2017-12-15

Techno-optimism

I'm feeling quite techno-optimistic at the moment. Don't worry, I'll fall back into cynical despair before too much longer. Just recently I've thought it implausible that we'll starve, and noted how well solar PV is doing.

f9

And of course there's watching SpaceX launches; another one today, from which my pic is taken. It is just after second stage separation. Stage 1 has turned and has begun its "boost-back burn". What I find cute is that you can see any of this; the pic is a screen capture of video from the ground, and the Falcon 9 is 80 km up. Other cuteness: they've stopped scrubbing the soot off the sides before reuse. What's also cute is to compare the landing with a recent Blue Origin effort: notice how BO pretty well stops well clear of the ground, has a think, and gently descents. Whereas SpaceX have calibrated themselves rather more carefully and simply slow to zero at the ground. BTW, I noticed that they were very careful to be very nice to NASA this time.

But just being optimistic is dull. Happily, there's a recent James Hansen post I can take mild exception to. The offending text is I believe that the legal approach will become increasingly important in the future, because the judiciary is relatively independent of fossil fuel interests. The Guardian did an article on this. I've expressed my doubts about solving GW through the courts before - funnily enough, also in the Hansen context - although with my characteristic lack of clarity. But I've also said more clearly - though I can't now find it - that approaching GW through the courts just seems like a bad idea to me, doomed to fail, doomed to polarise further an already far too polarised situation.

Refs


Whats wrong with the world
* adventofcode.com
* FOAAS: Roy Moore
* Lazard Levelized Cost of Energy 2017

10 comments:

David B Benson said...

The most economical way to proceed is to let the seaside cities and hovels drown.

So that is what will happen...

{That should cure your optimism.}

crandles said...

The most economical way to proceed is to let renewables replace ff plants at the end of their economic lives and use renewables for additional energy needs.

So that is largely what will happen.

As ff political power dwindles, we will get additional taxes on aviation fuel and so on.

Whether that will drown lots of cities or just vulnerable ones (eg low lying and on porous bedrock), may still be up for debate depending on how long the transitions take.

David B Benson said...

Carbon dioxide levels are about the same as during the mid-Pliocene with sea levels about 25 meters higher than now. So just not adding more carbon dioxide will eventually drown the lot.

William Connolley said...

> 25 meters higher than now

That is an issue, but the key to that is how fast it happens. I've several times said that I don't think we should care much about what happens beyond 2100; for example in morality and economics I pretty well agree with TF.

However, as usual, I can't find a post where I explicitly address this (probably because I gave it some amusing and non-obvious title).

crandles said...

Transition to renewables over 30 years or less is clearly the priority, then power is cheap enough (and no carbon involved) to do air capture and sequestration at fairly slow rate to avoid eventual 25m SLR over long term. Biofuels for the minority (a few percent?) uses that still need ff energy density.

Is 30 years too slow? Has too much irreversible West Antarctic ice sheet cliff instability collapse started by then? I am not sure, but suspect that we just don't know. In which case, a faster transition would reduce the risk.

How to speed the transition? If already cheaper, carbon tax increases the incentive to do things that would happen anyway. Might help but might also be distraction from other barriers. So my answer is more effort aimed at reducing barriers and costs that might make financial investment in the transition less attractive. It is now a capital investment problem!



Tom said...

The 'natural' time frame for energy transitions is between 50 and 100 years. (Wood to coal, check. Coal to oil, check. rough estimates only.) Trying to telescope such a transition from its natural time frame to something like 30 years seems to more than double the cost.

It is obviously a price that it is possible to pay. Is it the best use of our resources?

crandles said...

If the lifetime levelized cost of renewables comes down to lower than the operating expenses of ff plants, what do you suppose happens to the 'natural' time frame for the energy transition?

Is that pie in the sky or actually happening in some situations? As I have pointed out before but seems worth mentioning again:

https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-2017/

"As LCOE values for alternative energy technologies continue to decline, in some scenarios the full-lifecycle costs of building and operating renewables-based projects have dropped below the operating costs alone of conventional generation technologies such as coal or nuclear. This is expected to lead to ongoing and significant deployment of alternative energy capacity."

crandles said...

I think William commented somewhere that LCOE not including storage costs might be a problem. The additional cost for adding storage is now looking a lot less:

https://www.utilitydive.com/news/xcel-solicitation-returns-incredible-renewable-energy-storage-bids/514287/


The median price bid for wind-plus-storage projects in Xcel's all-source solicitation was $21/MWh, GTM Research's Shayle Kann noted on Twitter, and the median bid for solar-plus storage was $36/MWh. Previously, the lowest known bid for similar solar resources was $45/MWh in Arizona.

...

Importantly, Kann noted the addition of storage did not appear to raise bid prices as much as in the past. Wind energy with battery storage was bid at $21/MWh, just $3 higher than wind-only. In the Arizona deal last year, the addition of storage added about $15/MWh to the power purchase agreement bid.

Before the Arizona deal, the previous cheapest solar-plus-storage project was $0.11/kWh, set last July for a PPA between the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative and AES Corp. for a project that combined a 28 MW solar array with a 20 MW, 100 MWh battery system.

William Connolley said...

Hard to keep up with, but I admit it looks to be getting cheaper. Needs to be actually built and used in bulk to be properly evaluated, too.

crandles said...

Proper evaluation may take some time. But, for the moment:

http://www.smh.com.au/environment/all-happening-very-quickly-tesla-battery-sends-a-jolt-through-energy-markets-20180103-h0cxr7.html

"It appears to be far exceeding expectations," the LA Times trumpeted. "In the last three weeks alone, the Hornsdale Power Reserve [as the battery is known] has smoothed out at least two major energy outages, responding even more quickly than the coal-fired back-ups that were supposed to provide emergency power."

"The cost of Raise and Lower R-FCAS in SA in December 2016 was $502,320, compared with just $39,661 in December 2017, following the operation of the battery," he said.

"In recent times FCAS services have cost South Australians about $50 million each year," he says. "The battery is expected to significantly reduce the cost."

According to Mr McConnell, the battery dispatched about 2.5 gigawatt-hours of electricity while consuming about 3 gigawatt-hours, representing a round-trip efficiency of about 80 per cent.

"The performance to date has been very impressive. It's ramp-up from zero output to maximum in seconds (or less) is something that we haven't seen in the electricity market before," Mr McConnell said, noting the current fleet of "fast start" units take five to 10 minutes to synchronise to the grid and start providing power.

Cases of the Tesla battery responding without being "enabled" could also be part of its testing, and there may also be arrangements with the SA government separate from the FCAS market, he said.