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2013-10-15 Energy.docx

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Western University
Geography 2143A/B
Milford Green

Energy October 15, 2013 Nuclear Energy – where does it fit? -nuclear energy can be considered as a renewable or non-renewable -no shortage of uranium – in that sense, it’s renewable -from technical perspective, there is a limited amount of uranium on Earth (a lot of it in Canada)so can been seen as non-renewable -nuclear seems to be losing its forward motion as a source of electrical generation because of Japan’s earthquake -Germany immediately took its nuclear plants offline after the Japanese earthquake a few years ago World Electricity Generation by Fuel, 2005-2030 -coal has been the dominant source for energy for the last 100 years -coal’s contribution in energy in developed world will decline as the substitute natural gas and to a small degree renewable sources -coal is most cost-effective form of energy in electrical production -concern: pollution when you burn coal -world scale: coal continues to be important (by 2030) -nuclear not going to be a major contributor to generation growth -nuclear option: technologically complicated to do -expensive both as startup procedure and as a continuing maintenance problem -concern that the fuel in reactor can be used as nuclear weapons -problem with leftover fuel: it’s highly toxic -it’s stored on site at nuclear facilities, but that’s not a good long-term option The mighty atom -most of nuclear is going to happen outside of developed countries (not a lot of nuclear plants built in Western Europe; you won’t see Germany or France building one after what happened in Japan) -Russia continues to build plants (even after Chernobyl) -on world scale: nuclear will be more important over time -most of that growth will be in developing economies (OECD) Nuclear power operational reactors July 2013 -how much of the countries’total energy comes from nuclear -France: 75% of total -Iran: 1% of total -there are countries that don’t use nuclear energies -average age of nuclear reactors: 1 -developed countries that had nuclear power for 40-50 years have old plants -nuclear plant is not designed to run forever, have useful life of 40-50 years -need to either be heavily modified (very expensive) or shut down The Chinese are pretty active in building reactors -they are in the process of exporting reactor technologies -Canada has its own brand name for reactors -phasing out = not a good reputation to sell things Nukes on the Way -Countries adding lots of nuclear plants bear watching for what they do about uranium supplies, which could send prices higher. Nuclear generating capacity under construction world-wide by nation, in gigawatts -China accounts for 36.6% of nuclear energy -they are hungry for energy -they are pursuing every other avenue to get energy -hndvily invested in wind, solar, a lot of money invested in nuclear side -Russia: 2 largest players for nuclear energy -they have considerable resources in oil, natural gas, hydro -Japan still has reactors -China and Russia will account half of world production of nuclear energy -Map -China: 125 reactors -US: 30 reactors -Canada: 7 reactors -China will be a really big player -World Total: 432 reactors -some sporadic in Eastern Europe -France forefront in using nuclear energy in Europe (account 3/4ths of power that comes from that) -Whether nuclear power can compete with other forms of power generation appears to depend on geography, and whether costs do come down as more reactors are built, as industry executives -#1 concern: costs -natural gas cost going down; difficult to build a plant that will be consistently profitable -one more nuclear accident: it would be the end of nuclear power generation -The transition is likely to take decades. With coal supplying two-thirds of the country’s electricity, China has resisted international treaties that would impose caps on its carbon emissions. But relying too much on coal takes a toll on the country’s growth as well. 2 -China still argues that they are still a developing economy and should not be asked to do that -they are not ready to replace coal yet – they rely heavily on coal (not ready to put something else in pace) -China: a lot of the coal that is being used in those plants is being produced illegally -after a few mining incidents, government shut down midnight operators -resulted in China going abroad to get more coal – drives price up and makes coal somewhat more expensive -estimated that some plants in China run at a loss -Indeed, despite a surge in local coal prices in recent years, Beijing has held down power rates to fight inflation.As a result, many coal-fired plants now operate at a loss U.S. Nuclear power plants -There are currently 439 commercial nuclear reactors -Estimated that by 2050 there will be over 1000 reactors Nuclear energy as a percent of total electric production -France expected to increase (78%) -Japan: 30% -that number might fall, especially particularly if Canada will build a pipeline to westward and able to ship natural gas toAsia -drive down market price that Japanese faced -problem: Japan doesn’t have reserves at all Canada’s Nuclear Reactors and Uranium Mines -Canadian uranium mines: they’re mostly in northern Saskatchewan -uranium city -almost all of uranium production in the north is shut down Alternate Energy Sources -Hydrogen fuel cells: Fuel cells use stored hydrogen and oxygen from the air to produce electricity to power cars, trucks, and stationary products. Fuel cells are virtually pollution free because their exhaust is only water vapour. -use hydrogen and oxygen to produce power -major proposed use is to run electronics (e.g. cell phones) -instead of a battery, you’ll have a hydrogen fuel cell (environmentally friendlier) -Biofuels:Afuel technology for diesel engines. It comes from natural oils like soybean oil that can be combined with petroleum-based diesel fuel and used in existing diesel engines with little or no modification -create diesel fuel out of various kinds of plants (particularly soy beans) -problem: relatively more expensive to do than use oil -Solar: Solar panels capture solar energy by way of sunlight. Solar energy can be used to power vehicles and households. 3 -one disadvantage: expensive -becoming cheaper over time -Wind: Wind power captured through turbines converts kinetic energy that can later generate electricity. Functioning like a giant fan, wind turbines can be located in remote farm areas or in congested urban settings. -disadvantage: it’s intermittent -expensive -it’s a “meat grinder” for birds (kills them) -Ethanol:An alcohol-based additive made from corn and other agricultural products that can be blended with gasoline to promote cleaner emissions. -it’s alcohol and blend it with gasoline -maximum allowable in US: 15% ethanol, 85% gasoline -ethanol does not have the energy punch that gasoline does -you end up using more of it (won’t save much money) -ethanol produced by Brazil (use sugar canes) and US (use maize or corn) -long-term solution: it’s to be seen -Ocean: Ocean energy draws on the energy of ocean waves, tides, or on the thermal energy (heat) stored in the ocean. -ocean-based (tidal) -Geothermal: Geothermal technologies use the heat of the earth for geothermal heat pumps, and electrical power production. -popular in Iceland (it’s on top of volcanoes) -it’s geographically-determined -it’s only good if hot rocks are close to the surface that doesn’t take much to go down and take the heat Commitment to all renewable Total capacity (dollar figures are finance and investment inflow, 2010) -China: #1 with 103GW -*what is a watt, kilowatt, megawatt, gigawatt, terawatt* -watt: -kilowatt: 1000 watts -megawatt: 1,000,000 watts (1 million watts) -gigawatt: 1,000,000,000 watts (1 billion watts) -terawatt: 1, 000,000,000,000 (1 trillion watts) -most power plants are rated in megawatt range -big one is 500-600 megawatts -US: #2, followed closely by Germany -Germany: more solar-based power -US: more diversified -some geothermal power in the West coast (California) -none inAfrica – might change because solar makes a lot of sense 4 -Solar power saw the biggest leap in 2010, with the installed base jumping 70% compared with 2009 to 40 gigawatts. -two countries push that: on demand side, it’s Germany -one problem: you won’t get sunlight at night -you would need grid system underlying it to provide power in case you don’t have solar -Wind power also grew strongly, adding 24% of generating capacity. Yet the biggest source of renewable electricity, hydropower, and the smallest, geothermal, both only added 3% to capacity) -offshoresit on the ocean -expensive (have to build all the way down and up and build towers and use better quality cabling, etc.) -hydropower: trying to installing smaller generators now - For alternate fuels, geographical location can be very important -Solar -Geothermal -Ocean -Wind Making a Connection -What’s happening: utilities are looking to harvest more wind and solar power. But they lack a way to easily transport that renewable energy from its remote sources to population centres -The Fix Utilities are planning to build or upgrade long-distance transmission lines for both new and existing renewable-energy projects -The Burden: The proposed lines are costly and will take years to build. - The rapid development of shale gas production has already driven down gas prices and undermined the economic case for investment in new nuclear energy and wind power. -they all face one problem: they didn’t; exist 5 years ago: cheap natural gas -due to fracking, natural gas prices falling -makes renewables sector less attractive -2. Reliability: doesn’t’do any good to have a lot of generating capacity if it’s not reliable -solar, wind are intermittent Total Capacity as of end-2012 -there are 3 players in renewable: China, US, and Germany -Canada shows up on list th -4 in hydropower Canada Renewable Energy -solar energy: some on southern west coast and eastern Great Lakes -hydro: Quebec -Earth Energy: couple places in Manitoba and British Columbia 5 -Bioenergy: mostly in southern Ontario -also northern portions of Ontario US Renewable Energy - The potential for gov’t quotas is a major reason why electric utilities in the SE and parts of the Midwest are now beginning to build industrial-scale plants that burn wood and other plant material -- or "biomass." -The utilities also stand to get significant federal tax credits for producing renewable energy. -there are government mandates for the use of bio-based fuels and both electrical production and use by vehicles -utilities get significant subsidies and tax credits when using renewable energy -projected that biomass: will be produced the most among renewable energy Energy consumption in the U.S., in quadrillion BTUs -renewable: wood/biomass/waste, hydroelectric, wind, geothermal, solar -it’s going to take decades before they’ll be major components, at least in NorthAmerica US energy hot spot -46% of all U.S. energy: Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado, Texas -most of fracking of natural gas is in North Dakota -a lot of the new oil are at the top (North Dakota, Wyoming, etc.) -refinery capabilities are at the bottom (e.g. Texas, etc.) -somehow need to get oil from top to bottom or somehow substitute oil in different places to do that -if US becomes self-sufficient in oil and natural gas, what will happen? Where is Canada going to sell its oil and natural gas? -Canada: 1/3 of production of natural gas goes to New England for heating -Canada: try to maintain connections they have with European market but build new pipelines in the East and West (build to the East, you export to Europe; build to the West, you export to Asia) Brewing Biofuel -two big players: US and Brazil -Ethanol (essentially alcohol) -Brazilian way more efficient at producing ethanol (sugar cane is best biogas for doing that – corn is not even that close) -problem for US: food
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