Monday February 19, 2007

FPL is planning twin coal-burning power plants uncomfortably close to the Everglades. We need more power, and the only debate seems to be between “ultra-supercritical pulverized coal” and “coal gasification” (which, come to think of it, sound like much the same thing). Hiaasen’s for the gasification. Where’s nuclear in all this?

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  1. enh    Tue Feb 20, 12:18 PM #  

    where is solar? we have so much sun in south florida that there should be at least 10% of our power coming from that.

  2. nonee moose    Tue Feb 20, 01:52 PM #  

    solar is a problem, because you can’t efficiently store electricity. the technology is still very expensive, by most standards. in order to employ the technology, higher rates would result, in comparison to other alternatives like coal or nuclear. so, who’s up for higher electric rates?

    there are some interesting research projects out there which show even more promise than solar. one in particular involves putting “windmills” underwater in the gulfstream. the gulfstream moves at a constant 3-4 mph and could produce a whole lot of power, once the technology is perfected and commercialized.

    in the meantime, nuclear and coal remain the best alternatives to meet large-scale demand. coal technology has improved and is 90% cleaner than just 20 years ago, by some estimates. nuclear is very expensive to build, but cheaper than most to run, and not subject to the volatility of natural gas prices, which were the cause of more recent increases in rates.

    the real dilemma is choosing between nuclear and coal. the interest has always been to diversify, such that all of your “eggs” are not in one basket. i’m sure you will see utilities try to build both nuclear and coal, if they can, because it weens us of our overdependence on natural gas.

  3. alesh    Tue Feb 20, 02:48 PM #  


    Wouldn’t the whole hydrogen thing solve the energy storage issues?

    Re nuclear, there hasn’t been a new nuclear power plant built in this country in decades, and some European countries are actually getting rid of them.

    Re gulfstream power (sounds like a watermill to me), my previous concerns re wind power apply.

    I personally wouldn’t mind a modest increase in electrical cost if it came with a clearer conscience.

  4. Victoria    Wed Feb 28, 04:43 AM #  

    This is insane!!! Our planets health is worth paying a little more for electricity. To even consider doing this near the Everglades… Oh boy!! I am taken a little aback. I need to research this further before I comment but thanks for bringing this to our attention!!!

  5. nonee moose    Wed Feb 28, 12:11 PM #  

    Victoria, I think the problem is, as always, defining “a little more.” For instance, solar power is more than twice as expensive to produce at this point in time. The dilemma is that, while you don’t feel the bite of a small percentage of solar energy production, you could not withstand, or even stand for, the kinds of rate increases resulting for a large scale migration in technologies. That means that there is no economies available to induce the necessary investment to actually carry out such a migration.

    Alesh, the whole hydrogen thing may solve the problem in the future, subject to the same limitations I mentioned above.

    With regard to your concern over the degradation of ocean currents, I think someone on your previous thread put it in perspective. The scale of such a project probably would not effect the currents in a meaningful way, though it should be part of the consideration. Also, in terms of the potential return in production, it deserves more than passing attention.

  6. alesh    Wed Feb 28, 12:49 PM #  


    It’s interesting that you make the distinction between the difference between impact of a small scale “pilot project” and a significant conversion of power generation in the case of solar power, but not in the case of ocean current power.

    Yes, for the immediate future no amount of ocean current powermills will have a noticeable impact on worldwide currents. But imagine a quarter of the power the world will need in a few decades on a daily basis being drained out of ocean currents. How in the world does that NOT have an impact?


    I think you’re right. the other thing that nonee misses is the economies of scale that result when you start creating a lot of something. The more solar panels we build, the lower the cost per solar panels. The world is moving in that direction, but any little extra “pain” in terms of increased prices accelerates the process.

    More importantly, though, we need to re-open the consideration of nuclear power. I’m with Stewart Brand on this — environmentalism is great, but it hold some beliefs that are contradictory to its stated mission. Nuclear power is good, and so is genetic engineering of plants and other thing environmentalists fight.

  7. nonee moose    Thu Mar 1, 01:51 AM #  


    Agreed as to nuclear.

    Believe me I am not missing the economies point. I am telling you what the “little old lady in tennis shoes” sez every time you want to jack up her rates, which she can barely afford now, to go along with rising prescription costs, property taxes, insurance rates, you name it. All for a benefit which a substantial part of this state’s population (and, might I add, an even more impressive percentage of the voting population) will not live long enough to see.

    We could have another major spike in oil and natural gas prices, and it still would not approximate the sticker shock required to achieve the economies of scale you speak of, that is to provide 25% of our needs. Which is why solar and other renewable programs are voluntary, and subsidized through incentives (check that, switch it around, incentivized through subsidies).

    The point I was trying to make re watermills was, after “a little extra pain” becomes the plan, (again big if), these systems could turn out to be efficient in ways beyond their own footprint. For the amount of environmental “damage” (loose term) that may be caused, the benefits, in terms of displacement of fossil plants (and their corresponding enviromental effects), could turn out to be a rather large benefit. And it beat solar on two fronts; 1) The Sunshine State, isn’t; 2)No need to worry about storage, like with solar and hydrogen cells, because its employing traditional principals of electricity production, meaning no major changes in infrastructure is necessary.

    I’m no engineer. I’m just sayin’...

    So again, I go back to my original statement to Victoria, define “a little extra pain.” There’s the rub…