Friday, August 5, 2016

More on nuclear versus renewables

My last posting was about the late Professor Sir David MacKay's opinion that the UK could not manage on renewable energy alone and that if we had enough nuclear and carbon capture and storage to get us through the winter (when solar power is very weak) we would have enough for the rest of the year and renewables would be superfluous. After that posting, I looked at the contrary view offered by the Centre for Alternative Technology in their 2013 publication Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB).

Monday, August 1, 2016

Nuclear versus renewables

The other day I was doing some crude calculations on the feasibility of renewable energy in Britain. This came after I had detected some euphoria about the potential for solar power now that costs of solar panels have fallen and large-scale battery storage is becoming possible. I tentatively concluded that we could get all the energy we currently use if we were prepared to cover about 11% of the land area of the UK with solar farms. This was on the basis that, on average, a solar farm in the UK can deliver about 10 watts per square metre of land occupied by the farm. An on-shore wind farm, by contrast, can only deliver about 2 watts per square metre, though the land between the turbines can be used for other things. I then put together a very crude energy plan for the UK, using a combination of solar, off-shore wind, on-shore wind, tidal and wave power. It assumed that 30% of our current energy use would be from solar farms, occupying about 3% of our land, and that our energy demand would be reduced, through efficiency measures and demand management, by 37%. It looked just about feasible, technically if not politically.

Then I came across this video  in which the late and highly-respected Professor Sir David MacKay is interviewed by Mark Lynas eleven days before his untimely death in April. You can see what I thought was a pretty fair summary of the key points here. MacKay's book, Sustainable energy without the hot air, was my main source of information on the feasibility of renewable energy.