Storaging Your Way Out

This week, the long-awaited UK government approval for the construction of Hinkley Point C was granted. This will be a pair of modern light water reactors of the French EPR type, will generate 3,260 megawatts at full power, and has a design life of 60 years. An exhaustive description of the costs, subsidies and national context for this huge piece of energy supply infrastructure is available from the World Nuclear Association.

taishan-1-460-cgn

Taishan unit 1 in China will be the first EPR commissioned, early in 2017. Other projects in France and Finland have faced substantial delays and cost problems.

Inevitably, many will wonder if the 25.5 billion kilowatt hours and 14 million avoided tons of greenhouse gas can be achieved some other way – maybe even cheaper. Indeed, solar has already been advanced as a prefered option… by the UK’s Solar Trade Association. Just as inevitably, 1) this is solar plus storage, and 2) the amount of necessary storage isn’t specified.

This has already been dissected over at Energy Matters where it was estimated to be 7 billion kilowatt hours of storage capacity when relying on solar alone – “roughly the equivalent of eight hundred more Dinorwigs”. Dinorwig is the largest pumped hydro storage facility in the UK. Ironically, it was originally intended to store nuclear power overnight. Alternatively, it would take over 87 thousand of the largest battery storage installations ever proposed.

dinorwig

The devil’s always in the details. Especially when the details aren’t provided.

To be clear, solar plus storage still won’t provide what huge reactors do. And EPRs can’t provide anything like the flexibility of distributed solar/storage combinations. They have fundamentally different profiles, different scales. Since they can’t substitute for each other, it’s perverse to feed the persistent nuclear vs renewables struggle with them.

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3 thoughts on “Storaging Your Way Out

  1. Assuming 1500 MW as average load for SA I’d call the Roxby Downs proposal the four minute battery and the AGL home network the half minute battery. NuScale say they can load follow quite fast so SMRs could replace gas backup for intermittent power. If so there may be no need for energy storage either for peaking power or to cover weather related lulls. Perhaps large light water plants should supply fairly constant load at the cheapest LCOE and SMRs the rest that is not supplied by intermittent sources. No need to store energy at all.

    Those power plants would mainly be on Australia’s east coast. SA would have a suitable form of reprocessing; for example MOX fuel could go back to the east coast plants while burying unusable waste in the SA outback.

    • Sounds reasonable, John. It increasingly strikes me that government ownership of regional infrastructure (of comparable importance to the clean water supply) would have made pursuit of such a decarbonised energy system potentially far more straightforward.

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