Polywell and the grid

If polywell fusion is developed, in what ways will the world change for better or worse? Discuss.

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energyfan
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Polywell and the grid

Postby energyfan » Wed Sep 17, 2008 4:05 am

This is sort of a redundant question, but supposing Polywell works .. would it still be as important to implement the "Smart-Grid" changes for power distribution( with or without installing solar panels) ? .. since Polywell is much cleaner than the fuels used right now, how much of a difference would it make ?

JohnP
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Postby JohnP » Sun Sep 28, 2008 3:36 pm

The economies of other power sources like solar are bound to change with time, research, improving technologies, etc.

For power needs upwards of 10MW though, I have a hard time imagining why you'd use something other than a BFR, assuming it works. For satellites, solar panels are probably best. For personal transportation, liquid fueled engines or electric motors.

energyfan
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Postby energyfan » Sun Sep 28, 2008 7:14 pm

JohnP wrote:The economies of other power sources like solar are bound to change with time, research, improving technologies, etc.

For power needs upwards of 10MW though, I have a hard time imagining why you'd use something other than a BFR, assuming it works. For satellites, solar panels are probably best. For personal transportation, liquid fueled engines or electric motors.


Thankyou for your reply. What I actually meant was, would it still be as important to have a SmartGrid network with decentralized power generation where there will be 2 way communication/we will be able to send energy back to the grid in case of surplus from local power generation.

Since Polywell(if it works) will be able less centralized related to the current distribution structure, and be cleaner/easier to make, I wanted to see some opinions on the subject. Yes, for transportation, electricity would be the best choice ...but only if someone makes a good ultracapacitor and some better batteries or maybe a new vehicle charging infrastructure...Polywell helps a lot for the latter.

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Postby MSimon » Mon Sep 29, 2008 7:08 am

energyfan wrote:
JohnP wrote:The economies of other power sources like solar are bound to change with time, research, improving technologies, etc.

For power needs upwards of 10MW though, I have a hard time imagining why you'd use something other than a BFR, assuming it works. For satellites, solar panels are probably best. For personal transportation, liquid fueled engines or electric motors.


Thankyou for your reply. What I actually meant was, would it still be as important to have a SmartGrid network with decentralized power generation where there will be 2 way communication/we will be able to send energy back to the grid in case of surplus from local power generation.

Since Polywell(if it works) will be able less centralized related to the current distribution structure, and be cleaner/easier to make, I wanted to see some opinions on the subject. Yes, for transportation, electricity would be the best choice ...but only if someone makes a good ultracapacitor and some better batteries or maybe a new vehicle charging infrastructure...Polywell helps a lot for the latter.


Smart grid is less important when your generator response is on time scales of milliseconds.
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

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Postby kunkmiester » Sun Jun 07, 2009 10:51 pm

Something else to look at is what happens when everyone sets their thermostats to 72/80 degrees when it's pennies to run the AC/heater at those levels. Polywell fusion would make a hundred things cheaper, and a hundred other things practical. This will lead to a much greater load increase than is currently projected, and the grid will need massive upgrades to handle it. Thus I figure you would drop your rates a bit, but hold the massive margin you suddenly have and pour it into the grid. It'll be billions of dollars suddenly available, and it should be easy to get the get up to speed. Then you cut the cost of power to the real levels.
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Granularity on the Grid in a BFR world

Postby kttopdad » Wed Oct 21, 2009 6:03 pm

I suspect that functioning BFRs will reduce the need for a massive grid upgrade. The BFR allows local production of power since there's no pollution and "no" radiation hazzard. The greatest problems with our current power grid revolve around the long-distance transmission of large power loads and the coordination of power distribution among different regions that are interconnected. The granularity available in a BFR-powered world remove those problems.

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Re: Granularity on the Grid in a BFR world

Postby KitemanSA » Thu Oct 22, 2009 1:56 am

kttopdad wrote:I suspect that functioning BFRs will reduce the need for a massive grid upgrade. The BFR allows local production of power since there's no pollution and "no" radiation hazzard. The greatest problems with our current power grid revolve around the long-distance transmission of large power loads and the coordination of power distribution among different regions that are interconnected. The granularity available in a BFR-powered world remove those problems.
To a degree, I agree with you, but if the loads were just large, one-way, invarient loads, (the NIMBY effect, "give me coal power, but not here") the grid could stay dumb.

The need for a "Smart Grid" for the transmission of large power loads is due in large part to the highly variable nature of the anticipated "Green" local power production modes. It is not just power from A to B, but from A to B for a couple minutes with C picking up some of the slack while G is sipping wind from F and then A cutting over to J thru M while Q is in a JaM.... Arrgh!!

The Polywell should be constantly available in locally supportable sizes with only planned maintanence drop-outs. The grid doesn't need to be all that smart to handle that kind of power production.

One other thing. Part of the "Smart Grid" is also to help with Grid Intertied point of use production (residential solar fer instance). If Polywell actully works, the power system may devolve into a subscription business model like the phone companies. Ma Bell used to charge for each local phone call. Then only for the long distance. Now, many companies don't bother to meter the calls, they just charge a reasonable flat subscription fee. That might happen with the power companies too. At which point, why would anyone have home solar? One less need for a Smart Grid.

clonan
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Postby clonan » Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:47 pm

Even under a subscription service a smart grid may still be necessary.

I don't think it is likely that a subscription power plan will develop. The major reason is that half the cost of power is delivery. Even if BFR's reduced the cost of generating the power to almost nothing, the overall cost would only drop by 50%.

In addition, most BFRs will probably be D-D fusion with a thermal cycle rather than PB11 with direct conversion. PB11 due to scaling requirements will need to be large plants 1+ GW to be economical. D-D plants can be much smaller 100-500 MW. Due to transmission costs, there aren't many places that a 1+ GW plant makes sense. Whereas 100-500 MW plants are MUCH smaller and could be brought in closer to the load, making them more economical in may situations.

In current thermal cycle plants (Coal) the equipment to manage the steam and generate the power costs more in terms of maintenance than the boiler...by a lot. This price is not going to change with a BFR.


All this being said, the BEST we could really hope for with BFR is a 50% reduction in the cost of power and my guess is 25% is more likely.

At the same time, there will always be load balancing issues. Currently the US power companies waste TRILLIONS in spare capacity a year to cover unexpected demand. This has absolutely nothing to do with variable power generation inherent in renewables. This will not change if BFRs replace all conventional Coal, Nuclear, Natural Gas and diesel power generation.

All this means that a vanilla subscription service (like home phone) is unlikely. I think a cell phone type subscription is much more likely. So you will be charged one rate for your base line usage and once you go over your KW/H limit you get a higher per/KW/H cost. I can also see a higher price for peak since it will always cost more to provide power then due to system stress.

Where as local generation of power (especially solar) would dramatically help reduce transmission costs since it tends to peak production at peak demand. This will reduce the size of the power lines that must go into a heavily populated area and make power production MUCH cheaper.

Finally, renewables especially solar voltaic are dropping in price dramatically while at the same time, battery tech is improving fast making it cheaper to store power. As these trends continue, it is likely that an off the grid solar system could be cheaper than even a BFR pB11 plant for a low power single family home.

A smart grid which would allow some demand shaping (turning of ACs for a few minutes, delaying appliances and managing charging of electric cars) will be necessary to keep costs down even if BFRs powered everything. This is a fundamental problem of centralized power generation and the source of the power will NEVER change this.


About the only way a simple subscription is likely is if every neighborhood had its own dirt cheap 100 MW BFR and every house had a day or two of battery backup (also cheap).


All this being said, I can't wait for BFRs to be proven and developed. it WILL lead to a reduced cost and will allow us to grow the economy without risking our health and international safety in the process.

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Postby MSimon » Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:19 pm

clonan,

Could you elaborate on:

In addition, most BFRs will probably be D-D fusion with a thermal cycle rather than PB11 with direct conversion. PB11 due to scaling requirements will need to be large plants 1+ GW to be economical.


I have been studying this for a while and never came across a minimum size requirement of 1 GW for economical direct conversion.
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

clonan
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Postby clonan » Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:42 pm

clonan,

Could you elaborate on:

Quote:
In addition, most BFRs will probably be D-D fusion with a thermal cycle rather than PB11 with direct conversion. PB11 due to scaling requirements will need to be large plants 1+ GW to be economical.


I have been studying this for a while and never came across a minimum size requirement of 1 GW for economical direct conversion.


I am a laymen so if I have made an unfounded assumption please let me know.

PB11 -

1. PB11 requires a MUCH deeper well than DD.
2. Deeper wells can be generated with stronger B-fields (currently severely limited by material science) and size (radius)
3. A 100 MW PB11 is not going to be much smaller than a 1 GW PB11
4. As a general principle larger machines ALWAYS cost more to build and then maintain.
5. A net positive machine does NOT equal an economically viable machine.
6. To be economically viable a PB11 machine must produce enough power to compensate for the higher expense of a larger machine.

Now I have no knowledge (an no one else really does either) of how much a PB11 machine will cost to run. However every time I remember Bussard discussing PB11 in action he was talking about a 1-10GW plant.

Now compare that to DD plants -

1. The size of the core is significantly smaller (therefore cheaper)
2. The first target plant size is 100 MW (WB-100) therefore the experts feel this is a viable size.
3. I have seen projections that the DD BFR core will likely be about the same size as the furnace of a modern coal fired plant.
4. Since a carbon tax or cap and trade system seems likely in the next decade, it seems probably that coal plants will just swap out the heat source.
5. Most coal plants are 100-500 MW, well within the projected range of a DD BFR.
6. There are a LOT of coal plants around that could be converted rather than thrown out.



In the end, remember that I was talking about economic viability NOT physics. Of course you could build a Net 100 MW PB11...but would it be worth operating?

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Postby MSimon » Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:07 pm

Clonan,

Of course there is no objective way to discuss the merits since we are so limited with facts.

But let me say this about B fields.

I have gotten a rough quote on a 3T MgB SC coil with a 1 m bore. The price was nice and it was for a one of (seven piece set - i.e. 1 spare).

Experimental 9T coils are being built.

Within 5 years I expect to see 20 T 1 m bore coils. Progress is very good in the field. Slight tweaks in manufacturing and in coil materials are not going to change the costs much.

A 20 T 1 m coil should be capable of at least 100 MW in a relatively small machine.

The problem with D-D is that the neutron flux "poisons" the coils over time. The 1E3 to 1E6 lower flux with pB11 is a big help with machine lifetime. The coils do not become significantly radioactive but they do need to be annealed after getting a flux dose of 1E18 n/sq cm (safety factor of 2X re: max flux dose).

If you can do away with the thick water jacket required to thermalize neutrons so that they can be captured by B10 the machine design is simpler and smaller.

It is a lot of fun to speculate. I look forward to having some real data.
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

KitemanSA
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Postby KitemanSA » Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:18 pm

Clonan,
I have read both your long missives but don't find anything to counter my contention that a clean, non-varying source, like Polywell is hoped to be, will eliminate the need for a "Smart" grid. Might one still be developed? Sure, SG has become political, so logic doesn't pertain. But all the basic stuff you talk about happens now with a dumb grid except handling the massive variablity of "Green" sources and sinks, and the identified need to control individual's usage to compensate.

This evening or next weekend I may provide a point by point discussion of your two missives, but not now.

Thank you for supporting my contention that with Polywell as hoped, power will probably go to a subscription model. If the cost of providing is 50% and the cost to generate falls toward 0%, the subscription model becomes more and more likely.

Hasta!

clonan
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Postby clonan » Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:21 pm

MSimon,

Very interesting!

I can definitely see New power plants being PB11 but we still will have a lot of legacy plants. Especially as the technology improves and higher B-Fields are easier to reach.

As far as the water jacket, I have seen some designs that direct that water into the turbines to recover the heat.

But also think of this...it may be possible to run the turbines in a coal plant more than they are now. So install a 500 MW DD reactor in an existing 100 MW coal plant and gradually upgrade the turbines etc and turn up the BFR to full power...you now have 5 100 MW power plants worth of power at a fraction of the price of a new plant.


Regardless of the end result, this is an exciting time :)

clonan
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Postby clonan » Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:59 pm

KitemanSA wrote:Clonan,
I have read both your long missives but don't find anything to counter my contention that a clean, non-varying source, like Polywell is hoped to be, will eliminate the need for a "Smart" grid. Might one still be developed? Sure, SG has become political, so logic doesn't pertain. But all the basic stuff you talk about happens now with a dumb grid except handling the massive variablity of "Green" sources and sinks, and the identified need to control individual's usage to compensate.

This evening or next weekend I may provide a point by point discussion of your two missives, but not now.

Thank you for supporting my contention that with Polywell as hoped, power will probably go to a subscription model. If the cost of providing is 50% and the cost to generate falls toward 0%, the subscription model becomes more and more likely.

Hasta!


Actually re-read my posts.

We currently have about 2% of our power from renewables that would need a backup system (either batteries of some kind or a "smart Grid" that can dynamically route power). If/when this percentage grows we would absolutely need a smart grid. However we need one right now and we will when BFRs provide all the power.

As it is, power companies are incentivized to over build power plants and keep them idle to cover the unexpected spikes in demand. These spikes can be HUGE. These idling plants cost the economy trillions of dollars a year. A BFR based power company would have the exact same problem.

Now, IF you have a plant with response times of less than a second to new demand, you could crank up the plant fast enough. However for the near (50+ year) term we are likely to have mainly thermal cycle plants which can't respond that fast.

Therefore you COULD build some large PB11 plants which might be able to respond that quickly and could cover the shortfall of the smaller regional DD plants. However you would then need this plant to service a wide geographic area which will have variable loads over all. You would have to build a grid that could monitor the load and redistribute the power fast enough over a wide area and alert various power plants to spin up as demand increased....This sounds a LOT like a smart grid...and that is WITH Polywell supplying the power.


Now I don't believe and I don't think anyone should expect a Polywell to cost zero and generate unlimited power. That is the only case where a 50% reduction is possible. I said a 25% may happen...but honestly I don't really expect to see ANY price decrease from BFRs.

It is also important to note that phone lines are NOT power lines.

Local phone companies stopped charging on usage because improving switching and laser technologies added enough bandwith to existing infrastructure so that the overhead of phone data is so small that it really doesn't make any difference if you talk 0% or 100% of the time. Power lines are different. We can't really push more power through existing lines regardless of improvements at distribution centers. They are taped out. We would have to upgrade the entier line or add a new one to increase availible power.

By moving to a flat rate, power companies would only exacerbate their major problem (load spikes) by disconecting the bill from the usage. Therefore the only way a flat subscription would work for residential users is if there was dynamic load leveling. So it could be that a flat subscription like you are talking about would require a smart grid to work.

As I said, I think a cell phone model is much better...My contract has peak and off-peak minutes. Unlimited off-peak and limited (and more expensive) on-peak. I could see paying a flat rate for x# of kilowatts (NOT KW/H).. Then have an added price for any load above the base (on a sliding scale as usage goes up). Under this plan a person COULD purchase a subscription to cover any possible load they could need OR they could do a much cheaper base-load of eat the overages.

D Tibbets
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Postby D Tibbets » Thu Oct 22, 2009 7:05 pm

clonan wrote:Even under a subscription service a smart grid may still be necessary.....
...In addition, most BFRs will probably be D-D fusion with a thermal cycle rather than PB11 with direct conversion. PB11 due to scaling requirements will need to be large plants 1+ GW to be economical. D-D plants can be much smaller 100-500 MW. Due to transmission costs, there aren't many places that a 1+ GW plant makes sense. Whereas 100-500 MW plants are MUCH smaller and could be brought in closer to the load, making them more economical in may situations.....


At the same time, there will always be load balancing issues. Currently the US power companies waste TRILLIONS in spare capacity a year to cover unexpected demand. This has absolutely nothing to do with variable power generation inherent in renewables. This will not change if BFRs replace all conventional Coal, Nuclear, Natural Gas and diesel power generation.....

Finally, renewables especially solar voltaic are dropping in price dramatically while at the same time, battery tech is improving fast making it cheaper to store power. As these trends continue, it is likely that an off the grid solar system could be cheaper than even a BFR pB11 plant for a low power single family home....


A couple of observations/ thoughts:

I'm not certain of the economies of D-D steam cycle costs vs P-B11 direct conversion costs. Producing raw P-B11 may be more costly than D-D raw power, but once the conversion efficiencies and conversion equipment costs are considered the playing field is leveled to a degree.. Outside the cost of the reactor itself, you need to consider the relative cost of the direct conversion approach veses the steam plant. And remember, with direct conversion, the raw power of the reactor can be less than 1/2 the raw power of the D-D reactor for the same final electrical output.

Having excess capacity to handle peak usage costs is nessisary, but so is having excess capacity to cover uncertainity in power aviablity from sources like solar and wind.

Costs of storage systems like batteries, while evolving, are very expensive. As a possibly relivant example, consider that the lithium batteries in an electric car might cost ~$30,000. Assume that is enough power for a house for two days of cloudy skies. Even disregarding replacement costs, that would mean a premiam of $30,000 per home.
For a million homes that would add up to a cost of $30 billion dollars. Lead acid batteries would be cheaper, but other issues like aviability, safty, enviormental concerns would need to bee addressed. Regional power storage methods like hot liquid sodium tanks, water towers, underground compressed air storage, etc may be less costly overall.

Conservation is very important in any discussion, but intrest in it seems to be intermittant, and generally limited to those who already have a surplus of resources. eg- buying a hybird could save you fuel money, if you happen to have $30,000 cash aviable plus the tradin value of your $5000 gas guzzling klunker. Actually depriving oneself throug turning down the thermostat during the winter, etc, seems like a good idea, so long as it is comeone else doing it.

Dan Tibbets
Last edited by D Tibbets on Fri Oct 23, 2009 6:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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