Clean energy California delusions

Just a few questions on the Stanford study to power California totally with renewable energy. John’s earlier post, “Alternative energy myths and delusions–Sierra Rayne hits em as preposterous”, with Sierra Rayne’s excellent analysis of the Stanford Woods Institute “Stanford study shows how to power California with wind, water and sun” contained a comment from the study that one of the assumptions was that their plan would “reduce California’s end-use power demand by about 44 percent.”  I found that idea truly marvelous.  After all, who wouldn’t want to reduce power use by 44%?.  The press release didn’t say how, but it was alluded to in the abstract as “Electrification plus modest efficiency measures may reduce California’s end-use power demand ∼44%.”  I elected not to buy the full paper so I won’t know how they plan to reduce end-user demand.

Part of the plan is that all transportation will be electric or hydrogen powered by 2050.  The plan calls for generating electrolytic hydrogen as a fuel replacement.  California uses about 12.3 billion gallons of gasoline per year.  The gasoline gasoline equivalent in hydrogen is 357.37 standard cubic feet or about 4.4 trillion cubic feet per year.  At 67% efficiency the electricity demand is (4.5 kwh/m3) is ~560,000 gwh, or the output of 12,788 5 MW wind turbines at 100% output (expect 25%?).  But since the cars will be electric, you won’t need that much generation for hydrogen. 

The plan calls for the following installation, I assume in addition to what’s already in place:

According to the researchers’ calculations, one scenario suggests that all of California’s 2050 power demands could be met with a mix of sources, including:

  • 25,000 onshore 5-megawatt wind turbines
  • 1,200 100-megawatt concentrated solar plants
  • 15 million 5-kilowatt residential rooftop photovoltaic systems
  • 72 100-megawatt geothermal plants
  • 5,000 0.75-megawatt wave devices
  • 3,400 1-megawatt tidal turbines

I couldn’t find much on the installation requirements of 5MW wind turbines.  They have been produced, but most installations seem to be in the 1-1.5 MW category.  Based on the Alta Wind Energy Center (320 turbines, 9,000 acres) these turbines will occupy about 700,000 acres. This seems to be in line with the Texas wind farm foot print.  Does this include power lines to distribution or transmission lines? 

1,200 100-Mw concentrated solar plants, using the 135-MW Quinto Solar Plant as a template is ~7.5 acres/MW or ~890,000 acres of solar plants. 

Wave device generation seems to be in the “demonstration” phase, so we can’t really say much about them.  The Aguçadoura Wave Farm in Portugal is commercial with 3 750 kW generators. the average output is 150 kW/generator (20%).  The foot print of these generators would be an interesting estimate.

And the benefits:  stopping the climate from changing by GHG reduction and health savings

The study states that if California switched to wind, water and sunlight for renewable energy, air pollution-related deaths would decline by about 12,500 annually and the state would save about $103 billion, or about 4.9 percent of the state’s 2012 gross domestic product, in related health costs every year. The study also estimates that resultant emissions decreases would reduce global climate change costs in 2050 – such as coastal erosion and extreme weather damage – by about $48 billion per year.

Maybe they have some documentation on health related deaths from air pollution that no one else seems to have.  However, I bet this is the same expired equine the EPA is beating.

This road map to a all-renewable future seems like a road map to fairy land. Most of the power by variable sources.  Maybe that’s how they get the reduction in personal demand, the electricity might not be there.  I assume the study also covers the bird loss from all the additional turbines and solar plants. 

Base loading electrical from variable sources or do they expect that to come from out of state?  Maybe it’s worth paying to see the full study.  


8 responses to “Clean energy California delusions

  1. “The plan calls for generating electrolytic hydrogen as a fuel replacement.”

    With what water?

    Governor Brown Issues Executive Order to Redouble State Drought Actions

  2. Once upon a time long ago and far away in a land that may never have really existed after all, dreamers dreamed and schemers schemed but then when the score was compiled between the dreamers and schemers and the losers and the winners, the winners were always the scammers who scammed.

  3. The laws of nature are not just helpful suggestions. They really are the controlling principles for that which really is.

  4. Bob:
    I agree with your observations and assessments. One thing you may want to provide in future articles/posts is more info on a topic you alluded to: transmission lines. The amount of power the folks at Stanford are talking about is huge, and getting it to the areas where it’s needed will require many (and in some cases probably individually very large) transmission projects. We’re already seeing how difficult some of these are as we’re working right now to get power from solar and wind projects into the LA Basin. In one case (Chino Hills) the Ca PUC has required SoCalEdison to put a 500 KV transmission line underground, at a huge additional cost, for something that has not been done before. And every such transmission project triggers CEQA, the CA Environmental Quality Act. It’s an educational statute intended to provide better info to decision makers and interested parties. But more often than not this law has been used to stop projects (e.g. for almost 40 years opponents have used CEQA and its federal counterpart NEPA to hold up the extension of the I-710 freeway through South Pasadena). I predict that, if many more transmission projects are proposed, CEQA will be used to stop some (perhaps many) of them that would be necessary to get renewable power into urban and suburban areas. Of course, even if these projects did go forward there’s still the significant problem that the availability of solar and wind power does not match the demand curve. You may want to check out the “duck curve” and what the CA Independent System Operator (CAISO) has to say about that.
    Best regards,

    • Excellent point. I mentioned transmission/distribution lines but you need to know placement of the generators before you can get into that. I assume CA works the same way PJM and other grid controllers do on the East Coast, you tell them where and they tell you how much it will cost sometime the next year.

      • Bob: thanx for the reply!
        I just wanted you to know I have really enjoyed your posts on global warming (or whatever the label-du-jour is). I’ve been involved in that subject since the early eighties. Steve Milloy and I spoke about it way back and he actually posted one of my early writings on the topic.
        Best regards,

  5. Coach Springer

    The derivations of assumptions. First Assumption: Warm is bad? Middle Assumption: Alternative energy is inherently good? Last Assumption: To offset, what? A surging Botswana?

    The made up assumptions about lives and health are purely political, the most dangerous to reason. They banned DDT to save lives.

  6. “reduce California’s end-use power demand by about 44 percent”
    Actually, I think they have a good number there. That would probably account for the energy use of businesses that will have pulled out of California by then.

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