The U.S. installed 1,354 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) in the third quarter of 2014 to total 16.1 gigawatts (GW) installed PV capacity, with another 1.4 GW of concentrating solar power (CSP) capacity, enough to power 3.5 million homes.
Each Gigawatt of installed solar power produces less than one Terawatt hour of power.
About 35 million homes are suitable for solar power generation in the United States.
Residential solar systems are typically sized from 3 to 8kW and end up costing between $15,000 and $40,000. The cost per watt (price inclusive of parts, labor, permitting fees, overhead, and profit) has decreased significantly over the last decade and is now between 6 and 8 ($/W) in many parts of the U.S. Generally, the bigger the system, the lower the cost per watt.
Issues Scaling Solar Power
Earlier in 2014, 14,000 MW most of which was utility scale solar. About 600,000 homes had rooftop solar. An average installation was about 5 KW. 35 million homes would be 175 MW and all suitable roofs would have an average size installation. This would be producing about 175 TWh )probably less. This would be 50% of the target for 350 GW in 2030. The 350 TWh would only be 8% of current electrical power usage in the United States.
The proposed plan would need 200 TWh of other solar power that would not be on rooftops. If that solar power was placed in an area that is currently without electrical grid (like in a desert) then the new electrical would have to be built.
For that solar power (and the roof top solar) not to be generating power from about 10AM to 5pm then there would have to be battery storage either at the houses or at the grid feeder stations. Otherwise the generated power would go to waste.
Nuclear Power can be uprated affordably in a timely fashion
Fifteen years between now and 2030 would be time for the US to approve and build dozens of nuclear reactors. However, in the current political and regulatory environment perhaps ten nuclear reactors might be built by 2030. This might add 12 GW or 96 TWh.
Existing nuclear reactors can have conventional power uprates or annular fuel uprates by 2030
Lightbridge, a nuclear engineering company based in Tysons Corner, Virginia, is planning the first tests in a full-scale reactor of new fuel rods that have been engineered to boost power output of existing nuclear reactors by 10 to 17 percent. Crucially, the tests will determine whether the technology can work safely. Inserted in a conventional reactor, the new fuel could boost power 10 percent. Replacing equipment including turbines with larger-size ones would increase that to 17 percent, Lightbridge say
Currently the US generates 800 Terawatt hours per year from nuclear reactors. Boosting nuclear power by 10 to 17 percent would be 80 to 136 Terawatt hours per year in the USA. The US generated 176.8 Terawatt hours in wind power for the 12 months ended July 2014. The Lightbridge nuclear uprate could enable pressure water reactors to uprate as much as 30% but that would require upgrading more equipment. Worldwide nuclear power production was 2356 TWh in 2013. This was in spite of 50 nuclear reactors being shutdown in Japan. A global 10% boost would be 235 TWh and a 17% boost would be 400 TWh.
if Lightbridge’s fuel works, it would be like adding 10 new plants in the United States—or 40 more in the world—without even having to build one.
In October, 2014, Lightbridge announced a pact with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to carry out a key test for the McLean-based company’s nuclear fuel technology.
* Have semi-scale metallic fuel samples fabricated in 2015-2016 for irradiation testing in a test reactor environment; [the Canadian deal addresses this issue]
* Perform in-reactor and out-of-reactor experiments in 2015-2020; [Follow up deals in Canada seem likely]
* Establish a pilot-scale fuel fabrication facility and demonstrate full-length fabrication of our metallic fuel rods in 2017-2018;
* Develop analytical models in 2014-2017 for our metallic fuel technology that can be used for regulatory licensing; and
* Begin lead test assembly (LTA) operation in a full-size commercial light water reactor in 2020-2021, which involves testing a limited number of our full-scale fuel assemblies in the core of a commercial nuclear power plant over three 18-month cycles.
Accordingly, based on our current estimated schedule, final qualification (i.e., deployment of fuel in the first reload batch) for our 10% power uprate fuel in a commercial reactor is expected in 2023-2024 (at the end of two 18-month cycles of LTA operation).
Lightbridge is developing two fuel product families for power uprates in existing and new build reactors:
* All-Uranium, seed-and-blanket fuel technology – up to 17% power uprate in existing PWRs;
* All-metal fuel technology – up to 30% power uprate in new build PWRs.
In the third quarter of 2011, the team completed a preliminary scoping study confirming, in principle, the feasibility of performing irradiation of our metallic fuel samples in the ATR (Advanced Test Reactor). As a result, INL (Idaho National Labs) has now begun performing a more detailed technical design of the experiment and specific operating conditions. This detailed analysis will provide input into a safety analysis report, which is key prerequisite for the irradiation experiment. We expect the safety analysis to be completed in 2012.
Continued planning and preparations for loop irradiation testing of the Lightbridge-designed metallic fuel samples in the MIR research reactor at Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (Dimitrovgrad, Russia). The planning and preparatory work is currently underway. We expect to begin negotiations of a specific agreement for the planned loop irradiation testing with RIAR in the first half of 2012.
Began negotiations with a US fuel fabrication partner relating to metal fuel fabrication process development and demonstration work in the United States. We expect the negotiations to conclude later this year.
Lightbridge has recently received a letter from the US Department of Energy (DOE) confirming that our proposed collaborative projects with Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation “Rosatom” fall under the 123 agreement that we understand has satisfied Rosatom’s requirements. The DOE letter was one of the key prerequisites for Rosatom before commercial negotiations relating to our proposed collaboration could commence.
Completed a preliminary core design for our selected PWR reference plant operating at a 17% power uprate and an 18-month fuel cycle using Lightbridge-designed all-uranium seed and blanket fuel. We now plan to perform further optimization studies for the core design.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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