Part II of The Great Technology Race builds on last week’s piece which focused on the Secretary of Energy’s recent Energy Challenge to the national labs. Part I described the goals, guidelines and need for the race. This part conceptualizes the race.
The Great Technology Race – Part II - By Randy Brich -
Last week I pedaled my bike up Iron Mountain Road in the South Dakota Black Hills twice, crossed 3 creatively constructed pigtail bridges and passed through 2 tunnels carved in solid granite. While climbing the sinuous black ribbon under crystal clear skies, my mind wandered on this week’s column. After all pedal power, like wind power, is purely mechanical and if you stop pedaling while climbing a hill gravity wins. Similarly, if the wind quits blowing the wind tower stops generating electricity.
When I returned home and downloaded the 111 email messages in my Inbox one of them was Dan Yurman’s August 21, 2009 Idaho Samizat blog detailing the burgeoning interest in small nuclear reactors in the Pacific Northwest http://djysrv.blogspot.com/2009/08/nuclear-news-roundup-for-august-21-2009.html. The timing was impeccable – perfect for a virtual race to see which technology is the fastest – sort of like bicycle racing - only way more important.
To simplify the conceptual energy technology race let’s eliminate geothermal and biomass for obvious reasons and include the following technologies: wind, solar and nuclear. A further simplification: instead of a finish line of 1 terrawatt-hour let’s make it 1 gigawatt-hour, or 1e+9 watt-hours.
Wind: 2 MW nameplate capacity, $3.5 million per tower installed (http://www.windustry.org/how-much-do-wind-turbines-cost) or $1.75/watt, spacing estimates vary widely based on terrain and seasonally prevailing wind direction (6 – 16 turbines/mi^2); however, 60 acres per tower is in the ballpark.
Solar: 165 watts per panel, size 63.9” x 32.1” (14.24 ft^2) or 11.58 watts/ft^2, installed $7/watt (http://www.solarelectricsupply.com/Solar_Panels/Shell/shell-solar.html)
Nuclear: Hyperion Power Generation Module (HPGM) (www.hyperionpowergeneration.com)
27 MWe nameplate capacity, generation complex occupies approximately 1 acre. $25 million for the module and $25 million for the generation complex for a total of $50 million or $1.85/watt.
Normalizing solar and wind to the HPGM nameplate capacity of 27 MWe allows for a direct comparison among the competing technologies.
A cursory review of the data reveals that solar panels exert a moderate footprint at an exorbitant cost. Similarly, wind requires a large footprint but at a reasonable cost. However, both wind and solar take more than twice as long as nuclear to generate 1 GW-h of electricity. In comparison, from the standpoint of footprint, cost and generation time, nuclear fares the best.
Accordingly, in a simplistic conceptual race of competing electrical energy generation technologies, nuclear wins hands down while wind comes in second and solar a distant third. Given this clear cut advantage for nuclear - which contradicts the current Administration’s emphasis on renewables, a more involved modeling exercise is warranted.
Perhaps our very own taxpayer funded U.S. Department of Energy, equipped with their state-of-the-art high speed computers, could take a break from their infinite climate change modeling exercises and model all of the viable energy technologies. Only then could policy makers have some real data to make informed decisions. That would be a change we could all hope for.
About Randy BrichRandy graduated from South Dakota State University in 1978 with a M.S. in Biology. Following graduation he switched gears and began a lifelong study of ionizing radiation and its beneficial applications to humanity. During the course of his study he worked as a staff Health Physicist with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission specializing in the licensing and inspection of uranium recovery facilities. He transferred to the Department of Energy where he worked as a Health Physicist at the Nevada Operations Office and later to the Richland Operations Office specializing in environmental monitoring, dose reconstruction, worker protection, waste cleanup and systems biology.
Since then he has retired from the federal government and, after taking time out to build an energy efficient house near the Missouri River, has formed Diamond B Communications LLC. Diamond B Communications LLC uses a multimedia approach to explain complex energy resource issues to technical and non-technical audiences. He also guides for Dakota Bike Tours, the Relaxed Adventure Company, offering tours of the Badlands National Park, the Black Hills and Devils Tower National Monument.
If you have questions, comments, or know of a book that you think Randy should review Email Randy Brich>> email@example.com
when do we hear results from dr. chu and the DOE?
why not use the offering of modular, scaleable nuclear recently announced by Mcdermott, B&W?
theirs is backed by 50 years experience--outfitting our nuclear naval fleet.
Excellent questions. Please send me the relevant info/data and I'll include <> in a future installment of The Great Technology Race.
My email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The problem is B&W is selling the same old technology that got the nuclear industry into trouble in the first place...expensive and not the right size for distributed applications. NuScale and Hyperion are leading the market for small reactors.
your comments are not factual. i suggest some web search and reading. you obviously have done little.
several pertinent points--
how many products have NU SCALE and/or HYPERION sold, contracted for,shipped/installed?
what is their supply chain to support product, fuel, maintenance, warranty?
what financial performance data for either?
if you've answers for these 3 querries, i've just begun my list. please show "right of passage" for continued dialogue.
Fran is obviously just a shill for B&W...or maybe an employee?
i am neither of your choices. based upon absence of your responses to specific querries from me or any other factual discussion offered by you, i rest my case.
if you become serious about the subject, this publication has an excellent article on the B&W offering[dated early june 2009 i believe.]. but do make use of the materials on this site--re: Mcdermott and/or BABCOCK WILCOX. the B&W web site is good. or search the web.
I get that the race is for large scale utility...but wouldn't you agree that solar is a great option for individuals and businesses to personally offset their footprint in a low tech, low maintenance way that is nearly cradle to cradle without putting a potential target/bomb in their backyard...I hate to ponder what sort of ideas the terrorists would get with a bunch on nuclear plants on our soil. And, please don't get me wrong...I do support nuclear. (Just not singularly regardless of time, cost, and space…your race) I want to help create a more sustainable way for emerging countries to gain energy independence, as I believe their poverty directly effects our security...I would love to see the technology in solar become cost effective for everyone...especially in rural areas...let’s work on better battery technology..Ultra/super capacitor anyone???