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Earth Power

Energy Production Is As 'Dirty' As Ever 260

Posted by Soulskill
from the change-is-hard dept.
kkleiner writes "A recent report (PDF) from International Energy Agency delivers some dire news: despite 20 years of efforts toward clean energy and a decade of growth in renewable energy, energy production remains as 'dirty' as ever due to worldwide reliance on fossil fuels. With the global demand for energy expected to rise by 25 percent in the next 10 years, a renewed effort toward cleaner energy is desperately needed to avoid detrimental effects to the environment and public health. The report says, 'Coal technologies continue to dominate growth in power generation. This is a major reason why the amount of CO2 emitted for each unit of energy supplied has fallen by less than 1% since 1990. Thus the net impact on CO2 intensity of all changes in supply has been minimal. Coal-fired generation, which rose by an estimated 6% from 2010 to 2012, continues to grow faster than non-fossil energy sources on an absolute basis.'"
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Energy Production Is As 'Dirty' As Ever

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  • Dirty (Score:5, Informative)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @06:06PM (#43604721) Journal
    In case anyone is wondering, they're using CO2 as the sole measurement of 'dirty,' ignoring things like sulfur, mercury, and lead, which are probably important.

    The article had one fact of which I was unaware, but should be entertaining:

    "The boom in natural gas availability [mainly from fracking] pushed natural gas prices down last year to a 10-year low in the US. But the drop in US demand for coal sparked a drop in the price of coal, which in turn sparked a shift in Europe where coal replaced much of the more expensive gas to supply power stations."

  • by amiga3D (567632) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @07:02PM (#43605095)

    That's not CO2 causing the smog in Beijing. Those are actual "dirty" particulates. Black Lung stuff. Burning coal in the last 50 years has become drastically better. Saying there have been no improvements is a lie. CO2 production isn't dropping but the truly poisonous stuff has largely been curtailed in the US. CO2 is a greenhouse gas not something causing Acid Rain. True it's helping warm the planet and disrupting the climate but then climate change is a fact of life on this planet. If you look at the output of a volcano such as the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines you'll see just how dirty mother nature can get. The incredible amount of sulfur dioxide pushed out by this one eruption was over 20 million tons. I think you'll see little reduction of CO2 without a massive change to another power source and currently the only viable alternative is Nuclear power but that comes with it's own problems.

  • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob&hotmail,com> on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @07:13PM (#43605179) Journal

    what exactly is being added to the CO2 to make it poisonous?

    CO, NOx, SO2, Hg, soot and fly ash mostly.

  • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @08:05PM (#43605457)

    The darn thing needs normal ground water to cool.

    You cannot cool a nuclear reactor of any significant size with ground water. You need a proper source of water, i.e. large river or the ocean, or you have to use cooling towers. Nuclear reactors are typically less than 1/3 efficient, so for 1GW electrical output you need to get rid of 2GW of heat.

    Fukushima was not placed near the ocean just because the engineers loved the view.

  • by Solandri (704621) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @08:17PM (#43605509)

    Wind power energy cost is at grid parity right now, and is virtually CO2 neutral.

    I mean, yeah sure, wind is intermittent; but it doesn't melt down, and storage can be done with hydro, pumped hydro or electric cars, or you can fill in with a bit of fossil or biofuel when the wind doesn't blow.

    Pumped hydro is about 70%-80% efficient [wikipedia.org]. So wind would have to be about 0.7-0.8x grid parity for stored wind energy to be economically viable. Charging losses for an EV [evworld.com] are about 25%. So if you also factor in losses converting the EV's DC back into AC for transmission on the grid, it's going to be worse than 70% overall.

    Also, yeah wind doesn't melt down. But it killed more people in 2011 than nuclear, despite providing only about 1/10th the power. The difference is that those deaths caused by wind weren't splashed all over the TV for weeks on end. It's not that wind is inherently safer. Don't get me wrong, after hydro, wind is the most viable of the renewables and I fully support its build-out. But a lot of people are basing their support on incomplete or inaccurate information, colored by what stories make jucier headlines on the evening news.

  • Re:Dirty (Score:4, Informative)

    by sqrt(2) (786011) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @09:53PM (#43605921) Journal

    Go find the nearest spray can. See the label which says "NO CFCS"? Chlorofluorocarbons WERE a huge concern, until we stepped up as a civilization and made the necessary changes to solve the problem. You don't hear about that problem anymore because we solved it. It didn't go away on its own. It didn't fade away like some green-fad. We recognized an environmental issue and solved it, and now the ozone layer is recovering. [dvice.com]

    Similar points can be made about the other things you mentioned. Those are all bad, we are taking steps to address them, or at least figuring out if it's feasible to use a replacement or change our industrial/ag processes to minimize those pollutants. We aren't just ignoring them. And you're right, there WILL be new environmental pollutants to worry about. That doesn't invalidate the concerns over the previous ones we've identified.

    Science constantly moves forward, adjusts, corrects itself when it makes mistakes. That's not a weakness, that's its chief virtue. It's the meddlesome lay people, the politicians, and the mouth breathing ignorant masses who believe you have to stick with your story, your narrative, or be deemed unprincipled or untrustworthy.

  • by notanalien_justgreen (2596219) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @11:49PM (#43606447)

    The thing is, renewable energy is only uneconomical until it's not. Science and technology progress - pretending something won't ever work because it doesn't today is a dangerous line of thinking.

    Progress comes in random spurts - but it always comes: http://www.digikey.com/Web%20Export/techzone/energy-harvesting/article-2011july-solar-cell2.jpg [digikey.com]

  • by nojayuk (567177) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @06:40AM (#43607817)

    The SEGS, a solar thermal plant in the Mojave Desert uses ground water from a rapidly depleting aquifer to run the condensers for their generating station. The NREL report about trough-based solar thermal energy lists the SEGS's water consumption as 1000 gallons (about 3.5 tonnes in real units) evaporated per MWh generated.

    http://www.nrel.gov/csp/troughnet/faqs.html [nrel.gov]

    Oceanside nuclear and other thermal power stations do not evaporate any water, they return seawater warmed by a few degrees from the condensers to the ocean.

  • by dj245 (732906) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @09:26AM (#43608799) Homepage

    The darn thing needs normal ground water to cool.

    You cannot cool a nuclear reactor of any significant size with ground water. You need a proper source of water, i.e. large river or the ocean, or you have to use cooling towers. Nuclear reactors are typically less than 1/3 efficient, so for 1GW electrical output you need to get rid of 2GW of heat.

    Fukushima was not placed near the ocean just because the engineers loved the view.

    Cooling towers use water too. Quite a lot in fact. It is the evaporation of the water that provides the bulk of the cooling effect. If you want a large-scale cooling method that uses no water*, you need to use an air-cooled condenser. There is a good diagram of a cooling tower on this page [behvac.com]. An air-cooled condenser is basically a giant car radiator (completely closed system), whereas a cooling tower has water sprays and/or ponds. They can look like the hyperboloid towers, or they can look like large radiators depending on the design.

    *Some water in air-cooled condensers must be removed as "blowdown" and then made up with fresh water. Otherwise, contaminants would build up in the system. This is both a water and an efficiency loss, so it is usually as low as possible, less than 3% of the flow.

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