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Researchers estimate there's potential for 1,800 TW of wind power

Using advanced computer simulations, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Carnegie Mellon University studied how much power could be feasibly extracted from atmospheric wind and what the effects on climate would be.

Many think that high-altitude wind could offer dramatic cost savings over ground-based wind by tapping into powerful currents like the jet stream.  Indeed the team, led by LLNL researcher Professor Katherine Marvel, found that while surface winds could only theoretically yield 400 terawatts of annual power production, high-altitude winds could yield up to 1,800 terawatts.

That's 100-times the current global power consumption of approximately 18 terawatts.

High-altitude winds could be captured by using gas-filled inflatables (or kites) with turbines mounted on them.  One factor the team did not look at was price.  Price remains an issue for high-altitude wind harvest, as helium -- the most convenient gas for floaters -- is growing scarce.

The current research focused more on the environmental impact.  As wind turbines slow the air travelling over them, as they harvest its mechanical energy, they can have a climate impact.  But the team estimates that if they were well distributed, even at 1,800 terawatts, the impact would only be a 0.1 degree Celsius change in temperatures and a 1 percent change in precipitation.

Simulation climate
Researchers' models indicate that atmospheric wind harvesting may not have a serious adverse impact on the climate. [Image Source: Nature Climate Change]

This indicates that assuming costs can be worked out, high-altitude wind shouldn't have much of an adverse impact on the global climate.  Of course, such models are prone to error, so it's best to take the study with a grain of salt.

The work, funded by the Carnegie Institution of Science, is published [abstract] in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change.  Ken Caldeira, CMU professor and the paper's senior author, comments [press release], "Looking at the big picture, it is more likely that economic, technological or political factors will determine the growth of wind power around the world, rather than geophysical limitations."

Sources: Nature Climate Change, Eurekalert



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RE: Hydrogen is cheaper
By wordsworm on 9/10/2012 8:39:25 PM , Rating: 2
I think you forgot to factor in the costs of storing the nuclear waste. How much concrete is required to store waste for 100,000 years?


RE: Hydrogen is cheaper
By TSS on 9/11/2012 2:51:05 AM , Rating: 4
Depends. If you reprocess the waste to it's theorietical limit (or close anyway), the total nuclear waste for the entire US (with about 20% total power from nuclear) would be about a bathtub worth of radioactive waste per year, which'll decay in about 100-10,000 years.

Or you could just bury it all inside of a mountain. Why bother with steel and concrete when you've got millions of tons of granite to work with.

Good thing obama cut back both programs huh. I swear if there's one area he royally screwed up, it would be nuclear. On that note i'm suprised reclaimer hasn't jumped in yet, this is one of the area's obama is objectively worse then even bush.


RE: Hydrogen is cheaper
By Strunf on 9/11/2012 7:32:34 AM , Rating: 5
"Or you could just bury it all inside of a mountain. Why bother with steel and concrete when you've got millions of tons of granite to work with."

But the moment you say the word nuclear people lose all their logic skills and beyond that point it's impossible to build a discussion with people that seem brain dead.


RE: Hydrogen is cheaper
By mindless1 on 9/13/2012 2:46:10 PM , Rating: 2
Don't worry, as the government drives the cost of power up through the ceiling, more and more people will start liking nuclear power. The fake energy and global warming crisis (note I didn't claim there is or isn't global warming, only that it's not a crisis) will at last have one positive effect.


RE: Hydrogen is cheaper
By Mint on 9/11/2012 1:23:44 PM , Rating: 2
At least Obama is far more pro-nuclear than most of his Democrat colleagues. I think Obama and Chu have had a more positive influence in swaying anti-nuclear opinion than almost anyone in history. People against it certainly haven't cared for the pro-nuclear stance of anyone on the right.

I don't think you can blame him for the Yucca cuts. You need local support before you can get anything like that done, and too many people subscribe to NIMBY there, and even Romney thinks the same. The reaction to Fukushima only confirms that he made the right decision, because it would only be a money pit for a plan that is unlikely to be carried out.

The best solution I've heard for nuclear waste is subduction zone disposal. In any case, nuclear waste is not a pressing enough problem to stop new construction. It's really amazing how little waste nuclear power produces, and a miracle of nature that all the waste can contained on site for decades.

Let's keep swaying public opinion, even using AGW to guilt-trip nuclear opponents. Eventually some state will be willing to rack its coffers with disposal fees.


RE: Hydrogen is cheaper
By Ringold on 9/11/2012 2:49:51 PM , Rating: 3
Some nuclear opponents you can't guilt-trip with AGW, as their enemy is cheap electricity.

But while Obama hasn't appeared to be anti-nuclear, Bush was more vocal in support. He rarely mentions it, and has done relatively little to help push it along, to the point where international observers have considered the "nuclear renaissance" in America to be dead and buried, with global nuclear progress to take place outside the US and EU. The Economist wrote a head-line piece on it this year, and that's a pro-nuclear pro-US newspaper that endorsed Obama (naive Brit's) in 08.


RE: Hydrogen is cheaper
By johnsmith9875 on 9/11/2012 5:38:30 PM , Rating: 2
Bush was a HUGE proponent of Wind Power during his years as Texas Governor.


RE: Hydrogen is cheaper
By Ringold on 9/11/2012 11:11:26 PM , Rating: 2
Texas also has huge amounts of wind, to be fair.


RE: Hydrogen is cheaper
By wordsworm on 9/11/2012 9:05:33 PM , Rating: 1
Nuclear is not cheap. That's a myth. Nuclear advocates always like to pretend that nuclear waste management is a trivial issue, which it's not. Another hugely overlooked issue is fuel. There's not enough of it being mined to feed current demand, let alone an increased demand.


RE: Hydrogen is cheaper
By Ringold on 9/11/2012 11:10:33 PM , Rating: 3
Nuclear plants are not cheap, no one would suggest otherwise! Then again, Exxon and others spend tens of billions on individual oil projects, so accumulating that sort of capital for individual projects is by no means beyond the ability of markets.

However, nuclear waste management SHOULD be trivial. Jesus, drill an extremely deep hole in decently hard rock, several miles down, with technology that already exists, stuff it down, pour some concrete in behind it, backfill in some rock, and there you go. Radioactive waste, stored until hell freezes over, miles below the water table. By the time tectonics or erosion gets to it, it'd be inert. If future humans get to it by mistake, then they're idiots that went to a lot of trouble just to re-discover what radiation sickness is.

Or, put it on a ship. Sail ship over underwater trenches. Push it overboard. A few unfortunate fish on the way down, and then it'd be securely at rest somewhere no humans are ever likely to go. The only thing stopping reasonable solutions from being done is FUD from the greens/leftists.

Fuel, if you're familiar with the issue, is also a non-issue. It's not mined because Russia, as I understand it, dumped huge amounts on the market some years back. Once prices bounce high enough, mining will resume; there's tons of shuttered uranium mines in the US alone. Could also switch to abundant thorium, or reprocess fuel to a large degree. No matter what, fuel input costs are a tiny part of nuclear plants operation costs.

Feel free to try again, though!


RE: Hydrogen is cheaper
By johnsmith9875 on 9/16/2012 9:33:58 PM , Rating: 2
Nuclear power is terrifyingly expensive, which is why there are no nuclear plants in the USA which weren't subsidized by the government.

No power company is going to take a 15-20 billion dollar risk without some federal backing and assurances they will be able to legally get out of hazardous waste storage and disposal costs.


RE: Hydrogen is cheaper
By boeush on 9/11/2012 8:47:39 PM , Rating: 2
Everyone likes fantasizing about reprocessing and fast breeders.

Nobody likes talking about how difficult and dangerous that actually is, and how much it costs .

If you included the actual price of reprocessing into the price of electricity produced by nuclear reactors, you'd quickly discover that nuclear would no longer be competitive with either coal, wind, hydro, or gas (and in a decade or so, solar.)

The French are famous for their massive state-financed (i.e. taxpayer-funded) reprocessing of nuclear waste. But that's Socialism, ain't it?

My view is, keep the nuke plants for baseline and backup, but shift as much as possible to renewables with emphasis on distributed generation and storage (e.g. each house or building supplying part or all of its own needs), and build up interconnected and redundant smart grids to lessen or even eliminate any issues with intermittency. It would be more resource-intensive and costly in the short term, but it's scalable, sustainable, and more reliable in the long term.


RE: Hydrogen is cheaper
By Solandri on 9/11/2012 9:05:01 PM , Rating: 2
Cost isn't the problem. Remember, reprocessing generates power in addition to converting the "spent fuel" into usable fuel. Considering that regular light water reactors only use less than 10% of the energy stored in the uranium and produces spent fuel which remains "hot" for tens of thousands of years, the net cost of fast breeder reactors is substantially less.

The problem is that reprocessing produces weapons-grade plutonium as a byproduct. That's the reason Carter banned it in the U.S. (outside of military reactors). It's a purely political problem, which is why I didn't touch upon it since the original claim dealt purely with material requirements, not politics.
quote:
My view is, keep the nuke plants for baseline and backup, but shift as much as possible to renewables with emphasis on distributed generation and storage (e.g. each house or building supplying part or all of its own needs)

I more or less agree, but maintenance and coordination is going to be a major PITA. Right now if a power line goes down, the power company shuts down the grid in the area, fixes it, and turns it back on. With a distributed system, if one person forgot to maintain their house's system or installed it incorrectly, his solar panels will electrocute the repairman.

None of these power sources is a panacea. Each have their advantages and drawbacks.


RE: Hydrogen is cheaper
By m51 on 9/12/2012 9:06:16 AM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately cost is a problem with reprocessing.

Although fuel cost are a few percent of the total cost of nuclear power, reprocessed fuel is an order of magnitude more expensive than just using mined uranium. On top of that fast reactors are considerably more expensive to build and run than moderated reactors.

Fuel reprocessing and fast reactors are all technically feasible and the technology has been proved but they aren't economically competitive, especially in today's world of large cheap natural gas supplies. Even standard light water reactors are struggling to compete with cheap gas.

Should the situation change due to carbon taxes etc. Fast reactors may become economically competitive again.

Certainly we should be advancing the technology in both fast reactors, liquid fluoride reactors, and reprocessing so the technology is ready for deployment should global warming force a change in energy policy.


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