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Comment Re:So That's Opt In, Right? And That Goes to Chari (Score 1) 325

It isn't even so much as they deserve anything. They are offering a service that lets you message people you are not friends with. Now, they could offer that service for free, but that would allow for all kinds of abuse and would result in their service being flooded with spam. The idea is to set a price point high enough that makes the ROI too low for spammers, yet keep the price low enough that people are still willing to use the service. Since it is their service and they have to impose a fine on valid users to prevent the service from being abused the fee is theirs to collect. It would be nice if they were to use the money to support a charity or reduce advertising on their page, but it is their money to spend how they want.

Comment Re:Hopefully (Score 1) 177

The exclusion zones themselves are way overblown in terms of size. Most of the land around Fukushima is perfectly fine for occupation. Heck, the doses in many areas in the exclusion zone have lower radiation levels than places like Denver. Even the "Dead Zone" around Chernobyl is overblown. There is a great article on the women who defied the evacuation order around Chernobyl and many of them are still alive and there are few reports of any of them having cancer.

Comment Re:"Grid Parity" ... on sunny days only (Score 1) 735

I completely agree with you. My comments were focused on addressing the problems of wide adoption of solar generation by people who are still connected to the grid and expect the grid to provide whatever they cannot.

As far as solutions go, I believe that we are going to need a wide variety of energy sources. I am not a global warming denier and I think that wee need to pursue any clean source that we can. Renewables are great, but I think that we can only expected limited contribution from them, economically. I think that storage needs to be included as part of renewable systems to help level out demand usage. If I were to build a home I would include a solar thermal system for heating. I would also set up a DC system in my home, powered by PV with a storage system, to run LED lights and electronics.

I am a strong supporter of nuclear power and would love to see more deployment of nuclear to offset much of our coal burning. I think that we do need to spend the money to upgrade our infrastructure, but even with the possible upgrades I still don't see how it would be possible to power the US with just renewables. As we upgrade the infrastructure I think we need to make room for electric vehicles. I know electric vehicles aren't for everybody but I believe that it is possible to have electric vehicles in the near future that will be able to offset 50% of our vehicles on the road (excluding semis).

Comment Re:"Grid Parity" ... on sunny days only (Score 1) 735

Snow clearing has been given a great deal of attention, the phenomenon that we face is freezing rain. When that mixes with snow, it doesn't come off. I really don't think that this is much of an issue for most people and will probably only affect certain regions for a few days out of the year.

The point isn't that utility companies need to have any more infrastructure, the point is that the utility companies need the SAME amount of infrastructure. As solar use increases the utilities have the same infrastructure to support but they are selling less electricity. In an ideal world for a utility company the demand curve is flat across all time. The idea with the development of a smart grid is to try and level out the demand curve, turn on major appliances when the demand on the grid is low. The addition of heavy solar generation does just the opposite, it adds more noise to the demand curve. This additional noise does not oscillate as predictably as current demand curves. The oscillation is a lot slower, over the period of weeks instead of a day. But it comes with sunny days reducing demand and cloudy days increasing demand. On sunny days, the utilities infrastructure sits idle, but they have to have it for the cloudy days.

In the perfect world yes, additional power generation goes out beyond the local area. However, what if an entire region has heavy solar usage and the entire region is having sunny days? You can keep looking further and further out, but comes a point where there just isn't the system to transfer that kind of load and the losses are just too large.

Yes, utility companies have to build for peak usage today, but adding heavy solar usage exacerbates the difference between peak demand, average demand, and minimum demand. The larger those differences are, and the more unpredictable the demand curve is, the more electricity is going to cost.

Comment Re:"Grid Parity" ... on sunny days only (Score 1) 735

Let me try to address some of your points. First, while it is true that solar panels are dark and absorb sunlight and they are angled to help snow slide off, that only works if it is a nice, dry, powdery snow. For those people that live in areas that get ice storms and heavy, sticky snow there are times that the snow won't just slide off. So while the GP is correct, I am not sure how many people it affects and for how long.

The next point is the concern over what will happen to the utilities. The problem with solar is that it is not reliable. Imagine this scenario. You have a city that, during peak consumption, requires 1000MW of generation to meet demand. Now, the inhabitants of that city want to be able to use their 1000MW peak no matter what the weather is like. (Aside: It can be argued that in the summer if it is cloudy then people will need less AC to cool their house and therefore demand will drop. However, in the winter, if it is cloudy then the demand for heating will increase. End Aside) Now, imagine that this city goes green and 50% of their peak power is produced by solar. Now, during peak hours the city only needs 500MW of production.

The big question now is, what happens on cloudy days? If the residents don't have their own grid storage system, then they will rely on the utility to provide the full 1000MW. Thus the utility has to have the capacity to provide 1000MW of power, even though on sunny days it can only sell 500MW. This is expensive for the utility. Now lets take this analogy one step further. Imagine that the city is really into solar panels and they install 110% peak capacity. Now, during peak time the city is selling back to the utility company 100MW of power. The problem is, the utility has to buy it, but it doesn't need it. In addition, the utility still has to have the full 1000MW generation capacity for the days when the sun isn't shining.

This is one of the big concern about large scale adoption of solar. If people decide to go fully solar then I think that they should have to go completely off the grid. The cost associated with the utility having such a large flux in demand would be astounding. For the few poor souls that didn't have solar panes for whatever reason, their electric bill would skyrocket as the utilities attempted to recover their operating costs.

Comment Re:The Worlds worst nuclear accident (Score 2) 149

Also one point that the anti-nukes often omit is that not all forms of cancer are linked to radiation. Many people who use the cancer argument against nuclear power forget all of the other factors that influence cancer growth and detection and seem to ignore statistics. My favorite reply to them is to note that about half of the counties around nuclear power plants have above average instances of cancer*. They get all worked up and see that as proof that the plants are dangerous without realizing that by the law of averages about half need to be above the average for there to be an average.

*This is a mostly made up statistic but it is close enough to accurate since, hey, its an average.

Comment Re:The Worlds worst nuclear accident (Score 1) 149

Yet it still isn't as bad as what people will often tell you. Often ignored are the people who still live inside the exclusion zone around Chernobyl and are doing just fine. One of the major fear factors with nuclear accidents is that we really just don't know what effects continuous exposure to low-level doses of radiation will have on the human body. There are those who claim that there is a linear-no-threshold relationship to high doses and that any radiation received is bad. There is also the camp that claims that chronic exposure to low-level radiation has a hormestic effect. Judging by those still living in the exclusion zone and not having cancer I would have to say that the LNT model may not be all that accurate.

Comment Re:Privacy issue in Europe (Score 1) 684

One additional area of concern are with the HAN enabled smart meters. These smart meters can communicate with any appliances on the Home Area Network. The idea behind the HAN is that large appliances such as air conditioners and refrigerators can communicate with the grid and monitor demand so that you don't suddenly have 50 air conditioners in one neighborhood turning on at once. The area of concern is that since the appliances can talk to the utility company then the utility company knows exactly what appliances (fridge, microwave, tv, etc) you have in the house.

Is this a bad thing? Depends on how much you value your privacy. Is it possible that the system could be upgraded to provide utilities with more information? I guess so, but then you start getting into slippery-slope arguments and that is all pointless speculation.

Comment Re:Don't cry for the N-Industry just yet.. (Score 1) 267

The baseload power argument is alive though. Yes it is true that if you diversify your renewable portfolio sufficiently and provide for enough grid storage then yes, renewables can handle demand. However, for all the costs of renewables that people are spouting off, no one adds in the extra costs of redundant generation and grid storage. Renewables have a capacity factor of around 20%. This means that they are producing their total rated capacity about 20% of the time. To consistently produce 1MW of electricity you need to have installed about 5MW of generating capacity. Nuclear plants do experience unexpected down time, but even with that factored in the capacity factor of nuclear is around 90%. To consistently get 1MW of electricity you need to have about 1.1MW of nuclear.

Comment Re:What about Google driverless car? (Score 1) 603

Personally, I am excited about the idea of the driverless car and can't wait until I don't have to do the driving to go somewhere. However, I don't think that the driverless car will work well until the majority of the cars are driverless and can communicate with each other. I could just imagine that many problems with the driverless car could be managed much better if the cars were all communicating and letting the other cars know what lane they needed to be, that they were turning in 3 blocks, that there was an accident/pothole/other road hazard up ahead. Until then, I guess that we would just have to put the systems in cars and have them factory disabled until a vast majority of the cars had the technology. Until then, maybe we ditch the HOV lanes on freeways and designate them for driverless cars.

Comment Re:What if it turned out the other way? (Score 2) 561

Solar thermal is a great option for reducing your demand from the grid, but cannot economically handle the heavy demands. Geothermal has huge potential, but the technology to make it viable in all areas has not been demonstrated on an industrial level. Hydro is a great source of power but only so many dams can be build. Wave and tidal power have cost, regulatory, and technological issues still. Natural gas is viable, but the price is so volatile that it could quickly become unaffordable, especially if huge demands were suddenly placed on supply. Besides gas is not as green as some of the other sources.

I cannot speak so to the 90 year clean up project on the UK reactors, but this is an anomaly. Plants have been cleaned up and decommissioned in less time. In the US all plants have a decommission fund that covers those costs.

As for the subsidies on nuclear power, show me any of the technologies that are not subsidized. The level of subsidies on nuclear is actually quite a bit less than what many people would have you believe. One subsidy that keeps getting hung over nuclear is insurance. The truth is, nuclear utilities have insurance that covers pretty much anything that could happen short of Fukushima/Chernobyl disasters. If a major disaster occurs, then the government will help with clean-up. You can call this a subsidy, but it costs taxpayers nothing as long as we don't have major accidents.

Comment Re:What if it turned out the other way? (Score 1) 561

He is not arguing that the radiation is healthy, but that the increased medical attention enabled the workers to receive prompt treatment on ailments that could have otherwise developed into something more serious. He is then predicting the same kind of outcome for the Fukushima workers. The fact is, radiation in low enough doses makes so little change in life expectancy and cancer rates that it is indistinguishable from average rates. If you couple no increased likelihood of illness with improved medical coverage then yes, life expectancy will go up.

Comment Re:What if it turned out the other way? (Score 1) 561

Nuclear apologists (as you call them) compare nuclear to coal because that is the only affordable alternative we have right now. The green movement can talk about wind and solar all they want, but it still is not an affordable method of generating electricity. Every kW of electricity that comes from nuclear is 1 kW less that has to be produced by coal. If you look at the number of lives that have been saved by using the few nuclear plants that we are using, instead of using coal, it is far more than the lives lost by all nuclear related deaths including Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

You are right that we could drop all of our nuclear plants and it won't cripple a country, but it isn't without consequence either. If you lose 80% of electricity your manufacturing capabilities will be greatly reduced and the lifestyle of your population would also be significantly reduced. People are amazing at adapting and coping, but just ask anyone in Japan if they would be okay with having their available energy permanently reduced.

Comment Re:Translation: (Score 1) 493

This is a common misconception about nuclear insurance and government loan guarantees. Nuclear power plants are required to have their own insurance. The utility company and its insurance are responsible for paying out most damages. The only time that the government steps in is in the case of events like Chernobyl and Fukushima. The problem with holding the nuclear community responsible for the entirety of all the costs is that there are so few reactors.

Here is a really bad car analogy. Imagine that cars were required to have $5,000,000 insurance coverage and that there were only 100 cars on the road. The cost for insuring the cars would be well above the actual cost of the car. So what you do is estimate that most accidents will only cause $100,000 worth of damage and hold car owners responsible for that level of coverage. The government then promises that in the rare event that an accident causes more than $100,000 in damage it will make up the difference.

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