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The Decarbonization of Electricity
Wind, Solar, Nuclear, Hydro, Storage, EPA-Outlawed Super-Polluting Coal Power Plants
The wind farm of today could well be the small nuclear power plant of tomorrow.
I'm struck at how the megawatt sizes - 250 megaWatts or so - of the wind farms electric utilities are buying or building these days match the sizes of the advanced small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) now being readied for mass production in almost every corner of the world. It makes sense - wind turbines are large, rather flimsy fiberglass machines being subjected to constantly changing stresses 24/7/365. Maintaining a wind farm's 10 to 50 wind turbines has got to be much expensive than a SMR or two and wind turbine life expectancies have to be much shorter. Buying a worn out wind farm, shutting it down and then re-powering its grid connections with a SMR makes good economic, engineering, and operating sense.
The locations where wind farms are tied into the grid are remote but have good access roads. Since SMRs don't need cooling water, these relatively unpopulated locations seem ideal for small nuclear power plants and the well-paying jobs they bring.
SMRs, which in some ways resemble natural gas powered aeroderivative combined cycle plants, are much more load agile than either coal or old large water-cooled nuclear power plants. With the addition of more solid baseload electricity sources, a grid has to become much more reliable.
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