RethinkX Solar, Wind, Battery Plan for the USA

RethinkX proposes and predicts a 100% SWB (solar wind and battery for the USA) system by 2030 for less than $2 trillion. This would have an average cost of electricity nationwide of under 3 cents per kilowatt-hour if 50% or more of the system’s super power is utilized. They relabel excess energy capacity and generation as “super power”.

Lowest cost 100% SWB systems will typically require just 35-90 average demand hours of battery energy storage, depending on regional climate and geography.

The world in 2021 will produce about 200-300 GW of solar panels each year. This has been increasing at 20% per year. This would be on track to scale to 1000GW-1500 GW per year in 2030. This would be about 5400 GW produced in the world by 2030. The California, Texas and New England scenarios would be 660 GW to 1100 GW. The USA would need about 4 times this level of solar which would be 2600GW to 4400GW.

California had wildfires in 2020 that reduced solar power by 18%.

Orange Sky polluted from CA Wildfires 2020

In 2018, the Clean Air Task Force, a Boston-based energy policy think tank, recently found that reaching the 80 percent mark for renewables in California would mean massive amounts of surplus generation during the summer months, requiring 9.6 million megawatt-hours (9.6 TWh) of energy storage. Achieving 100 percent would require 36.3 million MWh (36.3 TWh).

RethinkX is saying that 100% power generation in California can be achieved with 30-40 times less battery storage by purposely creating over capacity in solar and wind generation. This way when power is cut by 90% in the winter a 5X system would still generate 50% of the demand. This would mean less usage of batteries.

The 3 cent per kwh price would be more expensive than continuing to operate nuclear reactors that were fully capitalized.

There are new modular nuclear reactors that could be competitive on price and would provide greater reliability to the system.

The RethinkX cost estimate does not factor in additional power grid modifications. Greater grid stability would be achieved by connecting regions with high voltage lines.

Nextbigfuture does believe that there will be a great deal of solar, wind and battery power. However, forcing 100% as a policy and trying to rush projects would needlessly increase costs. There is also the need to simulate 100-200 years of operation of a grid. The solar and wind energy are weather dependent and large amounts of wind power reduces ground-level wind.

There are also supply chain scaling issues to achieve the needed supply of solar, wind and batteries.

Displacing coal energy should be prioritized but shutting off clean and safe nuclear plants would be a needless risk and waste.

SOURCES- RethinkX, MIT Technology Review, SP Global
Written By Brian Wang,

108 thoughts on “RethinkX Solar, Wind, Battery Plan for the USA”

  1. Weather event outages are frequency enough events. The utility that provides my power is one of the most reliable in the world yet I have at least one major outage a year and sometimes more than one.

    Backup power cost money. Rate payers are the ones who ultimately decide whether or not they want to pay for it. They foolishly decide they would rather save a dollar or two a month than have more reliable power.

  2. The small number of locations and populations affected with long term outages like Sandy are abandoned until power can be reestablished. To have the entire population of the Pacific Northwest lose power from a month because wind/solar disappeared in a polar vortex would result in the imprisonment of the politicians involved.

    Likely there still massive lawsuits over the few hours of blackouts in Southern California a few weeks ago because brainless politicians shut down too much backup power to cover an irregular weather event that for other reason cost $billions in losses.

    As an illiterate you'd be unaware that large area weeks long losses of wind and solar are infrequent but regular events.

  3. Most locations impacted by Super Storm Sandy lost power for weeks and the power wasn't solar or wind. It doesn't matter what the power source is as long as it reaches your home by wire it is a goner under extreme weather conditions. Arguing that lost of power can only occur with wind and solar when there is an history of loss of power decades long is just ridiculous.

  4. Why do you – a demonstrated thermonuclear nitwit – continue to post?

    The entire PNW lost all wind/solar power in Jan 2014 for a month. If they were 100% powered by wind and solar, they would be out of power for a month long polar vortex.

    The problem with ghouls is they love to kill people with their abysmal but well meaning stupidity.

  5. To dream the impossible dream. During Super Storm Sandy, some of the flood areas were out of power for months despite the fact that almost all of the generation was fossil fuel and nuclear. No one is going to build more than about 4hrs of full back up power capacity. After that they will treated it like any other severe weather event.

  6. So, according to Figure 15 above, California, with it's 14 million homes can become renewable-powered by 2030 at the cost of only ~$104 Billion (discounting business, transportation, and industry).
    But with the approximate LOW-BALL cost of $30K per home solar/battery installation (and this is for a somewhat efficient home), and 14 million homes, equates to $420 Billion. And this doesn't include periodic hardware replacement (primarily the battery systems).
    My back-of-the-envelope low-ball estimate of $420 Billion is quite distant from this articles claim of $104 Billion.
    What am I missing?

  7. It's amusing that the greenies are always advocating using less and reducing waste, but they want to carpet the countryside in industrial solar panels and wind turbines – sufficient to make 5X current demand – and tell us that this will be enough to make bulk hydrogen, even though hydrolysis is another very wasteful use of energy, and storing it would take far more tank volume than gas does now.

  8. The RBMK actually had a lot of good features, from the point of view of a poor country that wanted a lot of cheap power, fast. It was huge, it didn't need uranium enrichment, or heavy water, or big forged pressure vessels. Only down side was, it wasn't idiot proof.

  9. If geothermal "causes" an earthquake it is just releasing the tension earlier which means a weaker earthquake than waiting for a bigger more destructive one. The tension is the real cause, and that builds until it moves. The longer the wait, the more powerful it will be.
    And if it already released it in South Korea they are idiots to shut it down. A 5.4 is pathetically weak. There are over 1,600 of these a year on average: Any destruction as a result would be from very shoddy construction, wimpy building codes, and wimpy worker safety regulations.
    Germany does not have a spreading center like Southern California (Gulf of California Rift Zone) or active volcanoes like Hawaii.

  10. "If nothing else, you can operate businesses at a fraction of the cost." – or a multiple of the cost. You pay capital cost and wages for 100% of the time even if the factory only runs 20% of the time on cheap electricity. Most industrial processes are terribly sensitive to outtages. A few hours of outtage at an aluminium plant is 1-6 months of clean up before you are back to full capacity.

  11. He's talking about pollution, not CO2. A gasoline powered generator is vastly worse than a coal plant because it's right next to the consumers, it doesn't have a giant chimney to dump the waste where it will get diluted before reaching anyone and it doesn't have particularly effective pollution mitigation.

  12. If solar already covers 100% of the grid during the midday peak (the solar peak, not the demand peak which is in the evening), then electricity has negative pricing during the day and you'll get paid to take it. Why would you build a solar roof when power cost is zero? Just to get rid of grid charges?

  13. Oil and gas is the same thing. Same industry, same processes involved, same people involved, in many cases the same exact wells involved. Methane and propane is to gasoline like gasoline is to heavy fuel oil and bitumen. Oil was pushed of the grid by nuclear. Gas would have been pushed of the grid by nuclear if nothing was done.

  14. In general, the oversupply is nearly worthless. You pay the entire capital cost of the factory for 100% of the time and pay your workers 100% of the time even if you only have surplus power 20% of the time. Many industrial processes have serious problems with outtages.

    Aluminium production particularly does not like outtages. Pot freezing incidents are a disaster. A few hours of outtages can take between 1-6 months to restore all lost capacity. I believe you could design the plant to use forced cooling and insulation and automated systems to safely dump the contents (=a lot extra capital cost) to get some flexibility (=less active production time).

    The others are probably not as sensitive but for profitability operating at random capacity from day to day is very bad.

    Thermal storage makes more sense but has limited capacity. Letting the freezer run down to -30 degrees C when there is a surplus and heat back up to -20 degrees C when there is no longer a surplus would store some power. The compressor only operates some of the time anyway. On the refrigerator side you could imagine some cheap phase change material. You could maybe redesign a water heater to have variable working volume or PCM and soak up some spare electricity.

    Either way, it's not obvious that any of these things are economically worthwhile.

  15. I've seen it argued that you don't really want reactors to last that long – better to replace them at medium term with more advanced models. Smaller, low pressure reactors would need a lot less concrete, and development should be more nimble. Saying which, Rosatom say they're building for 100 year life now, and have tried in-vessel annealing to bring irradiated pressure vessels back to as-new condition.

  16. there are also nuclear fission plants (technology) that now "eats" its own nuclear waste… -if that kind of tech exists, why not use it for baseload electricity supply?

  17. OK, quite a big project/investment, and not how most people seem to think it would work.

    Initially, a lunar mine would likely operate only during the months when it can get adequate solar power – maybe with a small nuclear power plant for reduced/maintenance operations in between.

    Then it probably becomes a trade-off between building more distant solar farms, or adding more local solar capacity to produce fuel and generating electricity from that during the dark months.

  18. Before the 1973 price hike, oil made about twenty percent of the electricity in the US, and more than that in France. Within about 15 years, nuclear had taken that spot, oil was near zero. Oil still makes a lot of the power in the Middle East. That's why they want power reactors – they'll have more oil and gas left to sell.

  19. As long as it scales up to 20-200 TWe, it looks good as demo otherwise. edit: launching redirectors as per Criswell would be far better, btw.

  20. You seem unaware that cherno was a nuke weapons plant – nothing to do with nuke power and none of the rest of your incidents even hurt a soul. On the other that that fossil power that backs up your wind/solar murders 5M folks annually.

    Are wind/solar nuts all ghouls? or just don't give a rat's behind about all the dead they leave behind?

  21. Unfortunately, peer reviewed science published in reputable journal tells us we need 16 weeks of storage to cover for long term low wind/solar events. Even at 5 times capacity that's going to add about $2/kWh to your power bill.

    Since nukes are now heading to $2/watt average – a fraction of the cost of solar why the hell bother.

  22. What do at night and in cloudy weather – One of those 1.5MW nukes. If you have one of those why bother with Chinese solar panels.

  23. Damn statistics. Why don't they respond to moral superiority and instead insist on showing reality like Deaths/TWh?

  24. Can you show us the maths on that? Because even if the generator is running at 2% efficiency, that's still only 1 month of a 60% efficient power station, by my calculations.

  25. You conspiracy theorists love to blame the oil companies, but oil doesn't really compete with nuclear in any significant way.

    You should worry about big gas and big coal.

  26. Stereotype works perfectly. The big dinosaurs were highly successful when conditions suited them. But when a new threat appeared (environment hating anti-nuke politcians, or asteroids, similar in effect) they are too slow to get out of the way.

  27. Which is why they should be done on as small a scale as possible too.
    Hence why solar (and to a lesser extent) wind have a big governance advantage given their current scale.
    Much more likely that the people making the decisions are also the people who need it to succeed and the same people have their own money, and/or career, on the line.

  28. Which translates to ‘if a select few individuals don’t make out like bandits on it it’s not worth implementing ‘. Status quo for American corporate activity.

  29. You are pushing water down, that lubricates and causes earth movements, similar but worse than fracking. The return temperatures are quite low, and therefore the efficiency. It makes for very expensive electricity.

    "French geothermal developer Fonroche reports having successfully drilled
    the hottest geothermal well in Central Europe in Strasbourg with about
    200 degrees Celsius, and the deepest in France at a depth of 4,600

    "A German town’s decision to invest in geothermal energy backfired badly after underground drilling went wrong and hundreds of buildings began to
    fall apart."

  30. Fusion is a dodgy call to bet the planet on. Every fission reactor ever built has put out net energy, but no fusion reactor has even made one percent of the energy that went into it. The fusion reaction was known before the discovery of induced fission, nearly a century ago now. It only took seven years from finding fission products in a laboratory to the Trinity explosion, and another ten years for the Nautilus submarine to be ' under way on nuclear power '.

  31. It works the other way. Solar capacity factor is about twenty percent, so if it's built out to totally cover demand on sunny days , 'backup' will be eighty percent. Double that, and add 'free' storage somehow, and the backup capacity needed will be exactly the same, just the proportion of the cost spent on fuel will be lower. Quintuple your solar, and still get cheap storage somehow, and by this time you'll have the same size grid as today ready for wind and solar free blackout, but with much less revenue from everyday supply. Clearly, they'll just have to raise prices to cover their costs. So the average punter will still be paying as much for his traditional power supply, with hugely redundant solar and massive storage as an extra. Mark Jacobson's Solutions Project calls for twenty Gigawatts of solar capacity in Finland, nearly double the country's total peak demand, when they average about one hour of sunshine a day for the whole winter. That's reductio ad absurdum, but the same thing shows everywhere where random power sources have been added to a grid – if the guest doesn't fit the bed, you'll have to stretch him or cut his legs off.

  32. If anything, geothermal plants reduce earthquakes as they help release heat which is what the plate movement is trying to do. But it is all trivial. Geothermal removes so little heat there is little chance it could do either.
    There is no such thing as "quakeproof" it is all a mater of degree. And when you use large amounts of concrete it takes years to dry and harden to the satisfaction of inspectors, increasing delays. I guarantee a reactor in Georgia will have less earthquake protection than a reactor in California.
    It is better to put a reactor built to power southern California in the extreme east of California or in Arizona where earthquakes are mild and just run wires. Pick a good location that already has the wires. Then your standard design does not have to be designed for coastal California and cost a ton more when you build one in Florida.

  33. They never return the ash. And larger trees suck up more CO2 than small ones. Cutting them down and replacing them with seedlings will greatly slow the CO2 uptake. The larger the biomass in the forests, the more carbon is held in the forest.
    Forests are also limited by rainfall. The best way out of that limit is to char dead wood and bury it right there. Then the wood does not have to be alive while retaining the carbon. Leaving dead trees to rot is the worst option, because as it is decomposed, methane is produced which is even worse than CO2.
    What you want are tractors which move the dead trees with their stumps and throw them in a charring machine right there. Then dig a trench and bury the char. Not a money making operation, but it may be essential to get carbon under control.

  34. Only a fraction of the system will produce power at any given time. And that 5 degrees is under 100 miles on the Moon. 94, I think.
    All you need is 3 solar farms 120 degrees away from each other and 100 miles from the pole. 
    There is a lot more to my plan, but I don't want to revel it quite yet.

  35. Like the article said, overcapacity is the new black. If you building a new roof, pay 10% more to cover your use on sunny days, or pay 20% more to cover your use on cloudy days.

    There are other ways than battery to store power, and with this abundance of free power they can work at almost any efficiency.

  36. I saw a proposal to put solar on tall towers, enabled by the low gravity. Would have to be far more expensive than Dan Lanz's thin film just lying on the lunar surface, though.

  37. Nuclear power's track record is that in seventy years, while producing a tenth or more of the world's power, it's had one accident that killed members of the public. Fossil fuels kill about ten thousand people every day.

  38. Yep, that's how they have to do it. And when there are TWO panels out, OH BOY… Might as well throw the whole solar farm away and buy a new one.

  39. Something I never hear mentioned about lunar pole solar and the idea of getting eternal sunlight there: The sun's diameter is only about half a degree as seen from Earth's orbit around the sun, but the moon has an axial tilt of about 5 degrees from the plane of the ecliptic.

    Shouldn't that mean that for anything much under 5 degrees from the lunar pole, the sun will still be below the horizon for around half the year? And partially occluded by the horizon some days even during some of the 'bright' months?

  40. I cannot think of a potentially cleaner energy than wood burning. If you cut forest controllably and return the ashes back to it, they can grow at least twice as fast, also increasing proportionally the carbon sink.

    If you filter the emissions you get cleaner air than when fires burn in the wood uncontrollably.

    It is a matter of how you do it.

  41. Yeah, nukes great, so when the worst case scenerio happens and theres a fukushima, 3 mile island, chernobyl, windscale, and about a hundred more that could be mentioned thats fine but solar or wind power are the end of life as we know it according to old mate Brett.

  42. The US nuke industry farther down the Forbes list than the shoe retail business. They have no cash to pay me unlike your Big Oil pals.

  43. So are the oil, gas, coal, nuclear industries perfectly judged, ideally managed, without waste, short sightedness, fraud and huge subsides…? really?

  44. It's tiring having to deal with nonsense from Big Oil paid studies like these that are never published in reputable journal or peer reviewed. The NEI should get Gates for pay for a team of professional engineers to debunk each in detail because Biden like Obama has lots of NRDC shills on staff to feed him FUD.

    I always get a kick out of the assumed long term exponential reduction in wind/solar/battery cost when solar costs are nearly all minimum wage labor installation and installation materials and complex machinery like wind turbines have all economies of scale already realized.

    Studies have shown that the USA needs 8 to 16 week backup to cover long term low wind/solar events. The entire Pacific Northwest lost all wind and 90% of solar power a few years back for a month in a January cold snap – 5 times zero is still zero.

    Not one of these clowns has ever thought of the billions of dead in a powerless solar world in the event of a repeat of Tambora 1815 type supervolcano – the year without a summer.

    Canada was able to build nukes for less than $2.7B/GW $2019 and India is building Candu copies for less than half that – China too. The real cost of projects in Alberta when compared to Candu builds is 3 times as much for wind and 4 times for solar.

    Occam's razor tells us that simple solution – nukes replacing fossil plants around the country – is the right one. The others are just Big Oil paid politics designed to stuff the pockets of NRDC types with cash.

  45. Geothermal plants have also been charged with causing earthquakes. In any case, reactors are likely to all be designed to be quakeproof by default. Even though there haven't been any radiation releases induced by quakes ( as opposed to tsunamis ), telling people you're leaving out the safety stuff, just because there hasn't been a tremor locally since the Pleistocene, isn't likely to wash. If standard designs can be put anywhere, it cuts down on the paperwork. The extra steel and concrete is trivial, compared to the amount that would be needed for a grid with significant amounts of solar and wind .

  46. The fact that there is no atmosphere and there will not be a lot of transport to get in the way makes that somewhat attractive.
    Initially though the Moon has the very best locations totally available. I would have a station on the north pole or south pole. You can put solar all around that and have power year round. Then just have wires spiderwebbing away from there.
    And where there are nice mineral deposits not near a pole, I would still have solar and a small nuclear plant. The operation would mostly shutdown when there is no sunlight, but the little nuke would power the outpost. But maybe at some point beaming so we can have continuous operation is preferable.

  47. As long as your design or construction is not flawed nuclear is pretty darn good. And I am a big fan, but making every reactor its own design is expensive and can easily result in a reactor that has to be shut down early, suffer long downtime for repairs/maintenance, or never becomes operational.
    You need good designs that you use over and over and fit many situations without extensive modifications.
    And we need reactors that can operate for 120+ years, because retiring these things is expensive.

  48. I think geothermal has been underutilized. It should be used extensively in Hawaii and California. When you have geothermal, you generally also have earthquakes. So it is a natural substitute for nuclear which is much more expensive to build in earthquake zones because of the studies needed and the increase in construction materials. And even if it is made to withstand quakes, the public might not believe that.

  49. Biomass is actually a bunch of different technologies, some are good, others I think are terrible. Most of the bio methane (biogas) stuff I like…but downwind 😉
    Cellulose (wood, twigs, grass and such) I am not a fan because of the mineral loss to the soil.
    Municipal incinerators of trash has possibilities, but it is very hard to keep that exhaust clean. We have so many products sold in the US with nasty toxins like lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. They are all going to be tossed in the trash…even if it is not legal. So they will be in those incinerators. When we get that crap out of our products sold to the general public, incinerators will be far more attractive.
    Getting energy out of sewage is great. Burning animal byproducts that you can't even feed dogs like feathers? Fine too. And that should be expanded when we cull farms that have some disease. I'd like to see them use radiation to sterilize those dead animals and use them as animal food, if possible, or if not, biomass fuel. Currently, we cook them in a big bucket and bury them in a hole in the ground using tractors…generally at the farm. Big fat waste. Radiation has been used for many decades to sterilize. There is no residual radiation. It is like turning a light on and then off.
    Animal crap methane I am very much for, as methane just released into the air is a major greenhouse gas. Burning that reduces that greenhouse impact by about 75%. Fun job though!
    I like biobutanol for transportation.

  50. What do you think of Moon to Moon power beaming, with simple lunar orbiting redirectors. The distance is tiny compared to beaming to Earth, so the small dia radars should be easy. Central collection fields supply whatever electricity you need when you need it where you need it.

  51. But that's solar, and to a lesser extent wind's, big advantage.
    Compared to nuclear, hydro, coal, even gas, the solar and wind power can be made in tiny little investments that can be up and running very quickly.
    It's the old stereotype of big lumbering dinosaurs vs little, agile mammals. The big old brachiosaur may well have been more efficient at processing tonnes per day of tough plant matter, but when the world changed it couldn't adapt fast enough.

    (This stereotype was rendered obsolete when it turned out that the dinosaurs grew feathers and turned into birds who are at least as agile and adaptable as any mammal, but the stereotype does apply to power sources.)

  52. Similar arguments were made when we built hydroelectric dams…but they have all paid for themselves many times over.
    Investors want a quick buck. We don't build big nuclear anymore because there is both risk that mistakes will be made and it will never be operable or for only a short time and also the payoff will be 3 or more decades down the road. 
    Investors don't mind risk, they do mind the combination of high risk and long delay for payoff. It is hard to blame them, our lives are only so long. If you have millions or billions to invest you are probably already over 50 years old. 3 more decades for payoff? Most people don't really have big plans for using money in their 80s.

  53. Any sanely designed solar plant, especially a very large area one, would have monitors determining the condition of every single panel. And sending that data to a central control board.
    I mean a modern electric drill does this with the lithium batteries on board, and that's a $50 consumer grade, near throw away item.

    I'm not saying that they would do this to be safe, I'm saying that it would not work without doing it.

    If you've got a solar farm the size of Connecticut (if that is a real place, wasn't that in a King Arthur story?) then each panel will need to be controlled separately. What if a cloud goes over? As that cloud shadow travels over your farm you'll have a rippling effect as each panel suddenly has it's output collapse in a matter of seconds, and then shoot back up to full power just as fast. You need to balance all that, not just hope it all stabilises itself.

    Once you've got enough monitoring and control just to get the whole thing to work, diagnosing problems is trivial.

    Solving problems? That might be a different matter, depends on what went wrong. But the advantage of a highly parallel and modular system is you can just replace things.

  54. See response above. We do need to keep it liquid to avoid damage to the equipment, but the heat is not the major energy investment, it is the electrical power used in electrolysis. Aluminum ore is dirt cheap literally. 90% of the cost of aluminum is the energy we have to put into it to free the metal. If we get that energy very cheaply, then the cost of aluminum can come way down. Get it cheap enough and you can use it instead of lumber to build homes.
    Titanium is also incredibly abundant also but very expensive because of the energy required. You can't melt it and use electrolysis on it or its cost would be similar to aluminum. You have to either waste large amounts of other sacrificial materials that require a lot of energy to produce…which is what they do now…or you have to raise its temperature until it becomes a plasma and do a few more steps. That kind of heat does take a lot of juice. Not liquid, not gas…plasma. Way hot.

  55. I believe the intended argument is that this project would need huge amounts of government money poured into it, would not be commercially viable, so would need huge subsidies, and you could just apply those subsidies directly.

    Is that true? Well if solar and wind were commercially viable, you wouldn't need a big scheme, it would just develop in a free market. And we do see that it is slowly developing as each particular project reaches a profitable point.
    Is each individual project perfectly judged, ideally managed, without waste, short sightedness, fraud? Not even close.
    Would a huge multi-trillion dollar national project be better? Really?

  56. The heat to melt it is not the major energy expense, it is using electricity to break bonds with electrolysis. Every atom of aluminum needs 3 electrons to be freed. The heat itself can be conserved by making very large pots as the heat is lost at the surfaces and there is less surface relative to volume. And, yes, they can be insulated to some degree as well.
    Intermittent power use does add complexity and adjustments to the design of the smelters, but as you are starting from scratch, I don't think that is a big deal.
    The downside is mostly that you are only operating at a fraction of capacity.

  57. This is energy that would otherwise just go into a bank of resisters, the fact that you are getting productivity out of it is great. And even better if you are displacing materials that would otherwise be made in China with coal power.

  58. They moved all the desert tortoises and other animals and fenced off everything. I am not OK with that.
    Now, if they want to make solar on 15ft poles with tracking and such and they have a road for maintenance that is 16" above the surrounding ground with a 90 degree angle and pipes for tunnels going through to the other side every 100' so animals are not all road-killed, and they put up no fence…fine.

  59. 2030 is too soon, maybe by 2050. Cost for renewable and batteries storage is going to get cheaper and cheaper. We haven't reach the end of the learning curves for both.

  60. I am only into solar for the Moon…on the Moon for use on the Moon. And, of course, space stations and obviously to power other space hardware.

  61. Everyone needs to remember that if folks have to go to Gasoline Powered Generators for 1 day – That pollution completely nullifies 3 months of 'Green' power.

  62. Not remotely a fallacy. While there's a lot of energy stored in the wind, the available power is fairly limited: The wind is a heat engine running off sunlight, essentially, and it's a very inefficient heat engine, the available power is limited, even if there's a lot of energy there at any given time because friction is quite low.

    It's like hydropower: Short term you can pull as much out of a high mountain lake as you want to build generation capacity for. Long term, you're limited by the amount of rain going into the lake. It's the same thing with wind: It represents a lot of mass in motion, but it's only going as fast as it is because there's very little friction drawing down the stored energy.

    In terms of weather impact, direct solar is capable of about 10 times the power output before weather is altered than the indirect solar power represented by wind.

  63. The problem with turning one off is it cools down and solidifies. With modern vacuum powder insulation that may be less of a problem. Not turn it off completely, but keep enough energy going in to keep it melty.

  64. > large amounts of wind power reduces ground-level wind.

    This is a fallacy. In addition to extracting energy from the wind, the blades turbulently mix air from above and below their own span, thus regenerating wind speed. That's how wind farms can have multiple rows of turbines.

    It also determines the turbine spacing, which is typically 5 blade diameters apart or more. That gives the wind enough room to mix downstream from one turbine, so the next one in that direction has enough to function.

  65. “Those companies would have to get that power at very low rates, but it is worth it because they can undercut anyone in the World and we get to do some exporting.”

    Uh we could do that now by subsidizing industry at a loss. No need to wait for future losses when you can incur losses today!

  66. What? You think they just put all the panels in series, like a cheap set of Christmas lights, and have to go through the whole solar farm testing them one by one?

    I mean, there are serious problems with the proposal, but that isn't really one of them.

  67. "The RethinkX cost estimate does not factor in additional power grid
    modifications. Greater grid stability would be achieved by connecting
    regions with high voltage lines."

    Ah, so they arrive at that cost by deliberately excluding known costs. Yeah, that makes sense.

  68. Energy overcapacity is DEFINITELY its own superpower. If nothing else, you can operate businesses at a fraction of the cost. If it was up to me I'd subsidize energy instead of taxing it, to make it even cheaper. We want people using energy.

    The main question though, from this article is where the energy comes from. I'm going with nuclear over solar for the developed world.

    The assumptions for solar is that there is battery available, the sun is out, there's no sand storms, cloud cover, locusts, etc. that would obscure the light. Even then you're doing good to get power 40% of the time.

    The assumption for nuclear is that water exists. 100% baseload power.

    In developing countries there may not be a stable power grid. Nuclear then has the added assumption that someone's going to build power lines everywhere. In this case solar suddenly makes more sense. You could have a solar farm for the village and build out a minimal local grid.

  69. Just because we have the land for solar doesn't mean we should waste it all. footprint still matters in terms of trouble resolution. If a nuclear power plant has loss of power and the whole complex is on one square km it won't take as long finding the break or to move parts around.
    If a solar panel field is as large as the state of Connecticut, there's a lot of territory to cover and a lot of driving around.

  70. But can you turn off an aluminum smelter for hours or days without major problems?
    Probably not. Though other facilities that run at nearer to ambient temperatures might.

    If this works you might instead though build enough nuclear to cover peak demand & run it when demand is less than peak.

  71. They're not as cloud-free as the blurb says. 'Crescent Dunes had a cost of 975 m$ 2015 values, corresponding to 8864 $/kW. While the planned electricity generation was 500 000 MWh/year, for a capacity factor of 51.89%, the actual electricity produced in 2016 when the plant was operational January to October was only 127 308 MWh/year, for a CF of 13.21%.'

  72. Why would the amount of solar accelerate beyond the point where midday peak production covers 100% of demand, on sunny days ? It's relied upon subsidies and renewable mandate laws to get that far in a few countries, but from then on, to cover lower production in winter, evening peak demand, and cloudy weather, costs for overproduction and storage will climb exponentially. Today Germany got at most about 5 Gigawatts of power out of the 53 GW capacity it has installed, for about seven hours out of the twenty four. California did better, with about 9 GW from 27 GW capacity, but production fell off a cliff in the evening just as demand rose. It would take centuries of gigafactory battery production to cover gaps like that.

  73. I think the 20% growth pr year in solar will accelerate at this point. Everybody and his little brother will get panels everywhere because its the cheapest option.
    Power in the daytime will be like the internet; free consumption up to your fuse size.

  74. The footprint argument is valid for crowded countries like
    Japan or Switzerland, but with enormous, practically cloudless
    deserts in California, Arizona, and New Mexico, the only
    question is: what are you waiting?

  75. Considering only nuclear for baseload also has its problems given nuclear inherent risks and track record.

    Biomass can easily be used for base load in quantities, as well as Hot dry rock geothermal, charged rainwater and my favorite: rust in flowing water electricity generation.
    Storage can become way cheaper, and long duration to be used in much bigger quantities with Sulphur flow Batteries

  76. I have made similar suggestions before. Oversupply then use the excess for energy intensive materials processing like aluminum refining, the new plasma titanium refining process, cement, steel, glass, etc. Those companies would have to get that power at very low rates, but it is worth it because they can undercut anyone in the World and we get to do some exporting.
    The thing is, the footprint is large and panels will need to be replaced periodically. With nuclear you have a tiny footprint and have no complex agreements. And if you can make power similarly cheap, you can produce these materials 7/24 instead.

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