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In the Wake of the News

Tipping Points

tipping point: the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place

There has been much discussion regarding potential future climate “tipping points”, particularly among climate change alarmists, but also among some members of the consensed climate science community. The typical concern is that some combination of higher atmospheric GHG concentrations and positive water vapor feedback might trigger a rapid and uncontrollable rise in global average surface temperatures.

Earth has experienced numerous and largely regular “tipping points” throughout history according to numerous paleoclimatic reconstructions. The graph below is a temperature anomaly history reconstruction over the past approximately 800,000 years. An interactive version of this graph is available here. Note that the temperature anomalies and time periods shown are not as precise as indicated when selecting points on the graph because of the limitations of the various proxy records on which the graph is based.


Global Temperature 800,000 Years


The important message in the graph above is that the earth has experienced a major tipping point approximately every 50,000 years. Temperature anomalies have risen approximately 0.5 – 2.7°C before encountering a tipping point, from which the anomalies dropped by approximately 4 - 6.6°C. Note also that the selection of the zero level from which the anomalies are measured is somewhat arbitrary because of the limitations of the climatological reconstruction.

According to this reconstruction, earth has cycled over a temperature range of approximately 7.7°C over a period of approximately 800,000 years while experiencing approximately 16 major tipping points and many more minor tipping points. The selected zero level suggests that the negative deviations from the zero level have been approximately twice as large as the positive deviations and that the duration of the negative deviations has been approximately 5 times as long as the duration of the positive deviations.

The maximum positive temperature anomaly approximately 120,000 years ago was approximately 2.7°C, or approximately 2.5 times the current global average temperature anomaly and approximately 0.7°C above the original target anomaly established in the Paris Accords.

The change in the temperature anomalies after each of the major positive and negative tipping points has differed significantly over the 16 tipping points. In general, the anomaly increases from the negative tipping points points have been sharper and more rapid than the declines from the positive tipping points. The duration of each of the positive tipping points has been far shorter than the duration of the negative tipping points.

The important points here are that the earth has experienced numerous tipping points in the past, but in the process has varied within a relatively narrow range of temperature anomalies. Each of these tipping points occurred without anthropogenic intervention and was strictly a function of natural variation. The numerous minor tipping points over the period suggest the prior occurrence of modest temperature excursions similar to the Roman Warm Period, the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age.

This 800,000 year history of temperature anomaly fluctuation suggests that the natural variation which has occurred over this period is likely to exist today and to persist in the future.


Tags: Temperature Record, Global Temperature

Highlighted Article: The Next Environmental Crisis


From: Climate Etc.

By: Judith Curry

Date: October 22, 2021


The Next Environmental Crisis


"Are our current solutions only a short term fix?

On Monday November 15, I will be participating in an iaiLIVE debate on The Next Environmental Crisis. From the iai website:

The new clean energy economy, endorsed by governments and campaigners, promises to save usfrom environmental disaster. But worries are growing that we could be heading to a new future crisis.  In decades to come some argue we will be struggling to contain the huge environmental damage caused by billions of highly toxic and unrecyclable solar cells and car batteries, along with newly commissioned nuclear plants, while the internet itself, bitcoin mining included, consumes uncontrollable amounts of energy.

Are the problems of the environment even more challenging than we think? Will the new economy save us, or are the current technical solutions a short term fix? Is relentless consumption and growth itself to blame for our environmental issues?  Or can we rely on humanity’s ability to solve the next crisis that we may be in the process of causing now?

Cosmologist, astrophysicist, and Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, award winning economist and Professor of Environmental Economics Thomas Sterner, and controversial climatologist Judith Curry join us to ask if we’re heading towards a new environmental crisis." ...


The Next Environmental Crisis


Tags: Highlighted Article

Renewable Design

This commentary provides a simplified overview of the process of replacing a single dispatchable powerplant with either wind or solar generation plus storage.

The powerplant to be replaced is a 1,000 MW plant, either coal or nuclear fueled. This powerplant would be capable of generating 24,000 MW Hours (MWH) of power per day as a baseload powerplant. Replacing its nameplate generating capacity with 2.5 MW onshore wind turbines would require installation of 400 turbines. However, even assuming very favorable siting, the wind turbines would be expected to generate at approximately 40% of their nameplate rating throughout the day, so replacing the generation capability of the 1,000 MW dispatchable powerplant would require 1,000 wind turbines. However, the instantaneous output of those wind turbines could vary between 2,500 MW and 0 MW throughout the day. Therefore, dispatchable storage would be required to stabilize the output of the storage supported wind farm at 1,000 MW for baseload service. Storage capacity of 10,000 – 15,000 MWH would be required to stabilize facility output and render it dispatchable, depending on characteristic wind conditions.

Typical electric utility load factors are approximately 40%. Therefore, if the powerplant being replaced were in load following service, 400 wind turbines operating at 40% of nameplate capacity would be sufficient to meet the typical daily load. However, the instantaneous output of those 400 wind turbines could vary between 1,000 MW and 0 MW throughout the day. Therefore, dispatchable storage would be required to stabilize the output of the storage supported wind farm at the output required to meet the current load. Storage capacity of approximately 4,000 – 6,000 MWH would be required to stabilize facility output and render it dispatchable, depending on characteristic wind conditions.

Replacing the conventional powerplant with solar generation would require a solar field with a nameplate rating of approximately 4,000 MW, assuming solar panel output of approximately 25% of nameplate rating throughout the day. The facility would require storage with a capacity of approximately 18,000 MWH to render the facility dispatchable in baseload service. In load following service, assuming 40% load factor, the nameplate rating of the solar field could be reduced to approximately 2,000 MW and the storage capacity reduced to approximately 8,000 MWH.

The above calculations are based on a single representative day with storage adequate to smooth output throughout the day. However, assuming significant variations in wind conditions from day to day would require installation of additional storage capacity. For example, accommodating one still day would require an additional 1,000 wind turbines and additional storage capacity of 24,000 MWH in baseload service, or an additional 400 wind turbines and additional storage capacity of approximately 10,000 MWH. Similarly, accommodating one cloudy day would require an additional 4,000 MW of solar collector nameplate capacity and additional storage capacity of 24,000 MWH in baseload service or approximately 10,000 MWH in load following service. Each additional day of anticipated potential low/no wind or solar conditions would add an addition requirement of 24,000 MWH for baseload operation or 10,000 MWH for load following operation.

In addition, in the event stored energy was consumed to support the grid during a period of low/no wind or solar availability, the renewable facility would require additional capacity to recharge storage in anticipation of future low/no wind and solar availability conditions. The additional capacity required would be a function of the local frequency and duration of low/no wind and solar days and the required storage recharge period.


Tags: Wind Energy, Solar Energy, Energy Storage / Batteries

Highlighted Article: IEA’s Net Zero: Private to Socialist Investment (OPEC, Russia gift?)


From: Master Resource

By: Robert Bradley Jr.

Date: November 11, 2021


IEA’s Net Zero: Private to Socialist Investment (OPEC, Russia gift?)


Introduction by Lucian Pugliaresi, President, Energy Policy Research Foundation, Inc.

"In May of this year, Fatih Birol, speaking as head of the International Energy Agency, stated publicly that “The pathway to net zero is narrow but still achievable. If we want to reach net zero by 2050 we do not need any more investments in new oil, gas, and coal projects.” Mr. Birol’s comments notwithstanding, large parts of the world continue to rely upon a wide range of petroleum products to sustain and improve their living standards.

If such a strategy is pursued without a commensurate reduction in demand, it would inevitably lead to rapidly rising prices for fossil fuels, diminished living standards, and even potential shortages. It would also lead to serious concerns about the energy security of the member states of the IEA, which Mr. Birol heads. Oddly enough, the central mission of his organization is to promote the energy security of the developed world." ...


IEA’s Net Zero: Private to Socialist Investment (OPEC, Russia gift?)


Tags: Highlighted Article

Reckless or Ruthless

reckless (Merriam-Webster)
: marked by lack of proper caution: careless of consequences

ruthless (Merriam-Webster)

: having no pity : merciless, cruel a ruthless tyrant

The UK and portions of the EU are currently faced with rapidly rising energy prices and growing energy shortages. These issues are largely the result of government decisions to aggressively pursue “Net Zero” emissions by 2050. Numerous fossil and nuclear generators have been closed, reducing the availability of conventional generation while increasing reliance on intermittent sources of generation, predominantly solar and wind. The UK and Germany have recently experienced a “wind drought”, which drastically reduced the quantity of electric energy produced by both on-shore and off-shore wind farms. So far, surplus power from other nations, especially France, has been able to support the grid, but that situation might not persist as winter sets in.

The rising costs of energy have contributed to the closing of numerous factories in the UK, whose products have become uncompetitive in the market, with the resulting loss of jobs. This situation is expected to worsen as winter sets in. The result is increasing human inconvenience and misery. The situation was predictable, but the UK and EU governments apparently did not heed the warning signs.

The US has also begun to feel the effects of the “Net Zero” objective. Pipeline cancellations, threats of oil and gas lease freezes and terminations and pressure to transition to intermittent renewable generation have resulted in brownouts and blackouts in California and Texas, as well as increases in the prices of gasoline and natural gas nationwide. The US government has so far not heeded the warning signs either.

This situation highlights an inescapable truth regarding the intended transition from reliable, dispatchable fossil and nuclear energy to intermittent renewables.

Dispatchable electric generation cannot be replaced by non-dispatchable generation resources while retaining network reliability. Dispatchable generation must be replaced by dispatchable grid-scale storage capable of supporting the grid for the maximum period for which intermittent generation is unavailable in sufficient quantities.

Failure to acknowledge that inescapable truth has greatly contributed to the current situation and will cause the situation to become progressively worse as the fraction of intermittent generation in the generation mix increases.

It is reasonable to question whether these issues are the result of government recklessness in aggressively pursuing pieces of a plan, rather than formulating and publicizing a coherent plan, or whether they are the result of government ruthlessness in dealing with a citizenry which is unconvinced of the “climate crisis” and unwilling to voluntarily don “sackcloth and ashes” for its purported sins against nature.

Artificial shortages of energy and the resulting price increases will certainly inflict unnecessary hardship on the citizenry. These situations are not unique in the history of totalitarian regimes but are far more difficult to accept in supposed “representative republics”. While the intent might be to cow the populace into compliance with the intent of the “Net Zero’ objective, the result might well be a “throw the bums out” revolt against those seen to be responsible.


Tags: Net Zero Emissions

Highlighted Article: Temperature Regulated Cooling Dominates Warming and Why the Earth Stopped Cooling At 15°C


From: Watts Up With That

By: Wim Rost

Date: November 06, 2021


Temperature Regulated Cooling Dominates Warming and Why the Earth Stopped Cooling At 15°C


"It is said that the Earth’s surface temperature variations are controlled by [human-induced] greenhouse gases1. This is not the case. When cooling systems dominate, surface temperatures are set by the cooling system and not by the system that is warming the surface. On Earth the surface cooling system dominates; temperatures are set by the natural cooling system. The strength of natural surface cooling is set by temperature. Adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere does not make any difference for surface temperatures. Their initial warming effect is neutralized by extra surface cooling and by a diminished uptake of solar energy. The cooling system dominates.


The Earth was assembled from ‘space debris’ orbiting the Sun. Gravity made objects like ‘space rocks’ and ice comets coalesce. When accretion took place, gravity melted all assembled objects and a big ‘snooker ball’ of molten material was built. The proto-Earth was also warmed by the Sun, but eventually it cooled down until ‘energy in’ equaled ‘energy out.’ Currently, the surface of the Earth is at balance at around 15 degrees Celsius. A similar planet, with no oceans or atmosphere would have stopped cooling at around 5.3 degrees Celsius, if it reflected no sunlight. Why did the surface of the Earth stop cooling at 15 degrees? And why didn’t the Earth’s surface stop cooling at, for example, 50 degrees Celsius?" ...


Temperature Regulated Cooling Dominates Warming and Why the Earth Stopped Cooling At 15°C


Tags: Highlighted Article

Warming Perspective

Much technical and artistic effort has been expended to provide the public with some perspective on what life would be like in a warmer world at the turn of the next century. Much of what has been presented is grossly exaggerated. However, it does not take much real effort to see and feel what life would be like in a world approximately 7°F warmer than today. All that is necessary is a trip from a rural area to the nearest major city, which is already approximately 7°F warmer in the late afternoon heat than the rural areas surrounding it. (link)


Urban Heat (US EPA)


The earth is approximately 30% land and 70% water, primarily oceans. Approximately 3-4% of earth’s land area is described as urban. These urban areas constitute urban heat islands which are warmer, both day and night, than the rural and exurban areas surrounding them. These heat islands are the result of wind blocking, local energy consumption and rejection and decreased albedo caused by roads, sidewalks and building roofs. Nighttime temperatures are warmer as the result of the release of heat stored in the urban infrastructure during the heat of the day.

Studies in the US have determined that a large percentage of the temperature measuring stations in the US have been affected by these urban heat islands, suggesting that calculated near-surface temperature anomalies are higher because of the influence of nearby urban heat islands. Similar studies in other nations would likely produce similar results.

Interestingly, numerous groups and some government officials are working to limit what is referred to as urban sprawl into suburban, exurban and rural areas surrounding the downtown and urban residential areas in the cities. This would further concentrate population in the urban cores, likely increasing the urban heat island effect in the cities.

Several different approaches have been suggested to reducing the magnitude of the UHI effect in cities, including white or silver painted roofs, rooftop plantings, increased green space around buildings, development of urban parkland and restriction or elimination of private motor vehicle traffic in the urban core. None of these approaches have been demonstrated on a scale sufficient to significantly offset the primary contributors to the UHI effect.

The global greening measured by satellite observations has had little effect on urban heat islands because there are relatively few green plants available in those environments to take advantage of the positive effects of increase atmospheric CO2. The greening has, however, been sufficient to measurably decrease desert areas including the Sahara. The greening is expected to continue through the remainder of this century at a relatively constant pace, as shown in the graph below.


Predicted Change in Growing Season Mean Leaf Area Index


Despite existing and projected future warming, net voluntary migration continues to be predominantly from colder to warmer climates, though that might change if the warming projected by the climate models were to actually occur. However, that voluntary migration to warmer climates does not include voluntary migration to urban heat islands from the suburban, exurban and rural areas surrounding them for multiple reasons.


Tags: Urban Heat Island, Global Greening

Highlighted Video: What does IPCC AR6 say on Scenarios and Extreme Weather?

From: ICSF and Clintel         By: Roger Pielke Jr.         Date: October 27, 2021


Tags: Highlighted Article

Midwest Farming

A major concern regarding climate change is its potential future impact on food production, resulting from increasing temperatures and changes in precipitation. Experiments can demonstrate the effects of varying temperatures and precipitation on specific crops. However, climate models are not capable of accurately projecting regional temperature and precipitation changes which might result from climate change.

There is general agreement that the mild warming which has occurred during the current warm period has had a positive impact on farming in the US Midwest, extending growing seasons and reducing frost and freeze losses. Farm productivity has continually increased as the result of improved crop varieties, mechanized farming, the use of fertilizers and pesticides, and expanded irrigation. There is the expectation that this trend would continue until mid-century, but might then succumb to higher ambient temperatures.

The concern regarding food production beyond mid-century is a function of the projected increases in near-surface temperatures combined with projected changes in precipitation. The projected changes depend upon the model(s) chosen and the assumptions regarding climate sensitivity and feedbacks. Any projections are thus questionable, since there is no verified and validated climate model which has demonstrated predictive skill, the climate sensitivity to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration is unknown and the future rate of increase of atmospheric CO2 concentration also unknown.

One major element of the expectation that farm productivity would continue to increase is the greening occurring over most of the globe, largely attributable to the increased atmospheric CO2 concentration, and the resulting improvement in the efficiency with which plants use available water in the enriched CO2 environment. Historical experience with greenhouse plant production demonstrates that plants continue to grow better at significantly higher CO2 concentrations than are anticipated as the result of continued anthropogenic emissions.

Another factor expected to mitigate the future effects of increasing temperatures is the fact that more than half of the temperature increases manifest as warmer nighttime temperatures, rather than higher daytime temperatures. The warmer nighttime temperatures are partially the result of increased irrigation and partially the result of more efficient plant water use, both of which increase ambient humidity, which slows night cooling.

Research conducted at Iowa State University demonstrated dramatic reductions in plant productivity under elevated temperature conditions. However, the high temperature used in the experiments was the same as the record high temperatures experienced during the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, which were approximately 25°F warmer than the daytime temperatures during the warmest month on record, while the model projected temperature increase is expected to be approximately 7°F warmer than current temperatures by the IPCC.

The results of such studies are determined by the models, Resource Concentration Pathways, climate sensitivities and feedbacks selected to establish the experimental parameters. Fortunately, the models are “running hot” and Mother Nature is not comporting with the modeled environment. Recent research on climate sensitivity suggests that temperature increases will be far lower than projected and that cloud feedbacks are negative, which would work to moderate future temperature increases in the real climate.


Tags: Climate Models, CO2 Concentrations

Highlighted Article: The 10 Great Challenges Facing Variable Renewable Energy


From: Energy Central

By: Schalk Cloete

Date: October 27, 2021


The 10 Great Challenges Facing Variable Renewable Energy



"Most green activists share a beautiful dream where cheap and abundant wind and solar energy mercilessly sweeps aside dirty fossil fuels. And the last decade brought plenty to cheer about.


Levelized costs of wind and solar are falling below fossil fuels in several world regions (IRENA).


"So, is the green dream finally coming true?

Unfortunately, not quite. After all these spectacular cost declines, variable renewable energy (VRE) generators still account for only about a quarter of primary energy growth (see the graph below), despite strong policy support. Why is that? Well, although more VRE deployment leads to technological learning, it also brings a host of challenges. These two conflicting forces will shape the VRE story going forward." ...


The 10 Great Challenges Facing Variable Renewable Energy


Tags: Highlighted Article

Climate Refugees

Refugees have fled from war, persecution, poverty, famine and pestilence over the ages. However, there is no documented record of refugees fleeing climate change, though a single resident of Tuvalu attempted to have himself accepted as a climate change refugee without success. MIT recently published an article reporting on the World Bank Groundswell Report which suggests that up to 216 million people might be required to migrate within their own countries as “climate shocks” occur.

“Climate change is a powerful driver of internal migration because of its impacts on people’s livelihoods and loss of livability in highly exposed locations. By 2050, Sub-Saharan Africa could see as many as 86 million internal climate migrants; East Asia and the Pacific, 49 million; South Asia, 40 million; North Africa, 19 million; Latin America, 17 million; and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 5 million.”

These projections are all based on the unvalidated and unverified climate models in the CMIP5 ensemble of models and would be expected to be even worse using the CMIP6 ensemble of models, which project even more rapid and extreme temperature increases. Such studies typically employ the extreme Resource Concentration Pathway (RCP 8.5), which has frequently been described as the “business as usual” scenario, though it has more recently been identified as extremely unlikely by numerous researchers.

There is growing recognition that the climate models are “running hot”, projecting greater temperature anomaly increases than are observed in the real climate. The graph below, prepared by Dr. John Christy compares the model outputs with observations. Christy concludes that the hypothesis upon which the models were based has “failed”. This failure is the result of the use of high climate sensitivity to CO2, RCP 8.5 and the assumption of positive cloud feedback.

The historical observations strongly suggest that the likelihood of future “climate shocks”, particularly in the near term, is far lower than the models would project. This is consistent with recent research estimating lower climate sensitivity to CO2 and with satellite observations which suggest the cloud feedback is negative.

Note that, in the quote reproduced above from the World Band Groundswell Report, the authors state that “climate change IS a powerful driver of internal migration”, not that it might become such a driver. Yet climate change is not currently driving internal or external migration.

The primary issues of concern regarding migration are temperature increases and sea level rise. The report appears to ignore the fact that, in most regions, observed temperature increases are primarily warmer nighttime temperatures, not higher daytime temperatures. The report also appears to ignore the positive impacts of increased CO2 concentrations on global greening and the efficiency with which plants use available water.

The report also appears to ignore the fact that sea level has been rising at a consistent rate since the trough of the Little Ice Age. The rise of sea level from the Little Ice Age to the modern warm period is certainly climate change, but it is not likely attributable to increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations.


Five Year Running Mean of Tropical Temperature CMIP5 Anomalies



Tags: Climate Models, Climate Refugees

Highlighted Article: Challenges of the clean energy transition


From: Climate Etc.

By: Judith Curry

Date: October 22, 2021


Challenges of the clean energy transition


"This morning I participated Conference on Energy and Decarbonization – A New Jersey Business Perspective.

UPDATE: full recording of the conference [here]

 New Jersey is a leader among U.S. states in aggressively tackling the transition to cleaner sources of energy (see the New Jersey Energy Master Plan).   So far, they have been doing a better job than California.   The near term challenges of the transition to clean energy are described in this article in the City Journal

New Jersey has a pretty good mix of electricity generation sources:  57.2% natural gas, 37.4% nuclear, 1.6% solar, 1.5% coal, 1.1% biomass, 0.9% non-biogenic waste, and 0.1% hydroelectric & wind.New Jersey’s renewable portfolio standard was updated in 2018 to require that 21% of electricity be from renewable sources by 2021, 35% by 2025, and 50% by 2030.

This Conference was a pretty interesting event.  Here is the agenda and list of speakers:" ...


Challenges of the clean energy transition


Tags: Highlighted Article

Social Cost of Carbon

The Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) is an estimate of the present value of the societal cost of the emission of one ton of carbon dioxide. The SCC is estimated using Integrated Assessment Models, none of which has been validated and verified. The models are run using a range of estimated values for climate sensitivity, since the actual climate sensitivity to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration is unknown. The present value of estimated future costs is calculated using a range of discount rates since the real discount rate is also unknown. As a result of the range of unknowns involved in the estimation process, SCCs ranging from -$13.36 - +$2386.91 per ton of CO2 (-$50 - +$8752 per ton of carbon) have been developed by various analysts.

There are currently no documented actual costs which have resulted from the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations from 270 ppmv to the current ~410 ppmv. There are also no documented financial benefits which have resulted from the higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations. However, the greening of the earth documented by NASA satellite observations is largely attributed to the increased CO2 concentrations, which have contributed both to more rapid plant growth and more efficient plant use of available water. Experimental results and long-term commercial greenhouse practices have documented to the effects of even higher CO2 concentrations on plant productivity.

A study by Dr. Indur M. Goklany identifies the various beneficial impacts of increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations and suggests that: ” It is very likely that the impact of rising carbon dioxide concentrations is currently net beneficial for both humanity and the biosphere generally. These benefits are real, whereas the costs of warming are uncertain. Halting the increase in carbon dioxide concentrations abruptly would deprive people and the planet of the benefits of carbon dioxide much sooner than they would reduce any costs of warming.”

Analysis of the modest recent warming, widely attributed to increased CO2 concentrations, demonstrates that approximately 60% of the warming has manifested as warmer low temperatures, rather than as higher maximum temperatures. This suggests that the projected adverse effects on those working in unconditioned environments would not be as severe as some have projected.

The uncertainties regarding the SCC resulting from the application of multiple unverified and unvalidated climate models using multiple Resource Consumption Pathways, multiple inconsistent Integrated Assessment Models and widely varying discount rates strongly suggests that the SCC is currently not fit for use as the basis for government climate policy. The possibility that the current SCC is low, or even negative, also strongly suggests that there is no “climate crisis’ and that there remains time to resolve the uncertainties in the science before committing to massively expensive, societally disruptive programs.

The societal benefits resulting from the various uses of fossil fuels are clear and compelling. The developing nations are well aware of those benefits and are clearly unwilling to sacrifice them.


Tags: Cost of Carbon

Highlighted Article: “The Revenge of the Fossil Fuels”


From: Daily Reckoning

By: James Rickards

Date: October 12, 2021


“The Revenge of the Fossil Fuels”

"What have the climate alarmists been screaming about for the past 40 years or so? Their agenda is well-known. They want to close nuclear plants; shut down coal electric generators; eliminate natural gas and oil-fired electrical plants; and substitute wind, solar and hydropower in their place.

According to the fanatics, this substitution of renewable energy sources for so-called “fossil fuels” and uranium-powered plants would reduce CO2 emissions and save the planet from the existential threat of global warming.

Everything about this climate alarmist agenda is a fraud.

The evidence that the planet is warming is slight and the effect is likely temporary with global cooling in the forecast. The contribution of CO2 emissions to any global warming is not clear and is at best unsettled science and at worst another fraud.

Most importantly, global energy demand is growing much faster than renewables can come online, meaning that oil, natural gas, clean coal and nuclear energy will be needed whether renewables grow or not." ...


“The Revenge of the Fossil Fuels”


Tags: Highlighted Article

How Much Storage?

The US electric grid was built around a combination of baseload, load following and peaking generating plants. The US nuclear generating fleet has been used primarily for baseload service because the plants were reliable, and their design was not well suited to load following. The US coal generation fleet was used for both baseload and load following service. Oil and, later, natural gas simple cycle turbines were used for peaking service because they could be brought online quickly and could respond rapidly to changing demand. Hydroelectric generation, where available, was operated primarily as baseload generation because of its low cost. The introduction of natural gas combined cycle powerplants initially replaced simple cycle turbines because of their higher efficiency and operating flexibility. Later, they began to replace coal generators because of their higher efficiency and cleaner operation.

Concerns regarding climate change, the availability of various federal and state incentives, and the availability of lower cost wind and solar generators of improved design led to the introduction of these generating technologies into the US electric generating mix. However, both wind and solar differ in fundamentally important ways from conventional nuclear and fossil generation. Neither can be relied upon to be available when required and neither can be dispatched. They offer essentially “source of opportunity power”, available to be used when the wind blows and the sun shines. As wind and solar have entered the market, their “source of opportunity power” has been backed up by coal, natural gas and hydroelectric generation.

As the installed wind and solar generating capacity increases, the requirement for conventional backup also increases since the unavailability of wind and sun results in the loss of greater total generating capacity. This arrangement has worked reasonably well early in the intended transition to renewable generation. However, the expressed intent of the government is to eliminate the coal and natural gas generation which formed the backbone of the US generation fleet. This would also eliminate the ability to use fossil generation resources to provide backup power when the wind and solar generation resources are inadequate because of low wind conditions, cloudiness and darkness.

In the absence of dispatchable backup generation resources, the source of backup must transition to energy storage. Because of topography and environmentalist resistance to pumped hydro storage, the primary storage technology will likely be storage batteries. The storage battery capacity must be large enough to store all of the electric energy which would be expected to be needed during the longest period of low/no wind and solar availability which might be expected to occur. That also means that the wind and solar generating capacity must be large enough to serve almost all of the customer load when they are in operation, plus produce the additional electricity required to charge the storage batteries for use in periods of low/no wind and solar availability, and to recharge them afterwards.

Recent experience in the UK demonstrates that “wind droughts” can persist for weeks. In the current situation, the UK is able to draw power from the EU grid, supplied by nuclear, coal and natural gas generation. However, as the share of wind and solar generation increases and these conventional generating resources are eliminated, massive grid-scale storage facilities will be required to store the required electric energy and the capacity of wind and solar generation will be required to increase to charge the storage batteries. Prudence would also require the installation of both reserve generation and storage capacity to compensate for equipment maintenance and repair requirements.

The resolution of these issues is neither “blowin’ in the wind” nor basking in the sun. They must be resolved to avoid populations “freezing in the dark”.


Tags: Electric Power Reliability, Energy Storage / Batteries
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