Utne magazine has an interesting article about the US military shift to renewable energy. With their budget, buying power and technical skills, they will make a big difference to the renewable economy.

Half of the casualties the US military had in Iraq and Afganistan have been related to fuel convoys. They are an easy and highly explosive target. In some cases, getting fuel to troops costs $25-$50/gallon. At those prices, renewable energy makes sense all day long.

One company was outfitted with solar thin film photovoltaics to recharge their radios and equipment. While the troops started out skeptical, they are now among the biggest supporters. The need for fuel dropped from 20-25 gallons per day to 20 gallons per week, as solar did the work that gasoline generators used to. Even better, recharging with solar is quiet, which is of course very useful if you are trying to keep hidden.

But the military is going beyond just field units, where solar makes perfect sense, saves money and lives, to include renewable energy for all of their bases, and their vehicles. Admiral Mike Mullen said they need to address energy security, “before we deploy another soldier, before we build another ship or plane, and before we buy or fill another rucksack.” Bases are seeing solar and wind installed, and vehicles are being tested for use of biofuels. New vehicle designs are helping reduce fuel need, like the USS Makin Island, an electric hybrid ship that uses 60% less fuel that its predecessors.

The military is converting to renewables for strategic reasons. It is not because of climate change, or oil spills. It is because switching to renewables saves lives, and reduces cost, and provides energy security. An enemy can’t cut of the sun or wind supplies like they can oil.

The logic used by the military is sound. But they have a limited vision. Many people believe that one of the main things the US fights for is access to oil. Think Iraq. Think Libya. Think Kuwait. Then think about taking the entire US economy and making the shift to renewable energy. Progress is being made, but more progress is possible. No more need to fight over oil. Wouldn’t that be the best way to reduce the loss of lives, and save money?

But good for the military to have the renewable vision. They are well positioned to build bi-partisan support for their plan.

PJM and GM Run Trial Charging from Renewable Energy – longroad energy

PJM – the regional transmission operator for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland has an interesting trial underway with charging of the Chevy Volt, the plug in hybrid from General Motors.

The system operator will monitor the output from the region’s renewable energy sources, and when surplus is available, will send a signal to General Motors. General Motors will then relay the signal on to the Chevy Volts connected to the system via their On Star system, and tell those vehicles to beginning charging their batteries. It shows forward thinking both by PJM and GM.

I like the fact that it is using existing technology – the On Star system, that is standard with the Volt. This makes such a system insanely cheap to implement.

Of course if the system operator can send signals for when renewable energy is available, they could act on almost any parameter, such as when power is in surplus from any source, or when power is cheapest. The renewable energy aspect of this is mainly for public relations – system operators need more tools to allow them to manage both times of surplus and shortage of power, and this is a powerful and very low cost tool.

PJM is showing great foresight in looking into this now. There are still some unknowns about electric cars. How many will there be? How much power can the average one take? How many cars are plugged in when the signal is sent? Gathering information now will help them greatly as the number of electric cars proliferates. They will also learn how to quickly implement systems, and standardize software interfaces to accommodate new electric car makes and models.

The Ontario IESO has talked about an emerging problem of surplus baseload generation (SBG). This is when generation in the province exceeds demand (including exports). As we bring on more inflexible refurbished nuclear plants, that can’t be shut down easily, the problem is likely to get worse. Of course, if you can shift demand to times of SBG, you could solve the problem. Using electric cars is just one solution, but one that will become more important as the electric car fleet increases in size.

The Chevy Volt stores 16 kWh fully charged. If an average Volt requires 10 kWh to be topped up at the end of the day, then 100,000 Volts would require 1 million kWh, or 1000 MW of generation for an hour. This is equal to 70% of Ontario’s wind fleet, or equal to the output of 2 of the Pickering units. This is not a trivial amount. And 100,000 Chevy Volts is only a little over 1% of the vehicle fleet in Ontario, and less than half the current fleet of hybrid vehicles. In addition to the Volt, there is the Nissan Leaf, which stores 24 kWh, and another 10 plug in electric vehicles coming to the market in the next year or two. 1% may be conservative.

The bottom line is electric cars offer interesting potential to buffer times of surplus power on a system. If this is added to using dams to store water when surplus generation exists, either in Ontario or neighbouring hydraulic based Quebec and Manitoba, or switching on hot water heaters, and other innovative load shifting techniques, the problem of SBG can be addressed. It would be good if the IESO would begin their own trials with GM.

Wind Less Costly than Nuclear in France: Court of Auditors – longroad energy

The French Court of Auditors is forecasting a surge in the cost of keeping nuclear operating, as old plants face refurbishment, and new investment in safety is required. The rate of re-investment, just to maintain existing capacity, is forecast to double. Sound familiar?

It should. The same thing has been happening in Ontario, as refurbishments take longer than expected, and cost billions extra.

France, more than any nation on earth, knows nuclear energy. They get 77% of their power supply from nuclear, and it is a major domestic and export industry. By comparison, Ontario gets about 50% of it’s power from nuclear. And the French nuclear industry serves a market with 64 million residents, compared to only 13 million in Ontario. France has 63 GW of nuclear capacity compared to about 12 GW in Ontario, depending on whether you count laid up units.

The report from the Auditors also expressed concern about the uncertainties of future cost of decommissioning plants, and future waste storage. Without knowing these unknowable costs, we can’t really know the cost of nuclear, can we?

The Ontario government official policy continues to call for construction of a new nuclear reactor at Darlington. The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) continues to drastically underestimate the unknowable cost of nuclear. But now those who know nuclear best – the French – are admitting that the cost of nuclear is going to rise drastically.

When will the Ontario government, and the OPA admit that the cost of nuclear is untenable, and cancel plans for new nuclear build?

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 at 9:16 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Wind Less Costly than Nuclear in France: Court of Auditors”

    Shane Mulligan Says:

    March 23rd, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    The Swiss released an estimate of $22 billion to decommission their 5 reactors by 2034 and store the waste (assuming they stick with their decision to not extend the plant lifetimes via refurbishments). All told they have 3.2GW installed, compared to Ontario’s 14GW. If we can perform the work as efficiently (per GW) as the Swiss (?), we’re looking at an additional $90 billion to clean up. There’s a legacy for the kids.