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Wind and Sun Beat Other Energy Alternatives

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the think-of-the-birds dept.

Power 584

iandoh passes along the news that researchers at Stanford University have completed the first quantitative, scientific comparison of alternative energy solutions by assessing not only their potential for delivering energy for electricity and vehicles, but also their impacts on global warming, human health, energy security, water supply, space requirements, wildlife, water pollution, reliability, and sustainability. Based on their model, they found that the best sources of alternative energy are wind, concentrated solar, and geothermal energy. The worst are nuclear, clean coal, and ethanol-based fuels. In other words, "the options that are getting the most attention are between 25 to 1,000 times more polluting than the best available options."

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Well of course (5, Insightful)

AkaKaryuu (1062882) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097233)

Of course the ones getting the most attention can be much more easily controlled by those who provide it. I would love to see a rise in energy costs because a "shortage" of wind or sun light.

Re:Well of course (2, Insightful)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097275)

Shortage of solar cells might be a problem if production cannot meet demand, but I can't imagine it being more severe than a shortage of uranium or petroleum.

What if you had less sunlight because you caused a nuclear winter?

Re:Well of course (5, Informative)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097351)

Concentrated solar doesn't necessarily require cells, you can use the sun to heat up oil or water which drives a traditional turbine.

Re:Well of course (1)

AkaKaryuu (1062882) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097375)

Well that's where the wind comes in. You just have to make sure that they have a "Hi" setting on the generators to blow the dust and debris out of the way!

Re:Well of course (1)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097489)

Is the spent fuel from Nuke plants usable in a nuclear bomb? If it is not, then going all out for nuclear energy is the way to go. Use up all the uranium from the Earth, then all of it from the nuclear weapons stockpiles. Then when no more is left, use solar energy. No more nukes should mean no chance of a nuclear winter.

Really though I was hoping for the space elevator to work. At the top of said elevator create a solar energy plant. Out in space the solar plant should be able to create energy 24/7 cause it is always in sunlight. Of course this would mean more of a solid structure rising from the ground that reaches out past the atmosphere. We need better building materials to make it happen.

Re:Well of course (2, Informative)

cmowire (254489) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097559)

There are some reactor designs that are amenable for making weapons-grade materials and there are some that are not.

The best weapons grade material comes from frequent replacement of fuel rods so you can maximize the amount of Pu-240 generated from U-238 and minimize the amount of Pu-241 generated from Pu-240.

The intermingling of Pu-240 and Pu-241 is one of the best ways to prevent proliferation.

Re:Well of course (2, Interesting)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097687)

I"m wondering if their evaluation of nukes..was based on the current 'laws and regulations' in the US (encacted by Carter I think?), that pretty much prohibit things like breeder reactors, that 'can' be used to manufacture weapons grade stuff, but, also can allow the fuel to be used much more efficiently, leaving much less waste than the first run we currently do?

From my limited understanding, if we repealed those laws...we could really stretch the nuclear fuel in a massive way, and have much, much less radioactive waste to have to manage, that has a much lower half life, etc.

Re:Well of course (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097563)

Is the spent fuel from Nuke plants usable in a nuclear bomb?

No, because it is spent. You can sometimes toss it into another reactor and react the left over bits. But you need a special reactor for that.

Good luck getting rid of all the nukes. In 50 years the technology for a nuclear bomb will be so pervasive that most poor African countries will have them.

if you want sunlight 24/7 then just build a few solar plants on different parts of the earth and connect them together in the power grid. You would want some better wires to reduce loss, but practical high temp superconductors are probably only 30-90 years away.

Re:Well of course (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097629)

Really though I was hoping for the space elevator to work. At the top of said elevator create a solar energy plant. Out in space the solar plant should be able to create energy 24/7 cause it is always in sunlight.

Aside: if you're building a space elevator, you're almost certainly doing it in geostationary orbit at the equator, in which case, the opposite end of the elevator will go through the earth's shadow once a day for some amount of time (though the penumbra isn't that big out there so it would only be a few hours).

Re:Well of course (1)

CecilPL (1258010) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097749)

Would it? It seems to me that at that distance (roughly 3x the Earth's diameter) the axial tilt of the Earth might be enough to raise the station North of the Earth's shadow during Northern summer and South of the shadow during Northern winter. Of course you're correct near the equinoxes. :)

Re:Well of course (1)

GravityStar (1209738) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097731)

Actually, some of the reactor designs that are capable of being used for military purposes are also *the very same* reactor designs that are capable of powering human activity until, quite literally, the end of this world (a few hundred billion years?).

The only reason why this is not being done is because of fears they will be used to create weapons. Or just because nuclear power has a bad PR I suppose.

Re:Well of course (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097743)

Thus spurring the race for dark-matter or anti-matter bombs. We are clever monkeys, there will always be a way to do what should be unthinkable.

Re:Well of course (1)

pluther (647209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097615)

What if you had less sunlight because you caused a nuclear winter?

It still works: any exchange that would cause a nuclear winter would also cause a large percentage of humans to die off, drastically reducing our energy needs.

Re:Well of course (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097385)

Problem is, electric cars aren't very practical right now. Battery capacity, charge times, etc., all need to improve by an order of magnitude.

Carbon-neutral biodiesels could keep the existing vehicle fleet going until electric cars are fully developed. In Europe about 30% of cars could run on biodiesel right now. The USA has stupid laws which prevent diesel cars from being used there.

Re:Well of course (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097465)

Maybe there are laws like that in a few places, but it isn't by any means universal.

Re:Well of course (5, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097583)

Battery capacity, charge times, etc., all need to improve by an order of magnitude.

So, just to use the Phoenix SUT as a starting point and improving it by an order of magnitude, you're saying that you want electric cars that go 1,500 miles per charge and charge to 80% in 30 seconds? Or are you still under the misconception that EVs only go 50 miles or so and inherently take hours to recharge?

State of the art but commercially available battery tech is the titanates, which get ~70Wh/kg and can recharge as fast as you can provide the power and cool the pack (individual cells have been charged to 80% in one minute), or phosphates and stabilized spinels which get ~100Wh/kg and can recharge in 10 to 20 minutes. Traditional li-ion now gets nearly 180Wh/kg, but is limited to 1 hour charging minimum and won't last the lifespan of the car (unlike the aforementioned techs). To get weight/range parity with a typical gasoline vehicle, you need about 300-400Wh/kg, which is what about a dozen different next-gen battery techs are promising. Personally, all I care about is the ability to drive for about two hours on a charge; I don't see the point to more since I'm not going to want to have to be sitting down for that long in a row.

As for chargers, the highest power EV chargers I've seen are 250kW. The highest I know of that are already installed for general use are the 60kW Aerovironment Posicharge chargers in Oahu. For a 200Wh/mi EV charging at 250kW, that's 21 miles range per minute of charging, meaning that charging makes up under 5% of your travel time.

In short, while the state of the art tech isn't perfect yet, it's not half bad.

Re:Well of course (4, Interesting)

cromar (1103585) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097825)

I also heard a "rumor" that the ore used in the production of electric car/hybrid batteries is another big energy/carbon sink (fueld used for mining it, sending it somewhere for processing, sending it somewhere to produce the batteries, sending the batteries to the car manufacturers). Does anyone know if this is true or have any facts or references that would be apropos?

All things decay (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097613)

Of course the ones getting the most attention can be much more easily controlled by those who provide it. I would love to see a rise in energy costs because a "shortage" of wind or sun light.

What about large deteriorating wind farms that eventually break down?

Visit the southern tip of the Big Island [travelistic.com] in Hawaii sometime and you might just look upon the future of many current U.S. sea coasts or plains.

Solar and wind are (almsot) forever. The means of collecting them is not.

Re:Well of course (4, Informative)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097759)

Of course the ones getting the most attention can be much more easily controlled by those who provide it.

I smell a vague conspiracy theory that doesn't hold water compared to more simple explanations. Specifically that those which are attracting more attention are doing so in general because they're more viable in the short-term, or rather appeared that way.

Ethanol got a lot of attention (read: subsidies) because of exactly one thing: the iowa primary. Traditionally, politicians hoping to run for president supported ethanol because Iowa grows corn. The thinking was "If I support ethanol, I'll get big numbers in Iowa, one of the first primaries, and that will get me big campaign contributions!" Who cares about whether it is a real solution. Although not a good reason, it's not that "THEY" can controll you better. And to be honest, you can add it to your current car and put it into the infrastructure, that's a plus it has over other energies. Of course as the article points out, it's a waste of time for numerous reasons.

Nuclear: again, not evil white men out to control you, it was a big thing for a while. Of course it's going to get attention: we can do it right now.

Clean coal: you know who is pushing big for this? Everyone who is currently supported by coal, which is a lot of people. Say you own a coal-fired power plant. Which is more attractive: being forced to dismantle your plant completely in a few years (IE if solar power wins) or spend a few million on researching "clean" coal and convincing congressmen on your payroll that you're on the way to making coal which has all of the upsides of renewables but none of the downsides without raising taxes? If your answer is "going bankrupt" instead of "clean coal" you are either a saint, a liar, or are badly deluded.

In short, we can see it's not about population control, it's about money, laziness, and semi-corruption. It's not evil crafty men in suits trying to turn off your power if you stumble onto their secrets, its about fat lazy men in suits being greedy.

Subtle difference I guess, but be realistic and you won't sound like you wear a tinfoil hat.

Hard to beat economics (2, Insightful)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097241)

When a solution is safer, uses less resources, causes less polution. But costs more to scale to a useful size, then it tends to lose out.

While electricity is a commodity, and is sold on a market as such, the cheapest producer wins. To fix this artificial constraints that artificially inflate the cost of the cheaper methods of electricity production have to be considered.

Re:Hard to beat economics (2, Insightful)

reginaldo (1412879) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097301)

You don't have to artifically inflate the cost of cheaper methods.

Instead, make these cheaper, more polluting methods of electric generation pay for the environmental damage that they are causing. At that point wind, solar, and geothermal energy would become more cost-viable.

Re:Hard to beat economics (1)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097565)

You can do this for the Country you live in, but you cannot enforce it on a developing country.

Re:Hard to beat economics (2, Interesting)

grahamd0 (1129971) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097763)

You can do this for the Country you live in, but you cannot enforce it on a developing country.

From a moral or a practical perspective?

From a practical perspective, you can certainly tell a country to whom you provide $X million per year in aid that you won't provide that money if they don't subscribe to your energy policy.

And from a moral perspective, wouldn't developing nations be better off if they were generating power from resources that aren't scarce? Sub-Saharan Africa doesn't have oil, but have plenty of wind and sun.

Re:Hard to beat economics (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097815)

You underestimate the American capacity for enforcing their will on developing countries.

Re:Hard to beat economics (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097323)

To fix this artificial constraints that artificially inflate the cost of the cheaper methods of electricity production have to be considered.

So you're saying we should stop subsidizing the coal, nuclear, and bio-fuel agriculture industries?

-Rick

The farmers are gonna be mad (4, Interesting)

John3 (85454) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097263)

The corn farmers are going to be upset by this but once again research shows that Ethanol made from corn is not an energy efficient way to create fuel. It's time to stop the ethanol subsidies and start spending money on energy sources with real potential. That way corn will now go back into the food stream, and farmers will also start growing hops again rather than switching to corn to make more money [yoursforgo...tables.com] .

Sincerely,

Home Brewer who misses his hops

Re:The farmers are gonna be mad (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097335)

Hmmph, it works good enough for me and it's worked for Frank Sinatra, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Benjamin Franklin!

Now about my vehicle, that's another story...

Re:The farmers are gonna be mad (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097393)

In theory, you could make bioethanol in a way that doesn't affect food crops (algae etc). BUT: with the laws of economics at work, farmers WILL make sure they'll grow the highest-profit crop. This will most likely be corn for bioethanol then.

I think that solar panels are not likely to become useful enough for heavy use. Solar concentration maybe, but you still need a lot of space for that. Wind energy is relatively easy but probably not economical yet. In the windy region where I live, they didn't build any new windmill, actually removed a windmill in the last two years. Coal and nuclear power are just cheaper, that's all that counts in the end.

Re:The farmers are gonna be mad (1)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097437)

Which food stream? The animal food stream where the overall majority of corn goes or the much smaller human food stream?

Re:The farmers are gonna be mad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26097643)

The corn farmers are going to be upset by this but once again research shows that Ethanol made from corn is not an energy efficient way to create fuel. It's time to stop the ethanol subsidies and start spending money on energy sources with real potential. That way corn will now go back into the food stream, and farmers will also start growing hops again rather than switching to corn to make more money [yoursforgo...tables.com] .

Sincerely,

Home Brewer who misses his hops

The best energy use for corn are pellet heaters.

http://www.dansons.com/

Back when oil and corn were peaking it cost about a 1/3 the price to heat a house with feed corn. You can use raw kernels or ground and pressed pellets neither of which requires large amounts of energy to process. The downside with corn will always be the need for large amounts of fertilizer which is generally petroleum based.

Re:The farmers are gonna be mad (4, Interesting)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097849)

Why don't we just put all the state primaries on the same day? The importance of the Iowa primary is no longer vastly inflated, presidential canidates no longer have to pledge to Big Corn, and ethanol stops getting subsidies.

Farmers can get mad all they like, it's bad for the rest of us.

Nuclear (4, Insightful)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097267)

I love it. He only doesn't like nuclear power because of them there terr'ists. And that it's completely reasonably possible to get weapons-grade uranium from any nuclear reactor.

And he completely ignores the effects of wind power on things like bats and birds.

Re:Nuclear (2, Insightful)

DesertBlade (741219) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097347)

The impact on bats and birds are minor. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power#Environmental_effects [wikipedia.org]

Storing that nuclear waste for the next million years is the problem. Who wants that stored in their backyard?

Re:Nuclear (5, Informative)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097599)

Storing that nuclear waste for the next million years is the problem. Who wants that stored in their backyard?

The only reason most of it "needs" to be stored is regulatory. 99% of the so-called primary wastes are perfectly usable as fuel for future cycles. If reprocessing were permitted (like in France, etc.) most of our "nuclear wastes" would become "nuclear fuel reserves."

Almost all of what's left is either commercially valuable / recyclable or harmless.

The nuclear waste "problem" is a creation of our fossil fuel industry driven political system.

--MarkusQ

Re:Nuclear (1)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097605)

Actually, I'd be happy to store it in my back yard. Now, it'd be 100 feet down, but still. :)

Worries about nuclear waste are overblown. Besides, if things go right, most nuclear power plants will just burn it to make more energy: http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]

Re:Nuclear (2, Informative)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097627)

Um, actually "hot" nuclear fuel only needs to be stored for around 40 years (depending on the type of fuel) to drop to a radiation level less than 1/1000th of the original fissionable material and after about 10,000 years the radiation level is nothing more than background radiation.

At the 40 year mark the radiation levels are still something to be cautious of, but short term exposure isn't a major problem at that point so as long as you don't take long naps on the stockpile, you should be fine. The thing I find most fascinating about nuclear versus coal is in this wikepedia article [wikipedia.org] :

In countries with nuclear power, radioactive wastes comprise less than 1% of total industrial toxic wastes, which remain hazardous indefinitely unless they decompose or are treated so that they are less toxic or, ideally, completely non-toxic.[53] Overall, nuclear power produces far less waste material than fossil-fuel based power plants. Coal-burning plants are particularly noted for producing large amounts of toxic and mildly radioactive ash due to concentrating naturally occurring metals and radioactive material from the coal. Contrary to popular belief, coal power actually results in more radioactive waste being released into the environment than nuclear power. The population effective dose equivalent from radiation from coal plants is 100 times as much as nuclear plants.

Nuclear is far better than coal, but it is true that wind and solar do pollute less if you ignore manufacturing processes.

Re:Nuclear (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097665)

Storing that nuclear waste for the next million years is the problem.

Even the most insanely conservative estimates don't require storage for a million years. Realistically, storage for a hundred years is probably unnecessary, unless you're working hard to justify not using nuclear power.

Note that the overwhelming majority (>> 99%)of the radioactivity produced by nuclear waste is stone cold within a week of reactor shutdown.

The overwhelming majority of what's left at that point in stone cold in six months.

The overwhelming majority of what's left after six months is stone cold in five years.

And after that, you've got things that can safely be stored under your bed as far as the radioactivity is concerned - alpha emitters with a long half-life are basically harmless unless you eat them.

Re:Nuclear (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097751)

it's not in anyones backyard. it's in secure facilities deep underground or reprocessed to make more energy. nuclear and molten salt solar are cleanest and more reliable sources, TFA doesn't let facts get in the way of a good story. totally worthless.

Re:Nuclear (3, Interesting)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097349)

Yes, it sounds like the author had an axe to grind. Being in the Bay Area, he's got to be aware of activists trying to shut down the wind farms near Stockton because they're killing birds. And I remember reading that the manufacture of photovoltaic cells uses some of the same processes that are already poisoning the groundwater in Silicon Valley.

Re:Nuclear (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26097395)

I agree, nuclear is the only sustainable, easily scalable and safe energy policy. Not only is it safe, economical, and reduces carbon emissions, it is also proven.

France has an established and proven domestic energy policy based on nuclear. They export energy to the rest of europe, and essentially create money out of thin air(atoms). This abundant availability of cheap and reliable nuclear energy has enabled France to stay highly competitive on the global manufacturing front, even though the french are not known for manufacturing anything half as good as the germans.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/reaction/readings/french.html

Re:Nuclear (1)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097633)

This abundant availability of cheap and reliable nuclear energy

Just like oil in 1900. I'm not saying we shouldn't use nuclear in the interim, but it is still not a solution as it, like oil is finite.

"We cannot survive without the sun" -Star Trek IV

Re:Nuclear (4, Interesting)

MpVpRb (1423381) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097553)

The study claims to be quantitative and scientific. But when he goes into his anti-nuclear rant, it's all just opinion.

We currently have no perfect energy sources. I for one think nuclear sucks less than most of the others.

Re:Nuclear (1)

cmowire (254489) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097645)

Also, he assumes that we MUST continue to use cars EXACTLY like we use them today.

Given the choice between a battery powered semi truck and starting to add overhead wires and extra track to our rail network, I suspect that if we move away from gas, we won't see much in terms of long-haul trucking.

I made the deliberate choice that I would save the planet while becoming a buff ass-kicker two years ago and bike whenever I can instead of drive.

Re:Nuclear (3, Insightful)

booyabazooka (833351) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097703)

He only doesn't like nuclear power because of them there terr'ists.

I believe these statements are also relevant:

  • "nuclear emits about 25-times more carbon and air pollution than wind energy"
  • "coal and nuclear energy plants take much longer to plan, permit and construct than do most of the other new energy sources"

Weird... It's like you tried to read the article... but then just read a random paragraph from the middle and stopped.

Re:Nuclear (3, Informative)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097803)

He only doesn't like nuclear power because of them there terr'ists.

I believe these statements are also relevant:

* "nuclear emits about 25-times more carbon and air pollution than wind energy"
* "coal and nuclear energy plants take much longer to plan, permit and construct than do most of the other new energy sources"

Well given that he computes the carbon footprint of nuclear by dragging things like "terrorists could steal the fuel to make a bomb which could be used in a city which would burn and release lots of CO2," and that one of the reasons nuclear plants take so long to license is the regulatory hurdles designed in part to prevent terrorists from doing just that, I'd say the GP's summary, while glib, was accurate.

--MarkusQ

Re:Nuclear (4, Insightful)

GradiusCVK (1017360) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097717)

Just finished reading this garbage, and you're 100% right. The "study" was conducted to prove a certain worldview (that solar and hydro and wind are the only possible solution). Take for example the following:

Estimates of future (c. 2020) US premature deaths per year from vehicles replacing light- and heavy-duty gasoline onroad vehicles and their upstream emissions assuming full penetration of each vehicle type or fuel, as discussed in the text. Low (solid) and high (solid+vertical lines) estimates are given. In the case of nuclear-BEV, the upper limit of the number of deaths, scaled to US population, due to a nuclear exchange caused by the proliferation of nuclear energy facilities worldwide is also given (horizontal lines). In the case of corn-E85 and cellulosic-E85, the dots are the additional US death rate due to upstream emissions from producing and distributing E85 minus those from producing and distributing gasoline (see text) and the slanted lines are the additional tailpipe emissions of E85 over gasoline for the US

Essentially, they are assuming that converting to nuclear power results in global nuclear warfare. Yes, it's only the "upper limit" for the range of possible deaths that they throw into their calculations, but let me break it down for you... they have a weighted average of factors used to calculate what is the best solution, and each factor is actually a probability distribution, and they set the upper 10% (or whatever) of potential deaths per year (one of the factors in their model) for one of the solutions (nuclear) to infinity (essentially infinity.... a number so high as to completely skew the resulting weighted average), then guess what... they stated nuclear wasn't an option.

This isn't research, this is propaganda.

Re:Nuclear (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097761)

NO! FALSE! Weapons-grade uranium is different from fuel-grade, and there are many types of reactors. Only a breeder reactor or hybrid type can enrich nuclear materials. And at that, you still need to centrifuge it to separate the isotopes, and then purify it to remove neutron poisoners that naturally occur as part of the nuclear process.

Re:Nuclear (1)

pizzach (1011925) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097791)

I love it. He only doesn't like nuclear power because of them there terr'ists. And that it's completely reasonably possible to get weapons-grade uranium from any nuclear reactor.

The answer is a symptom of the problem and not the actual problem itself. When someone says they don't like Nuclear energy because of terrorists, they are usually frantically grabbing for the closest thing they can think of to an actual reason. If the terrorists are not around, they will think of another reason to fill the void. A lot of people have an irrational fear of nuclear energy like some people might have of water. They'll come up with reason they can to stay away from it.

Re:Nuclear (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097821)

The impact on bats and birds are non-existent with current propeller designs.

Right now, you could be wearing HUMAN SKIN (1)

bistromath007 (1253428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097285)

Film at 11.

Re:Right now, you could be wearing HUMAN SKIN (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097453)

Just make sure that you first rub the lotion on it or else you will get the hose again.

And do please PUT THE FUCKIN' LOTION IN THE BASKET!!! after are finished with it.

Windbelt (3, Interesting)

TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097307)

I am happy to hear this: Wind (and solar) does seem to be a very elegant energy solution.

I do note, however, that the report seems to assume wind-based power generation as taking place with traditional turbines.

The question arises in my mind if the use of the windbelt technology might offer additional gains in this respect?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windbelt [wikipedia.org]

My searches for use or deployment of the windbelt seem to garner sparse results...any info out there?

is the windbelt indeed a more effecient method of wind-power generation? Or are turbines still the way to go?

Re:Windbelt (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097487)

You must have mixed up capitalization when reading about the Windbelt, because its power output is measured in mW, not MW. ;) Yes, he updated his estimate to saying his latest version costs "$2 per watt", but then he makes himself look like an idiot by saying that this is cheaper than solar. These price per watt figures are per watt under a given set of standard conditions (25C, 1000W/m^2, etc), and the standard conditions for solar are in no way related to whatever conditions he used for wind. Judging from his earlier experiments, probably a desk fan.

Basically, we don't have much to go on re. Windbelt apart from what Frayne has stated.

Baseline power (1)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097339)

Yes, I read the fine article.

With the way the grid is currently set up anything that wants to provide baseline power needs to be a very stable and very controllable source of energy.

Sure, you can try to mimic that with wind or wave stations all over the place but then you have the problem of getting all that power to act like it was a single stable controllable source and still get that power to where it needs to go.

Re:Baseline power (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097685)

I'd be willing to bet on 2 to 1 odds that we're going to have a nationwide HVDC well under construction by the end of Obama's presidency, if not fully functioning by that point. All of the signs point toward it.

1) It was part of his policy platform when campaigning, and came up several times during debates/interviews.
2) When announcing his massive, massive federal jobs program, one of the main things he said it would do was "repower America"
3) He picked Chu as his energy secretary; Chu has long been a major proponent of nationwide HVDC. Here's a random example [ca.gov] . Really, what a thrill to have someone like him as energy secretary.

Very sloppy, misleading headline (5, Insightful)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097363)

The rankings are based on a model, not empirical, real-world science. You can stuff whatever you want into a model, and make it say whatever you want. All we know from this is if you make some wild assumptions on XYZ, options ABC line up in the order of 123.

Re:Very sloppy, misleading headline (3, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097647)

And yet the word "model" appears nowhere in TFA. It refers instead to "quantitative evaluation". You can certainly disagree with the way evaluation was carried out. But you're not doing that. You're claiming that there are "wild assumptions", something I see no evidence of.

Advocates of a given technology tend to be pretty blind to its downsides. This is particularly true for advocates of nuclear power (waste disposal, weapons proliferation, high costs, high NIMBY factor) and biofuels (environmental degradation; diversion of cropland from food production). All this study does is point out these blind spots. The way you dismiss the study out of hand is all too typical of the river-in-Egypt approach to environmental debate.

One caveat with respect to biofuels: most of the objection to it don't apply to plans to extract it from oil-rich algae [renewableenergyworld.com] . But this emerging technology doesn't seem to get much press, probably because it doesn't have the entrenched businesses lobbying for it that nukes and fuel crops do.

Re:Very sloppy, misleading headline (0)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097831)

Listed metrics:

1) Global warming (not taken seriously outside of some Star Echochambers)

2) Air pollution (highly variable and subjective)

3) Mortality (from what? Air pollution? Statistics on that are not very definite)

4) Energy security (not sure what this means, sounds like nationalism)

5) Water supply (not sure what this is about, obviously, if water is scarce, it would quickly become very expensive, leading to the power plant using it to close down, assuming a free-market environment)

6) Land use (subjective)

7) Wildlife (subjective)

8) Resource availability (non sequitur; if the resources aren't available to do it in an efficient fashion, it won't happen, absent government coercion)

9) Thermal pollution (subjective)

10) Water chemical pollution (subjective, depends where it's going)

11) Nuclear proliferation (irrelevant, nuclear power plants can be designed that are incapable of weaponizing)

12) Undernutrition (um, what?)

Re:Very sloppy, misleading headline (1)

SailorSpork (1080153) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097677)

But... but it's "quantitative!" That makes it "TRUE," which will mean scientific and government papers will be quoting it as an authoritative scientific source for years to come.

Missing option (4, Funny)

pizzach (1011925) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097371)

Moon energy. I know there must be some way that we can harvest this great natural resource. Maybe attach a rope to it that pulls a gear or burn it or something.

Re:Missing option (2, Interesting)

eoinmadden (769606) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097533)

Wave power?

Re:Missing option (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26097587)

"Moon energy" is *tidal* power. Wave power is just another variation on wind (or solar fusion, to be pedantic).

Re:Missing option (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26097769)

Wouldn't this just be tidal power? [wikipedia.org]

It's called "tidal power" (2, Informative)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097835)

Moon energy. I know there must be some way that we can harvest this great natural resource. Maybe attach a rope to it that pulls a gear or burn it or something.

It's called "tidal power". There are some large power plants running on it already, and more being considered.

The moon's gravity drags the oceans around, creating a bulge on the side of the earth toward the moon and one on the side opposite. The earth rotates faster than the moon so the oceans appear to go up and down. This creates massive flows of water into and out of bays and other holding areas. Turbines in these flows can be used to generate electricity, while seawalls, dams, and other structures can be built to guide the flows for efficient harvesting.

The friction of the tides (either against the Earth or against energy harvesting turbines) slows the rotation of the Earth and raises the orbit of the Moon. This power will continue to be available until the Earth's rotation is slowed to where the Earth is tide-locked to the Moon - one side always facing the Moon, just as one side of the moon always faces the Earth - and further until the Earth stops rocking back-and-forth relative toward the Moon (as the Moon still does a little bit relative to the Earth). This will take geologic time, whether this "moon energy" is harvested or not.

Nuclear is the best option. (5, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097379)

I love how it's dismissed out of hand because of the bogeyman argument.

TERRORISM!!!!!! Oh crap.

We better rule out anything that is efficient and can be used RIGHT NOW.

No let's pick the ones based on Unobtanium.

Re:Nuclear is the best option. (1)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097549)

I love how it's dismissed out of hand because of the bogeyman argument.

TERRORISM!!!!!! Oh crap.

We better rule out anything that is efficient and can be used RIGHT NOW.

It's worse than that. They estimated the carbon footprint for nuclear based on assuming that 1) nuclear power == nuclear weapons, and 2) terrorists will get these and 3) they will use them in a city which will then 4) catch fire, 5) releasing lots of C02. So therefore nuclear isn't an ecologically sound solution.

Blech.

Why don't these people just admit that the real reasoning is of all the listed options 1) nuclear power could actually replace fossil fuels, which would 2) hurt profits, so it is 3) evil and must be stopped?

--MarkusQ

Re:Nuclear is the best option. (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097779)

Naah. The real reason is that they grew up in the 50's and have therefore formed a hard connection in their heads that anything with "nuclear" in it means the destruction of all mankind. It takes a long time to deprogram propaganda, and usually depends on the believers just dying out.

Idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26097555)

Gee, who would of thought some idiot would babble about 'teh nuclear power'

Fucking moron.

Re:Nuclear is the best option. (3, Informative)

iandoh (1151627) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097661)

Take a closer look at this table in the paper [rsc.org] , since it reveals a more nuanced approach toward quantifying the potential impact from terrorism. It seems that from the paper, the main reason why nuclear is pooh-poohed is because of the opportunity cost due to time-to-implementation (59â"106 lifecycle CO2e emission per kWh of electricity generated). Relatively speaking, the impact from a potential terrorism activity is quite low (0 to 4.1 lifecycle CO2e emission per kWh of electricity generated). The 0-4.1 is based on a probability of 0% to 100% of a single terrorist attack within the next 30 years. Later in the paper, they estimate that "the overall time between planning and operation of a nuclear power plant ranges from 10â"19 yr". Based on how long the government takes to do relatively simple things (highway expansions, etc.), I wouldn't be surprised if it took a looong time to get more nuclear power online.

Re:Nuclear is the best option. (2, Insightful)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097729)

It mostly takes so long because of all the regulatory hurdles. If the other technologies were held to the same paperwork standards, they'd take as long (or longer) to get online.

--MarkusQ

Nuclear? (4, Interesting)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097429)

When I was young and savvy, I always knew that nuclear power was bad. Polluting. Toxic. Dangerous. Wrong. But now that I'm older, I'm not so sure. In fact I think it's pretty safe. But, I can't objectively confirm this. My current opinion is still just as uniformed as my previous one.

Trouble is, it's difficult to separate the facts from the rhetoric, and it is danm near impossible to find an unbiased introduction to radioactivity, its uses dangers and safety limits. I would like to learn more, but there is precious little information available. I mean real information, with numbers. Without them, I'm just getting gas. And no, I am not going to rely on wiki-trips.

It's easy to find information on astronomy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, radio, electricity, etc, etc, etc. But radioactivity? Not a chance. How close to I have to be to an exposed nuclear rod before I am "at risk"? 10 meters? 100 meters? A kilometer? In orbit? Give me graphs. Give me numbers. Help me understand. I'm not stupid, nor are most people. But without hard numbers, I can't confirm or deny my suspicions?

Or you could just keep making Radioactive super-mutant movies and promoting candle wick alternate energy sources. Whichever.

Re:Nuclear? (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097523)

At least I can tell you that the background radiation around a coal plant is higher than around a nuclear plant. Organic matter is enriched with Carbon C14, and because its heavier than the normal C12, it concentrates around coal plants with their huge carbon throughput.

Re:Nuclear? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26097673)

Each kWhr of electricity at a nuclear plant uses up a couple mg of uranium.

Each kWhr of electricity at a coal plant releases a couple mg of uranium (mixed into the exhaust with half a kilo of fossil carbon).

Re:Nuclear? (1)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097837)

That's a really misleading calculation.

Each mg of uranium that is "used up" in a nuclear plant produces fission products that are about a million times as radioactive as the original uranium (with a much shorter half-life, energy is consumed, not created). So a kWhr of electricity produces the radioactivity of a couple of kilograms of uranium, compared to a couple of milligrams produced by a coal plant.

Things aren't really that bad though, because the coal plant spews its radioactivity all around it, while the radioactive waste is usually contained within the spent fuel rods, except when the plant catches fire the way Chernobyl did.

So if there were really a reliable way in place to store spent fuel for a few thousand years while it decays, nuclear would be a clear winner. But there isn't. There are untried ways to store it, that are probably good for decades, but millenia? Not so sure.

Re:Nuclear? (1)

cmowire (254489) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097607)

The problem is that we don't actually know. There are some theories that there's a point at which radiation is no longer harmful, but we don't know where it is.

Also, people conveniently forget how much radioactives, heavy metals, and other nasty stuff is allowed to enter the atmosphere from conventional power plants.

Re:Nuclear? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26097637)

Just go find an intro to nuclear engineering textbook. All your questions can be answered there, better yet try to find an online lecture of an intro class, that way you also get the additional knowledge from the professor which usually goes beyond the straight equations from the book.

Re:Nuclear? (2, Insightful)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097639)

Wow, shame I can't mod this comment up because it's extremely thoughtful.

Any radioactivity associated with N.P. is inherently assumed to be bad and probably rightfully so. ( I don't know either )

Nuclear however appears to be the ONLY fuel capable of supplying our needs. It gets a bad rap because of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. Nuclear today is not your father's nuclear. I wish people would realize THAT.

Every other unrealistic idea has us completely shutting our energy usage down and replacing it with solar or wind. NOT realistic. People will NOT do this. We'll continue to pollute until we die. Hell we're dying already. Some on the right love to portray the idea that there is some debate in the scientific community about global warming. There IS no debate on global warming. It exists and we are making it worse just like a goldfish that craps in his bowl and you don't change the water. Maybe they think that the rapture is going to make it all irrelevent.

Our energy usage is so out of control and we will not be turning back so we either have to cut down (won't happen, especially since China is slowly modernizing) or we find a replacement. I'm not sure I would hold France's nuclear 1.0 as being a great example and we probably shouldn't since it's dated technology.

The only drawback is what to do with the waste and I'm not sure so sure we have the time to figure this one out before we start using it. Even one of Greenpeace's founders has reversed position on nuclear power. If nothing else use nuclear until we have in place a good solar/wind grid in place after solar/wind technology has become a reasonable replacement.

I like Pickens' idea of converting to both electric and natural gas. Semis can't run on electric but they can on NatGas. Convert heavy vehicles to NatGas and resurrect the EV-1 technology for cars. NatGas burns mostly clean and the EV-1 cars can be recharged via clean nuclear power plants.

There are always going to be terrorists, just safeguard the stuff better.

Re:Nuclear? (2, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097747)

But radioactivity? Not a chance. How close to I have to be to an exposed nuclear rod before I am "at risk"? 10 meters? 100 meters? A kilometer?

Define "exposed". Define "at risk".

That said, if the fuel rod has sat in a tank of water for six months, you can store it safely under your bed with no risk whatsoever, unless you're worried about terrorists breaking in to steal it to make an atom bomb. Stupid terrorists, because there isn't enough fissionable in a fuel rod to make an atom bomb, and processing one into an atom bomb is going to expend a lot of terrorists (hot uranium is dangerous - cold is fine. And by hot I don't mean radioactive, I mean melting metal hot).

TWO fuel rods gets a bit more complicated, of course. They're designed to not do nasty stuff in isolation, but two or more placed closely enough together with other conditions being met (those conditions won't be met by accident unless you have a LOT more than two) can be problematic.

First Post! (1)

HexaByte (817350) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097433)

It may be a bit slow in getting there as it's cloudy, and my solar powered network is a bit slow.

Space requirements? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097475)

When I read "space requirements" my first thought was 'How are you going to use wind power in space?'. Then I went through about ten minutes of mental gymnastics re: solar wind, and radiometers before I realized they were talking about how much room the technology required, and not about space at all.

Re:Space requirements? (1)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097675)

There's an air and space museum...Homer Simpson

Missing the most crucial metric (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097497)

The most crucial metric is the lobbytheons of force directed in a concentrated beam from energy industrialists to the US Capitol building and its immediate surroundings.

Wind needs back-up generation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26097505)

Wind isn't the panacea because it needs back-up generation which needs to be running all of the time. What do you do when the wind isn't blowing? The back-up generation needs to be running because you can't just start & stop a power plant like a UPS system.

Re:Wind needs back-up generation (2, Interesting)

polar red (215081) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097543)

there is ALWAYS wind. if there's no wind here, there certainly will be wind 500 miles from here. No wind is only possible when the the sun has gone out, AND the globe has stopped turning.

Re:Wind needs back-up generation (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097801)

there is ALWAYS wind. if there's no wind here, there certainly will be wind 500 miles from here.

Doesn't help much if your turbines are here, though.

So, we'd have to build wind turbines in two (or three, or four, or more) places to get consistent output from one of them at a time. Was the cost of two (or three, or four, or more) wind turbines per unit output included in the estimate?

Wind is potentially very useful as an adjunct to our main power generation. It won't replace our main power generation method, though. Until we have nothing else to use. Which won't be for a long time.

Florida Solar Policy Worse than Maine (1)

wdhowellsr (530924) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097511)

Living in Florida, one would expect that we would be the world leader in Solar Technology. The truth is that Florida's solar policy is worse than Maine's. The state is dominated by Utilities that believe research and development is a four letter word. Worse yet the local Orlando Utility, OUC, was involved in the pseudo energy crisis in California a few years ago and has continued to be run by management that places profit over efficiency consistantly.

However the one good comment I will make about Florida's Solar policy is that they increased the amount of KW one could generate so that if you were to create a solar panel array that was three or four times your usage, the power company couldn't balk at paying for the electricity you put back on the grid. Not considering cost, which should come down dramatically with increased usage, Solar energy provides anywhere from fifty to one-thousand times more energy per acre than any other technology.

Re:Florida Solar Policy Worse than Maine (1)

Der PC (1026194) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097651)

I'd like to see hard numbers on that.

We're currently producing 250MWh on 1000m2 with geothermal on 9 ducts.

Totally under 2GWh are produced in geothermal.

Also there are ~10GWh in hydropower.

Totally: around 12GWh, with less than 0.1% of that created with fossil fuel.

That's for all of my country.

How about America starting to drill in Yellowstone ? :)

Re:Florida Solar Policy Worse than Maine (1)

CdBee (742846) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097725)

"Solar energy provides anywhere from fifty to one-thousand times more energy per acre than any other technology."

Probably true but its a law of accelerating returns. The base footprint of a single wind rotor pylon would be of no great utility for solar power. On larger sites if you replace 500 rotors with a complete surface coverage of PV cells the logic is more convincing...

Wind produces the least carbon? (2, Interesting)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097545)

From TFA:

Because the wind turbines would require a modest amount of spacing between them to allow room for the blades to spin, wind farms would occupy about 0.5 percent of all U.S. land...

I wonder if the transportation necessary to reach 0.5 of all U.S. land was considered. You must transport 1) the windmills themselves to the site, 2) all maintenance materials, 3) all maintenance workers over the lifetime of the windmills, 4) the windmills themselves offsite once they're retired.

Transport costs for windmills is undoubtedly large. I live in Texas and I've seen a few of these being hauled up I-45 from the port of Houston on the way to their destination in Midland. The blades are hauled individually by semi trailer and are about 2x as long as an 18 wheeler. And they're shipped to Houston from the Netherlands!

So I suspect that the analysis has neglected to take these factors into account when rating the carbon footprint of wind power...

Re:Wind produces the least carbon? (1)

CdBee (742846) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097689)

Re - maintenance visits. one of the biggest draws for power/utility companies towards Plugin-Hybrid Electric Vehicles is the fact that power company service vehicles spend their entire life moving between on-grid locations.

Already, EVs are commonly used for such trips. This will slowly increase as the economics requiring it are beautifully simple.

Convertibility - elec. to fuel (1)

CdBee (742846) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097641)

Something it seems often is overlooked is that energy storage in the form of fuel is pretty much essential for any activity that's effectively off-grid

You can knock Nuclear for its waste issues as far as you like but it' still unique in offering massively replicable dependable power for long periods - and if you need to pour half your national electricity supply into electrolysing hydrogen or anhydrous ammonia as fuel for internal combustion engines and/or fuel cells, reliable and steady power has a lot going for it.

Stanford should lead the way (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097657)

Let's give them 5 years to switch the entire campus over to "alternative power sources"......we can then see how well it works and at what price.

Economics? (2, Insightful)

tsotha (720379) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097711)

I didn't see much mention of economics in the article. If there's one thing I would have thought environmentalists had learned by now it is that no matter what the politicians say, nothing is going to happen if the finances don't work out. From what I can tell wind and solar are still a ways from being competitive with oil and gas even though the $/KWH cost is very close. The real problem is you have to put all the money in up front with wind and solar, whereas gas plants are cheap, and a gas plant can start generating revenue with its first drop of fuel. So a fossil-fuel plant carries less debt and less risk for the power company.

Also there's the problem of reliability. The wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine. So you either need lots of excess power generation capability, or you need to burn something. And yes, I know Germany has this tri-mode system with wind, solar, and biofuel. But the Germans couldn't keep the lights on without French nuclear power.

Human energy is the best (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097727)

the Machines can't be wrong, they do the modelling using a Matrix

Nuclear is the only viable option (2, Interesting)

sp3d2orbit (81173) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097735)

Solar and wind are bad solutions because:

- They require thousands of miles of new power lines to be built. Getting power lines approved and built is monumentally expensive (which is why Mr. Pickens wants the tax payers to pay for them instead of building them himself).

- The wind doesn't blow all the time, nor does the sun shine all the time. You can store it (which is equivalent to running a hydroelectric dam) or build gas powered plants to run during the evenings.

- Solar and wind are not as inexpensive as proponents claim.

Nuclear is the only power source with a virtually unlimited source of fuel and that can be brought online without a massive new power grid and is nearly as cheap as gas powered generation.

Hamsters in wheels are also less polluting (1)

binpajama (1213342) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097739)

impacts on global warming, human health, energy security, water supply, space requirements, wildlife, water pollution, reliability, and sustainability

What about feasibility?

Should we aggressively pursue geothermal though? (1)

seanalltogether (1071602) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097753)

There is approximately 13,000 ZJ worth of geothermal energy, and when that runs out what happens? On the other hand the earth get smacked with about 3,850 ZJ of energy per year from the sun. Do we really want to extract all that geothermal energy from our core or do we want it to just let it slowly leak out the way it currently is? What are the ramifications of opening up bigger seams to get at that heat? I understand it would take a long time to extract that heat, but it appears to be an irreversible process?

Methane (1)

solweil (1168955) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097811)

I suggest methane produced from anaerobic digestion. Humans already produce a lot of sewage. The world has a lot of livestock making a lot of manure. I've started a site to bring to light what the Chinese have been doing in rural areas for a while: http://www.solomonweil.com/chinesebiogas/ [solomonweil.com]

This is a judgement call, not science. (4, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097833)

While I generally agree that 'clean coal' doesn't work and that non-production waste ethanol creation is foolish, I disagree with the basic premise of this article.

The problem is it is NOT comparing everything in one area. It uses multiple different measures, including pollution, cost, etc.

But when you that kind of study it requires you to make judgments about which is more important. These are value judgments, NOT scientific ones. Basically all this study does is tell you what a few scientists at Stanford want, not what is true or factual.

P.S. While ethanol as done in US is stupid, Ethanol as done in South America makes sense. They take all the production waste from agricultural and make ethanol from it. That would be the leaves, etc. the things we don't eat. In the US on the other hand they put the stuff we actually EAT into the pot. South American plan makes sense, but the US version does not..

turtle and the hair (1)

ForeverOrangeCat (1430461) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097851)

I believe that solar energy is the only viable energy tech worth its weight. Besides, if you count this as anything, my grandfather has had solar cells on his roof for a good 35 years. He has never had to replace them. Most months he still sells his excess produced energy back to the grid. Take that for what it's worth, but this isn't in someplace sunny, it's Oregon. It's not incredibly hard to implement. I don't know why people are so adverse to solar energy.
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