H/T to Nigel Reading of Asynsis design for a pointer to an interesting paper from 2010 by Derek Abbott: “Keeping the energy debate clean: How do we supply the world’s energy needs?” The paper discusses the scenario where fossil fuels are eventually becoming harder to extract and/or we need to conserve them for non-fuel use such as plastics production. Looking at the alternatives, Abbott concludes that solar plus liquid hydrogen is the way to go. Rather than solar PV, which uses lots of arsenic, he recommends dish collectors heating Stirling or Rankine engines, which have a longer life despite higher initial costs. Energy storage for night-time power would be via electrolysis of hydrogen from water. The spin-off benefit is liquid hydrogen as an automotive fuel.
On his calculation, it can be done at less expense than nuclear, when factoring in decommissioning costs and the costs of running vehicles on batteries charged by nuclear generated electricity. The paper takes under consideration long term energy strategy, calculating water usage and considering economies of scale. A worthwhile read.