Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Go Green, Destroy the Earth

Green techonologies promoted by greenies would despoil the earth. Nothing left to do but go nuclear.

[I]n order to meet the 2005 electricity demand for the United States, an area the size of Texas would need to be covered with wind structures running round the clock to extract, store and transport the energy.

New York City would require the entire area of Connecticut to become a wind farm to fully power all its electrical equipment and gadgets.

You can convert every kilowatt generated directly into land area disturbed, Ausubel said. “The biomass or wind will produce one or two watts per square meter. So every watt or kilowatt you want for light bulbs in your house can be translated into your hand reaching out into nature taking land.”


Bruce Heimbigner said...

Right and that is only electrical needs, which accounts for only 40% of total energy needs. Check out http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/pecss_diagram.html

Truth said...

Two things, the first is in response to Bruce as I wasn't able to find clarification in the article: Do you know if when the article says "electricity needs" they mean the 40% that is in the EIA graph, or would it include also the electricity of residentia, commercial, and industrial areas as well? The way I was interpreting the article was that "electricity needs" including idustrial, residential, and commercial needs, but I could be wrong.

Secondly, while nuclear power is something I would like to see more readily implemented it does not address the issue of a needed renewable energy source. It is clearly cleaner (excluding the end waste, which is a problem) than coal/oil/etc. but I think the advantage of some of the other electrical sources described in the article (wind/solar) is that they will not require the continued use of materials save that which is necessary for the maintaince of those facilities.

One of the most interesting things however that I saw in the article was this:

We could meet 25 percent of our annual electrical demand by just putting solar panels on already existing rooftops of homes and businesses.”

Even if that is only relating to the 40% of the EIA graph thats still a signifigant amount that could be powered by something other than fossil fuel. I would definetly like to see this or something similar to this idea studied to see if its practicle, and perhaps combine that with nuclear power until we are able to fully switch to renewable reasources.

Barenjager said...

I agree with Truth in most points on this subject. The one major exception is that I don't believe nuclear waste is a real problem. The only "problem" with it is the misinformation and pandering politics associated therewith.

There are no technical difficulties associated with safe disposal of spent fuels at Yucca Mountain or similar facilities (should they ever be constructed). YM is located in a stable, remote (and likely to stay that way) area with adequate low traffic access. The repository is deep enough to offer complete shielding and isn't situated within or above an aquifer. In short, it doesn't shake. It doesn't leak, and it will be millennia before it has neighbors, if it ever does.

Likewise, the transport of spent fuel is not unsafe. Fuel can be transported with extremely low risk by use of controlled routes and security escorts. Yes this makes it expensive but the expense pales in comparison to the cost of pollution caused by coal fired electricity generation.

In my opinion, we will soon see the emergence of electrically powered freight transport. As petroleum based fuels diminish in availability and increase in price, something will have to take their place. That something will NOT be biodiesel or ethanol. Biodiesel is and will continue to be a net energy looser and ethanol is unsuited for heavy freight transport due to safety and efficiency reasons.

I'll go (not very far) out on a limb and predict that we'll see the electrification of rail before another generation passes. It's proven technology and WHEN we finally get our stuff together it will be readily available through nuclear power plants.

Nuclear, solar, hydro, geothermal, wind and other mature technologies already in the market or nearing commercial viability are all focused on generation of electricity. Motor fuel replacement is drawing lots of attention but still represents only a fraction of the research directed at energy.

It is my belief that we'll get much more bang for our buck by electrifying rail and mass transit in metro areas than we will from motor fuel replacement technologies over the course of the next 50 years. If we remove 50% of truck and diesel/gas bus traffic from our roads, we'll stretch the viability of petro-fuels by decades.

If I'm right or even close, nuclear power will be the driving force behind increased electrification.

Satanic Mechanic said...

Nuclear is the way to go. There is plenty of uranium here in the U.S. and Canada. Not much waste is generated from a power reactor, enough to fill one file drawer a year. Most radioactive waste are just leftovers from weapons enrichment of the past and the rest is spent fuel rods. The spent fuel rods can reprocessed but that was banned by President Carter. Even though Reagan lifted the ban, we have not undertaken reprocessing.
France allows reprocessing, fast breeder reactors and generates 78% of their electricity from nuclear power. Japan and Russia also reprocess their fuel rods.
Take the free tour of the nuclear reactor on the WSU campus.

Bruce Heimbigner said...

Regarding ‘Truth’ you can download the complete report at http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/contents.html it is not light reading. My main point is that we use and (IMHO) need an incredible amount of energy to run our economy. As of today nuclear is the cleanest, safest, most renewable method for generating lots of power. The waste issue has been addressed. But, to take land out of food production or cover open spaces with solar panels or windmillize wild places are all bad ideas.

The footnotes say ‘electrical power’ includes heat that is apparently generated and sold from power plants that primarily produce electricity. The Residential, industrial, and commercial also include some electrical generation. So the percents are not exact but close.

Coal accounts for 52% of our electricity production and 22.6 % of total energy, is very dirty compared to other energy sources - if a nuclear plant released as much radioactive isotopes as a coal plant does it would be shutdown.

In places where it makes sense to use solar, wind, we should do it. But they all have negative environmental consequences. The bigger the plant / farm the more drastic the problems.

Some of the predictions about ‘alternative’ energy’s negative effect on environment WAY underestimate the problem because they don’t include the environmental cost to build giant solar collectors and frequently use figures of 100% conversation and 100% uptime which are impossible.

True, enough solar energy lands on top of every home in America to provide the energy needs for that home. When the solar hits the house and when we need it are often 2 different times of the day/year. When you include the amount of energy required to build and maintain solar panels and residential energy storage systems it just doesn’t make economic sense.

Satanic Mechanic said...

Bruce, if I could add to your info...
On average on a clear day, the sun radiates light on Earth which is about 1000 watts per square meter. Last time I looked, eight years ago, the highest efficeincy of photovoltaics was about 50%. Now that power can only be generated during the day of course.
I read a study on photovoltaics in this area and it would not be a good investment because we do not have enough sunny days around here.
Bruce also brought up another valid point in the construction of photovoltaics, I know the process on how they "grow" them and there is a lot of waste arsenic. Some semiconductor manufacturers reclaim arsenic from the silicon doping process but there is a lot that cannot be reclaimed when growing photovoltaics. I remember this quote from a professor at UI - "It costs more to make an ounce of photovoltaic than the cost of one ounce of gold".
Another concern about people who use solar is some electrical companies do not allow "back-feeding", feeding power back through the lines. Houses cannot isolate themselves.
My home outside of Colfax that I bought two years ago came with a solar water heating system. It was never properly maintained and I had to get rid of the system. It would of cost A LOT to bring it back up and hydroelectric power to heat water is cheaper.

Just some realities of solar.

Truth said...

Barenjager, you are I believe fairly accurate with your comments on nuclear waste. What I meant wasnt that we don't have a way to store it, but just that it is a very toxic waste that we have to store, but again, that has been taken care of. The reason however that I push for the use of solar/wind/ect. energy sources is because I'm afraid that if we decide nuclear power is our salvation it is of great help to us now, but it still means that we are relying on a reasources which will eventually be used up. My fear would be that eventually (though perhaps not in our lifetimes) our country would have to face the same problems it is facing now only with patrolium instead of oil.

Yes, I realize there are enviromental costs associated with building wind or solar plants, but at the same time I think those are drastically less in the long term than either oil or possible nuclear (for nuclear most likely a ways in the future, I just don't want to pass this same crisis onto my kids). That doesn't mean I wouldnt like to see more nuclear plants, quite the opposite in fact, just that I hesitate to begin fully relying on them as a final solution for our energy needs.

One thing I think we could do in Pullman though would be to see if there was a way we could put solar panals perhaps on top of some of the WSU buildings. Something similar was done at the University of Oregon for their school of buisness, and they now provide enough power for themselves and to sell some to the neighboring community. I'm not entirelly sure cost-wise, but I would imagine that it would be worth it for WSU and possibly the community if they so chose to invest in solar panals for the top of buildings if we could power the university and possibly town with solar panal. What are people's thoughts on that?

Satanic Mechanic said...

WSU already produces its own electricity from co-generation of of burning natural gas at the new steam plant. They opened that last year and shut down the coal burning steam plant behind the engineering building.
Studies have been done here on the Palouse and use of photovoltaics is not economical. There are not enouch sunny days here, the cost of the photovoltaics are high, the upkeep cost of the photovoltaics (they need to be cleaned monthly and inspected for cracks), the inverter system to convert the DC produced to true sinewave AC and the switching system to make sure you do not "back-feed" when the rest of the campus goes into blackout.
As for your running out of uranium, there is plenty of uranium around the U.S. and Canada. We have tons of weapons grade material from the SALT treaties that can be easily made into fuel grade material.

Truth said...

What I meant by running out of uranium is that its more of a finite reasource than either the wind or sun. Ideally I would like to see an energy infastructure which got its power from something entirelly renewable, so that the problem is not one which we pass onto future generations.

Satanic Mechanic said...

If we reprocess fuel and use breeder reactors, we will have enough fuel. Let me tell you how much energy you get from uranium- take a look at your pinky from the upper knuckle where your nail is. That is the size of a fuel pellet that is stuck into a fuel rod. Only 7% (on average) of that pellet is Uranium-235. The energy released from the pellet is the equivalent to the energy released by burning five 70-gallon drums of oil.
Not much waste is generated from a nuclear power reactor; most of the waste that you see and hear on the news is from weapons enrichment. All methods of power generation create waste. Even hydroelectric power creates a lot of waste oil because they use it to lubricate the turbines.
Remember we are trying to generate a lot of reliable power cheaply. Until we can create a sustained nuclear fusion reaction, we will have to rely on nuclear fission power, which is a hell of a lot cleaner than a coal-fire plant.
If you want renewable power, go with a breeder reactor, it will take spent fuel, bombarded by neutrons and will become an isotope of plutonium, which is usable for power purposes.

Bruce Heimbigner said...

With the use of breeder reactors, nuclear power is very sustainable with a 4000 to 8000 year supply fuel. Plenty of time for technology to come up with alternatives.