Replacing nuclear with wind power: Could it be done?

May 10, 2012, 6:00AMANS Nuclear CafeUlrich Decher

Many people would like it to be theoretically possible to replace nuclear power with wind power, since the wind is a free resource. The way that I would like to approach the topic is to not discuss the source of power, but to discuss this question from the perspective of "intermittency." Stating the question another way: Can an intermittent source replace a baseload power source for producing electricity? This question has nothing to do with how the electricity is generated, but everything to do with when the electricity is generated.

Tape review of Vermont Yankee power struggle debate

May 2, 2012, 6:00AMANS Nuclear CafeRod Adams

One of my college roommates served for a while as the manager of our football team; we would talk about the "tape review" sessions that were used by the team to evaluate past performance and to prepare for future opponents. Nuclear organizations, for their part, often have highly developed "lessons learned" programs and they practice the use of technical methods that have been successfully employed by other organizations.

Pretty Energy

January 11, 2012, 7:00AMANS Nuclear CafeSuzy Hobbs Baker

I recently joined the latest social media phenomenon-"Pinterest"-after some good old-fashioned peer pressure from my pals. Basically it is an online scrapbook, where you can collect images from all over the Internet and organize or "pin" them under categories like "recipes to try" or "ideas for the garden" on your personal page. There is very little text and not much user-to-user interaction. You just browse thousands of images of party dresses, wedding ideas, art, or whatever you or other users have uploaded to the site. Essentially it's a whole lot of eye candy.

In Defense of Eyesores

September 7, 2011, 6:00AMANS Nuclear CafeA. Priori

Have you ever heard the joke about the football player who was so ugly that, whenever he stepped onto the field, he was penalized 15 yards for illegal use of face? Okay, you probably haven't heard that one before, because I just made it up. The concept of ugliness, both in the abstract and as attributed to specific entities, has long inspired creativity; after all, it spurred me to develop that magnificent joke. (For you young folks out there, the term "illegal use of hands" used to be applied to something one shouldn't do in football, only in the last few years the terminology has changed, so . . . ahh, skip it.)

Can California meet its Renewable Energy Portfolio? Part III

August 11, 2011, 6:00AMANS Nuclear CafeUlrich Decher

The first two parts of this series (here and here) presented historical trends in electricity generation in California, and the growing use of in-state natural gas and imports of electricity from grids in neighboring states. They also showed that the use of "Unbundled Renewable Energy Credits" could meet the 33 percent renewable portfolio on paper, but may not benefit consumers in California with actual delivery of electricity.

Don't judge a book by its cover: Getting to the bottom of EIA monthly data

July 18, 2011, 6:00AMANS Nuclear CafePaul Wilson

Earlier this month, a number of sources drew attention to the Energy Information Administration's report on energy (published in June), with headlines suggesting a landmark accomplishment: "Domestic Renewable Energy Production Surpasses Nuclear." Even Rep. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, got in on the act, proclaiming that "The real energy renaissance happening in America is from the flourishing of renewable energy."

Fitting wind onto the electricity grid (part 2)

May 26, 2011, 6:00AMANS Nuclear CafeUlrich Decher

In a previous article from January-Fitting Wind onto the Electricity Grid-I presented the advantages and disadvantages of promoting wind power. The conclusion was that there were some advantages, but they were far outweighed by the disadvantages. The reason for having so many wind turbines on the grid is, I said, that it is motivated by politics, not by environmental or economic needs. In this article, I will further explore the reasons why wind turbines are being placed on the grid. In order to do that, I take a look at the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), a federal agency based in the Pacific Northwest, and the California Independent System Operator (ISO) balancing system.

Economic and emissions impacts of electric vehicles

February 15, 2011, 7:00AMANS Nuclear CafeUlrich Decher, Ph.D.

President Obama during his 2011 State of the Union address stated that we should have one million electric vehicles (EV) in the United States by 2015. The benefits of that would be to to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and to reduce emissions. These are worthy goals. This article will take look at the economic impact of using electric cars, their emissions, and their impact on the electric grid.

The economics of wind power

January 27, 2011, 7:00AMANS Nuclear CafeUlrich Decher, Ph.D.

It is often stated that since no one can charge money for the wind, wind-generated electricity is free. This is not true. A modern wind turbine, which can generate 2 megawatts of electricity (MWe) when the wind is blowing, costs about $3.5 million installed. Five hundred of these turbines installed at a wind farm, to be able to generate 1000 MWe, would cost $1.75 billion. Add in other costs, such as for operation and maintenance (O&M) and transmission lines, and the total sum could match the approximate $4 billion required to build a nuclear plant.