Nuclear Power_Energy Mix
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Energy

For the first time in human history, individuals, families and small communities have access to energy technologies that allow a degree of independence and self-sufficiency without a lot of the drawbacks of the past. Gas or diesel generators require a constant fuel source, lots of moving parts in comparison, and contribute to emissions.

 

The new Ford F150 Lightning has up to a 131KWH battery.  The average home uses around 30KWH/day.  So a fully charged battery could give possibly 4 days of power during an outage. Let's say a home is using closer to 50KWH because outages often occur during really hot or cold periods like the 2021 Texas blackout.  Still almost 3 days of power not even counting what a home solar system could provide.  A typical home solar installation might be 10KW, which can give maybe 50KWH of power during good sun in the summer. But wait, you're saying... There wasn't good sun during the blackout. What were solar panels producing during that storm?  Let's say a third- 13KWH/day.  Over 4 days, that's 52KWH plus the 131KWH from the F150. 183KWH- enough for almost 4 days.

 

Furthermore, solar systems can be larger and lots of people have more than one vehicle. Further, not only could that combo give more peace and security during outages but the rest of the year you're producing your own power!!  Lots of people could possibly disconnect from the grid if they wish to.

 

Wait...

 

What about the cost?  Read and listen to my section on money.  Lots of the constraints we have in helping people achieve this or other types of greater energy independence are largely illusory or at least misunderstood.

 

What about raw materials?  Batteries take a lot of lithium, right?  This is certainly a concern, but keep in mind- 

"Assigning all 328 million Americans equal share of our fossil fuel use, every American burns 1.6 tons of coal, 1.5 tons of natural gas, and 3.1 tons of oil every year. That becomes around 17 tons of carbon dioxide, none of which is captured. It is all tossed like trash into the atmosphere.

The same US lifestyle could be achieved with around 110 pounds each of wind turbines, solar modules, and batteries per person per year, except that all of those are quite recyclable (and getting more recyclable all the time) so there is reason to believe it will amount to only 50-100 pounds per year of stuff that winds up as trash." Saul Griffith

 

What about all the jobs lost from places like the Permian Basin?  I think this is a good place to point out that much of human history has been about working *less*.  The combine and tractor, corn mill and cotton gin, the washing machine and automobile, among millions of other inventions, have freed up time for millions, if not billions.  Even though many tout jobs from solar, wind or batteries, it's just not true that these technologies require a lot of long term jobs (after construction).  That is *not* a bad thing.  But making sure we don't ignore the people that have been providing us all with energy is important.  The Job Guarantee, changing Right to Repair laws (more repair jobs), Medicare for All (remove that worry), universal job training (more options), increased worker equity and power (share in wealth), pension protections and more can go a long way. 

 

What about the grid?  How will it handle all of this distributed energy and battery power?  First, the example above is largely grid independent.  That's what energy independence is.  But for larger industry and all the other use cases where more distributed energy won't or can't make sense, an interconnected high voltage DC grid speaks to reliability and transition.  Demand response (smart grids and paying people to conserve or utilize their vehicles or hot water heaters for storage of energy), all of the different grid storage options- flow batteries, liquid and compressed air energy storage, hydrogen and ammonia, gravity, pumped hydro, etc...- and baseload power options like nuclear or geothermal can all play a part.  There will be even more options in the future, but it's essential we start now with all the solutions we have.

 

Are fossil fuels really that dirty?  What about carbon capture?

 

"The figures for CCS [Carbon Capture and Sequestration] are elevated for two reasons. First, upstream emissions during mining of coal or extraction of gas continue. Second, the study assumes that CCS only captures 90% of power plant CO2. Higher capture rates are more costly and would not eliminate upstream emissions, equivalent to 23-42gCO2e/kWh, still well above the numbers for nuclear, wind or solar."

 

Indoor NO2 emissions from gas stoves

Indoor methane from gas stoves

 

"There is a catch: when it comes to the Permian, high greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas industry could mean that the climate benefits of U.S. natural gas over European domestic coal are all but eliminated. Two recent studies show that the flaring, venting and leakage of natural gas are a much bigger issue in the Permian than elsewhere in the country."

 

Other Permian problems

Tolk Coal Station near Muleshoe

"Since 2010, depletion of the [Ogallala] aquifer has been accelerated by significant regional drought. As a result, the saturated thickness of the aquifer has declined to a point that sufficient water will no longer be recoverable.  Despite the addition of new wells and replacement of existing wells to supply Tolk, wellfield productivity will not be able to meet Tolk's water needs through 2042."

 

What are the safest and cleanest sources of energy? 

"All energy sources have negative effects. But they differ enormously in size: as we will see, in all three aspects, fossil fuels are the dirtiest and most dangerous, while nuclear and modern renewable energy sources are vastly safer and cleaner."