Image Credit : NowPublic
I still don’t know what all the fuss is about Nuclear Power, when the BioMethane from all the toilets, farm slurry, hospital and food waste in the country could trounce the amount of power available from atoms by 2020.
Without all that nasty radioactive leftover, massive expensive building projects, social tension, election nightmare and increasing security issues.
With a bit of time on my paws over the “Christmas Vortex” (everything gets sucked up by Christmas and nothing ever gets spat out again until January), I started to dig into Professor David J. C. MacKay’s excellent tome, available free online, Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air :-
I was amazed that he only only seemed to mention BioMethane, or BioGas when discussing a source of Energy to power an Algae BioDiesel plant, in a note at the back of one of his “Technical” chapters, D, named “Solar II”.
“Putt (2007)…Putt describes the energy balance of a proposed design for a 100-acre algae farm, powered by methane from an animal litter digester. The farm described would in fact produce less power than the methane power input…”
Back in the good Professor’s chapter on Nuclear, he does a fair analysis of what would constitute a “sustainable” output of Atomic Fission Power, globally. Of course, not written into the text, is the obvious fact of life that the Global North (Industrialised West) would get the lion’s share of any Nuclear Energy, because of “factors”, but even so, the calculations of electricity produced, per person, per day, taking in practical development and deployment issues is not that huge.
In his chapter 27 “Five energy plans for Britain”, his plan E “Producing lots of electricity” assumes that somehow the Economics of Nuclear Power can be made to work in the UK, despite the financial troubles faced by many of the European and American companies that would be relied on to construct and work the new installations. He puts output of Nuclear Power at 44 kWh (kiloWatt hours) per day per person, noting “This plan has a ten-fold increase in our nuclear power over 2007 levels.” Given the current state of the Economy, and the lack of readiness to spend the readies on massive new Nuclear plant, this therefore is highly unlikely. The current plans for 10 new reactors only amounts to a “replacement” programme of the plant that needs to be de-commissioned by 2023 :-
Other plans that MacKay outlines are in the region of an electricity contribution from Nuclear as 10 or 16 kWh per day per person. This is marginally more realistic, but still rather on the optimistic side, even if you assume massive reorientation of the fiscal regime to grant Nuclear Power a kind of Low Carbon status, and ply the industry with offers of free insurance and guaranteed sales contracts.
The plain fact is that poo can do better.
According to a report from National Grid : “Renewable Gas”, “upgraded” BioMethane, suitable for delivery through the current Natural Gas pipeline network could offer 18,432 million cubic metres by 2020 :-
Studies of current yield of BioMethane show that 4,650,000 cubic metres yields 45,983,333 kWh, after deducting the Energy used to anaerobically digest and clean the BioGas.
To convert it all into “MacKay” units of measurement, this means that by 2020, if the population of the UK is counted as being approximately 60 million, each year, 3037 kWh per person could be produced, or roughly 8 kWh per person per day.
Hmm. Quite a contender when compared to the as yet unborn, potentially sluggish, constipated Nuclear “renaissance”. By contrast, Poo Power has natural “intestinal transit”, as production is a constant fact of life.
Roughly 20% of current UK Natural Gas consumption from slurry ? And all it would take would be renovation of sewage and water treatment plants :-
(2009 current gas consumption UK is 93,904,213,944 cubic metres)
Let’s hear applause for Number Two’s…
Energy is a faecal issue…
I’m cheering for that day when the animal waste product hits the spinning gas turbines…
Come on, pull out all the old scatalogical jokes, won’t you ?