More Challenges with Nuclear and Good Solar News
August 01, 2016 -Steve Hays
We ran an article in last month’s issue written in reaction to a San Diego Union Tribune editorial that lamented the demise of nuclear power in California—and the world.
Our sentiment? Lament? No, not really. Good riddance. We promised more to come in this issue and while not what we expected, more specific challenges have come out.
Now it appears that one of the points made here, about the power of nuclear, appeared in another SDUT article to emphasize our point.
No matter how wonderful you may think nuclear power is, there is also no denying that the problem with it is the fact that there is no “good riddance”—no simple way of ridding ourselves of it.
While most animals know what not to do with waste (related to not storing or leaving it where they live) human beings, in contrast, are political animals and that’s prone to be a dirty business.
A SDUT news story July 24 by Rob Nikolewski seemed written to make our point as it gave further evidence that nuclear has not lost any of its qualities or special powers and remains dangerous.
The article titled “Closed Nuke Plant Leaves Legacy of Waste” contradicts, to me, their own original editorial and aligns with what we said.
The SDUT article stated that due to a “policy stalemate,” there is no place to move the waste.
The bottom line? “Some 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste at the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is all stored up with no place to go.”
Eventually it will have to be moved. Estimates are that the land it is on now will fall into the ocean about 10,000 years from now. So we’ve got some time. Then again, politicians have to agree where to move it and build that site first, so who knows?
If the current political climate lingers it could take a while. And then? Given current technology, we only have to store the waste for about one million years. We’ve been a county for about 240 years now.
Not our problem, I guess. Unless you believe in reincarnation. If you do, it might be better to do what those who started us down the nuclear power road did not do and think in terms of, well begun is half done. Start off right.
Maybe they just figued that technology would solve the problem. In other words, no real change from what we are doing now when it comes to this waste.
It’s time for new, non-nuclear beginnings, isn’t it? No more laments.
Ideally, the technology and the politics will both progress faster than estimated. (See our archives and SDUT June 26, 2016, on page SD5 for the articles mentioned.)
Solar — Offers Bright Spots and Hope
I’m not going into great detail. Each of these topics could be an article by itself—and they are. I looked at one site and found them all. I encourage you to go there and see for yourself. I receive the newsletter of the American Solar Energy Society. Go to ASES.org and subscribe and you’ll get a steady supply of good news about what is happening now and what is coming down the road.
Here are some examples:
Chile’s Producing So Much Solar Energy It’s Giving Away Electricity Away For Free,
In a new Bloomberg report, solar capacity has increased fourfold since 2013. And more projects are on the way. They have 29 solar farms and 15 more in the pipeline.
Through April there were 113 days when the price reached zero. Last year it was 192 days.
The size of Chile is 291,930 sq.mi, a litte larger than Texas.This growth comes from major investments by the government of Chile.
More Texas—Solar Will Replace Nearly All Coal.
Texans are getting into it with the state’s grid operator planning to replace coal with solar. They are working on several scenarios to accommodate the changing price of natural gas or extreme weather conditions, but in all scenarios “solar makes up nearly all the new capacity” generated in coming projects.
Dubai & The World’s Biggest Concentrated Solar Plant.
The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority plans to build a concentrated solar power plant that will be twice as large as the largest currently in the world (in Morocco). It will generate 1,000 megawatts. What’s different about concentrated solar power is that “the thermal heat generated can be easily stored, so the plant could continue to produce electricity at night.” The thermal storage works for about 8-12 hours a day.
California Just Saved $192 Million Thanks to Efficiency & Rooftop Solar.
“Consumer investments in distributed energy resources can save all ratepayers money avoiding expensive grid insfrastructure.” One result of this is that the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) just cancelled 13 planned transmission projects in the PG&E. The projects were approved several years ago, but rooftop solar installations and efficiency has eliiminated the need for them. Congratulations to us!
Or looking at it another way, this progress has created the need for utilities, such as SDG&E, to come up with a plan that compensates rooftop solar producers less, rids us of an outdated rate structure—and replaces it with one that supports utilites in the manner they have become accustomed to.
Meanwhile California Out Shines the Rest of the US.
Meanwhile California solar installations “dwarf those of even their closest peers”—which is #2 Arizona. Numbers 3–7 are New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. That leaves a lot of sunny states not doing much, while numbers 3–7 are moving forward anyway.
Remember that Germany, Europe’s big solar electric producer is retiring old power plants—and if they were located in this hemisphere they would be north of Montana.
Why aren’t we retiring power plants instead of lamenting the loss of solar power? And raising the rates of those generating solar power?