Energy production, storage, and future technologies


Forum Addict
Sep 6, 2008
Michigan USA
Humans have become increasingly dependent on the electricity we use. We Also need to resolve many issues related to that dependency.

To begin this thread, I share the news of a nuclear plant closing. This plant began producing power in 1974, had a partial meltdown in 1979, and now in 2019, begins the the process of decomissioning that will last sixty years.

Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant Shuts Down

Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania stopped producing electricity at noon on Friday, part of Exelon Corp.'s plan to close and decommission the plant over the next 60 years.

The closure comes 40 years after the partial meltdown of the plant's reactor No. 2 — the nation's worst commercial nuclear accident — left the plant with only one working reactor.

Tens of thousands evacuated amid uncertainty about the accident. Some radiation was released, but officials said it was within acceptable levels. Yet many who live in the area are convinced that their health problems in later years were related to the accident.

The event ushered in a new era of nuclear regulations, while also ending an era of growth in the U.S. commercial nuclear sector. Since the accident, no commercial reactors have been built in the U.S.

Exelon officials said some of the plant's approximately 675 employees will keep working at the plant to move the nuclear fuel as it cools.

Most will stay around until the end of the month, enough time to move fuel out of the reactor and into a massive vat of water called a spent fuel pool.

After that, staffing will be reduced to 300 employees, who will move the fuel to concrete and stainless steel "dry casks."

By 2022, about 50 employees will remain, tasked with the long, slow process of winding down the plant and ensuring that the nuclear waste is kept away from people for tens of thousands of years.

In 2017, Exelon said it would close if it couldn't get a key subsidy from the state that would help it compete with an energy market flooded with cheaper natural gas.

State lawmakers proposed two bills to save the plant, pointing to the valuable long-term assets nuclear power brings to the table, such as carbon-free emissions, fuel supply diversity and reliability.

Critics argued that the bailouts distorted the competitive wholesale electricity marketplace and said that nuclear power should not be lumped in with clean, renewable energy — noting the emissions from mining uranium and the fact that the U.S. lacks a plan for disposing of its radioactive nuclear waste.

For those who live nearby, the possibility of the plant's closure has loomed for years.

Kendra Nissley has spent the past 12 years running a dairy farm across the river from the plant in Londonderry Township, Pa.

From her farm, high-voltage power lines stretch down to a substation that collects electricity from the plant. It's a reminder that Three Mile Island produced 3% of the state's total power, with nuclear plants making up 40% of a pie that also includes natural gas, coal, hydroelectric and wind.

Nissley said the steam rising from two cooling towers — as well as the two inert cooling towers, tied to the crippled reactor — have been a reminder of both what nuclear power has provided to the community, and its risks.

Nissley said the farm won't be affected much by the closure, but some of her neighbors are losing their jobs. Exelon said it has offered them jobs elsewhere, but that's not an option for some people who have bought homes, raised families and built lives for themselves around Three Mile Island.

"They express a lot of sadness at losing their longtime job, and we share in some of that sorrow with them," Nissley said.

Down the road from Nissley's farm, Londonderry Township Manager Steve Letavic said he has been planning for this day for at least two years.

He has let five township jobs sit vacant, knowing he would lose tax money needed to fund those positions.

Letavic is planning for a loss of about $50,000 a year for the municipal fire company — money that Exelon used to help raise through an annual charity golf tournament. He's expecting to lose another $120,000 in tax revenue this year.

"We're a small town with a $2 million budget. Every little bit matters, right?"

The township of 5,200 people also recently voted to open up some undeveloped land to commercial construction in an effort to make up some of the lost tax dollars. Letavic said he's in talks with a developer that wants to build a logistics center, and another that wants to put in a planned community.

The closure comes on the same day as a global climate strike calling for "immediate steps to stabilize the environment," noted Matt Wald at the pro-nuclear Nuclear Energy Institute.

The closure is a setback for U.S. efforts to cut its reliance on fossil fuels, Wald said in a news release.

"The essential problem is that our electricity system is intensively managed to a goal, but the goal isn't clean air or protecting our climate," Wald said. "The goal is least-cost electricity, as if electricity were a commodity regardless of its source."

I’m a little confused, do you want to discuss actual tech or do you wanna discuss policies?

I wonder how they are planning to replace the power that they are making at 3mi, 3% of total state power is not an insignificant amount.
I think the tech, old and new, go hand in hand with politics at several levels.

World’s Largest Storage Battery — 2.5 GWh — To Replace Gas Peaker Plants In Queens

A site on Vernon Avenue in Queens, New York, once was home to 16 gas powered peaker plants. Only 2 remain in operation today. Soon, all of them will be demolished to make room for a 316 MW/2528 MWh storage battery that will be the largest in the world. The proposal to build the new facility was approved last week by the New York Public Service Commission.

According to PV Magazine, Ravenswood Development, the current owner of the peaker plants, plans to build out the project in three phases — 129 MW, 98 MW, and 89 MW. The first phase should be completed by March, 2021. No timetable has yet been announced for completion of the second and third phases of the project. Once fully deployed, the 316 MW of power would meet just over 10% of the New York State’s goal of 3,000 MW by 2030.

The proposed storage project will consist of 136 battery storage and inverter units, 64 of which will be double stacked on the property. In the specifications submitted to the PSC, the Sunny Central Storage 2500-EV-US Inverter is listed as the inverter that will be used at the site. A study suggests that when in operation, the enormous battery will raise the noise level at the site by only 3 decibels, an important consideration because there is a residential community nearby.

Ravenswood Development acknowledges that the electricity stored in the Queens battery could come from any source — including coal or natural gas — but that the facility will lower carbon emissions in the area because it will make it possible for local utilities to curtail the use of peaker plants, which tend to emit high levels of carbon dioxide when they are brought online. And of course the more renewable energy is available to the local grid, the lower those emissions will be.

Currently, the world’s largest announced lithium-ion batteries are the 409 MW/900 MW facility planned by Florida Power & Light, the 300 MW/1200 MWh system by Vistra Energy at Moss Landing in California, a 182.5 MW/730 MWh system by Tesla also at Moss Landing, and the recently announced 300 MW/1.2 GWh Eland facility by 8minute Solar Energy in Los Angeles. Not only will the Queens facility have a larger storage capacity than any of those facilities, it will be one of the first in the world to offer 8 hours of storage.

The path to the future is clear — larger storage projects with longer storage times. Both will be a welcome addition to the renewable energy revolution.

Biggest Private Coal Miner Goes Bust as Trump Rescue Fails

Robert E. Murray, the U.S. coal baron who pressed the Trump administration to help save America’s struggling miners, placed his company into bankruptcy as demand for the fossil fuel continues to weaken.

Murray Energy Holdings Co. filed for Chapter 11 protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Columbus, Ohio, to restructure more than $2.7 billion of debt. The miner -- the largest privately owned U.S. coal company -- reached a restructuring support agreement with lenders who hold more than 60% of a $1.7 billion loan, the company said in a statement. The deal provides a new $350 million loan to keep operations going during the reorganization.
This might not be a terrible idea but I suspect it’s rather expensive since it would make the most sense on long highway stretches and that’s a lot of wiring and upkeep.
This has been tried in San Francisco for decades for city buses. While I can't in honesty say it was an abject failure, it hasn't exactly been a rousing success that's driven others to adopt the technology
Electric busses been around in the old country for a long time now, the main problem they have/had is that they don’t have battery backup so once it loses the wire it’s dead in the street, usually an intersection
As a nation we had trolley buses operating up until 1972. Had the oil crisis hit a year earlier we might still have had them.

We also had the foresight to dismantle all but one of our tram systems. Then spent 30 years building new ones.
As a nation we had trolley buses operating up until 1972. Had the oil crisis hit a year earlier we might still have had them.

And then you would be stuck with what is not a great idea at the best of times.

We also had the foresight to dismantle all but one of our tram systems. Then spent 30 years building new ones.

Well, you guys also thought it was somehow a great idea to make an air cooled, unfiltered exhaust nuclear reactor. :p
As a nation we had trolley buses operating up until 1972. Had the oil crisis hit a year earlier we might still have had them.

We also had the foresight to dismantle all but one of our tram systems. Then spent 30 years building new ones.
Trams are stupid, they take up driving space on the road like buses but have no ability to go around traffic.
And then you would be stuck with what is not a great idea at the best of times.
What’s wrong with trolley buses, as long as they have battery backup?

In Shanghai, a line with a six minute interval during the day ran right in front of my house and I hardly ever noticed the trolley buses. Compared to the Diesel-powered ones elsewhere, that was a huge advantage.
I'm with @calvinhobbes for once, I don't really see them as a terrible idea as long as they have enough battery to get to say next stop and reconnect to the grid.
Sitting in the office right now with a stream of noisy buses going by all day, I would certainly welcome electric buses. Not much of a fan of trolleybuses specifically though because of they're fixed routes, many of the Russian dashcam videos feature them being involved in crashes...

I also feel that overhead wire power is an outdated technology in general, despite its wide use it isn't actually that good for trains when weather exists and any time you add more cables hanging around with high voltages there are risks. See California power outages and fires.
What’s wrong with trolley buses, as long as they have battery backup?

In Shanghai, a line with a six minute interval during the day ran right in front of my house and I hardly ever noticed the trolley buses. Compared to the Diesel-powered ones elsewhere, that was a huge advantage.

We have fairly quiet natural gas powered buses here, so the diesel noise is rather a non-issue at least in this region. There is a major bus line right next to my home and since they converted to NG vehicles several years ago, I cannot hear them any more except in the middle of the night when all is quiet and still and I have my windows open. But when it's that quiet you can hear a Tesla's tire noise, so that's not really an objection.

As for the problems, here are a few seen in SF and elsewhere on the continent. These may not apply to other countries or continents, but they're some of the common problems seen here in our prevailing conditions:

1. No electrical power due to a power system problem? (Whether that be due to someone nailing a power pole, construction, regional power blackout, etc.) Batteries only last so long and the buses I've seen deployed in SF have strictly limited reserves - not to mention have problems climbing the hills there on battery power with anything left at the top, so they're not going to be able to run terribly long without their caternary feeding them power. Bottom line is that if you have a power problem, your buses aren't going to be making many trips - and this applies not just to city-wide power shortages where it obviously matters a lot less, but to even neighborhood outages.

2. No real flexibility - when road/subsurface construction in SF forced the trolley buses off their normal route (and therefore power line) they often have many issues with the buses killing their battery reserves and stalling out on the 'powerless' detour route. Eventually, they run temporary power lines on the detour route, but this takes significant time, permitting, review, etc., etc. If there is a major traffic accident that requires detouring miles in slow traffic (usually with the AC on) as there can often be, you run into problems.

3. Trolley buses cannot be used for major evacuations. In natural (and not-so-natural) disasters, city buses are often pressed into service evacuating people to a safer part of the country. Can't do that with trolley buses, and we seem to get natural disasters on a regular basis. City buses are currently being used to evacuate people from the fires in California, for example. Related reading:

4. There are also issues with the overhead power lines sparking and causing fires (as Matt has noted) and there's issues with caternary-type power systems not being usable if you get freezing rain encapsulating the wires - something I get to see every time we get an ice storm in Dallas, as there's an incline the local Dallas Area Rapid Transit or DART trains (which run off overhead power and have a battery reserve) have to try to climb to go on their way. Let's just say that after a few trains stack up waiting for a depowered train to try to crawl up the bridge and fail, they shut down the line until the ice melts. Of course, if you live in tornado country, there's always the fun problem of the tornado removing the overhead power lines. Which just happened last month in the Dallas tornado; they're going to have to shut down the line for permanent repairs later this month IIRC.

There's other objections, but these are some of the ones seen most often on this side of the pond - and some of the most often cited by evaluating bodies when deciding the shape of mass transit systems. DART considered trolley buses when they were trialing natural gas ones and these were some of the issues that they cited in deciding to go with more natural gas buses. Given our recent city-slashing tornado and the road chaos that ensued, I tend to think they were more correct than not.

Edit: I'm not saying they're terrible, but I do not feel they are a great solution as a whole due to their limitations. A CNG bus is far more versatile and has far less drawbacks to name a competing option.
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Agree that CNG buses are pretty quiet, they moved a bunch to CNG here. Express buses are still diesel though, but they are also a lot newer so maybe just a matter of aging out the fleet
I was just leaving a gas station this afternoon when I happened to notice there were going to be several DART CNG-powered buses passing by in a few seconds. Taking advantage of the opportunity, I pulled over to the side of the lot closest to the street and shot this video. Putting the truck into park is about as loud as the closest CNG bus. And it's not loud at all. Heck, the wind noise is actually louder.

Best part - no diesel clatter. From anything in this video. Also, going by my memories of trolley buses and recent experiences with the local DART rail, pretty sure any trolley bus with a catenary power system is going to make more noise from the scraping/sliding of the catenary wires against the pantograph.
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As someone who has for several years beaten the drum for FCEV over BEV the following video was quite an eye opener...

As someone who has for several years beaten the drum for FCEV over BEV the following video was quite an eye opener...

Do keep in mind that hydrogen production can be a by product of some industrial processes or can be done as one. Say a nuclear power plant being used for either hydrocracking during off hours or using the steam after it’s gone through turbines for steam forming natural gas.
Batteries need a dedicated power source, there is no way to charge them as a by product of something else.
There is also the fact that batteries tend to lose capacity based on ambient temperature and have a limited number of charge/recharge cycles. Not to
mention the highly toxic nature of chemicals involved.

IMO we are likely going to have both. BEVs work well when charging times don’t matter and trips are relatively short. Like say commuting, chances are you aren’t going to need 300miles of range and as EV adoption increases more and more parking facilities will be offering charging.

For stuff like long haul trucking and shipping HFC would be a better choice as it wouldn’t affect payload capacity like batteries would and allow for quick refueling.
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As someone who has for several years beaten the drum for FCEV over BEV the following video was quite an eye opener...

While the conclusion is sound and matches what I've been saying for years, a lot of the numbers are either cherrypicked or inaccurate - in favour of hydrogen even.

For example:

Comparing hydrogen refuel times with charge-at-home times, really? Unless you have your own hydrogen plant at home, that's not really a fair comparison - nor is it relevant, at home you usually recharge over night with plenty of time. On the go you use faster chargers, see @leviathan's reports of the car being faster to charge than he can eat lunch. In effect the BEV saved those 5 minutes of hydrogen refueling because refueling is a dedicated process you don't use for anything else.
Also, just 5 minutes? These folks doing a long-range Mirai test report up to 15 minutes:

Comparing the power density of a battery with the power density of hydrogen - you'll have to include the tank (high pressure or looooow temperature containers aren't exactly paperweight...) and fuel cell in the comparison. The Mirai has about 5kg hydrogen capacity, with an 87.5kg tank and a 56kg fuel cell stack. Something the video never mentioned either: The FCEV still has a battery, albeit a smaller one, dropping the weight advantage even further - while I didn't find the Mirai battery's weight, its tech and is similar to the 3rd gen Prius which had a 42kg battery, with slightly higher capacity - let's assume 50kg. Taking those three into consideration it drops the hydrogen system energy density by 40x compared to just the hydrogen itself. Still denser than a battery, but not by that much.
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