Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Economist Hosts a Debate on the "Global Energy Crisis"

I don't know about calling it a crisis but over the next ten days, The Economist will be hosting a debate on whether "we can solve our energy problems with existing technologies today, without the need for breakthrough innovations.” Anyone can sign up and leave comments. Rod Adams and Charles Barton have already shared some of their thoughts.


Bill said...

I'm not sure if it counts as an endorsement, but Romm's article includes
"Nuclear: 700 new gigawatt-sized plants (plus 300 replacement plants)"
on his menu.

Luke said...

Well, Romm's article poses a long list of different options, each of which is purported to represent one greenhouse gas mitigation "wedge":

* Concentrated solar thermal electric: 1,600 gigawatts peak power.

Solar thermal, with a capacity factor of around 30 percent, and a nameplate capacity of 1600 GW, will generate 4.2 million GWh per year.

* Nuclear: 700 new gigawatt-sized plants (plus 300 replacement plants).

1000 one-gigawatt nuclear power plants, with a capacity factor of 90%, will generate 7.9 million GWh per year.

* Coal: 800 gigawatt-sized plants with all the carbon captured and permanently sequestered.

800 one-gigawatt coal plants, with a capacity factor of say around 80%, will generate 5.6 million GWh per year.

* Solar photovoltaics: 3,000 gigawatts peak power.

3000 GW of nameplate capacity of solar photovoltaics, with a capacity factor of say 25%, will generate 6.6 million GWh per year.

* Efficient buildings: savings totalling 5 million gigawatt-hours.

That last one is 5 million GWh per
year, obviously.

So, to recap:

Solar Thermal: 4.2 PWh per year.
Efficiency: 5 PWh
"Clean Coal": 5.6 PWh
Photovoltaics: 6.6 PWh
Nuclear: 7.9 PWh

So, why aren't all the different technologies that could act as "wedges" measured in terms of wedges of the same size? Why is 7.9 PWh of nuclear energy compared to 4.2 PWh of solar thermal, as being equal?