environment,energy,greenhouse,gas,carbon,dioxide,global,nuclear energy,clean energy,emissions,global climate change,environmental impacts, Nuclear Energy Can Save US: November 2007

Nuclear Energy Can Save US--America�s 100 nukes equal four million barrels of oil per day.

Billions of lives and civilization itself may be at risk from the Global Warming & End of Cheap Oil, Crisis. Rising sea levels and rising oil prices could be the end of civilization as we know it. The problem is so huge that the most powerful answer, many nuclear plants, must be deployed. Currently, America‘s 100 nukes deliver the energy of four million barrels of oil per day. Wind and solar cannot do the job, and may delay the real answer too long. Still, all kinds of clean energy, plus conservation, plus reducing deforestation, will be needed to help the poor half of the world, and for civilization to survive through this century.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Solar Energy Just Will Not Do (Part Three)

As discussed in Part Two of Solar posts, retail type solar energy installations (home-mounted) do not s seem to be a viable part of the Climate Change fight. Besides cost, esthetics have to be considered; remember the anger at roof-mounted TV antennas years ago. Also, "rebound" is likely to happen. A report last year said that several studies showed only 60% (my memory) of expected results were realized because of rebound; e.g., after saving, a person may then make his next car an SUV instead of a hybrid. Last, every transformation of energy causes a bit of energy loss; grid-linked systems lose a bit both times, sending and receiving energy to a public utility, the energy wholesaler.

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants are more likely to work, primarily because they are wholesalers with inherent benefits. However, even here the cost, and scale of manufacturing that they require may be a drawback. Per eia.doe.gov, CSP's, or thermal systems are ten times as prevalent worldwide, as PV arrays.

Getting a handle on the cost of CSP's is a problem. One recent report bragged that an area of 92 by 92 miles could supply as much energy as the world now produces. This is not new; call it 100 by 100 miles, or 10,000 square-miles, 1/300 of continental US, and the sunlight received is 12 times the current total world energy (See Part One, Solar post). The report did not say how they would get 8% efficiency to create the energy, nor how much it would cost to cover 10,000 square-miles with mirrors separated so as not to mask each others sun, and for the mirrors to be precision manufactured structures, not just millions of frame, row houses. Without such data, the real value of these plants cannot be estimated.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Solar Energy Just Will Not Do (Part Two)

Even though, at ground level, America receives 3700 times as much solar energy as the 100Q of energy we produce from all sources (See Solar, Part One), solar energy cannot solve the Climate Change crisis that the Earth faces. Massively-concentrated, energy sources like nuclear plants, or strongly-concentrated, sources like wind turbines are the only available solutions.
As described in Part One, America's 3,000,000 square-miles receive 11PKWH (11 X 10 to 15th kilowatt-hours) of solar energy each year. Each square-mile receives four-billion KWH per year. A one-gig, nuke (one-million KW), operating 90% (about 7000 hours) of the year, "produces" seven-billion KWH; 1.6 times as much as each square mile, of land or solar cells, can "receive". Since 15% efficient PV cells only deliver one-sixth as much electricity as the energy received, one square-mile of cells only gives 0.65 billion KWH per year. One, one-gig nuke can produce as much electricity as 10.6 square-miles of PV cells (265,000,000 one-square-foot cells).
A well-detailed report (http://linas.org/theory/solar-electric.html) docments: at average peak output of 10-watts per square-foot, 100 square-feet solar cells give one kilowatt; using battery-bank, or grid-tied systems; 168 square-feet; gives 1.92 KW, 8.8 KWH/day; in Austin, Texas; with average 5-hours/day sun; gives 3300 KWH per year. PV cells, $5 per watt; other parts, plus utility hook-up give total cost of $10 per watt, or $20,000 for 2000-watt system. To amortize this versus Texas electric costs, takes decades. Costs must come down greatly for widespread acceptance.
My Take: To equal a one-gig nuke, two million households must be able to afford $20,000 systems, yet still be interested in saving a small amount on their electric bills. Also, the $40 billion to build these systems could pay for ten, $4 billion nukes instead.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bali Climate Change Conference

Reports on the Bali Climate Change Conference next month, say the aimpoint of CO2 emissions rollback to 1990, will be the year 2050, since Kyoto's 2012 date cannot be met. This makes sense, but even more years to work won't make it easy. CO2 emissions are directly linked to Q (BTU) of fossil fuels. Reducing Q from fossil fuels is the answer to climate change, which could otherwise cause water shortages, drought and famine, as well as rising sea levels.
Energy data from eia.doe.gov, actual for 1990 and 2004, and projected for 2030, plus my own raw extrapolations to 2050, are used here. Only 1990 and 2050 are given in detail.
1990 (EIA) Total 350Q/Oil 135Q/Other Fossil 165Q/Other 50Q
2050 (Ext)Total 1050Q/Oil 360Q/Other Fossil 550Q/Other150Q
(Note: 2030 total energy projected by EIA equals 700Q)
My guess of 2050 total fossil energy is 910Q. To reduce this to the 1990 level, 300Q, would take 610Q of clean energy. If we get 360Q clean energy in place of oil, it would solve or ease two problems. Oil and its CO2 will probably be gone by 2050, so equal energy will keep the economy going as oil disappears.
This 360Q could be supplied by 4500, one-gig nukes, or 13,500,000 (or equiv.) wind turbines. Either quantity by 2050 is clearly impossible. However, a large fraction of both sources will give enormous amounts of energy to help fight climate change.
Also, 360Q will still leave the need for 250Q clean energy (2050, 550Q versus the 1990, 300Q of fossil fuel), for the rollback. All of the programs that are starting up right now must be pushed hard. We need: efficiency in car mileage, and electrical devices; zero-sum forestry worldwide; concentrated solar energy plants; biofuels from anything, other than food (corn ethanol must end soon); and coal plants, which should be required by law, to sequester large fractions of their CO2.
No single source, not even nukes, will be enough; but in time, 5000 nukes and millions of wind turbines, and counting, will eventually put Earth's climate on the road to healing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Clean Energy is Cheap

The world currently consumes 450Q(BTU) of manmade energy per year. This equals energy of 5500, one-gig nukes, or 16,500,000, one-meg wind turbines (at 8-hours per day, 3 gigs of rated wind, equal one-gig of nuclear). At $4B per nuke, or $2M per turbine, 450Q would cost $25T or $35T respectively. Better yet, for $60T capital cost, plants with 900Q yearly energy capacity could be built. Costs would rise thru the century, but nowhere near oil inflation; fuel will always be cheap (one pound nuke fuel equals 500,000 pounds coal, and wind is free).
These capital costs may sound high, but they are bargains compared to current $1.8T per year for $60 oil (85MBPD, equal to 30BBPY). (This equals $18T in just a decade.) As oil disappears this century, long before, most likely, oil will be $100, $200, $300 and more per barrel (true world price without speculation). Yearly costs will easily be $3T, $6T and $9T, respectively for only 40% of 450Q. Per decade, if indeed the world can afford it, oil will cost $30T, $60T or $90T.
The $60T capital cost (as escalated) would be easy for the world during this century, and would give 900Q of clean energy which is FIVE times as much as current 170Q of oil. Even as capital costs rise through the century, these plants will always be massive bargains; and incidentally, save world civilization from climate change.
In a later post, possible bottlenecks and construction difficulties will be discussed.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Solar Energy Just Will Not Do (Part One)

The Sun delivers energy to the 200 million square miles of Earth's surface, that is thousands of times greater than we humans generate from all sources. The quantity is so huge that solar seems to be the answer to the coming energy crisis. However, it is spread too thin for use; like collecting barrels of oil from an oil slick on water. See coming posts for reasons.
This does not say we don't use solar energy. Along with heat from radioactivity in the Earth, solar keeps ground level temperature about 300-degrees C above absolute zero; distills and distributes water worldwide; drives the winds, and thermohaline ocean circulation to moderate air temperatures in all latitudes; and energizes plant life to provide food and forest products for humans and animals. We should be contented with this.
50% of solar energy reaches the ground. Currently a tiny bit is accessed by photovoltaic cells to give 0.066Q of the total 100Q (eia.doe.gov) that America generates from all sources. Note: this amount is only 2/3 of 1/10 of one percent of the 100Q .
The Sun delivers 175 petawatts (10 x 10 to 15th watts) to the disc of Earth every instant; by 8060 hours, this is 1500 petakilowatt-hours (PKWH) per year. Since 50% reaches ground, and the US is 1.5% of the world's land, we get 11 PKWH per year, versus 100Q (BTU).
One kilowatt-hour equals 3412 BTU (Google), so our 11 PKWH equals 3.7 times 10 to 18th BTU. Divided by our 100Q BTU (10 times 10 to 14th), solar is 3700 times as much as the energy we generate. All other nations (28.5% of Earth's land) get 19 times as much solar energy, but make only three times as much energy, 300Q. Their solar-to-human energy multiple is 6.5 times as much as ours, or 24,000.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Immigration and the American Dream

Some Advocates say that immigrants to the US are entitled to work for the "American Dream". I truly wish them well. However, the American Dream may turn to nightmare if we reach the limits of the materials that our land can provide, just because we do not have enough energy. It will be even a worse nightmare for immigrants, because people will tend to blame them for shortages. What immigrants will be doing though, is only getting us to the limits a tiny bit sooner than we would do on our own.
There is no limit to the materials available, if we have enough energy. The ocean water could be desalinated and fresh water pumped to drought areas, or places now seen as wastelands; instead of just high assay ores, poorer grades could be mined; we might even mine materials from seawater; with enough energy. Instead of the world's current 400Q (BTU) energy, equal to 5000, one-gig nukes (or 8 million wind turbines), the world needs 2 to 3 times as much clean energy to make the difference between prosperity and disaster.
This future is not like the Y2K scare that was solved by the warning. Corporations and nations believed, and software geniuses turned to and fixed it. However, software cannot create commodities. Electrons weigh next to nothing, compared to trillions of tons of water, billions of tons of food grains, billions of barrels of oil per year. We cannot depend on the electron-pushers, brilliant as they are, to produce vast quantities of materials just by taking thought