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In a rigorous analysis is this "missing link" a solution or evidence of a much larger and systemic policy, market, and investment problem?

While Prof. Sadowy is correct on energy issues, his “the missing link” conclusion lacks perspective and highlights a larger problem in clean energy.

The Yardstick

“Missing link” technology has to have specific performance (other technologies have these) and cost. The most central feature for a "missing link's" is -

The combined system cost per kWh must net out lower than today’s renewables to have value.

This battery’s cost is 1/3 "the best battery technology" (MIT). AGM batteries are ~$250 per kWh of storage. Renewable output needs to be leveled (store when producing a lot, supply when not) to behave like fossil. Wind requires 3-5 days of leveling storage equal to 50% of rated capacity (the turbine’s max output) (LBNL).

Storage for 1MW wind turbine = 3 x 24 x 500kW x $80 = $2,880,000

1MW turbine cost = $1,800,000

Wind subsidy is ~$.026 per kWh to equal Natural Gas at $.065 per kWh

Combined wind/storage cost = $.15 per kWh, Subsidy raw = ~$.085 per kWh, Subsidy w/externals = ~$.05 per kWh

The effect of subsidizing a large percentage of global consumption at current rates is severe (see Edenhoffer’s ADAM) on the order of a 2% global economic contraction per year. More expensive renewable energy that behaves like fossil is not a solution.

The Larger Problem

As long as governments are subsidizing (driving private investment) energy technologies that are highly unlikely to solve our core energy problems, our problems will not be solved because we frittered away the money to solve them. The last 30 years provide a snapshot of this problem.

The US has funded and subsidized incremental storage, solar, and wind technologies for 30 years at a cost of tens of billions of dollars without producing anything that can or is on track to actually compete with fossil. If we continue to lack rigor in clean energy policy and investment and to invest large sums without vision, the future for climate change and/or our standard of living looks very dark.


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    Jan 15 2013: no doubt, mr sadoway engaged in some hyperbole about how good that technology is. if you read the comments of the talk, you find references to some existing battery technology that can provide not much worse economic efficiency. i mean, good work and all, but the real breakthrough is still ahead us, sadly.
    • Jan 17 2013: Science could use a few more good sales people like Mr. Sadoway. :-) As for the "real" solution, unless you know what that is and when we can use it, I think we need to move now. We must get the public to understand the true cost of burning fossil fuel (i.e., famine, floods, hurricanes, drought, loss of continental coasts, disappearance of entire island nations, and so on). Perhaps then the cost of moving to alternatives will be more palatable, particularly if we insulate the markets from those costs through, for example, nationalization of the electrical grid and utilities. I don't care what technology is used (that's for people more knowledgeable than I to determine), but somehow we've got to get the true cost of fossil fuels brought into the discussion when debating alternative energies. (On this score, I am quite excited about Thorium Liquid Fueled reactor technology that Shawn mentions. I had not known about that until he made his post.)
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        Jan 18 2013: Come on Kriz, What's the real break through?

        I see Laser tech being investigated and exotic material creation but what's that one mover that could get us in another acceleration curve. That's what i'm waiting for but i fear i might be dead by that time.

        I keep wondering if we are in the early 20th century fad where radioactive substances were sold as elixirs of life, i know this sounds strange but we haven't exactly evolved have we?

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