Mass power generation, engineering and use

On the magical, terrible requisites of keeping the lights on

May 4, 2021 — January 23, 2024


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

1 Fun with solar

Solar! Who hates solar? I was mildly chuffed to discover solar thermal generators in popular magazines in 1916.

Figure 1: Here check out this 1916 solar power generator

However it turns out the photovoltaics date back to the 1880s; See bellingcat’s Untangling the Mystery of the World’s First Rooftop Solar Panel.

2 Wind stuff


3 Nuclear fission

How expensive is it? How safe? It’s complicated (Wheatley, Sovacool, and Sornette 2017; Wheatley, Sovacool, and Sornette 2016) but in short, sometimes 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 minor toll compared to coal power, for example.

Would this low base-rate remain constant 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 a poor track record of corruption and active terrorists? I imagine the rate of home-made nuclear weapons and accidental meltdowns might be higher in this case.

4 Fossil fuels

Figure 3

5 Power markets and grids

  • OpenNEM: NEM tracks Australian energy market stats, and source/supply stuff.

6 “Energetics”

Vaclav Smil et al.

Figure 4

7 Small scale/DIY

8 Mapping renewable energy potential

9 Incoming

10 References

Boston, and Bongers. 2021. MEGS: Modelling Energy and Grid Services to Explore Decarbonisation of Power Systems at Lowest Total System Cost.” Energy Strategy Reviews.
Dahl, and 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. Lecture Notes in Computer Science.
Dahl, and Bonilla. 2019. Sparse Grouped Gaussian Processes for Solar Power Forecasting.” arXiv:1903.03986 [Cs, Stat].
Odum. 1973. Energy, Ecology, and Economics.” Ambio.
———. 1988. “Self-Organization, Transformity, and Information.” Science.
Smil. 2000. Energy in the Twentieth Century: Resources, Conversions, Costs, Uses, and Consequences.” Annual Review of Energy and the Environment.
———. 2008. Energy in Nature and Society: General Energetics of Complex Systems.
———. 2019. Energy in World History.
Sornette, Kröger, and Wheatley. 2018. New Ways and Needs for Exploiting Nuclear Energy.
Wheatley, Sovacool, and Sornette. 2016. Reassessing the Safety of Nuclear Power.” Energy Research & Social Science.
Wheatley, Sovacool, and Sornette. 2017. Of Disasters and Dragon Kings: A Statistical Analysis of Nuclear Power Incidents and Accidents.” Risk Analysis.