Tag Archives: Tesla

There’s a trend here.

This trend is clear: Solar and wind are already cheaper than coal and will become more so; and will beat out natural gas as well. Nuclear is so expensive it's off the chart. Chart from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

This trend is clear: Solar and wind are already cheaper than coal and will become more so; and will beat out natural gas as well. Nuclear is so expensive it’s off the chart. Chart from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Every day I take an hour or two to scan dozens of articles from across the globe on nuclear power and clean energy issues; I select a handful of the best to post on NIRS’ Twitter and Facebook feeds as well as the COP 21 organizing page on Facebook, along with some Twitter-enforced pithy commentary.

Today I found myself using the word “trend” twice in a half-dozen post comments. Accurately. Continue reading

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UBS: Solar will be the default technology, and will replace nukes and coal

Global solar growth as projected by UBS. Solar has barely even begun its growth spurt...

Global solar growth as projected by UBS. Solar has barely even begun its growth spurt…

A key factor in our belief that a nuclear-free, carbon-free energy system is not only inevitable but will be here sooner than nearly everyone currently believes, is not just the factual evidence of its mind-boggling, rocketing growth. Renewables are growing from a very small percentage of generating capacity–it would take many years of expansion at even their present staggering rate for them to play a major role in providing the world’s electricity. But that well-documented growth is the necessary starting point.

The more compelling rationale for our belief is, as we’ve reported in these pages numerous times, the world’s major investment banks have bought into the clean energy future–both rhetorically and with their resources–and have largely abandoned new investment in nuclear power and fossil fuels. Continue reading

Tesla and its implications: it’s a wild time

If you read our piece Tuesday on Tesla’s new PowerWall battery storage announcement, but spent the past three days thinking about whether you wanted to get one for your own home, well, you waited too long.

According to several reports, Tesla has sold 38,000 PowerWalls since its announcement a week ago, and is now sold out through mid-2016. Not terribly surprising since its Nevada Gigafactory to manufacture batteries for both its cars and electricity storage use won’t even be completed until then.

Perhaps more significantly for the future of clean energy, Tesla also has sold 2,500 of its larger PowerPacks. Those are the systems designed for commercial, industrial and utility purposes. And those 2,500 batteries will surely store a lot more power and enable a lot more renewable energy deployment than will the larger number of home systems.

That’s especially true since, as several media outlets reported (perhaps a little too gleefully),  the home systems aren’t–yet–particularly useful for going off the grid or even enabling rooftop solar owners to store their own power generated during the day and use it at night.

SolarCity, the rooftop solar company of which Tesla’s Elon Musk is chairman, isn’t even marketing the smaller (7 kw) battery that would serve that purpose. Again, not yet.

All batteries are designed for specific purposes. In this case, the 10 kw PowerWall is intended only to handle the occasional power outage experienced by the grid and thus enable consumers to have some (although a quite small) amount of backup power to keep some essential systems running. It is designed to cycle only about 50 times/year.

The smaller 7 kw battery is designed to cycle much more frequently–a few hundred times per year–making it suitable for rooftop solar owners to store their electricity and use it on a daily basis. But SolarCity won’t market it right now because current net metering policies (in which rooftop solar owners sell excess power back to utilities) established in most states make more economic sense for homeowners than saving their power and using it later.

Some other companies, and there are a growing number planning to sell the PowerWall,  may market it for the purpose of homeowner energy independence, but for the most part, that’s still a few years into the future.

So does all this mean that Tesla, and electricity storage generally, is not the fundamental game-changer, the new paradigm, that we and many others described it as just a few days ago?

Not at all. As we wrote Tuesday, “What Tesla is doing–and we’re just at the very beginning of this transformation–is changing the entire nature of electricity generation and distribution.” Let’s emphasize “the very beginning of this transformation.”

The significance of Elon Musk’s Tesla battery-powered announcement is two-fold: first, Tesla has dramatically lowered the cost of electricity storage, and has done so even before its Gigafactory is in operation. Mass production will lead to both lower prices and greater capacity. Tesla competitors will also have to up their game and develop lower-cost batteries. Second, Tesla is doing this with the precise intent of entirely transforming the nature of electricity generation and distribution, and of moving the entire world–as quickly as possible–to a clean energy future.

Indeed, Musk already is saying that Tesla’s energy storage business could become larger than its automobile business  –and Musk isn’t shy about his intent to make his car business compete with the General Motors, Toyotas and Hondas of the world.

As nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen has famously pointed out, “The nuclear industry would have you believe that humankind is smart enough to develop techniques to store nuclear waste for a quarter of a million years, but at the same time humankind is so dumb we can’t figure out a way to store solar electricity overnight.”

We have now figured it out. And we’ve figured it out in a way that is beginning to make economic sense. This is following the solar trendline itself: first, the technology was developed and matured; then the cost became accessible; and finally, where we are now: the cost has dropped to the point where it is not only competitive, it is increasingly the lowest-cost option and will be so nearly everywhere before the end of this decade.

But it’s not only Tesla; they have competitors both in the battery storage arena and other storage technologies. For larger, utility-scale uses, for example, compressed air storage was figured out by the ancient Greeks; now it’s becoming a viable technology and competitor to Tesla’s PowerPack.

As EarthTrack’s Doug Koplow pointed out yesterday, the economics and trends are clear: storage beats nuclear power.

It’s not going to be instantaneous. The change will be nearly invisible for a while. We’re in the very beginning. But the energy transformation is happening–right before our eyes. Don’t close them too long, or it may even pass you by. It’s a fascinating, hopeful, wild time. The clean energy future and accompanying end of nuclear power and fossil fuels are nearly in sight, and will become so blatantly obvious even Exelon will be able to see it. In fact, Exelon and its ilk already do. That’s why they’re thrashing about greedily trying to get as much as possible in their waning days before their obsolete technologies and utility structures all come crashing down around them.

For those of you interested in the more practical side of the issue; this article compares the costs of Tesla’s PowerWall with other currently available residential storage systems.  This post from Australia’s ReNewEconomy features a downloadable app that will help you determine what level of solar and storage will be appropriate for where you live while a post from Rocky Mountain Institute discusses how much battery storage your rooftop solar system may need.

Michael Mariotte

May 8, 2015

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2015/05/08/tesla-and-its-implications-its-a-wild-time/

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Tesla wants to change the world. It just might happen.

The Tesla PowerWall. Photo by Tesla.

The Tesla PowerWall. Photo by Tesla.

Last week, Elon Musk and his Tesla corporation changed the world. Or so you might think from reading the press coverage about Musk’s long-expected announcement that the gigafactory Tesla is building in Nevada will produce batteries not only for Tesla automobiles, but to use as storage for renewable energy–especially rooftop solar–as well.

EverReady is probably pretty jealous; an announcement about a new battery has never received so much attention. Continue reading

The utilities’ war on solar won’t work. Because Americans already have decided the outcome.

chartforsolarcitypollLast week, we published the tale of two public opinion polls, one from Gallup and one from the Nuclear Energy Institute, that asked the same question but came up with radically different numbers.

Another new poll provides additional proof that one of those polls cited last week–the NEI poll–is the one that is way off base.  Continue reading

Nuclear Newsreel, Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What kids pick up at school can lead to wholly unanticipated consequences, as every parent knows. And no, I’m not talking about their schoolwork, I’m talking about the virus that tore through our house last week with a hurricane-force torrent and laid up Daddy for five full days (kids, of course, were fine after 24 hours….). So, sorry to miss a few days of GreenWorld, but we’re back today with a new article on Ukraine and nuclear power in Europe and a new wide-ranging Nuclear Newsreel….Lots of interesting articles to take a look at!

Nuclear Power

A new Harris poll finds that public support for nuclear power and coal has plummeted. Both technologies are seen (accurately) as dirty energy. Surprisingly though, natural gas fracking has not taken as big a hit in public opinion. But solar and wind remain–by far–the preferred energy technologies of the 21st century. Find a breakdown of the polling and many more details here.

How far do you live from a nuclear reactor? Probably too close for comfort. You can find out on this interactive website. Then, you might want to take a look at NIRS Nuclear 911 Campaign to expand and improve emergency evacuation planning at U.S. reactors–a necessary step until all reactors are closed.

Diablo Canyon

Diablo Canyon

Union of Concerned Scientists describes the NRC as a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ agency. Sometimes they get it right; but often the agency lets utilities slide on safety faults. UCS is kinder to the NRC than we are, but it is valuable that they focus on the most consequential failures of the agency. And, as the article states: “But with so many American lives at stake, even a cameo appearance by the NRC’s Mr. Hyde is too much,” the UCS said. “If an earthquake near Diablo Canyon or a failure of the Jocassee Dam (upriver of South Carolina’s Oconee nuclear plant) harmed people, the NRC would be unable to look Americans in the eyes and honestly claim it had taken every reasonable measure to prevent the disaster. More Jekyll, less Hyde is this critic’s choice for the NRC’s future.”

Another plus from Germany’s Energiewende: early shutdown of nukes & coal plants. We hear frequent claims from nuclear boosters that Germany’s ongoing transition to renewables–a transition still in its infancy it should be noted–is leading to more use of coal, higher carbon emissions, and a potential need to restart closed reactors to meet electricity demand. This article states just the opposite: just as in the U.S., poor economics is actually leading to early shutdowns of coal plants and likely some nuclear reactors as well.

The nuclear shadow over Karachi: Proposed Chinese nuclear reactors threaten city of 20 million people. Excellent and thorough piece published in Newsweek on the very real threat untested Chinese reactors would have on Pakistan if built–a country with an inadequate regulatory structure and emergency plans. Great graphics too. Absolutely worth your time to read.

There may be less to Japan’s commitment to return some plutonium and highly-enriched uranium to the U.S. for non-proliferation purposes than meets the eye, reports the Center for Public Integrity. “But Japan will still have plenty of such materials in its holdings once the repatriation is completed. The plutonium alone is 3.5 percent of what Japan has in its own warehouses, and less than one percent of the country’s total holdings (some of it is stored outside the country). It also represents just 4 percent of what the country can produce in a year at its new plutonium factory, now scheduled for completion in October in the village of Rokkasho.”

Another question we have about the deal: while nuclear non-proliferation is indeed a good thing, what is the U.S. going to do with Japan’s radioactive waste when we don’t know what to do with our own?

Problems continue at Duke Energy reactors; NRC launches a special investigation at the utility’s Catawba nuclear site.

Tired of people who don’t really know what they’re talking about extol the virtues of thorium reactors? Yeah, we are too. So is Greenpeace, which published this piece setting the record straight: thorium is not “clean” nuclear power, it does generate radioactive waste, and it isn’t needed in any case.

Clean Energy

Water-infographic-Nuclear power and fossil fuel have a lot of disadvantages–that’s why Americans increasingly see them, as the poll referred to above indicates, as dirty energy sources. But one frequently overlooked disadvantage in an increasingly water-stressed world is their enormous use of water. The infographic to the right, prepared for last week’s World Water Day, gives an indication of just how disparate their water use is compared to clean energy sources. One complaint about the article, however, is that it says that “there are no hard data” on nuclear’s water use. Not so; check out the Water and Reactors page on NIRS website here for a lot of hard data and useful information. 

 

Last week we discussed a new report from Goldman Sachs about the impact of rooftop solar power and the coming of “grid parity”–that date on which it becomes just as cheap for consumers to generate their own power, with backup storage, as it does to stay on the electrical grid. Today it’s Morgan Stanley’s turn. They agree with Goldman Sachs: grid parity could arrive in California by 2018. Tesla, and its plans for a giant new battery factor, is what makes the difference. The expected plunge in battery storage costs Tesla says it will achieve are what will make it possible. Article also includes very interesting statistics on how Tesla automobiles will themselves serve as backup power sources as the company grows. In some European countries, notably Germany, Italy, and Spain, grid parity already has been achieved.

Meanwhile, those utilities fighting the inevitable aren’t any closer to giving up–yet. This article points out there is no end in sight to the battle old-line utilities are waging against rooftop solar power. And it’s not because rooftop solar yet provides any significant amount of U.S. electricity–it doesn’t. But the utilities see its rapid expansion and the writing on the wall; rather than embrace the future, some choose to fight it. Scientific American weighs in and takes the side of solar, predicting a bright future for the technology–which is not so good news for the dinosaur utilities.

Michael Mariotte

March 25, 2014

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2014/03/25/nuclear-newsreel-tuesday-march-25-2014/

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Goldman Sachs sees a solar future for the U.S.–and that has nuclear utilities running scared.

This is Germany today, but it is what the U.S. will increasingly look  like over the next decade.

This is Germany today, but it is what the U.S. will increasingly look like over the next decade.

Goldman Sachs says declining prices of solar plus battery storage means that by 2033 homeowners will no longer need to be on the grid in U.S. And that will happen sooner in expensive electricity states like New York and California. This projection tracks well with the recent Rocky Mountain Institute report (Nuclear Newsreel, February 25, 2014) on grid defection. As RMI subsequently pointed out (The utility death spiral, stupid utilities and grid defection) grid defection is not necessarily a good thing. But homeowners need not actually disconnect from the larger grid to take advantage of the  plunging prices of rooftop solar and the upcoming similar price plunges for battery storage expected from Tesla’s massive battery production plant being planned.

That’s the good news for utilities; the bad news for them–and the good news for the climate–is that as homes and businesses increasingly become self-powered and even able to send excess power back to the grid, the need for large “baseload” nuclear and fossil fuel plants will become less and less. Utilities planning expansion of large reactors (e.g. Vogtle and Summer) and continued operation of increasingly-expensive aging reactors will be in trouble in this new marketplace. And the odds that reactors that already have obtained 20-year license renewals will actually operate for those extended periods are dwindling. License renewals are pieces of paper, they’re  not assurance of economic operation–if there is no market for the electricity they’re generating, utilities won’t run them. And since we’re talking odds here, the idea now being bounced around the NRC, DOE and some in the nuclear industry of further license extensions to allow 80-year operation of reactors increasingly appears to be a genuinely silly concept.

Solar power costs have dropped dramatically over the past 30+ years, and are expected to continue to fall.

Solar power costs have dropped dramatically over the past 30+ years, and are expected to continue to fall.

This is what is behind efforts by backward utilities like Entergy and Exelon that are heavily invested in nuclear reactors  to rig electricity rates to favor nuclear power (Activists pay attention: the nuclear industry wants to rig your rates). They know the long-term trends are running against them, and even in the short-term their reactors are failing to compete in the new marketplace. That inability to compete is only going to accelerate. It’s one thing to be unable to compete with alternative generation like natural gas and wind, which is their current problem. It’s quite another to be unable to compete with tens of millions of homeowners and businesses putting up solar panels on their roofs and backing up that power with battery storage. No amount of electricity price-rigging can compensate for that–in fact, higher electricity rates for nuclear power will only encourage faster adoption of rooftop solar. Most of those customers will stay connected to the grid to ensure stability and greater reliability, but they won’t be buying much power, certainly not the levels needed to keep behemoth reactors operating.

A different kind of effort by nuclear utilities to prevent the inevitable can be seen in California, where SolarCity has accused Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) of blocking a pilot program of solar plus battery storage installations. That approach is even less likely to work over even the short-term than the efforts of Exelon and Entergy. But PG&E is desperate to avoid shutdown of its Diablo Canyon reactors, at least before their initial licenses expire in the next decade, so it’s trying whatever it can. License extension of those reactors seems increasingly unlikely, given the level of opposition to Diablo Canyon in California and the unfavorable long-term prospects for nuclear in the state. An early shutdown now appears far more probable than 20 more years of operation.

But even if a cleaner and cheaper energy future powered increasingly by renewable distributed generation sources appears increasingly inevitable, the efforts by nuclear utilities to delay that future will be painful–economically, potential for nuclear accidents, unnecessary radioactive waste generation–if successful. That’s why activists–and just concerned people everywhere–need to stay on top of these developments and take action to oppose the utilities when appropriate. If you’re not already on NIRS e-mail alert list, join now to do just that.

Michael Mariotte

March 18, 2014

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2014/03/18/goldman-sachs-sees-a-solar-future/

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