T Nation

Energy: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying


OK since people in the GAL thread suggested the quieter posters start up more threads?

Energy. It's a huge issue, not only with the issue of oil supply but also how we power our electricity network.

Over in the UK we've just started building new nuclear power stations that will come online in 2017/18 which I think are essential if we are to reduce emissions while retaining quality of life

Here are some questions I'd like to see chewed over before putting in my 2 penniworth?

  1. What are your views on renewable power, specifically solar, wind, hydro-electric and tidal. Can they be any more than supplementary to energy needs?

  2. Oil supply. Will shale oil and gas provide replacements to middle-eastern oil, or is this proof that we're running out of the stuff? Is a transition from oil possible? Is Peak Oil anything over than an internet scare story? What about synthetic oil, such as biofuels and oil derived from algae?

  3. Nuclear - what are your views on it. Anti-nuclear sentiment in the UK is still quite strong but has diminished from its height inthe 80s. Do you trust the nuclear industry to not repeat another Fukushima?

  4. The first nuclear fusion plant goes online in southern France in 2019? Is this anything over than a pipe dream?

Thoughts people (anyone)?

  1. Is government funding and diversion of funds to alternate energy possible or is this something the market needs to push forward?


I read that Gates is helping/working with China on building something called a traveling wave reactor.
That's about all I know about it


So far have not seen anything to indicate more than supplementary.

Peak Oil will be a problem most likely while we are still alive.

Our need for energy will exceed the fear of nuclear power. Unless the disaster rate increases, but hopefully we learn from each one to prevent it in the future. I think the disaster rate was still once every 10,000 years or something.


They may be the future, but they are not the present.

We shouldn't try forcing pieces that don't fit - you just wind up breaking something


Well, please excuse my ignorance - but what exactly does trust have to do with it?

There was a natural disaster which fucked shit up. If "the nuclear industry" claims to be able to protect us from natural disasters - then no, I don't trust them.

Government is big, strong, powerful, slow, and sluggish.

If these pieces are ever to be put together in a way that works, I would expect it from the agility and precision of "the market".

Then again, I'm probably biased and just not as worried about it as you are

Which emissions exactly? If its carbon, then I'm completely not worried. Others MAY be an issue - but as far as the environment goes - nuclear and GMO are the big ones to me. Your occasional oil spill is also pretty bad, but nothing like these two


I'm all in favor of geothermal, nuclear, and wind power. Solar is too far behind right now to make any real dent. It's way too expensive and takes too many resources.



This is a VERY interesting conversation. In Japan, the earthquake made the country seriously reassess their perspectives on energy consumption. (I hope some of those posters still in Japan can fill me in on what is happening now.)

Basically, there was going to be huge shortages, so "society" called for energy savings by everyone (setsuden). It worked for the (high energy consuming) summer and there were no brownouts, blackouts, or scheduled power outages (at least none I heard of). From what I have heard. This has continued along with a SERIOUS re-consideration of their nuclear plants/energy needs.

Anyway, night time for me. I hope the conversation continues.


1. Yes, they are prjected to form about 6% of global energy by 2030 mostly from Solar and biomass - this is obviously a prediction excluding the impact of any new energy source harnessed between now and then. Wind power by the way is a white elephant in my opinion the huge amount of money and projects ongoing in this sector are not justified and politictally motivated.

  1. Biofules and biomass are interesting alot of R&D is ongoing on those fronts and some big investments from private companies which generally means it should be able to provide some kind of solution but the main challenge here is the scale that would be required to make a really meaningful difference in the energy supply and to find a balance with food production for consumption...

LNG and unconventional gas are really a huge growth segment and will go far to meeting alot of the demand particularly in the US - I believe this coupled with much much needed efficiency savings in terms of burning hydrocarbons will to a large extent secure the US energy needs for the next ~30 years - unconventional resources (tight gas, coal bed methane, shale gas) are a game changer.

  1. The safe technology is there, needs must.

  2. We'll see I am glad to be leaving France before this arrives... just in case :wink:

  3. No this is a mistake, the lead should be taken by private firms an entrepreneurs. Look at the useless windmills in the UK for example funded by Government to the tune of $$$Billions$$$ of taxpayers money.


Has anyone seen numbers for the average household energy usage? I want to know if its going down/up or not changing in the last 20 years or so. A lot of things are supposed to be more energy efficient now so is that making any difference or is that offset by people having more electronics.


Here is the thing you need to remember about electricity or any other form of mechanical energy. No matter the method employed to do it, it all revolves around turning a crank. It doesn't matter if it's coal fired, nuclear, hydro, wind or whatever, the base idea is still turning a crank. The point is to turn a big enough one on a big enough generator to make electricity.

Personally, I think this reliance on grids hooked up to giant power plants is the stuff of antiquity. I think the time for the 'at home' generator is long over due. Why rely on a grid, when you can implement solutions on a house per house per building basis?
Would we eliminate the grid? No. But we can reduce it's need and size.
I would favor a combo if natural gas, grid and solar energy solutions on a per dwelling basis (where the grid is the backup solution), but such solutions, though easily implementable, are priced out of the stratosphere.
If we are sticking with grids nuclear is the only consistently viable option.


OR, we can knock out 2 birds with 1 stone and make our kids ride generator bikes to power the house... We'd fix childhood obesity, and electricity issues.


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This was a documentary on it, Gasland

OFC it is some what bias but it does cover the topic pretty thoroughly.

Also - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fracking

In general it affects the water supply of the local inhabitants. And a big fear is that the bigger underground water reserves will get contaminated.

I'd definitely watch the Documentary though was very well done and engaging.


Not only for domestic supply but the quantity of cheap gas you can unlock there in the US should be able to give you a competative advantage for industry, manufacturing, etc.

There are some political and regulatory issues there in the US which are currently stopping you guys realising your full potential... in other words it's easier from a regulation and risk point of view to get resources from 3rd world countries.




Hey GL, long time no talk. Have you already left?

It annoys the hell out of me the way the Fukushima event is portrayed both here and overseas, but especially here. By any rational assessment, the Fukushima disaster was a resounding, incomprehensible example of exactly how well made and safe modern nuclear power plants actually are. Remember, the Fukushima plant is RIGHT on the coast and was RIGHT at the front of the main impact area of the tsunami. Remember the pictures of what most of the coastal towns directly hit by the tsunami looked like? There was NOTHING left. Nothing. Not a single standing structure in many places.

There are differing contentions as to just how much radiation was ultimately released, but many reputable sources place the amount at around 10% of that released at Chernobyl. That's not even the impressive part in my eyes. What I find amazing is that there was ANYTHING left of that reactor and that there was not a complete meltdown and a disaster the likes of which the world has never seen.

It was not good, but it could have been much, much worse.

And now, the opportunists and the doomsayers and the nuclear energy haters come out in force, and there is a STRONG push now to not only stop the production of new reactors (there was one scheduled to be built in my prefecture, which ain't happening now), but to actually end the use of nuclear power. Problem is, there is nothing, NOTHING that can compare to the efficiency and capacity of nuclear power. So we have all these asshole politicians trying to score points by playing off people's emotions and fears, and the people are buying it (Japanese people are VERY Earth conscious), and the problem that I see that no one else seems to want to recognize is that power and output is going to have to be replaced with something. And as you mention, GL, even with the nuclear power, Japan is already doing everything it can to keep its consumption at sustainable levels so we don't end up like California.

Meh, that's about all I got. It just pisses me off that more people do not recognize what an amazing success the stabilization of that reactor really was.

And one last word for this country's true heroes. Those men who went into the reactor at the worst of it, with full knowledge that they would be killing themselves in so doing, and doing it anyway, because it needed to be done. There are stories of some of the older men without families, or some whose kids were grown and no longer depended upon them, going in place of the younger guys with wives and kids at home. God bless them all.



Since building construction has been down, I've been working in the solar field for the past 2 years or so in NJ. Solar is supplementary. But even though it's not the silver bullet (nothing is) that it no reason to dismiss it. Overall energy solutions draw from a variety of energy sources and that's good, just like being diversified in a stock portfolio. New Jersey and most other states have 'official' renewable energy goals set by the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) in the '20/20' neighborhood. That means the goal is to meet 20 percent of its energy demands with renewable sources by the year 2020.

For an energy PIG like NJ, that's HUGE. Currently, New Jersey is slightly ahead of schedule.

Since solar is expensive to implement, the recent boom is NJ solar is due to the market being supported by SRECs. Each Solar Renewable Energy Credits equals 1 million watts/hour( or 1,000 kWh) and they actually trade on a market. The price was very rich at first (over $600/SREC) and developers were installing solar like crazy for 15 or 20-year PPAs. These are Purchase Power Agreements where the developer would pay for, install, own/maintain the solar system and SRECs for 15 to 20 years and sell cheaper energy back to the host for a pre-set price per kWh that is cheaper than the utility rate. But since NJ is now ahead of schedule with solar, demand has gone down and SREC pricing is now depressed around $150/SREC. (Could be a great time to buy!). Also, the federal grant expired 12/31/2011 and that has contributed to the depressed price as well. The ITC, Income Tax Credit, is still in effect. (OK I'll knock off the acronyms now.)

NJ has had a very robust solar market and it's viewed as the model by many states. Obviously, it's not because NJ has the greatest solar radiation (it doesn't) but because of the SREC market set up. Currently, the solar industry is lobbying the state legislature to shore up the market by getting the Board of Public Utilities to revise the goals and timeline. For example, revise the targeted goal to 25/20 or 20/15, instead of 20/20. This would continue to help the depressed constructon market, thus addressing two issues at once. So far, Gov. Christie has been reluctant to take action, but the legislature meets again in a few months.

Massachusetts is in a better market position right now and we are currently looking to structure solar deals in the Boston area.



Here's my opinion on the two basic types of solar installations: Utility and Distributed.

UTILITY installations are large single sites or farms that sell generated electricity directly to the utility. NJ is a small state that is mostly congested in the north and not so congested in the south. Solar farms on greenfield sites (farmland) are my LEAST favorite application and I'll go so far as to label these BAD. Maybe in New Mexico or Arizona where there is lots of desert, but not on open space in a state like NJ.

I think they should develop this LAST, after all the available rooftops are maxed out with solar (never). Having said that, I'm currently working on a 60 acre ground array that no one sees except driving by on the highway. sigh Since it's paying my bills right now, I'll reluctantly say its OK. Solar installations on large landfills are GOOD.

DISTRIBUTED installations are on sites where the solar energy generated offsets the sites consumption. Like rooftops, parking canopies, ground arrays directly adjacent to the consumer. Almost all rooftop applications are GOOD, provided they are maxed out for efficiency (no shade, oriented correctly, etc). Parking canopies are good provided they are executed well and don't cause safety problems like shedding large masses of ice or snow onto pedestrians and cars.

Several lawsuits on that because NJ took California carport/canopy products and thought they could just plop them down in NJ. Wrong. Ground arrays on otherwise landscaped areas are BAD in my opinion. Sorry, I'd rather look at trees and shrubs.

As far as the percentage of energy consumed that can be offset by on-site solar generation, I've seen it range from 2% to 100%. It's literally all across the board depending upon the size of solar the building/site can handle and the consumption of the occupants. A mid-rise or high-rise office building with a small roof will be on the low end.

A large parking garage or warehouse with a large roof and small energy consumption can easily get to 100% offset. In fact some sites COULD generate more solar power than they consume but our brilliant utility companies CAP the allowed solar generation at around 95% consumption so no one becomes their own power plant. I've been forced to scale back a few solar applications because of this.



This is the current term used in reference to the action of going into a facilily, analyzing the space and energy consumption, coming up with energy conservation measures (ECMs), measuring projected energy/cost savings, calculating pay-off time, putting the ECM's in place and then measuring actual consumption and the resulting savings. Then, of course, comparing that to the initial projections before the work was done.

Used to be called 'maximizing energy efficiency'. Now the buzz word is retro-greening. Don't ask me why. I guess someone wanted to take an old concept and make it ohhhh-so-trendy.

Anyway....there are HUGE savings to be had with this because we waste a FUCKTARD amount of energy in out-dated systems, operations and building envelopes. Most all of our clients (large and small) have done this. Some are on their 2nd and 3rd rounds. I've seen savings range from 10% to 60%. The capital costs of this work can still be off-set by the ITC (Income Tax Credit).

Pay-off (break-even) times usually range from 6-8 months in some cases to 4 years. Most clients will not pursue an ECM if the pay-off is over 4 years. I'll guess the average break-even point is around 2-3 years.


I watched it quite a while ago, I have since learned that the drillers were using Diesel fuel for fracking fluid And now they wonder why we do not trust them , they are so surprised that people's well water was flammable , go figure


I drive a lot for my job . One of the biggest changes I have seen over the past year and a half is wind mills , they are popping up everywhere


Yes, but windmills are ugly, take up alot of space, have a low yield, and only work is the wind blows...Even in the windiest places, wind takes a day off from time to time....