Stanford study, Part 1: Wind, solar baseload easily beat nuclear and they all crush “clean coal”

When we last met Stanford professor Mark Jacobson, he was explaining why you shouldn’t buy a diesel car if you care about global warming (see “Why hybrids beat diesels“).

His new myth-busting study finds the following “Total CO2-eq of Electricity Sources”:


[CSP is concentrated solar power, but I prefer solar baseload to that ambiguous acronym. CCS is carbon capture and storage, called “clean coal” by some, “clap trap” by others.]

The study, “Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security,” by the co-founder and Director of Stanford’s Atmospheric Energy Program warrants a two-part examination. I will focus on electricity in Part I, but it is worth noting now that in his alt fuels analysis, cellulosic ethanol comes in last.

His basic conclusions will come as no surprise to Climate Progress readers (see “An introduction to the core climate solutions“). But as Stanford’s summary of this important paper notes:

Jacobson has conducted the first quantitative, scientific evaluation of the proposed, major, energy-related solutions by assessing not only their potential for delivering energy for electricity and vehicles, but also their impacts on global warming, human health, energy security, water supply, space requirements, wildlife, water pollution, reliability and sustainability.

One interesting feature of this paper is that he does not merely calculate the lifecycle CO2-equivalent emissions from various energy sources, but also estimates the “opportunity cost CO2e emissions.”

Because sufficient clean natural resources (e.g., wind, sunlight, hot water, ocean energy, etc.) exist to power the world for the foreseeable future, the results suggest that the diversion to less-efficient (nuclear, coal with carbon capture) or non-efficient (corn- and cellulosic E85) options represents an opportunity cost that will delay solutions to global warming and air pollution mortality.

Opporunity-cost emissions include “CO2e emissions of each technology due to planning and construction delays relative to those from the technology with the least delays” [sorry nuclear]:


Some may not agree with these assumptions, but Jacobson’s paper was peer-reviewed, and he certainly cannot be faulted for including the important factor of opportunity cost. We have delayed acting for so long now we simplly cannot afford to waste any more time misallocating resources given the speed and scale of the low carbon technology deployment needed to avert catastrophic climate impacts (see “Is 450 ppm (or less) politically possible? Part 2: The Solution“).

Had I been a reviewer, however, I would have faulted him for failing to discuss the relative cost and impacts of

  1. Energy efficiency (including Recycled Energy)
  2. Biomass power generation

One can perhaps excuse the omission of a demand-side analysis in a supply-side paper — although I would have urged that he revise the opening line “This paper reviews and ranks reviews and ranks major proposed energy-related solutions to global warming, air pollution mortality, and energy security….” Efficiency is the major solution to all those problems (see “Energy efficiency is THE core climate solution“).

But I consider biomass power, particularly co-firing in coal plants, to be so important that I intend to start a multipart series on that crucial near-term and medium-term climate solution very soon. Jacobson is comprehensive to a fault — literally. He opens himself up to attack for bothering to factor in “the emissions from the burning of cities resulting from nuclear weapons explosions potentially resulting from nuclear energy expansion” — especially since as his Table 3 shows, its impact on the life cycle emissions of nuclear power are negligible. He should have omitted that discussion.

The study also incorporates estimates of “leakage from geological formations of CO2 sequestered by coal-CCS” [carbon capture and storage]. That is certainly more justifiable, but again, in his formulation, the leakage rates are so low, the impact is also negligible.

Jacobson makes one key point that deserves repeating over and over again. The renewable resources available to power of the planet are staggering:


That figure tells us all we need to know — the future is inevitably wind, solar, and geothermal.

All of the figures in this post (and many others) can be found in this PDF.

Finally, Jacobson, like most independent energy analysts, finds little to love in “clean coal”:

Coal with carbon sequestration emits 60- to 110-times more carbon and air pollution than wind energy, and nuclear emits about 25-times more carbon and air pollution than wind energy,” Jacobson said. Although carbon-capture equipment reduces 85-90 percent of the carbon exhaust from a coal-fired power plant, it has no impact on the carbon resulting from the mining or transport of the coal or on the exhaust of other air pollutants. In fact, because carbon capture requires a roughly 25-percent increase in energy from the coal plant, about 25 percent more coal is needed, increasing mountaintop removal and increasing non-carbon air pollution from power plants, he said.

Kudos to Jacobson for one of the most thorough and quantitative cross-cutting analyses ever done of electricity supply options. Part II will look at the surprising conclusions of his alternative fules analysis.

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37 Responses to Stanford study, Part 1: Wind, solar baseload easily beat nuclear and they all crush “clean coal”

  1. Dan Nachbar says:

    Your headline about cellulosic ethanol is unfair. From the original paper: “Here, we consider only corn and cellulosic ethanol and its use for producing E85 (a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline).”

    Cellulosic ethanol may or may not be a good idea. But the narrow treatment given in this study can’t reasonably to lead to the broad and unqualified conclusion you suggest.

  2. Don Monroe says:

    I’m puzzled: “concentrated solar power” sounds very clear to me (although I suppose it could mean thermal or concentrated photovoltaic, whereas “solar baseload” conveys nothing. What’s your thinking here?

    [JR: “CSP” by itself tells you nothing. You have to know what the acronym stands for, then that it refers to electricity, and then that it is solar thermal electric — and, of course, you have to know what that is. Solar baseload tells you it isn’t PV, that it isn’t intermittent like PV, that it can substitute for coal and natural gas. That’s the key message to be delivered first. But either way you have to explain what it is.]

  3. Bob Wallace says:

    From Wikipedia

    “Baseload (also base load, or baseload demand) is the minimum amount of power that a utility or distribution company must make available to its customers, or the amount of power required to meet minimum demands based on reasonable expectations of customer requirements. Baseload values typically vary from hour to hour in most commercial and industrial areas.”

    Joe seems to be dancing to his own special drummer on this one.

    [JR: Thanks so much for posting this definition. It is precisely what I’ve been saying about solar thermal electric with say 8 hours of storage. Indeed, under this definition, solar baseload may be the only truly scalable form of baseload, low-carbon power we have!]

    Clearly any source of power can be “baseload” power. One could add qualifiers as to whether they are daytime, nighttime, 24-hour, high/low reliability, etc. sources of baseload.

    Solar thermal seems to me to be a more descriptive term for, well, solar thermal.

    Concentrated PV might best be restricted to the application of several “suns” to a hunk of silicon.

    But, it’s Joe’s site, and he wants to call black white…. ;o)

    [JR: But I prefer to call baseload, baseload!]

  4. Brendan says:

    I heard Professor Jacobson give a talk, a lot of which had to do with this paper. In the talk, he did mention the nuclear power destroying cities scenario. His point was basically that all of the power sources have other costs attached to them (wind perhaps killing some birds, sulfer pollution from coal), and if you are going to include the costs in these other forms of power, then you need to include the potential costs for nuclear. One of those costs relevant to a CO2 study is the destruction he mentions. In his talk he also showed a graph of how much land it would take to power the US with the different types of powers. His big point was that wind may seem like it takes up a lot of space, but actual ground footprint is very low compared to other forms of power.

  5. Bob Wallace says:

    And nipping that bird thing…

    Modern windmills, sited correctly out of migration pathways, kill almost no birds. Studies of wind farms over a wide geographic range found

  6. Bob Wallace says:

    […. It is precisely what I’ve been saying about solar thermal electric with say 8 hours of storage. Indeed, under this definition, solar baseload may be the only truly scalable form of baseload, low-carbon power we have!]

    If you recall the Stanford study said that if we link multiple wind farms over an adequate geographic area we can count on 35% of their measured output (not nameplate) as reliable base load.

    I take that to mean that if we needed 100 units of electricity we would need to build 300 units of wind farm to allow for the fact that a given turbine produces 20% – 40% of the time (call it 33%).

    And then we would need to build 3x as much to insure that we would have those 100 units 24/365. That’s low carbon base load power.

    (Even building 9x nameplate should still leave wind at less than $0.15 per kWh if well-sited.)

    Of course building that much wind wouldn’t be the practical thing to do. As PV/thin solar (we need better terms here) drop in price they become perfect for the higher baseload requirements of sunny hot days. Prices may/should drop very low as thin film gets incorporated into roofing material.

    Thermal solar with its ability to store power for a reasonable price fills the rest of the high daytime/early evening need for baseload.

    Hydro, existing nuclear, geothermal should be cooking along in the background supplying their outputs to reduce our base load needs around the clock. All fairly carbon free.

    (Try Googling “solar base load”. You get “Joseph Romm”…. ;o)

  7. Bob Wallace says:

    Nipped my bird nipping post, eh Joe?

  8. 40 years of plant life for nuclear power is rather pessimistic, given the approval for life extensions for the existing plants.

  9. Paul K says:

    The effort to redefine the word baseload is a waste of your abilities. Concentrated solar power is indeed a descriptive and instructive term. It conveys scale, efficiency and storage capacity. Most likely, the entire replacing fossil community understands its meaning clearly.

    [JR: Well, tilting at windmills is what we do at this blog.]

  10. Bob Wallace says:

    40 years – best case or typical?

    There’s Rancho Seco, Humboldt Bay, Yankee Rowe, Maine Yankee, Zion, and a bunch others that didn’t make it to 40.

    Humboldt Bay was barely a teenager….

  11. Bob Wright says:

    Nuclear might turn out to be the sleeping giant. China intends to build as many as 100 modular Gen III passive reactors. Japan Steel is building a new mold to double its reactor shell capacity, suppliers are gearing up, and the recession has brought materials prices back to reality. Economy of scale will eventually kick in. R&D on Gen IV reactors that would breed from DU and burn waste has largely been done. This would expand fuel supplies to hundreds or even thousands of years.

    The article is a little unfair to nuclear as it assumes a 40 year life while most of today’s reactors are being extended to 60, and new designs will be for 80. The bar graph shows lifetime CO2/power more comparable than renewables to CCS, but the lifetime will be doubled and there is, as yet, no such thing as CCS. Put in a bar for conventional coal, and the all other sources become bumps on the axis.

    Its true that for nuclear to really make a timely dent in US GHG emissions, McCain’s 50 reactors would have to be already on the way. Just keep this in mind: a 2400 mW twin nuclear station on 1000 acres is equivalent to several Hoover dams or many, many wind turbines on dozens or hundreds of square miles.

  12. llewelly says:

    Just keep this in mind: a 2400 mW twin nuclear station on 1000 acres is equivalent to several Hoover dams or many, many wind turbines on dozens or hundreds of square miles.

    Because mining Uranium doesn’t require any land.

  13. Brodie says:

    “Because mining Uranium doesn’t require any land.”

    ..or storage of waste.

  14. Anonymous says:

    “..or storage of waste.”

  15. MikeB says:

    “Because mining Uranium doesn’t require any land.”

    ..or storage of waste’

    ..or large subsidies…

  16. Wes Rolley says:

    “Because mining Uranium doesn’t require any land.”

    What a crock. Mining Uranium contaminates surrounding land that the operators do not own, are never forced to clean up and the rest of us pay for the consequences. Forget the even the radioactive nature of uranium. Current studies show that some heavy metals, uranium and cadmium in particular, mimic estrogen in the human body and are directly related to increased breast cancer in women exposed to those mining operations.

    I suggest that every uranium mining operator and every nuclear power plant owner needs to move their families to Window Rock, NM and to drink the local, polluted by mining operations, water.

  17. darth says:

    “Because mining Uranium doesn’t require any land.”

    I think that post was meant as sarcasm.

  18. Bob Wright says:

    Sarcasm taken. No offense. It is a serious problem. So are uranium refiners that leak ozone depleting fluorocarbons…, and the NRC is dragging its feet forcing PWR operators to upgrade emergency sump pump screens… and waste storage. The “big picture” shows tremendous possibilities, however.

  19. G.R.L. Cowan says:

    It would be fair to call concentrating solar power with thermal storage summer baseload.

    There’s a uranium processing plant a few miles down the road from me. It, like uranium mines, is nonpolluting and a good neighbour. And uranium mining certainly isn’t subsidized.

  20. G.R.L. Cowan says:

    Enabling concentrating solar power stations to produce at a uniform rate all year is an interest of mine. In my how-fire-can-be-domesticated paper I figure,

    a solar power station [that focusses] a large image of the sun down onto a high-altitude outdoor stream of magnetite, for then the half-mole of oxygen could go directly into the upper air. If such a station annually turned 32.6 billion kg of magnetite into 1.9 billion kg of oxygen and 30.7 billion kg of ferrous oxide, its annual average output could be expressed as 1 GW(FeO).

    Where summer is much sunnier than winter, ferrous oxide production rates in winter, spring, summer, and fall might average respectively zero, 1, 2, and 1 GW(FeO). By summer’s end, 7.7 billion kg of ferrous oxide, a gigawatt-season’s worth, could accumulate, perhaps as an outdoor conical heap 300 m across the base. If a steady year-round ferrous oxide gigawatt were taken, the iron by winter’s end would be in a slightly larger magnetite pile. Other kinds of gigawatt-season energy reservoir – two billion lead-acid car batteries, a cubic km of water raised 800 m – are larger or more costly or both …

  21. Bob Wallace says:

    “Nuclear might turn out to be the sleeping giant.”

    And it might well turn out the giant that we leave sleeping.

    New nuclear is very expensive (and it brings with it some danger unlike any other power source).

    New nuclear cannot be brought on line quickly and speed is quite important if we’re to slow down climate change.

    As for the “40 year might be 80 year” stuff, I find most of the lifespan estimates above suspect.

    Why should a wind farm have a 30 year lift span? I suppose the concrete foundations and steel towers might have some sort of a lifespan, but 30 years? Seems like we’d have 50 year old buildings falling down.

    Turbine parts will have to be replaced, especially the gear boxes. (But gear boxes may be going away.) Blades may have to be replaced as they fatigue, bearings replaced, armatures rewound, …. But all that is maintenance.

    It’s not like a dam silting in ….

  22. Mining uranium need not disturb the surface:
    Mining uranium without disturbing the surface:
    In-situ leach uranium mining
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    In-situ leaching (ISL), also called in-situ recovery (ISR) or
    solution mining, is a process of recovering minerals such as
    copper and uranium through boreholes drilled into the deposit.
    The process initially involves drilling of holes into the ore deposit.
    Explosive or hydraulic fracturing may be used to create open
    pathways in the deposit for solution to penetrate. Leaching
    solution is pumped into the deposit where it makes contact with
    the ore. The solution bearing the dissolved ore content is then
    pumped to the surface and processed. This process allows the
    extraction of metals and salts from an ore body without the need
    for conventional mining involving drill-and-blast, open-cut or
    underground mining.

    1 Process
    2 Soluble salts
    3 Uranium
    3.1 Examples of in-situ uranium mines
    4 Copper
    5 Gold
    6 Controversies
    7 See also
    8 External links
    9 References


    In-situ leach mining involves pumping of a leachate solution into
    the ore body via a borehole, which circulates through the porous
    rock dissolving the ore and is extracted via a second borehole.

    The leachate solution varies according to the ore deposit – for salt
    deposits the leachate can be fresh water into which salts can
    readily dissolve. For copper, acids are generally needed to enhance
    solubility of the ore minerals within the solution. For uranium ores,
    the leachate may be acid or sodium bicarbonate.

    =====salt mining omitted=========

    Solutions used to dissolve uranium are acid (sulfuric acid, or less
    commonly nitric acid) or sodium bicarbonate [baking soda].
    Ammonium solutions have been pilot-tested, but have not been
    reported used in commercial-scale mining. ISL of uranium ores
    started in the United States and the Soviet Union in the early
    1960s. The first uranium ISL in the US was in the Shirley Basin in
    the state of Wyoming, which operated from 1961-1970 using
    sulfuric acid. Since 1970, all commercial-scale ISL mines in the
    US have used sodium bicarbonate solutions.[1]

    There are currently five in-situ leaching uranium mines operating
    in the United States, operated by Cameco, Mestena and Uranium
    Resources Company, all using sodium bicarbonate. ISL produces
    90% of the uranium mined in the US. Two more ISL projects are
    in licensing and proposal stages in the US, and two in reclamation
    in 2006.[2]

    Significant ISL mines are operating in Kazakhstan and Australia.
    The Beverley uranium mine in Australia uses in-situ leaching. ISL
    mining produces around 21% of the world’s uranium

    Examples of in-situ uranium mines
    * The Beverley Uranium Mine, South Australia, is an operating
    ISL uranium mine and Australia’s first such mine.
    * The Honeymoon Uranium Mine, South Australia, due 2008,
    will be Australia’s second ISL uranium mine.
    * Crow Butte (operating), Christensen Ranch (reclamation),
    Irigaray (reclamation), Churchrock (proposed), Crownpoint
    (proposed), Alta Mesa (operating), Hobson (standby), La
    Palangana (development), Kingsville Dome (operating), Rosita
    (standby) and Vasquez (operating) are ISL uranium operations in
    the United States.

  23. Mark Jacobson is just WRONG on CO2 from nuclear power.
    The real truth: Nuclear power is cheapest in spite of coal company propaganda.
    “Power to Save the World; The Truth About Nuclear Energy” by Gwyneth
    Cravens, 2007 Finally a truthful book about nuclear power. Gwyneth Cravens
    is a former anti-nuclear activist.

    Page 13 has a chart of greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production.
    Nuclear power produces less greenhouse gas [CO2] than any other source,
    including coal, natural gas, hydro, solar and wind. Building wind turbines and
    towers also involve industrial processes such as concrete and steel making.

    Nuclear power plants produce a total of 30 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour, the
    lowest. This is the full life cycle CO2 output. There are no hidden CO2 outputs.

    Wind turbines produce a total of 58 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Solar power produces between 100 and 280 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Hydro power produces 240 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Natural gas produces between 439 and 688 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Coal plants produce the most, between 966 and 1306 grams of CO2 per kilowatt
    hour, the highest.

    Remember the total is the sum of direct emissions from burning fuel and indirect
    emissions from the life cycle, which means the industrial processes required to
    build it. Again, nuclear comes in the lowest. Nuclear would produce even less
    CO2 per kilowatt hour if the safety were lowered to the same level as other
    sources of electricity. Switching from coal to nuclear is a 97% reduction in
    electricity’s 40% of our CO2 output. The refereed scenarios from the IPCC
    failed to hold the CO2 down to 450 parts per million. You can’t without building
    something like 10,000 new nuclear power plants world wide to replace every coal
    fired power plant on the planet. The 10,000 includes replacing all Generation 1
    [Chernobyl style] power plants with safe American Generation 4 technology.
    Let’s get it done.

    Page 211: In 2005, the production cost of electricity from:

    nuclear power on average cost 1.72 cents per kilowatt-hour 1.00 times nuclear’s
    price. This is the full and total price. There are no hidden costs. There are no
    subsidies. There are no tricks. 1.72 cents per kilowatt-hour is all of it.
    [Supposed subsidies cover the cost caused by irrational protesters. That is a cost
    of civil order, not a cost of nuclear power. The price would be lower if the safety
    level were lowered to equal other sources of electricity.]

    from coal-fired plants 2.21 cents per kilowatt-hour 1.28 times nuclear’s price

    from natural gas 7.5 cents per kilowatt-hour 4.36 times nuclear’s price

    from oil 8.09 cents per kilowatt-hour 4.7 times nuclear’s price

    Wind fits in here.

    solar in a sunny place 22 to 40 cents per kilowatt-hour 12.79 to 23.26 times
    nuclear’s price

    American nuclear power reactors operated in 2005 around the clock
    at about 90 percent capacity

    geothermal plants operated at 75 percent capacity

    coal-fired plants operated at about 73 percent capacity

    hydroelectric plants at 29 percent capacity

    natural gas from 16 to 38 percent capacity

    wind at 27 percent capacity

    solar at 19 percent capacity

    [Batteries not included but required for wind and solar. Why did wind and solar
    operate so far below capacity? Simple: Wind power never works when the
    wind isn’t blowing. Solar only works at maximum during the noon hour.]

  24. Nuclear power plants have NOTHING to do with proliferation of nuclear bombs.
    Reference: “Power to Save the World; The Truth About Nuclear Energy” by Gwyneth Cravens, 2007 Finally a truthful book about nuclear power.

    Page 50: Power reactors make Plutonium 240 [Pu240]. Pu240 is useless for making bombs. Plutonium bombs require Pu239. Pu239 is made in reactors that are specialized for making Pu239. Governments own Pu239 makers, not power companies.

    Page 180: “”In 2006, more than 435 reactors in thirty two countries supplied 16 percent of the world’s electricity with a safety record far superior to that of fossil fuel or hydroelectric generation — and that’s including the Chernobyl fatalities.”

    Page 153: “By 2013 a total of 500 metric tons, or the equivalent of 20,000 warheads, will be turned into low-enriched fuel with the energy equivalent of three billion tons of coal (thirty million coal cars).” Old Soviet uranium bombs are being converted into reactor fuel by oxidizing the pure metallic U235 [burning it] and mixing the uranium rust with non-fissionable U238. [Bombs require pure shiny reduced metallic U235. Reactors use very impure [2% to 8%] U235 oxide mixed with U238 oxide or other non-fissionable material. Bombs require that pure shiny metal U235 or Plutonium 239 slam into pure shiny metal U235 or pure shiny metal Plutonium 239, respectively. Reactors can use converted bomb material as fuel, but power reactors are NOT a source of bomb material. Once you have made Plutonium 240, it is useless for making bombs. There is no way to make it back into Plutonium 239. Making plutonium239 for bombs requires a special kind of breeder reactor [not an ordinary breeder reactor] that only governments who make bombs own. Any connection between nuclear power and proliferation is purely delusional. They are not related.]

    India, China and Russia have nuclear reactors and nuclear bombs already. We should give or sell them the latest [and therefore safest and cleanest] nuclear power plant technology. The alternative to nuclear power is more coal fired power plants. It is coal fired power plants that are making 40% of our CO2 and it is CO2 that is causing global warming. It is global warming that will surely cause the fall of civilization and perhaps the extinction of Homo Sapiens. Coal fired plants will have to be replaced 100% with nuclear power plants by 2015 to prevent the fall of civilization and the extinction of Homo Sapiens. Nuclear power saves us from 14.7 million tons of CO2 per 1000 megawatts per year, compared to coal. Remember that coal contains uranium and a long list of other poisons. The alternatives to nuclear power are the collapse of civilization and the extinction of Homo Sapiens.

    I have no financial connection to the nuclear power industry. I am not being paid to say the above.

  25. Finding truth on the web: Don’t believe the top articles Google gives you. They are paid for. Go to the bottom of the list.

    Reference: “Google and the myth of universal knowledge” by Jean-Noel Jeanneney 2007 The original is in French.

    When you do a Google search, you get “sponsored” links on the right side and “non-sponsored” links on the left. The “NON-SPONSORED” links on Google ARE LISTED IN THE ORDER OF THE HIGHEST BIDDER to lowest bidder. Companies pay dollars to Google to get web sites other than their own that lie in favor of the paying company to be at the top of the “non-sponsored” list. Google search results in your getting nothing but corporate propaganda. Since the coal industry has a $100 Billion per year income at stake, they can and must share a lot of money with Google.

    Page 32: 62% of internet users questioned make no distinction whatever between advertising and other information, and only 18% proved capable of telling which data were paid for by companies for their promotion and which were not.”
    “92% of users of search engines have full confidence in the results of their search, and 71% (users for less than five years) consider that information from this source [Google] is never biased in any way.”

    Suggestion: Use only Google Advanced or Google Scholar. On Google Advanced, specify either the .gov domain or the .edu domain. Otherwise, use only web sites that uses.

    George W. Bush messed up as many government web sites as he could get away with, but your chances are still clearly better than going to the richest propagandist .com or .org.
    Better yet: Get a degree in science so that you can figure it out for yourself.

    There should be a law requiring Google to disclose the above and the donors and the dollars for each “non-sponsored” link. Environmentalists should work on Google legislation first.

  26. Bob Wright: CFCs are NOT used in purifying uranium. I think you are thinking of the UF6 [Uranium Hexafluoride] step used in gas centrifuges. UF6 is NOT a CFC since it has no carbon and no chlorine. Gas centrifuges are used in the ENRICHMENT process, not in the PURIFICATION process. Canadian CANDU reactors and British MAGNOX reactors use UNenriched uranium.

  27. Jacobson hasn’t told us how he is going to store energy for several days or transport energy all the way around the world as posted by climateprogress above. “BASE LOAD” means 24 hours per day 365 days per year. Solar never works at night and wind never works when the wind isn’t blowing. Solar is therefore NOT base load power. Wind may blow steadily in some places, but they are few and mostly over oceans. The only 2 sources of energy that are PROVEN for base load are coal and nuclear.

  28. Factory built nuclear power plants.

    The following was downloaded from
    “Why Nuclear?
    Each location on the planet offers its own unique set of energy needs and challenges. No one type of technology can provide the most appropriate solution everywhere. That’s why in order to accommodate everyone on our planet, mankind must utilize a mix of clean energy technologies that includes wind, solar, geothermal, and nuclear.

    None of the options available today are as perfect as we would like them to be. Geothermal has its obvious site limitations, but so do wind and solar. In addition to requiring large tracts of land for “wind farms” and solar panels, the drawback of these technologies is that neither can offer consistent, reliable baseload electricity. When the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow these types of plants do not deliver electricity.

    Regardless of the weather, nuclear-based power plants can produce base load electricity 24/7 with no greenhouse-gas emissions.

    And while researchers are constantly seeking ways to make nuclear even more safe and efficient than it is now, nuclear is not a “new” alternative to fossil fuel-based energy. It is the safest, most reliable, and least harmful way to generate electricity. The 104 nuclear power plants operating in the U.S. provide over 20% of the country’s electricity. For some nations, this percentage is much more; in France 78% of the country’s electricity comes from nuclear.” [NO THEY ARE NOT SUBSIDIZED!]

    “Now with Hyperion, communities and their infrastructures, emergency operations, military bases and even industrial operations, that, because of land limitations or other concerns, could never hope for reliable nuclear power, can enjoy its benefits. Hyperion Power Modules (HPMs) are small enough to be transported by truck or ship, and are setup and operable quickly – in much less time than the 10+ years it takes to build a traditional nuclear power plant! Whether the location is a small island, a remote mining site, or a hospital campus that needs independent backup power, everyone can enjoy safe, clean, reliable, affordable power.”


    Note that local construction people can dig the hole in the ground that a Hyperion reactor needs and do all of the hookup work and so on. The Hyperion factory makes a module and brings the module on a truck and places the module in the hole. Local people do the rest, including operating the reactor and guarding the site to keep anybody from digging up the module. There are jobs to be had at the factory and at the sites. The factory replaces the fuel module every 5 years or so, and recycles the fuel.

  29. Bob Wallace says:

    Whoa! Speed is not your friend…. ;o)

    You read this?

    Wind as baseload. Seems as if some researchers think it can be done. For about the same price as new nuclear.

    Lots of nice numbers in there….

  30. Jacobson has neglected to include the emissions (mainly methane) from hydropower reservoirs due to the decomposition of biomass. In the tropics these emissions can be very significant – hydro in the Brazilian Amazon averages well over 2000 gC02e/kWh. Measured emissions from Canadian reservoirs average 36 gC02e/kWh. A recent study from a small reservoir in Switzerland found methane emissions of 119 gC02e/kWh. The “life-cycle” numbers for hydro quoted by Jacobson of 17-22 gC02e/kWh cover only construction emissions. For more info see

    Patrick –

  31. Brad F says:

    @ Bob Wallace – Re your reference to Jacobson’s earlier paper claiming wind as baseload. I have read it. And not all of the conclusions follow from the data. The problems result from a naive understanding of what it takes to operate an electrical system, and the meaning of the word baseload. To create a baseload number, Jacobson and Archer draw lines on a graph (Figure 3) and say “here is a number, and since we drew our lines in the same places as one would for a coal plant, it must be correct”. Then they go on to inflate their numbers by referencing them to the average capacity rather than the peak capacity. Their naivete is demonstated by their failure to acknowledge what happens to the right of the 79%, 87.5% and 92% reliability levels. The curve still goes to zero. For a single coal plant, the curve goes to zero at 85-90% similar to the single wind turbine. But for a fleet of baseload plants the curve never goes to zero and is probably above 50% load at 100% duration. The shape of the generation duration curve is a good indication of baseload capability. The curves as presented in Figure 3 do NOT indicate baseload generation.

    Jacobson and Archer presented some good data and analysis, but the key point of their conclusions – that wind can be baseload – does not follow from the data. They only get to that conclusion by misinterpreting power system concepts.

  32. Charlie says:

    I’m puzzled by all the support for calling solar thermal electric “CSP” here. Of the three key words that describe it, solar, thermal, and electric, CSP contains only one. Joe gets it right when he says, way at the top of this page: ” “CSP” by itself tells you nothing. You have to know what the acronym stands for, then that it refers to electricity, and then that it is solar thermal electric.” But that would seem a more sensible and achievable goal–calling it–as Joe does when he’s actually trying to describe it–solar thermal electric.

  33. nelton says:

    Asteroid Miner had strong points , there wont be solar pwoer in nights, and wind power is un dependable as the wind always doesnt flows as same rate

  34. Paul Wuebben says:

    Mark makes a freshman air pollution mistake. He asserts that an isopleth model is an appropriate means of judging whether or not a 30% reduction in NOx emissions reduces or increases ozone. The facts on the ground in the South Coast Air Basin demonstrate conclusively that his simplistic model is erroneous. Combined reductions of NOx and HC emissions have consistently been demonstrated by actual ambient measurements to REDUCE ozone. That is why ozone levels in the SCAB have declined despite increases in VMT, population, and fuel consumption. Emission standards adopted by CARB and the SCAQMD on both NOx and HC have proven very advantageous, not deteterious. Similar assertions to Mark’s were made by California utilities in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Had we followed their advise then, the public would have suffered far greater ozone air pollution effects than they have. Fortunately, such advise was ignored then. It should be rejected now for the same reason.

    His assertion that a further 30% reduction in NOx would exacerbate ozone is fundamentally flawed. Ambient data over the last 4 decades in Southern California demonstrate the error of his assertion. His analysis also lacks crucial nuances regarding strategic optimization of certain E85 pathways. He categorically recommends against ethanol pathways without assessing the impact of vehicle efficiency improvements which can be applied uniquely to E85 to take advantage of its 3 x higher latent heat of vaporization. This allows for higher compression ratios, and other modifications reported in recent SAE papers by Lotus (SAE# 2007010056; 2007010034; and 2007013618). These papers demonstrate mile per gallon parity with gasoline on a per gallon (unadjusted for BTU basis). Optimized FFVs, combined with plug-in capability, offer the opportunity for strategic agility in the face of diverse risks including slower than anticipated battery evolution and / or conventional liquid fuel supply depletion, while offering the efficient means of reducing GHG emissions. His pathways therefore do not provide sufficient policy judgment in the face of real world atmospheric, security, resource depletion and climatic system convergences. It is disappointing, given the depth of his knowledge with respect to climate science per se.

  35. Joe Romm is probably right that concentrating solar, or solar baseload, is the only renewable form that can substitute for fossil fuels, hydro, and nuclear. The key is the 8 hour thermal storage feature in his definition. With storage, the power is not intermittent, and therefore it is reliable. Photovoltaic solar and wind do not have this storage feature, and they are intermittent, so they are not reliable. As we know from Joe’s excellent book, The Hype about Hydrogen, using hydrogen for renewable energy storage is a big challenge.

  36. Hot Copper says:

    Having read the negative sentiment toward commercial scale Insitu-Leach mines for uranium, there seems to remain the misconception surrounding the process.

    I read from the detractors that acids are being used to disolve the uranium.

    Al I have found on ISR/ISL processes is this: “Since 1970, all commercial-scale ISL mines in the US have used carbonate solutions.”

    A recent petition I found seemed to gloss over this fact and erroneously focussed, in a dramatic manner, on the use of acids.

    It seems the truth doesn’t apply when “fighting for a cause”.