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Renewable Energy - Megathread

Totally off-topic, but nice try.

  • The mean value of carbon dioxide emissions over the lifetime of a nuclear reactor is 66 grams per kilowatt-hour of electricity.
  • Nuclear power emits more greenhouse gases per kilowatt hour than all renewables, including biomass (up to 41 grams per kilowatt hour), hydroelectric and solar (up to 13 grams per kilowatt hour), and wind (up to 10 grams per kilowatt hour).

No? I guess it depends on what we want to do.


Wow, learn something new every day. By count that’s about 4 atoms of carbon to every 9,120 hydrogen atoms and 870 helium atoms.

The sun is such a big place.
Thanks @gordon

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that explains why it is red/orange and not ‘green’ … sorry … :wink:


True Nuclear Fusion remains a future technology if at all. Leonardo’s dreams of flight were fanciful, Jules Verne’s notion of travel to the moon was impossible, and the earth could never be anything but flat.

Realistically there is a cost and consequence for every option. There are simply differences between each option that make them more or less acceptable?

Every form of what is tagged as “renewable energy” as pointed out by others previously still has a carbon footprint. Even the energy free from the sun as @Gordon as so astutely pointed out.

There are environmental consequences and resource consumption considerations what ever choices are made.
Free standing Solar farms increase shading and reduce plant growth on the land upon which they are constructed.
Wind turbines rob breezes of energy. Take enough away and you change weather patterns. We know deforestation can affect rainfall which also depends on air movement (IE wind). They also impact the nearby environment and birdlife.
Ocean current turbines not only rob tidal energy and movement, they slash, churn and chop every marine creature that cannot avoid the onslaught of their blades.
Hydro and Pumped storage dams change whole valleys and river systems. Gordon and Franklin Rivers or the loss of flows to the Snowy River all have had significant impacts.
Mining to get the resources needed to create all these new solutions also impacts on the immediate environment usually to the point ecological impacts to an area are permanent, despite rehabilitation.

Perhaps this is all less damaging than what the planet sees now. Neither does it appear to be the prefect solution.

To repeat:

Which brings us back to the Nirvana Fallacy. There is no perfect solution.

As for the rest, I’d love to know your sources.

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There is no one source. Refer to any EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) for a renewables project. Each will have it’s own blend of circumstances. Costs may be in seen offsets or other mitigation strategies.
A general overview of project requirements and approvals for NSW

An alternate view point on tidal generation.

Apologies the iPad does not turn hyperlinks to pretty boxes.

Arguably no one has yet tried to analyse or predict the flow on impacts of wind or tidal generation as to the wider scale impacts on the environment. Most focus has been on the immediate environmental impacts and as necessary mitigating those.

Fortunately some of Australia’s larger scale solar PV projects have used already converted land.

Off topic a little is that we already have a zero carbon footprint. This has been achieved through consciously renewing with lower carbon alternatives. LED lighting, variable speed household pressure pump, etc. That our site is a carbon sink produces offsets for those things we are still to improve to a lower carbon outcome.

Consequently any new expense has to be justified on a purely selfish lowest cost of living assessment. The interest in renewables is genuine. The return on investment for our household for PV electrical power generation is marginal at best and longer with battery storage. It might pay if we have in the near future runaway inflation as in the 1980-90s.

The alternative is for public generation to transition. Without storage the up front capital for large scale solar PV appears to have fallen from nearly $3,000/kW capacity (AGL 155MW for $440m Nyngan + Broken Hill) to $2,000/kW (Sunshine coast council 20MW for $37.5M plus, or Bungara SA 220MW for est $400M).
You need to multiply the cost by at least four times if you are comparing the total annual generating capacity of solar PV to any 24 hour baseload power station.

How this translates to the grid as replacement power for baseload is a complex discussion. Ultimately as more Solar and Wind generation or other intermittent sources come on line, the more vexing the problems and the greater the need to also invest in storage.

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Precisely! Nobody credible pretends that there is any substantial impact. There’s no reason to suppose that, for example, a wind turbine will have any more impact on the wind than will a tree (or a building). If there was going to be any substantial impact, then wouldn’t it have shown up through the millions of trees cleared over the centuries?

At present, there’s no data of any substance on tidal generation. The closest model we have is wind turbines and allegations of impacts on flying animals. In England, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has decided that a wind turbine is the lesser of evils:

With solar farms as with anything else, the value of the land for other uses is a factor in siting. It isn’t unusual to space panels, so stock can graze between them. The shade from the panels proves useful for shelter.

Something similar is true of wind farms.

Infrastructure accompanying wind farm development often proves operationally advantageous to the farming enterprise, particularly in emergencies such as fire.
More here:


Unlikely, unless you actively sequester carbon to offset your energy use (including that used to manufacture your possessions).


We don’t absolutely know all the consequences of that. Global warming may be the obvious one, but we have only worked that out recently by looking rewards over a limited data set. That does not say that other outcomes should not be considered. We don’t have all the data. There is ongoing scientific consideration on the effects of deforestation on rainfall patterns. This effect may be trivial compared with global warming. It may also be significant enough an effect to provide one more motivation to increase forests. It is a proposition that we need to think more widely about all impacts. It is not a challenge to the sanity of converting to renewables.

And yes the winds may now actually blow harder because of less trees. If that is logical. Good for wind power, not so good for soil loss combined with less rainfall. There is no absolute proof to many things.

For carbon neutral or zero carbon, is it assumed trees and other plants grow they take carbon out of the environment. We grow trees as part of our efforts working with Land for Wildlife. The trees are not going anywhere else. The rate of take up is open to debate. It is many times more than our direct carbon footprint. There are great many Aussies who use their land for good by not cutting down and burning all their trees to make a golf practice range or horse paddocks. Timber is a also a renewable either as an energy source or building and construction material. It probably deserves a short period in the sun in this topic on how to best use it and how not to.

So it is possible for some to find alternate solutions in the short term to help with the carbon balance and footprint. The short term solution is not exclusively about changing the world overnight to renewables.

For those interested in the bigger picture on where renewables fit into Australia’s carbon footprint there are a multitude of statistical and forecast reports on the Fed Govt web site:

One unflattering view of where the Federal Govt is leading us is summarised by the NewDaily as follows:

When I have been trying to put a dollar value on residential Solar PV with or without storage the following web site has proven useful:

“The Town That Saved Itself
The town of Whyalla, SA was facing extinction when the owner of the local steelworks went bust. Desperate to save their jobs, employees voted for a pay cut which was rewarded when billionaire Sanjeev Gupta came to town.”

Renewable energy is one of the ways that Sanjeev Gupta is saving costs.

As far as I know, he’s still using carbon to refine iron. It would be interesting to see someone try electric refining (which could be done with Australia’s vast renewable energy resources and produces only iron and oxygen).

From the above article:
“Hurdles remain. “I am not saying anybody will take a wrecking ball to an integrated steel plant,” Sadoway says. But he thinks an electrolytic smelter could avoid the need for a sinter plant to process iron ore, a coke oven to produce coke, and an oxygen furnace to remove excess carbon left over from the coke.”
Sounds like a lot of potential cost savings.

Another article on the same Nature paper:

“Using electrolysis to make metals has several advantages over a blast furnace. The resulting metals are purer because there are fewer contaminants introduced in the process. “The electrolytic route actually consumes less energy,” Sadoway noted, adding that it can be 30 percent more efficient than conventional methods.”
More cost savings.

Focused on “ditching” fossil fuels, but there are some interesting insights into renewables here:

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Our weather patterns are fairly docile across most of the continent so what is important in the US hurricane alley is probably only relevant in our north, but still an interesting read on the importance of resiliency.


An interesting option for iron production in particular to lower the carbon footprint of iron production by taking the coke out of the process. The energy component of conventional blast furnace iron making is relatively low cost compared to high purity copper and aluminium which are commonly produced by electrolysis.

The final costs of these two metals are many times greater than current steel production. It would appear more likely that aluminium and to a lesser extent metals such as copper will be able to be produced more effectively through renewables. For iron we may need to what a little longer. The core process that utilises electrolysis is still in the lab.

There are also other alternate iron production processes that produce low carbon emissions that are at more advanced stages or trial or develoment. These include substitution of hydrogen for carbon as the reducing agent

And the HIsarna process - 2011 pilot plant.

Note on electrolysis:
Aluminium production in electrolytic cells requires at least two stage metallurgical processing as do other electrolytic cell processes used to produce metals such as copper.

The Bayer processes is used to produce refined alumina (aluminium oxide) feed to be dissolved in molten cryolite (hot cells) for the electrolytic cells.

Copper ore is typically leached using sulphuric acid to produce a highly toxic and corrosive opera sulpahte feed for the cells (cold process).
The primary processing effectively refines the ore to a pure oxide of the metal to be extracted.

Whether steel production will benefit or become significantly more expensive may take a little longer.

As noted there is still some way to go with a similar process for extracting iron. To produce pure iron also requires a primary process/s to refine the iron ore to a pure iron oxide. It will still also require a tertiary process to produce carbon steel and alloys from the iron.

With the bushfire season starting early, you might live to regret saying that. :wink:

Australia has different problems, but I have heard it suggested that warming of the East Australian Current could see cyclones down past Sydney.

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Interestingly the carbon lost to the environment due to a bush fire does not appear as a reporting item in our national accounting of greenhouse gas emissions. Nothing to worry about unless you live in a forest?

It does leave open a discussion on the benefits and cost of increased deliberate forest harvesting to provide fuel for power generation and iron smelting, providing the resource is accredited and renewable. A contrary position against would be to consider the adverse impacts to wildlife, although the example of the UK suggests that it is not a direct threat to human advancement given most of the UK has been cleared.

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The release of some of the costs around the SA Battery provided by Tesla makes an interesting read. It’s also possible to infer the approximate cost and value of the investment. It appears to have been delivered at lower cost (approx $750kWh capital investment) than domestic battery storage options ($1,200kWh to $1,500kWh or higher)? Which is contrary to costs for roof top solar PV which by my observations is the opposite with lower cost per installed kW than large scale PV farms.

There remains a hope battery costs for residential systems will also come down soon. They have not fallen significantly over the previous two years suggesting domestic installers are keeping prices higher deliberately. ie playing on the emotive drive to spend the extra on storage while demand is still low to maximise opportunity. Perhaps we need some form of rebate like STC’s on battery storage to drive uptake, increase competition, and lower prices.

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I think the picture is far more complex than just the costs of renewable energy generation and storage. Their value is also changing. The degree to which individual households will be able to participate in the demand response and virtual power plant markets potentially makes investment in renewables & storage less costly, if not cost-negative.

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The potential for disruption to the market due to distributed generation creates another potential problem

Noted the current PV proposal I have on the table has caveats on battery storage.

While I am permitted to export to,the grid, I can only sell direct generated PV to my retailer, and no one else. It also read as though I can only do so once my batteries are fully charged and that I cannot charge these from the grid. I am not permitted to feed power into the grid from any onsite storage system including battery storage.

This all suggests that the retailers intend to keep tight control of the future use of the grid and lock out any alternative strategies they cannot benefit from. As noted the major value In the retail price of power goes to the retail distributors. Reduce the size of their share or take that away, there is much for them to loose.

The states already have the power to regulate and control all grid connected generation. It is a very small step to use these powers to have consumers hand over total control of residential generation to a retailer and on their terms only. Is this a risk to consumers once residential installs reach a critical ratio? System stability and safety concerns may be the excuse.

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One wonders whether there will be a tipping point, where the need to connect to the grid simply wont exist - storage will be cost effective, appliances will be more energy efficient … it will be particularly interesting for those of use where sunlight is in abundance - yes we still get clouds from time to time, but our last real rain was March, and I’m currently over $300 in credit :slight_smile:

One can only imagine how much the puppet masters will make the puppets dance then …


Things like generation, storage and demand response are all network concerns. The network operator should be in control. It’s weird that the retailer is involved at all.

Sounds to me like a problem with the industry structure. If retailers are getting in the way, then consumers suffer. Something for Choice to look into?

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There are many sources of information concerning renewable energy uptake. The ABC has a rather bare take on Solar PV in Tasmania buried deep in a discussion of how sunny Hobart Is or is not?

It’s left to judge whether more than $200M spent on roof top solar to more than 32,000 properties providing between 1% and 2% of Tasmania’s electricity needs was a sound investment compared with other options including wind generation.

On this cost basis for rooftop PV that’s $5billions need to provide between 25% and 50% of their electrical power. Noted that Tasmania may be better able to leverage wind generation or solar PV through a pumped storage projects. There was much discussion of this in June this year, but so far no clear outcome of what could be very good for the Tasmanian consumer and their economy?