So I’ve written a little on climate change, and tweeted/posted on climate change, talked to people etc and one reoccurring theme seems to keep coming up and seems to cause the biggest rifts between climate change activists, climate deniers and even those who know better!
So lets look at a few arguments and dispel a few myths.
Baseload seems to be universally dismissed as something that will go away at some point in the future… or as something I haven’t quite worked out what people think it is…
Very simply base load is:
The amount of electricity that is always needed, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, regardless of night or day, regardless of winter or summer etc.
… it is NOT anything else. Follows are some simple questions and answers that will upset a few of the Greenies (I, the author, am one.) “Supplied” below means all the time, every day of the year.
Can baseload be supplied by solar or wind? NO
Can baseload be supplied by batteries or pumped hydro? NO
Can baseload be supplied by hydro? Maybe
What can base load be supplied by? Coal, Gas, Oil, Geo-Thermal, Nuclear.
Smartgrids are the supposed technological solution. In reality, they are if they are done right, but unfortunately there are many people and policies that make the smart grids not so smart.
A Smartgrid is a power grid with the ability of all generators (large and small – including home solar panels etc) to all work together to ensure the power requirements at any one time are satisfied to maintain reliability and stability. (more on it over here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_grid )
What does it mean for the consumer?
Reliable power that is stable (in theory) but nothing else.
What does it mean for a producer (someone pushing power into the grid)?
A central control (or localised control hub) will tell your generator (whether it be an inverter supplied by batteries (like a Tesla Powerwall II), rooftop solar, or even a gas/diesel/petrol generator) to stop pushing as much power into the grid or push more depending on what is needed.
This means if your power is not needed, you won’t get paid for it, regardless of the number of solar panels on your rooftop. What it does mean though is if you have batteries that can supply the grid, when power is not needed your batteries will be charged up, and if power is needed and the sun is not shining the batteries can supply the extra power for the grid… or the extra power can be sent to power the pumps of a pumped hydro system, or (in theory) to charge someone else’s batteries.
This means with a smartgrid and enough people supplying it with storable solutions it is possible to reduce the baseload requirement in your area…. oops there we go, this is where the confusion happens.. it does *NOT* *REDUCE* the BASELOAD .. it supplies part of it!
Pulling that concept out further if you have enough people with enough storage and generation to cover the baseload requirement then you have baseload supplied without additional generation needed. It’s still there, still a requirement, but you have it covered… this is very very different from eliminating baseload!
Power generation types (carbon and not.)
The rooftop panels on houses, ‘farms’ of them supplying MegaWatts of power. “Free Power from the Sun” … well people got news for you. After 25 years they are expected to be at 80% their original efficiency. They are currently NOT recyclable for the major component. This means you have a 10kw set of panels on your house, in 25 years time you have a set of 8kw panels – this is assuming you keep them clean. If the projected degredation is linear (ie a straight line and not a curve) it means in 125 years time they will be generating 0kw (zero, nothing, nada!).. Great, I won’t be around to worry, but what of my children or my children’s children? Huge amount of non-recycable materials that no one can do anything with!
Carbon wise, no emissions, but carbon is put into the atmosphere creating and transporting/installing them.
We’ve all seen windmills, the precursor to the wind turbine, they’ve been around for hundreds of years, but as with all things, they wear out. They have bearings that wear out, they have blades that will degrade and eventually need to be replaced… They also have an environmental impact, though the sound of them does NOT cause cancer regardless of what the President of the United States says.. Are they recyclable? I don’t know the be honest, parts of them are, but parts are not.
Carbon wise, no emissions, but carbon is put into the atmosphere creating, maintaining and transporting/installing them.
Despite what you see in the media (all types) this is currently one of the safest power generation types and has the fewest deaths/illnesses relating to it (along with wind and solar.) It is usually depicted in the media with the first image of a mushroom cloud from a nuclear warhead, which instills FUD (Fear, Uncertainty (of it’s safety) and Denial (from using it)). The fact of the matter is nuclear bombs and nuclear power use completely different types of technology and the only link is you can dilute the fuel used in bombs for use to generate power… in fact this is the very reason for the Megatons for MegaWatts deal between Russia and the USA where Russia decommissioned 20,000 nuclear warheads and the Uranium was mixed with other things to make it suitable for use in the USA’s nuclear reactors to generate power. Yes you got that right, the disarming of nuclear weapons resulted in cleaner power.. how about that for recycling!
Nuclear power is also the only true ‘renewable’ power generation method, as the fuel is naturally occurring and continuously being replaced deep in our oceans. We have enough for billions of years.
Carbon wise, no emissions, but carbon is put into the atmosphere creating, maintaining and transporting the fuel for them. Expected lifetime of modern reactors is 60 years.
The amount of power generated from fuel ratio is the average person will use 1 kilo of fuel through out their whole life (70 years).. thats a bag of sugar or 2.2 pounds for those that don’t know what a kilo is… per person, for 70 years of normal electricity….
Waste has to be stored, but everyone forgets it (currently) is being dug up, already radioactive, the waste can go back in the same hole it was taken out of (in theory.) There are waste solutions!
The cleanest of all the fossil fuel generation. Also with availability (at the moment) one of the cheapest, but as more is used, soon it will be expensive!
Carbon wise, lower carbon emissions, but carbon is put into the atmosphere creating, maintaining them. Expected lifetime of modern power stations is 60 years.
The not the cleanest of all the fossil fuel generation… but probably the most expensive, especially as it’s a finite resource that is rapidly running out and it is needed for many other things.
Carbon wise, a significant producer of carbon emissions, carbon is also put into the atmosphere creating, maintaining them. Expected lifetime of modern power stations is 50 years, none as far as I know are being built, instead they are all being converted to gas or decommissioned.
The dirtiest of all the fossil fuel generation… but one of the cheapest (fuel cost), it is a finite resource that will run out. It has a massive ecological impact both for the production and burning of the coal, and by far has the most deaths relating to its production and use every year.
Carbon wise, it is the worst producer of carbon emissions (highest), carbon is also put into the atmosphere creating, maintaining them. Expected lifetime of modern power stations is 50-60 years.