TMC is an independent, primarily volunteer organization that relies on ad revenue to cover its operating costs. Please consider whitelisting TMC on your ad blocker and becoming a Supporting Member. For more info: Support TMC

Thermal Generation is Obsolete

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by nwdiver, Jan 5, 2020.

  1. nwdiver

    nwdiver Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2013
    Messages:
    7,211
    Location:
    United States
    This thread is a bit of a rant against Thorium. The ratio of how much it's mentioned: economic viability as an energy source is ~1B:0. I think there's a group of people that honestly believe Thorium or Hemp are literally the best solutions to every problem we've ever had, have or will have....

    The bottom line is that Thorium like thermal coal, all existing nuclear power and concentrating solar is thermal meaning it heats something up then that heat is used to make electricity.

    1) Thermal Generation is terribly inefficient
    Even bending the laws of physics 100% efficiency is <50%. Most nuclear and coal plants are closer to ~33%. Sure, you can tinker around the edges with 'super-critical' fluids and all sorts of other exotic stuff but none of that is used commercially. And even then you're not going to squeeze much more out. This also isn't like solar which is technically ~20% 'efficient'; with solar you're not paying for the 80% you're not converting into useful energy... you're just not harvesting all that's available. The coal mine doesn't give you a refund on the ~70% of coal you're using to heat the air instead of make electricity.

    2) Thermal Generation is terribly expensive
    Take a look at all that goes into turning steam into electricity. And it's not like this is something you can just make an assembly line for like a gas turbine. These components are build, shipped then assembled in the plant on site. Then there's the maintenance. Just the thermal plant alone runs >$2/w vs ~$1/w for solar or wind.

    3) Thermal Generation is 'delicate'
    Trained operators and computers can help prevent damage but that still limits their use. Most steam plants need >24 hours from 'cold iron' before they can generate electricity. Then you can't just turn them off. I read an article a few days ago about how the bulk of R&D in coal is going toward making them more flexible... more like a gas turbine. Seems like the best solution would be to replace them with a gas turbine...

    4) Thermal Generation requires a lot of cooling
    Climate change is making this even more of a challenge. There's a coal plant near Lubbock that's closing ~20 years early because they're running out of water. A 1GW generator needs to dispose of 2GW of heat. The most cost effective way to do that is evaporative cooling. ~15 gallons of water are used per kWh generated. Think about that.... the solar panels on your roof could be saving more water than not watering your lawn... Those water tanks that you see in old westerns next to train tracks, that's not water for the people, that's water for the train. They couldn't condense their steam so they just exhaust it so they went through A TON of water.

    I think a good analog is marine propulsion. There was a time when almost all ships were steam powered. Today it's submarines, aircraft carriers and Russian Ice Breakers. That's pretty much it and that's only because nuclear carries specific advantages for those niche applications. If steam plants don't make any sense where they make the most sense why are we still using them where they make the least sense?
     
    • Informative x 3
    • Like x 2
  2. CSFTN

    CSFTN Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2014
    Messages:
    908
    Location:
    Memphis, TN
    Thank you for this detailed explanation
     
  3. SageBrush

    SageBrush REJECT Fascism

    Joined:
    May 7, 2015
    Messages:
    11,843
    Location:
    New Mexico
    I understand your argument when it comes to combustion and nuclear but I don't follow how it applies to solar thermal.
     
    • Like x 1
  4. nwdiver

    nwdiver Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2013
    Messages:
    7,211
    Location:
    United States
    Purely in terms of economics. Solar thermal has also fallen out of favor as PV has become cheaper. It's cheaper to convert photons into electricity than heat into electricity.
     
  5. iPlug

    iPlug Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2019
    Messages:
    436
    Location:
    Rocklin, CA
    Purely in terms of economics without concern for externalities, would one say concentrating solar power (CSP) plants are more costly than solar PV + battery with the same electricity generation and storage specifications?
     
  6. RubberToe

    RubberToe Supporting the greater good

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2012
    Messages:
    2,934
    Location:
    El Lay
    Bloomberg - Are you a robot?
     
    • Informative x 1
    • Like x 1
  7. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2012
    Messages:
    1,558
    Location:
    Sonoma, California
    Years ago I toured SCE's facilities including some of their hydro plants in the Sierras. I became aware that there were two distinct cultures on the generation side. There were hot water guys and cold water guys. Many years later when I saw that proposal for the solar thermal plant I realized that they were stuck in those boxes and nobody thought to compare the economics of photo voltaic. Furthermore since they were going to be compensated based on the classical return on investment model that had been the basis for regulating those monopolies, there was probably no thought given to photo voltaic. Since then deregulation of the generating side of that business has created a better model for the allocation of capital.
     
    • Like x 2
    • Informative x 1
  8. nwdiver

    nwdiver Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2013
    Messages:
    7,211
    Location:
    United States
    'Growing up' in the nuclear industry there's a similar paradigm surrounding 'base load'. You 'NEED' a hot rock making steam to ensure a stable grid. Power is power. It doesn't really matter whether it steam driving a turbine or a gas turbine or a wind turbine or a battery. Power is Power. 'Base load' is more of an economic term to define generation that's economically inflexible. Not a good thing and certainly not a requirement.
     
  9. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2012
    Messages:
    1,558
    Location:
    Sonoma, California
    Is that where the term "spinning reserves" came from?
     
  10. nwdiver

    nwdiver Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2013
    Messages:
    7,211
    Location:
    United States
    No; Base load plants generally don't want to vary their output. 'Spinning Reserves' would usually be a gas turbine that's online and generating but not at 100%, a 'load follower'.

    'Base load' is a meaningless marketing gimmick like 'All Natural'...

    Debunking Three Myths About “Baseload”

    'As new reports from the Brattle Group and the Analysis Group show, “baseload” is an outdated term. It does not refer to any electricity system values or services, and it is not equivalent to reliability. While the term “baseload” can have several different meanings, it historically functioned as shorthand for a category of resources that provided relatively low operating-cost electricity to meet minimum round-the-clock electricity demand levels.'
     
    • Informative x 1
  11. SageBrush

    SageBrush REJECT Fascism

    Joined:
    May 7, 2015
    Messages:
    11,843
    Location:
    New Mexico
    That was my thought too.

    What is the answer ? I cannot read the Bloomberg article
     
  12. iPlug

    iPlug Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2019
    Messages:
    436
    Location:
    Rocklin, CA
    It addressed the generation part of the question, though did not seem to include storage costs of CSP vs. electric battery (that could be drawn on hours after sunset). If CSP storage costs were included, they were not mentioned or broken out.

    But the article was informative in that it provided evidence that CSP generation is more expensive compared to solar PV, when looking at the $1 billion Crescent Dunes CSP plant - “the biggest solar plant of its kind”. The article contains a chart showing that solar PV eclipsed CSP at the Crescent Dunes Plant in $ per MWh in 2015.

    Despite lots of taxpayer loan guarantees, the project was plagued by poor reliability, required lots of maintenance, got caught up in litigation and accusations of mismanagement, and ultimately lost NV Energy, its only customer. The plant opened in 2015, when solar PV reportedly had it beat on economic grounds alone.
     
    • Like x 1
  13. nwdiver

    nwdiver Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2013
    Messages:
    7,211
    Location:
    United States
    Yep; I worked in a steam plant for ~3 years. ~Nothing is solid state (obviously), most things leak (in or out). On our ship the condenser was kept at a vacuum so you had to keep air from leaking in (~impossible, because you have shafts). The air that gets in you need eductors to get out. You use gland seals (steam) to try to keep air out. Long story short thermal generators are a mess even compared to something like a gas turbine.

    Comparing thermal generation to PV, wind or gas is like ICE vs an EV. Even a gas turbine which is technically ICE is SOOOO. MUUUCH... SIMPLER.

    Like I mentioned in my OP. There's a reason steam powered ships are practically extinct.
     
    • Informative x 1
    • Like x 1
  14. Watts_Up

    Watts_Up Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2019
    Messages:
    2,990
    Location:
    In a galaxy far, far away
    Very interesting point and analysis regarding the production of electricity based on using thermal energy.

    By opposition, clean energy used for generating electricity seems a great alternative,
    however the big issue with clean energy is to store it after it get produced and until it get used.

    My point is that about our current energy situation where drilling oil in middle of the ocean,
    transporting it, and creating more polution with refineries, is still simpler that using solar panels,
    mostly because storing clean energy is still a difficult issue.
     
  15. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2012
    Messages:
    1,558
    Location:
    Sonoma, California
    What can be more simple than driving a Tesla and having a few PowerWalls?
     
    • Like x 3
  16. mspohr

    mspohr Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2014
    Messages:
    8,655
    Location:
    California
    More FUD from nuclear industry

    Correcting Anti-Renewable Energy Propaganda | CleanTechnica

    Anti-renewable propagandists need to talk about imaginary high costs of renewables, especially because one of their preferred ways of generating electricity — nuclear power — turns out to be incredibly expensive.

    Renewable energy gets cheaper each year, nuclear power gets more expensive each year — how come they still adamantly claim that renewables are not a cost-effective way of decarbonizing?

    From a pro-renewable perspective, this is encouraging. The claims about the limits of renewable energy have moved from “not even 1% of electricity” to “most but not all of the electricity.” And yet, the anti-renewables message has always been the same: renewables will lead to a dead end.

    In order to underscore their point, anti-renewable energy propagandists now publish incorrect cost figures that claim a fully renewable electric grid would be unaffordable or way more expensive than other options, such as, you guessed it, nuclear power.
     

Share This Page

  • About Us

    Formed in 2006, Tesla Motors Club (TMC) was the first independent online Tesla community. Today it remains the largest and most dynamic community of Tesla enthusiasts. Learn more.
  • Do you value your experience at TMC? Consider becoming a Supporting Member of Tesla Motors Club. As a thank you for your contribution, you'll get nearly no ads in the Community and Groups sections. Additional perks are available depending on the level of contribution. Please visit the Account Upgrades page for more details.


    SUPPORT TMC