DIGITAL MAGAZINE

November 2021

DIGITAL MAGAZINE

November 2021

Hydrogen is part of the Energy Department's vision for the long-term energy storage needed when solar and wind power are lacking. (Energy Department graphic.)

How the renewables revolution can move from catchphrase to reality

COP26 and the national commitments to be made there are important, if the world is to avert the worst effects of climate change. Even more important, though, are practical implementations of those commitments, so they actually create a massive, real-world transition of global energy systems.
Hydrogen is part of the Energy Department's vision for the long-term energy storage needed when solar and wind power are lacking. (Energy Department graphic.)

How the renewables revolution can move from catchphrase to reality

COP26 and the national commitments to be made there are important, if the world is to avert the worst effects of climate change. Even more important, though, are practical implementations of those commitments, so they actually create a massive, real-world transition of global energy systems.
windmills and solar panels

The five things that must happen for renewables to fit into the grid: Interview with Greg Nemet

The author of How Solar Became Cheap: A Model for Low-Carbon Innovation, discusses what needs to be done to truly integrate renewable energy into the US electrical and decarbonize the country.
crane with concrete weights

Long-duration energy storage for reliable renewable electricity: the realistic possibilities

Several American states mandate zero-carbon electricity systems based primarily on renewable technologies such as wind and solar power. Reliable and affordable electricity systems based on these variable resources may depend on the ability to store large quantities of low-cost energy over long timescales. Long-duration storage technologies (that is, those that provide from 10 to hundreds of hours of storage) have much cheaper energy storage capital costs than lithium-ion batteries. Long-duration storage plays unique roles, such as seasonal and multi-year storage, that increase the affordability of electricity from variable renewable energy. We compare realistic options for long-duration energy storage, including underground hydrogen, pumped hydro, pumped thermal, and compressed air systems. To make 100 percent renewable electricity reliable and more affordable, such long-duration storage technologies can be employed.
antinuclear energy protest in Berlin

Nuclear fear: the irrational obstacle to real climate action

History instructs us that electrical power can be decarbonized in less than a dozen years with combinations of renewable and nuclear energy, but exaggerated fears of the latter have made it too costly and unpopular to develop and deploy in much of the world, allowing Russia and China to capture the nuclear export market. If humanity is genuinely serious about rapid decarbonization to avoid the worse health and climate risks, it will need to take steps to rapidly improve and deploy both nuclear and renewable energy.
Swedish nuclear power plant interior

Is nuclear power sustainable in a carbon-free world? The case of Sweden.

Politicians and the public alike doubt the ability of nuclear power in the United States to compete as a significant low-carbon emission contributor to electricity production in a fully decarbonized electricity sector. Establishing whether or not these doubts are justified is challenged by the complexity of the highly disaggregated US electricity markets, including the highly varied mix of subsidies, production credits, and power purchase mandates that exist at the individual state level. The authors focus on answering the question of nuclear power’s competitiveness by examining the electricity market of Sweden, a nation which has already fully decarbonized its electricity sector, basing its electricity generation entirely on a mix of hydroelectric power, nuclear power, and the use of biofuels, with much smaller contributions from renewables such as solar PV and wind-generated power. In this market, nuclear power is an effective competitor against renewable power generation.
professional rope climber inspecting windmill blades in air

Offshore wind: Poised for the big time. An interview with Anthony Kirincich

What the United States can and cannot learn about windmills from Europe, long the world leader in this form of renewable energy.
magnet being lowered into place at ITER

Fusion’s role in fighting climate change

It is unlikely that fusion will contribute in a major way to President Biden’s goal of decarbonizing US electrical energy production by 2035. However, between 2035 and 2100, the worldwide demand for energy is expected to climb fourfold. To meet this demand while not driving global warming, low-carbon energy sources such as fusion will need to be used on a growing scale.
historic photo of participants in Baby Tooth Survey

Bombs, science, and baby teeth

How many nuclear weapons can be detonated in support of weapons development or during a war before imperiling humans from radioactive fallout? That’s the question the Atomic Energy Commission asked in the 1950s. To find the answer, scientists, citizens, and later the St. Louis Committee for Nuclear Information looked at baby teeth where strontium 90—a radioactive isotope—is absorbed as if were calcium. The work combined scientific research with a political movement aimed at ending the nuclear arms race. It also played a role in the ratification of the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty. The wisdom and extraordinary effort of preserving these baby teeth for some 60 years later opened doors for cutting-edge research involving an array of pollutants.
DF-41 ICBM launchers at parade in Beijing in September 2020. The DF-41 is now operational in at least two brigades. Source: Chinese Ministry of Defense

Nuclear Notebook: Chinese nuclear forces, 2021

This Nuclear Notebook examines China’s nuclear arsenal, which has now surpassed France’s as the world’s third largest. The authors estimate that China's stockpile now includes roughly 350 operational warheads with more in production. The stockpile is projected to increase further in the next decade but remains significantly smaller than that of Russia or the United States.
windmills and solar panels

The five things that must happen for renewables to fit into the grid: Interview with Greg Nemet

The author of How Solar Became Cheap: A Model for Low-Carbon Innovation, discusses what needs to be done to truly integrate renewable energy into the US electrical and decarbonize the country.
crane with concrete weights

Long-duration energy storage for reliable renewable electricity: the realistic possibilities

Several American states mandate zero-carbon electricity systems based primarily on renewable technologies such as wind and solar power. Reliable and affordable electricity systems based on these variable resources may depend on the ability to store large quantities of low-cost energy over long timescales. Long-duration storage technologies (that is, those that provide from 10 to hundreds of hours of storage) have much cheaper energy storage capital costs than lithium-ion batteries. Long-duration storage plays unique roles, such as seasonal and multi-year storage, that increase the affordability of electricity from variable renewable energy. We compare realistic options for long-duration energy storage, including underground hydrogen, pumped hydro, pumped thermal, and compressed air systems. To make 100 percent renewable electricity reliable and more affordable, such long-duration storage technologies can be employed.
antinuclear energy protest in Berlin

Nuclear fear: the irrational obstacle to real climate action

History instructs us that electrical power can be decarbonized in less than a dozen years with combinations of renewable and nuclear energy, but exaggerated fears of the latter have made it too costly and unpopular to develop and deploy in much of the world, allowing Russia and China to capture the nuclear export market. If humanity is genuinely serious about rapid decarbonization to avoid the worse health and climate risks, it will need to take steps to rapidly improve and deploy both nuclear and renewable energy.
Swedish nuclear power plant interior

Is nuclear power sustainable in a carbon-free world? The case of Sweden.

Politicians and the public alike doubt the ability of nuclear power in the United States to compete as a significant low-carbon emission contributor to electricity production in a fully decarbonized electricity sector. Establishing whether or not these doubts are justified is challenged by the complexity of the highly disaggregated US electricity markets, including the highly varied mix of subsidies, production credits, and power purchase mandates that exist at the individual state level. The authors focus on answering the question of nuclear power’s competitiveness by examining the electricity market of Sweden, a nation which has already fully decarbonized its electricity sector, basing its electricity generation entirely on a mix of hydroelectric power, nuclear power, and the use of biofuels, with much smaller contributions from renewables such as solar PV and wind-generated power. In this market, nuclear power is an effective competitor against renewable power generation.
professional rope climber inspecting windmill blades in air

Offshore wind: Poised for the big time. An interview with Anthony Kirincich

What the United States can and cannot learn about windmills from Europe, long the world leader in this form of renewable energy.
magnet being lowered into place at ITER

Fusion’s role in fighting climate change

It is unlikely that fusion will contribute in a major way to President Biden’s goal of decarbonizing US electrical energy production by 2035. However, between 2035 and 2100, the worldwide demand for energy is expected to climb fourfold. To meet this demand while not driving global warming, low-carbon energy sources such as fusion will need to be used on a growing scale.
historic photo of participants in Baby Tooth Survey

Bombs, science, and baby teeth

How many nuclear weapons can be detonated in support of weapons development or during a war before imperiling humans from radioactive fallout? That’s the question the Atomic Energy Commission asked in the 1950s. To find the answer, scientists, citizens, and later the St. Louis Committee for Nuclear Information looked at baby teeth where strontium 90—a radioactive isotope—is absorbed as if were calcium. The work combined scientific research with a political movement aimed at ending the nuclear arms race. It also played a role in the ratification of the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty. The wisdom and extraordinary effort of preserving these baby teeth for some 60 years later opened doors for cutting-edge research involving an array of pollutants.
DF-41 ICBM launchers at parade in Beijing in September 2020. The DF-41 is now operational in at least two brigades. Source: Chinese Ministry of Defense

Nuclear Notebook: Chinese nuclear forces, 2021

This Nuclear Notebook examines China’s nuclear arsenal, which has now surpassed France’s as the world’s third largest. The authors estimate that China's stockpile now includes roughly 350 operational warheads with more in production. The stockpile is projected to increase further in the next decade but remains significantly smaller than that of Russia or the United States.

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