…America! We Have a Problem – The Green Nightmare – Part 2: The Coal, Natural Gas and Supply Problems…
This graphic depicts the current sources of electricity supply for the United States, and how much more electricity must be produced to achieve the administration’s climate objective.
The essence of their plan is summarized here:
- Close all coal-fired power plants.
- Build wind and solar plants with required storage.
- Eliminate the use of natural gas for home heating and water heating.
- Eliminate natural gas for power generation.
- Mandate that all new light vehicles be battery powered.
- Promote zero emissions for large vehicles.
- Use negative carbon strategies.
Part 1 explored the problem associated with nuclear power.
Part 2 will establish how many wind turbines must be installed to eliminate CO2 emissions from coal-fired and natural gas power plants. It will also examine how much PV solar must be installed to double the supply of electricity by 2050.
Problem # 2: Closing coal-fired power plants
Coal-fired power plants currently supply 30% of our electricity?
US total electricity usage was 4,009 billion kWh in 2020, of which coal was 774 billion kWh, or 19%.
It will require 32,725 off-shore wind turbines, rated 6 MW each, with a capacity factor of 45%, to replace the lost generation from closed coal-fired power plants.
Off-shore wind turbines of this size require 3,150 feet between turbines (seven rotor lengths). There is a total of 9,659 miles of shoreline along the continental United States, so the off-shore wind turbines would be stacked two deep in the oceans and Great Lakes around the United States.
These 32,725 wind turbines will cost $1.2 trillion at $6,000 per KW. ($6,000 is the average of the costs projected by EIA and IER for offshore wind turbines.)
While GE is testing a 12 MW offshore wind turbine, details as to cost and capacity factor have not yet been confirmed. Such a unit could reduce the number of offshore wind turbines by more than half, but may not reduce costs.
Problem 3: Eliminating natural gas combined cycle power plants.
Natural gas power plants generated 1, 617 billion kWh in 2020.
It would require 176,000 on-shore wind turbines, rated 3 MW, with a capacity factor of 35%, and an area of at least 52,000 square miles, to replace all natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants.
The cost of building these wind installations, at $1,300 per KW, is $686 billion.
Virtually the entire available area in Montana and Wyoming, where the best winds are located, would be required to replace the NGCC power plants with wind turbines.
Problem 4: Doubling electricity generation by 2050,
US total electricity usage was 4,009 billion kWh in 2020. This is the amount of additional electricity that will be needed, according to NREL’s, Electrification Futures Study, to implement the administration’s climate proposal.
Solar hasn’t been addressed in discussing problems 1, 2, and 3, primarily because it only provides electricity during the daytime and automatically raises the issue of storage.
It would require 22,000 square miles, (3.5 square miles per GWh from NREL) to install sufficient PV solar panels to generate the required 4,009 billion kWh.
Area is not an issue. There is sufficient land area in the Southwestern United States to easily accommodate 22,000 square miles of PV solar.
While PV solar installations in the Southwest could use federal land, it would require huge investments in transcontinental transmission lines to distribute the power.
The 22,000 square miles of PV solar power could be spread around multiple states, though this has some drawbacks, e.g., cost of private land, lower insolation levels, and increased effects from bad weather.
The initial cost of 22,000 square miles of PV solar panels would be $4.9 trillion assuming a cost of $1.10 per watt. (Current costs are approximately $1.40 per watt.)
Storage is an important issue. It can affect both wind and PV solar.
Sufficient storage must be provided to supply electricity for at least twelve days, otherwise there will come a time when the nation, or large regions of the nation, would experience blackouts. For example, former Secretary of Energy Moniz said, Texas had, in the past, experienced nine consecutive days where winds were unavailable. ISO-NE reported a period of twelve days where insignificant amounts of PV solar were generated.
It’s obvious that solar requires storage when the sun sets if we are to rely on solar to provide reliable electricity without fossil fuels.
According to former Secretary of Energy, Moniz, “batteries will never be the solution” for long term storage.
At this writing, there is no known battery that can store large quantities of electricity for several days. It is, therefore, not possible, at this time, to meet the administration’s climate goal.
Problem 5 Unaddressed Issues
An important area that has not been addressed, is the need for new transmission and distribution lines.
These costs are not trivial. (See, Battery Powered Vehicles: Their effect on the electric grid, March 2021.)
- A minimum of $135 billion is required to install transformers of greater capacity in the distribution system.
NREL estimates that the size of the transmission system will have to be increased by 50% to 75%. The current transmission system is 120,000 miles long. At $5 million per mile, (500KV, double circuit, MISO, cost estimating guide) the cost for increasing the transmission system by 50% would be $300 billion.
The most difficult problem, with respect to building new transmission lines, is obtaining the necessary permits and authorizations from multiple political jurisdictions with opposition from both Nimby’s and environmental groups.
It will require massive use of takings, using eminent domain, where constitutional issues will have to be addressed.
Negative Carbon Strateggies:
The administration’s goal includes the term “net zero” which infers removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.
This is actually a distraction because it is a hypothetical that lacks substance or validation.
Theoretically, there are five ways to effect removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, or for preventing it to reach the atmosphere.
- Capturing CO2 from where it is produced, i.e., carbon capture
- Using CO2 in a process, such as in the making of steel
- Sequestering CO2 underground
- Sequestering CO2 in plant growth
- Geo-engineering, such as fertilizing the oceans to increase plankton growth to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere
These concepts are either unproven, or have serious limitations or drawbacks.
The concept is a distraction because the breadth of the proposal is unlimited and leads to conjecture rather than facts.
A few examples are cited here to provide some context to the issue.
Capturing CO2 from NGCC power plants will result in a derating of the plant by around 30%, requiring the building of additional generating capacity to replace the power lost in capturing, compressing and transporting the liquid CO2 to where it can be sequestered underground.
There can be no assurance that CO2 sequestered underground will remain there for thousands of years. Only two Class VI wells have been approved for sequestering CO2 underground in the United States, primarily because of the risks involved.
Quoting the Competitive Enterprise Institute,
“The EPA bases the regulation of CO2 injection as a separate class of wells on several unique risk factors:
- the large volumes of CO2 expected to be injected through wells;
- the relative buoyancy of CO2 in underground geologic formations;
- the mobility of CO2 within subsurface formations;
- the corrosive properties of CO2 in the presence of water that can effect well materials; and
- the potential presence of impurities in the injected CO2 stream.”
As for sequestering CO2 in plants, such as trees, there is the question of what happens when the trees or plants are cut down? Or die? Can sequestration, such as planting trees in Mongolia or the Amazon, be honestly certified? For how long? And by whom?
The issues surrounding negative carbon strategies are never ending, which is why it is a distraction rather than a serious component of any proposal.
Part 3 of this series will provide a summary of these issues, together with conclusions.
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Related Article: America, We have a Problem – The Green Nightmare – Pt.1