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  (Source: Reuters/Nichola Groom)

Razer Technologies is creating new green collar jobs in construction and operations and helping to provide America with clean, homegrown power. Here builders finish the cooling tower's foundation for the upcoming plant.  (Source: Razer Technologies)

Engineers from Razer Technologies and United Technologies Corp collaborated to complete the plant design.  (Source: Razer Technologies)

The first 10.5 MW plant will be fully operational by the end of the year, with 7 more coming next year.  (Source: Razer Technologies)
Geothermal is among the hottest alternative energy technologies today.

The tiny Utah town of Minersville is suddenly finding itself a hot topic thanks to its upcoming geothermal plant.  Geothermal energy, the process of using the earth's heat to create and/or harvest steam to produce electricity, is among the most intriguing alternative energy technologies today.  With fossil fuel prices high and with support from big backers such as Google, things are looking good for geothermal energy.

Raser Technologies Inc. at its initial public offering five years was a simple electric motor business with little intention of revolutionizing the alternative energy business.  Somewhere along its journey over the last several years, it had a vision of creating profitable green geothermal power according to Reuters, a dream which has consumed it ever since.  Now it is on the verge of fulfilling that dream.  Construction is nearly finished on the company's plant in tiny Minersville, which will go online later this year providing electricity to 9,000 homes in Anaheim, California. 

The company has no plans of stopping there -- it will complete construction on 7 more plants next year and expects to be turning a profit by the end of next year.  Chief Executive Brent Cook announced the news in an interview at Raser's Provo, Utah, headquarters last Thursday, stating, "After these first couple of plants come online I believe we will be cash flow positive."

While geothermal requires more complex infrastructure and takes more time to deploy, it has an advantage over wind and solar in that it provides steady power around the clock. 

Mr. Cook acknowledges that there were some initial difficulties when the company decided to transition into alternative energy mode in 2005.  He states, "In the case of geothermal... the execution of that plan is all in our hands.  The licensing side of our business requires convincing some other company to take the technology and deploy it into their marketplace, and that's a lot harder to predict."

At first the company tried to acquire geothermal startup Amp Resources; however, the deal fell through with Amp being bought instead by Italian energy company Enel SpA.  In the aftermath of the failed deal, Mr. Cook took the reins and went to work acquiring land leases and capital.  He found a big partner in Merrill Lynch, which signed on to finance up to 155 MW of Razer plants, including a $44M USD investment in the first plant.  Razer Technologies also partnered with United Technologies Corp, which is providing the power generation units. 

The key to Razer's completed approach is to build smaller geothermal plants capable of being constructed within a few months.  This makes the technology more growth-competitive with solar and wind installations.  Mr. Cook describes, "Geothermal usually takes much longer to be built. We've tried to go with an off-the-shelf type of plant design.  It's like Legos that come together."

The plants are expandable if additional capacity is needed.  The company also is unique in that it uses lower temperature water, using steam from a liquid with a lower steam point than water, thus allowing energy harvest from hot water below the 212 degrees Fahrenheit boiling point.  Mr. Cook says, "That allows us to exploit sites that frankly were passed over or thought to not be useful 25 or 30 years ago.  We are going back through and tying up a lot of those opportunities."

With over 200,000 acres in six Western states, Razer Technologies has plenty of room to expand.  Mr. Cook is confident his plant can beat one of its main fossil fuel competitors -- natural gas.  He concludes, "We're seeing a lot of utilities recognize that geothermal is much more competitive than natural gas and has zero fuel risk exposure."

The first plant will produce 10.5 MW when complete.  The projected plant lifetime is 35 years.  



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Need bigger plants
By FITCamaro on 9/2/08, Rating: 0
RE: Need bigger plants
By FITCamaro on 9/2/2008 10:33:54 AM , Rating: 2
One question I have now that I noticed it, why is the plant's lifetime only 35 years?


RE: Need bigger plants
By GreenyMP on 9/2/2008 10:48:43 AM , Rating: 5
After 35 years they will have cooled to core of the earth to the point that it can no longer boil the liquid.

That was complete crap, but it sounded pretty reasonable to me.


RE: Need bigger plants
By snownpaint on 9/3/2008 1:09:18 PM , Rating: 3
That's what I was thinking..
<sarcasm>
What happens as they cool the molten spinning core and disrupt our magnetosphere. Then we will have to live underground as our sun burns off our surface and radiates all life. All for Geothermal energy.

just in case you missed it <sarcasm>


RE: Need bigger plants
By fri2219 on 9/2/2008 11:32:34 AM , Rating: 2
One major reason is that the extremophiles living in the cracks of hydrothermal systems like "eating" the metal in the pipes, especially chromium, tungsten, nickel, and iron.

Another is that the groundwater and underlying magma move around and the lifetime of the source beds is limited.


RE: Need bigger plants
By retrospooty on 9/2/2008 11:47:47 AM , Rating: 5
Damn Extremophiles... Wait... Are they liberal or conservative?


RE: Need bigger plants
By michael2k on 9/2/2008 12:12:24 PM , Rating: 5
They are extreme!


RE: Need bigger plants
By spuddyt on 9/2/2008 1:56:07 PM , Rating: 2
yeah, but are they eco terrorists or just plain old nationalists?


RE: Need bigger plants
By yaju on 9/2/2008 4:06:31 PM , Rating: 2
geothermal power production uses temperatures (approx 200 Celsius) that can be found in rocks a few kilometers below ground. Electricity is generated by pumping high pressure water down a borehole into the heat zone. The water travels through fractures in the rock, capturing the heat of the rock until it is forced out of a second borehole as superheated water, which is then converted into electricity using a binary steam power plant system.
Since the natural sources are limited there is limitation in implementation of large projects.though some of you would say that its applicable Hot Dry Rock Geothermal Energy system and not to Enhanced Geothermal Systems(here we force pump the water) ,still availability of natural fissures or geysers for such project is limited.
Generally such projects have operating life cycle of 20-40 yrs.The main reason for short life cycle is fall in temperature at earths crust. A small drop in temp abt 5 degree can reduce the efficiency of plant from 35% to 20%.But the reserves can be utilized again once the temp rises again(20-60 yrs).


RE: Need bigger plants
By JoeOnRoute66 on 9/2/2008 11:45:17 PM , Rating: 2
Another issue that seems to rarely come up with natural gas production or geothermal plants, radioactive materials must be dealt with. This will vary from site to site, but the high temperatures enhance leaching these contaminants and require additional waste handling.


RE: Need bigger plants
By Durrr on 9/2/2008 10:36:51 AM , Rating: 2
It's a modular design, so adding on shouldn't be an issue. I think the biggest deal right now is that they need to prove their technology to investors before delving into huge capital expenditures. As long as the rollout of this and the subsequent plants goes well, there's no reason why it shouldn't do well.


RE: Need bigger plants
By BBeltrami on 9/2/2008 7:49:26 PM , Rating: 3
There's nothing new or innovative about Geothermal. Jason would never tell you... but one of the first Geothermal Plants built in the US was constructed by UNION OIL Co. in the late '70's in Geyserville Ca. Yes, that's right, Big Oil not just investing in alternative energy, but leading the way 20 years before the term "Green" was even coined.

At the time construction was completed, the plant was capable of producing over 600Mw and Union Oil believed that by 1990 Geothermal would account for 25% of California's electricity.

Today: Union Oil does not exist. As of 2006 Geothermal accounts for only 4% of California's Electricity. I guess that's progress, California Style.

However, I enjoy the irony (or is it parody?) that Jason Mick and the Environmental front are parroting 1970's Big Oil. What's old is new again! Priceless.


RE: Need bigger plants
By Regs on 9/3/2008 5:40:32 PM , Rating: 2
I thought it was Pacific Gas and Electric, now currently owned by Pacific Gas and Electric ?


RE: Need bigger plants
By JustTom on 9/2/2008 10:42:23 AM , Rating: 5
Of course they should compete with solar and wind. Geothermal is being touted as green energy so solar and wind are its natural competitors. If solar is truly a joke compared to geothermal what better to compete against?


RE: Need bigger plants
By AntiM on 9/2/2008 10:47:38 AM , Rating: 2
I see only one small problem with these geothermal plants. Geothermal is feasible where magma is close to the surface of the Earth; such hotspots are usually geologically unstable. It's still worth pursuing though.

I wonder how many geothermal plants it would take to extract enough heat from the Earth's core to significantly cause it's temperature to drop and cause a worldwide catastrophe ?


RE: Need bigger plants
By boogle on 9/2/2008 11:15:59 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I wonder how many geothermal plants it would take to extract enough heat from the Earth's core to significantly cause it's temperature to drop and cause a worldwide catastrophe ?


Given that you're drilling nowhere near the Earth's core (basically at least 200km short), then I would imagine it'll never happen regardless of how many you dril - at least with regards to temperature. I suppose you could riddle the crust with so many holes it becomes unstable like a mine shaft - but that would take a massive amount of digging. In short, theoretically geothermal could provide 'infinite' power for everyone worldwide.

In the short term, geothermal is more exciting than fusion reactors. In the long term, fusion reactors will be more useful since they spit out all sorts of rare heavy metals and can be used to power things that are mobile.

Additionally Geothermal doesn't need to be right next to magma anymore, which is good news and why Google is investing in it.


RE: Need bigger plants
By voyager2084 on 9/2/2008 3:54:39 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
In the short term, geothermal is more exciting than fusion reactors. In the long term, fusion reactors will be more useful since they spit out all sorts of rare heavy metals and can be used to power things that are mobile.


I'm pretty sure that fusion reactors don't produce any heavy metals. You might be able to activate some elements with neutrons and get them to decay into some product you want, but you definitely aren't going to get wholesale production of heavy metals from lighter elements.


RE: Need bigger plants
By mattclary on 9/2/2008 11:39:56 AM , Rating: 2
I don't have the source handy, but pretty sure I recently read that we can easily reach useful depths pretty much anywhere in the world with today's technology. The rock only needs to be a couple hundred degrees, not magma.


RE: Need bigger plants
By mattclary on 9/2/2008 11:41:26 AM , Rating: 2
Should have looked first... Here is a good reference.

http://www.dailytech.com/Google+Bets+Big+on+Geothe...


RE: Need bigger plants
By Polynikes on 9/2/2008 1:41:14 PM , Rating: 2
I'm guessing a helluva lot more than we'll ever manage to extract.


RE: Need bigger plants
By BBeltrami on 9/2/2008 7:57:13 PM , Rating: 2
We humans can't even put out coal mine fires. Heck, we can't even redirect lava flows on the surface and the question of extinguishing the earth's magma core has come up? Just take 30 seconds and consider the scope of the question. It's a bit like suggesting that poking a soldering iron into the ocean will cause it to evaporate...


RE: Need bigger plants
By rcc on 9/2/2008 12:29:23 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
And its fuel source never runs out


Don't be silly. It leeches heat from the interior of the Earth. Eventually these plants will cool the core and we'll all die. It's a finite source.

Of course, it's a vaaaaaast finite source. : )

As noted, it's better than wind or solar from a reliability standpoint, and who knows what those are going to do the the environment.

I'm mostly just playing here. But only mostly.


RE: Need bigger plants
By FITCamaro on 9/2/2008 2:30:01 PM , Rating: 2
Its a limitless resource for as long as we'll care.


RE: Need bigger plants
By AssBall on 9/2/2008 3:49:32 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, it will last about long as the sun does. Let's petition Al Gore to hold international conventions to "save the sun".


RE: Need bigger plants
By mles1551 on 9/3/2008 12:15:36 AM , Rating: 2
And thats exactly what they used to think about oil.


RE: Need bigger plants
By AssBall on 9/4/2008 10:51:14 AM , Rating: 2
That's what I STIL think about oil.

Look at how much oil per capita a country like France uses for power.

Look at how quickly in the last two decades alternative energies have advanced.

Look at how many trillions of barrels we could very well still have sitting in the ground.
I highly doubt we will "run out" of oil before anyone cares, except maybe people who gobble up the junk fed to them by the media.


RE: Need bigger plants
By Sulphademus on 9/2/2008 3:47:49 PM , Rating: 2
Similarly, all these windmills are going to be obstructing and slowing the earth's natural airflow, reducing the environmental balance of wind and could cause huge devisatation. In 100 years when half the USA (the mid-section) is nothing but windmills, the wind will stop all together and then what?!


RE: Need bigger plants
By Omega215D on 9/2/2008 6:20:21 PM , Rating: 2
Start a butterfly farm. Then we'll see if there truly is a butterfly effect. =D


RE: Need bigger plants
By Quantem on 9/24/2008 12:33:47 PM , Rating: 2
Fire up the windmills again in "blow" mode, using geothermally derived electricity.


RE: Need bigger plants
By iNGEN on 9/27/2008 2:02:27 PM , Rating: 2
That's actually something I have thought of, but never seen actual calculations. Typical horizontal axis prop type windfarms must actually convert only a small proportion of wind energy into electricity, but how much is it actually?

Same goes for the thermal effects of light hitting the earth.

Wouldn't a world powered by Wind and Solar have negative environmental ramifications of its own?


RE: Need bigger plants
By rcc on 10/2/2008 3:48:30 PM , Rating: 2
Shhhhhhh. Don't get them started, or thinking. It's dangerous.


RE: Need bigger plants
By nah on 9/2/2008 12:50:56 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
solar is a joke compared to geothermal


Everything was once a joke--the satiricist Lucan joked in the 2nd century AD Rome of men going to the moon--whether all jokes remain so, is a perspective which only time can tell. Solar is not cost effective--but that's no joke ;)
In any event--
quote:
Grid parity, the point at which photovoltaic electricity is equal to or cheaper than grid power, is achieved first in areas with abundant sun and high costs for electricity such as in California and Japan.[68] Grid parity has been reached in Hawaii and other islands that otherwise use diesel fuel to produce electricity. George W. Bush has set 2015 as the date for grid parity in the USA.[69][70] General Electric's Chief Engineer predicts grid parity without subsidies in sunny parts of the United States by around 2015. Other companies predict an earlier date[71]: the cost of solar power will be below grid parity for more than half of residential customers and 10% of commercial customers in the OECD, as long as grid electricity prices do not decrease through 2010 [72]. The fully-loaded cost (cost not price) of solar electricity is $0.25/kWh or less in most of the OECD countries. Within three years, the fully-loaded cost is likely to fall below $0.15/kWh for most of the OECD and reach $0.10/kWh in sunnier regions. These cost levels are driving three emerging trends [73]:

Does anyone know the costs of geothermal power in terms of cents per KW-hr


RE: Need bigger plants
By jbartabas on 9/2/2008 1:03:09 PM , Rating: 1
Nature just published a short review of the various sources of alternative energy here:

http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080813/full/454816...

They cite a report from MIT that puts the cost of geothermal at US$0.05, for the best sources. Their review also insist on the disparity of the quality of the various sources, so this cost estimate is probably to take with a grain of salt as more abundant sources put the cost at much higher levels.


RE: Need bigger plants
By masher2 (blog) on 9/2/2008 2:26:58 PM , Rating: 3
> "the fully-loaded cost [is] $0.25/kWh ...Within three years, the fully-loaded cost is likely to fall below $0.15/kWh..."

In the 1970s, I remember being taught that solar would be cost competitive within 10 years, and eliminate the use of coal entirely by the year 2000.

Geothermal is an alternative energy source that actually has some promise, especially in certain areas. Solar still requires several major technological advances to become practical. Predicting those advances is eseentially impossible. It might be 3 years or 300.


RE: Need bigger plants
By nah on 9/2/2008 3:17:25 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Solar still requires several major technological advances to become practical. Predicting those advances is eseentially impossible.


Costs have come down -from 100 USD/watt in 1971 to around 9 for an entire system now--its even cheaper when its part of a large system ( around USD 5). And of course I'm only talking about PV--solar thermal is way cheaper--with around 88 GWth installed worldwide. I hardly call that not progress.Even if PVs costs fall by only 75 % in the next 30 years--it would be competitive even in cloudy regions with minimum solar insolation (eg parts of Northern Europe ). In any event, a lot of things are speculation--the Rubbiatron, for one. Designs are one thing, implementation is another. Just out of curiosity--why aren't newer Ribbiatron like designs being implemented in places like Brazil, India and China, which are going ahead with building new plants.

Ofcourse there's an element of myopia here as well. In countries like Bangladesh where the government fails to provide electricity to many of its people--large NGOs have stepped in to provide 20-100Watt systems to villages whose families used to rely on cow dung, leaves, grass, and kerosene. For these families--already at over 200,000 and projected to pass a million by 2012--it's a God-send. Solar PV is actually cheaper than kerosene and the other stuff that they use--as well as being less polluting and harmful to their health.


RE: Need bigger plants
By masher2 (blog) on 9/2/2008 5:00:00 PM , Rating: 2
> "Just out of curiosity--why aren't newer Ribbiatron like designs being implemented in places like Brazil, India and China, which are going ahead with building new plants."

Those nations lack the engineering infrastructure to build new designs. China, for instance, is building pretty much exact copies of existing French PWR nuclear reactors.

> "Even if PVs costs fall by only 75 % in the next 30 years--it would be competitive even in cloudy regions with minimum solar insolation "

This is wrong on a couple counts. First of all, solar is about 4X as expensive as conventional sources today, even in sunny locations like AZ and FL. In poorly sited areas of Northern Europe, the AF is about half that, which doubles the cost again.

Secondly, that figure is assuming a peak shaving role -- trying to use solar when the sun isn't available means energy storage, and that ups the cost much further.

If, in 30 years, energy storage is an order of magnitude cheaper *and* the panels have dropped 75%, you'll see widespread implementation in sunny regions. But I wouldn't hold my breath.

> "large NGOs have stepped in to provide 20-100Watt systems to villages whose families used to rely on cow dung, leaves, grass, and kerosene"

Actions like this is one of my biggest problems with "the movement". Denying these people cheap energy is keeping them in the third world. Those villages should be getting power from coal or (much better) nuclear. For the cost of a thousand of those small solar stations, an actual power plant could be built that would not only provide 10,000X the power -- but provide it all the time ,day or night.


RE: Need bigger plants
By nah on 9/3/2008 12:05:20 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
solar is about 4X as expensive as conventional sources today, even in sunny locations like AZ and FL.

Correct--but the price of electricity will go up--in nominal terms.By 2020, it will probably be around 11 cents/KW-hr.Solar costs will fall.

quote:
If, in 30 years, energy storage is an order of magnitude cheaper *and* the panels have dropped 75%, you'll see widespread implementation in sunny regions.

This is what I meant--energy storage is part of the total PV package--and the costs of batteries are falling--as an example see Li- ion batteries

quote:
Those villages should be getting power from coal or (much better) nuclear. For the cost of a thousand of those small solar stations, an actual power plant could be built that would not only provide 10,000X the power -- but provide it all the time ,day or night.

Again, correct--but who will provide them with the necessary capital funds to do it--until that happens theory will remain theory--like the Rubbiatron. It doesn't matter how efficient the design is, how much uranium it can save, how safe it is--if nations don't go ahead and implement it (I'm assuming these advanced designs are not given out freely to anyone who asks ). Also, can you imagine countries like Iran being ever given any design, no matter how safe--even though they have their own reactors. I could add other countries to that list--countries like North Korea who have plants in working condition


RE: Need bigger plants
By randomly on 9/3/2008 3:20:32 AM , Rating: 2
The capital to put in a coal or nuclear plant and the required distribution grid is not available. At least the 20-100W village systems actually get implemented, and don't require any further infrastructure.

The ability to incrementally deploy wind and solar systems as capital becomes available also makes them much more appealing than say a nuclear plant even though the cost per watt may be considerably higher.

Wind and solar also don't require fuel or waste disposal. They are not subject to price fluctuations or fuel availability issues be they economic or political. They are also fairly low tech and do not require highly trained personnel to operate. Price per Kwh isn't everything.

Nuclear itself still has not decisively solved it's waste disposal and proliferation/security issues. The very high nuclear plant capital costs and 10 year construction times has also put a damper on nuclear as a solution. It's in need of some technological breakthroughs of it's own to make it attractive again. The proliferation and security issues with Nuclear are still a major bugbear that hangs over the technology.

As long as there are peaks to be shaved and grid capacity to absorb the variable energy generation from Solar and Wind you will see more and more of it implemented. This is a good thing because it also provides the economics that enables driving the costs of these technologies down to make them truly competitive on the energy market.

Hopefully geothermal will pan out as an economically competitive and widely available alternative, it has much to recommend it over a nuclear solution.


RE: Need bigger plants
By masher2 (blog) on 9/3/2008 10:31:38 AM , Rating: 1
> "The capital to put in a coal or nuclear plant and the required distribution grid is not available. "

If you can afford a few thousand of these solar stations at nearly a million a pop, you can build a coal or nuclear plant instead.

> "They are also fairly low tech and do not require highly trained personnel to operate"

Per-MW generated, wind power requires more skilled technicians than nuclear. There's a substantial amount of maintenance required on several thousand windmills. And it must be well-trained labor, too, given you're working with massive moving parts, several hundred feet in the air.

The newest nuclear reactors essentially run themselves. You need a couple engineers or so per watch, plus a hundred more lower-skilled labor. But considering a single installation can provide the power of thousands of windmills, enough to power nearly an entire nation like Bangladesh, the actual amount of skilled labor needed is lower.

> "Nuclear itself still has not decisively solved it's waste disposal..."

Of course it has. Every nuclear plant in the US has been storing its own waste on site for the past half-century without problem, and could continue to do with for centuries more. The amount of waste is incredibly small. . . and it would be ten times smaller still, if we reprocessed, and reburnt our fuel multiple times.

We have a perfectly good waste disposal site in Yucca Mt, but the environmentalists refuse to let us use it. Even simpler than that would be to just reprocess out all the plutonium, then toss the waste into the deep sea. Compared to the amount of natural radioactivity already in the ocean, we could do that for 5,000 years and still not measurably change the background level.


RE: Need bigger plants
By randomly on 9/3/2008 2:35:37 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
If you can afford a few thousand of these solar stations at nearly a million a pop, you can build a coal or nuclear plant instead.


That's my point, there are many areas and situations where you CANNOT afford $1 Billion in one chunk to build a nuclear or coal plant It's those areas where small solar and windpower systems give those people at least something.

quote:
Per-MW generated, wind power requires more skilled technicians than nuclear. There's a substantial amount of maintenance required on several thousand windmills. And it must be well-trained labor, too, given you're working with massive moving parts, several hundred feet in the air.

Sure there is maintenance on solar and windpower systems, but it is not nearly as complex as nuclear systems and does not require as broad an educational background. An individual windmill is relatively simple and once you know how to handle one you know how to handle them all, they are just identical systems replicated over and over. Nor do mistakes have as nearly as far reaching impact that mistakes in nuclear plants have. Nor do you have the security concerns.
Would you rather trust a wind energy system to a third world country, or a nuclear reactor?

quote:
Of course it has. Every nuclear plant in the US has been storing its own waste on site for the past half-century without problem, and could continue to do with for centuries more. The amount of waste is incredibly small. . . and it would be ten times smaller still, if we reprocessed, and reburnt our fuel multiple times.


That's not a disposal solution, that's just storing it till we can figure out what to do with it. Just the high level waste alone is accumulating at something like 12,000,000 Kg a year. Relatively speaking that's not a huge amount but you can't just keep storing it in spent fuel pools near the reactor. You have concerns with accidental releases, theft, sabotage, etc.
Yucca mountain is a great spot, but you have no assurances that the waste will stay there for many 100,000s of years safely without getting into the water table or some other unforseen avenue. If it was only for 10,000 years I'd be a lot more confident. We don't yet have the knowledge or confidence to be sure about things on such long time scales yet.

Burial at sea is fool hardy, just because you don't think it will end up in the food chain or get dispersed by some unknown chemical, biological, or seismic pathway doesn't mean you're right. That avenue would need a lot more research.

If you burned the waste in a fast reactor to burn up the actinides you'd be left with only the short half life isotopes and the very long ones so the radioactivity would decay away to safe levels much more quickly. That kind of waste I could see putting into Yucca mountain.

But that brings up the other problem, nuclear proliferation. Fast reactors (breeders) and fuel reprocessing can reduce the waste disposal problem tremendously but you have much more danger of readily available weapons grade bomb material availability. Unfortunately it also raises the cost of nuclear power compared to the relatively cheap freshly mined uranium fuel. If the nuclear power industry had to pay more than the unrealistic flat rate of $0.01 per Kwh for waste disposal that they do now there might be some more development of those technologies.

Unfortunately it's clear that there will always be some segment of the world population that would be more than happy to build their own nuclear or dirty bombs and use them. You cannot sweep proliferation dangers under the rug anymore than you can the long term waste disposal problem. What is the motivation that drives fusion power research? It's certainly not the economics, nuclear power will be more cost effective for the foreseeable future. No the draw for Fusion power is solving the waste and proliferation problems of nuclear power.

As to the nuclear plants that practically run themselves? I'm not aware of any currently deployed commercial reactors in that category.
Sure there are the sodium cooled fast reactors, pebble bed designs, and molten salt reactors that are intrinsically fail safe with thermal shutdown but none of those technologies will be ready for commercial deployment for another 20 years.
I think we're talking about what are the best options for power generation that can be built now. Wind, solar, Geothermal all have attractive features that make them the best solutions in a variety of niches. No they are not a panacea but they are economically and technologically feasible and realistic and improving rapidly.

Should we keep developing nuclear? Absolutely. I would love to see a lot more money thrown at working out the problems on GEN IV reactor designs, thorium fuel cycles, waste disposal etc. But until then you have to make your decisions on power generation on the pros and cons of each technology. That includes the economics, the capital investment, the time scales, the environmental impacts, politics, human nature etc.

I have a lot of faith that if it makes economic sense, then people will put money into it, and if doesn't they wont. Right now nuclear doesn't seem to be attracting too much money. That may change in the next 20 years.


By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 9/3/2008 11:43:54 AM , Rating: 2
Why only "nearly 100% of the time?" Isn't it available 24/7?


Meh
By therealnickdanger on 9/2/2008 10:42:15 AM , Rating: 1
The only geothermal I'm interested in is a geothermal heat pump for my new house. Combined with a small windmill out back and a few solar shingles, I believe I can live "off the grid" for most of the year.

Back all that up with nuclear power - the best alternative energy source - and we'll be happy for decades to come.




RE: Meh
By Spivonious on 9/2/2008 11:52:50 AM , Rating: 2
Too bad the costs only really warrant geothermal for new construction. By the time the system paid for its installation, it would need to be replaced.


RE: Meh
By mattclary on 9/2/2008 12:35:52 PM , Rating: 3
It depends on whether you count foreign wars as part of the cost.


RE: Meh
By FITCamaro on 9/2/2008 2:31:47 PM , Rating: 1
I'd rate you down if I could.


RE: Meh
By Solandri on 9/2/2008 3:11:47 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure it depends on local conditions, but the geothermal heat pump system I priced for my previous business for a renovation would've paid for itself in about 3 years. All it is is excavating a bunch of dirt, burying a bunch of water-filled tubes, and covering them up again.


RE: Meh
By Spuke on 9/2/2008 5:39:05 PM , Rating: 2
Where's a good source to learn about geothermal systems for the home? Thanks.


RE: Meh
By Solandri on 9/2/2008 9:19:07 PM , Rating: 2
Wiki article on the technology:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geothermal_heat_pump

For getting it installed in your home, I would suggest contacting LEED or visiting their web site. It's more a program for builders and contractors, but they should be able to hook you up with someone in your area who installs these things:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leadership_in_Energy_...
http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=44

And be sure you do a cost/break-even calculation. Like I said, it's dependent on your area (electricity costs, year-round air temperature highs and lows).


RE: Meh
By 16nm on 9/2/2008 10:22:44 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
geothermal [...] with a small windmill out back and a few solar shingles, I believe I can live "off the grid"

I would be really interested in having a system that produced MORE power than I needed, contributing to the grid and producing a little extra income. If it could pay for itself in 5 years then I would be quite happy.


Its a start.
By Amiga500 on 9/2/2008 11:00:37 AM , Rating: 2
Don't be too hard on it. Iceland shows what is possible. The US does have the Yellowstone super volcano so there is potential.

From little acorns...




RE: Its a start.
By retrospooty on 9/2/2008 11:49:16 AM , Rating: 2
I say we tap that tasty hot little hole =)


RE: Its a start.
By menace on 9/2/2008 12:29:27 PM , Rating: 5
Yes by all means. We should exploit Yellowstone's plentiful resources and cover it with steam plants and power lines to have access to this "green" energy. Yet ANWR is much too precious of a treasure to sacrifice a few thousand acres to extract ten billion barrels of oil.


Green Collar
By Ringold on 9/2/2008 1:14:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Razer Technologies is creating new green collar jobs in construction and operations and helping to provide America with clean, homegrown power. Here builders finish the cooling tower's foundation for the upcoming plant.


I really hope this "green collar" empty rhetoric doesn't catch on. They are just construction workers, doing what construction workers do. Constructing. What's so special about what they are doing versus comrades perhaps down the street building a pharmacy? They're doing what their masters tell them, and both their masters are just building something that they hope provide some revenue. Jobs are jobs.

I know what the implied difference is; it's an attempt to attach moral superiority to one sort of job and/or investment over another. That's a little dangerous, and pointless. At least the blue collar / white collar description makes sense; low skill and high skill, roughly, or physical labor versus service based labor. No such distinction with 'green collar', just "Democrats say this is righteous." Politics in economics = great way to end up with things like corn ethanol.

Just because Democrats rant on about the 21st century equivalent of paying one group of men to dig a ditch and another to fill it doesn't mean the term needs to survive the political arena and enter mainstream use.




RE: Green Collar
By jbartabas on 9/2/2008 1:26:25 PM , Rating: 3
My guess is that there for many people using that expression, it's not about 'implied [...] moral superiority'. I think that the idea is that many types of blue collar jobs have been and will still be on a decreasing trend in western countries because many of these jobs have been shipped to cheap and unqualified manpower. However, a new kind of blue collar jobs could end up being created to reverse or slow this trend.

The idea of 'green collar' would be a new generation of blue collar jobs (as well as white collar jobs of course), that won't be shipped abroad as easily due to the higher requirements in terms of technical expertise and experience. In short, it is the workforce of the green economy, the new 'new economy'. Of course that's just how I see it.


RE: Green Collar
By Ringold on 9/2/2008 10:31:56 PM , Rating: 1
Higher requirements of technical expertise and experience... Looks to me in those pictures like they were doing little special. Perhaps different than building, say, a bank, but what's special about it? How can green collar be a reference to a new class of worker (which is what the distinction is between white and blue) when these workers are doing things similar to other workers that have existed for decades in some cases, millenia in others?

As for building the things, look around. Anything can be manufactured anywhere and imported. All that has to be done locally is installation. Africa has realized, to its consternation, that even construction/installation teams can be imported, used, then taken back home on infrastructure projects. All thats really left is maintenance and upkeep. Sorry. Wiping dirt off solar panels will not require an advanced degree, and those people behind the scenes remotely managing their output are probably agnostic to what process actually creates the power, be it solar or coal.

I am impressed however by your ability to reach so deep to pull a rationalization out, even if it makes absolutely no sense.


RE: Green Collar
By FITCamaro on 9/2/2008 2:36:23 PM , Rating: 2
Well said.


MIT Deep Geothermal study link
By voxelman on 9/2/2008 4:29:02 PM , Rating: 2
The following link addresses a comprehensive study conducted by MIT of the deep geothermal resources available in the USA:
http://geothermal.inel.gov/publications/future_of_...

In sum the deep geothermal energy resource is a vast, untapped one that is virtually unlimited and requires a comparatively small amount of technological development to utilize when compared to nuclear fusion.




RE: MIT Deep Geothermal study link
By themengsk176 on 9/2/2008 9:04:49 PM , Rating: 2
Now I have to wonder why we can't invest 200 billion into an immense, untapped domestic energy source like this..

Oh wait, there are still funny dark skinned people in the world that need to be bombed. I forgot.


By Solandri on 9/2/2008 9:27:40 PM , Rating: 2
I mentioned this when the original deep rock geothermal article came out. The big problem I see is that the oil companies are in the best position to develop and exploit the technology. They have the best drilling technology and experience in the world. So you're asking them to replace oil as an energy source, and you're asking environmentalists to support Big Oil. Personally I think it's the most promising energy source we have, but I have little expectations for its chances of success.


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