July 02, 2008
Lester Brown Plan B is mathematically and logistically flawed
Lester Brown is pushing an Earth Policy Institute plan for replacing all coal, oil and most natural gas by 2020 Their calculations for energy are flawed. It appears that they ignore capacity factor. They also do not look at pricing or consider the build up of factories and supply chain. Although I guess some of that comes from an assumption of taking over (mobilizing) existing automotive factories and converting them to building wind turbines.
Plan B includes a cost of $4.5 trillion for the wind turbines alone. This does not count the production of new factories and does not count the build out of grid. It also does not address intermittent nature of wind abd solar power. The supply chain build up is the bigger cost and strain. Also, taking the necessary steel and concrete allocation. Also, the biomass increase will still contribute to air pollution.
3000GW of wind in Plan B but wind has only 20-40% capacity factor. The european avg is 25% load factor over the course of a year (European average). US average is 30%. The US wind capacity produced 31 billion kWh per year from 16.8GW)2007. American wind farms will generate an estimated 48TWh from 24GW. So 3000GW would produce 5500 TWh.
Spreadsheets for Plan B indicate that there is a proper units view:
It also indicates that while capacity factor is considered for overall power. The intermittent nature of solar and wind power is not. Plan B also focuses on electricity generation and while the initial charts they use look at the total energy picture they will still have a lot of oil usage for transportation and coal and oil usage for industrial purposes. So the graph which shows no oil and coal usage is only addressing electricity and not transportation and industrial energy usage.
Nuclear already generates 2600 TWh. The base reference case for the EIA International energy outloook 2008 is for an increase in nuclear power to 3290 TWh in 2020 (no mobilization just existing trends). 690 more TWh with no mobilization. The Lester Brown turn there nose up at what people are already going to build with a dismissive nuclear costs too much according to Amory Lovins, when the plan is for upwards of $10 trillion in extra spending.
Spend a few billion on assisting and accelerating the development and $500 billion for deployment of the MIT annular fuel system for 50% power uprates to existing reactors. This would allow for 1600 more TWh to the reactors that exist now and are planned to be built anyway. So less than 10% of the spending to get 41% of what the wind energy turbine build is targeting.
$2 trillion per year in energy infrastructure spending is already the default projection for 2015.
In the IEO2008 reference case, the world’s installed nuclear capacity grows from 374 gigawatts in 2005 to 498 gigawatts in 2030. The IEO2008 projection for nuclear electricity generation in 2025 is 31 percent higher than the projection published in IEO2003 only 5 years ago.
They rely heavily on efficiency gains from replacing cars to plug in hybrids and new public transportation and changing out all appliances and increasing industrial efficiency by upgrading to the most efficient equipment.
This still leaves 300+ exajoules of coal, oil and natural gas. The 6000GW of renewables that they propose does not even replace the electricity generation because of the reduced capacity factors.
They need to re-examine the calculations, the supply chain, the costs, training of people to build and install, and existing trends that would help with their goal of greenhouse gas reduction. They need to consider how the biomass is increased to minimize environmental impact. They do not just purposefully ignore political reality but they ignore economics, business and engineering reality as well. There charts hop from the overall energy picture to the electricity only generation picture without clarifying what is being done at the overall level.
A far better plan is the one presented by McKinsey consulting for offsetting climate change
This site also offers a better energy plan