Jan 17, 2023Liked by B.F. Randall ⚛ ⛏ ⚡


I have covered the hidden costs of supposedly cheap renewables in my new substack.

Have you ever wondered why the UK has the highest electricity prices among its economic competitors despite spending billions on renewables?

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When you provide cheap money you create market distortions. This has been seen in the crazy Tech and Crypto worlds where money was thrown at anything with a half decent pitch deck. Even in oil, the hyper low interest rates drove the shale boom. The flip side is that cheap money goes into sub-economic projects. Eventually though the money wises-up and the economic reality reasserts itself. But as you say, in the meantime, huge damage is done and grifters will extract unimaginable rent from joe public.

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I am interested in a back of the napkin analysis of costs for wind producing electrical energy for pumped hydro. The capital cost, maintenance costs, operating costs. Some guy on Twitter was boasting about the excess wind energy in Belgium today, selling into the grid at 3€ MwH, a sign of dumping. Suggesting excess power is used for pumped Hydro.

What is the total cost to operate a wind to pumped hydro.

My guess is exceptionally expensive electricity, 100€ MwH

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Pumped hydro is basically regular reservoir hydro X2. And the cost of the newest reservoir hydro projects in Canada - Site C, British Columbia - La Romaine, Quebec - Muskrat Falls, Labrador, including transmission are running in over US$10B per annual Gw-yr of output with +7yrs build time, environmental protests (incl fatalities) galore, lawsuits, blockades and prone to bad years due to drought, as well as interprovincial issues of water flow, flooding etc.

Try running Wind transmission lines @ 25% CF, so you need a 4GW transmission line to transmit an avg of 1GW of wind. 4GW of pumps with expensive frequency drives (variable speed) to pump the water into the upper reservoir. And then you will get back 1GW of avg power. With pump/turbine losses of ~20%. Transmission losses of over 10%. So your 1GW of avg wind returns back avg <700MW of power. While paying for the expensive, short lived Wind farms, add very expensive transmission from the Wind farms to the mountain pumped hydro storage. And the pumped storage plant itself costs more than a substitute NPP that doesn't need storage or the added long distance transmission. Not even remotely close to practical.

In fact Pumped Storage is best used to store low cost baseload power all night then return that during daytime peak/shoulder demand. Even that is just not practical anymore. You are better to use your gas supply for peak demand. Future high temperature reactors, i.e. MSRs, LMFRs, PBGCRs can supply nighttime heat to a secondary molten salt loop, which will run a standard steam turbine for added daytime demand. That will run ~$50/kwh storage which is 1/10th the cost of current Tesla Megapacks battery storage price.

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On fairness to the oil and gas industry. We are here more or less because of them. So they do deserve a payment. And that payment is to run out the infrastructure for a couple more decades. But for sure by then we better be serious about transitioning to nuclear. And if the oil and gas industry was serious and was willing to take that quid pro quo then equally it would be reasonable that in the next 20 years they use a lot of their capita, the have access to as much capital as any company has on earth, and prepare for that transition

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