Global wind power capacity tops nuclear energy for first time

Kyodo

The capacity of wind power generation worldwide reached 432.42 gigawatts (GW) at the end of 2015, up 17 percent from a year earlier and surpassing nuclear energy for the first time, according to data released by global industry bodies.

The generation capacity of wind farms newly built in 2015 was a record 63.01 GW, corresponding to about 60 nuclear reactors, according to the Global Wind Energy Council based in Brussels. The global nuclear power generation capacity was 382.55 GW as of Jan. 1, 2016, the London-based World Nuclear Association said.

Both wind power and nuclear energy are being touted as alternatives to fossil fuel power as they produce fewer greenhouse gases.

Wind energy has captured renewed attention as technological innovation has considerably lowered its generation costs while nuclear power continues to suffer a backlash following the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns.

Wind power is the leading energy source in the transition from fossil fuels to renewables, the wind energy council said as it released the data last week.

China led all other countries in wind energy generation capacity with 145.10 GW. Beijing is promoting wind power to shift from coal and other fossil fuels to combat air pollution and global warming.

Coming in second behind China is the United States with 74.47 GW, followed by Germany with 44.95 GW, then India with 25.09 GW and then Spain with 23.03 GW. Japan produced 3.04 GW.

  • vlady47

    It’s not just the on going nuclear crisis in Fukushima that has hurt nuclear energy, it’s hazardous waste product must be isolated for thousands of years and is a huge security risk!

    • HansB50

      Nuclear waste can be burned with modern reactor technology as the fast burner reactor BN-800 from ROSATOM.

      • Leslie Graham

        No it can’t.
        The BN 800, which is one small 800MW plant in Russia is designed to burn a mixed uranium-plutonium fuel. This will help, in a very minor way, to reduce the
        Russian weapon-grade plutonium stockpile but will obviously have no effect on the 300,000 tons and rising of other high level radioactive waste worldwide which, despite over half a century of trying, no-one has the slightest clue what to do with.
        And no – putting it in a hole in the ground for 100,000 years is not the answer.

        Apart from that nuclear is a failed dinosaur technology that is so absurdly expensive that even the people who build them will not do so without ridiculously high prices such as the £92.50 per MWh index-linked for 35 year year deal guaranteed by the taxpayer at Hinkley.

        £92.50 per MWh!!!!

        Solar was already down to £79.23/MWh in 2012 and prices have been dropping like a stone since then.

        Please don’t insult our intelligence again.

      • TimS

        Wind turbines use rare-earth metals that contain traces of radioactive uranium and thorium that emit radioactive particles (4.270 MeV) to everywhere.
        “All rare earth ores contain uranium and thorium, which could pose a danger if not disposed of responsibly”
        “Green technologies such as .. wind turbines, solar panels .. rely on rare-earth metals.”
        “The ore tends to carry uranium and thorium, the most radioactive element on the planet, and extracting the metal is typically a long, multistage process involving toxic chemicals.”

      • philofthefuture

        Burning coal does far worse and nuclear obviously has infinitely worse radiation issues. Fukushima alone negates virtually all turbines and solar panels ever built and ever to be built till the end of time. Your granite counter top puts out far more radiation that an entire solar farm and that is right in your house where you spend much of your time.
        You do a great disservice by pushing such drivel.

      • TimS

        People should also be concerned about leukemia/cancer, wind/solar is proven more harmful than nuclear per unit of energy generated, confirmed by several references.
        Rare-earth metals, used in wind/solar farms, emit radiation and cause leukemia/cancer. Multiple cases reported.
        “There have been reported cases of radioactive exposure that cause birth defect and leukemia cases at rare earth refinery plants.”
        “Since rare earth metals are not found in concentrated deposits, rare earth elements are usually mined through open pit mining. This involves stripping the surface of the earth using heavy equipment, thus destroying the existing ecosystem. Three major contaminants are often released in the area: radioactive waste, dust and metals.”
        “The crushing and grinding necessary to refine the rare earths also releases toxic metals and radioactive dust into the air.”
        “birth defects and eight leukemia cases within five years in a community of 11,000 — after many years with no leukemia cases”
        “refining of rare earths lead to increased leukemia and pancreatic cancer rates”
        “rare earth metals are also needed for clean energy technology. Solar panels, electric cars, and wind turbines all require rare earth metals.”

      • TimS

        Wind turbines use rare-earth metals that contain traces of radioactive uranium and thorium that emit radioactive particles (4.270 MeV) to everywhere.
        “All rare earth ores contain uranium and thorium, which could pose a danger if not disposed of responsibly”
        “Green technologies such as .. wind turbines, solar panels .. rely on rare-earth metals.”
        “The ore tends to carry uranium and thorium, the most radioactive element on the planet, and extracting the metal is typically a long, multistage process involving toxic chemicals.”

      • FlyFreelyNow

        A bicycle can be made cheaper than a BMW with enough subsidies. Solar subsidies are many times the market price of electricity in the US., receiving 35.7 cnts/KWh, while nuclear receives 0.21 cents/KWh. That’s the reason why as soon as the subsidies go away, solar companies go bankrupt as in Spain. Even with rumor of subsidies going away, Solar City crashed. Solar is purely a government cash transfer business with almost no electricity generation.

      • philofthefuture

        Both solar and wind are growing 50% year over year. It’s true solar generates little now, but if 50% growth continues it won’t be too many years before it is a huge contributor. Right now utilities are going to war against solar so that may slow it down but it is inevitable.

  • http://glowbullwarming.wordpress.com/ Earthling

    Big deal, but wind power is still unreliable, an eye sore and expensive.

    • Leslie Graham

      Same old wearisome myths that have been spewed and spammed by the fossil fuel lobby for decades now.
      Can’t you at least come up with some new rubbish.
      It’s the cheapest form of electricity generation on the planet now and has been for around four years.
      Fossil fuels and nuclear are MASSIVELY subsidised. By you.
      And the vast majority of people do not see them as an eyesore.
      If you think they are ugly wait till you see what a fracking field looks like.
      And it’s not as if we have a choice is it. The only choice is between renewables or a planet that is not compattable with global agriculture or civilisation.
      Up to you.

      And yes – it IS a big deal and it is very good news for every human on the planet.

      • http://glowbullwarming.wordpress.com/ Earthling

        “WIND MAKES ELECTRICITY EXPENSIVE AND UNRELIABLE WITHOUT CUTTING EMISSIONS”
        Have emissions of GHGs stopped rising?
        No.
        Why?
        Wind and solar are not currently reliable.

      • philofthefuture

        Actually CO2 has flat lined due to switching from coal to natural gas. That’s why despite not signing we are the only country to meet Kyoto targets.
        Wind and solar are totally reliable, just intermittent. They are not the same thing. Maybe splitting hairs but of all technologies solar requires the least attention once it’s installed. It cannot be relied upon 24/7 but when it is lit up it is very reliable.

      • http://glowbullwarming.wordpress.com/ Earthling

        Yes, it’s splitting hairs, and IF CO2 has flat lined, we should be hearing less from climate catastrophist crusaders.

      • FlyFreelyNow

        Very wrong. EIA data: solar subsidies in US: 37.4 cents/KWh. Nuclear subsidies in US: 0.21 cents/KWh. IEA data: LCOE cost of nuclear in Japan:$ 20.62/Kwh, cheapest on-shore wind in Japan: $135/Kwh. So, you are completely uninformed about both subsidies and costs.

      • philofthefuture

        It is true that solar is massively subsidized. If you can handle the up front costs it’s a great investment because of those subsidies. I personally think they could now drop the 30% credit due to continued price reductions.
        On the flip side once it’s installed solar is dirt cheap. On the spot market it is by far the cheapest, it’s all profit at that point.

      • philofthefuture

        Interesting, the scoop I heard is the UK is going off shore because there was huge dissatisfaction with on shore wind. In the US we call it NIMBY, not in my back yard.

  • TimS

    Luckless birds and bats.

    • Leslie Graham

      Total myth spewed out by the fossil fuel lobby and parroted by ill-informed gullible idiots.
      The number of birds killed is miniscule – it numbers in the thousands as opposed to, for example, the 70 million killed by domestic cats every year.
      Far more birds are killed per KWh by coal plants than wind farms.

      • TimS

        No way to blame domestic cats as they do not kill eagles in midair and other endangered species as wind/solar does.
        “More than 83,000 hunting birds are killed by windfarms each year but no wind energy company has been fined”
        “Each year wind turbines kill hundreds of thousands of birds, including those on the endangered species list like bald and golden eagles.”
        “In Spain, at least 18 million birds are slaughtered annually by wind-turbine blades. Bird deaths in Germany are more than 300 per turbine, and in Sweden almost 900 per turbine. German turbines kill more than 200,000 bats per year, and in the U.S. turbines kill some 2.8 million bats.”
        “For today’s Germany, which has 39 Gigawatts, this would add up to 2,340,000 – 3,900,000 dead birds a year.”

  • GRLCowan

    Equal capacity to nuclear power stations means one-third the production. That would be a lot.

    But it comes at a cost. On occasions such as October 30, 2013 in the Piet de Wit wind farm in the Netherlands and February 22, 2012 at the Zhurihe one in China, workers have been caught and killed in wind turbine fires. These fatalities, although few, can properly be compared to the worldwide total, in all time, from caches of nuclear power station waste: zero.

    • http://api-beast.com/index API-Beast

      Oh, 0? We must have imagined the 4000 direct victims of Chernobyl, the 1600 victims from Fukushima, and the practically uncountable amount of cancer victims from the resulting radiation.

      • HansB50

        No one died in Fukushima from a direct effect by the reactor accident or will die . This is from the statement of the WHO .
        Only the truth and credibility of the eco and windcraft fanatics is diying by such statements.
        As windcraft is extremly unreliable reliable power delivery and network operation is heavly dependend on fossile (like dirty coal) or clean nuclear power plants .

      • RudolphScrapper

        Electricity generated by turbines can be banked and used as needed, so the irregularity of sustained winds is not a big issue. Denmark currently produces 42% of it’s total country electricity by wind power, yet has relatively modest wind speeds.

      • HansB50

        Sorry, you should not just copy greenpiss phantasies and hope that the readers are dumb.
        Nowhere in real countries with wind is enough storge capacity available to “bank” sufficient wind energy. Also not in Denmark which uses for the other 58% an esp. in the time of lull their own coal plants, the nuclear energy from Sweden and the power plants with dirty fossile lignite coal from Germany.

      • philofthefuture

        Wind energy cannot be banked, that is absurd. You can add storage like batteries or pumped water but wind is intermittent as is Solar. Even solar thermal ca only be banked for hours, not days.

      • RudolphScrapper

        Electricity generated by turbines can be banked and used as needed, so the irregularity of sustained winds is not a big issue. Denmark currently produces 42% of it’s total country electricity by wind power, yet has relatively modest wind speeds.

    • RudolphScrapper

      Hmmm … apples to apples, there have been at least 99 recorded nuclear accidents. Compare the number of nuclear power plant employees and in immediate vicinity who have died in nuclear power plant accidents. Just a few examples — Manche (102 dead), Blayais (55 dead), Tricastin (50 dead), Loir-et-cher (22 dead), many others with each less than 10 deaths but adding up to many dozens. Not to mention horrors like Chernobyl. In comparison, wind turbine accidents amount to very low risk to employees and virtually no risk to people outside.

      • Alec Dacyczyn

        Citation needed. I looked up the names you mentioned and found that they’re a bunch of French nuclear power plants, some of which have had floods and minor rad release mishaps. But I can find nothing about death tolls. Dozen of people being killed in nuclear power accidents is something that would have made headlines.

      • Leslie Graham

        Here’s a few more Nuclear power station accidents and incidents.

        And this is by no means an exhaustive list.
        It makes no mention of the explosion at Dounreay in Scotland for example where workers threw nuclear waste down an old mine shaft until it eventually exploded. The cost of clean up = which will take 60 years – is already heading over it’s 7 billion pound budget.

        Year Incident INES level Country IAEA description

        2011 Fukushima 5 Japan Reactor shutdown after the 2011 Sendai earthquake and tsunami; failure of emergency cooling caused an explosion

        2011 Onagawa Japan Reactor shutdown after the 2011 Sendai earthquake and tsunami caused a fire

        2006 Fleurus 4 Belgium Severe health effects for a worker at a commercial irradiation facility as a result of high doses of radiation

        2006 Forsmark 2 Sweden Degraded safety functions for common cause failure in the emergency power supply system at nuclear power plant

        2006 Erwin US Thirty-five litres of a highly enriched uranium solution leaked during transfer

        2005 Sellafield 3 UK Release of large quantity of radioactive material, contained within the installation

        2005 Atucha 2 Argentina Overexposure of a worker at a power reactor exceeding the annual limit

        2005 Braidwood US Nuclear material leak

        2003 Paks 3 Hungary Partially spent fuel rods undergoing cleaning in a tank of heavy water ruptured and spilled fuel pellets

        1999 Tokaimura 4 Japan Fatal overexposures of workers following a criticality event at a nuclear facility

        1999 Yanangio 3 Peru Incident with radiography source resulting in severe radiation burns

        1999 Ikitelli 3 Turkey Loss of a highly radioactive Co-60 source

        1999 Ishikawa 2 Japan Control rod malfunction

        1993 Tomsk 4 Russia Pressure buildup led to an explosive mechanical failure

        1993 Cadarache 2 France Spread of contamination to an area not expected by design

        1989 Vandellos 3 Spain Near accident caused by fire resulting in loss of safety systems at the nuclear power station

        1989 Greifswald Germany Excessive heating which damaged ten fuel rods

        1986 Chernobyl 7 Ukraine (USSR) Widespread health and environmental effects. External release of a significant fraction of reactor core inventory

        1986 Hamm-Uentrop Germany Spherical fuel pebble became lodged in the pipe used to deliver fuel elements to the reactor

        1981 Tsuraga 2 Japan More than 100 workers were exposed to doses of up to 155 millirem per day radiation

        1980 Saint Laurent des Eaux 4 France Melting of one channel of fuel in the reactor with no release outside the site

        1979 Three Mile Island 5 US Severe damage to the reactor core

        1977 Jaslovské Bohunice 4 Czechoslovakia Damaged fuel integrity, extensive corrosion damage of fuel cladding and release of radioactivity

        1969 Lucens Switzerland Total loss of coolant led to a power excursion and explosion of experimental reactor

        1967 Chapelcross UK Graphite debris partially blocked a fuel channel causing a fuel element to melt and catch fire

        1966 Monroe US Sodium cooling system malfunction

        1964 Charlestown US Error by a worker at a United Nuclear Corporation fuel facility led to an accidental criticality

        1959 Santa Susana Field Laboratory US Partial core meltdown

        1958 Chalk River Canada Due to inadequate cooling a damaged uranium fuel rod caught fire and was torn in two

        1958 Vinča Yugoslavia During a subcritical counting experiment a power buildup went undetected – six scientists received high doses

        1957 Kyshtym 6 Russia Significant release of radioactive material to the environment from explosion of a high activity waste tank.

        1957 Windscale Pile 5 UK Release of radioactive material to the environment following a fire in a reactor core

        1952 Chalk River 5 Canada A reactor shutoff rod failure, combined with several operator errors, led to a major power excursion of more than double the reactor’s rated output at AECL’s NRX reactor

      • Mike Carey

        Leslie –
        Alec’s comment said, “But I can find nothing about death tolls. Dozen of people being killed
        in nuclear power accidents is something that would have made headlines.”

        I take it that your list of accidents confirms that, right?

        BTW, the Japanese Onagawa plant in your list seems to have not been seriously affected since, not only did it survive the huge quake and tsunami, but it served as a *refuge* for hundreds of its neighbors that were made homeless by the flooding.

        Onagawa was *closer* to the epicenter than Fukushima and as such proved that those older GE based designs were stronger than anyone realized.
        Cheers.

      • Keith Pickering

        Totally bogus. Manche, 0 dead. Blayais 0 dead. Tricastin 0 dead. Loir-et-cher, 0 dead. Has someone been reading the wrong column on a Wikipedia table?

    • Stoatwblr

      “These fatalities, although few, can properly be compared to the worldwide total, in all time, from caches of nuclear power station waste: zero.”

      That’s not entirely true. The total number – including all military incidents is about 300 (for civilian plants it’s less than 100, most being firefighters at chernobyl.) (*)

      It’s still _far_ lower than the number of direct deaths in the windpower industry (mostly people falling off the towers rather than being caught in tower-top turbine gearbox fires.)

      Coal is at least 5 factors of ten worse than windpower per TWh generated and windpower is 5-10 times worse than nuclear power.

      With regard to the cited list of incidents: In of them noone died or was even injured (consider all those atmospheric nuclear tests in Nevada. Noone died from those either). Even factoring in cleanup costs nuclear is still cheaper than coal or wind – especially if you factor in the cleanup costs of coal plants.

      Factoid: the _2_ worst environmental disasters in the USA so far in the 21st century have been coal plant ash-slurry dam breaches. There are more than 5000 similar ash-slurry pond sites known across the USA with more being found all the time (they weren’t EPA-notifiable until recently and there are a lot associated with abandoned old plants.)

      The potential worst ever environmental disaster in China today is what would happen if the waste ponds around the solar PV factories burst (they’re already leaking). It has the potential to poison millions and force tens of millions from their homes.

      (*) Even if you look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, apart from the direct death toll (plus those who died from injuries later on((**), death rates from cancers since the 1960s have been less than 0.25% above “normal” levels in Japan (Compare and contrast with Minimata Bay where the levels are significantly higher with no radioactivity in sight, thanks to the mercury pollution.)

      (**) Yes, I’m aware of the abnormal “dead babies”. Genetic analysis showed that they were “normal abnormalities” which should have been spontaneously aborted and they’re probably attributable to radiation exposure in the mothers temporarily suppressing their immune systems long enough for the embryoes to progress past “ball of cells” stage.. Radiation tends to kill or not kill, whilst cancers are virtually always induced by chemical agents.(***)

      (***) Lung cancers in ex-smokers are most likely the result of polonium210 inhaled into the bronchia decaying to bismuth, lead and other toxic decay products – not directly attributable to the alpha emissions, which merely kill adjacent cells.

  • HansB50

    Japanese journalists should know that even in Japan and also in the rest of the world the wind ist not continuous blowing, but very randomly. The power of a wind turbine depends out of physics laws for the third power of the wind speed. Therfore half of the maximum wind speed generates only one eight of the power , and that is in reality a cross rate of about 25% maximum installed power.
    Means that the named chinese wind turbines with a max power of 145GW produce only about 36GW crossrate and need a backup of fossile coal plants in the same range.
    it would be a desater of chinese industry if the fossiles are not available but it is not critical if their is no wind!

  • Adam_Antatheist

    Why are my comments not being permitted?

  • Adam_Antatheist

    Why are my comments not being permitted?

  • Adam_Antatheist

    Strange, that one was. I wonder if this one will be:

    A further 1480.3 GW of wind turbine capacity would have to be added to reach the same nett generation figure as the current nuclear power one.

    At the record 2015 rate of installation of 60.01 GW, it would take a further 24.6 years before the nuclear power figure is reached.

  • Adam_Antatheist

    Mmmm! That one was also. Here are the first three paragraphs:

    The 382.55 GW quoted for nuclear power is the nett generation capacity at the end of 2015.

    In 2006, the capacity factor for the world’s wind turbines was 19.2%. It peaked in 2008 at 24.5% and in 2010 (latest figures) it works out at 20%. See Wikipedia’s – Wind power by country.

    The installed capacity of 432.4 GW for wind at the end of 2015 means the nett generating capacity is only 20% of this; that is – 86.48 GW, which is only 22.6% of the nuclear power capacity.

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    • philofthefuture

      Good catch, that’s the first thing I thought of as well.

  • RussellLowes

    It is nice to see a reporter state that nuclear and wind both produce CO2 — in the manufacturing phases, of course. Many call both CO2-free, an error many young students will detect. Two meta-studies on nukes put the average at 65 grams/kilowatt-hour. They don’t count the occasional Fukushima rebuild and the CO2 output associated with cement production, etc., nor the increased CO2 from extra mining when the ore content goes down even lower than it has already. Nor do they count the rebuilding of containment structures over and over as they degrade. Wind, on the other hand has been documented at about 10 grams/kWhe. Nukes to wind is 65 g/kWhe+ vs. 10 g.

    • zloppolz

      “Many call both CO2-free, an error
      many young students will detect”

      Will the students learn and understand that;
      “Greenhouse gases cool planets: Volcanos warm them ”

    • Jag_Levak

      “Two meta-studies on nukes put the average at 65 grams/kilowatt-hour.”

      Nuclear lifecycle can range from less than 4 grams/kwh CO2 equivalent to more than 100. Some of the worst examples used diffusion enrichment, which has now been phased out. The IPCC (2014) put the median value for nuclear power at 12 grams/kwh. For wind power it was 11 – 12, for hydro it was 24 (ranging as high as 2200!), for solar pv it was 41 to 48, and for biomass it was 230.

      “They don’t count the occasional Fukushima rebuild”

      Accidents weren’t included in any of them.

      “and the CO2 output associated with cement production,”

      The greenhouse gas output associated with construction was included for all of them.

      “nor the increased CO2 from extra mining when the ore content goes down even lower than it has already.”

      Changes in uranium mining techniques have resulting in a trend toward greater efficiency. It is at least as likely that future mining will not require as much CO2 per unit of energy, but that possibility wasn’t included either. Nor was the future possibility of extracting uranium from seawater.

      “Nor do they count the rebuilding of containment structures over and over as they degrade.”

      They didn’t count that because it’s not a real thing.

      “Wind, on the other hand has been documented at about 10 grams/kWhe.”

      The low end for wind is roughly double the low end for nuclear. But not included in the wind figures is the carbon profile for the backup. When wind is backed by fast-ramping once-through gas power, the net greenhouse gas profile is only slightly better than a slow-ramping combined cycle gas plant all by itself.

      • RussellLowes

        You took my “and the CO2 output associated with cement production,” comment out of context. I was stating that as part of the cost and CO2 output of rebuilding cities, etc.

        IPCC is top-heavy with a pro-gas and nuclear bent. It is not recognizing enough furtive methane leakage from fracking fields, for example. Of course life cycle analyses (LCAs) are supposed to include cement, etc. in the construction.

        The solar CO2 LCA studies have become outdated and the CO2 equiv. has gone way down with tech improvements.

        Containment and recontainment will have to occur for mine and mill tailings for example (or we will have massive contamination issues).

        Wind LCA CO2 equiv. is also decreasing radically, as capacity factors have headed toward 40% from the old 25% or so.

    • Jag_Levak

      “Two meta-studies on nukes put the average at 65 grams/kilowatt-hour.”

      Nuclear lifecycle can range from less than 4 grams/kwh CO2 equivalent to more than 100. Some of the worst examples used diffusion enrichment, which has now been phased out. The IPCC (2014) put the median value for nuclear power at 12 grams/kwh. For wind power it was 11 – 12, for hydro it was 24 (ranging as high as 2200!), for solar pv it was 41 to 48, and for biomass it was 230.

      “They don’t count the occasional Fukushima rebuild”

      Accidents weren’t included in any of them.

      “and the CO2 output associated with cement production,”

      The greenhouse gas output associated with construction was included for all of them.

      “nor the increased CO2 from extra mining when the ore content goes down even lower than it has already.”

      Changes in uranium mining techniques have resulting in a trend toward greater efficiency. It is at least as likely that future mining will not require as much CO2 per unit of energy, but that possibility wasn’t included either. Nor was the future possibility of extracting uranium from seawater.

      “Nor do they count the rebuilding of containment structures over and over as they degrade.”

      They didn’t count that because it’s not a real thing.

      “Wind, on the other hand has been documented at about 10 grams/kWhe.”

      The low end for wind is roughly double the low end for nuclear. But not included in the wind figures is the carbon profile for the backup. When wind is backed by fast-ramping once-through gas power, the net greenhouse gas profile is only slightly better than a slow-ramping combined cycle gas plant all by itself.

  • WhatTheFlux

    Total hogwash.

    Wind’s capacity factor is about 20%. Nuclear’s CP is about 90%. Plus, wind turbines last maybe 20 years. Reactors last at least 60 years.

    You might want to actually study the subject before reporting on it. Unless the editors are paying you to propagandize against nuclear power.

    By the way, if you want to do a real story about nuclear power, why don’t you do a comparative analysis of Fukushima vs Onagawa?

    Onagawa was twice as close to the epicenter, which means it experience twice the force. And all 4 of their reactors came through the earthquake and the tsunami virtually unscathed.

    Maybe the public would like to know some actual reality-based information for a change.

  • Roy Warner

    Greenhouse gases can be captured and stored. That issue is a red herring.

  • Stoatwblr

    Agree with other commenters.

    Installed wind capacity is “potential” capacity. What matters is what’s actually produced – and that’s usually something around 15-20% of that potential unless those windfarms are somewhere the wind never stops blowing (and doesn’t blow “too hard”)

    Installed nuclear capacity is run at 100% of potential at all times, except when down for maintenance, resulting in a generated output around 98-99% of what’s quoted.

    Windpower Deaths per TWh generated is 5-10 times higher than for “unsafe” nuclear energy – windmills are dangerous – broken blades can go 2-3km (real world experiences), so they need a large safety exclusion zone. They’re also noisy and the big ones break their gearboxes at such a rate (or catch fire due to gearbox failure) that income from electricity generated never quite pays for installation + maintenance. They are only profitable when they’re _NOT_ generating electricity – a stationary windmill collects subsidies just as quickly as a generating one.

    1% of the amount of money spent on windmills could be used to bring safer(*) molten salt nuclear plants to reality. Meantime we make a song and dance about Fukushima being dangerous when noone died and the radioactivity in the area (after explosions and meltdowns which were 100% avoidable if TEPCO management hadn’t been criminally incompetent) is lower than what’s “normal” in Denver Colorado (altitude), Helsinki, Finland or the UK’s Yorkshire Dales (Granite) any hot spring you care to mention (dissolved radioactives from the rocks) or inside any building made of stone.

    Here’s some basic stuff: Carpeting the world in windmills and solar PV(**) would almost replace existing electricity generation capacity worldwide.

    Meantime,
    1: Eliminating gas/oil heating systems would double world electrical requirements.
    2: Moving to electric vehicles would double that again.
    3: Helping the poorer parts of the world to “catch up” would multiply those demands by a factor of _at least_ 5 – and bringing the poorer parts of the world out of poverty is the only long-term solution to the global population crisis (richer people have fewer children)
    4: The infrastructure required to link all that Solar and wind generation from where it is to where it’s needed would be the largest project the planet has _ever_ seen, requiring the entire metals output of all the world’s iron+copper+bauxite mines for decades

    (*) Molten Salt Reactor systems.
    Can’t catch fire. (Whoever though molten sodium was a good idea as coolant?)
    Can’t melt down. (already molten)
    Not pressurised. (don’t boil, so don’t need it, You can actually run the vessel at a slight vacuum)
    No radioactive steam. (no radioactive water to boil)
    No radioactive water. (no water in contact with radioactives)
    No hydrogen explosion risk. (no water. See next point)
    Can’t overheat (long story to do with nuclear theory, but the fission process throttles itself about 1100C, which is why the inside of a conventional fuel rod hits about this temperature under normal circumstances and why when the circulating cooling pumps fail in a conventional reactor, water breaks down to hydrogen)
    Run extremely hot (able to directly drive steelmaking and cement manufacture. For electricity generation, don’t need water cooling, so don’t need siting next to water bodies or derating in hot weather AND the higher temperature results in much more efficient generators)

    LFTR versions have millions of tons of fuel already available without requiring “enrichment” (which throws away 60% of the uranium that was mined before it ever sees the inside of a reactor – that “thrown out” “depleted uranium” is both a toxic heavy metal (majorly bad when cleaning up battlefields) and extremely handy for making hydrogen bombs),
    1% of the waste output levels of current nuclear technology (which are already low – the entire lifetime waste from a conventional plant will sit in a single olympic swimming pool and be safe enough to approach in 300 years.)
    Extremely difficult to extract anything capable of being made into a nuclear bomb without crippling the reactor (ie, very noticeable)
    And finally – the designs are intrinsically safe – a malicious actor (or completely incompetent management) can’t make them do anything except shut down. Molten salts “freeze” at around 400C, so any leak tends to be both “self sealing” and unlikely to go more than a few cm from the vessel before solidifying, plus the salts are not water soluble.

    (**) Solar PV is NOT environmentally friendly. The areas in China where most panels are made are a complete environmental disaster and if the mess spreads it could render large chunks of chinese urban areas unihabitable due to permanently contaminated drinking water.

  • philofthefuture

    Nuclear is dead, stick a fork in it, it’s done. Fukushima was bad enough but that aside they have priced themselves out of the market. Yes solar is massively subsidized but nuclear can’t even be built without government backing so subsies are moot.
    If you want to know the future just look where the research dollars are going. Wind, solar, natural gas, and storage technologies including hydrogen.

    • Jag_Levak

      “Nuclear is dead, stick a fork in it, it’s done.”

      That was the verdict on electric cars back in the early 1920’s. Sometimes a technology will lag behind in one form only to make a comeback in another. Some forms of nuclear are probably permanently dead. I don’t think we’ll ever see any more RBMK or Magnox reactors. Other forms are dated and fading. But there are a number of types of nuclear which haven’t even been developed yet.

      “If you want to know the future just look where the research dollars are going.”

      Research, by its nature, is risky. A lot of it won’t pan out. Some of it does pan out, but by the time it does, it’s already been superseded. What’s the projected price tag on ITER now? $21 billion? That’s a lot of research dollars, but does that mean that kind of reactor is the future? There are a number of teams who think they can get there faster and cheaper with a different approach.

      Right now, hundreds of millions of dollars are being sunk into dozens of advanced nuclear development projects. That doesn’t mean they will all be the future. Indeed, most of them will probably fail due to the ordinary pressures of competition. But the success of any one or just a few of them could dramatically reshape the way we do nuclear power. Even then, some development in some other field might still eclipse nuclear power, but it seems a little premature to be predicting that result at this time.

  • philofthefuture

    Yes the article is dishonest to say the least but here’s the thing, no matter how cheap coal, oil, natural gas, uranium get they cannot compete with free. Sun and wind are free.
    That means they will win in the end, period. Solar even without subsidies has reached a crossover with coal in many areas and that will only continue. The same with wind. Their technologies are on a downward cost curve, fossils are flat to increasing. That makes it a question of not if, but when we will transition. Germany pushed too far too fast, other countries aren’t doing much at all, I think the US is doing it right. It will take decades, not years, but it is inevitable. Technology, cost trends, and research dollars leave no doubt.

    • TimS

      “Sun and wind are free.” Hilarious!
      breeze and sunshine

      subsidies, taxpayer’s money
      large land/offshore areas, destruction of natural landscapes
      backed by fossil fuels to compensate intermittency

  • jimhopf

    To echo what many other posters are saying, the fact that the article only talks about rated capacity, and does not even mention capacity factors or annual generation (kW-hrs), borders on journalistic malpractice.

  • Get Outside, Dave!

    A lot of comments making “definitive” statements about “”wind’s capacity factor” are confusing global averages for production with some kind of natural limit. And the 20 – 25% values being bandied about are just wrong. This is bogus – capacity factors are collectively determined by many variables, including (1) the mechanics of the specific turbine (rapidly evolving), (2) the wind resource at each location (varies hugely), and (3) the transmission infrastructure, often built out after the wind farms. The worst capacity factor in the US in 2012 was 16%, with all other wind farms ranging from 20.6% to as high as 42.5%, with a median of 40% onshore to 43% offshore.

    Keep in mind that current worldwide average capacity factors includes old, inefficient wind farms – the world’s first offshore wind farm at Vindeby (with what are now dinky 450 kW turbines) is only now being decommissioned at 25 years old. New offshore wind farms use 5 – 6 MW turbines, with 8 MW turbines coming. New wind turbines are taller and have larger rotors, both of which increase capacity factor. Previous average capacity factors also included farms than hadn’t been connected to wider grids, and therefore suffered from a lot of curtailment. ERCOT in Texas and other grid operators are dramatically reducing curtailment and increasing capacity factors by building new transmission lines.

    Better siting, better technology, and new connections means that newer wind farms can hit 50% capacity factors.