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PostPosted: May 04, 2016 1:10 am 
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Solar is increasing exponentially, but its doing so from a very small market share.
The fact is solar is being under used in the places its better suited for (equatorial/tropical dry land) and its being overused in temperate climates where its not quite as useful.
Solar is also good in places with a lot of hydro (in this case its good for the hotter half of temperate climates).
Germany is one of the worst possible choices to do solar, so is northern USA.
And then we have the whole solar religion that pretends solar is perfect, and the anti solar people that pretend its useless. The truth is right in the middle, with neither side being honest.
In my Brazil solar could grow to over 1/3 of our total energy usage (or half of our electricity consumption), since we're both an equatorial+tropical country and he have plenty of big hydro. That also assumes a lot of battery electric cars (it has already been shown that a Nissan Leaf costs 1/4 as much per Km driven vs a similar gasoline car, half as much per Km vs a similar natural gas car, in cities with an EV incentive program cabs are migrating in droves to EVs). That's 75% savings in fuel, which are enough to fully offset the extra cost of the EV (right now its being imported, the incentives are to offset the massive import taxes we pay, Brazil is quite protectionist of its own car industry, local LEAF production is starting soon).
India is also putting Solar to great usage, since its a hot country with half equatorial, half tropical land.
We need more solar in all of Africa too, where its mostly tropical and equatorial climate.

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PostPosted: May 04, 2016 10:08 am 
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The optimum magnetic material for EV motors is the rare earth neodymium with iron and boron (NIB) where China has temporarily succeeded in their near total dominance of the rare earth markets--a serious rub with the Thorium Energy Alliance. Demand for more electric motors and dynamos demands neodymium; a fission product output of the Flibe Energy LFTR.

Thorium regulations impede REE production in the US as I understand it.

Discussions of solar and renewable production with advances in storage and distribution are relevant to the energy from thorium forum to the extent that they provide a contrast for clarifying how nuclear is superior for baseload power.

The performance of U-233 from thorium in the thermal spectrum (moderated) in the hot liquid phase at 1 atm is superior compared to any other immediately available fuel.

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Last edited by Tim Meyer on May 04, 2016 4:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: May 04, 2016 3:16 pm 
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macpacheco wrote:
Solar is increasing exponentially, but its doing so from a very small market share.

I totally agree and I explained in detail on how this might work in a previous post.

macpacheco wrote:
And then we have the whole solar religion that pretends solar is perfect, and the anti solar people that pretend its useless. The truth is right in the middle, with neither side being honest.

If we are going to be honest then the truth is not in the middle, it is skewed heavily to the side of uselessness. Solar power even under ideal conditions has a capacity factor of something like 30%, perhaps a few more percentage points for tracking panels. Solar power will never work at night, twilight output is minimal, and peak output is offset from peak demand. Solar power costs at least double of most any other power source and it's intermittency only adds to the cost by requiring storage, load shedding, and/or long power lines to get the power to where it can be used.

Solar power is the energy source of last resort. If someone has access to anything else solar power will lose. Solar power works for pocket calculators, communication satellites, and only a handful of other applications. Saying anything else is not being honest.

macpacheco wrote:
We need more solar in all of Africa too, where its mostly tropical and equatorial climate.

I've seen solar power put to good use in rural homes in many parts of the world. A common thing to so is have a set of solar panels, batteries, and LED lights so that school children can do their studying in the evening. I've seen people use solar panels to charge cell phones, which is also a good idea. However when those school children go to school the schoolhouse would be better served with a diesel generator. Solar power does not scale well, as power demand grows so does size and expense. At some point the size of the load will demand a set of solar panels and batteries so large that it would make economical sense to have a diesel generator instead.

As infrastructure grows these rural farm houses can get connected to grid power, at which point the solar panels become largely redundant.

I recall a physician in Africa explaining how he considers using solar power as suicidal. The solar panels and batteries he had for his clinic would only provide enough power for either the refrigerator or the lights in his examination room. He could not both see patients and keep his medicines cool. One might think that the answer is more solar panels, which I suppose would work. What would be cheaper and more reliable is a diesel generator. He was thankful for the solar panels but what he wanted was a generator. Without reliable power he could not serve the medical needs of his patients. He equated using oil as life but relying on solar power as suicide.

Say what you like about Brazil since you live there but when it comes to the needs of the people in Africa I think I'll listen to the people that live in Africa.

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PostPosted: May 04, 2016 9:37 pm 
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Kurt Sellner wrote:
Solar power is the energy source of last resort. If someone has access to anything else solar power will lose. Solar power works for pocket calculators, communication satellites, and only a handful of other applications. Saying anything else is not being honest.


You're being just as unfair with solar as most anti solar people.
You cherry pick a mix of off grid and on grid aspects where you can bash it.
A diesel generator might be cheaper in places where diesel is cheap and easy to get.
Most countries in the world tax fossil fuels heavily, like they should.
Here in Brazil we find diesel anywhere, but if you're off grid, solar+batteries is cheaper than generators even if using outdated lead acid batteries which last maybe 3 years. Just the diesel costs pay for the batteries. And the solar panels last for 25 years.
Use European fuel costs instead of USA costs and the math is quite different.
Besides, we MUST GET AWAY FROM FOSSIL FUELS.
Plus solar panel prices will continue to drop in price, there are no studies that even try to disprove this trend.
The analysis is that with every doubling in total solar installed base, solar panel costs drop by average 22%, so another 2.5 doublings and solar panels have dropped in price by half.
And Li ion cell costs continue to drop a little under 10% every year.

The Indian government already claim Solar is now cheaper than Coal in India ! Words of the Indian Energy minister !
Go argue with him instead of silly me. Yeah, ignore silly me, but try to argue with people investing billions on Solar.

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PostPosted: May 04, 2016 11:36 pm 
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macpacheco wrote:
You're being just as unfair with solar as most anti solar people.
You cherry pick a mix of off grid and on grid aspects where you can bash it.

I'm quite certain I gave examples of where solar power excels, in those cases solar power should certainly be used. Everywhere else it fails.

macpacheco wrote:
A diesel generator might be cheaper in places where diesel is cheap and easy to get.

Diesel fuel is cheap and easy to get in most every place in the world. Where it is not then use solar, wind, hydro, coal, wood, natural gas, or a stationary bicycle and an alternator.

macpacheco wrote:
Most countries in the world tax fossil fuels heavily, like they should.

What California has found out is that when fossil fuels are taxed heavily and subsidies are given to solar panels and electric cars their tax revenues suffer. Taxes should be used to fund government, not to motivate people to act on a popular opinion.

macpacheco wrote:
Here in Brazil we find diesel anywhere, but if you're off grid, solar+batteries is cheaper than generators even if using outdated lead acid batteries which last maybe 3 years. Just the diesel costs pay for the batteries. And the solar panels last for 25 years.

If that is true then go do solar. I'm not only not going to stop you I encourage you to do so. Use solar where it makes sense. That might make sense on your house where electric demands are low. In a house a person can easily do without air conditioning, or evening TV watching of the batteries are low but that is no way to run a factory, hospital, police station, school, or light rail system.

macpacheco wrote:
Use European fuel costs instead of USA costs and the math is quite different.

Again, taxes should be used to fund government and not to drive people to do as you wish. Also, taxes just move the money around it does not change the real cost of energy on society. If you tax fossil fuels so that they cost as much to the consumer as solar power then as people switch to solar power the government has to do with less tax revenue. That loss of tax revenue is reflected on society with less funds for things like roads and law enforcement. Cheap energy is why we enjoy the luxuries we have today, if we artificially impose a higher cost energy source on society then we all suffer for it.

macpacheco wrote:
Besides, we MUST GET AWAY FROM FOSSIL FUELS.

I agree, I just think the destination is different than yours. I see a future with cheap nuclear power, so cheap that coal and solar are largely driven from the market.

macpacheco wrote:
Plus solar panel prices will continue to drop in price, there are no studies that even try to disprove this trend.
The analysis is that with every doubling in total solar installed base, solar panel costs drop by average 22%, so another 2.5 doublings and solar panels have dropped in price by half.

I'm not going to argue with you about the future price of solar power, I wish to speak about what we should be doing now. Right now solar power is too expensive and unreliable to bother with excepting rare cases. Right now nuclear power is cheap, safe, reliable, and plentiful. I believe society can be much better off if we stop using government funds to prop up the solar power industry and use that money to staff the NRC with enough people that we can license a new nuclear reactor every week in the USA.

Also, your claim about the falling price of solar power assumes that the price of nuclear power will be stagnant. It should not be a surprise that if we see a renewed interest in nuclear power that the price to build a nuclear power plant could also fall. Any claim about the future price of solar power is meaningless without also giving predictions about the relative cost of its competition.

macpacheco wrote:
And Li ion cell costs continue to drop a little under 10% every year.

That is irrelevant for the grid storage that we are discussing. There is simply not enough lithium to go around to build up grid storage from Li-ion batteries.

macpacheco wrote:
The Indian government already claim Solar is now cheaper than Coal in India ! Words of the Indian Energy minister !
Go argue with him instead of silly me. Yeah, ignore silly me, but try to argue with people investing billions on Solar.

First, good for them. I would love to see them succeed in replacing coal with clean solar energy. But what tends to happen with falling demand is falling prices. If demand for coal falls then the price will lower to match.

Second, getting cheaper than coal is certainly a milestone to celebrate but there are other means to get energy. In the USA we saw natural gas prices fall. Since energy is energy this has had the effect of making gasoline cheaper too, also coal, wood, and so on. For solar power to achieve the 1/3rd of energy production like you claim it can we'd have to see solar get cheaper than nuclear power too.

Third. any advancement in storage technology helps all energy sources equally. If we can store the solar power peak for use at night then we can use the base load coal produced at night to meet daytime demands. Getting solar power cheaper than coal is nice but with a capacity factor that is 1/3rd of coal just means that solar power needs to be 1/3rd the price of coal to compete. Those grid storage batteries cost money. With a coal or nuclear power plant that can run at peak output for 24 hours per day I can pay off that capital expense of the grid storage in 1/3rd the time that I could with solar panels that produce peak output for 8 hours per day.

While solar power gets cheaper so does everything else. Grid level storage can help the price and intermittency of solar but grid level storage can help out any other power source just as well. There are many reasons that we should not be burning fossil fuels but also many more reasons why we should. Until solar power can lower its price it will remain a very small fraction of our grid power. Should solar power get cheap enough to replace coal then it will dominate on its own due to market forces, trying to make solar cheaper artificially through regulation, taxes, and subsidies only hurts society.

The future may bring us a solar powered society but until that happens silly me will agree with that African physician that solar power is suicide.

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PostPosted: May 05, 2016 9:31 am 
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macpacheco wrote:
Besides, we MUST GET AWAY FROM FOSSIL FUELS.
If the sCO2 Allam Cycle run by NET Power in La Porte, TX, is successful next year followed by their x5 scale-up, and then wedded to the new coal processing by 2020, people can begin to sequester 100% of the CO2 and burn coal for . . . a few hundred years more? The NET Power pilot will burn NG by the Allam Cycle with Toshiba's sCO2 turbomachine. STAYING on fossil fuels (buoyed up by a reasonably affordable fair climate impact tax) with carbon sequestration technology such as sCO2 Allam Cycle buys the pioneers of wise energy technologies ample time to develop and deploy fluid-fueled nuclear power that incorporates chemical processing for purifying fission products to supply precious elements for high-tech industry and nuclear medicine out of liquid reactor waste streams reducing nuclear wastes overall.

To cast these energy technology observations in context of energy from thorium, renewables are anticipated to supply 25% or perhaps better of total demand for power up through 2035. Fossil baseload energy will continue to deliver what the existing nuclear fleet doesn't meet. If Terrestrial Energy's IMSR runs, it will pave the way for commercial-scale dissolved nuclear fluid-fueled reactors in a movement away from solid-fueled nuclear power. Meantime, EPRI just evaluated the Flibe Energy LFTR last October.

macpacheco wrote:
Go argue with him instead of silly me. Yeah, ignore silly me, but try to argue with people investing billions on Solar.
Like Boeing-SpectroLab, PG&E, JAXA, ESA EADS-Astrium? Energy technologies are a group effort in the highest stakes game in human history. Civil manners are better for staying focused on our common goals: avoidance of the inadvertent collapse of earth ecosystems from human technological impacts, re-balancing our earth carbon cycle, the energy budget, and human water works.

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PostPosted: May 05, 2016 9:55 am 
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Kurt Sellner wrote:
I believe society can be much better off if we stop using government funds to prop up the solar power industry and use that money to staff the NRC with enough people that we can license a new nuclear reactor every week in the USA.
Kurt: I like your observations and experience with this forum. On your point here discussing solar again versus nuclear especially with respect to the US NRC and DOE, if you would, please, there is the US Senate Bill S.2795. I wonder what your views on it would be. Could you please read it and comment at the thread I posted? That'd be great!

"Political, Industrial, Organizational Developments" on the main Board index » General Nuclear Discussion:

S.2795 - Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act

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PostPosted: May 05, 2016 7:12 pm 
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Kurt Sellner wrote:
macpacheco wrote:
And Li ion cell costs continue to drop a little under 10% every year.

That is irrelevant for the grid storage that we are discussing. There is simply not enough lithium to go around to build up grid storage from Li-ion batteries.

From: An increasingly precious metal, the US has 5.5 million tonnes of Li reserves.

The ORNL MSBR salt inventory was about 30 tonnes of Li. If I got the rough numbers correct, there appears to be plenty of lithium for LFTR salt inventories.

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PostPosted: May 05, 2016 9:46 pm 
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Tim Meyer wrote:
Kurt Sellner wrote:
macpacheco wrote:
And Li ion cell costs continue to drop a little under 10% every year.

That is irrelevant for the grid storage that we are discussing. There is simply not enough lithium to go around to build up grid storage from Li-ion batteries.

From: An increasingly precious metal, the US has 5.5 million tonnes of Li reserves.

The ORNL MSBR salt inventory was about 30 tonnes of Li. If I got the rough numbers correct, there appears to be plenty of lithium for LFTR salt inventories.


Li Ion batteries are named after Lithium because it plays a very important part in them, not because they are heavily needed.
A 1 ton Li Ion battery pack has perhaps 10Kg of Lithium. That's for 100kWh worth of storage. Or 100Kg per MWh worth of storage.
100 thousand tonnes of Lithium = 1TWh worth of batteries, and the Lithium is fully recycleable.
One million tonnes = 10TWh worth of batteries. Enough for 100 million cars using large high end batteries. Average will be closer to 50kWh per car, or enough to make 200 million cars.
If we go full throttle on BEVs, just the cars themselves might be all the storage we need. Just give electricity discounts for charging done when the grid has surplus electricity. The USA generates something in the order of half a TW worth of electricity, so even if we take a mere 25% as available to use excess production when needed, that's about 5hrs worth of full electricity production at peak.

Besides, Lithium isn't the end of Chemical batteries. There are plenty of alternatives being researched. And a few patents have been bought and put away to prevent chemical batteries from killing fossil fuels. (flow batteries, supercapacitors, graphene batteries).

Plus Lithium is a very common element in the cycle that creates elements in the universe. Its very likely the case of we only found 5.5 million tonnes of Li reserves because we're not really looking for it. Otherwise you must give up on your claim about Uranium not being scarse for the very same reason.

And all of that ignores the fact that every year the industry figures out how to increase the kWh / kg and kWh / $$$, meaning the same weight of Lithium is now more storage.

So I think you owe me an apology for being wrong.

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PostPosted: May 06, 2016 7:10 am 
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Are people really going to tolerate being paid a pittance to wake up and find that there car is discharged and unable to get them to work?
Or unable to get them home from work?

And what about all the people who don't have off road parking?
And the multiple cycles inherent in such a process is going to destroy the cycle lifetime of the battery rather rapidly.

It will never be cheaper than pumped storage, which comes out at something like $40/kWh.

Additionally, using EV batteries requires energy to pass three times through the low voltage network, which is where the bulk of all losses in electricity transmission and distribution occur.
This will cause huge losses and crush your round trip efficiency.


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PostPosted: May 06, 2016 7:34 am 
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V2G is probably a non-starter. These are highly optimised batteries - for weight, not cost or cycle times.

Much more likely is that you arrive home, plug the car in, and then tell it when you need it next "I need it charged at 7am". It will then negotiate the best time to download the electricity. Perhaps it will pause charging during the super bowl ad-break.

Home heating may do the same, and effectively result in a flat demand curve on a week by week basis.


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PostPosted: May 06, 2016 7:49 am 
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macpacheco wrote:
So I think you owe me an apology for being wrong.


No, I don't.
http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/201 ... d-battery/

That article I linked to above does the math on a nation sized lead acid battery. Such a battery would require 5 trillion kg of lead.

But that's lead and you think we can go with lithium-ion so let's do some math on that. That article estimates a national average power consumption rate of 3TW, and getting 2TW if we use more efficient electric motors instead of heat engines. Your 10TWh li-ion battery could run the nation for maybe five hours, that would not last the night. It would also require an enormous expense in materials and maintenance, and an electrical grid capable of delivering that power where needed to charge and discharge these batteries.

Assuming this nation sized battery is free, which it obviously is not, we still have to contend with the fact that current solar power costs 2 or 3 times what current nuclear power costs, and I'm being generous. Just due to costs we'd be better off using nuclear power to charge this battery than solar power. Even if we allow wind to charge this battery we'd still have a similar cost of being double what nuclear costs. What we have now for peak power is natural gas, which is on parity with wind and solar on cost, but we can turn it on and off as we choose. Wind and solar can only provide power when the wind blows and sun shines.

I will concede that it is quite likely theoretically possible to build enough batteries to store the power required to run the world on renewable energy. The problem is the cost. Renewable energy sources just cost too much, and if you add in the cost of the batteries required to make up for their intermittency then the costs become unbearable. Any claims of future developments that can lower the costs of these renewable energy sources and the batteries assumes that the cost of nuclear power will not also achieve similar gains.

If at some future time we see solar power so cheap that it can replace nuclear power then I will say we should all use solar power. We've seen almost miraculous gains in efficiencies and cost reductions to produce solar power but I believe we've hit some very real physical limits and we will not see those gains continue.

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PostPosted: May 06, 2016 8:06 am 
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alexterrell wrote:
Much more likely is that you arrive home, plug the car in, and then tell it when you need it next "I need it charged at 7am". It will then negotiate the best time to download the electricity. Perhaps it will pause charging during the super bowl ad-break.

I have to wonder how many people would be happy with that. I remember growing up on the farm and we needed our vehicles to run at max capacity on short notice. Living far from police and ambulance services meant that in an emergency we'd likely have to drive to meet them. If the cattle got loose in the middle of the night we'd need the truck to go round them up.

Even city dwellers would need reliable transportation. First responders will likely be on station, hanging out in the fire station barracks or whatever, but their reserves are at home in bed. If there is a call then the first responders go and the reserves come from home to take their place. What happens in a wide spread power outage? We still have those you know. If the power goes out in the middle of the night, which is when that usually happens, then a lot of people will be unable to go to work, including the people tasked with repairing those lines.

Until electric vehicles can match the storage capacity of a fossil fueled vehicle they will not replace them. That means a range of 300 miles on a single charge. Charge times on the order of 5 minutes. Keeping a charge for days or even weeks at a time.

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PostPosted: May 06, 2016 9:17 am 
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How many people really need to get up in teh middle of the night anyway?
And most batteries will not be deeply discharged every day.
People only drive a few miles a day on average, at least in the UK.
Even a Leaf has a ~100 mi range, something like a Tesla monster has far more.

I have considered an electricity tarrif where the consumer contracts for a certain number of kilowatt hours, to be delivered between specified hours (2200-0700 for example), but at a rate to be determined by the utility.
The electricity would be very cheap, encouraging people to have their cars plugged in by 2200.
The utility would signal the car chargers (or storage heaters, or indeed hot water cylinders) using a standard like IEC 61334 or similar. It could example provide 10-bit control of charging rate, giving it the ability to alter demand in ~0.1% steps. It would only have to offer the power, the consumer still decides whether to accept it (the storage heaters or car batteries might be full) however the offer discharges the utilities responsibility.

That way it can finely tune the demand from the car chargers etc. (within the contracted restrictions), using it as a rapidly sheddable dump load to keep the grid in balance.


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PostPosted: May 06, 2016 10:59 am 
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This is an excellent discussion!

On topic, the answer is that solar energy use may be increasing exponentially but the nature of its energy technology means it can meet only a portion in the total energy picture. For transportation, ~20% of total energy demand.

Intermittency brought up lithium-ion energy storage that overlaps in demand for lithium (highly depleted) that will come from the Flibe Energy LFTR being developed by Kirk Sorensen once it's licensed and operating.

Lithium and EV energy systems split off into the displacement of the standard fluid-fueled transportation fleet. DOE Director, Dr. Moniz--I'm growing my hair out--said more or less that the superb energy density and that it's in the liquid state is very difficult to out-perform when it comes to transportation energy.

Is this a sublime irony for the nature of this forum observing a move to solids in place of liquids in transportation energy technology to intercept a carbon flow in the earth carbon cycle? Moving nuclear energy into the fluid phase by the superior performance and benefits of certain molten salts is a major aspect of this forum in favor of this Gen IV design for advanced nuclear power on the horizon.

Using thorium thermal energy on ultra-large scale, oceanic carbonate combined with sequestered carbonate from Allam Cycle (sCO2 turbos) delivered from fossil power plants can be reduced by hydrogen electrolyzed from water for synthesizing standard ASTM fluid fuels while moving to pumped-storage reservoirs grand volumes of fresh water ripped from the sea; Archimedes' thorium lever for partial terraforming in the home carbon cycle. Burning through that much thorium at such a massive plant would give economy-of-scale benefits to a number of highly useful and necessary systems--especially security; another would be a fission products processing plant to isolate, purify, and thereby supply the precious, vital, and strategic materials markets.

So asking a question about the future of solar and the rate of its growth in a forum that was begun because thorium is a million times more energy dense than more than just hydrocarbon fuels--and the best way to get at thorium energy is nearing full development and readiness for demonstration and deployment--helps to illustrate our central thesis and is an example of a productive discussion in a forum consisting of amazingly talented scientist-engineers who care about the world we leave to the generations of lovely people who take our place here in glorious Creation/accident--take your pick but either way it's magnificent.

And the highest performing salt happens to be the LiF-BeF2 system that Materion is aching to supply. Lithium supply is ample to meet the new demand for the best salt. Kirk predicts they'll be getting the business. I'm reading his masters thesis from May, 2014, "Thorium Research in the Manhattan Project Era" (University of Tennessee - Knoxville). Soon, I believe his LFTR design will win the day.

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