Fusion reactors hold the potential to completely free us from fossil fuels. A company in Vancouver called General Fusion, Lockheed Martin, and ITER in France all have projects under construction.
Yep. Only 20 years away, as it has been for the last 50 years.
Nuclear power in general hold much more promise than renewable energy like wind and solar due to higher energy densities. Cost of energy could plummet with the new generation 4 nuclear reactors and safety be improved upon greatly due to passive safety and computer modelling not possible before.
However politically it is a problem in a few countries. In China and Russia luckly they are not as fearful as in Germany.
Nuclear Power is an economic dead end.... killed by solar.
Phase 1 (Today - ~2020)
Where we are now is REALLY easy... you just slap some panels on your roof, no need to worry about storage or "self-consumption". To the grid your PV array just looks like reduced load.
Solar is cheaper per kWh than nuclear... even today.
Phase 2 (~2020 - ~2035)
Hawaii and Germany are either here now or getting close... When peak power is 80%+ of demand you're still <20% of total generation. Most grid-tie inverters CANNOT regulate voltage and frequency. They are on or off; they are inverting 100% of what's available from the panels or they produce nothing. This would need to change to expand past ~20%. Germany has "smart" inverters that can be active participants in grid stability. When frequency gets too high they can curtail power or preferably divert power into a battery bank. Demand Response and small amounts of storage become critical. SMA has already developed solutions. They are starting to bundle inverters with a 4kWh battery pack and they've got what's called the "Sunny home manager" http://www.sma.de/en/home-systems/so...tem-smart.html I wrote an anti-net-metering blog and this is why... we've got to dump "net-metering" LONG before "phase 2" Investments in "smart home" technology are worthless with "net-metering" in place. Solar "would" start to lose it's cost advantage with nuclear... but as the capacity factor of nuclear falls the capital costs increase on a per kWh basis.
Phase 3 (~2035 - ~2050)
IMO going from 80% => 100% wind/solar is probably going to be harder than 0% => 80%. My prediction is that we'll likely have sufficient solar PV installed to completely displace fossil fuels but be unable to due to a lack of storage and the disparity between summer/winter insolation... but... unlike nuclear, so long as it's cheaper to install solar than import power from the grid we will continue to build out solar PV FAR beyond what is 'needed'. The path to >80% solar/wind is probably the day when we've got so much excess energy during the summer months that there's nothing better to do with that extra energy than split water. The hydrogen can then be stored for later use.
Keep in mind that the cost of equipment will likely continue to fall... even though "smart" inverters will be more sophisticated than the grid-tie inverters we're using today I would expect the cost to be the same or lower. Similarly even though we'll need an overabundance of solar in "phase 3" with module prices expected to fall <$0.30/w in 2020 that won't be a problem.
While my premise has always been that solar is cheaper than nuclear the fact I'm 100% certain of is that there IS an economically viable path to 100% solar/wind while there IS NO path to any reasonable expansion of nuclear... let alone >50%. 100% nuclear could in fact be cheaper than 100% solar but with the cost point of solar where it is there's no way for nuclear to expand. The window for nuclear expansion was in the 70s, 80s and 90s... cheap solar has slammed that door HARD.
Im sorry but energy density for solar is much much lower than for nuclear especially for new generation 4 designs that will come online this century.
Intermittent sources still have to sort out their storage problem. In Germany we have very high costs due to our extremly unreliable energy system (sometimes solar produces 50% of our daily energy needs and sometimes less than 1%). Solar is no where near economical. The solar panel costs are a tiny fraction of the overall costs (installation and back up power for days when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow and for night time). Only through enormous subsidies has solar and wind become such a huge percentage of our energy system.
I will have to do more research on this topic but solar and wind are still decades off from being economical. We need a battery miracle.
ITER is a non-commercial research boondoggle.
The project with the least cost and best stats and best prospects: http://lawrencevilleplasmaphysics.com/
Solar is ABSOLUTELY economical and has been for >3 years. Yes, Nuclear Power is orders of magnitude more energy dense than Solar but Solar has more than sufficient energy density to be viable. I installed a ~10kW PV system on a friends shed for $18k. That system is producing ~25000kWh/yr at a 20 year average cost of ~$0.05/kWh compared to ~$0.12/kWh for power from the grid. The panels should last ~60 years and the inverter ~15-20.
As I posted, yes, we will need storage but not for ~10 years or so and the fact that Solar PV will suppress the Capacity Factor of thermal sources like nuclear completely destroys their economic viability. Nuclear is dead.
You are correct that Solar has only grown to where it is due to subsidies but thanks to Swansons Law and economies of scale those subsidies are no longer required. The subsidies worked!!
Interesting how the price of solar cells had plummeted, but the price of home PV installations hasn't. Still does make much economic sense here in Nevada. Do-it-yourself types can probably lash together something feasible, though.
But, responding to the OP: nobody has yet demonstrated a sustainable net-plus fusion reaction-- that is, one that actually produces more energy than it consumes. And they've been trying for over half a century. Right now the only difference between fusion power and perpetual motion is that the first is at least theoretically possible.
Sadly most PV installers still view it as a 'boutique' market and their margins reflect that. Most installers charge ~$1/w for the install meaning they clear >$10k for 2 or 3 days of work since they also mark up the equipment they sell you.
DIY really is the way to go... until PV installers start charging reasonable rates...
The solar installation industry is consolidating into larger installers like Solar City who can explore all economies of scale. Prices will come down due to competition between installers.
the issue is inverters, wiring, framework, etc is all there. Only the cell prices have dropped.
"the issue is inverters, wiring, framework, etc is all there. Only the cell prices have dropped."
Actually ALL the equipment prices have fallen (well, not the wiring) dramatically; to be fair the cost of labour is also down but not as dramatically. In 2011 I spent $3400 on an 8kW inverter; Last year I bought a 10kW inverter for $3000.
Larger companies like Solar City and Sun Run are helping to bring down costs but we still lag WAY behind Germany in terms of affordability.
Boy... we REALLY highjacked this thread... well, solar IS a type of Fusion :)
Solar is not useful everywhere. Where it is, fine, but it isn't all-around solution for everyone. We need other cheap and constant solutions as well. Fusion is great solution.
I hope LPP experiment gets to boron-hydrogen fusion running soon. That's aneutronic reaction, meaning that there is no radioactive waste whatsoever. Equipment is also small, you can fit one in one room in your basement if you want. Safe, clean, abundant, cheap...
Fusion- safe, I will buy it. Clean too. Abundant or cheap? Not soon.
"Solar is not useful everywhere."
That's what the grid is for...
Nw driver. Solar is NOT economical. If you would include the costs of installation and back up power required you would see. There is no storage solution for soloar so it is presently no feasible for it to become a major energy supplier without prices exploding. Look at germany to see what the delta is going on. Prices have skyrocketed since the massive built up of intermittend sources. Sometimes they produce 50% of energy and sometimes less than 1% of energy needs. At night they produce 0. wake up and realize that without cheap and abundant storage solutions solar will stay uneconomical. Its absurd to state that it is presently if you include those costs.
Your stupid graph is almost meaningless at it only looks at one aspect of costs. Start looking at the storage problem and what enormous costs lack of storage creates.
Solar is not feasible if here is no storage. Everyone knows thos.
I suggest you read this 2014 article by vaclav smil, one of bill gates favourite energy authors and a distinguishef expert:
Storage won't be required for solar for another ~10 years... as mentioned in my previous post.
The Cost of Storage is declining rapidly and when we need storage it will likely be more than cost effective.... as mentioned in my previous post.
The BOS (Balance of System) cost of solar is ~$2.50/w which equates to <$0.07/kWh... not a lot of people that pay less than that for power from the grid... and that's assuming a 20 year life; modern panels are more likely to keep working for 60+ years.
Here is one storage solution that shows A LOT of promise...
For solar to be a meaningful percentage of energy production and cost comprtitive we need storage. Back up power for when the wind doesnt blow and the sun doesnt shine that cant run ant full capacity because of a large percentage of solar and wind has higher keh costs. These higher costs are due to renewables and should be added to their expense. Obviuosly you and your cut solar panels dont care. You sre delusional. Germany already has huge price spikes and you want to convince me that solar is economical and doesnt need storage. Of course is doesnt need storage if others pay for back up power and it gets subsidies to boot.
It took 60 years on average to transition from 5% to 50% production of energy production. Since we are not ecen at 5% yet and challenges are enormous (see article) you can expect that only at the end of the century we will be any where near your hopeful projections. The 22nd century might be the century of renewables.
Never said you don't need storage for solar...
"Storage won't be required for solar for another ~10 years... as mentioned in my previous post."
What's your definition of "meaningful percentage"? I call 20% of total generation "meaningful"; We can get to that point without storage.
Solar is growing at an exponential rate; last year China installed more Solar PV than the US has installed in 30 years.
Solar has only been 'cost-effective' without subsidies for ~3 years in most markets. You ain't seen nothin yet :)
Its not cost effective without storage. let that sink in.
If you produce 10 percent of your electricitx via solar on sunny days that 10 percent can not be sold by other producers like nuclear. However to keep the lights on other non intermittent reliable sources still have to BE ABLE to produce 100% of the electricity the country needs when the wind doesnt blow and the sun doesnt shine. Because you demand energy even at night. This means that 100 percent capacit is created but cant be used. This creates a much higher kwh hour cost for traditional power plants that have been relegated to a certain extend to a back up power role. What also happens is that on some days solar creates so much energy that it has to be exportet at a cost. These enormous costs are not paid be solar and wind. Thus when not calculating honestly they might seem economical. In the real world however, not your fairy tale land, they are not. This is why in germany costs have exploded.
Tesla is working on batteries that can cover the storage solution.
Do you know the price per kw storage that would make solar+storage competitive to traditional energy sources? (coal, gas, nuclear)
"Do you know the price per kw storage that would make solar+storage competitive to traditional energy sources? (coal, gas, nuclear)"
In a way that's the wrong question to ask... the way to look at this is...
"what is the cost of storage where it's more cost-effective to store excess energy than curtail renewable production"
In that case it's the wholesale cost of whatever non-renewable source you're displacing (for grid-level). Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries look like they could very well be <$0.05/kWh over a 20+ year life by 2020.
Residential-level storage can be even more compelling once 'net-metering' schemes are pulled back. Depending on the market $0.10/kWh storage could be cost-effective. A price-point that we've already reached if you can find a re-purposed LEAF battery (They go for ~$100/kWh and should still have >2k cycles left or ~$0.05/kWh)
Solar is going to expand to 20% and beyond; free-market economics are going to drive that. When consumers can choose $0.05/kWh from their roof or $0.20/kWh from the grid which way do you think they're going to go? And as iPod mentioned, that's going to further drive up the cost of grid power by lowering the capacity factor of existing generation; AKA 'The Utility death spiral'
In a few decades utilities will be reduced to electricity storage and trading companies...
While YES, we will need storage........ eventually.
There is currently NO NEED or even ANY real benefit to storage for Solar PV.... let that sink in.
The infrastructure costs to support solar PV are currently NEGATIVE.... let that sink in.
Grid is not very useful for (northern) Europe to make solar useful. Up here you don't get much Sun in winter when it is most needed. You would need damn long distribution cables to make it useful. We have seasons here.
Nwdriver "Solar is going to expand to 20% and beyond; free-market economics are going to drive that. When consumers can choose $0.05/kWh from their roof or $0.20/kWh from the grid which way do you think they're going to go? And as iPod mentioned, that's going to further drive up the cost of grid power by lowering the capacity factor of existing generation; AKA 'The Utility death spiral"
These higher cost are caused by solar due to its intermittend nature and lackmof storage capacity, If you include those costs and or the costs of storage solar and wind are an order of magnitude away from being cost competitive. Therefore xour 0.05/kwh are a total farce. Let that sink in.
I really don't know how many more ways I can state this... if solar is <20% of total generation intermittency is COMPLETELY irrelevant; STORAGE is COMPLETELY irrelevant. The cost per kWh of solar generation IF total generation is <20% solar then the cost of solar is ~$0.05/kWh... Did I mention that if Solar is <20% of total generation Storage and Intermittency don't matter?... AT ALL?
How about this... until solar penetration exceeds ~20% of total generation it is irrelevant how reliable or when or how much solar energy is produced...
To be clear there is no need for storage until solar is >20% of total generation....
It costs ~$0.05/kWh to displace fossil fuel kWhs with solar IF total generation is <20% solar.
Just so there is no confusion... until we install enough solar that the energy we produce from our solar panels is 1wh of every 5wh of energy produced or ~20% it doesn't matter that we don't have grid storage and the cost of that solar energy IS the cost of the system... ~$0.05/kWh.
We WILL need storage or demand response when >20% of the electricity we produce comes from solar.
However... as long as >80% of our energy comes from DISPATCHABLE sources, we do not need storage for solar.
So, we can keep installing solar without installing batteries UNTIL total generation is ~20% solar...
@pvandeloo.ipod nwdiver93 Is correct in his assessment. The only problem is most do not have the means to make the 20year commitment for payoff. His numbers are correct that it is cheaper in the long term and as the economy gets better and solar goes down even lower it will grow to the reality that most will have solar power. By that time the storage issues will also be solved.
Timo, I said most, some areas may always need some kind of alternative source rather than solar. I am not enough of an expert on that area.