Thursday, August 20, 2015

How renewables can beat nuclear

Truly impressive what you can do with Google's "Ngram Viewer"! The graph above doesn't mean that renewables are the perfect energy source, but it surely means that the interest in renewable energy is growing. Actually, it is exploding. And this is a good thing for our future.


  1. Ugo
    I got some interesting comparative histories when I used ngram just now
    1950 - 2014
    a) oil, nuclear, coal, renewable (and when I used a variation that included 'natural gas', with similar result)
    b) fuel oil, nuclear fuel, steam coal, renewable energy

    Search (b) gave a result in line with your search and your conjecture about rising interest in 'renewable' c.f. 'nuclear'

    People increasingly peering into 'solution space' in (b)?
    But 'business interest' still overwhelming in (a)?


    1. Yes, Google Ngram is a mine of ideas. And i think it provides enough data to identify the start of the epochal renewable revolution - even though business as usual still prevails

  2. What scares me is how effectively business as usual has greenwashed profligate industrial arrangements in the eyes of middle-of-the-road swinging voter types in the West.

  3. There is a problem with your extrapolation. There is no limit to how much nuclear that can be added to the grid since nuclear power provides electricity 24/7 with a Capacity Factor of over 90% only stopping for scheduled maintenance. All that is needed is a small reserve amount. However, if renewables are mostly wind and solar, there is a limit to how much wind and solar that can be added to the grid without storage. This is because their output is variable and intermittent as well as dependent on the weather. This means that there is a Capacity Factor for wind and one for solar. The combined CF for wind and solar puts a limit on how much can be used on the grid without storage. So, although you man think that wind and solar can "beat" nuclear power to start with, wind and solar will hit a wall -- come up against a limit and their growth will quickly slow to a stop while nuclear can continue to grow.

    There is also enhanced geothermal power that we don't hear much about and which is still in the development stages. It isn't really renewable since it is mining heat and it produces a small amount of air pollution. However, it can produce electricity 24/7 and the heat will probably last over 50 years. But, it isn't going to "beat" nuclear power because it isn't being installed even though it is the better solution than the renewables wind and solar.



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014). His most recent book is "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017)