Power generation, engineering and use

Miscellaneous links on the magical terrible process of keeping the lights on

I am no power system expert, but enough interesting links on the theme pop up that I may as well record them.


Vaclav Smil et al.

Fun with solar

Solar! who hates solar?

Here check out this 1916 solar power generator

Wind stuff


Nuclear fission

How expensive is it? How safe? It’s complicated (Wheatley, Sovacool, and Sornette 2017; Wheatley, Sovacool, and Sornette 2016) but in short, fairly dangerous. OTOH other things are also dangerous.

Apparently there is an argument that it does not need to be expensive: Why has nuclear power been a flop?, which asserts that nuclear power suffers from cost disease. I am not qualified to assess that.

Without knowing much about nuclear power, my instincts are that I should be persuaded that nuclear reactors at the current rate will only destroy a town every few decades on average (Wheatley, Sovacool, and Sornette 2017) which is an acceptable toll compared to coal power, for example.

I would require more persuasion that they could be nearly so safe in the kind of deployment the world would need to use nuclear power for climate change reduction. If the number of nuclear fission reactor deployments scaled up massively and was concentrated in countries which most need power, which also tend to have have a poor track record of corruption and active terrorists there are greater base risk rates. I imagine the rate of home-made nuclear weapons and accidental meltdowns might be higher in this case. These risks are rather hard to quantify.

Fossil fuels


Dahl, Astrid, and Edwin Bonilla. 2017. “Scalable Gaussian Process Models for Solar Power Forecasting.” In Data Analytics for Renewable Energy Integration: Informing the Generation and Distribution of Renewable Energy, edited by Wei Lee Woon, Zeyar Aung, Oliver Kramer, and Stuart Madnick, 94–106. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Cham: Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-71643-5_9.
Dahl, Astrid, and Edwin V. Bonilla. 2019. “Sparse Grouped Gaussian Processes for Solar Power Forecasting.” March 10, 2019. http://arxiv.org/abs/1903.03986.
Odum, Howard T. 1973. “Energy, Ecology, and Economics.” Ambio 2 (6): 220–27. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4312030.
———. 1988. “Self-Organization, Transformity, and Information.” Science, 1988.
Smil, Vaclav. 2000. “Energy in the Twentieth Century: Resources, Conversions, Costs, Uses, and Consequences.” Annual Review of Energy and the Environment 25 (1): 21–51. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.energy.25.1.21.
———. 2008. Energy in Nature and Society: General Energetics of Complex Systems. MIT Press. https://books.google.com?id=ClAttEBYLHsC.
———. 2019. Energy in World History. Routledge. https://books.google.com?id=0AScDwAAQBAJ.
Sornette, Didier, Wolfgang Kröger, and Spencer Wheatley. 2018. New Ways and Needs for Exploiting Nuclear Energy. Springer. https://books.google.com?id=oOBwDwAAQBAJ.
Wheatley, Spencer, Benjamin K. Sovacool, and Didier Sornette. 2016. “Reassessing the Safety of Nuclear Power.” Energy Research & Social Science 15 (May): 96–100. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2015.12.026.
Wheatley, Spencer, Benjamin Sovacool, and Didier Sornette. 2017. “Of Disasters and Dragon Kings: A Statistical Analysis of Nuclear Power Incidents and Accidents.” Risk Analysis 37 (1): 99–115. https://doi.org/10.1111/risa.12587.

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