After nearly 40 years managing money for some of the largest life offices and investment managers in the world, I think I have something to offer. These days I'm retired, and I can't by law give you advice. While I do make mistakes, I try hard to do my analysis thoroughly, and to make sure my data are correct (old habits die hard!) Also, don't ask me why I called it "Volewica". It's too late, now.

BTW, clicking on most charts will produce the original-sized, i.e., bigger version.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Price tag for Vogtle reactors surges past $30 billion


Once estimated at more than $14 billion, the price tag for two new reactors at Georgia Power Company’s Plant Vogtle site has now climbed past $30 billion, and both units will be more than six years late in coming online, according to a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

The Georgia Public Service Commission staff and its nuclear consultants have attributed the project’s massive cost overruns and repeated delays to Georgia Power’s adoption of unreasonable and unachievable construction schedules, as well as its attempts to achieve the schedules at any cost. The issues have been blamed on a corporate culture that values production over quality; poor or non-existent quality inspections; high personnel turnover; and high testing failure rates for an unproven reactor design.

“The company was warned back in 2008 that using a new unproven reactor design from Westinghouse for the new Vogtle reactors was likely to lead to cost overruns and major schedule delays,” said David Schlissel, the report’s author and IEEFA’s director of resource planning and analysis. “However, the company challenged and the commission disregarded these warnings.”

Last year was difficult for the Vogtle project. Even though the project costs have risen rapidly, the projected online date has slipped over the last year at a rate of roughly one month per calendar month of work. As of January 2021, Georgia Power estimated it would need $2.5 billion more to finish building the new reactors. However, after spending $1.9 billion during the first nine months of the year, it increased its estimate for completing the job to almost $2.7 billion.

“There is clear evidence that Vogtle 3 and 4 will be very expensive sources of power,” Schlissel said. “Our analysis found the costs of power from Vogtle 3 and 4 will be five times as expensive as the same amount of electricity obtained from renewable sources, such as a solar-plus-battery-storage facility.”

But Georgia’s utility customers won’t only be paying for the new Vogtle units for the 60 years after they go into service. Customers have already paid more than $3.5 billion in financing costs for the project since 2011, or more than 11 years before either of the new units will produce any electricity for them. The public service commission staff expects the figure will grow to $4 billion by the time the two units are completed.

“Georgia Power has repeatedly misled the public service commission and its staff about the project’s likely cost and schedule and the costs to customers will be extremely high,” Schlissel said. “The commission denied rate recovery for $951 million of the cost overruns at Vogtle 1 and 2; it should deny rate recovery for a much larger share of the far more expensive Vogtle 3 and 4.”

It isn't just Vogtle 3 & 4.  Large GW-scale nuclear power stations are everywhere over budget and delayed.

Germany installs 2 GW of onshore wind

 From ReNEWS

Germany installed just shy of 2GW of new onshore wind capacity in 2021, according to figures published by Deutsche WindGuard and VDMA Power Systems.

The 1925MW of capacity built in 2021 comprised 484 turbines, resulting in 35% growth compared with 2020’s installation figure of 1431MW.

VDMA Power Systems managing director Dennis Rendeschmidt said: “The expansion is increasing, but only regionally and overall at too low a pace.

“That is why the concrete measures for accelerated expansion mentioned in the immediate programme by Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck are absolutely necessary.

“Two percent of the land area is required in each federal state as a minimum basis for the expansion of wind energy in Germany.”

For 2022 the associations expect an expansion of 2.3GW to 2.7GW on the basis of an evaluation of projects that have already been awarded and the speed of implementation of tendering systems to date.

They stated: “Regulated processes in the supply chains, simplified and plannable transport permits, the upgrading of the transport infrastructure and the flexible availability of labour are of high relevance in order to achieve higher expansion targets.”

In 2021, Germany installed 5.3 GW of solar.  Its total installed electricity capacity in 2020 was 218 GW, and 50.5% of production was from renewable sources

Source: Wikipedia

Ola production zips past 1000 e-scooters/day

 From Electrek

Despite running into initial delays, Ola has significantly ramped up production of its high-speed smart electric scooters. Now the Indian company says it will be opening up a new payment window soon to complete more orders of its Ola S1 and S1 Pro electric scooters.

Those scooters have made waves in the industry for their combination of high performance and low prices.

Confirmation from the CEO that the scooters would be heading towards the export market this year has stoked international anticipation as well.

Ola’s electric scooters offer a maximum speed of 115 km/h (71 mph) yet start at an affordable INR 99,999 (approximately US $1,350).

Ola originally intended to deliver the first scooters several months ago, but deliveries only began in December after production delays.

Production rates appeared to have soared though, as the company boasted a daily rate of nearly 1,000 scooters at the beginning of the year.

The scooters are produced in a megafactory known as the Ola Futurefactory. It has an intended designed capacity of two million electric scooters per year, or around 5,500 per day.

Plans include expanding the production capacity of the entirely female-run factory to upwards of 10 million electric scooters per year.

Now that production appears to be ramping up, Ola has announced plans to open a new window for payments.

Reservation holders that have laid down 20,000 INR (approximately US $270) will be able to make a final payment starting Jan 21. CEO Bhavish Aggarwal confirmed that those deliveries would occur over January and February.

I wrote a piece on two- and three-wheelers in India here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Flipping burgers


What a week


Breakthrough technology purifies water using sunlight

 From EurekaAlert (with hat tip to GrandesMedios, where I first saw the report about it)

Source: GrandesMedios

A global research team has been able to transform brackish water and seawater into safe, clean drinking water in less than 30 minutes using metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and sunlight.

In a discovery that could provide potable water for millions of people across the world, researchers were not only able to filter harmful particles from water and generate 139.5L of clean water per kilogram of MOF per day, but also perform this task in a more energy-efficient manner than current desalination practices.

The World Health Organization suggests good quality drinking water should have a total dissolved solid (TDS) of <600 parts per million (ppm). Researchers were able to achieve a TDS of <500 ppm in just 30 minutes and regenerate the MOF for reuse in four minutes under sunlight.

This world-first research was published in the prestigious journal Nature Sustainability.

Lead author Professor Huanting Wang from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Monash University in Australia, said this work opened up a new direction for designing stimuli-responsive materials for energy-efficient and sustainable desalination and water purification.

"Desalination has been used to address escalating water shortages globally. Due to the availability of brackish water and seawater, and because desalination processes are reliable, treated water can be integrated within existing aquatic systems with minimal health risks," Professor Wang said.

"But, thermal desalination processes by evaporation are energy-intensive, and other technologies, such as reverse osmosis, has a number of drawbacks, including high energy consumption and chemical usage in membrane cleaning and dechlorination.

"Sunlight is the most abundant and renewable source of energy on Earth. Our development of a new adsorbent-based desalination process through the use of sunlight for regeneration provides an energy-efficient and environmentally-sustainable solution for desalination."

Metal-organic frameworks are a class of compounds consisting of metal ions that form a crystalline material with the largest surface area of any material known. In fact, MOFs are so porous that they can fit the entire surface of a football field in a teaspoon.

The research team created a dedicated MOF called PSP-MIL-53. This was synthesised by introducing poly(spiropyran acrylate) (PSP) into the pores of MIL-53 - a specialised MOF well-known for its breathing effects and transitions upon the adsorption of molecules such as water and carbon dioxide.

Researchers demonstrated that PSP-MIL-53 was able to yield 139.5L of fresh water per kilogram of MOF per day, with a low energy consumption. This was from desalinating 2,233 ppm water sourced from a river, lake or aquifer.

Professor Wang said this highlights the durability and sustainability of using this MOF for future clean water solutions.

"This study has successfully demonstrated that the photoresponsive MOFs are a promising, energy-efficient, and sustainable adsorbent for desalination," Professor Wang said.

"Our work provides an exciting new route for the design of functional materials for using solar energy to reduce the energy demand and improve the sustainability of water desalination.

"These sunlight-responsive MOFs can potentially be further functionalised for low-energy and environmentally-friendly means of extracting minerals for sustainable mining and other related applications."

The anti-science crowd can take a bow.  Once again, science and technology have found a solution to a real problem, have found a way to improve people's lives.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Boosters work

 From a Twitter post by Edouard  Mathieu, Head of Data at Our World In Data

Update: Switzerland now reports deaths by booster status.

Compared to unvaccinated people, the COVID mortality rate is:

• 9x lower after full vaccination

• 48x lower after a booster

Note that this is the weekly death rate