James, thanks for that perspective. I don’t buy into the self fulfilling prophecy that society as we know it is going to collapse and so we might as well make it collapse now so that our grandchildren (who would likely never get born or survive under the power down now scenario) don’t have to deal with a nuclear legacy they don’t understand. Humans and society are inventive and adaptable. I agree that we cannot or should not go on importing fossil fuel on credit and so something needs to be done. Renewables sound great until you see exactly what is required to make them scale to even a fraction of current energy use. I am a somewhat reluctant nuclear advocate but for the time being see that as the only option to maintain our society along with the schools, universities and hospitals.
Not a very polite posting. It is filled with inaccurate words to evoke a emotional response. Puny, massive, beast! So let’s look at the facts.
600 MWe is not puny. I keep my boat on a lake created by dam. The lake is more than 30 miles long. If you visit the power house you might call it massive. It has mass. Every thing has mass. City people surrounded ‘massive’ buildings hate the dams because they scar the environment. Actually it was glaciers and volcanoes that caused the scar. I happen to think where my boat is a very beautiful place. The water is 30 foot deeper thanks to the dam. Often large cooling lakes are created for thermal power crating beautiful places to live. Apparently people go out of their way to eat at a restaurant with a view of a coal plant. If you get a telephoto lens, you can take a picture of a coal pile making sure to leave out the obvious popularity of the lake. There are even million dollar homes built near the existing nuke plants. If fact, I think I would love to have a cute little cottage over looking the picturesque lake.
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I am instinctively in favour of pumped storage as a means of load balancing. The UK’s 4 existing pumped storage schemes were built to store surplus nuclear and coal base load power produced at night and to release this energy into the late afternoon peak in electricity demand. Coire Glas is different, designed to store surplus wind power produced when it is windy and to release that energy when it is not. It is a massive beast, but does it make any sense?
The idea is to pump water into the reservoir when it is windy. The UK wind carpet recently produced 6GW peak output and so let’s assume that 3 of those 6GW were used to pump water into Coire Glas and other such schemes, and 3GW got fed directly onto the grid. If we are to have a renewables based system that can run independently of fossil fuel back up then it needs the stamina to survive a 7 day lull in the wind. So what we need to know is the amount of storage for 3GW of supply to run continuously for 7 days. This also assumes that we had 7 days producing 6GW of wind beforehand to fill the reservoirs – and we are still light years away from achieving that!
It may no doubt be argued that Coire Glas is only meant to be part of the load balancing solution which is fair enough. But what this means is that we are getting wind turbines, lots and lots of them, pylons and dams and still need to keep virtually all of the legacy fossil fuel plant going to provide back up power when the wind isn’t blowing. We are heading for an effective doubling of our energy infrastructure – Green irony!
I think they are an insurance policy given a currency collapse, which makes imports of any kind prohibitively expensive, you know how dire domestic fossil energy production is.
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Put bluntly this project is designed to stop the nations sewers backing up, not to keep the lights on.
As for nuclear difficult to see how it could function safely in the absence of fossil fuels, and sooner or later that is where we are going. (remember Hinkley C, if built, should still be operating in the 2080s and not finally decommissioned until 2200; if its safe today is not the point.)
Dave, interesting cost comparison. I’d like to see the size of the pile of batteries to deliver 30GWh @ 600MW. No one should get me wrong, I think the UK needs more storage and pumped storage is the the only show in town at present. Interestingly, SSE will make their investment decision in 2015 – after the Scottish referendum on continued membership of the UK. The SNP have a no new nuclear policy and so it wouldn’t surprise me if this scheme goes ahead but as a conventional nuclear battery.
I don’t think there is going be a collapse either, but I think growth is over and there will be a slow atrophy of our capabilities, that said when viewed over the scale of decades those capability loses will be significant. (I believe that finance may do extreme swings but they will stabilise over a couple of years)
An important distinction needs to be appreciated comparing Norwegian and Scottish hydro. Norway is huge, gets lots more rain, has higher relief and has a small population. Norwegian hydro runs 24/365.25. Scottish hydro from memory has a load factor in the vicinity of 15% (could be wildly wrong there). So when the wind blows in Denmark, the Norwegians and Swedes shut off their hydro and use Danish wind. When the wind stops blowing, they open the sluices and export electricity to Denmark. I’m sure Scottish hydro is used in part to balance wind, but it doesn’t have the muscle or stamina to balance a growing UK wind carpet.
My position on nuclear prior to fukushima was identical to yours, but I thought I understood nuclear better than I in fact did. You are alas right regards the ability of renewables to replace so much as a fraction of our current energy. Hard choices, I think what I would like to see a real attempt to make efficiency gains before making a decision on nuclear and then I would want as little nuclear as humanly possible (even then there are forms of nuclear which are just a no no).