The true cost of renewable energy

Because the cost of renewables is falsified, installation of renewables causes power crises. Renewables are installed. The cost of renewables is hidden in some other part of the system, renewables continue to be installed, that part of the system does not get increased funding, collapses, blackouts and brownouts ensue. Fixing the blackouts and brownouts costs money, the cost of electricity then rises to reflect the actual cost of renewables that no one will admit.

The cost of renewables is assessed without regard for the fact that renewables are intermittent and unpredictable. Sometimes the sun shines, some times it does not, sometimes the wind blows, sometimes it does not, sometimes it blows too hard and the windmills must shut down. This creates a burden on the grid, and the need for backup power, and this backup power and grid load is not costed or funded

So the overburdened grid shuts down, and you get blackouts, or there just is not enough power, and you get brownouts.

Eventually industry threatens to up and leave for lack of predictable power, and then, and only then, only after major threats from major industries, the additional generating capacity and grid capacity is built – and people have to pay for it. And then, and only then, the true cost of renewables becomes apparent.

Generating electricity costs very little. What is expensive is generating it when it is needed, and not when it is not needed, and transporting it from where it is generated to where it is used.

The rational way to charge for electricity would be like internet – charge by the size of the pipeline, not how much goes through it. Most of the cost of household electricity is the grid and power stations idling for times of peak demands.

The trouble with wind and solar is that sometimes the wind blows, and sometimes it does not, and sometimes the sun shines, and some times it does not. So it puts an unreasonable load on the grid and requires some kind other power source for times people want power, but the sun is not shining and the wind stops blowing.

If you have solar power on your roof, then when you feed excess power back into the grid it costs the power company money, because they have to have the extra grid capability to support unpredictable power being fed back into the grid at inconvenient times.

Hydroelectric is OK, provided one has a decent sized dam behind it, so that one can run water through the turbines when one needs power, and not run water through the turbines when one does not. It is the dam that is expensive, and the dam that makes hydroelectric power useful. Without a large enough dam, it is as useless and expensive as wind and solar.

If we had a cheap and effective means of storing power, then wind and solar would be great, and every household and every business would cheerfully go off grid and use solar for everything. High temperature batteries relying on molten sodium, molten salt, and beta alumina membranes are promising, but they are not yet economical in sizes small enough for household use, or even use by ordinary businesses.

The only cheap and effective means for storing power is pumped hydro. You need two large dams close together, one much higher than the other, and when the sun shines you pump water uphill, and when it is dark you run water downhill through the turbines. If you have rivers suitable for pumped hydro, then wind and solar is pretty reasonable. It is costlier than carbon and nuclear, but compared to the cost of the grid, not enough to make a huge difference.

Norway uses hydro, and hydro works fine. Austria uses hydro and pumped hydro. Portugal uses pumped hydro, and for them, wind and solar works fine. But most of the EU just does not have enough suitable dams for pumped hydro. And for them, renewable power sources are very expensive.

I took a list of EU countries that use widely varying amounts of renewable electrical power sources, leaving out Norway, Portugal, and Austria because of hydro and pumped hydro.

The cost of electricity in the remaining countries is, to a good approximation, proportional to the proportion that is generated renewably. Extrapolating to 100% renewable, it would cost 55 cents per kilowatt hour, extrapolating to 0% renewable, it would cost about 10 cents per kilowatt hour.

60 Responses to “The true cost of renewable energy”

  1. jay says:

    Batteries seem to be going down in price and going up in efficiency. So the problem of expense will be solved over time.

    • jim says:

      Batteries are not too far off being competitive with the grid. Of course you have to pay up front, which is kind of painful.

      Right now today you just could not run western civilization on wind and solar plus batteries. The batteries inherently require expensive, uncommon, and toxic materials, and have to be replaced after a few years. But being able to do so is not beyond reach.

      For routine use of solar power to be a sensible and economic choice, the batteries have to made of common, cheap, and non toxic materials – hence molten sodium batteries with beta alumina membranes. Batteries based on lithium, lead or cadmium just are not going to achieve the necessary price, convenience, and safety requirements. Lead acid batteries are just not going to get much cheaper, safer, or more convenient, because lead.

      If you are worried about saving technological civilization, lead is too rare and expensive. If you are worried about saving the earth, it is too poisonous.

      Right now molten sodium batteries are too expensive, but it is not cost of materials that makes them expensive, so there is room for technological advance to bring the price of molten sodium batteries down to a level that makes solar with batteries viable. But lead is rare, and lithium and cadmium are rarer. We cannot operate a civilization on batteries based on those materials. They are already expensive and not getting any cheaper. Batteries on the required gigantic scale would send the price through the roof.

      • Mister Grumpus says:

        If anyone can really nail that battery question then the consequences could be surprising.

        I know I’ve read pitches for using ship-shaped floating batteries to “ferry” electric power from Iceland (cheap hydro and geothermal) to New York City, for example. Once you throw an “x-cubed” into a situation you can get some crazy-looking conclusions.

        I’ve always wondered if China might just buy Namibia (or wherever) and use it as a gigantic solar power plant, and/or nuclear power plant, and/or waste disposal site, and just “ship” the energy back to home (and to other customers) in some processed-chemical form, like this liquid-sodium business. Who the heck knows.

  2. A Portuguese Man says:

    Well, it’s a bit more subtle than that.

    Most of our power is hydro. The pump thing was a makeshift solution for the renewables fraud. We all pay an extra tax on our power bill – was state owned until recently; it’s now chinese owned – since they started this renewables thing.

    Of course, peak generation was about 12 hours off peak demand, in the middle of the night, so we had to give it to Spain, possibly paying them to have it.

    So then they came up with the pumping thing. Except instead of following top Engineering School recommendation and making the pump dams pair with the biggest dams we have, they went and build pairs of stupid smallish dams in rivers that had none – which are, because of that, the ones with less hydro potential.

    The (now ex-) prime-minister of the time is being investigated for corruption, and was already arrested and in prison for a few months – although not because of this specific case.

    We are deep in shit.

    We were blessed with “democracy” just before the last Portuguese Government had time to study and implement nuclear. We have the most expensive energy in Europe.

    • jim says:

      Sounds like you ran out of rivers suitable for pumped hydro, and put in a whole lot of expensive pumped hydro that does not work very well. Your rivers could probably handle the amount of renewables you used to have, but not the amount of renewables you now have.

      • A Portuguese Man says:

        Not at all.

        They just built the pumped hydro in shit rivers because that was the most profitable for the construction business cronies and their corrupt politician partners.

        None of the high output dams have pumping – despite that being the most economical and reasonable option as per our engineering school studies.

        In any case, that would never be as good as nuclear.

        • A Portuguese Man says:

          If they’d built it for existing dams it would’ve been a lot cheaper because they’d only have to build the downstream dams.

          Instead, they got to build two dams per river.

          But because they couldn’t do it in the already dammed rivers, they had to go for crap output rivers with no dams.

        • Grampy_bone says:

          Yep. Just do nuclear. Worry about solar later.

          • jay says:

            Gen IV nuclear which burns nuclear waste and is much more safer with passive shutdown system as as a result of meltdown.

  3. Alrenous says:

    Renewables could in theory help, with the caveats you mention. Overall the energy available from wind and solar is the wrong order of magnitude compared to modern energy demand.

  4. There are devices capable of taking CO2 out of the air via solar energy and turning it into fuel while generate oxygen in the process. They are called trees. Essentially what we need to do is to engineer better trees, in the broad sense: something organic or not, that works like photosynthetizing plants, except faster, except the fuel is not full of water and has a higher energy density than firewood, ideally liquid etc. A while ago there were experiments with algae but I don’t remember where it is at. But on a pure conceptual level this seems to be the direction.

    • Cavalier says:

      You want to extract energy from trees, but they need the energy they capture to live. Still, even if you managed to Jew them out of literally everything, they simply don’t have enough energy in their systems — one tree lives on just 100MJ/day (24k kcal / 95k MJ), according to a cursory Google search. In contrast, energy utilization in the United States is 267 trillion BTU/day (69 trillion kcal / 282 trillion MJ); on a per capita basis — every man, woman, child, and illegal —, 703k BTU/day (182k kcal / 742k MJ), or, in other words, 7030 trees per capita. This accounts for neither the trade deficit nor the world-reserve-currency stealth tax, both of which represent a net inflow of energy.

      Nuclear or bust.

      • Cavalier says:

        MJ in first parentheses should be BTU

      • I didn’t mean literal trees, but simply utilizing photosynthesis one way or another, from algae to something entirely anorganic.

        • Cavalier says:

          The trees are just a metaphor for the absurd amount of energy that people in the 21st century consume on a daily basis, just to eat a meal composed of foods grown hundreds or thousands of miles away, flick on a light switch, make a telephone call, drive their car, or heat their home. The story of the Industrial Revolution is predominantly the story of the switching of our source of energy from the day-to-day farmed solar rays of preindustrial agriculture to millions of years’ worth of stored-up solar rays in the form of fossil fuels.

          There are practical problems, which are: are you going to cover the entire earth’s surface with trees? Then what? If algae, where are you going to put it so that you can farm it? And then there’s the kicker, which is: there just isn’t enough farmable solar energy. I don’t care enough to do the math, but I encourage you to go and find out how much land (or sea) area we would have to coat in order to suck up 569 quadrillion megajoules per annum. I know it’s utterly impractical, but it would be kind of cool to put a number to its utter impracticality.

          • peppermint says:

            gay

            when we get our industry back, within 200 years tops we’ll be shipping massive amounts of manufactured goods to China in exchange for small-batch food and oriental trinkets, and the ships will be nuclear powered.

            • Mister Grumpus says:

              Maybe nuclear-powered directly, or nuclear-powered via an energy-containing chemical “fuel” product.

          • peppermint says:

            The title of guns, germs, and steel was the only part of the book that wasn’t a lie. The team that has the most steel and energy wins. And Whites have that because Whites are genetically superior.

            The socialist faggot Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Player Piano that Whites would eventually obviate lots more work than they had by the ’50s and there would be no new jobs, but a revolt against mechanization would eventually lead to Whites re-mechanizing because Whites love machines.

            Vonnegut was less of a faggot than modern socialists who see Harrison Bergeron as an instruction manual and the lesson of Player Piano as UBI.

            UBI is utterly retarded and will not happen. UBI is actually an attempt to turn the underclass of underemployed into a paid army against civilization, where they could instead be an army for civilization, or paid for services to the armies of civilization.

            Gas the liberals, martial law now.

    • pdimov says:

      Life is generally good at capturing available energy, because that’s basically what it does. If we accept the premise that it would be possible to capture much more solar energy than what trees manage to do, the question becomes, why are trees so inefficient, and why has nothing better evolved and put them out of business?

      • Pseudo-chrysostom says:

        Trees provide their own infrastructure.

        In any case, remove gravity wells, deconstruct the planet into chunks, and shut down the sun to harvest its reactive material directly.

    • Sam J. says:

      The problem with trees is they are way inefficient. They suck, 2% or less efficiency.

  5. c23 says:

    Your examples are from Europe -what about the US, which is at a lower latitude? Here in the sunny Southwest, where it is almost always sunny and we are at roughly the same latitude as Cairo, solar is a common and economical choice for a homeowner, but I don’t know to what extent that is because of government incentives distorting the marker.

    • Wency says:

      Today I believe it generally relies on government incentives, virtue signaling, and ignorance about finance (i.e., people who think a 20-year payback sounds fine).

      Watch what commercial real estate projects do. And not high-profile, virtue-signaling projects, or companies like Amazon and Google, or the government. When ugly industrial parks in your city are covered in solar panels, you’ll know it makes economic sense for houses to have them.

      • peppermint says:

        > When ugly industrial parks in your city are covered in solar panels, you’ll know it makes economic sense for houses to have them.

        Industrial refrigerators can use refrigerants that would be dangerous for consumers because industrial sites have people who are paid to take care of the stuff.

        In addition, government subsidies can make anything cost-effective until the government runs out of other people’s money.

      • c23 says:

        Good point, I’ll keep an eye out for ugly industrial parks. There are Walmarts in the Southwest that use solar and they claim it’s cost effective, but I’m not sure whether they are virtue signaling or not.

        I know a guy who did it for his house and he says it will take 8 years to break even.

    • jim says:

      solar is a common and economical choice for a homeowner.

      Only economical because the electricity companies subsidize it by charging you for power, rather than the load you impose on the grid.

      The cost of solar cells is an insignificant part of the cost of solar power, hence it makes little difference how sunny it is. The cost of solar is that the power is not available when and where you want it, so has to be backed up by the grid.

      If you have solar in the sunny south east, the electricity companies are charging you less for imposing an increased load on the grid.

      • Cloudswrest says:

        Trying to understand this argument.

        Assuming peak power consumption is “A”, power company has to pay for capacity to supply “A”.

        1. No solar – everybody pays for “A”

        2. With grid tie solar – only non-solar people are paying for “A”

        Kind of reminds me of electric cars not paying per mile road usage fees via gas taxes.

      • c23 says:

        Well, the main use for electricity here is air conditioning, which is conveniently in peak demand when the sun shines brightest.

        • jim says:

          It is not electricity that is expensive. It is ensuring that electricity is available that is expensive. You still have to have grid and generation capability for that hot but cloudy day, and that hot night. It is the grid that is expensive, not the solar cells.

          The only reason to have solar on the grid is that your electricity availability is being subsidized. If people were charged the true cost, they would go off grid solar using batteries and emergency generators.

          And maybe then we would develop some safe and cost effective method of energy storage that did not use uncommon and expensive raw materials.

  6. Robert says:

    Is this ridiculous? Could we not construct some type of “pumped earth” system. Could we not raise earth using some type of large conveyor system (you would need a mountain to hold it all up in the air). Then extract that energy by allowing the earth to fall? I guess sand would probably work best for this, but small gravel could probably also be used. Water is 62lbs/ft3, sand is about double that.

    • Alrenous says:

      Works best with an inclined rail system.

    • peppermint says:

      Yeah, and let’s build flywheels out of the hardest metal known to man.

      We’re paying China for Nd and spending huge amounts of steel and concrete to build pinwheels to avoid environmental impact. It’s beyond retarded, it’s the kind of policy that can only come out of a conspiracy of silence, and I advocate for whipping everyone with an IQ over 1σ who goes along with it.

      Everyone knows nuclear has the smallest environmental impact. First they came for the nukes, and we said nothing, because nuclear war is scary. Then they came for the coal, and w

      • Generally they are worried what to do with nuclear waste. The obvious solution is to get spaceflight cheaper.

        • peppermint says:

          In the ’70s, measures were taken to control pollution. Thereafter, the enviro-puritans needed to find a different kind of pollution to supererogate over, and found that, yeah, all the bad stuff was being removed from smoke, but there was still CO2, and that will eventually lead to one or two degrees Celsius of global warming, which means that Whites must still be punished for failure to perform acts of supererogation like living off the grid fucking college girls.

          When people started building power reactors, most of them were designs that were supposed to be able to irradiate U-238 into Pu-239. Nuclear proliferation is, of course a problem. The treason of the ’50s, when the US could have done anything and chose to legalize miscegenation is unimaginable in world-historic terms, it’s like if Zheng He’s fleet had reached North America and started farming rice in Caliphornia and then the Emperor recalled it after having seen a vision in which a bunch of blue-eyed cultists build North America up into gleaming cities and then commit suicide and invite the Chinese to take over.

          In the latter half of the 20th century liberals put up nuclear-free zone stickers in an attempt to mock the USSR into nuking them, and oh how I wish they had.

          Concerns about meltdown were somewhat genuine, but, as seen in Japan, not actually taken seriously.

          The high-level waste could easily be buried in a way that it won’t be disturbed for a million years. It hasn’t because Boomers need to be executed first. Nuclear waste is not what concerns people. If nuclear waste could be buried, nuclear power would be clean, and if nuclear power was clean, living off the grid wouldn’t be holier.

          The Sierra Club once upon a time considered returning to nuclear because they were getting too carried away with AGW fearmongering and also once opposed immigration on the grounds that more people living in White countries would cause more pollution. They have a more competent political commissary capable of dealing with their positions in the age of the Internet now.

          Thorium is a technological solution to a social problem. It would not be necessary in a reasonable country and it is impossible in this country. I mean, I know some Aryans who manage to draw a paycheck working on it, and it’s good for them, but it’s more difficult than uranium and will only be exported once the Boomers are dead.

          One subversive point that went over my head the first time I saw Dr Strangelove is that General Ripper’s command code was Peace On Earth.

      • Sam J. says:

        “…Everyone knows nuclear has the smallest environmental impact….”

        Interestingly enough I saw an interview with Musk and he said if you covered the government mandated area set back for nuclear plant safety you could get more power using existing solar panels than you could from a nuclear power plant.

        Now I’m not in any way against nuclear power. I don’t care much for pressurized reactors and I’m enamored with molten salt reactors but it makes you think. With all the money spent on nuclear if we spent the same on flywheels or batteries or some sort of pumped solution we might could have all the energy we needed without nuclear waste and save money too.

        • jim says:

          > Interestingly enough I saw an interview with Musk and he said if you covered the government mandated area set back for nuclear plant safety you could get more power using existing solar panels than you could from a nuclear power plant.

          But the nuclear power plant will continue to supply power any time you want it to. Solar panels will not.

    • Mister Grumpus says:

      Here’s my favorite scheme like this:

      Pump compressed air (or some lighter-than-water fluid like vegetable oil?) down into gigantic floppy Ziplock bladder-bags on the bottom of the ocean.

      Neglecting the cost/complication of the implied underwater plumbing, the bladder-bags themselves would constitute very pressure tanks.

      If there’s a fundamental reason why it won’t work, then it’s probably that the bladder bags would get “crusty” over time with the ocean creatures setting up housekeeping on them, and thus sprig leaks.

      (And a dozen other reasons I can’t think of.)

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        Could be done with mines or any other enclosed space. I’m guessing the issue is efficiency and thermodynamics, specifically temperature change of the pumped gas.

        • peppermint says:

          Thus the selection of a liquid. But the surface area and heat loss loses relevance with size anyway. But this is stupid. Jumping through hoops puritans tell you to jump through to maintain your lifestyle only proves their claim to be holier. The actual solution is to put the professors in bags a day dump them on the ocean floor.

  7. Ted Nuisance says:

    I’m told that the massive concrete bases of windmills are messing up the water table too. they are diverting it and drying up wells that have been going for over 100 years. Or as a smarter fella put it, “Existing Wind Farm developments in this area are disregarding known science on vibration and seismic coupling, causing adverse effects on local ground water and drinking water wells.”

    that blows

  8. Ted Nuisance says:

    another thing i’m told by smarter fellas is that thorium nuclear power is the bee’s knees. more thorium kickin around and far less waste produced. or so i’m told.

  9. Stephen W says:

    Another way of storing power is fly wheels. Although batteries are approaching the energy density of a carbon fiber flywheel at max RPM. Flywheel still have the advantage of charging more efficiently, not using expensive and toxic rare earth metals, and not wearing out with every charge which is good for something that needs to be charged and discharged every day. If aligned with the Earth’s Axis and magnetically levitated in a vacuum a flywheel an store power indefinitely.

    As an eternal optimist I keep hoping one of the non ITER fusion projects work. Focus Fusion would be the most revolutionary for cheap power, as I dont believe any of that LENR stuff.

    • jim says:

      Fusion is inherently hard, making it inevitable that fusion plants will be much higher tech than fission, as fission is higher tech than coal.

      In theory flywheels with magnetic bearings should provide cheap energy storage using common, cheap and abundant raw materials for fixed locations, but we have been working on flywheel storage for a very long time, and so far, still solar backed by deep cycle lead batteries are still the best way to go off grid.

      It should be feasible, but it is not feasible yet.

      • Stephen W says:

        Tokomak fusion definitely will be very large high tech and expensive. But Dense Plasma Focus Fusion is basically a large spark plug and promises to use anuetronic p+b11 fuel which produces most of its energy in charged particles instead of neutrons, so its energy harvested from simple induction coils instead of large heat engines. Maybe it wont work, but if it does it, will be revolutionary.

    • peppermint says:

      most people are interested in fusion under the erroneous assumption that it doesn’t produce radiation, which we were all assured by the same people who told us to eat carbohydrates instead of fats to not get fat is the worst thing ever and each exposure goes on your permanent record

      but that’s actually kind of letting them off the hook. which we were all assured by the same people who told us with serious faces that all men want to have sex with their own mothers in a developmental phase, for the same reason, to destroy the ability of the Aryan race to prosper and defeat our enemies

      • Stephen W says:

        Materials exposed to a lot of neutrons do gain radioactive isotopes but they are short lived and tiny compared to the waste coming out of a fission plant. The more novel contenders like Dense Plasma focus fusion and Polywell promise to use aneutronic fusion fuels like boron 11+hydrogen release most of their energy in charged particles instead of neutrons which can have their energy directly harvested by induction coils or grids. They may not to work but it is worth a try.

        • peppermint says:

          The specific activity level is the inverse of the lifetime. You mean that it’s low level because the amounts are small. Most neutrons in water-moderated fission reactors either run out of energy in the water or are absorbed by the fuel rods. The neutons from fusion are higher energy.

          Low level nuclear waste is the same for fusion and fission, and high level nuclear waste can be dumped in a convenient geologically stable location, subject to the stability of the government.

          Radiation is the hoop the holy want you to jump through to prove that you are their dog.

    • Sam J. says:

      I think flywheels for homes is the way to go. No one has done anything like the amount of study on flywheels that they have on batteries. There also needs to be work done on cheap flywheels made of low cost materials which may not be of any use in cars but would be good for a house and would have, say, three day storage.

      For cars graphene is getting cheaper and cheaper to make. Roll up graphene and you have nano-tubes with incredible strength. It follows you can then make dirt cheap flywheels with dirt cheap graphene. Flywheels last a lot longer then batteries. People are going to choke the first time they have to pay for new batteries in a Tesla. Probably they will just throw the car away and buy another.

      Not that I’m against Tesla or electric cars. I like them especially for defense reasons.

  10. BigCheese says:

    Off topic:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-doctors-virginity-tests-russian-investigative-committee-underage-girls-a7783811.html

    >Doctors ordered to perform ‘virginity tests’ on underage girls in Russia

    Step by step Russia is determined to fix their birthrate.

    • Alf says:

      > ‘integrity of the hymen’

      So silly of me, I always forget that virgins’ menstrual blood builds up behind their hymen until they have sex.

      • jim says:

        Are you trying to argue that virgins do not have hymens or that non virgins do have hymens?

        It has lately become politically correct to claim this, that virginity lacks obvious indicators, but it is obviously false. When you pop a virgin, the hymen is tough enough to create a significant problem, a very obvious problem. And sometimes, as a result of old age and obesity, my erection just has not been hard enough to do it. The difference between virgins and non virgins is as plain as the nose on your face. Popping a virgin is apt to be non trivial.

        • Alf says:

          That virgin hymens are already broken — if a hymen were covering the vagina like a membrane, menstrual blood would pile up behind it.

          I have popped one virgin in my life. I agree that the experience is significantly different from non virgins. But I have been told a doctor can not judge that from the outside.

  11. […] The true cost of renewable energy : The cost of renewables is assessed without regard for the fact that renewables are intermittent and unpredictable. Sometimes the sun shines, some times it does not, sometimes the wind blows, sometimes it does not, sometimes it blows too hard and the windmills must shut down. This creates a burden on the grid, and the need for backup power, and this backup power and grid load is not costed or funded. […]

  12. Ralph says:

    It’s about storage, not generation. Hydrogen can be produced using wind or salor and stored in a gaseous state and compressed. For all practical purposes it is as versatile as natural gas. Yet, EPRI continues to ignore it because they, like the utilities, are in the business of selling electrons.

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