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Excellent summary of the shortcomings of conventional coal-fired steam plants. I'm not a thermal solar enthusiast--because of its use of water--but it's better than burning coal.

One point not really mentioned here is that demand management offers many opportunities. If society were to put as much effort into identifying and optimizing those as we do defending traditional supply management, a lot of progress could be made.

  • Heating and cooling, decent insulation has a huge impact, especially when combined with passive solar.
  • Household appliances, many tasks can be time-shifted.

One other consideration is whether it makes sense for people to live in certain places. For example, in 1920, Los Angeles was a small city with a population of about 500,000, while NYC then had over 5,000,000. That growth in the American Southwest was enabled by coal-fired electricity for air conditioning. One of the many results of the fossil fuel economy, and one that should receive consideration for reversal.

by asdf on Mon Aug 19th, 2013 at 07:07:50 PM EST
Yes. Demand side time shifting can be especially effective in allowing for less capacity spread over a longer period to fill in a gap between volatile renewables and energy demand, which makes the finances of things like generating Ammonia from surplus volatile energy or biocoal via Direct Carbon Fuel Cells more economical.

In the Southeast inland of the coast, I would not be surprised if the increase in Sunbelt populations is sustainable. Getting finance for solar-thermal dehumidification is more an institutional problem than a technological one, and much of the Southeast spends a lot of its high AC periods at temperatures where with low humidity and in the shade, a ceiling fan is sufficient for reasonable comfort. Add in a geothermal assist heat pump, high quality insulation and appropriate summer sun shading, and the AC demand can be dropped substantially.

LA has the additional problem that there is nothing like enough water in the local area to sustain the population in the style to which they have become accustomed. It seems likely that they'd need to go Fremen to make it on their local supply. For much of the Southwest part of the Sunbelt, Water problems will hit harder than Electricity cost over the coming two decades.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Aug 19th, 2013 at 08:31:19 PM EST
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