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A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt 2

Discussions of conventional and alternative energy production technologies.

Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby Zarquon » Wed 27 Sep 2017, 22:51:33

I also think storage is the elephant in the alt-energy room. I'm just trying to get a very rough idea of how far we've yet got to go, because I believe that despite a large number of storage projects coming online, the vast majority of them are only capable of limited grid-balancing, not long-term storage. That's two very different beasts. Correct me if I'm totally off here somewhere.

Intermittency and a high percentage of solar/wind means that a few clouds or sudden drop in wind speed will cause a significant drop of power in the grid, and grids can't handle these very well. From what (little) I understand a large, sudden drop in output doesn't mean that the lights in your living room suddenly get a little dimmer, but a potential blackout. That's where utility-scale battery storage comes in - it can react within a fraction of a second and provide a few MW of power, enough to balance the grid until power plants can ramp up output.

But if you transit to a renewable energy system, you need enough storage to provide power not for minutes, but days or potentially even a week. A lull in wind speed can last for days and solar can't provide power at night, or even compensate for loss of wind power during a lull unless you build ridiculous over-capacities. Here's some data for GB/Ireland and estimates of power storage needs:

http://www.withouthotair.com/c26/page_187.shtml

"Between October 2006 and February 2007 there were 17 days when the output from Britain’s 1632 windmills was less than 10% of their capacity. During that period there were five days when output was less than 5% and one day when it was only 2%.
...
OK, before we start looking for solutions, we need to quantify wind’s other problem: long-term lulls. At the start of February 2007, Ireland had a country-wide lull that lasted five days. This was not an unusual event, as you can see in figure 26.2. Lulls lasting two or three days happen several times a year."

(The author wrote this in 2006 and the calculations later in this chapter were for the then-installed wind power in GB, and the much, much lower electricity consumption in Europe. His estimate was 20 kWh storage per person for a five-day lull, just to compensate for the loss of actually installed wind power).

Obviously, storage requirements vary from place to place, depending on installed power, industry power use, average wind and solar irradiation etc. But this is just a back-of-the-envelope guess, so let's break it down to the average US consumer:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_ ... onsumption

Imagine a US powered by 50% wind and 50% solar and let's try and find out how much storage you guys might need. In 2012, the average US citizen (incl. industry, commerce etc.) consumed 13 MWh/a. That's 35 kWh/d, or 250 kWh per person needed to get through a week. Let's say the sun usually comes up in the morning (even when there's no wind to propel it though the sky) and provides some power to the grid, so we halve the number to 125 kWh per person. A city of 100,000 people would thus need 12,500 MWh of storage to get through a whole week. Solar provides less power in winter, more during the summer, so it's a lot more complicated than that but then I'm just trying to guess the magnitude here.

Finally, let's see what amount of storage there actually is in the US. Fortunately your tax dollars are hard at work at the DOE, if only to build internet databases to illustrate the lack of storage:

http://www.energystorageexchange.org/pr ... napproved={}

Filter by "Unites States" and ">10,000 kWh", then click on the "Power" column header to sort by power output. You'll find 111 storage installations in the US. Every one with a significant capacity is pumped hydro power, mostly built in the 1970s and 80s.

The biggest installation by far is Bath County Pumped Storage Station with 3003 MW for 10 hours, or 30,030 MWh. Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Plant in Tennessee provides 1652 MW for 22 hours, or 36,344 MWh. Both could get two or three of our little 100,000-people towns through a week with no wind and only 50% power provided by PV.

You have to scroll down pretty far to find projects that are not hydro, like
- PG&E Advanced Underground Compressed Air Energy Storage, 300 MW for 10 hours
- Solana Solar Generating Plant, molten salt thermal storage, 280 MW for 6 hours

The biggest battery project is AES Alamitos Energy Storage Array, Lithium-ion Battery, 100 MW for 4 hours (status: contracted). These 400 MWh would supply the 50% lack-of-wind for our average green town of 100,000 people for about six hours.

The typical US battery installation provides something like 20 or 30 MW for a few minutes, and there are a few dozen, planned or operational. All of this is grid-balancing only, not consumption.

Or take a look at
http://www.energystorageexchange.org/pr ... ualization

There is a worldwide capacity of about 160,000 MW power (no idea about energy capacity, but if you saw the list of US projects you can guess that it's a few hours of output). Practically all of it (90%+) is pumped hydro, with battery and thermal barely making a dent in the curve. By 2020 that number is going to increase to about 190,000 MW, but the growth rate is slowing down.

So there we are. Intermittency requires grid-balancing, and that's slowly being worked on. But to go 100% alt-energy you'd need storage capacity on a scale that is not even on the horizon. All the storage capacity in the US could probably power the entire grid for minutes, not hours, certainly not days. How many times do you have to double the capacity to get there? Now add a hundred million electric cars and their storage capacity but also their consumption.

Don't get me wrong - I like the green dream; I just don't see it happening in my lifetime.
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby baha » Thu 28 Sep 2017, 04:53:19

My green dream is complete. I have adequate production and storage for my needs. I am not balancing the grid, I am ignoring it.

I am 100% solar, how does that fit into your numbers? Some of the assumptions you make are misleading. I tell people if you want to run on solar the first step is to be as efficient as you can. The number you assume for consumption (35 kwh/day) may be true but it is not fixed in stone. I live comfortably at 10 kwh/day.

If your going to spend mega-bucks on alts and storage wouldn't it be more effective to spend some on efficiency first? And lifestyle changes come next. What happens if you sleep at night? These two changes reduce the problem by 2/3rds.

Your separation of balancing and consumption is not accurate. The grid must balance production with consumption. The energy must be used as fast as it is made (no storage). Add individual storage and that problem goes away. The central PP can run at a fixed rate or a wildly variable rate and the storage can handle the load fluctuations.

EVs are going to help solve the storage problem, not make it worse. In the end EV batteries will become part of the grid and allow flow in both directions. At any one moment, most cars are parked...

I can't argue with your numbers but I do differ with your assumptions.
Last edited by baha on Thu 28 Sep 2017, 05:50:30, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby baha » Thu 28 Sep 2017, 05:30:48

I'm excited about the possibilities. My Powerwall is the perfect storage device but it only has 13.5 kWhrs. That will last me over a day with no additional power added. A Tesla P100d has 7.4 times that capacity. All it takes is a little software handshake and an available inverter and the house has over 7 days of stored power when the car is plugged in. In fact EVs already have inverters...the motors are AC.

I already explained that solar works during clouds and rain. I don't know anything about wind power...

My ability to power and balance my own usage is easily doable. Why doesn't that apply to society in general?
A Solar fuel spill is otherwise known as a sunny day!
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Thu 28 Sep 2017, 08:33:57

Solar and Wind are to some degree complimentary. This is the solar resource map:
Image
No surprises here, the SouthWest deserts are the best locations.
This is the wind resource map:
Image
The absolute best and biggest resource is in the New England offshore area, the proposed location for the Cape Wind offshore wind farm. There are also a few hot spots in Wyoming, near to the Continental Divide.

With either type of renewable energy, we need the infrastructure renewal that baha is alluding to. We could run this country on (my estimate) 1/6th the energy we use now, after we have renewed our buildings, vehicles, and power grid. Once you have done that, current renewable energy sources and battery technology are sufficient.

Most people assume that the objective should be to continue the energy hog lifestyles enabled by cheap fossil energy. But that is the wrong objective because after fossil fuel shortages begin to be felt, energy will never be cheap again.
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby Zarquon » Thu 28 Sep 2017, 13:23:09

baha wrote:I am 100% solar, how does that fit into your numbers? Some of the assumptions you make are misleading. I tell people if you want to run on solar the first step is to be as efficient as you can. The number you assume for consumption (35 kwh/day) may be true but it is not fixed in stone. I live comfortably at 10 kwh/day.


Household electricity consumption is about 1/3 of total use. The rest is industry, commerce and a little public transport etc. Wait... here it is:

https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/ind ... ricity_use
"Shares of total U.S. retail sales of electricity by consuming sectors in 2016:
Residential–38%
Commercial–37%
Industrial–25%
Transportation–0.2% (mostly by public transit systems)"

Perform a miracle and convince every second US citizen to go completely off the grid, just like you did. Which would be great, but you just reduced total consumption by 19%.

If your going to spend mega-bucks on alts and storage wouldn't it be more effective to spend some on efficiency first? And lifestyle changes come next. What happens if you sleep at night? These two changes reduce the problem by 2/3rds.


I do sleep at night, on a regular basis. And I could switch to microwaved food instead of real cooking, stop washing my clothes or quit reading peakoil.com and pick up a book instead. Apart from that, my lifestyle doesn't offer much savings potential. Actually, 10 kWh/d means you still use twice as much as the average Euro energy-hog (insert smiley of your choice here).

Your separation of balancing and consumption is not accurate. The grid must balance production with consumption. The energy must be used as fast as it is made (no storage). Add individual storage and that problem goes away. The central PP can run at a fixed rate or a wildly variable rate and the storage can handle the load fluctuations.


So... households switch to individual storage, while industry and commerce etc. (62% of the total) use electricity when it's available, not when it's required?
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby GHung » Thu 28 Sep 2017, 13:50:17

There's a different mindset for many of those who begin producing their own electricity at home. It starts out with discovering it works, a least in part, and then it becomes a habit to find out if one can produce all of their energy that way. Usually starts with conservation, and, in my case, optimizing and adding a bit more production to find out where that grove is.
I suspect that most folks have "better" things to do.
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Thu 28 Sep 2017, 15:38:06

KJ - Interesting maps...mucho thanks. But: " The absolute best and biggest resource is in the New England offshore area, the proposed location for the Cape Wind offshore wind farm. There are also a few hot spots in Wyoming, near to the Continental Divide." True but just from the source energy side of the equation. I know you appreciate the complexity of the dynamic. In particular where the monetary value of the alt energy might be. And not just in absolute terms but the monetary savings potential.

Not sure if it's true today but many years ago read report pointing to Montana as one of the best places to apply solar. Not nearly the total generating capacity of, say Arizona, but it would be substituted for much more expensive electricity. But that doesn't explain the resistance to offshore New England wind. S Texas has a lot of beach lovers including the hordes of tourists that flood Padre Island every spring. They and gpthe locals didn't have a big problem with or huge coastal wind farms.

By that standard Hawaii with 26¢/kWh should be at the top of the list. And then there's Connecticut at 18¢/kWh. OTOH Texas should be towards the bottom at 9¢/kWh but we have some of the largest wind power capabilities in the world. And abundant NG and a rather huge reserve of cheap lignite.

So there must be other controlling factors. How about demand growth? Texas has had and continues to have significant growth and thus growing electricity demand. Had we not built out wind power we would have built more fossil fuel powered plants. Is that what's holding states like Connecticut and others back: they don't need more electricity today or in the future?

Maybe the grid capabilities are a factor. With our upgrade grid (which our tax payers were willing to spend $7 billion to do) we can supply consumers many hundreds of miles away from the wind farms. If the eastern and western grids had more flexibility would that make a difference? Revi might offer some details but I think Maine and a few other states are in the process of tapping into the Canadian grid and pulling in some of its hydro power.

But taking it all together it's still a tad difficult for me to understand how the state that produces the most fossil fuels is also one of the largest renewable energy producers.
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby GHung » Thu 28 Sep 2017, 15:54:09

"S Texas has a lot of beach lovers including the hordes of tourists that flood Padre Island every spring. They and gpthe locals didn't have a big problem with or huge coastal wind farms."

Could be because they've been enjoying the view of all those off-shore oil rigs for decades. Maybe if the folks on Nantucket made their wind towers look more like oil rigs........

On the other hand, compare the price of a beach-front lot in Corpus to a beach lot on Cape Cod. Not exactly apples to apples.
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby baha » Thu 28 Sep 2017, 16:36:40

Hi ZQ,
I like your love for numbers :) I love them too, and I just enjoy life :) :)

You're right residential is only a third. But small to medium commercial systems are just a matter of scale. We just started a 1.2 Mwatt PV system on a huge warehouse. They have a purchase agreement with Duke Power and will massively over-produce. They will be making income from the solar production. In a few years they can install batteries if they wish, on a much smaller scale (this warehouse closes at night), and be grid free.

Now your left with heavy industry. 25% Use NG for that until something else shows up.

ROCKMAN wrote:Is that what's holding states like Connecticut and others back: they don't need more electricity today or in the future?


I think that explains a lot of it. Why build more capacity in NE when people are moving away and the locals don't want any more development. I bet when the old rich folk die off the kids will build condos and wind farms.
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Thu 28 Sep 2017, 18:26:54

Here's a good reason to use renewable energy to replace FF's:
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Of all the FF's we use, coal is the worst in terms of pollution. Nor is "clean coal" truly possible.
Image
This is a US coal plant (Cholla, AZ) in full compliance with EPA air quality regulations.

Here are the top 50 dirtiest coal plants: http://www.dirtykilowatts.org/Dirty_Kilowatts2007.pdf

I understand the uses of and the importance of electrical power. But coal kills far more people than any other form of power plant. We can do better, and we should.
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby pstarr » Thu 28 Sep 2017, 18:43:50

Not really necessary KJ
For more than forty-five years the Clean Air Act has cut pollution as the U.S. economy has grown.

Experience with the Clean Air Act since 1970 has shown that protecting public health and building the economy can go hand in hand.

Clean Air Act programs have lowered levels of six common pollutants -- particles, ozone, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide -- as well as numerous toxic pollutants.

From 1970 to 2015, aggregate national emissions of the six common pollutants alone dropped an average of 70 percent while gross domestic product grew by 246 percent. This progress reflects efforts by state, local and tribal governments; EPA; private sector companies; environmental groups and others.

The emissions reductions have led to dramatic improvements in the quality of the air that we breathe. Between 1990 and 2015, national concentrations of air pollutants improved 85 percent for lead, 84 percent for carbon monoxide, 67 percent for sulfur dioxide (1-hour), 60 percent for nitrogen dioxide (annual), and 3 percent for ozone. Fine particle concentrations (24-hour) improved 37 percent and coarse particle concentrations (24-hour) improved 69 percent between 2000, when trends data begins for fine particles, and 2015. (For more trends information, see EPA's Air Trends site.)

These air quality improvements have enabled many areas of the country to meet national air quality standards set to protect public health and the environment. For example, all of the 41 areas that had unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide in 1991 now have levels that meet the health-based national air quality standard. A key reason is that the motor vehicle fleet is much cleaner because of Clean Air Act emissions standards for new motor vehicles.

Airborne lead pollution, a widespread health concern before EPA phased out lead in motor vehicle gasoline under Clean Air Act authority, now meets national air quality standards in most areas of the country.

State emission control measures to implement the Act, as well as EPA's national emissions standards, have contributed to air quality improvements.

While your new-found environmental consciousness is refreshing KJ, it's not really necessary anymore. America Went Clean! . . . decades ago :) 8) The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts . . . and the EPA have already . . . Made America Great!. In spite of the Republican insistence to the contrary. Thank Gaia! for the environmentalists.

Cheers :P 8)
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Thu 28 Sep 2017, 18:57:11

Pstarr, care to provide a link to the source of your cut and paste, so that we could assess credibility?

Also, the best guess is that coal plant emissions kill 10,000 US citizens annually, and it remains the deadliest form of power production.

I do not doubt that the EPA Air Quality standards improved air quality and reduced mortality. But it's still the dirtiest and most dangerous power production.
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby kublikhan » Fri 29 Sep 2017, 16:51:43

Pstarr, the Clean Air Act, passed in 1970, only applied to new power plants built. It had little effect on existing coal power plants. At the time it was thought this was an acceptable compromise to get the coal industry onboard(or at least limit their opposition) while at the same time these plants should be phased out over the following decades. However this did not happen. The utilities found it cheaper to operate these older coal power plants far longer than their originally planned lifetimes. Even though these older plants are far less efficient than a modern coal plant, it was still cheaper to run them because they had 0 costs associated with complying with the Clean Air Act. That is why the US has one of the oldest fleet of coal power plants in the world. It wasn't until Obama era changes to the Clean Air Act that grandfathered coal power plants finally had to start complying with a law passed nearly half a century ago.

The Clean Air Act imposes much stricter emission limits on new coal-burning power plants than on older ones — a practice that has no obvious theoretical justification. Elimination of “grandfather rules”, i.e., applying new plant standards to the US electric industry as a whole, would eliminate 40% of nationwide SO2 emissions and 15% of NOX emissions, while raising average retail electricity rates by only 4%.
Grandfathering and coal plant emissions: the cost of cleaning up the Clean Air Act

In their book Struggling for Air: Power Plants and the “War on Coal,” Richard Revesz and Jack Lienke detail the history of the Clean Air Act and the political compromises that led to exempting existing power plants from significant portions of the Act’s regulatory authority. They explain that the Act’s ambitious health-based goals fell short due to this “grandfathering,” which disincentivizes utilities from updating existing power plants or constructing new ones; and they examine attempts by the executive branch to address its impacts, including the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan.

Grandfathering leads to some perverse incentives, such as that existing sources have an incentive to stay in operation a lot longer than would otherwise have been the case. Generally, what makes existing sources close down to be replaced by new sources is that the existing sources are less efficient, so, after some period of time, it’s worth the investment to have a new source replace the existing source. But if you impose a very high cost on new sources and no comparable cost on existing sources, then you’ve made it economically desirable to operate the existing sources a lot longer. This doesn’t necessarily mean that new sources and existing sources should be subjected to the same standards. It is typically much more expensive to retrofit existing sources than to build new sources with the standards in mind. The question is how big the disparity in the regulations between existing and new sources is going to be, and will there be an end time for that disparity.

In 1970, when the U.S. Congress enacted the Clean Air Act, it was a hugely important undertaking. It imposed standards on new sources—the new source performance standards (NSPS)—and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quickly went about its job of coming up with standards for categories of new sources. But there were no comparable federal requirements on existing sources.
Grandfathering Coal: Power Plant Regulation Under the Clean Air Act

Over the years, pollution from grandfathered plants has taken a grim toll on public health, causing hundreds of thousands of premature deaths. But these facilities might not be around much longer. By 2025, plant owners are expected to shutter the vast majority of pre-1970 generating units. What’s driving the retirements? Policies and prices.

While the Clean Air Act still exempts old plants from nationwide limits on soot- and smog-forming pollutants, the EPA does have power to regulate the plants’ emissions of other types of pollution. And that’s what its two most important new rules do. Critics claim that these regulations are an unprecedented “war on coal” by the Obama administration. In fact, the rules build upon regulatory groundwork laid over three decades by Republican and Democratic administrations alike.
Your Grandfather's Coal Plant – The Clean Air Act's Flawed Legacy
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby pstarr » Fri 29 Sep 2017, 17:40:05

Sane environmental law manages point-source pollution, that specifically damages human populations and regional ecosystems. Power plant emissions are by design airborne and disbursed far and wide. The resulting pollutants are reduced in concentration and therefore not bad.

In the final analysis, all made-made pollutants are originally from this very same planet earth. Essentially natural and a part of all life. And so the pollutants will eventually all degrade and dispurse, return to our mother. (Unless you are a linear no-threshold model (LNT) maniac then there is little hope sorry)

Always keep in mind Kub . . . the solution to pollution is dilution.
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby GHung » Fri 29 Sep 2017, 18:04:24

pstarr wrote:Sane environmental law manages point-source pollution, that specifically damages human populations and regional ecosystems. Power plant emissions are by design airborne and disbursed far and wide. The resulting pollutants are reduced in concentration and therefore not bad.

In the final analysis, all made-made pollutants are originally from this very same planet earth. Essentially natural and a part of all life. And so the pollutants will eventually all degrade and dispurse, return to our mother. (Unless you are a linear no-threshold model (LNT) maniac then there is little hope sorry)

Always keep in mind Kub . . . the solution to pollution is dilution.


Good crop this year P? Maybe you can reimburse my family for the tons of lime we've had to apply to our fields and pastures almost every year to counter soil acidification; the direct result of acid rain and sulfur dioxide coming into the southern Appalachians from coal plants in the Tennessee Valley. Not to mention the very high ground level ozone we get every summer from the west; this in a supposedly 'pristine' county of about 10,000 people in rural Appalachia.

And I don't buy any of your nasty coal-sourced electricity. Haven't for 20 years.
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby kublikhan » Fri 29 Sep 2017, 18:11:56

That is incorrect Pstarr. The huge volumes of pollution dispersed by coal plants are very bad. The WHO estimates a million people a year are dying from coal use. And coal pollution consists of far more than just air pollution. It also produced hundreds of missions of tons of solid waste per year in the form of fly ash, bottom ash, sludge, etc that contains mercury, arsenic, uranium, etc. All very deadly for humans and wildlife alike. Then there's the millions of acres of land that are destroyed strip mining coal. Not to mention water pollution.

The environmental impact of the coal industry includes issues such as land use, waste management, water and air pollution, caused by the coal mining, processing and the use of its products. In addition to atmospheric pollution, coal burning produces hundreds of millions of tons of solid waste products annually, including fly ash, bottom ash, and flue-gas desulfurization sludge, that contain mercury, uranium, thorium, arsenic, and other heavy metals. There are severe health effects caused by burning coal. According to a report by the World Health Organization in 2008, coal particulates pollution are estimated to shorten approximately 1,000,000 lives annually worldwide.

Impact to land and surroundings
Strip mining severely alters the landscape, which reduces the value of the natural environment in the surrounding land. Strip mining eliminates existing vegetation, destroys the genetic soil profile, displaces or destroys wildlife and habitat, alters current land uses, and to some extent permanently changes the general topography of the area mined. The removal of vegetative cover and activities associated with the construction of haul roads, stockpiling of topsoil, displacement of overburden and hauling of soil and coal increase the quantity of dust around mining operations. Dust degrades air quality in the immediate area, has an adverse impact on vegetative life, and constitutes health and safety hazards for mine workers and nearby residents.

Water
The contamination of both groundwater and nearby streams may be for long periods of time. Deterioration of stream quality results from acid mine drainage, toxic trace elements, high content of dissolved solids in mine drainage water, and increased sediment loads discharged to streams. When coal surfaces are exposed, pyrite comes in contact with water and air and forms sulfuric acid. As water drains from the mine, the acid moves into the waterways; as long as rain falls on the mine tailings the sulfuric-acid production continues, whether the mine is still operating or not. Also waste piles and coal storage piles can yield sediment to streams. Surface waters may be rendered unfit for agriculture, human consumption, bathing, or other household use.

Soft water application in irrigation (surface or ground water) converts the fertile soils into alkaline sodic soils. River water alkalinity and sodicity due to accumulation of salts in the remaining water after meeting various transpiration and evaporation losses, become acute when many coal-fired boilers and power stations are installed in a river basin. River water sodicity affects downstream cultivated river basins located in China, India, Egypt, Pakistan, west Asia, Australia, western US, etc.

Wildlife
Surface mining of coal causes direct and indirect damage to wildlife. The impact on wildlife stems primarily from disturbing, removing and redistributing the land surface. Some impacts are short-term, and confined to the mine site; others have far-reaching, long-term effects. The most direct effect on wildlife is destruction or displacement of species in areas of excavation and spoil piling. Pit and spoil areas are not capable of providing food and cover for most species of wildlife. Mobile wildlife species like game animals, birds, and predators leave these areas. More sedentary animals like invertebrates, reptiles, burrowing rodents and small mammals may be destroyed. The community of microorganisms and nutrient-cycling processes are upset by movement, storage, and redistribution of soil.

Degradation of aquatic habitats is a major impact by surface mining, and may be apparent many miles from a mining site. Sediment contamination of surface water is common with surface mining. Sediment yields may increase a thousand times their former level as a result of strip mining. These changes destroy the habitat of valued species, and may enhance habitat for less-desirable species. Existing conditions are already marginal for some freshwater fish in the United States, and the sedimentation of their habitat may result in their extinction. The heaviest sediment pollution of a drainage normally comes within 5 to 25 years after mining. In some areas, unvegetated spoil piles continue to erode even 50 to 65 years after mining.

The presence of acid-forming materials exposed as a result of surface mining can affect wildlife by eliminating habitat and by causing direct destruction of some species. Lesser concentrations can suppress productivity, growth rate and reproduction of many aquatic species. Acids, dilute concentrations of heavy metals, and high alkalinity can cause severe damage to wildlife in some areas. The duration of acidic-waste pollution can be long; estimates of the time required to leach exposed acidic materials in the Eastern United States range from 800 to 3,000 years.
Environmental impact of the coal industry

Mining is the first step in the dirty life cycle of coal. When coal mines move in, whole communities are forced off their land by expanding mines, coal fires, subsidence, and overused and contaminated water supplies. Mines are quick to dig up and destroy forests and soils. But once the coal is gone, the problems they leave behind, like acid mine drainage, can persist for decades.

Strip mines leave lands barren
Coal mining is land disturbance on a vast scale. In the US, from 1930 to 2000, coal mining altered about 2.4 million hectares (5.9 million acres) of natural landscape, most originally forest. This mining activity leaves behind barren lands that stay contaminated long after the mine shuts.

Underground mines bring toxins to surface
Underground mining also brings huge amounts of waste earth and rock to the surface. This waste often becomes toxic when it contacts air and water.

Acid mine drainage
When coal and other rocks unearthed during mining mix with water, this creates acid mine drainage. The water takes on toxic levels of minerals and heavy metal and leaks out of abandoned mines. From there it contaminates groundwater, streams, soil, plants, animals and humans. Taking on an orange colour, it can blanket rivers, estuaries or sea beds, killing plants and making surface water unusable for drinking. Acid mine drainage can continue for decades or centuries after a mine closes unless costly reclamation projects are done.

Threats to local populations
People living near coal mines have higher-than-normal rates of cardiopulmonary disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, lung disease, and kidney disease. Local communities also suffer when coal fires occur. These fires emit toxic levels of arsenic, fluorine, mercury and selenium, contaminants that can enter the air and food chain of local communities.
About coal mining impacts
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby kublikhan » Fri 29 Sep 2017, 19:00:10

Zarquon wrote:But if you transit to a renewable energy system, you need enough storage to provide power not for minutes, but days or potentially even a week. A lull in wind speed can last for days and solar can't provide power at night, or even compensate for loss of wind power during a lull unless you build ridiculous over-capacities.

to go 100% alt-energy you'd need storage capacity on a scale that is not even on the horizon. All the storage capacity in the US could probably power the entire grid for minutes, not hours, certainly not days. How many times do you have to double the capacity to get there? Now add a hundred million electric cars and their storage capacity but also their consumption. Don't get me wrong - I like the green dream; I just don't see it happening in my lifetime.
I don't think you need to build that much storage. A better option is to have a small amount of over-capacity but make it geographically dispersed with an improved grid that can carry large amounts of power across the country. The US is a big country. For example, even if the entire state of California is overcast and suffers a sudden drop in Solar PV kWh, they could just import more electricity from elsewhere in the country. Also, 100% renewable would be a very expensive goal and unrealistic in the short to medium term. It would be much cheaper to keep some FF generation around for such situations. CC gas turbines can be brought online within 30 minutes. Combustion is even faster: within 10 minutes. The benefit of building days of electricity storage is very small compared to it's enormous cost. Much cheaper to use FFs for this role and limit storage to the minutes of generation category.

Increasing penetration of renewable energy sources presents challenges for transmission grid operators to maintain electric reliability despite the intermittency of wind and solar power. This variability is managed with redundant generating capacity that can quickly respond to fluctuations in demand, and has predominately been served by coal and gas-fired units that are synchronized to the grid but operating at part load. Flexible power generation that can be rapidly brought online reduces the inefficiency of relying on part load operation. System operators, such as PJM, California ISO and ERCOT define such “quick-start” or “non-spinning” reserve as generation capacity that can be synchronized to the grid and ramped to capacity within 10 minutes.
Combustion Engine vs Gas Turbine: Startup Time
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby pstarr » Fri 29 Sep 2017, 19:32:50

kublikhan wrote:That is incorrect Pstarr. The huge volumes of pollution dispersed by coal plants are very bad. The WHO estimates a million people a year are dying from coal use.

A million people die each year from malaria. About 22 million cases of typhoid fever and 200,000 related deaths occur worldwide each year.

This is nothing compared to heart disease, bad diet and lack of proper sanitation. Stop burning coal and many more folks with perish.
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby kublikhan » Fri 29 Sep 2017, 19:47:52

pstarr wrote:A million people die each year from malaria. About 22 million cases of typhoid fever and 200,000 related deaths occur worldwide each year.

This is nothing compared to heart disease, bad diet and lack of proper sanitation. Stop burning coal and many more folks with perish.
No one suggested going cold turkey on humanity's coal addiction. However we can make large reductions in our coal use just by switching from half century old coal plants to modern efficient plants. More large reductions by switching some of our coal over to renewables. And yet more reductions still by improving our energy efficiency.
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Re: A Critical Discussion the Limits to Renewable Energy Pt

Unread postby pstarr » Mon 02 Oct 2017, 12:06:40

GHung wrote:
pstarr wrote:Sane environmental law manages point-source pollution, that specifically damages human populations and regional ecosystems. Power plant emissions are by design airborne and disbursed far and wide. The resulting pollutants are reduced in concentration and therefore not bad.

In the final analysis, all made-made pollutants are originally from this very same planet earth. Essentially natural and a part of all life. And so the pollutants will eventually all degrade and dispurse, return to our mother. (Unless you are a linear no-threshold model (LNT) maniac then there is little hope sorry)

Always keep in mind Kub . . . the solution to pollution is dilution.


Good crop this year P? Maybe you can reimburse my family for the tons of lime we've had to apply to our fields and pastures almost every year to counter soil acidification; the direct result of acid rain and sulfur dioxide coming into the southern Appalachians from coal plants in the Tennessee Valley. Not to mention the very high ground level ozone we get every summer from the west; this in a supposedly 'pristine' county of about 10,000 people in rural Appalachia.

And I don't buy any of your nasty coal-sourced electricity. Haven't for 20 years.

Could it simply be farming practices?

Causes of soil acidity
Soil acidification is a natural process accelerated by agriculture. Soil acidifies because the concentration of hydrogen ions in the soil increases. The main cause of soil acidification is inefficient use of nitrogen, followed by the export of alkalinity in produce.

Ammonium based fertilisers are major contributors to soil acidification. Ammonium nitrogen is readily converted to nitrate and hydrogen ions in the soil. If nitrate is not taken-up by plants, it can leach away from the root zone leaving behind hydrogen ions thereby increasing soil acidity.

Most plant material is slightly alkaline and removal by grazing or harvest leaves residual hydrogen ions in the soil. Over time, as this process is repeated, the soil becomes acidic. Major contributors are hay, especially lucerne hay and legume crops. Alkalinity removed in animal products is low, however, concentration of dung in stock camps adds to the total alkalinity exported in animal production.
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