy to recharge all those swell electric cars we always hear about (but seldom see) after rush hour but before dawn?

      And your plan for making breezes blow to turn wind turbines on days with hot stagnant air when air conditioning loads are the highest?   Maybe everyone could run outside and blow on the wind turbines?

      If you'll be good enough to share these schemes with me, I'll tell you how, on a less stupid planet, I would make nuclear energy follow loads.

      •  sure (0+ / 0-)

        I would use nuclear energy, geographically distributed intermittents, geothermal, and hydrokinetics. I'm advocating for a fleet of generation assets that are more flexible than old school coal or nuclear. Not to mention load shedding and load shifting.

        This conversation might have been useful if you could have stopped attacking me with shit that I haven't said and don't believe.

        BTW, thanks for pointing me to that PJM site. It is quite useful.

        Causation was, is, and ever shall be a slippery bitch, so we're best sticking with noting the facts

        by jam on Mon May 21, 2012 at 09:50:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Geothermal is probably the least obnoxious... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jam, bryfry

          ...form of so called "renewable energy" forms but the potential is somewhat more limited than it's advocates like to pretend.

          You're welcome for the PJM site.

          •  I know one of the top geothermal engineers (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NNadir

            in the industry - used to work for him. He's on quite a few boards of industry associations, former president - all that type of stuff. He would completely agree with you. He bristles at most of the press that talks about the potential.

            Geothermal is very (ob)noxious. Really nasty stuff comes out of those holes.

            Causation was, is, and ever shall be a slippery bitch, so we're best sticking with noting the facts

            by jam on Tue May 22, 2012 at 07:30:50 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  That said, really noxious stuff comes out of... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              jam, bryfry

              ...volcanos too.

              Geothermal plants are in general a source of carbon dioxide.     I've seen figures as high as 200 grams per kwh.

              However the argument that the carbon dioxide would have come out anyway actually holds water with me.

              (The same actually applies to so called "sequestration" schemes, by the way.    Those are actually very annoying.)

              In any case, I do approve of Iceland's geothermal program.

              Iceland interestingly enough "exports" electricity in the form of aluminum, if one is willing to think of it in that way.

              I would approve of these in the Salton Sea region of Southern California as well, as well as the Mexican facility at Cerro Prieta and the Geyers plant in California.

              The latter has, however, demonstrated some of the limitations of geothermal as an "eternal" source of energy.

  •  I get it (clean nuclear!?!), but (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NNadir

    1. We use a lot more energy than we need. That's just sinful given the consequences for the planet, so maybe all those exajoules aren't really necessary
    2. Isn't there a place for off-the-grid type technologies located where the energy is consumed? E.g. see the 5/14 New Yorker article on Daniel Nocera's synthetic leaf that separates water. I especially like his philosophy of building for individual consumers instead of the grid
    3. Bucky Fuller proposed that integrating the Asian and American power grids would save a lot of juice. (yes/no?)

    •  A lot of what you say depends on who you are. (0+ / 0-)

      It is fine for us in the United States to confess that we use too much energy.    Power is not energy, but for convenience I will use power terms since they are more familiar to most people.    The average per capita continuous power consumption for citizens of the United States - this is for everything, cars, electricity, heat, health care, sanitation, entertainment, etc - is about 12,000 watts.

      Despite the complaints of many people in the United States about how China is dumping Greenhouse gases, their per capita is about 1000 watts.

      There are many countries in the world where power consumption is much less than 100 watts, believe it or not.

      Arguably Americans have the least moral authority to speak about conservation.

      Some years back, Swiss scientists made an appeal for a "2000 watt world."

      I wrote about a long time ago in this space:

      Real Numbers:   The 1998 Swiss Proposal For the 2000 Watt World, and Year 2050 Talk...

      I still regard it as "pie in the sky" kind of talk.

      Note that I have changed my mind about so called "renewable energy" since writing that diary some years ago.

      Mostly I oppose these kinds of installations, particularly wind installations.

      It's fine to argue we should use less energy, but despite our confidence to the contrary, we are not the only people on the planet.    There are billions of people who need more energy not less.    Unless we discuss these people, we will prove to be possessed of enormous moral vapidity.

      In general, distributed energy can never be as clean as centralized energy, because by definition, distributed things become point source pollutants.   The popular wisdom, I realize, asserts the opposite, but frankly I am well convinced that the popular wisdom is not just wrong, it's ridiculous.

      This is the real reason that nuclear energy - despite much common mysticism about the point - is much cleaner than all other forms of energy:   Because of its extremely high energy density, it is easy to contain its side products - I don't accept the use of the word "waste" - in a small volume and space.

      All this said, electricity distribution has definite distance limits.    This is just a law of physics.  (I know, I know...someone will talk about superconductors, but they're not here now and may never be so.)

      Solar energy is actually OK - and is preferable to gas - in some very remote settings or maybe in portable settings.     That said, it is a fools errand to subsidize this dubious and marginal form of energy.

      If someone writes to tell me they have a solar PV system, and they paid the full cost themselves, or maybe donated their tax break to a school lunch program, or a scholarship fund or a library or something like that, I'd be OK.

      But the fact is that many 100's of billions of dollars,  100's of billions of Euros and similar quantities of other currencies have been thrown at this chimera for little real result.

      For the last 50 years of rote mindless cheering for solar PV energy all that has happened is that solar has proved to give a very, very, very low return on investment, including the investment in saving our atmosphere.

      The fact is that if this same amount of money were thrown at building a few nuclear plants, far more carbon dioxide dumping would have been conducted, and we would have a cleaner and safer planet.

      But that's not what happened.

      I'm very, very, very upset about this, and it defines the vast majority of the many diaries I've written here, all of which lead me to contemplate the myth of Cassandra.

      Thanks for writing though.  

      •  But still ... (0+ / 0-)

        The American consumer culture seems to infect any other society that approaches affluence, and that is very dangerous. The fact that the Chinese use so much less power is more circumstantial than chosen, I think. There are still a lot of very poor people there. They don't have a lot of fossil fuel resources. Their infrastructure is still nowhere near ours, etc. Do we really want to plan for everybody to live like we do? For example, do we really need these big refrigerated boxes in our houses so we can keep our meats and orange juices and milk cold, all having been shipped a thousand miles or more by diesel trucks? I don't. Food can be grown in cities, even in high-rise buildings. Maybe I'm railing against fate, but there is a large psychological-cultural component to our dependence on fossil fuels at this scale.

        Anyway, I'm not arguing. As 'Dick' Cheney famously said "Conservation is a personal virtue".

        •  I fully credit what you say. I'm actually in... (0+ / 0-)

          ...favor of charging external costs as well as internal costs to energy.

          However, if we were to do that, gasoline, for instance, would be about $10/gallon, and it would be politically unpopular.

          That said, we cannot culturally dictate to the Chinese and the Indians that they live like we would like to imagine ourselves living but don't actually live.

          How would you feel if you were living in mud and the people living in Penthouses all announced that for the good of the world, all the ladders to the penthouses were now being pulled up.

          Unimpressed, I would imagine.

          It would be marvelous for the environment if gasoline were $10/gallon but when push comes to shove it's impractical.

          What would be Obama's chance for re-election if he announced that from now on gas will be $10/gallon?

          There are, of course, many countries in the world where India, for instance, seems like nirvana.   (There has been, in India some talk about an anti-immigration fence around Bangladesh.)

          There are, of course, all sorts of utopian ideas that one hears, including locovore ideas.

          No one in the US has much to say about anything in my view, not as long we are consuming vast amounts of resources that are not commensurate with our population.    

          But mostly we're in denial.

          I spoke mostly about these sort of things in that diary linked in the parent diary here, the "Utility of Light" diary.

          I have a very cynical view of the future, to be frank, and I don't humanity will do very much to save itself.

  •  speaking of alloys, and heat, what about San Onofr (0+ / 0-)

    e? It's got tubes and alloys and stuff. With respect, why is it so hard to make reactor cooling tubes? I went to that Hastelloy site and it seems like they got a metal tube for everything. Honestly though, it's gonna take me all morning to read your diary, which, the first four paras are excellent.
    More later

    German Constitution, Article 1 (1) The dignity of man is inviolable. To respect and protect it is the duty of all state authority.

    by Mark B on Fri May 25, 2012 at 11:18:01 AM PDT

    •  Hastelloy is a somewhat difficult metal to work, (0+ / 0-)

      and in fact, tubes in a reactor core are not generally made with hastelloy.    The neutron capture cross section is too high.

      Hastelloy and/or Inconel are usually discussed in a molten salt system, particularly one involving fluorides, since Halleloy and Inconel are passivated in fluorides, because they contain a great deal of nickel.   However the metal is not designed to be in the core region.   Another alloy used in fluoride systems is Monel, but I haven't - for whatever reason - heard it discussed much in a nuclear context.

      Unfortunately not many molten salt or other quasi-homogenous reactors have been built.

      Most modern reactors are constructed with zircalloy, which is a zirconium alloy.    For this purpose the difficult separation from hafnium must always be made.

      This is alloy week in my little brain, and I've come across some interesting ones that have not been widely explored.

  •  "When you shut a coal boiler down". I've thought a (0+ / 0-)

    bout this a lot, and never been able to reconcile the (my) answer. For instance, in a well insulated boiler, consider the radiative losses, by the stefan-blotzman (ha, I almost said "blotzman", when I meant "Boltzman") equation.

    dQ=s(T(exp4)1- T(exp4)2) so that after time t, the heat loss dQ is less than after the same time if the temperature had been kept at a higher temperature, that is, maintained. Sorry about the clumsy notation. But to maintain the boiler at the higher temperature, you will always lose more heat than if the boiler is allowed to cool.

    Now, the same for conduction and convection........

    So why aren't you better off letting the boiler cool O/N?

    What part have I got wrong?
    and cheers, Dr. NNadir

    German Constitution, Article 1 (1) The dignity of man is inviolable. To respect and protect it is the duty of all state authority.

    by Mark B on Fri May 25, 2012 at 11:43:21 AM PDT

    •  It doesn't really matter how one loses the heat, (0+ / 0-)

      simply that one does lose the heat.

      In the radiative case, the rate may slow down as the boiler cools, but you need to integrate for the total heat loss during the process, if I understand correctly what you're asking.

      Probably the most leaky part of the system in terms of heat is the smokestack, which upon reflection is in fact a heat exchanger.

      You will also lose heat from vaporization, even if the boiler is not producing pressurized steam.   Vapors will continue to make it to the turbine and the heat exchangers and they will cause heat losses.

      All of this heat needs to be reinjected to the system when you turn it on again.

      Also one is not, in general, even in a fluidized bed system. going to instantaneously put out the fire.

      Solar advocates like to act as if a coal plant operates like a light switch.   It doesn't.

      If you look into it even more carefully, you will find that there is probably no place on the entire planet where solar energy actually even matches spinning reserve, where spinning reserve is the amount of power that power companies run without being used.   It is power that can be dispatched within 30 minutes if there is a demand surge.

      None of these things are ever addressed in conversations about the wonders of solar energy.

      •  regarding integration for total heat lost (0+ / 0-)

        you do understand me, but we still don't agree. I'll write the whole deal down, and forward it somehow. Kids at daycare tomorrow..............

        German Constitution, Article 1 (1) The dignity of man is inviolable. To respect and protect it is the duty of all state authority.

        by Mark B on Sat May 26, 2012 at 12:13:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  for the record, you don't sound like a "pompous ar (0+ / 0-)

    pompous arrogant ass". I think you sound hilarious, and if people don't see that, maybe they're not the smartest one in the room.

    German Constitution, Article 1 (1) The dignity of man is inviolable. To respect and protect it is the duty of all state authority.

    by Mark B on Fri May 25, 2012 at 12:05:24 PM PDT

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