# Why isn't electricity cheaper?

#1004

It has, it’s less than half the price it was 10 years ago.
If that’s not fallen, I don’t know what is.

See the US for a 6Kw system:
news.energysage.com/how-much-do … n-the-u-s/

That compares favourably with what I paid - you’ll often see prices quoted net of grants/tax rebates (of 30% in the US!), so the gross price is fairer.

I was kinda wrong about the price drop, at least for Sidewinder:

The prices in NZ are pretty good, though, lower than here and the US.

#1005

The price of the raw panel is a fraction of the total install cost? Fixtures, electricals, labour, VAT…?

#1006

Ok they have dropped slightly but according to

solarpowerworldonline.com/2 … half-2020/

Clearly the price drops have not been passed onto the ordinary Josephine soap
I assume part of this is costs of labour for small installations

#1007

Well, as I say, the price I paid is half what I was quoted ten years prior. I’m not sure which of that is not passing on the savings.

I agree with you though, that the labour cost is a significant chunk of a small scale setup. It was a team of 5 including an electrician for a day to do mine. It wouldn’t have taken them much less time to do 3kw, though maybe two less chaps.

#1008

A new Fusion Industry Association launched last week. Its initial 16 members and 5 affiliates include most of today’s leading private fusion research companies.

#1009

The Chinese have exceeded a plasma temperature of 100 million degrees by combining four different heating modes. Even more importantly:

… plus, the ongoing Chinese fusion efforts are open source, which could end up being very good news for the world.

#1010

Russia is developing an interesting fusion-fission reactor:

neimagazine.com/news/newsru … or-6168535

People may have heard of the thorium fuel cycle. Thorium is much more abundant than uranium but is referred to as a “fertile” rather than “fissile” material, as it cannot be directly fissioned. By capturing a neutron and undergoing beta decay, however, 232-Th can be transmuted to fissile 233-U. So thorium can be combined into a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel with other fissile elements. One great upside is that it can burn up existing stockpiles of plutonium and other bomb-grade materials, and the waste is radioactive for only 70 years (instead of millions).

The Russian concept is to forget about other fissile materials altogether and use a tokamak fusion reactor as the neutron source. If it sounds like sci-fi, bear in mind that neutron-producing tokamak fusion is routine nowadays, it is only net energy fusion that is still a challenge. So you pay for the energy to produce your neutrons, and get it back with interest from your thorium reaction.

#1011

70 years is the half life, it takes a lot longer to be safe. Several thousand years, I imagine.

#1012

Not necessarily. If that’s the half life of the first fission products, then after 500 years, they’re only emitting less than 1% of their original radioactivity and after 1000 years, about 0.06%. Unless one of the subsequent decay products has a half life of a few centuries to a few millennia, or one with a half life of decades decays to one with a half life of days or months, constantly replenishing it, the waste will probably become safe to handle relatively quickly. Half lives of minutes or aeons are either very short lived problems, because they burn themselves out quickly, or never become problems at all, because something with a half life of a billion years is practically indistinguishable from stable (U-238 is so weakly radioactive that you can use it as ballast).

#1013

Right, OK. I guess it depends what you mean by “safe”. I wouldn’t eat it at 0.06% radioactivity.

Anyway, my main point was that half-life time doesn’t equal time to safe handling.

#1014

It’s all relative. The activity after a few hundred years is less than that of uranium ore. Sure, you wouldn’t want to spend too much time with it. Apart from anything else it’s probably chemically toxic. But people live near uranium mines without noticeable ill effect. Living near any rocks carries some risk. It’s why you’ve got a radon barrier in your house.

For brevity, I skipped the fact that the thorium cycle can burn up actinide wastes as well as fissile uranium and plutonium. And it doesn’t produce any trans-uranics itself.So it has the potential to reduce radioactivity from existing waste by orders of magnitude. The remaining low level waste is easily manageable by burial. The main thing is that it dramatically reduces an already existing problem.

#1015

irishtimes.com/news/environment/turbines-at-moneypoint-power-station-out-of-action-due-to-forced-outage-1.3718846

Interesting, I assumed that we would need to build a large power station before closing Moneypoint or converting it to natural gas and yet since September we have been doing fine with only a tiny amount of coal

#1016

That’s the most surprising thing to me.

Anyone know what the annual renewables % is?

#1017

26% annually

The Irish Government has a target of 40% of electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2020.

#1018

EI launches new price plan for electricity users.
Almost as cheap as when incorporating other cashback offers.
A €97 pa standing charge compared to normal rate of €200+
Hopefully it’ll shake up the market
bonkers.ie/blog/gas-electri … customers/

#1019

Frickin’ swindle. Electric Ireland made huge fanfare the last couple of years that there was no need to keep switching as they would always offer the same great discounts to existing customers as well as switchers. It seems they lied.

#1020

If all the things that got patented actually got built, we’d have flying cars, portable nuclear bunkers, and shoe-powered neck massagers. Not everything that is patented is practical.

Nevertheless, when a scientist applies for a patent on behalf of the US Navy, I sit up and listen. When the patent is for a room-temperature superconductor, it gets quite interesting indeed. Experience suggests that it’ll still probably come to nothing, but obviously the implications for power generation and transmission and a host of other applications are large.

#1021

New battery technologies are among the most hyped. Most disappear, never to be heard of again, so take everything with a pinch of salt. This one claims to be going into manufacture immediately, with ten commercial customers this year, two hundred units to be built next year, and licenses to manufacture in Europe issued.

It’s for stationary power, not automotive, intended for short term (< 48 hours) grid storage. It’s based on thermal energy storage using molten silicon. Claimed advantages are:

• more than a dozen times the volumetric energy density of lead acid, and six times that of L-ion
• cheaper than L-ion (60-80% of the price)
• scalable from kilowatts to hundreds of megawatts – just add more units
• storage from hours to a couple of days
• can be charged and discharged at the same time
• expected life of 20 years – not limited by number of charge-discharge cycles
• very low maintenance – three moving parts per unit

What’s not clear is the efficiency. The article refers to a “heat engine” for extracting stored energy, and the manufacturer’s site mentions a “thermic generator”. The compactness and low number of moving parts would seem to preclude a steam turbine, but solid state thermoelectric generators have efficiencies under 10%. The other things not mentioned is how quickly it can be brought online, and whether it is therefore a suitable standby for despatchable power.

Could be an interesting one to watch. Tesla has already demonstrated that you don’t need huge amounts of grid storage to offset a huge amount of the cost of peaking power and load smoothing.

#1022

Chalk this one up to YAFA … Yet Another Fusion Approach. Nevertheless, the guy behind this venture is not to be trifled with. Heinrich Hora is a leading light in plasma physics, having discovered among other things an effect of laser-plasma coupling that could be used to compress plasmas to fusion conditions.

The Holy Grail is to use it to achieve proton-boron (a.k.a. hydrogen-boron, p-B11, or HB11) fusion. This reaction produces no neutrons, just three charged alpha particles (Helium nuclei) which can be used to generate electricity directly, with no thermal exchanger or steam turbine. The fusion reaction produces an excited state of carbon, which then fissions in the reverse of the triple-alpha process that powers red giant stars. The net result is three alphas plus nine million electron volts.

${{}^1_1}{\text{H}} + {}^{11}_\text{ 5}\text{B} \rightarrow {}^{12}_\text{ 6}\text{C} \rightarrow 3\left({}^4_2\text{He} \right )+8.7\text{ MeV}$

p-B11 fusion has been known about for decades. It is Hora’s coupling effect and advances in pulsed petawatt lasers that could turn it into reality. He claims that non-linear effects occur under the right conditions to boost the reaction by nine orders of magnitude. ScienceDaily article here, paper here, and new HB11 company website here… though they do mention the dreaded “5 to 10 years of research”.

#1023

Zeta Energy’s new battery is a quantum leap in lithium battery technology. I hesitate to say “game-changer” as we know nothing about the eventual large-scale manufacturing process. That could be fraught since the anode contains graphene and carbon nanotubes. But the results of the work so far are peer reviewed and have appeared in journals like Nature, among others. And it looks amazing. A charged Zeta battery will allegedly retain 90% of its charge after ten years! In addition it has:

• Up to 3 times the energy storage capacity of lithium-ion batteries
• Faster charge time (minutes instead of hours)
• Lower battery temperature
• Little degradation over charge/recharge cycles
• Outstanding shelf life
• Significantly lighter than lithium-ion batteries
• Zero cobalt
• Significantly lower cost than lithium-ion batteries