How California Is Hitting The Renewable Wall

In other videos, this site has shown themselves to be a believer in AGW, not a skeptic, so when they find California is in the soup, it’s hard to call them names for it…

“Real Engeineering” 18 minutes:

The basic problem is trying to peak shave from about 1 PM peak solar to 8 PM when demand peaks. The problem becomes exponentially worse (in terms of storage and money) when you try to fill the January solar low with July solar peak…

He says California needs to add more wind, but misses the fact that the best wind locations are already covered in turbines… Any new wind farms will go where there’s less wind and more people who hate the noise and flicker… We’re pushing 40 Million people in California and there isn’t much “empty land” left, especially in the coastal mountains where winds are best. Similarly, carpeting the entire Mojave Desert with solar panels is not ecologically acceptable either. In my opinion, we’re topped out and any increase over about 20% “renewables” will be at exponentially increasing costs and decreasing utility.

In short “that’s not gonna work.”

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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29 Responses to How California Is Hitting The Renewable Wall

  1. p.g.sharrow says:

    It’s Not going to work! It can NEVER ever work! No matter how much the Liberal Progressive’s wish it to work, Legally mandate it to work. You can not change the Laws of Physics. It won’t work no matter how much money is spent. And they still Dream on about how wonderful the world would be if it did work!
    Just like Socialism, It fails when you run out of other peoples money. There is not enough money, wealth, in the world to make it work

  2. Ossqss says:

    Hummm, seems my post got disappeared…. dangit, I don’t remember what I said ;-)

  3. Tom says:

    Time to review the economics of Space Power generation in the context of the SpaceX projection of reduction in launch costs?
    Elon allegedly does not believe orbital based solar is viable; but, there seems a conflict of interest due to his ground based solar and power storage ventures.

  4. Larry Ledwick says:

    I suspect his ground based solar and power storage systems are mostly to milk government subsidies to provide a revenue stream and to to proof system designs for his real goal of going to Mars.

  5. John S Howard says:

    I retired from the wind energy business… I really do not see it as a viable replacement for fossil fuel generation and it is getting increasingly more expensive per megawatt to build making it less feasible to finance.

  6. John S Howard says:

    I really can not see miles and miles and thousands of acres as a viable alternative to fossil fuel generation. I am dead set against nuclear.

  7. nzrobin says:

    Apologies about the rushed nature of this comment. These energy analyses using hourly, half hourly, even 5 minute data do not consider the grid stability requirement. The grid consists of wires, switches and transformers. It has no innate ability to absorb or provide power. The power in has to match the power out closely, and how close depends on the grids inertia which comes from the synchronously connected machines. Note that wind and solar are asynchronous sources. The changes being proposed are undermining stability from two points of view. The new machines, wind and solar provide no inertia. And further, they have no governor monitoring the frequency with a drop characteristic. People will have heard about the need to keep the frequency near to constant, but don’t know why. It’s based on the rotational form of Newton’s second law, from which we develop the equation P = M df/dt. P is the net power imbalance, M is synchronous angular momentum, df/dt is rate of change of frequency. I know this is pretty sketchy and rough. If you’d like to dig a little deeper, feel free to go look at a few posts I did on this a couple of years ago at

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    @John S Howard:

    Nuclear as it has been done is clearly not right. Too massive. Too expensive. And when it breaks, way too messy. But you might want to look at the small modular passively safe newest generation designs. Very nice.

    Sized for a small village. “Walk away safe” with completely passive safety. They just sit there making electricity for decades.

    Then there is the thorium molten salt reactor. We know they work as we’ve built them (before the nuclear arms race made plutonium breeding a priority). Their nice feature (in addition to very low risk and low waste) is that they burn the accumulated “nuclear trash” as fuel. All that hard to dispose of stuff can be burned up in them.

    Does still leave the problem of “low level waste”. All the various gloves, bunny suits, respirator filters, etc. that have trivial levels of radioactives. But really, you get more exposure from the dirt in Utah. So put it in a barrel in Yucca Mountain and walk away…

    Nuclear is not going to go away just because it’s not popular with Greens at the moment. It is here to stay (as nuclear ships if nothing else) so we might as well do it right.

  9. jim2 says:

    In some places, wind speed tends to be correlated over a wide area. Cali is a long state, so it might not be a huge problem there. I guess one could download wind records and see how correlated it is.

  10. Ossqss says:

    I remembered some of my post. One has to be careful when referencing renewable energy. A vast majority of the energy in that misdirection (make me feel good about it)category comes from burning wood and dung. That releases CO2 also. You can’t do that as it is the shell game on language and lies. The other thing was when you separate out the stats, they alway use residential eelectricity stats and not global energy demand stats, wind and solar are minor players. I have a saved graphic from a post Ridley did a few years ago on Jo Nova’s site. It should make my point.

    If I actually finish the posting process, unlike before on my phone!

  11. Ossqss says:

    BTW, that graphic comes from the 2016 IEA report.

  12. E.M.Smith says:


    California divides at about the Vandenberg launch location.

    North of that the ocean is cold, storms come fron Alaska, and winds tend to correlate.

    South of that, the water is warm, storms come from Hawaii or Mexico (and are rare) and wind also correlates.

    BUT the biggest thing is that wind tends to be driven by inland heating. Inland all tends to heat together in summer sun…

    So things divide into mostly the same in summer, but somewhat different on winter stormd.

  13. Well, I listened to all of that, but really don’t want to have to do it again. That’s a problem with video and podcasts: less efficient than text and static graphics for double checking things.

    Anyway, I have 2 issues, and cannot remember if they were covered adequately.

    (i) Was there due consideration (and information) on battery life – and how this affects the costs over several decades?

    (ii) Is California planning to phase out vehicle hydrocarbon fuels – in favour of electric vehicles powered by recharging? If so, were those upcoming additional electric loads considered in the scenario(s) discussed?

    I hope someone was taking notes while listening, or knows this stuff off-the-top-of-their-heads.

    Best regards

  14. H.R. says:

    Nigel Sedgwick: “(ii) Is California planning […]”

    California, planning? Plan?…. Anything?…

    Right there is where you ran off the road, Nigel.

    Exhibit A: Water resource “planning” for an ever expanding population in an arid/semi-arid State which “plan” consists of blowing up dams and releasing water for consumption and irrigation so the Delta Smelt isn’t inconvenienced. Oh, and a “plan” to prohibit new reservoir construction.

    Exhibit B: The ‘High Speed Rail” milk run, running between ‘No-where-ville’ and ‘You-can’t-get-there-from-here’, stopping once at each house and twice at each double house.

    In Sacramento, the probability of two brain cells accidentally bumping into each other is vanishingly small. However, the money to be made by politicians from their ‘plans’ is astounding.

  15. p.g.sharrow says:

    @HR, you forgot. No new electric generation except windmills and Solar PV, No increase in distribution, tear down the distribution there is and put it underground. Force the end of fueled transportation in favor of Electric. End the use of Natural Gas in favor of electric heating. Solve the homelessness and expensive housing problem by regulatory stifling new construction and mandating expensive requirements. etc., etc, etc.

  16. Pouncer says:

    “Does still leave the problem of “low level waste”. All the various gloves, bunny suits, respirator filters, etc. that have trivial levels of radioactives. But really, you get more exposure from the dirt in Utah. So put it in a barrel in Yucca Mountain and walk away…”

    Paradoxically, the biggest problem with any nuclear waste is that there just isn’t enough of it.

    Think of the radioactive materials as ore or paydirt, and the clothes, filters and stuff as overburden. If you have a big enough mining operation, you can develop specific mechanical and chemical processes to extract the good stuff. But if you are attempting to do it all in small scale batches, your processes won’t “pan out” worth the time effort and expense.

    Same or more true of the high level stuff. If we made all our reactors to a standard design and had all our “waste” fuel rods conform to a more-or-less standard composition of un-used fissiles, plus statistically expected fractions of fission products, we could extract useful materials from all the waste. As it is the spent fuel comes in different physical sizes, and concentrations, and durations-of-use … so all has to be processed in a custom-tailored manner.

  17. Larry Ledwick says:

    Agreed radioactive waste is not waste, it is a resource. If you put enough of it in a small space it will self heat, producing a low level thermal reactor heat source to produce either hot water, or electricity with thermoelectric generator. Right now used fuel rods are put in water pools and actively cooled, but to my knowledge no one uses that hot water as an energy source to run sterling cycle generators or similar. Instead they burn up energy cooling the pools.

    Also the low level waste is typically bunny suits, shoe covers gloves etc. which has “fixed contamination” ie not easily removed through washing etc.

    So to condense it you need to burn it in a sealed environment so you have no stack release, to reduce it to concentrated oxides or dissolve it all in acid so it can be refined to the component elements and their salts, that can be used as an “ore”.

  18. E.M.Smith says:

    @Nigil S:

    I saw no mention of battery life cycle / replacement costs. Only initial costs. It might be hidden in the underlying data, but that was not shown.

    The BIG fraud in all this is the notion that we’re going to add the entirety of the auto fleet to the grid in the next decade (or less…) while not building anything. Then there’s the second fraud in that they assert the cars that are plugged in to charge will also be the batteries that let us fill that gap in the time of production.

    Ignoring the whole “season” problem (my car is NOT going to hold a charge from July to January… self discharge alone prevents it) there’s a few other key reasons that fantasy is, well, a fantasy.

    1) I’m in traffic trying to get home during that drop in supply and rise in demand.

    2) When I DO get home and plug in the car, I want it to be charging, not discharging further.

    3) Deep Cycling batteries seriously shortens battery life. Stupid people might let that happen, but not anyone with a brain. I’ll choose NOT to plug in my car charger any time when the “automatic system” would drain rather than fill it. Those who do let it happen will be unhappy with their car’s lifetime and decide they are lousy cars. (And were I an auto maker I’d put in the battery warrantee that such use voids the warrantee… Lord knows I don’t want a lot of warantee battery claims.)

    There is one small positive possible. To the extent free / low cost charging stations are set up at the workplace, my car can suck some of the surplus peak charge after I arrive at work. Do expect a BIG drop in that demand at peak solar production as the lot empties with folks doing things at lunch…

    Using some kind of “battery” (or compressed air or pumped hydro or …) is a good idea for very short term surge filling. It really gets sucky the longer the time period of the time shifting.

    Say a battery costs $1 Million / year and can be used 20 times a day for minor flickers and twice a day for significant demand surges (where it takes time to spin up something else). That’s 22 x 365 uses / year and that’s $ 1,000,000 / 8030 = $125 / use. There is some small hope you can get a $125 premium on those short term power boosts. Say the same size / price battery has to be charged in July and discharged in January (ignoring the self discharge that will not have any electricity left then…) gives you ONE use. What are the odds you can store / recover enough electricity that the premium paid will be $1 Million? (Very much zero…)

    The simple fact that all issues of practicality are simply ignored shows that the purpose is Subsidy Farming and NOT producing a cost effective electrical grid.

  19. Graeme No.3 says:

    I was wondering about the cost of batteries shown as suddenly dropping in the last 2 years. The percent ‘improvement’ (to lower cost) suddenly accelerates unlike most processes after the initial development.
    Also the figures don’t seem to allow for loss on charging or discharging, and there is the problem of self discharge, esp. if you plan to store ‘summer’s excess’ for winter use.
    One other thing; I am in the driest State of the second driest Continent (Australia) and I would love it if my solar panels delivered in winter more than 50% of what they deliver in summer.
    It seems that there were too many assumptions about how ‘good’ renewables are, yet they still couldn’t make the idea feasible.

  20. Larry Ledwick says:

    Graeme No.3
    Are your solar panels mounted fixed to the roof or can you make seasonal adjustments to their angle to the sun?

    Almost no one does it but solar panels should be mounted so you can make seasonal adjustments to their angle. In areas with lots of snow cover, in the winter time solar panels almost vertical take advantage of light reflection from the snow to significantly increase isolation on the panel (and current production)

    If not depending on ground reflection the normal to the panel should be pointed a few degrees below noon day sun on Dec 21 for max winter power.

    In the winter time effective sun basically runs from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm or a bit longer depending on cloud cover, so maximum output would be produced if you set the panel so its normal angle was at the solar elevation angle for about 11:00 am / 1:00 pm at your location on a given day.

    Unfortunately for lots of physical attachment and convenience issues most panels are just bolted to the roof at what ever angle it sits at and the panels get over heated in the summer and not fully utilized in the low solar altitude months of winter.

    Power out vs panel tilt is a fairly broad function but if you want to maximize it in winter you really need to bias your panel tilt for the winter months.

  21. Larry Ledwick says:

    Well this could be interesting!
    Trump administration is preparing to revoke California’s authority to set their own emissions standards.

  22. philjourdan says:

    Beam me up Scotty! Virginia has joined the left coast. Our black face governor has signed an edict requiring the elimination of all carbon power generation in the next 30 years.

    What an idiot.

  23. gallopingcamel says:

    Your comment on Gen IV reactors like the LFTR was excellent. SMRs (Small Modular Reactors) will reduce our dependence on a high voltage grid that is vulnerable to EMP attack.

    Existing nuclear reactors “burn” less than 1% of the Uranium which is why there is over 85,000 tonnes of “nuclear waste” (aka un-burnt fuel) in the USA alone. Here is a link that explains the LFTR:

    Here is a comparison of waste produced by a 1 GWe reactor in a year.

    When an MSR such as the LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor) produces a Giga-Watt-Year of electricity it also produces 135kg of waste (fission by products). Roughly 83% of the waste from a LFTR is safely stabilized within 10 years. The remaining 17% are elements that need to be stored less than 350 years to become completely benign. Thus the waste you are left with has no fissiles (U233, U235 & Pu239). There are small quantities or Pu238 and trans-Uranics which can either be left in the reactor or removed if you have a use for them. A 1 GWe LFTR produces about 1.5 kg of Pu238 which you might want to remove given that it is worth $500,000. However that is chump change when you remember that a GWy of electricity sells for $876 million.

    In contrast, a LWR (Light Water Reactor) producing the same amount of electricity produces 250 tonnes of waste, mostly U238 which MSRs can “burn”. Absent chemical reprocessing (which Jimmy Carter banned) it all remains dangerous for geological time thanks to the trans-Uranics that MSRs can also burn.

    In summary, MSRs typically produce 1,800 times less radioactive waste than LWRs. The MSR waste radioactivity decays rapidly compared to LWR waste so that geologic storage is not necessary. Rather than bury “nuclear waste” we can use it as fuel for MSRs.

  24. Larry Ledwick says:

    Diesel generator set up to power an electric car charging station.
    What’s wrong with this picture.

  25. Larry Ledwick says:

    Embedded in the link above:
    How clean are electric cars – depends on the local grid and how it generates electicity.

  26. Graeme No.3 says:

    Larry Ledwick:
    No, my panels are fixed at roof angle. Yes, they would do better in summer (apart from overheating) but that is the season of maximum demand in most, if not all of Australia. Having movable angles is difficult to justify by the cost.
    Snow? It last snowed in this town in 1995, and that soon melted. Snow that stayed on the ground for a day (or more) occurred back in 1943 or 44 (before my time). Mind you, with 2 days of waking to frost (and one last week as well) you would have to wonder if we will get a white winter next year.

  27. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry L:

    Yeah, “convenience of installation”… One local house I drive by every day has the panels (no doubt sold by subsidy and with glowing promises of lower cost electric bills) mounted on the roof (that has the peak running east west) with some large conifer trees to the east that shade them until about 11 AM … but that’s the least of it. The roof has about a 20-30 degree pitch and the panels are mounted on the NORTH side!

    The do have installation on the south side also, so only 1/2 of their panels are functionally useless for most of the year…

    There are panels on roofs and over parking lots all over this place (being leading edge and all) and NONE of them have adjustable angle. One set at a local school (covering the whole parking lot) has them mounted at the best angle for south facing panels. Unfortunately, they wanted the parking to run N/S so the panel is angled toward the rising sun… Afternoons not so good…

    Oh, and I had a good chuckle at something I saw on the freeway. I don’t know if it was a permanent installation or being delivered (as my car was shorter than the truck so could not see into the bed) but a BIG pickup (I think it was a Ford F350 PowerStroke) blew past me on the freeway. In the back? An electric car charging kiosk AND a nice sized Diesel Generator set ;-) So is that a roadside rescue charger? Or being delivered to “all these cars get here and can’t get home” 300 mile out gas station?

  28. gallopingcamel says:

    That video at the head of this post shows what stupid government you have in California. Nevertheless I love it because when it fails in spectacular and scandalous fashion you will have demonstrated why the rest of us should not follow your example.

    Thank you California!

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