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Old 04-21-2016, 11:26 AM   #81
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I'd prefer the government get out of the business of picking corporate winners and losers too, but so far the loan guarantee program (which is the same one that was available to nuclear power plants) is actually paying for itself.

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The controversial government program that funded failed solar company Solyndra, and became a lighting rod in the 2012 presidential election, is officially in the black.

According to a report by the Department of Energy, interest payments to the government from projects funded by the Loan Programs Office were $810 million as of September [2014] - higher than the $780 million in losses from loans it sustained from startups including Fisker Automotive, Abound Solar and Solyndra
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Old 04-21-2016, 11:29 AM   #82
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Appear green?
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Old 04-21-2016, 11:42 AM   #83
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Appear green?

Wrong choice of words: "go green regardless of cost, feasibility, or proven benefit" would have been more accurate.
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Old 04-21-2016, 01:28 PM   #84
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That's about what a Nuke costs for the same name plate capacity. Only you can count on nukes to run at ~98% capacity factor, so you'll get far more MWh from them.
Not only do you get that consistent, reliable capacity for 20 or more years, there's no other resource requirement during that time. The fuel cost is front-loaded and "one-time", and is thus harmed by spikes in Uranium costs.

Interesting paper linked below. Two relevant snippets:

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In 2015, on average, U.S. nuclear power plants produced electricity for almost $36 per megawatt-hour. The smaller single-unit plants like Kewaunee and Vermont Yankee were a little more costly
– about $44 per megawatt-hour. The larger, multi-unit sites were less costly – in the $33 per megawatt-hour range. The electricity these plants produces will likely be replaced with either combined cycle gas-fired capacity at a levelized cost of over $70 per megawatt-hour (see graph, “Better Deal for Consumers ... Existing Nuclear or New Combined Cycle Gas?”).
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Waste disposal costs since 1983 have amounted to $0.001/kWh generated by nuclear plants.
Costs: Fuel, Operation, Waste Disposal & Life Cycle - Nuclear Energy Institute

So sure, gas is low-cost, but it's like the decision to buy or lease a car. Absorbing the sticker price for lower long-term costs makes financial sense in most cases, or you can lease for less up front but end up paying more long-term.
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Old 04-21-2016, 01:35 PM   #85
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Appear green?


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Wrong choice of words: "go green regardless of cost, feasibility, or proven benefit" would have been more accurate.

There Is a fair amount of "pie-in-the-sky" involved with the environmental "movement", though defining "externalities" of other energy sources, and what they "really" cost, is the gray area.
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Old 04-21-2016, 01:39 PM   #86
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Talking about SunEdison, allow me to make a detour here.

It started out as MEMC, a company making silicon wafers for semiconductor companies to make IC chips, and solar wafers too. In the mid-2000s, there was a shortage of silicon wafers due to solar demand, and MEMC made good money hand over fist. I traded its stocks and made good money myself.

MEMC decided to take the next step, and made the solar wafers then the panels too, as this was a hot market. Then, it tried to get into entire solar installations, and bought other businesses. I bailed out of my last shares last year, when this bubble started to deflate. Man, talk about a good company getting bad by drinking its own Koolaid.
I just looked back at my records. I started to buy shares of MEMC in 2005, which traded under the symbol WFR until it purchased SunEdison, took over that name and traded under the symbol SUNE.

Overall, I made a net of $23K trading this stock over the years, while committing at the highest point about $13K. So, that's not too bad, although I do not know what my overall ROI is.

I sold the last 600 shares on 8/6/2015 for $12K when the stock dropped from $30/share down to $20/share. Had I held on until bankruptcy, I would still make money overall, but the return would not be that good.

I really wanted to believe in this company and the technology, but not being quick when a bubble bursts will hurt, whether you are a believer for not.
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Old 04-21-2016, 01:52 PM   #87
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Besides Solyndra whose bankruptcy was well-known, there was also Konarka. This company's specialty was organic solar cells. This was exciting because the solar panels could be made by printing. The solar conversion efficiency is only 1/2 that of silicon cells, but the much lower production cost is extremely attractive.

Alas, organic solar cells deteriorate after a couple of years exposed to sunlight. So, that was the fate of this company that was spun off from University of Mass, and which had a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry as a founder (Alan Jay Heeger).


PS. The best organic solar cell is 1/2 as efficient as traditional silicon cells, but Konarka's cells demonstrated just 1/5 to 1/4.
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Old 04-21-2016, 02:19 PM   #88
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... there was also Konarka. This company's specialty was organic solar cells. This was exciting because the solar panels could be made by printing. The solar conversion efficiency is only 1/2 that of silicon cells, but the much lower production cost is extremely attractive.

Alas, organic solar cells deteriorate after a couple of years exposed to sunlight. So, that was the fate of this company that was spun off from University of Mass, and which had a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry as a founder (Alan Jay Heeger).
This reminded me that I started a thread a while back, it's been pretty quiet, but it was about reporting the positive possibilities across the environmental and green energy subject. Hopefully avoiding things that are too vague and more wishes than reality, but things that appear to have a real chance of success. That thread was here:

Enviro-Green Tech: The Good? (not the Bad and the Ugly)

Carry on (I'll add an update to that thread myself in a minute).

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Old 04-21-2016, 02:33 PM   #89
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NEI is addressing a bit of a different question in that paper. They're comparing the cost of existing nuclear plants (one's where the up-front capital cost has largely been recovered) with the cost of building new natural gas plants.

It looks like they're arguing against closing existing nuclear plants, so that's a fine way of working the analysis to address that specific issue.

What they're not saying is that it's cheaper to build new nuclear than it is to build new gas. And they're not saying that because it's not true. The EIA report NEI references in their paper forecasts the levelized cost of new plants put in service in 2020 to be $73 / Mwh for CCGT and $95 / Mwh for nuclear.

That paper doesn't break out the assumptions behind the analysis but even those numbers seem optimistic to nuclear and pessimistic on gas to me. They do say that they're using a variable fuel & O&M cost for CCGT plants of $53 / Mwh which is way high. Could be that natural gas spikes again, but with gas where it is right now that cost today is more like $20. To get up into the $50 range they must assume gas goes back up above $5 / MMbtu.

And then they have nuclear's levelized capital cost about 4.5x higher than CCGTs even though nuclear might cost 10x as much to build as a new CCGT. Not sure how they get to that conclusion.
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Old 04-21-2016, 03:01 PM   #90
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NEI is addressing a bit of a different question in that paper. They're comparing the cost of existing nuclear plants (one's where the up-front capital cost has largely been recovered) with the cost of building new natural gas plants.

It looks like they're arguing against closing existing nuclear plants, so that's a fine way of working the analysis to address that specific issue.

What they're not saying is that it's cheaper to build new nuclear than it is to build new gas. And they're not saying that because it's not true. The EIA report NEI references in their paper forecasts the levelized cost of new plants put in service in 2020 to be $75 / Mwh for CCGT and $92 / Mwh for nuclear.

That paper doesn't break out the assumptions behind the analysis but even those numbers seem optimistic to nuclear and pessimistic on gas to me. They do say that they're using a variable fuel & O&M cost for CCGT plants of $53 / Mwh which is way high. Could be that natural gas spikes again, but with gas where it is right now that cost today is more like $20. To get up into the $50 range they must assume gas goes back up above $5 / MMbtu.

And then they have nuclear's levelized capital cost about 4.5x higher than CCGTs even though nuclear might cost 10x as much to build as a new CCGT. Not sure how they get to that conclusion.
I'm sure that's the case. The question, which I haven't appropriately articulated to this point, is less about economic viability because that solution already exists. The country has decided that it is willing to pay more for clean energy. So, to me, do you keep pouring money into wind and solar and never solve the problem you're aiming to solve, or do you invest in something that can actually do it?

We're throwing tons and tons of money at renewables which may not (likely don't?) have the capacity to entirely or even mostly replace fossil fuels in the name of clean energy and minimizing damage to our environment and thus helping with climate change, yet you've got a viable alternative in terms of environmental impact and capacity that's marginally more expensive than existing fossil fuel.

The reasons behind slowing/stopping investment in nuclear have been (1) economic; (2) based on perceived environmental impacts from waste and accidents. (2) is overblown and misunderstood by the vast majority of the population. We've already made the call that (1) is less important than solving the climate puzzle.
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Old 04-21-2016, 04:00 PM   #91
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"Solar energy company SunEdison is preparing to file for bankruptcy as early as the evening of April 17, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday, nine months after its market value had reached $10 billion."
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Old 04-21-2016, 04:45 PM   #92
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I'm sure that's the case. The question, which I haven't appropriately articulated to this point, is less about economic viability because that solution already exists. The country has decided that it is willing to pay more for clean energy. So, to me, do you keep pouring money into wind and solar and never solve the problem you're aiming to solve, or do you invest in something that can actually do it?

. . .

The reasons behind slowing/stopping investment in nuclear have been (1) economic; (2) based on perceived environmental impacts from waste and accidents. (2) is overblown and misunderstood by the vast majority of the population. We've already made the call that (1) is less important than solving the climate puzzle.
I agree with all of that. The politics around nuclear are bad. The people who believe CO2 is a problem are many of the same people who believe nuclear is an unacceptable solution. And the people who don't believe CO2 is a problem are not at all interested in paying more for electricity generated by nuclear power. So where's the coalition to support nuclear supposed to come from?

But even if we could get over that hump, the economic challenge for nuclear is larger than you might think. These are big, big investments and our utility industry is significantly fragmented. Who's going to put $10B of shareholder capital on the line to build a single power plant?

Duke Energy is the largest power company in the country. They have a market cap of just $50B. Even if the economics made sense (and they currently aren't even close) building a single plant costing 20% of your equity market cap is a huge gamble for any CEO to take.

Now obviously if the country was strongly in favor of building nuclear plants we could find a way to get them built. But we aren't. So we likely won't.
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Old 04-21-2016, 04:57 PM   #93
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I agree with all of that. The politics around nuclear are bad. The people who believe CO2 is a problem are many of the same people who believe nuclear is an unacceptable solution. And the people who don't believe CO2 is a problem are not at all interested in paying more for electricity generated by nuclear power. So where's the coalition to support nuclear supposed to come from?

But even if we could get over that hump, the economic challenge for nuclear is larger than you might think. These are big, big investments and our utility industry is significantly fragmented. Who's going to put $10B of shareholder capital on the line to build a single power plant?

Duke Energy is the largest power company in the country. They have a market cap of just $50B. Even if the economics made sense (and they currently aren't even close) building a single plant costing 20% of your equity market cap is a huge gamble for any CEO to take.

Now obviously if the country was strongly in favor of building nuclear plants we could find a way to get them built. But we aren't. So we likely won't.


There appear to be 5 under construction right now. Southern (Georgia Power) has Vogtle units 3&4 on the way. Want to bet there are cost overruns? I like nuclear energy, but I am not a fan of investing in a company that is building one, hence I own no Southern Utility issues.
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Old 04-21-2016, 05:12 PM   #94
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There appear to be 5 under construction right now. Southern (Georgia Power) has Vogtle units 3&4 on the way. Want to bet there are cost overruns? I like nuclear energy, but I am not a fan of investing in a company that is building one, hence I own no Southern Utility issues.
So it would seem.

I thought all of the new nuclear capacity was uprates to existing facilities but some intrepid souls are indeed breaking ground on shiny new plants.
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Old 04-21-2016, 05:28 PM   #95
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So it would seem.



I thought all of the new nuclear capacity was uprates to existing facilities but some intrepid souls are indeed breaking ground on shiny new plants.


I admit I am as bad as the next person in bashing subsidies for the solar energy......But what a naive fool I am....The nuclear plants get them too....Billions and Billions! Im a fool...I just thought it was the poor investors only putting their money on the line, but everyone gets a handout, so I guess I need to quit my solar subsidy bashing....


Time noted in 2008:

Lovins [a veteran energy expert and chairman of the Rocky Mountain Institute] notes that the U.S. nuclear industry has received $100 billion in government subsidies over the past half-century, and that federal subsidies now worth up to $13 billion a plant — roughly how much it now costs to build one — still haven’t encouraged private industry to back the atomic revival. At the same time, the price of building a plant — all that concrete and steel — has risen dramatically in recent years, while the nuclear workforce has aged and shrunk. Nuclear supporters like Moore who argue that atomic plants are much cheaper than renewables tend to forget the sky-high capital costs, not to mention the huge liability risk of an accident ….
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Old 04-21-2016, 06:31 PM   #96
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I admit I am as bad as the next person in bashing subsidies for the solar energy......But what a naive fool I am....The nuclear plants get them too....Billions and Billions! Im a fool...I just thought it was the poor investors only putting their money on the line, but everyone gets a handout, so I guess I need to quit my solar subsidy bashing....


Time noted in 2008:

Lovins [a veteran energy expert and chairman of the Rocky Mountain Institute] notes that the U.S. nuclear industry has received $100 billion in government subsidies over the past half-century, and that federal subsidies now worth up to $13 billion a plant — roughly how much it now costs to build one — still haven’t encouraged private industry to back the atomic revival. At the same time, the price of building a plant — all that concrete and steel — has risen dramatically in recent years, while the nuclear workforce has aged and shrunk. Nuclear supporters like Moore who argue that atomic plants are much cheaper than renewables tend to forget the sky-high capital costs, not to mention the huge liability risk of an accident ….
To take the point a bit further only in states with traditional vertically integrated electric utilities are nuclear plants being built. In "deregulated" actually vertically dis integrated electric systems, with electric retailers offering prices to customers, no sane executive with a retailer would go for the pig in a poke of a new nuclear plants as they tend to take longer and cost more than originally planned.
A retailer would rather sign a contract for a combined cycle plant that has a predictable construction time.
In vertically integrated states due to the long time it takes to build a nuclear plant the utilities got the state Public utility commissions to include partially constructed plants in the rate base meaning that the rates include the plants while still under construction.
So in the deregulated states, no retailer would sign a contract for power in the future from a new nuclear plant. Since a generation company would not have contracts the company could not finance the plant and thus the plant would not get built.
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Old 04-21-2016, 06:42 PM   #97
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.......... not to mention the huge liability risk of an accident ….
Are nuclear plants actually insured against this risk, or does the government assume this risk?
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Old 04-21-2016, 06:52 PM   #98
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To take the point a bit further only in states with traditional vertically integrated electric utilities are nuclear plants being built. In "deregulated" actually vertically dis integrated electric systems, with electric retailers offering prices to customers, no sane executive with a retailer would go for the pig in a poke of a new nuclear plants as they tend to take longer and cost more than originally planned.
A retailer would rather sign a contract for a combined cycle plant that has a predictable construction time.
In vertically integrated states due to the long time it takes to build a nuclear plant the utilities got the state Public utility commissions to include partially constructed plants in the rate base meaning that the rates include the plants while still under construction.
So in the deregulated states, no retailer would sign a contract for power in the future from a new nuclear plant. Since a generation company would not have contracts the company could not finance the plant and thus the plant would not get built.


Makes sense to me .....I remember growing up when then Union Electric was building their plant. It darn near bankrupted them because they couldn't initiate any rate increases until the plant was built and producing electricity.

Travelover, I do not know offhand. I am sure there is some insurance but do not know if there is additional superfund insurance also that gets paid into. I do know they pay annually into a decommissioning fund to help close the plant when its operating days are over. All I know is I would hate to own stock in the company if it happened and have to check and see what the price of the stock closed at that day!
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Old 04-21-2016, 07:44 PM   #99
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Out of curiosity, I looked for the aforementioned "largest battery in the world" pumped storage in Google Earth. See captured photo below.

It is not apparent in this picture that there's almost a 1,300-ft elevation drop between the two reservoirs. The closeness of the two reservoirs makes for lower piping friction loss in operation.

This is good stuff. We want a lot more of these (but need to find a way to finance them at $1.6B a pop).

Read more at The Inside Story Of The World's Biggest 'Battery' And The Future Of Renewable Energy | ThinkProgress

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Old 04-21-2016, 08:25 PM   #100
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Out of curiosity, I looked for the aforementioned "largest battery in the world" pumped storage in Google Earth. See captured photo below.

It is not apparent in this picture that there's almost a 1,300-ft elevation drop between the two reservoirs. The closeness of the two reservoirs makes for lower piping friction loss in operation.

This is good stuff. We want a lot more of these (but need to find a way to finance them at $1.6B a pop).

Read more at The Inside Story Of The World's Biggest 'Battery' And The Future Of Renewable Energy | ThinkProgress
...
Very interesting. But from what I understand, there just aren't that many places where the elevations and geology would support anything close to this. But it sure seems to make sense to use it where we can.

Check my math - but the costs seem higher than I would have expected:

Story says 24,000 MWh of storage (that can be delivered in one day). [matches roughly to their ~3,000 MW capacity x 8 hr/day supply?]

Cost was $1.6B in 1985. Inflation calculator says 2.22x to get to 2015 $, so $1,600 M becomes $3,552 M.

Let the 'M' cancel, and you get $3,552/24,000 = $0.148/watt-hour, so $148/kWh.

Isn't that ballpark close to the cost of lithium cells?

Of course, there's little degradation with water/turbines over time, turbines versus inverters, etc. But I would have thought big pools of water would have been cheaper than this?

edit/add: A little tidbit - @ 1300' elevation, that is ~ 570 PSI in the column of water at the turbine! And flow can be > 12 M gallons per minute!!!

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