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Jah Kable

Thinker ready to be unleashed upon the world,

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Why are the alternate power sources not being implemented on a world-wide scale? There is a tipping point and we must be close by now!!!

Solar panels
Wind Turbines

We all see the signs of the world changing. Ice caps disappearing, mega storms, tempature rise, ect.
Yet we are more concerned with royal babies, wars, and profits.
We will have none of that if this planet stops supporting life as we know it.
This is a back burner issue always used for politics but never solved by politics.
Turn the heat up on this, the Earth is!


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  • Sep 1 2013: In 1982, in my college physics lab in Portland, Oregon, we calculated the costs of nuclear versus solar power. We determined then that the cost of the solar panels was cheaper than the cost of nuclear to supply power for an equivalent number of homes. This did not include the cost of installing the panels or the storage medium, ie batteries and inverters. Now, this was in Portland, and we took the weather into consideration. Plus it was 1982, and the cost of solar cells has come down considerably since then. (If I remember correctly, at that time the cost per home was about $30,000.)
    The real reasons for absence of alternative energies are profits and control. Oil is profitable. Nuclear, and other centralized plants, keep us tied down to a community and remove a certain degree of our freedom and autonomy.
    Tesla had plans for a central broadcasting station for electricity in the 1920's, and would have sent it out freely, without wires, all over the earth. This was shut down due to the inability to make money off his system. Now, it was never tested, and may have been a disaster if used, but the principle remains: we do not have alternative power today because those who control the world's economies can not make money off of it.
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      Sep 1 2013: your calculation was probably incorrect. what usually happens is that people include all the legal and administrative costs of building and operating a nuclear plant, exclude a lot of real costs from solar, and include subsidies to solar. this suspicion of mine is supported by the fact that you admit leaving out storage for solar, and probably also any sort of grid costs too.
    • Sep 1 2013: For a start, I tend to agree that something in the calculation was off. As I don't have it in front of me, it'd be hard to guess exactly what was the issue with it.

      Second, even if the calculation was spot on, the market has shifted quite a bit since 1982.

      Third, the problem with renewables isn't profit, because there is money to be made. The problem is that there is less money to be made than fossil fuels or even nuclear--higher expenses, lower power output, and lacking control over the on-off switch all hurt quite a bit.

      Also, a note on Nicola Tesla. While I am in no way disputing that he is very much the man who "invented the modern world", you must remember that later in life, his funding having gone dry, and worn down by years of competition with Edison, Tesla had a tenancy to make all sorts of wild claims to keep in the public eye.
      What Tesla published in detail all worked brilliantly. What he left purposefully obscure (like the death ray, earthquake machine, and using the earth as a power grid), he did because it was nothing more than a tall tale.
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      Sep 1 2013: Phillip,
      Your class made the same mistakes that too many do. It was based more on a political theory then the basic economic issues.
      I will use my house and numbers I had when considering solar panels.
      First: our local power company bought power from individuals at the wholesale rate and sold it back at the retail rate a spread of $.04 per KW.
      Second: Initial installation of 4 KW of panels on my house would be $22K with a estimated life of 15 years.
      The sustainment cost including depreciation was estimated at $1400 pa. The ROI was flat, mostly because we go north for the summer and shutdown the house.
      Third. You used houses in your calculations. Houses simplify calculation. Commercial power is not just about houses. It's about factories, shopping centers, airports, office buildings, hotels, amusement parks, medical centers. Power requirements are all over the place.
      Forth: Yes, commercial power companies make profits. How could you have a business without profits?
      Even publicly owned power companies make profits. Now, if you are under some belief that profits are bad,
      we need another whole conversation.
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        Sep 1 2013: it is time for us to reconsider our thinking about profit. i don't know what is the exact origin of the sentiment that profits would be bad or irresponsible. maybe marxism, maybe paternalism, maybe escapism, i don't know. but people have to understand how profit works.

        it is not that hard. whatever i do, i take some resources, like raw materials, energy and manpower, and i use those resources to produce something. that something is the "product". but since i used up resources, i also prevented some other things from being produced. if i make chairs, the wood i used will not become tables, pencils, paper or electricity. we call these goods foregone "cost". profit is nothing more than the difference between the goods produced and the goods foregone.

        using that framework, "profit" really means nothing else than taking resources, and transforming them into something that people want more than anything else that could have been produced from the same resources. and "loss" means i took some resources, and transformed them into something that is less wanted than something else that could have been created from the same resources. i made chairs, but people wanted cupboards.

        profit is efficiency. loss is waste.

        it seems to be easy and straightforward. but unfortunately we need much more effort to make people understand this.
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          Sep 1 2013: I look at profit in the capitalistic manner. Profit is the return on application of time, materials, labor and equipment. Sometimes there is no profit. Sometimes some will say there is too much profit. There are market forces that control profit outside the the hands of the maker.
          I believe we are due for a spirited conversation on profits amd what value they present to society..
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        Sep 2 2013: we are talking about the same here. money cost is the apparent cost. but one has to look further, what is money cost? money cost comes from the best alternative use of the same resources. thus, if you make a profit, it means that you create more value than the alternative. if you make a loss, the alternative would have been better, and you wasted resources.
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        Sep 2 2013: And I am hearing just the opposite. A company here in Texas has developed a smalll self contained nuclear generator based on what is used in ships and is contracting to install those in a number of places. New large plants have not been built because of a myriade of suits and regulations, etc; Old plants are being closed do to be worn out. Uranium is the third most prevalient energy source in the US behind coal and oil.
        My take seems to be different then yours. I think nuclear power is a viable option and should not be regarded as useless.
        • Sep 2 2013: To Mike Colera:

          I only brought up Israel as an example to point out nuclear reactors aren't terrorist targets. I can't actually bring up how competitive it is for power generation, because we don't use nuclear for power generation here. I know of two reactors in Israel, one for research, the other for production of weapons grade material (unofficially of course, but everybody knows--its been called the worst kept secret in the middle east). Terrorism though, we have plenty of, and no attacks on nuclear targets to date, too hardened.

          We're one of those parts of the world were you can't touch nuclear due to politics--looks too much like a weapons program we don't officially have.

          This is actually a big problem for nuclear in the developing world.
          A weapons program looks very different from a peaceful one when examined closely, but not from a distance, and people often don't care to try and spot the differences. Many countries risk international sanction or even military action by perusing a peaceful nuclear program.

          Not to mention the lack of technical know-how. Hiring foreigners to do all the work, and importing half the components for the project is as politically problematic as it is expensive.

          I'm afraid nuclear is simply out of reach for much of the world. Combined with the high expense per power output of renewables, and you see why the developing world would be shooting itself in the foot trying to reduce emissions.

          Honestly, it global warming is real (which I doubt), we may well be better off spending money on damage control than on trying to stop the inevitable, because I don't see the planet going green any time soon.
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        Sep 2 2013: nuclear being expensive is a recent development, it wasn't always the case. those expenses you have listed are of course included in the operational costs, and not hidden. the costs that makes nuclear expensive are due to the heavy overregulation (and let me add, ineffective regulation). all the extra cost this regulation puts on nuclear constitutes up to 2/3 of the total cost.
      • Sep 2 2013: Those foreign Uranium sources you're talking about are places like Russia, Canada and Australia. Unlike with oil producing nations, these are typically stable countries, that can be counted on not to make a fuss.
        Same goes for coal and gas. Its only oil that's politically problematic, and renewables can't do a thing to replace oil (they're useless for mobile power generation--which is where most of the oil is used).

        Avoiding any foreign energy sources is essentially shooting yourself in the foot. The US simply cannot support its own energy needs using only domestic fuel sources--unless you want to go entirely renewable, in which case, good luck having your industry compete with exorbitantly expensive electricity prices driving production costs high.

        Nuclear material is actually widely available, and fairly cheap to boot. Its the enrichment process that's costly--it takes a specialized and rather expensive infrastructure, which is why nuclear proliferation has been as slow as it had.
        Reactor grade material and weapons grade material are not quite the same thing either. The weapons grade stuff takes a much greater level of enrichment, and is practically never sold.

        Nuclear's biggest problem at the moment is the construction of new nuclear plants being made artificially slow and expensive by a combination of over-regulation and local politicians smelling an easy target.
        Once a plant is up and running, its quite economical. Not as much as fossil fuels perhaps, but still a fair bit better than renewables.
      • Sep 2 2013: http://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/reports/2012/system-effects-exec-sum.pdf

        On a strict, kilowatt-hour per dollar basis, nuclear is cheaper than onshore wind by a factor of between 4 and 8, depending on the country. It only gets worse when you move your wind offshore or start using solar.
        Nuclear is more expensive to set up, true, but once its up and running, its is without a doubt cheaper.
        For comparison, fossil fuels are typically around 5 times cheaper than nuclear.

        Being a target for terror attack is also not much of an issue. Its pretty easy to build a containment structure that can resist improvised rocket attack (which you'll need for any nuclear plant anyway), and a dozen military grade security guards can stop any ground bound terror attack just fine. Populations centers will always be more enticing targets, as they're much larger and therefore impossible to defend so easily.
        Case in point, Israel, where I happen to live. We've had well over a thousand successful terror attacks targeted against us in the past two decades, and despite this, not a one was targeted against one of the country's nuclear reactors. They're just too hardened to be enticing as targets.

        As for regulation, the problem is with the process is that in the US, most of the regulation isn't actually productive, but in practice does nothing but artificially increase the cost of construction for a nuclear reactor. Think of it as bureaucratic roadblocks set up alongside the legitimate stuff.

        As for no one wanting to live next to a reactor, just set them up away from population centers. You'll take a hit on grid costs due to the plant being far away, but if that's what it takes, that's what it takes. Disposal sites can be as remote as you like with only a negligible increase in expenses, so they're not an issue.

        And if the US wants to be truly energy independent, without importing a thing, it'll sign the death warrant of what industry hasn't already moved to China. It'll make it non-competitive.
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          Sep 2 2013: I live in the 7th largest metropolitan area in the US. Different parts of the world have differing issues. In the broadest general terms, Australia has almost no population density. Israel (with all due respect) is a sardine can. USA is not really all that crowded.
          Our local major power supplier uses energy from all the resources. The integration is carefully planned to make best use at the lowest possible cost to customers. One of the largest solar "farms" in America provides peak power support during the hottest days, Wind power is brought on line as available for maintenance time and repairs. Old inefficient plants are being replaced with new fossil fuel plants to meet air quality guidelines. And for those who are critical of money hungry usurpers, this system is publicly owned.
          Each nation has to provide their citizens with the best model available.
          Having said this, one thing learned here is that the "renewable are not controllable. the best that can be foreseen in spite of claims to the contrary is an 80/20 ratio of controlled power.
          Now, if you go off line to provide your own power, you must be careful. My provider must provide power to my residence. If I am off line, I am on my own and failure can be catastrophic.

          PS. Here the retail cost of wind is $ 0.14 pkwh and nuclear is $0.10.8 pkwh. It is different in different places. Our retail cost to residential customers is #0.11.1 pkwh. My average cost for my totally electric home is $120 per month
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        Sep 2 2013: what? you came back so soon? i expected a month without your undesirable attitude.
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