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Opinion: Why Buffett Bet A Billion On Solar: Miles Per Acre Per Year

by Henry Hewitt for Oilprice.com

During the late innings of the ICE-age (as in the Internal Combustion Engine age) it has become clear that feeding gasoline and diesel to the next billion new cars is not going to be easy, or cheap. In China alone, 500 million new vehicles can be expected to jam the roads between now and 2030.

That may sound far-fetched, but considering annual sales have already made it to 25 million units per year (vs. around 17 million in the US—China became the top market in 2009), it only requires a 4 percent growth rate to reach that target in fifteen years.

The cost to operate an EV, per mile, is already well below the cost to drive a standard ICE-age model, and the advantage is likely to widen. The average US residential customer pays 12 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which means the cost to drive one mile in an EV is somewhat less than 4 cents. By contrast, at 25 miles per $3 gallon of gasoline, those miles cost 12 cents each.

Coal still supplies more power in the US than anything else, with natural gas next. However, building more coal and gas power plants to make miles for transport is counter-productive if the game plan is to reduce carbon output.

Fortunately, abundant renewable power is getting cheaper, while gasoline from finite fossil fuels may get more expensive. (Even after the fall in US crude, gasoline in California costs $4 on average. At that price, California miles are 16 cents each. If you drive an SUV in Southern California those miles cost over 30 cents each.)

Even though not all renewables are created equal, power purchase agreements (PPAs) for PV projects with utilities in the US Southwest are now coming in under seven cents per kWh for a twenty year period. At that rate, the cost to operate an electric vehicle is 2 cents per mile. Hydropower in Seattle will push you around for the same price. The first eye-opener for large scale solar was the Austin Energy PPA last year that was priced at 5 cents. What this country needed was a good 5-cent kWh, and now we have it.

It is generous to say that an acre of Iowa can provide 12,500 miles per year at a cost of 10 cents each. (Average fuel efficiency in the US is 22 miles per gallon (mpg). New cars in 2015 get 25 mpg.) An acre of corn that provides 500 gallons of ethanol, at 22 mpg, gives you 11,000 miles, or would, if such gallons had the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline.

Unfortunately, they don’t. Ethanol packs about 70 percent of the punch of gasoline, so you actually need 1.4 gallons of ethanol to get you as far as a gallon of gas. (Instead of 11,000 miles per acre for the average 22 mpg model, the figure drops to 7,850 miles per acre per year.)

But suppose your new car is up to current Chinese standards (~35 mpg). In that case, Iowa’s acres provide 12,500 miles in a year (17,500/1.4). This is still roughly two orders of magnitude less output per acre than Warren Buffett’s Agua Caliente array in Arizona. No wonder Berkshire Hathaway has already bet a billion on PV arrays. One could say that Mr. Buffett has not only seen the light but invested heavily therein.

Hharizona
Agua Caliente PV Plant: Yuma Arizona. Click to enlarge.

Sunrise in the Desert. An acre of desert in Arizona, Nevada and many other places on earth sees on the order of 3,000 hours of direct sun per year. (This amounts to 34 percent of the total 8,765 hours available, half being dark.) PV arrays on a house are spaced closely together and it is reasonable to figure 250 kilowatts (kW) per acre of aggregated rooftops. However, it costs more to build an acre of rooftop PV. On the ground the figure is closer to 150 kW per acre.

The biggest difference between rooftop and most of the utility scale arrays yet to be built is that it makes sense, when possible, to track the sun. Since not everyone can afford to build houses that track the sun, let•s just assume that all residential rooftop arrays will be fixed. In the commercial sector, and in the case of community solar, there is more flexibility and tracking arrays may make sense, especially when mounted on the ground.

The arithmetic is pretty simple. You get about 20 percent more yield by tracking the sun. A rooftop array is pointed directly at the sun (known as direct normal irradiance) only for a short while each day, assuming the roof pitch is right, and most aren’t. If it costs 10 percent more to get that 20 percent extra yield, do it.

Critics will say that more structure and added tracking motors and mechanisms will add to the chance of system failure. This, however, is a fallacy. Consider the venerable oil drilling donkey, which cycles once every 7 or 8 seconds. At this rate (480 cycles per hour, and 11,520 cycles per day), these ancient and effective oil rigs cycle more in a day than a tracking PV array in its 30-year lifetime. (365.25 days x 30 years = 10,957 cycles.)

An acre of desert PV will easily yield 300,000 kWh (150 kW per acre x 2,000 hours of direct normal sun) and a million miles per year for an EV. Since 2,500 to 3,000 hours are available in many places, the figure jumps to between 375,000 and 450,000 kWh per year, yielding between 1.25 million and 1.5 million miles per acre per year.

In other words, the output from (more expensive) ethanol is little more than a rounding error compared to the output from PV. The choice is between a million miles per acre per year, costing 2 to 4 cents each from the sun, or 10,000 miles per year costing 12 to 20 cents from a cornfield that would be better served making food.

Even if the figures were more supportive of the ethanol case, biomass in general does not scale very well. Silicon based PV, on the other hand, is hugely scalable and relatively cheap. It really isn’t a fair fight.

HHelecgen1

HHelecgen1
Click to enlarge.

The calculation for rooftop solar is not quite as straightforward as multiplying the number of kilowatts by the number of hours of sun in a year. NREL has done the math on how many kWh you get from a fixed (non-tracking) array per day from a square meter depending upon location. It is roughly the measure of how many hours per day the panels will produce peak power. The US average is around four hours which means that,

For an individual homeowner, a 3-kW PV system in a less than arid region will still yield 4,000 kWh (3 kW x 4 hours x 365 days) and enough EV miles to cover the average annual 12,000-15,000 miles of commuting. Even at 15 cents per solar kWh (and, as mentioned, many PPAs are coming in at half that figure or less), you will save about 10 cents per mile over the gasoline price. The 5-year fuel savings will pay for a 3-kW system.

Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell cannot stop this; they will begin to bleed trillions of miles per year. They had better think seriously about financing solar and wind arrays. The estimated one million EVs on world roads by the end of this year will cover roughly 10 billion miles per year, and over 100 million miles over their lifetime. What will ExxonMobil’s share price be when cumulative EV sales reach 100 million units?

Hhelecgen3
Cumulative EV Sales Worldwide. Click to enlarge.

By 2030, millions of people will have transport fuel that is “on the house.” During the midday hours, many grids will experience negative pricing as solar PV floods the market to the extent that the power cannot be stored. As millions of EVs hit the road, four percent of the time, on average (the rest of the time they are in a garage or parked on the street), they will likely become the default destination for stored electricity.

When there are 100 million EVs, figuring 60 kWh batteries, the fleet will provide 6 terawatt-hours of storage, enough to run the US (with 1,000 GW, or 1 Terawatt, of power capacity) at peak power for six hours, or the world (with 5 Terawatts of capacity ) for over an hour. If all the cars sold in the US this year were electric, their battery capacity would be sufficient to power the country for an hour (17 million vehicles x 60 kWh). How many gigafactories will Mr. Musk have to build?

Henry Hewitt is an investment strategist and portfolio manager with 36 years of experience in renewable energy.

Source: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Why-Buffett-Bet-A-Billion-On-Solar.html

Comments

Engineer-Poet
It is nice to see that more people realize that solar power and wind power is affordable already and is going to become the lowest cost energy we can make in a few decades.

Maybe "energy", but people don't expect "energy" that comes and goes when it feels like it.  That kind of energy has a low cost and an even lower value; summer's heat waves are useless in a January cold snap.  People use capacity, power delivered on demand.  Neither solar nor wind provides capacity.

The cost claims for solar and wind don't include the costs shifted to the rest of the grid.  Wind and PV operators don't pay for balancing generation to ramp up and down to follow their irregular output; they're even subsidized to put out power when nobody needs it.  Any talk of LCOE for un-dispatchable generation is incomplete at best, sheer propaganda at worst.  You have to start with levelized AVOIDED cost of energy (LACE), and even that has trouble capturing the full costs imposed by addition of the unreliables.

the sun can be trusted not to blow up for at least one billion years to come. It is as reliable as it gets.

It's only reliable if you are out where neither Earth nor cloud block it from getting to you.  I keep talking about solar power satellites.  Every time I bring them up, I find that you still hate the idea.  It seems that you are against any form of carbon-free energy that would actually work.

HarveyD

The extreme "Total" high cost of Nuclear energy and safe used fuel disposal is what is killing it.

The repeated promise for future lower cost NPPs was never realized and the opposite happen year after year.

The latest "partial" cost, excluding spent fuel disposal and insurances, is over $0,16/kWh. The true "Total" cost is probably between $0.25/kWh and $0.35/kWh. That is enough to stop or delay all or most new or refurbished NPPs.

Solar power plants with long term storage an be done for around $0.10/kWh to $0.15/kWh and will eventually kill the nuclear power industry.

Bob Wallace

E-P. Imagine what it would cost to run a grid on mainly 13+ cent per kWh nuclear. What nuclear now costs in the real world.

You'd have to build enough to cover hot summer demand and then you'd have a huge oversupply for nights as well as spring and fall when demand drops. That means that many plants would have to recover their capex/finex and fixed operating costs over less than 50% as much production, driving their kWh cost well over 25 cents per kWh.
--

"The people who actually live on RE systems say you need DAYS worth of storage, as in a minimum of 3 days."

The people who live off the grid with solar (as I do) will tell you that at today's storage prices it is not economical to store more than 2-3 days of electricity. As storage prices drop the number of 'economical days' will increase.

The more sequential days one has to store, the more expensive storage becomes. Try to underbuild nuclear, then store up for extended heat waves or cold snaps and you hit the same wall.

The least expensive solution is a heavily wind and solar supplied grid with more modest amounts of hydro, geothermal and tidal generation. Use storage as long as it is affordable (short days). Then turn to dispatchable generation such as biogas, biomass, or synthetic fuels.

One could build the same sort of grid with nuclear + storage + dispatchable generation but rather than having the main inputs (~80%) being <4 cent wind and solar the main input would be 13+ cent nuclear.

Any engineer should be able to understand that math. Even a poetic type engineer.

Sincerely,
Windbag Bob

msevior

I'm not sure where the 13 cents per KWHr for Nuclear is coming from.

In the US the initial build of the AP1000's in Vogtle has capital costs at around 7 K$ per KW (http://www.powermag.com/delays-and-more-costs-for-plant-vogtle-nuclear-expansion/). Assuming 5% interest rates and 5 year build times this leads to generation costs of $0.09 per KWHr.

The initial build of the first AP1000's in China is estimated to cost around 2.7 K$ per KW (http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-A-F/China--Nuclear-Power/). Under the same assumptions of interest rates and build times electricity is likely cost around $0.045 per KWHr.

AP1000's are likely to decrease in cost and construction times for subsequent builds. Certainly China has plans for a really large number of Chinese-sourced AP1000's and other advanced reactors.

Many other places in Asia have similar plans (though not Japan I guess).

I'm not sure how this will play out in 10 years time when China has over 140 GW of Nuclear and rapidly building more while Germany is trying its best to make fluctuating RE (as opposed to hydro) work for an entire country. I guess Germany can fall back on other places in Europe to both export surplus electricity and import shortfalls.

In any case, Germany's route to low carbon looks much harder than China's harder to me.

HarveyD

The latest (2014) contracted NPPs in UK were for $0.14/kWh excluding spent fuel safe disposal and insurances. The Finland venture is costing even more.

The same contract in 2015/2016 (in UK, France, Finland USA, Canada....) would most probably be closer to $0.18/kWh.

China can do better (and faster) due to much lower labour cost but nobody know the real total cost.

NPPs are not cheap and almost impossible to insure. As pointed out above, large over capacity or large seasonal storage or other energy sources would be required to cope with variable loads. That could double the effective NPPs already high price tag.

Bob Wallace

An analysis of the Vogtle reactor costs by Citigroup in early 2014 found the LCOE for electricity from those reactors will cost 11 cents per kWh (subsidized). That assumed no further cost/timeline overruns.

They also stated that reactors built after the Vogtle units would likely produce more expensive electricity as they would not be able to receive the low financing rates as Vogtle has obtained.

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/citigroup-says-the-age-of-renewables-has-begun

Following the Citigroup study it was announced that the Vogtle reactors would be delayed at least an 30 additional months. The cost of this delay will cost $2 million per day.. That additional cost will push the final cost well over 13 cents per kWh.

Take the 13 cents for the Vogtle reactors. Add in the higher financing cost for future builds (the recession is over). Add in the lost opportunity cost for money taken from customers. Add in the value of subsidies. Do a full accounting and you'll see that 13 cents is a lowball number for new nuclear.

Will the AP1000 design help reduce costs? Not so far in both the US and China.

China's costs are not usable in countries that have labor costs typical of the US and Europe. Nuclear has a very high labor component.

You might want to check and see how Germany is getting along. Sounds like someone fed you some faulty information.

Will China continue to build nuclear reactor at their current rate? With rising labor costs and falling wind/solar prices I suspect we'll see a slowing in China's nuclear program starting over the next few years. Growth rates for wind and solar are very much higher than for nuclear already.

Add to that the facts that China is now starting to move a lot of their manufacturing inland where labor is more accessible (without requiring some many people to move into already oversized cities) and China's statement that they will build no more inland reactors.

It's not a good time to go long on nuclear.

msevior

Bob, have you visited Beijing? Replacing their coal power stations with Nuclear would dramatically improve the environment in their big cities. China at least is almost certainly going to adopt Nuclear in a large way given its substantially cheaper cost and much better environmental impact.

Of course they'll put in RE where it makes sense as well.
http://www.windpowerengineering.com/featured/business-news-projects/chinas-wind-power-to-triple-by-2025-says-globaldata/

The capacity factor of wind in China is 0.2 - 0.25 so this will be less than total power generated than the 140 GW nuclear capacity.

Good luck to Germany. As I said, they're currently in the fortunate position of neighbours who can absorb their overcapacity and supply their under capacity as needed. Which is good because their RE resources are not that great.

Look, here is a back of the envolope calculation for Germany to see what I'm talking about. Solar in Germany has 12% insolation at best. To generate 100% of their electricity via solar they'll need to install 8 times their nominal power needs. Of course there are times when all that power is available, so they'll need to export (or store) 7 times the entire current generation capacity of the country. Wind in Germany has 0.2 to 0.25 capacity factors but they're already running up against land constraints. Still that's 4-5 times their national productive capacity. Germany will need grid-scale storage on a scale many orders of magnitude bigger than anything done so far.

Getting to even 40% RE on an annual basis will be a huge achievement for the country.

ai_vin

In contrast; http://inhabitat.com/austin-texas-is-now-home-to-the-worlds-cheapest-solar-power/

Bob Wallace

I was in Beijing about 18 months ago. More nuclear and less coal certainly would help the quality of their air.

But the choice is not "Coal or nuclear?" The choice is "Coal or nuclear or renewables". Renewables are cheaper, faster to install and bring significantly fewer problems into our lives.

Best not to judge wind farms on the capacity factor of a farm built a couple of years ago or longer. Wind technology has greatly increased lately and CF numbers are increasing. We used to think of US onshore wind in terms of ~35% CF. GE reports that wind farms with CFs of over 50% are becoming common.

Germany is doing great. They have a very reliable grid and their wholesale electricity prices continue to fall. Of course Germany will need to utilize a wider grid with a move to renewables. If you're not relying on large centrally located plants then the best strategy is to maximize your harvest area in order to lower variability and to share dispatchable generation and storage.

Renewables require a different approach to supplying the grid 24/365. And the net result should be cheaper electricity for all, even without including the external costs.

"To generate 100% of their electricity via solar they'll need to install 8 times their nominal power needs. "

This is a pretty worthless argument. No one proposes an all solar or all wind or all any one source renewable grid. The best mix for the US looks to be about 50% wind and 40% solar with other renewables filling in the rest.

But that's a 50 state average, the percentages will differ from state to state. Take a look at a few states and see how they differ. Compare Arizona, Washington, and Oklahoma, for example.

http://thesolutionsproject.org/infographic/

That's how things will likely work in Europe. Countries with northern ocean access will likely use a lot of offshore wind. Countries with a lot of hydro will use a lot of hydro (or trade it away for wind/solar and profit from the net gain). Countries in Southern Europe or Northern Africa will likely use a lot of solar.

Bob Wallace

" Germany will need grid-scale storage on a scale many orders of magnitude bigger than anything done so far."

Some calculations are that Germany will need no storage until renewable penetration is above 80%. Adding a lot of EVs to their grid could take that number considerably higher.

"Getting to even 40% RE on an annual basis will be a huge achievement for the country."

28.5% in 2014. We should see 40% achieved before long.

Do remember, Germany is not an island. Europe commonly trades electricity back and forth. If France couldn't rely on other European countries to take up its surplus nuclear and then supply their grid when their nuclear isn't sufficient then France would be sunk. France is heavily dependent on German electricity.

Engineer-Poet
The extreme "Total" high cost of Nuclear energy and safe used fuel disposal is what is killing it.

US utilities aren't allowed to dispose of SNF.  The US government has claimed exclusive ownership, and refused to take possession.  The utilities have gone to dry-cask storage as a solution suitable for a century or so, and the cost of this is hardly burdensome.  The utilities have already paid for disposal, and the relevant account at Treasury contains tens of billions of dollars for that purpose even after the cost of digging holes in Yucca Mountain.

The repeated promise for future lower cost NPPs was never realized

It was realized in France during the post-oil-shock buildout.  The base of experience in design and construction was used to good effect.  This base of experience was then abandoned, so the new units at Flamanville and Olkiluoto are starting from scratch.  More recently, S. Korea is keeping its engineers and workers up to date with reactor sales around the world.

What drives the cost of nuclear power through the roof is hostile, punitive regulation which prevents economies of scale and accumulation of experience.  That is what the USA has, and that can be changed almost overnight.

The latest "partial" cost, excluding spent fuel disposal and insurances, is over $0,16/kWh.

No cite, and your numbers don't remotely pencil out.  At $7.5 billion at 7% interest amortized over 20 years, repayment costs a mere 4¢/kWh (formula: 12*PMT( 0.07/12;240;-7500000000;0)/(2200000*0.9*8766)), and that only for the first 20 years out of a 60+ year design lifetime.  If you paid the full cost of construction 8 years in advance and paid 7% to borrow, that goes up to 6.9¢.  Fuel and O&M are a few cents, and nuclear has no costs of storage.

Know what you could do to slash those costs to almost nothing?  Have the Fed lend the money.  Interest rates are currently close to zero.

Matthew Wald referred to a National Academy of Sciences study which went over the data from the 2003 blackout and found that the cost of needed but unavailable power was $5/kWh.  (I am trying to get a specific cite from him.)  Since the working model for the "all-renewable" grid is to simply not do things when the wind and sun are on break, there will be a whole lot of $5/kWh costs in the all-RE economy.  The all-nuclear economy does not suffer such problems.

Solar power plants with long term storage an be done for around $0.10/kWh to $0.15/kWh

They will be unusable in the northern reaches in winter, requiring transmission lines costing several times as much as the plant to wheel power from distant, sunny lands.  They also fail to deal with non-electric energy needs.  Small modular reactors (meltdown-proof) can provide 24/7 electricity as well as steam heat without any emissions.

E-P. Imagine what it would cost to run a grid on mainly 13+ cent per kWh nuclear.

That's about what I'm paying; it works just fine.  But you've grossly overstated the cost even from the first generation of Gen III+ plants now being built.  The delays at Chicago Bridge & Iron are rumored to be from NRC interference, which is from Washington and not anything to do with the technology.

You'd have to build enough to cover hot summer demand and then you'd have a huge oversupply for nights as well as spring and fall when demand drops.

That's not how you do it.  Summer demand is easily levelled around the daily cycle using ice-storage systems in A/C units (efficient and quite cheap), and adoption would be rapid if billing changed to energy + peak demand instead of straight energy.  PV might help with ice storage (and EVs), but your PV peaks around the solstice while peak A/C demand comes not long before the equinox.  You also have much higher peak power handling requirements using PV than base-load nuclear.

Nuclear fueling and maintenance outages are scheduled for the low-demand months.  This is standard.

The people who live off the grid with solar (as I do) will tell you that at today's storage prices it is not economical to store more than 2-3 days of electricity.

So cut the price in half and your economic duration roughly doubles to maybe 4-6 days.  Unfortunately, wind can easily take multiple weeks off during the very season when solar is effectively out of commission.  You still need a full backup system with plenty of stored fuel.  Nuclear avoids all of that.  More to the point, if you try to get down to the 50 gCO2/kWh emissions limit that scientists say is the maximum we can allow, you can no longer rely on fossil-fired backup for more than about 5-10% of your consumption.  Everything else must come from immediate production or storage; you no longer have the luxury of limiting yourself to an "economic" 3 days or even 6, you have to cover 90-95% or simply do without.  If doing without costs you $5 per absent kWh, it's a brutally expensive way to be "green".

The least expensive solution is a heavily wind and solar supplied grid with more modest amounts of hydro, geothermal and tidal generation.

Show me one, anywhere.  Show me where anyone is doing that.  Especially show me where anyone is doing that to run a grid that supplies the industries required to build more of that grid.  If it isn't self-sustaining, it's bogus.  That's what your claims are:  bogus.

Any engineer should be able to understand that math. Even a poetic type engineer.

Understand the math?
I do, so I question it.
Obvious:  you don't.
Sincerely,
Windbag Bob

Stop taking wind as the Ordained Solution and start being skeptical; you might learn something.  Of course, True Believers already know everything and have nothing left to learn.

An analysis of the Vogtle reactor costs by Citigroup in early 2014 found the LCOE for electricity from those reactors will cost 11 cents per kWh

No cite.

They also stated that reactors built after the Vogtle units would likely produce more expensive electricity

They failed to note that Chicago Bridge & Iron and the NRC would have resolved their disputes over specifications and would not have the consequent schedule delays for subsequent deliveries.  That's not just dishonest, it's almost fraudulent.

Will the AP1000 design help reduce costs? Not so far in both the US and China.

China doesn't have NRC-related delays.  There's an issue related to the canned reactor coolant pumps that I'm aware of, but it seems to be manufacturing defects.  China's cost, even for FOAK, is roughly half of what we're seeing in the US.  Much of the excess cost in the US is from the regulator and associated delays, which can be reduced or even eliminated (reactors built under the AEC didn't have them and worked just fine).

Take the 13 cents for the Vogtle reactors.

Doesn't make sense.  Subtract 1.7¢/kWh for O&M and fuel, and you've got 11.3¢/kWh for amortization.  At 7% over 20 years, that implies over $24 billion project cost.  No numbers quoted thus far even approach that; such a figure is unrealistic to the point of being hallucinatory.
Will China continue to build nuclear reactor at their current rate?

China's projection for future nuclear capacity implies a much greater rate than current.  With experienced construction crews, this is eminently feasible.  What would rule it out is a punitive regulatory regime like the USA's NRC.  Fortunately (for China), China's politicos are more engineers and scientists than ideologues like you.

It's not a good time to go long on nuclear.

On technical grounds, it's always been a good time.  The problem with nuclear is politics, and has been since about 1970.  China has gotten politics out of the way, and has the most ambitious nuclear plans of anywhere in the world.  South Korea is close behind.  You won't learn from them, because you're an ideologue.

But the choice is not "Coal or nuclear?" The choice is "Coal or nuclear or renewables". Renewables are cheaper, faster to install and bring significantly fewer problems into our lives.

None is so blind as will not see.  Trying to eliminate nuclear REQUIRES coal as the backup for "renewables" (which aren't).  Since all "renewables" (wind and solar) can go off-line at once, backup to the extent of 100% of demand is required from other sources.  If you do that with coal, you have to amortize the plant and either tolerate its pollution or also amortize its scrubbers at a much-reduced capacity factor.

You are far better off building zero-emission nuclear, but Windbag Bob is hysterically opposed to anything that splits atoms and would rather burn black rocks regardless of the cost to the environment.

Bob Wallace

"You are far better off building zero-emission nuclear, but Windbag Bob is hysterically opposed to anything that splits atoms and would rather burn black rocks regardless of the cost to the environment."

That's silly.

Much of what you claim about nuclear is silly.

China has no great plans for nuclear. At best nuclear will provide well under 10% of China's electricity if China continues on with its current rate of build. Starting in 2013 wind produces more electricity than did nuclear. In China the rate of installation of both wind and solar is growing much more rapidly than nuclear.

"Trying to eliminate nuclear REQUIRES coal as the backup for "renewables" (which aren't)."

That's another silly. Renewables, which are renewable (common word usage) do not require coal backup. In fact, coal is a very poor backup option as its output is not easily controlled.

"China has gotten politics out of the way, and has the most ambitious nuclear plans of anywhere in the world. South Korea is close behind."

Even with China and South Korea and North Korea and all other reactor building countries the number of nuclear plants worldwide is falling and nuclear continues to lose market share.

"China's cost, even for FOAK, is roughly half of what we're seeing in the US. "

Low cost labor. Won't hold as China's standard of living continues to rise and as their labor force ages. You know that China is involved in the Hinkley Point project which is priced at 15 cents per kWh.

Solar, on the other hand, has a very low labor input all the way from manufacturing to operation.

CitiGroup Vogtle 11c/kWh before subsequent time and cost overruns -

http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/citigroup-says-the-age-of-renewables-has-begun-69852

"wind can easily take multiple weeks off" if you set the geographical area small enough. By the same token nuclear can, and does, take years off. Longer periods of low wind requires proper grid design and management just like we have to engineer our way around long shutdown periods for reactors.
--

Bob - "E-P. Imagine what it would cost to run a grid on mainly 13+ cent per kWh nuclear."

E.P. - "That's about what I'm paying; it works just fine."

And this where you took a giant leap over the silly shark.

You know damn well that you pay 13 cents retail but the cost of producing that electricity is well under 5 cents. You can't pass that off as ignorance on your part. It can only be due to "fibbing".

HarveyD

With the cost-price of clean 24/7 REs going down fast every year and the cost-price of NPPs going the other way even faster, predictions on future energy sources are easier to make.

Have you noted in which energy technology W. Buffet is investing?

Many others will follow him shortly.

msevior

"28.5% in 2014. We should see 40% achieved before long."

My search of the internet shows 25% but no worries. My internet search also found that one day in April a good 75% of the power used in Germany was generated by Renewables.

OK great but now lets imagine that Germany's ANNUAL contribution from renewables will rise to 40%. So there will be a significant number of days when well over 100% of power will be generated by renewables. What will happen to that power?

Who gets the economic benefit for it?

France can turn off its Hydro and turn down it's nukes and pay nothing for the nice electricity from Germany.
German consumers will off course keep paying their 0.30 euro's per kilowatt hour. French consumers will pay 0.20. Sounds like a good deal to me :-)

The amount of free electricity for the rest of Europe will continue to increase as the German Renewable Industry keeps building their solar and wind plants.

Interesting times ahead.

ai_vin

Here is something else to consider. Most of France's nuclear reactors were built during a short period in the 1980s, and about half will reach their designed age limit in an equally short period. Which means they will have to be replaced, at today's costs, in an equally short period. It's what they're calling a "nuclear cliff."

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/04/30/uk-france-nuclear-analysis-idUKKBN0DG0KC20140430

Engineer-Poet
Much of what you claim about nuclear is silly.

Hold that thought...

China has no great plans for nuclear. At best nuclear will provide well under 10% of China's electricity if China continues on with its current rate of build.

"By around 2040, PWRs are expected to level off at 200 GWe and fast reactors progressively increase from 2020 to at least 200 GWe by 2050 and 1400 GWe by 2100."  That's about 10% by 2030 (150 GW), 40% by 2050 and on the order of 80-100% by 2100.

Starting in 2013 wind produces more electricity than did nuclear.

That's very easy to do when wind is at 2% of consumption.  It is very difficult to do when wind is at 20% of consumption.  (IPTYWCDAAC,AIWHTTYTDIOASPOAMBRG <-- abbreviation of a prediction of your response, just to prove that I anticipated it.)

Renewables, which are renewable (common word usage) do not require coal backup.

Your "renewables" aren't unless you can create more of them using only the energy and resources created by your "renewables".  Germany's Energiewende requires coal to back up the unreliable wind and solar.  Even Denmark is still burning coal.  Know who kicked the black-rock habit?  Nuclear Ontario.

Even with China and South Korea and North Korea and all other reactor building countries the number of nuclear plants worldwide is falling

China alone has 24 reactors under construction.  Worldwide there are currently 66 under construction, totalling about 69 GW.  That is about 15% of the worldwide total of 437 and 18% of today's currently operating nameplate capacity.  In other words, worldwide nuclear capacity is going up.

nuclear continues to lose market share.

Another bait-and-switch.  Expansion of generation from coal is outpacing both nuclear and "renewables".

Low cost labor. Won't hold as China's standard of living continues to rise and as their labor force ages.

You must not have heard about Foxconn.  Foxconn makes the iPhone, and was recently projecting that it would have "lights-out factories" with no human workers cranking out product.  The CEO has recently backed away from this claim, but the fact remains:  robots will be taking over huge amounts of work in China, as they already have in Japan.

Solar, on the other hand, has a very low labor input all the way from manufacturing to operation.

That must be why Ivanpah cost over $18,000 per average kilowatt, more than two and a half times even the delay-adjusted cost of Vogtle 3 and 4.  Oh, Ivanpah burns natural gas, Vogtle needs none.

CitiGroup Vogtle 11c/kWh before subsequent time and cost overruns

Which article uses the faulty LCOE metric for unreliable wind and solar, not the essential LACE analysis which incorporates unreliables' external costs.

"wind can easily take multiple weeks off" if you set the geographical area small enough.

The "small" geographical area was all the wind farms serving the Bonneville Power Administration.  Besides, if you've eliminated "the grid" to handle everything with "microgrids", what's happening in the next state or even in the next city doesn't help you, does it?

You know damn well that you pay 13 cents retail but the cost of producing that electricity is well under 5 cents.

Good, I made you look at one of my numbers.  That proves you can do it.  Now start applying the same critical eye to your own.

Engineer-Poet
Have you noted in which energy technology W. Buffet is investing?

"For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That's the only reason to build them. They don't make sense without the tax credit." — Warren Buffet

Here is something else to consider. Most of France's nuclear reactors were built during a short period in the 1980s, and about half will reach their designed age limit in an equally short period.

40 years is the initial licensing period, not the design lifespan.  Most of those plants are aging much more slowly than the worst-case assumptions behind that 40-year figure.  The same Westinghouse design France used as a starting point is being licensed to 60 years in the USA, and may be good to 80 or more.  France can do the same.

France's real nuclear problem is that Green pressure and terrorism (like the rocket attack on the Superfenix) has led to both a halt in nuclear construction activity with loss of know-how, and a demand for drastic over-engineering of any new builds.  (The EPR design has a DOUBLE containment.  Honestly, WTF?)  The growing climate problem deserves at least as serious a response as the 1970's oil-price shocks.  If that means turning the matter over to technocrats and throwing the radicals in jail, then that's what has to be done.

ai_vin

40 years is the initial licensing period, not the design lifespan. Most of those plants are aging much more slowly than the worst-case assumptions behind that 40-year figure. The same Westinghouse design France used as a starting point is being licensed to 60 years in the USA, and may be good to 80 or more. France can do the same.

Yes, they could do the same. but currently there is no reason to think they will. From my link: "EDF has advocated an extension of the reactors' lifespan to 50 or even 60 years, arguing that they were modelled on similar reactors in the United States which have been granted 60-year licences.

But French nuclear watchdog ASN, the only authority allowed to grant this extension, has so far repeated that the utility should not take this extension for granted and would only give a first opinion next year and a final one in 2018-2019."

BTW I clicked on your last link, the one from usnews, expecting to find the text for the full speech Warren Buffet gave to put that quote into context. What I got instead was just a bad example of quote mining by Nancy Pfotenhauer. Google her.

Engineer-Poet
Yes, they could do the same. but currently there is no reason to think they will.

The bureaucracy is currently taking orders from Hollande.  I suspect that sanity will return once he's gone, and the electric-power crisis that would accompany a substantial nuclear shutdown will be put off a couple of decades at least.  Assuming the Eurocrats don't try to trump Paris, of course.

What I got instead was just a bad example of quote mining by Nancy Pfotenhauer. Google her.

That identical quote is all over the web.  The WSJ is the ultimate source, but that article is paywalled.

ai_vin

My issue with the quote is not its accuracy but its context. And all I've found is it being used to support the opinions of other people. OTOH that it's "all over the web" is no proof of its accuracy. It is just too easy to find examples of echo chambers to not follow up.

Bob Wallace

"Good, I made you look at one of my numbers."

I look at all your numbers. Most make no sense. It's pointless to attempt to discuss nuclear and renewables with you E-P, your bias is so extreme that you are incapable of being objective.

Engineer-Poet
I look at all your numbers. Most make no sense.

That's really rich coming from you.  I even give spreadsheet formulas for my numbers.  Yours are plucked from the air, or from sources who either don't document their calculations or hide them too deep to verify.

It's pointless to attempt to discuss nuclear and renewables with you E-P, your bias is so extreme that you are incapable of being objective.

Coming from the guy who is repeatedly asked to show ANYWHERE that ANYONE is actually doing what he says his stuff can do and changes the subject (e.g. attacks with "it's pointless to attempt to discuss...") instead of answering, that's really rich too.  Oh, should I mention that you threaten to censor/ban people for using caps or boldface for emphasis?

The only reason we're having this exchange here is because you refuse to allow me to rebut you at CleanTechnica.  You're afraid I might pollute your echo chamber with... objectivity.

Sweden, France and Ontario have largely de-carbonized their electric power using nuclear and hydro.  Ontario has gotten rid of coal.  Denmark and Germany still burn vast amounts of coal, as well as consuming biomass at a grossly unsustainable rate.  Ever the hypocrite, Bob touts things like Germany's "solar miracle" when the only thing making it possible is PV produced using Chinese coal plants.

The ultimate effect of your advocacy, Bob, is an endless reliance on fossil fuels and accelerating environmental and climate damage.  We are promised that "renewables" will supplant fossil fuels "someday", but "someday" has been promised since the Carter administration and has not come.  Nuclear power has done what "renewables" are only claimed to do, and the worst-ever nuclear accident created a thriving wildlife preserve.  Those are objective facts.  Can you bring yourself to admit them, Bob?

I won't hold my breath.

HarveyD

By the way, highly subsidized nuclear Ontario has the highest price electricity of all Canadian provinces.

Without important Federal and Provincial subsidies Ontario's nuke electricity would be close to $0.30/kWh

Our Hydro-Wind REs is retailed at around $0.07/kWh ($0.03/kWh for commercial) and instead of receiving large subsidies, our sole clean electricity supplier is giving an average of $2B/year (50% of profits) in dividend to the local Provincial government.

Of course our last NPPs was decommissioned in 2013/2014.

Engineer-Poet
highly subsidized nuclear Ontario has the highest price electricity of all Canadian provinces.

The subsidies are going to the "renewables".  Nuclear is the cheapest next to amortized hydro, and the only dispatchable carbon-free source capable of much expansion.

Without important Federal and Provincial subsidies

No cite, therefore probably a lie.

Our Hydro-Wind REs is retailed at around $0.07/kWh

Hydro and wind are not commensurable.  Only one is dispatchable.  The USA has no room for any impoundment-fed hydro expansion at all, and it's producing less than 7% of total electric generation (and a much smaller fraction of total energy).

Without important Federal and Provincial subsidies Ontario's nuke electricity would be close to $0.30/kWh

Assertion without credibility.  Where are these subsidies hidden in the budget?  You do know that Ontario is going to do another round of refurbishments on the CANDUs?  This pretty much proves that whatever sources you use are out-and-out liars.

HarveyD

E-P...you are misinformed about the real total cost of NPPs or you just do not want to know.

For decades, the Canadian Federal and Ontario Provincial governments supported Ontario's NPP program with $$$B in direct and indirect subsidies. The total cost is so well buried that it would take an accounting firm decades to come close to what it is.

To refurbish the existing 18 CANDUs could cost between $10B to $20B each for a total of $180B to $360B. Nobody wants to foot the bill. All CANDUs may have to be progressively decommissioned due to high refurbishing cost.

Variable Hydro (with large water reservoirs) and Wind turbines work very well together when you make Wind the primary energy supplier and use (variable) Hydro to fill in on an as required basis. One big advantage is higher Wind energy in winter times compensatse for lower Hydro winter energy production (less water).

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