Now what will T. Boone Pickens do?

Murphy’s Law in Action – Which to choose? Save the bats or save the planet? This presents an environmental quandary. – Anthony

Wind Turbines Give Bats the “Bends,” Study Finds

Brian Handwerk

 

for National Geographic News

August 25, 2008

Wind turbines can kill bats without touching them by causing a bends-like condition due to rapidly dropping air pressure, new research suggests. Scientists aren’t sure why, but bats are attracted to the turbines, which often stand 300 feet (90 meters) high and sport 200-foot (60-meter) blades.

The mammals’ curiosity can result in lethal blows by the rotors, which spin at a rate of about 160 miles (260 kilometers) per hour.

But scientist Erin Baerwald and colleagues report that only about half of the bat corpses they found near Alberta, Canada, turbine bases showed any physical evidence of being hit by a blade.

A surprising 90 percent showed signs of internal hemorrhaging—evidence of a drop in air pressure near the blades that causes fatal damage to the bats’ lungs.

In humans, the condition is called the bends and can affect divers and airplane passengers during ascents and descents.

(Related story: “Military Sonar May Give Whales the Bends, Study Says” [October 1, 2003])

The “Bends”

“As a turbine blade goes around, it creates lift—like an airplane’s wings—and there is a small zone of [dropping] pressure, maybe a meter or so in diameter, on the tips of the blades,” explained Baerwald, a doctoral candidate at the University of Calgary, in Alberta.

“Bats fly through this area, and their lungs expand, and the fine capillaries around the edges of the lungs burst.”

The bats’ lungs subsequently fill with fluid, and the animals essentially drown.

“We compare it to divers—they are pretty much dying of the bends,” Baerwald said.

Bats have no natural defense against the unnaturally dramatic pressure changes.

“Bats can actually detect pressure changes, but we’re talking large-scale, relatively slow changes, like the coming of a storm front,” said Baerwald. “This is something entirely different.”

Most bats that fall victim to turbines are migrating species, such as hoary bats, eastern red bats, and silver-haired bats.

There are not enough data to determine how wind turbine fatalities might be affecting populations of these slow-reproducing mammals.

Birds are also killed by blows from wind turbine rotors (see a related story), but their rigid, tubelike lungs can better withstand air pressure changes.

The study appears this week in the journal Current Biology.

Curiosity Killed the Bat

“They are the first to have done a large scale look at this [damage to the bat lungs],” Bat Conservation International (BCI) biologist Ed Arnett said of the researchers.

“It’s fascinating information,” said Arnett, who is not involved with the study.

“But ultimately it might not matter so much how [the bats] die but what is attracting them to the turbines in the first place.”

Preventing the bat deaths has challenged experts for years.

“We’ve partnered with industry and federal agencies to raise and spend about two million dollars looking for a solution,” said BCI founder and president Merlin Tuttle.

Laurie Jodziewicz, of the American Wind Energy Association in Washington, D.C., said where the turbines are placed may be the key.

“Bats are not being [killed] at all the wind projects all over the country—it is happening in some places and not others,” she said.

“We’re trying to determine before construction what areas might be risky.”

Turbines create drops in pressure drop during normal operations, so the problem could possibly be addressed by changing when the turbines run, according to BCI’s Tuttle.

“A large portion of the kills occur at the lowest wind speeds,” he said, “and at those low speeds [the turbines] are not generating appreciable electricity anyway.”

Bats also are at particular risk during migration periods in late summer and early fall, when many turbine related fatalities occur.

Arnett, Baerwald, and others are currently conducting tests to see if raising the “cut-in” wind speed at which rotors begin to turn will save bats—particularly during peak migration periods.

“It won’t eliminate the problem, but it’s a good step in the right direction,” Tuttle said.

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158 thoughts on “Now what will T. Boone Pickens do?

  1. Just pust some high frequency noise generating thing-a-ma-bob on the wind generator that drives the bats away.

  2. At first I though Pickens had “bats in his belfry” when he first announced his plans for a mega wind farm. But as things unfolded, this shrewd manipulator has shown us once again that the public can be be “had” through scares and innuendo.

    Jack Koenig, Editor
    The Mysterious Climate Project
    http://www.climateclinic.com

  3. Just pust some high frequency noise generating thing-a-ma-bob on the wind generator that drives the bats away.

    Like wind chimes?

  4. Your subtitle says this is an environmental quandary, but for a true environmentalist, it is not. Since bats are a part of pure beautiful nature, and humans are a virus, the answer is easy, we must all die, or live in caves like bears, with no power sources at all.

    You might think I am being too harsh on the environmentalist, but then you have not read Paul Watson (http://www.seashepherd.org/editorials/editorial_070504_1.html)

  5. From the article: “But ultimately it might not matter so much how [the bats] die but what is attracting them to the turbines in the first place.”

    Observation from when I was a kid: In the twilight of the day when the bats were coming out for dinner, we’d throw rocks into the air and the bats would follow them down. The best we could tell, the bat’s radar system thought the rock was food.

    Could it be that bats think the moving turbine blades are swarms of insects?

  6. Anthony, notwithstanding the designs that T. Boone has on the U. S. Treasury via subsidies, one has to consider the usefulness of the bats (excepting those bats in Washington, D. C.) to Nature as opposed to the esthetic value of millions of turbines beautifying the countryside and disruption in the environment resulting from their construction and interconnection.

    My vote is for the non-politician bats.

    There are currently 15,000 turbines in California – Tehachapi, Altoona and another location which I do not remember – which supply a whopping 1% of California’s electricity needs.

    Bats and birds are the least of the environmental damage that would ensue from T. Boone’s quest for another billion dollars.

    What part of the planet is the T. Boone-Pelosi duo going to save. It does not sound like it includes the United States of America.

  7. Like wind chimes?

    ——-

    More like those sirens that are supposed to keep deer from crashing into your car.

  8. This isn’t the first “environmental quandary” to hit the fan, so to speak. I’ve been wondering*, for quite some time, why the mainstream EnviroLoons™ haven’t jumped all over T. Boone, Gorebot, Hansen and all of the other Glow Bull Worming™ freaks for their remarkable lack of “caring” about the avian death toll that will result from hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of wind turbines being erected all across North America.

    For years now, incredibly large numbers of migratory birds, including protected birds of prey, have been being Cuisinart’d™ by the spinning blades of wind turbines. In fact, it was a scant four and a half years ago that the Center for Biological Diversity sued the owners of a wind turbine farm in the Altamont Pass, FP &L, for just doing exactly what their fellow EnviroLoons had forced them to do— building wind turbines as an “alternative energy to fossil fuels”.

    Where are those howls of indignation and protestation, now that the Obamessiah has jumped on the windmill bandwagon? * Crickets chirping*

    Just imagine the lawsuits that are coming down the pike when hundreds of thousands of square miles of “pristine desert” are slated for “efficient solar electricity farms”. (Reeeeal efficient when it’s nighttime, raining or cloudy. Back-up systems [Read: Oil, gas or coal] will still be need to be built, maintained and staffed for just such contingencies and, as anyone who’s even vaguely familiar with large-scale power generation systems knows, they don’t like to be brought up, shut down, brought up, shut down…)

    *—(I’m not really “wondering”. I know the answer. It’s because they don’t want to be cut out of The Great Goreacle’s™ Glow Bull Worming Carbon Credit Ponzi Scheme™ profits.)

    My new motto: “Think Globally, Drill Locally!”

  9. There’s speculation in these parts that Picken’s real motivation isn’t wind, but water. He’s been wanting to pump the Ogallala for years, and sell it to DFW. He recently got the Tx utilities board to grant him the electricity users of Tx paying the multibillion $ of transmission lines, and oh, by the way, he’s going to put the water line on that ROW as well. In the coming years, as the DFW population continues to expand, that water is going to be worth a lot more than the little bit of electricity he can generate. Oh, and also, he created a local water district that consists of a board controlled by the eight people that live in the area he will be pumping from: family members, and employees of his. Just coincidence, of course.

  10. Nuclear power was supposed to make electricity too cheap to meter. When was it exactly, that Americans lost their nerve with regard to progress? France gets 80% of her electricity from nuclear power plants.
    Vive la France!

  11. bikermailman (16:21:38) wrote: “There’s speculation in these parts that Picken’s real motivation isn’t wind, but water.”

    This is fascinating! Is there any information out there to support this?

    Jack Koenig, Editor
    The Mysterious Climate Project
    http://www.climateclinic.com

  12. What sane person could possibly have a ‘quandary’ weighing up the welfare of bats vers humans? And what do we mean save the planet? Is it epxected to go somewhere? Or is global warming expected to vapourise x squillion tonnes of rock?

    I hate cliches.

  13. So if we move into caves, won’t that disturb the bats’ environment? But you all are missing the real danger.

    The turbines are attached to the ground. The wind pushing on all those turbines will cause the rotation rate of the Earth to speed up, making all our clocks run slow. In addition, this rotation increase will affect the moon/ocean tide system, causing the moon’s distance from us to increase more rapidly, at least 3 to 6 degrees C over the next century, which will lessen its gravitational influence on the tides, which will disturb the El Niño and who knows what that will do to the climate. My computer simulation graphs show a rapid departure from the norm, resembling a hockey stick.

    We can’t afford to wait. We must do something now. Anything.

  14. This ought to be driving Mr. Pickens batty !!

    Not only are the windmills killing birds, they’re also killing bats. Break out the Environmental Impact studies. Let’s tax people more so that greater subsidies can be given to wind farm operators so they can enclose their wind farms in screening to protect birds and bats. What other loony ideas can environmentalists come up with?

    Just look at the site JB (15:00:02) cited above:

    http://www.seashepherd.org/editorials/editorial_070504_1.html

    I don’t know about you, but that sort of vision of living (and dying) in harmony with nature’s not for me.

    And for anyone wondering about the roots of AGW, check out this piece from the Fall 2007 issue of 21st Century Science and Technology. Quit blaming Maggie Thatcher; it was another Maggie that got the ball rolling on this scam:

    That’s enough depressing reading for one evening. But first, here’s another depressing thought to dampen your Monday evening — if any of your friends or neighbors have solar panels or wind mills, those are there thanks to your tax dollars being put to work with half the cost of those individual projects being paid for with subsidies from the state. The question I’ve never seen answered is, will those structures still be working in the 30 years it takes for them to begin paying off the the initial cost of the project? Never see that little detail mentioned in the MSM’s little puff pieces on how to be environmentally responsible. But that, after all, is a question only a real journalist would raise.

  15. Maybe someday enviromentalists will learn that there are trade offs in everything you do. First they want wind power, now its bad…when does it end?

  16. Steven Milloy at Junkscience.com has several items on T.Bone’s plans.

    I have a question: Windmills take some energy out of the wind (duh). What effect does that have? Slowing the wind down has to change something. Since winds mostly blow from west to east, it could speed the earth’s rotation up, but it would take NIST’s 10^-18 resolution to detect it.

    Dead birds, dead bats. Perhaps the Law of Unintended Consequences has reappeared.

  17. They’ve taken our dams.
    They’ve taken our nuclear plants.
    They’ve taken our coal plants.
    Now they’re going to take our windmills.

    They will not be happy until we’re riding horses and living in caves again…

  18. Wyatt A (17:23:43) wrote: “Jack, Back in April this article was in the Dallas Morning News”

    Thanks for taking the trouble of finding it, Wyatt!

    Jack “McGrats” Koenig

  19. I love to be nit picky but this one is too easy.

    What the bats apparently suffer is ‘pneumothorax’ caused by a sudden reduction of pressure allowing pressure in the lung to over inflate and rupture tissue. Similar to SCUBA divers breathing compressed air and ascending without exhaling.

    Bends on the other hand is gases, namely nitrogen, entrained in the blood under pressure and expanding into bubbles causing random damage to muscle and nerve tissue. This could happen to bats if they went to more than eighty thousand feet for an extended period of time but would not be expressed in the lungs.

  20. “They will not be happy until we’re riding horses and living in caves again…”

    Did serfs ride horses?

  21. In the 1950 we used to put a weight on fishing line pole, with a patch of cloth on the end. We would whirl it around, and the bats would follow, the weighted line and cloth target. Once we put a hook on the line. What do you do with a bat on the end of a fishing line, you hope he gets off on his own.

    Life is full of unintended consequences, and this is just one of them. Thinking people do the analysis where as the feelers just plunge forward because it feels good. And, then we deal with the consequences.

    Require all the windmill operators to have bat grave yard at the base of each tower. The Democrats have set us on the road to 20 percent wind power and millions of dead bats, we are going to need place to put them, so make it part of the program. Dead bat vaults at the base of each tower.

  22. He is describing a pulmonary embolism, not so much the “bends”…

    It would be more analogous with a diver holding their breath whilst ascending rapidly…… The gas expands in their lungs as the outside pressure drops, thus rupturing the lungs and capillaries …. The same seems to be happening to the bats as per the description.

    While the “bends”, is the formation of bubbles in the bloodstream as excess dissolved nitrogen disassociates out of solution, due to a rapid decompression. It is not always the case, in this instance that a pulmonary embolism occurs… The bubbles can accumulate in many areas.

    …. and after all this….. Windpower is a waste of time. Whether it kills bats or not.

  23. Here’s another danger of wind farms too few people are aware of.

    From the National Weather Service

    “…A wind farm near a WSR-88D [weather radar] site typically causes ground clutter that cannot be. suppressed with current clutter suppression techniques. …”

    A massive increase in wind power generation, such as Pickens is pushing, will lead to extensive interference with doppler weather radar operations.

    If there are as many wind farms as T. Boone wants, severe storms can and will be “lost in the clutter,” leading to a failure of weather warnings, leading to damage, injury and loss of life.

  24. Wind Turbines should be a huge problem for conservationists and environmentalists, but T. Boone is neither which is why he is trying to build a pipeline to drain the Ogallala to water lawns in Dallas.

    T. Boone is old, very old and very rich so its not like he needs the money. From what I understand he intends to ive his money away after he dies rather than leave it to his kids who are kinda screwed up as I understand it. So, how is anyone supposed to guess old T. Boone’s angle on this deal?

    Forgetting about the wind farm part of T. Boone’s plan, the idea of turning natural gas into transport fuel is solid. What I cannot figure is how he thinks that building windfarms is going to do anything to reduce our need for natural gas since wind farms cannot replace natural gas generators which work instantaneously on demand. Even if Wind Farms can offset a small amount of instantaneous demand, is it really worth the cost? Considering that we could be using LNG in our cars right now without the wind farms?

    Try as I have, I just don’t get the environmentalists fascination with electricity, when it’s gasoline and diesel that are of the most immediate concerns. We are 100% domestic on our electricity production, but the oil we have to import. Forget about electricity! We can always build a nuke plant or even your goofy Solar and Wind projects if you insist, but neither solar, wind or nuke plants are ever going to put fuel in our tanks, power our jets or 18-wheelers.

    Seems to me, that if the greens, politicians or uber-rich, were really serious about cutting “greenhouse” gases, or achieving energy independence, these guys might be pushing policies that would end our dependence on cars and jets, just to start. Whether Global Warming is real or a hoax, something like a high speed rail would be sweet for short hauls under 400 miles. I would much rather jump on a fast train and enjoy cold beer, rather than drive myself or deal with Southwest Airlines (or any other for that matter). I’m not sure, but I think that would do more for CO2 than any wind farm would.

  25. McGrats, Steve Miloy has done some research on T. Boone and his intended Boone-Doggle and lays it out in three articles in JunkScience: The Wind Cries “Bailout!,” 10 July 2008; Is T. Boone Pickens “Swiftboating” America?, 24 July 2008; and Pickens Gives New Meaning To “Self-Government,” 31 July 2008.

    The Eminent Domain decision by the SCOTUS plays large in the T. Boone scheme.

    T. Boone wins on water, turbines and methane powered vehicles – pure altruism and/or philanthropy.

  26. Craig Moore-

    I guess when A-Rod hits a pop fly he can just blame his dead bat on Pickens.

    I will probably get in trouble for this, but Craig reminded me of this: clicky

  27. But as things unfolded, this shrewd manipulator has shown us once again that the public can be be “had” through scares and innuendo.

    And don’t forget government subsidies.

    Nuclear power was supposed to make electricity too cheap to meter. When was it exactly, that Americans lost their nerve with regard to progress?

    March 1979.

    Boone-doggle!

    #B^1

    They’ve taken our dams.

    And I didn’t say anything because i didn’t give a damn . . .

    Not only are the windmills killing birds

    I am the Gorax, I speak for the birds.
    The bids don’t have words, that’s the trouble with birds.

    Here’s another danger of wind farms too few people are aware of.

    Sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind?

  28. Bats are for more negatively impacted from long, cold winters, then turbines. They mate in the fall and hold onto the sperm till Spring and insect arrival. If Spring is late, they delay fertilization which results in their one pup per year being born late. Many of the young babies are then abandoned as the adult female bats stop nursing to gain weight for their migration to warmer territory. The bat population in Northeast Oregon (Wallowa County), where there are no wind turbines, is way down. The rookeries, which my attic is a major rookery for Wallowa County, are WAY down in population.

    If researchers and greenies want to point out real bat devastation, look at cold weather, not wind turbines.

  29. There is a wind farm on the north shore of Oahu, just up from Turtle Bay, which has been there since before about 1993, when I first took note of it. Local inquiries indicated the several turbines have never been reliable or regularly fed into the grid, nor economically productive. This is an interesting situation for a location where the wind (almost) always blows, and there is no indigenous source of fossil power. Anyone have further details?

  30. I agree with retired engineer. My computer model predicts that the number of turbines required to produce the 4,000 to 5,000 megawatts now generated by natural gas powered power plants will enhance the rotatinal velocity of planet Earth, due to wind, such that, in 100 years, days will be 23 hours in length and the Coriolis Acceleration will be severely affected, with possible meteorological implications. Additionally, I predict that this will disrupt transportation schedules world-wide. Unintended consequences indeed.

    The good news is that according to the Theory of Relativity and the shorter days and years, our life-spans will be increased.

  31. March 1979 (Three Mile Island)

    Evan,
    You are right on so much but here you err if you are against fission power plants. But I suppose you have no objections to fusion power plants? But they are 40 – 50 years away. I tell you what, allow fission plants to only be built below the Mason-Dixon line. Then we will be glad to sell you Yankees power (if you behave).

  32. Fusion power has been 40-50 years away since I was born–50 years ago.

    Not that I think it’s impossible, but until there’s a breakthrough there is no timeline.

    REPLY: We’ll get fusion power about the same time the Popular Science flying cars come out for sale. – Anthony

    REPLY 2: I’ve got an idea. Next time you come to town Anthony, I’ll take to you a Fusion restaurant.~charles the moderator aka jeez

  33. jeez,

    Artificial Intelligence is always 50 years away too. I do love the movie “AI” even with the phony global warming sub theme.

  34. By the way, wind turbines are not a new thing. Most of Wallowa County is still peppered with them. Some work, some don’t. Wind has been harnessed for centuries. Why all of a sudden is it some whacked out idea?

  35. I think it is hilarious! Maybe the enviro-wacko’s will allow the wind turbines to be run only from dawn until right before dusk..then shut them off as to not disturb the bats!

    Talk about giving me a headache!…then, instead of giving us enough electricity to use my doorbell, they can give us just enough electricity to flick on one of those nutty lightbulbs that are dim……

    I’m sure enjoying this website!! :)

    Sincerely,
    Michael
    http://www.cookevilleweatherguy.com

  36. “Why all of a sudden is it some whacked out idea?” Pamela

    1. Low energy density.
    2. Erratic power.
    3. Kills bats
    4. Will be national embarrassment one day.

  37. Pingback: STAY WARM, WORLD… Roger Carr « Stay Warm, World…

  38. Some points on natural gas usage.

    I have been driving around for decades with a tank of explosive liquid behind me.
    I can’t quite see spending extra money so I can drive around with a PRESSURIZED tank of explosive liquid/gas behind me.

    I heat my house with natural gas. The price began climbing when I had to compete with power plants for it. What will the price be when I have to compete with power plants and all the cars in the country?

    My car runs fine on gasoline. It is plentiful and simple to use. When supplies start to run low, we should consider other options like electricity and natural gas. Until then, if it ain’t broke, etc.

  39. Wind power is great for connecting to a gear box which turns a big stone wheel and grind grains into flour. For a grind stone precision does not matter, neither does time. Same thing with a water pump filling a stock tank or watering a field. The wind could blow in the middle of the night and the grain would still get ground into flour, and water would still be pumped. In the modern world, electricity has set demand which modulates regularly thoroughout the day. Certainly, you would not want to wake up in the middle of the night to play on the computer or watch television anymore than you would want to go into work in the middle of the night because that is when there is the best wind.

    Darn thing is, the best wind usually occurs during the middle of the night when demand for regulation is the lowest. It’s this regulation power that T. Boone intends to replace with wind energy, which simply will not work, because regulation electricity has to operate precisely and on demand to balance the load on the electric grid. Wind can never, and regardless of technological advances, will never be able to operate precisely or on demand because, it’s wind and blows when it wants to, not when we want it to.

    Wind compliments hydro-power very well, because hydro power can be turned on and off very effectively. All you have to do with hydro is open a flood gate and a turbine starts spinning, and joila you have electricity. To the best of my knowledge there is no such thing as a hydro-plant in the State of Texas. I am a Texan, and a Pahandler, and can state as a matter of fact that we have no hydro-plants in the area where T. Boone is planning on building his giant wind farm. Our local power plant is coal fired, and down State, there are a few nuke plants, but mostly coal fired power stations. Coal and Nuke plants both work on thermal energy in the form of stream (currently in the State of Texasm since we do not have any gas turbine reactors, yet).

    Thermal Stations are very different than a hydro station. You cannot simply turn a knob or flip a switch and turn on a thermal power plant, you have to either stoke a fire, or start a fission reaction to heat water to a critical mass until is has enough energy to turn a turbine. This takes several hours to be able to do, so when you have large quantities of wind power on the grid, what power companies are forced to do, since they have to buy all wind energy produced, is keep their thermal plants burning on a sort of stand-by mode, where if the wind cuts out, they will be able to ramp up base load power to prevent a black out. Consider a power plant’s expenses, they have to pay for a crew at their plants, they have to buy fuel, and pay interest on their loans for property, plant and equipment, plus taxes. If they have to sit there and run a spinning reserve, its still costing them money, but they are not allowed to sell their product. Of course, this added expense get’s passed down to the rate payer, while in the mean time very little if any carbon is being “offset”.

    In addition to fluctuating on a daily basis, wind also fluctuates on a very short term basis, as its power varies by the hour. This requires your local power company to buy more regulation power than it would if it had a steady base load, because varying voltage changes the frequency of the current coming into your home. In America, our electronics require that our electricity is 60 hertz, and to insure this frequency regulators purchase electricity from private generators to increase the power to match the load. This power is generated from diesel and natural gas, this same stuff that T. Boone is claiming to be saving for transport fuel, while in reality, wind power increases the need for regulation, thus increasing the demand for diesel and natural gas, not the other way around.

    The long and short of it is, Wind Power makes no sense, unless you have access to a large hydro plant, and even then you are not off setting any CO2 or preventing nuclear waste. All you are doing is preventing your reservoir from becoming depleted as quickly, which might not even be an issue.

    In Texas, where the base load providers are 100% thermal power plants running off either coal or nuclear, wind really does not make sense, even though we are the “Saudi Arabia of Wind”. The wind blows like hell out here on the High Plains, but the more wind power that we add to the system, the worse the problem with wind power becomes. What T-Boone is proposing would amount to a nuclear plant, which turns on and off entirely at random, regardless of demand, but normally operating at around 20% of its capacity, but sometimes at 100% and sometimes at 0%, not only does this require more expensive regulation electricity, but it also requires powerlines to be built from Amarillo to Dallas which have been designed to carry 5 times the average load, which is going to increase the expense of the line. (Which Texas Taxpayers are paying for, thanks Rick Perry!)

    Don’t feel too bad for us Texans though, because we are only getting part of the hosing. This scam is global in nature and they want to fleece a little off of everyone. The US government, guarntees wind power providers a market through PURPA laws, and they guarantee them about a 10% return on their investment. So you non-Texans are paying for this junk too! Not an American? Maybe a European? Guess how your countries are meeting Kyoto? Many of the wind companies in Texas are European oil companies who must meet their carbon targets, when a european company is falling behind on their carbon goals, they by carbon offsets from a Texas Wind Power Company, which increases you prices so you guys are getting fleeced too.

    There are powerful reasons why Wind Power was not chosen in a free market. Back in the early days (1920-1960) before power lines ran out to farms and ranches, many farmers and ranchers had invested in windpower for their homes (on the range). As soon as they were about to get juice from a power company, they all scrapped their wind power rigs even though they were bought and paid for. Why? After all the wind is free, right?

  40. T. Boone Pickens has started his own surface station temperature reading organization. Its called Pickens Institute for Space Studies. The guy is looking for a hand out and is jumping on this “renewable” band wagon to line his pockets.

  41. Almost all high mileage vehicles (taxis, buses, etc) and many private vehicles here in Perth Western Australia run on LPG (liquid natural gas), for the simple reason it is a third the price of petrol or diesel.

    Every service station sells it, right next to the petrol and diesel. You fill your own tank and I have never heard of an LPG accident at a petrol station. LPG is no more of a problem than petrol in an accident, and probably less as it doesn’t pool on the ground waiting for a spark to ignite it. Fires involving LPG vehicles are rare and those that do occur, generally seem to involve botched do it yourself LPG conversions.

  42. statePoet1775 (19:57:02) writes: “Artificial Intelligence is always 50 years away too.
    Dont’ say that in front of Ray Kurzweil, Poet. Gets him kinda twitchy as he points out that in fact AI became a part of our everyday life a long, long time back. It is used in so many of our gadgets and gizzmos that we just accept it as “Oh, yeah. That…”.
    Artificial intelligence is living and amongst us; but we want the ultimate AI… whatever that may be.

  43. To Ed Scott,

    That’s a very wild idea – rotational velocity, etc – what you don’t know is that the amount of wind has been steadily decreasing worldwide since the beginning of the industrial revolution. My data suggests that a point of “total stillness” will arrive on January 1st 2100. At this time, all migratory birds will fly sideways and the Dutch windmill tourism industry will become bankrupt. So I seriously disagree with your contention that shorter days are upon us.

  44. @McGrats: Pickens was working on his water project long before the wind thing. He started that up maybe four years ago. Here are a few things to start with.

    http://petesplace-peter.blogspot.com/2008/07/boone-pickens-thinks-water-is-new-oil.html

    http://reporternews.com/news/2008/jul/22/pickens-wants-power-over-transmission-lines/

    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/06/water-not-wind-behind-tboone-transmission.php

    http://www.lubbockonline.com/stories/051508/loc_279222425.shtml

    Key quote from this story: Pickens’ ranch manager, Alton Boone, and his wife, Lu, cast the lone votes in November to create the 8-acre freshwater supply district. The couple and three other Pickens employees sit on the district’s board.

    Update to the Congressional authority he received, DOJ blocked it temporarily: http://www.news-journal.com/news/content/gen/ap/TX_Pickens_Water_District.html

    http://www.gosanangelo.com/news/2008/jul/18/49-billion-plan-supporting-wind-power-gets-ok/?show_comments=1

    Texas electric customers will bear the cost of construction over the next several years, paying about $3 or $4 more per month on their bills, according to Tom Smith, state director of the consumer group Public Citizen. But he predicted that increase would easily be offset by lower energy prices.

  45. Lower insect populations are what kills bats, not the other way around. Wind turbine bat mortality is less than a knats ass in size.

  46. statePoet1775 (16:24:53) :

    LOL. One of funniest things I’ve read in a long time.

    During the height of the bird flu scare, I wrote a letter to the Rocky Mountain News with the humble suggestion of building a line of wind turbines enclosing the state of Colorado. While generating much needed electricity, it would also prevent the entry of bird flu vectors by chopping them up.

    Killing two birds with one turbine, in a manner of speaking.

    For some reason, the editor declined to publish my letter.

    By the way, did anyone else notice the lack of any references to Chinese bird flu outbreaks during the Olympics? Has the problem been resolved or just not reported?

    You have to love T. Boone’s hubris and chutzpa. I love Texas con men. They work on a breathtaking scale others can only dream of.

    He is wrong about drilling our way out of the problem.

    We now know the Shell in situ process for extracting oil from the oil shale of the Green River basin has a yield of 72% of the hydrocarbons in the ground. This process avoids all the drawbacks (economic and environmental) of mining and cooking the shale.

    See http://money.cnn.com/2007/10/30/magazines/fortune/Oil_from_stone.fortune/index.htm

    Now let’s see…

    800 billion barrels of oil available. US consumes about 20 million barrels per day. Dividing the former by the latter, I get a reserve number of about 40000 days of supply or 100 years.

    It’s just waiting to be drilled.

    It only requires 3 barrels of water for each barrel of oil versus 100 barrels of water for 1 barrel of ethanol.

    It won’t require any troops in foreign climes.

    No spilling of oil on the high seas.

    The heat for the heaters and coolers in derived from the natural gas as a by product of the oil shale recovery process.

    No money going overseas.

    Tax revenue for local, state, and federal govt.

    No subsidies required.

    And finally, and most importantly, bats are spared.

  47. Pamela,

    For the most part, the windmills you are talking about either were not used to generate electricity, or if they did, generated it for a single house.

    They also did not have 50 foot blades.

  48. By the way, wind turbines are not a new thing. Most of Wallowa County is still peppered with them. Some work, some don’t. Wind has been harnessed for centuries. Why all of a sudden is it some whacked out idea?

    If you look around, you’ll notice that wind power was summarily DROPPED as soon as something better came along. At one point in the Northwest windpower was pretty common. There were even some old systems around the midwest with the old glass cased lead acid batteries to give you a little storage. Guess what, as soon as reliable mains power came along those systems were summarily abandoned. Wind power is not a step forward.

  49. Pamela Gray, I do not see why it matters if they kill 3 dozen bats or 3 million bats. The point is that wind turbines are an absolutely worthless “technology”, and the key stone of the global warming scammers. Even if CO2 caused global warming were real, which it is not, the wind mills would do nothing (or at the most very little) to offset the CO2. The hoaxers need them because they are the most cost effective way to set up a carbon offset bourse where they can all get rich, and those of us who do not have billions of dollars and tons of political influence end up getting soaked.

    Messing around with the electricity supply is not going to do anything to create energy indepence anyhow. What we need is a replacement for oil which drives everything in our transportation system, cars, trucks, planes, trains, tractors and ships. Without oil we are closed for business. Unless we live in an urban environment or telecommute to work, most of us cannot even get to the office without oil.

    Wind, Solar and Nuclear are never, ever going to be replacements for oil. I like nuclear for power generation, but let’s face it, we are never going to have nuclear powered cars, tractors or planes. Yes, we can have nuclear powered ships (we can have wind powered ships too if you do not mind goods taking 4 months to cross the Atlantic or more to cross the Pacific) and we can use electricity to power trains, but still ships and trains are a small drop in the bucket.

    If we really want to reduce CO2, and achieve energy independence, which I think is a more credable goal, then we need to forget about goofy idea’s like wind power which can never, ever work, and forget about electricity in general for the time being since it’s produced entirely with domestic supplies. Focus on transportation infrastructure, if we need a big government to “create” jobs. I’m sure that they could figure out some clever way to slip the rail companies some cash so that they motivate themselves to upgrade their tracks. Also they could build a European style high speed train, which would reduce short haul air travel. This way, if we get another 70’s style oil embargo we will not be caught waiting in lines at the gas station. This is a far more sound investment in our future, than wind farms, but then again cotton candy is likely a more sound investment than wind farms.

    If we have to think about electricity, then let’s get serious about it and phase out coal plants as quickly as possible, and replace them with nuke plants. Nukes are by far the most cost effective “alternative” energy source out there. That way we can use the coal that we are currently burning to make gasoline in a pinch, just like Hitler did. Yeah, Hitler might have been a bad man, but the entire German War Machine was running on coal including the first military jet fighters.

    I’m an Amarillo boy, so this monster wind farm is going in my backyard, and frankly I do not mind so much since the Texas Panhandle has always been ugly anyhow. The thing is that the whole thing is a scam, and a preamble to the carbon bourse which I believe to be very dangerous towards our future freedom and prosperiety, and I am not willing to trade short term local economic gains for what I consider to be a long term threat to our society. Luckily enough, one of our local high school mascots is already named the “Don’s” after you know who, so I can only hope and pray that fighting windmills is in our community spirit, unfortunately this does not seem to be the case, as our Big Red Republican Representative, “Mac Thornberry” has been coming home to district bragging about all of the government pork he got for these stupid things.

    As far as bats go, I do not think that it will be much of a problem up here. Bats do not seem to be very common, and I seriously doubt that this was much a part of their native range since we have no natural cover like trees, caves or hills for bats. What I would think would be a problem, is the fact the this is big migratory flyway, and the fact that since we are a treeless plain these things will be an attractive nuisance for birds of prey, which might play a vital role in cleaning the land of diseased animals and keeping down the rattlesnake and coyote populations.

    Oh well, maybe I should just accept the fact that nothing but pure greed and corruption is driving the whole game here and maybe try to figure out some way to get in on the action, but I have never been clever enough to be a theif or a liar so I guess that I am out of luck.

    Best Regards

  50. “Artificial intelligence is living and amongst us; but we want the ultimate AI… whatever that may be.” Roger Carr

    I was thinking of “consciousness”. Something we would have to give civil rights to. Roger Penrose wrote a book about this called “The Emperor’s New Mind” where he makes the case that the current laws of physics do not explain “consciousness”.

  51. Jeez: Thanks for that URL on the Kahuku Wind Farm. Sort of what I expected to learn, and it is apparently a good example of the experience with the first generation systems. Unfortunately, word continues to leak out about the present generation turbines having the same problems of (lack of) reliability and factory support. In 20 – 30 years, these will also revert to the land owners.

    And as aextension of Jack Simmonds comments about domestic oil. There is plenty of it here in Texas also. I haven’t run the numbers like he has, but there are significent reserves, which are becoming more interesting to the land owners as the price exceeds $100 a barrel.

    Full disclosure: Yes, I have an extremely tiny piece of that action.

  52. Bats are for more negatively impacted from long, cold winters, then turbines.
    That may be true Pamela, at least now. But, since we’re cooling now, and that will very likely continue, wouldn’t bat mortality due to turbines, which will only be increasing be even more of an issue? It certainly seems a legitimate concern.
    Wind power is not a rational way of increasing our power supply. It is costly and unreliable, requiring standby power regardless of whether it is being used or not, which is wasteful.
    Pickens is simply out to further line his pockets at the expense of Texans, and of taxpayers. Who knows why, and frankly I don’t care why.

  53. Anthony,
    It’s the old Bait and Switch. The enviros moan about the pollution of fossil fuels and extoll the virtues of alternative energy sources. When energy companies actually begin switching to geothermal and wind the enviros get lawyers to obtain injunctions against these energy sources. This currently is going on in both Indiana and California. Energy companies need to run new power lines to tie these newer energy sources into existing distribution grids. Federal judges, at the behest of enviro lawyers, have issued injunctions against the laying of new power lines. Companies in the process of developing alternative energy sources are now reluctant to develope these new sources due to costly decade long litigation.

    Let’s face it, the Enviormental Left does not want any new souces of energy, period. They see energy as the life blood of a decadent bourgeosie life style. In the meantime, the US and Canada sit atop of 1 trillion barrels in untapped shale, not to mention some of the largest coal reserves in the world. AGW or Climate Change is just a front for a group of aging activists.

  54. Johnnyb (22:33:06) : To the best of my knowledge there is no such thing as a hydro-plant in the State of Texas.

    There are several dams in the highland lakes (Colorado River) that have hydroelectric capabilities: for example, the Mansfield dam below Lake Travis and the Tom Miller dam below Lake Austin, but we rarely have enough rain to turn them on.

  55. Jack Simmons: Shale oil: All of your reasons are sound, which is why it will never happen. (some of them may be a bit of marketing hype, still won’t happen).

    I’m not a fan of LNG in autos because I have seen far too many ‘close encounters’. Gasoline is bad enough, at least it doesn’t leap out of the tank at the slightest opportunity. Not sure I want Joe Sixpack filling his tank while smoking, either.

    If we built enough turbines around Colorado, could we keep the Texans and Californians out? (The ones that stay in Texas and Cal are mostly OK, the ones those states deport seem to come here in disturbing numbers)

  56. To Graeme Rodaughan,

    you are correct I was not aware that the world-wide wind is steadily decreasing. If this is truly the case, I postulate that this is due to the global warmists “blowing in the wind” from east to west counter-acting the natural west to east air flow. I fear it will take some time to correct my computer model to account for the erratic behavior of Nature, due to anthropogenic influences.

    While on the subject of my errors, I would like to correct the information in an earlier comment. Of the 15,000 wind turbines in California, 5,000 are located at Tehachapi, 7,000 are located at Altamont (not Altoona) and 3,000 are located at San Gorgonio. These turbines produced: In the year 2004, wind energy in California produced 4,258 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, about 1.5 percent of the state’s total electricity. In 1995, these areas produced 30 percent of the entire world’s wind-generated electricity.

    I am not an environmentalist, but, having grown up in a farming community, I have respect for the environment and Nature. I strongly oppose knee-jerk solutions to “problems” which ultimately result in a problem, or problems, greater than the original “problem.” I also strongly oppose solutions for non-existent “problems,” such as anthropogenic global warming/climate change.

  57. Engineer, is it okay if we come up to visit once in a while, and bring our tourist dollars with us? :P I rather enjoy partaking of your state once or twice a year.

    As for the Panhandle, I quite disagree that it’s ugly, it’s as beautiful as the mountains of the Rockies, the Desert Southwest, the hills in the South, or anywhere else in this country. They’re just all pretty in their own way.

  58. Can’t methane be easily converted to gasoline (given the right miracle catalyst)? There is plenty of methyl hydrate in the Gulf.

  59. “If we built enough turbines around Colorado, could we keep the Texans and Californians out? ”

    Been to Colorado a couple of times. Can’t say I was struck by the hospitality. California was friendlier. For a state that depends on tourism that seems counterproductive.

  60. JP said:

    Let’s face it, the Enviormental Left does not want any new souces of energy, period. They see energy as the life blood of a decadent bourgeosie life style. In the meantime, the US and Canada sit atop of 1 trillion barrels in untapped shale, not to mention some of the largest coal reserves in the world. AGW or Climate Change is just a front for a group of aging activists.

    Absolutely. And if anyone needs proof of this just look for the quotes of Maurice Strong, one of the higher ups in the IPCC, and quotes from founders of the Club of Rome, current Greenpeace leaders, WWF, etc. They want the world, not just the west, de-industrialized. Which means, as I’ve pointed out, the deaths of billions as we return to subsistence farming and hunter/gatherer lifestyles. A return to a time when life was brutal and short, instead of moving forward and eventually moving away from fossil fuels (when it makes sense to do so, and not being forced to for totally invalid reasons) to a point where life is easier for all humans, because all societies will eventually be affluent enough to afford clean technology.

  61. because all societies will eventually be affluent enough to afford clean technology.” Jeff Alberts

    Jeff,

    Amen! (yes, I’m teasing you.)

  62. Nuclear is good but it can be made much much better in the future.

    Thorium nuclear is the “green” nuclear.

    For those of you concerned about nuclear safety and waste products there is a much better alternative. Thorium based (rather than uranium based) nuclear power. This technology was demonstrate in the 50’s and 60’s but was abandoned because it was much harder to produce weapons grade material (compared to uranium). The military considerations favored the uranium fuel cycle.

    More specifically LFTR (liquid fluoride thorium reactors) compared to uranium reactors burn fuel 100x more efficiently without reprocessing, result in ~100x less waste and are inherently safer and should cost less to build.

    In addition, since LFTR is a high temp low pressure process it can use water or air cooling. Thus Ut/Nv etc, where water is scarce, could replace it’s coal fired plants with low cost, clean thorium power plants. Much more cost effective and reliable than the wind and solar plants that California is building. (fyi, California’s electricity currently costs 2x Utah’s and they are on a path to keep it that way.)

    Uranium LWR : Thorium LFTR

    Fuel Reserves (relative) __________________ 1 : 100 (1000s yrs)
    Fuel Mining Waste Volume (relative) ____ 1000 : 1
    Fuel Burning Efficiency _______________ ~1% : >95%
    Radioactive Waste Volume (relative) ______ 40 : 1
    Radioactive Waste Isolation Period __10000yrs : 80% 10yrs, 20% 300yrs

    Plant Cost (relative) _____________________ 1 : <1
    Plant Thermal Efficiency _____________ ~33% : ~50%
    Cooling Requirements _______________ Water : Water or Air
    Plant Safety _______________________ Good : Very Good
    Weapons Grade Material Production ____ Yes : No(very hard)
    Desalination with Waste Heat____________No : Yes
    Burn Existing Nuclear Waste ___________ No : Yes
    Development Status _______ Commercial Now : Demonstrated

    for more info see

    http://www.energyfromthorium.com/

    http://www.energyfromthorium.com/ppt/thoriumVsUranium.ppt

    charlesH (BS Physics)
    Orem, Utah

  63. RE: Colorado un-natural resource:

    Hot air and wind from DNC to be stored and gradually released over winter to heat homes. CO2 in Pepsi Center to be compressed for beverage carbonation.

    These stories haven’t been properly explored.

    Re: T Boone Pickens. The “real” motives get curiouser and curiouser.

    Buys up “worthless” land in Texas panhandle, then rights to all the water beneath it, and beneath adjacent properties; bids up price of water against competing agencies, but can’t get it to the biggest market (Dallas); so,.. begins manufacturing windmills, promoting farms and the power conduits needed to carrry the power to the big city, which requires a declaration of eminent domain by Federal Government and the condemnation of private properties between Roberts County and Dallas, insists on control of the power lines, giving him rights to build his water pipelines…

    Usually I’d be suspicious of such a “made-for-TV” drama. (See: “There Will Be Oil”) but the more I hear, the more I tend to believe it.

    I’m still trying to figure why he was trying to promote his windfarm notions in Eastern Colorado a few weeks ago.

  64. TBP plan is self and undoable. Don’t worry about its chances for implementation.

    Firstly, T Boone owns the water rights below the ground he hope to construct windmills on. His investment in water was first and he wants to run a pipeline down from west Tx to DFW. With it he now hopes to run the transmission from his turbines.

    He’s come up with a plan to get his gas fields in high demand then use the void in those reservoirs as carbon storage sites.

    The problem is, his wind power will only generate 33% of the nameplate capacity on those turbines and during period of time which demand is not the greatest. Gas generation is then required to make that 33%, 100% reliable. W/o his intermittent resource being reliably backed up, his power contract will not only fetch less money, it will more short-term, to factors which impede the market penetration of exactly what his plan intends to accomplish.

    Renewables are good w/o question, but they are going to cost a bundle. Not only does one have new capital costs in land and equipment, the cost for new transmission, plus the cost for the condemnation and purchase of new right-of-ways, has to be considered, plus the arrangement of existing or new backup generation, typically gas but could be older coal.

    T Boone is just trying to shed light on his end goal, new utility right-of-way, the single greatest hurdle utilities face today. With his ad campaign he is trying to get Americans and Texans alike, to grow in the understanding of the transmission requirement necessary to get the energy sector more green.

    Taken as a whole, his plan just like Al Gore’s 100% clean energy by 2018, is simply undoable.

  65. TBP plan is selfish and undoable. Don’t worry about its chances for implementation.

    Firstly, T Boone owns the water rights below the ground, which he hope to construct windmills on. His investment in water was first and he wants to run a pipeline down from west Tx to DFW. With that, he now hopes to run the transmission from his windfarm he’s proposing.

    He’s come up with this plan to get his gas fields in high demand, so he can then use the void in those reservoirs as carbon storage sites.

    The problem is, his wind power will only generate 33% of the nameplate capacity on those turbines and during period of time which demand is not the greatest. Gas generation is then required to make that 33% output, 100% reliable. W/o his intermittent resource being reliably backed up, his power contracts will not only fetch less money, they will be more short-term, two factors which impede the market penetration of exactly what his plan intends to accomplish.

    Renewables are good w/o question, but they are going to cost a bundle. Not only does one have new capital costs in land and equipment, the cost for new transmission, plus the cost for the condemnation and purchase of new right-of-ways has to be considered, plus the arrangement of existing or new backup generation, typically gas but could be older coal. All this means the cost for wind and other renewables alike, will cost 3-4x the price of existing electricity from traditional resources.

    T Boone is just trying to shed light on his end goal, new utility right-of-way, the single greatest hurdle utilities face today. With his ad campaign he is trying to get Americans and Texans alike, to grow in the understanding of the transmission requirement, necessary to get the energy sector more green.

    Taken as a whole, his plan just like Al Gore’s 100% clean energy by 2018, is simply undoable.

  66. Let’s see if I have this right. The government mandates and subsidizes a 10% profit margin for wind power producers, but gets their knickers all in a twist over the oil companies “windfall” profits which average out about 9% and demands an extra cut on top of the near 40% tax rate their already paying. I guess that makes perfect sense, if you’re a politician. I see Squeaker Pelosi has recently made a six figure investment in T. Boone’s doggle, but, move along, nothing to see here. I guess the rules are different for politicians, but I seem to recall Martha Stewart doing a stretch up the river for a deal that smelled like a garden full of American Beauties compared to this one.

  67. johnnyb: The point is that wind turbines are an absolutely worthless “technology”, and the key stone of the global warming scammers.

    I beg to differ. But it comes with qualifications. The fact is, based upon what I’ve read, much of what you say about wind is accurate — but only IF wind power is not coupled with a widely distributed transmission grid. Absent that, you’re largely right — wind is just a toy. But including that, it isn’t. For example, there’s this. Note that this DoE analysis is very dependent upon the assumption that widely distributed wind farms are interconnected. If that happens, much of the variability associated with individual farms disappears. Europe is thinking along the same lines.

    The fact is, if you’re excited about the potential of any sort of renewable energy you have to think in terms of a regional or national overhaul of the transmission network. Is that a problem? Personally, I don’t think so. The existing system is so rickety and so “leaky” that unless you’re contemplating highly localized sources something has to be done regardless of what sources you prefer, be they some combination of wind, solar, nuclear, or whatever.

    The existing network is very close to being overtaxed. It will not sustain the projected 30% increase in power requirements in the next couple of decades. It’s not like doing nothing is a viable option. Considering that, and assuming you’re amenable to replacing the existing scotch tape and baling wire grid with a national, “everything in” national power superhighway, consider this. Obviously this is just one estimate. But as far as I know, it is the first comprehensive estimate performed so far. The price tag: $60 billion.

    That sounds like a lot, and perhaps it is. But what are the alternatives? I mean really — what are the alternatives?? Currently different regions have to rely on themselves to come up with a plan. johnnyb mentioned Texas, but only the Amarillo-to-Dallas corridor. My understanding is Texas is planning to wire the whole state, not just Amarillo-to-Dallas. Likewise, the northeast (New England and New York) is working on the same sort of idea. Western Europe as well.

    This is not a scam. It does, however, require a different way of thinking. And finding a way to address NIMBY concerns will be a significant and difficult part of that. Then again, if you want to populate the country with nuclear plants instead of (or in addition to) wind and solar utilities — or just about anything else, for that matter, the same issues apply.

  68. Andy,

    Maybe the surviving bats will learn, maybe they won’t.

    REPLY: An animal with a larger brain than a bat, deer, have not evolved in 100 years to learn to avoid cars. So how long will it take the bat to learn to avoid windmills? Natural selection may be a bit faster in bats, since they have a faster breed cycle/shorter life span. But still it will take many years. – Anthony

    REPLY 2: It’s actually more complicated than just the length of the breeding cycle.

    Currently the bats appear to exhibit behavior which causes them to fly too close to the windmills.

    What percentage of the bat population exhibits this behavior? If it is a small percentage, then natural selection will probably occur quickly. If it is a large percentage natural selection will proceed slower or not at all based on some of the factors listed below (this list is by no means comprehensive):

    Is this an innate behavior or is it learned?

    If it is an innate behavior, is this behavior linked to improved survival in other circumstances or could this behavior genetically linked to other behaviors or physical attributes which improve survival. What disadvantage may be created by undoing this behavior?

    If it is learned behavior, under what circumstances was it learned not involving windmills and is a large enough percentage of the bat population’s learning capabilities able to distinguish between the circumstances? Again, what disadvantage may be created by undoing this behavior?

    I am not a mammalian biologist by any means, but determining circumstances for natural selection is not a simple task.

    None of this absolves Anthony from being a killjoy and throwing a wet blanket on my most excellent post above the replies. ~ charles the moderator aka jeez

  69. JackSimmons: We now know the Shell in situ process for extracting oil from the oil shale of the Green River basin has a yield of 72% of the hydrocarbons in the ground. This process avoids all the drawbacks (economic and environmental) of mining and cooking the shale.

    I wouldn’t be so sure of that. The article you linked to estimated the EROI (energy return on energy investment) as somewhere between 3:1 and 7:1, quoting industry (and specifically Shell) employee estimates. That’s not so great, but okay in the current oil price environment (and assuming you don’t much care how much GHGs are spewed into the atmosphere, which I assume is a gimme on this site). However, this article, which reports on a more recent and peer-reviewed analysis, pegs the EROI at between 1.2:1 and 1.6:1. That’s a big difference. And if their numbers are accurate, Shell is going to have significant problems making oil shale profitable, even independent of the GHG issue. Also, FWIW, CO Sen. Ken Salazar (D) recently ran a cautionary op-ed on the subject. Salazar is generally considered to be well-informed on such matters.

  70. By the way, if you’re interested in following various energy alternatives through their “life cycles” (i.e., in terms of EROI — energy return on investment, aka “ratio of energy produced to energy expended) I highly recommend the six-part series on the Oil Drum blog by Nate Hagens. The link I just provided is to Part 6, but it contains links to the previous 5. I can’t suggest you believe every word he says (for one thing, some of his data are dated), but it’s a very good starting point. He’s very thorough, so he gives a very good feel for the details you have to pay attention to if you want to get a handle on EROI issues.

  71. Ricorun (12:36:12) :

    Do the lower EROI estimates include sequestration of the carbon?

    Not clear from the article you cited.

    You are correct about the GHG assumptions for CO2.

    I do not believe CO2 has more than a very small impact on our climate.

  72. After spending 30 years working under, atop, and around windmills I can say (of the old ones anyway) they have little more than ornamental value. The cows must have water, rancher’s use diesel.

    Becalmed is a very old word used to describe a ship sitting idle in a windless sea.

  73. Do the lower EROI estimates include sequestration of the carbon?

    No. That would be a little hard to do, considering there are yet no viable CCS technologies available. At least not for use in that context.

  74. OK. So windpower is 3 times as expensive and 1/3 as reliable as nuclear power. If TBP (and strange bed-fellow Speaker NP) want to free up natural gas as a motor fuel, put in a bunch of new nuclear stations. That way you also won’t need to keep 2/3 of the gas freed up as stand-by for when there is no wind (plus keep all those gas-fired plants in stand-by operation, which also costs money).

    But maybe both TBP and NP are betting on making a buck or two from the wind farm proposal.

    On the other hand, the “bat” problem really leaves me cold. To keep a curious 2-year old from sticking his fingers into a home fan, the designers simply put a shield around it. If we can send a man to the moon, we can surely figure out how to put a shield around the wind fans, as well.

    But this doesn’t change the fact that wind farms are a batty idea.

    Max

  75. Birds and bats aside, having recently returned from Alberta I would have to say the wind farms there are the most hideous man made blot on the planet I have ever seen.

    Just at a first estimate wouldn’t a windshield fine enough to disuade bats cost a fortune and cut power production per dollar invested about in half.

  76. Michael Haubner sez:

    What sane person could possibly have a ‘quandary’ weighing up the welfare of bats vers humans? And what do we mean save the planet? Is it epxected to go somewhere? Or is global warming expected to vapourise x squillion tonnes of rock?

    I hate cliches.
    ***************
    Me: Umm, bats eat upwards of 100 gazillion insects every night. Birds eat another 100 gazillion insects every day. I assume that you don’t want to die of Malaria, West Nile, or any of the handful of really squikky illnesses that are insect-borne.

    The die-off of these species *IS* an issue, whether you like it or not.
    FWIW, I happen to think that wind farms are beautiful (as the extensive one around Sweetwater, TX). That being said, the die-off is a *very* bad thing.

  77. julie, and I want to make it clear that I am not being facetious, your use of the words, squillion, gazillion, squikky, made for a charming and most excellent post.

    Your point about the value of bats to the ecosystem is also dead on.

    Yes everyone, I’m having a most excellent day.

  78. Solar and wind power generation have been around for years. Mother Earth magazine ran articles on the use of solar and wind for the generation of electricity in the ’60s as well as building a still for producing your own ethanol for vehicle fuel.

    The local production of ethanol may be economical for the individual. In a government program, ethanol has undesirable side effects mainly due to use of food commodities as the basis for its production and also that it cannot compete economically without government subsidies.

    Compared to other electrical power generating plants, solar and wind are land area intensive. Five thousand of the turbines at Altamont require 50 acres of land. Cleantech America, a San Francisco based developer, has launched a project to build the world’s largest solar farm. When completed in 2011, the 80-megawatt spread of solar panels will cover roughly 640 acres and be 17 times the size of the largest US solar farm in existence. The project, will generate enough power for nearly 21,000 homes.

    Solar and wind are intermittent power sources and make sense to some local home owners who can also afford a bank of batteries to supply power when the solar and wind are not providing the necessary energy.

    If solar and wind require frequent back-up, why not use the back-up all the time?

    I presume, T. Boone will tie his turbines into the grid, where they will provide their intermittent power and replace the methane powered plants. But wait, we need back-up for the turbines, so what do we use to provide the back-up?

    We need an extensive and intensive multi-year study on the bat problem, funded by T. Boone.

    Will someone please inform T. Boone that we are not transferring 700 billion dollars to the “oilies.” It is an exchange of value, a purchase. When I buy gasoline, I do not transfer dollars to the station owner, I exchange the value of my money for the value of his gasoline.

  79. “FWIW, I happen to think that wind farms are beautiful (as the extensive one around Sweetwater, TX).” Julie

    Maybe when we have enough nukes, we can run them backwards as fans.

    Ray Reynolds: Beautiful.

  80. Birds and bats aside, having recently returned from Alberta I would have to say the wind farms there are the most hideous man made blot on the planet I have ever seen.

    I don’t suppose you visited the tar sand mines, eh?

  81. julie,

    I second jeez’s opinion of your post. Your are sweet. Forgive my joke at your expense. OK?

  82. Compared to other electrical power generating plants, solar and wind are land area intensive.

    Are you counting the surface area of strip mines? If so, then you can’t say that about the comparison between coal and solar thermal. What about the tar sand mines in Alberta? They occupy an area size of the state of Florida. The tailing ponds, which are EXCEEDINGLY toxic, occupy tens of thousands of square kilometers. Solar termal certainly does occupy significant surface area. Underneath the mirrors there’s… shade. HORRORS! Nothing lives in a strip mine. In fact, just living near one isn’t conducive to good health.

    Five thousand of the turbines at Altamont require 50 acres of land.

    Yeah, and except for the area occupied by the pillars, all of it is dual use.

    Cleantech America, a San Francisco based developer, has launched a project to build the world’s largest solar farm. When completed in 2011, the 80-megawatt spread of solar panels will cover roughly 640 acres and be 17 times the size of the largest US solar farm in existence. The project, will generate enough power for nearly 21,000 homes.

    That’s just nonsense. You haven’t been keeping up. Can I ask you what you light your house with? It wouldn’t by any chance be whale oil, would it?

    I apologize for my snarkiness. But goodness, if someone were interested in mining luddite this thread would be a good place to start.

  83. “But goodness, if someone were interested in mining luddite this thread would be a good place to start.”

    That’s NUCLEAR luddite.

  84. Until we can find a way to store power efficiently then we can never depend on solar or wind. Geothermal is a much better alternative. Get this the watermelon greens are opposing the construction of power line to the wind and solar farms. Now isn’t that special.

  85. Cleantech America, a San Francisco based developer, has launched a project to build the world’s largest solar farm. When completed in 2011, the 80-megawatt spread of solar panels will cover roughly 640 acres and be 17 times the size of the largest US solar farm in existence. The project, will generate enough power for nearly 21,000 homes.

    Imagine the kind of albedo changes such widespread solar farms will cause. Talk about Anthropogenic Climate Change.

  86. Ricorun,

    Perhaps you are right, and we will need some big huge transmission grid, but I really do not think that is the most efficient use of energy. I have been following the development of General Atomic’s High Temperature Gas Turbine reactor with considerable interest. It seems to me that perhaps small scale nuclear reactors could be coupled into a cogen system, where excess heat could be used to heat and cool homes and businesses. This would result in a real cost savings making us common folk more wealthy by saving us money, rather than making the uber-wealthy even richer by government fiat and hoax carbon trading bourses. This would address the problems of energy efficiency from a supply side perspective by increasing the energy output as well as making the most efficient use of the waste heat which is simply not possible if the power plant is located too far away from population centers.

    Would what I am talking about here mean placing nuclear reactors inside cities and suburbs? Yes it would, but considering the that the US navy has been placing sailors with in 1 football field of nuclear reactors for half a century on board moving vessels as well as tightly enclosed submarines, I fail to see the problem and believe that nuclear power has proven itself to be extremely safe.

    The Russians have developed nuclear barges, were they are able to supply both fresh water and electricity to some of their most remote villages on the arctic ocean. Given that the United States has the finest nuclear ship yards in the world, aka Newport News. Perhaps, we are missing a really big financial opportunity by building similar barges and shipping them to coastal communities around the world. Providing everyone with fresh water and electricity, while making a tidy profit for ourselves and bringing more money into our country, which will increase demand for the dollar, the fall of which has certainly contributed to higher fuel prices.

    Nuclear barges would also make great sense for California which always seems to be in need of water and power. Would eco-conscious California go for having nuclear reactors floating in the waters off shore? I do not see why not, given that a Google Earth shot of the San Deigo Naval Base reveals not less than half a dozen nuclear powered ships and subs, many of which carry multiple nuclear reactors, not to mention nuclear bombs. All of this has not hurt the market for San Diego real estate one bit, and it remains one of the most desirable places to live in North America.

  87. I just happened to be reading this article:

    http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/jul08/6376

    and I ran across the intriguing comment:

    On the other side of the globe, New Zealand already gets 60 percent of its electric power from renewables but wants to raise that figure to an amazing 90 percent by 2025.

    Anybody know what renewables they use and how they manage to keep from destabilizing their grid with variable sources?

  88. Ice on the windmill blades,
    on the solar cells, thick snow.
    Inside, safe and warmed
    by a nuclear glow.

  89. Jim Arndt, transmission lines are going to be contentious across the political spectrum. They always have been since the first utility megaprojects back in the 30s. You can treat WSJ editorial reports of anecdotal accounts as gospel if you wish, but that doesn’t change anything. Similarly, unconventional oil sources are going to be contentious across the political spectrum. The fact is, no matter what decisions are made for or against anything, there is going to be blow-back. And whatever else could be said, our energy future is going to make for some very strange bedfellows. We’re going to have midwest farmers pitted against coal interests, western ranchers pitted against oil companies, rust belt workers AND industry CEOs pitted against, well, the GOP (unless they smarten up). IMO, the future of energy has at least as much potential to provoke a political realignment as did civil rights back in the 60s. But unlike civil rights, the economic up-side vs down-side is far more consequential. In this case trillions of dollars hang in the balance.

    I can’t prove it (because one can never “prove” the future), but IMO it’s not a question of if we’ll have to transition to renewable fuels, it’s a question of when. And to the extent the wrong choice is made it could be very, very expensive. Personally, I look at where the capital is, where the market is, and where the popular opinion is. And as it turns out, ALL THREE suggest that we should jump on renewables. Is it going to cost money? Of course. But everything is relative. And in this case, all signs indicate that whatever we spend (as long as it’s not too ridiculous), we’ll make it back. In spades.

  90. johnnyb, did you ever wonder why the Russian nuclear barges only service remote villages on the arctic ocean? My guess is… it’s pretty freakin’ expensive. Actually, that’s not just a guess. There’s a difference between technical feasibility and economic feasibility. In fact, in most cases, that’s the essential question. At least it should be a primary one.

    Similarly, you say you’ve “been following the development of General Atomic’s High Temperature Gas Turbine reactor with considerable interest. ” Then perhaps you could share with us some cost estimates per MW nameplate, along with estimates about when they are likely to be certified. If you can do that I won’t question you on the materials, workforce, and supply chain issues.

    But I don’t think you can. Because I’ve been following GA too — along with pebble bed reactors, liquid flourothorine reactors, and fast breeder reactors. And as far as I can tell, they’re (a) very expensive and/or (b) fall into that nebulous category of “3-5 years away”. I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard the latter. That’s bad enough. But there is another difference: in the case of the nuclear options, only a small handful of groups are working on them (all of which are publicly funded, at least significantly). In the case of renewables there are hundreds (most of which are privately funded). On that basis alone, which one would you pick? And I”m afraid you do have to pick to one extent or another. Picking “none of the above” only means you pick the existing status quo. And that leaves you that much more susceptible to supply shocks of the sort that we recently experienced. And those, I’m afraid, are only going to get worse (according to most experts). So again, “doing nothing” isn’t a viable option.

  91. Pingback: Top Posts « WordPress.com

  92. Anybody know what renewables they use and how they manage to keep from destabilizing their grid with variable sources?

    My guess is hydroelectric.

  93. jim Arndt (14:46:47) :

    “Sigh… My Pickens joke flopped”

    Some days, all you get is Slim Pickens.

    Oh – I just went back – Pickens Institute for Space Studies, sorry, I was just catching up and wasn’t paying enough attention.

  94. To Mark Nodine re NZ’s energy sources:

    http://www.energybulletin.net/node/6046

    This country has a long-standing record of generating power from renewable resources – hydro-electricity (61 per cent), geothermal (5 per cent), windmills (1 per cent) and biomass (0.3 per cent).

    The prevalent use of renewable energy underpins our clean green image.

    Clear policy mandates for further harnessing renewable resources would make New Zealand an international model as well as providing clean blue energy throughout the 21st century.

    The rest of our power is derived from non-renewable sources – gas (23 per cent), coal (8 per cent) and oil (0.5 per cent).

    This was in 2005 – according to more recent news wind power is accounting for over 2% . (http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/wind-contributes-more-power-supply-32711)

  95. To Ricorun,

    Luddite: One who is especially opposed to technological change.

    Sorry if I gored your bull.

    Where in my posting did you find the ‘smoking gun” that I am opposed to technological change?

    Coal fired power plants provide electrical as long as the coal miners “strip-mine” the coal and it is transported to the power plants. Solar panels provide power only when the sun shines, which is essentially half the day in good weather.

    If you have a “beef” about the tar sands mines in Alberta, take that up with Canada.

    The clip on the project to build the world’s largest solar “farm,” which you term to be nonsense, came from http://www.environmentalleader.com/2007/07/09/cleantech-to-build-worlds-largest-solar-power-plant-in-california/. I suggest that you take up their “nonsense” with them.

    I’m not sure what you mean about “keeping up.” In spite of your “luddite” reference, I have not seen anyone posting on this website who is opposed to technological change.

    I said in an earlier post that, I am opposed to solutions to non-existent problems. The only problems that seem to come under this heading are that we need to be energy independent of foreign sources, anthropogenic CO2 is harming the planet and, according to T. Boone, we are transferring 700 billion dollars of our wealth to the oil producers, which I consider to be an exchange of value. As far as energy independence, the current Congress has stressed using alternate fuels, instead of developing the resources that the Nation has in abundance. I have yet to locate an alternate fuel station. I suspect that the political elite are sequestering the alternate fuel for their exclusive use.

    Boeing has recently sold 70 billion dollars worth of their aircraft and are in the late stages of the development of the 787. I presume they hope to make a profit on their effort before Jet-A becomes unavailable.

    Michael Crichton had it right in his book “State of Fear.” The state of fear as applied by Al Gore, Maurice Strong and the UN is an effective method for controlling populations with their consensus science of anthropogenic global disaster and at great expense to the population for a solution to a non-problem..

    Pardon my plagiarizing, but I have rearranged the text of your next to last paragraph: Can I ask you what you light your house with? It wouldn’t by any chance be whale oil, would it? That’s just nonsense.

    I have SCUBA’d off the coast of California, in Cozumel, in Hawaii and in Fiji and never been attacked by a shark, although they were plentiful in Fiji.

    I make a posting on this website and get a “snark” attack. You never know.

  96. Julie said:

    The die-off of these species *IS* an issue, whether you like it or not.
    FWIW, I happen to think that wind farms are beautiful (as the extensive one around Sweetwater, TX). That being said, the die-off is a *very* bad thing.

    I agree. Therefore we shouldn’t bother with wind turbines, and keep using oil until a really viable alternative pops up.

  97. Hmm, more on wind turbines. Read some of the .pdfs off the first link.

    http://www.windaction.org/faqs/17324 [noise and related health problems]

    http://www.windaction.org/

    http://www.wired.com/science/planetearth/news/2005/10/69177 [2005 article]
    http://www.komonews.com/news/local/9383316.html [2007 fatality]

    http://www.city-data.com/forum/maine/50917-wind-turbine-noise-problem-mars-hill.html

    A ploy by the anti-nuke crew 20 years ago was to ask “Do you want to live next to a nuclear power plant?” Having visited a couple, I’d rather live next to one of them instead of a coal plant, (especially a mine head plant), downstream of a hydro plant, and I guess I’ll have to add wind turbines to the list.

  98. “Anybody know what renewables they use and how they manage to keep from destabilizing their grid with variable sources?”

    From here: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/issues/energy/renewable.html

    Medium and large-scale hydro electricity generation, and geothermal power provide much of New Zealand’s electricity.

    New Zealand only has a population of 4.1 million. A few decent dams and a few geothermal plants is all they really need.

  99. “Moving to renewables” sounds “in” and “sexy”. It’s also very expensive and unreliable, if we’re talking about solar or wind power.

    There have been two recent proposals made in the USA that involve a major switch to “renewables”:
    · TBP proposal to free up natural gas for motor fuel by replacing gas-fired power generation with large wind farms (in order to reduce oil import costs)
    · Al Gore proposal to shut down all fossil fuel-fired power plants within 10 years, making “maximum use” of “renewables”, bio-fuels, etc. (in order to “save the planet”)

    Let’s forget the “bio-fuels”, “hydrogen cars”, etc. for now and just look at electrical power generation based on current uses. Here are some rough numbers based on published data.

    Installed power generation capacity in the USA was 1,100,000 MW end 2007.
    Total installed wind power generation was 17,000 MW
    Fossil fuel fired power plants generated 3,000 billion KWH over the year 2007, out of a total of 4,100 billion KWH total.
    Nuclear power plants generated around 800 billion KWH.

    So let’s assume that 50% of all US households install solar panels.
    Assume that new wind power installed in USA is 10 times the currently installed capacity.
    All the rest will be covered by new nuclear power generation.
    Overall power requirement will grow at 1995-2005 compounded annual growth rate of 3.2% (ignore the growth rate and just calculate the cost of the Gore proposal at current power consumption rate).

    Let’s assume that 50% of all US households install solar panels. These are very expensive today and only make sense if they are being subsidized by someone (i.e. the taxpayer). If 50% of US households get subsidized solar panels, that means the other 50% of the households are paying this subsidy. This is obviously not a viable long-term plan, so solar panels should compete on their own merits without the “subsidy”.

    The average household consumes: 1.3 KWH/hour.
    The average installed solar capacity per household would be around: 5 KW.
    The average “on-line factor” is: 26%
    Total number of US households is: 115 million
    So number of US households converted is: 57.5 million
    Installation cost per household at today’s cost: $35,000
    Future installation cost per household: $17,500 (assume costs come down by 50%)
    Total investment = $1,006 billion
    Total installed power (nameplate) = 287,500 MW
    Total power generated (26% on line) = 74,750 MW
    Investment cost per MW generated = $13.5 million

    Wind
    New wind capacity installed: 170,000 MW (=10x current capacity)
    The average “on-line factor” is: 40% (a high estimate, even for windy West Texas)
    Total power generated = 68,000 MW
    Installation cost per nameplate KW (projected) = $2,500
    Total investment = $425 billion
    Investment cost per MW generated = $6.25 million

    Balance – Nuclear
    Total fossil fuel generation shut down = 825,000 MW
    Household solar added = 86,250 MW
    Wind added = 68,000 MW
    Balance replaced by nuclear = 825,000 – 86,250 – 68,000 = 670,750 MW
    Total nameplate capacity (90% on line) = 745,278 MW
    Installation cost per nameplate KW = $3,000
    Total investment = $ 2,236 billion
    Investment cost per MW generated = $3.3 million

    Total installation cost of Gore proposal = $3.7 trillion

    TBP proposal
    Shut down gas-fired stations to free up natural gas for motor fuel
    Percentage of power generated by natural gas = 22%
    Total to be replaced = 242,000 MW

    Alternate 1
    Replace gas-fired stations with wind (TBP proposal)
    New wind power to replace natural gas = 242,000 MW
    Total nameplate capacity (40% on line) = 605,000 MW
    Installation cost per nameplate KW (projected) = $2,500
    Total investment = $1.5 trillion

    Alternate 2
    Replace gas-fired stations with nuclear
    New nuclear power to replace natural gas = 242,000 MW
    Total nameplate capacity (90% on line) = 268,889 MW
    Installation cost per nameplate KW (projected) = $3,000
    Total investment = $0.8 trillion

    So the Gore plan costs $3.7 trillion, the TBP plan (all wind) costs $1.5 trillion and the TBP plan (nuclear) costs $0.8 trillion.

    But how about large-scale solar costs?
    A large scale solar plant is being built in “sunny” Spain (subsidized by EU)

    http://petrochemical.ihs.com/news-07Q2/eu-en-solar-plant-spain-4-07.jsp

    It has a nameplate capacity of 11 MW
    And will generate: 23,000 MWH/year
    On-line factor = 23.9%
    Installation cost is 35 million Euro or around $52 million

    There will always be a limited niche for solar/wind, but they will not provide a large percentage of the world’s electrical power because of high cost and low reliability, as long as cheap nuclear fission is available.

    The argument has been made that switching to nuclear is limited by uranium reserves, while there is “an unlimited amount of wind and sun”.

    Uranium reserves are usually quoted as “X-million tons available at a price of Y”. If “Y” is increased, “X” goes up exponentially. And uranium is a small part of the cost of electrical power from nuclear generation, so its cost is not that important.

    The picture shows that we are only scratching the surface on uranium reserves.

    http://www.americanenergyindependence.com/NuclearSlides/Uranium01.htm

    Nuclear fission can draw upon a small percentage of the 40 trillion tons of uranium in the earth’s crust until it extracts a total of half a trillion tons, three centuries from now, when civilization will be using energy at 8,000 times the rate that it is today. That would be without breeder-reactors or any kind of fuel-reprocessing.

    Adding breeder-reactors at that point, and a small percentage of the 160 trillion tons of thorium in the crust, would allow us to last until five centuries from now, when civilization will be using energy at 3.2 million times the rate that it is today.

    So there is no practical limit.

    Looks to me like that’s the way to go for growth and maybe to free up some natural gas for US motor fuel, if this can be economically justified (but not “to save the planet”, as Al Gore would have us do).

    Just my thoughts on this. (And I’m not getting paid by the “nuclear lobby”.)

    Max

  100. to mike mcmillan

    earth revolution

    there is a nice site in europe which carefully measures the rotation of the earth. it has been changing lately.

    maybe you are right

  101. Manaker, that was awesome.

    I just saw a VESTAS add on TV(windturbine company) They showed an aerial view of a wind farm on some ridges somewhere. There was one spinning very slowly. The rest??? Sitting still. I think they need some new PR people, but they certainly illustrated the problem quite well.

  102. New Zealand only has a population of 4.1 million. A few decent dams and a few geothermal plants is all they really need.

    And is a very small geographical area. The problems of supplying power over vast areas doesn’t exist down there.

  103. Give the Bats something better to do like a huge Count Chocula party complete with the Adams family… if scaring them doesn’t work. Otherwise, ignoring the issue in weight of human existence as a diguise is ludicrous. When do we stop holding our own egos over others on the earth? Ans; Not until I kill the whole lot of them, Huh. How much is guano pulling on the market today?

  104. manacker, I don’t know where you’re getting your numbers for your analysis or how old they are, but Here’s a nice summary of the current costs of various options provided by the National Energy Regulatory Commission.

  105. Here are some entirely different figures regarding the cost of various types of power. This chart is from Forbes magazine, a financial publication. I trust Forbes’ accuracy more than the government’s, because if Forbes is wrong, readers lose money and the magazine loses circulation. But if the government spins its numbers, nothing happens to them: click

  106. Hi Ricorun,

    Yeah. NERC was one of the sources I used for capital investment costs of various types of power plants.

    For large nuclear plants I got the data from a August 2008 report by the World Nuclear Association entitled, “The Economics of Nuclear Power”

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.html

    It lists nine major new nuclear plants now under construction or recently completed worldwide, ranging from 1650MW to 4320MW, with an average investment cost of $2,500/KW. I rounded this up to $3,000/KW.

    Nuclear plants are quoted as having a 90+% on-line factor. I used 90%.

    On household solar panels I got several sources and assumed that the long-term costs could be cut in half due to improved manufacturing technology and economy of scale.

    Larger scale solar plants are quoted at 23-25% on-line factor. I used 26%.

    On wind farms I took the NERC figure plus some costs on UK, US, Egypt and China plants. These investment costs range from $1,800/KW to $3,000/KW excluding the cost of the land. I used $2,500/KW.

    I’ve seen on-line factors from 25% to 40% quoted. I used 40%.

    Hope this clear it up.

    Regards,

    Max

  107. Hi Smokey,

    Thanks for link to power generation costs in US cents per KWH.

    What I was quoting were the capital investment costs for building new plants rather than the operating cost (fuel, retirement of capital, etc.) after they have been built.

    That’s another can of worms (especially when you read the footnote, “after government subsidies”).

    Your numbers show that coal is still the most economical alternate.

    But I was trying to come up with a “price tag” for Al Gore’s plan to shut down all USA fossil fuel power plants in ten years. At $3.7 trillion (without any net increase in power generated) it seems a bit steep. Of course, if we “save the planet” by doing it…

    But wait! To “save the planet” we not only have to shut down all US fossil fuel fired plants, but those of the whole world.

    The USA represents around 24% of the world’s fossil fuel fired power generation, so the “price tag” for Gore’s proposal to “save the planet” is really $15 trillion.

    OUCH!

    Regards,

    Max

  108. retired engineer (09:01:37) :

    There are lots of jokes about Texans and Californians in Colorado. Sometimes they can be a little irritating, but basically I love to have visitors to Colorado.

    It’s fun to comment on the geology of Glenwood Canyon, while explaining the Grand Canyon is another state away. Or, I might let a little kid bring in a trout I’ve hooked. Or tell some low landers at the peak of Mt. Evans what a marmot is.

    I’ve personally had only one bad experience with a Texan intruding on my privacy while fly fishing up by Taylor Park. He kept parking behind me and fishing just above where I was fishing. I would leave the stream to him, pull away and find another spot. Every time, he would be next to me within 10 minutes.

    To my shame and regret I resolve the issue by playing dumb and waded right down the middle of stream to where he was fishing and asking, “How’s fishing?” All the while dead drifting my line down to where he was fishing.

    How would I handle this today? Just walk up to him, chat with him for a few minutes, perhaps share a fly or two and ask where he would like to fish. I might throw in the ‘old man’ on the stream act as well, pretending to know where the best fishing is and suggesting he take that portion of the stream as my guest.

    Oh well, the mistakes of youth.

  109. Ricorun (12:36:12) :

    There is only one way to determine what the behavior of Shell’s in situ processing of oil shale truly is: let them build a full scale operation. Perhaps a single lease to be monitored by all parties concerned.

    That way we will know what the true costs and benefits will be.

    All the rest is talk until we give it a real trial.

    Nice part about it, it will all be on Shell’s nickel. In fact all of this has been on Shell’s nickel. No subsidies required.

    So when will they get permission to find out the true parameters of oil shale processing?

  110. To Jack Simmons

    I am a Californian and I certainly took no offense to your reference to Californians and Texans. Rudeness is not exclusive to us. The problem with “immigrants” is, when they arrive, they immediately want to create the evironment from which they have “emigrated.” Californians, especially, should be carefully watched for any signs that they may be trying to change Colorado to be more like California. I have a sister in Longmont and she is perfectly happy with the Colorado environment. Good luck on your fishing.

  111. “I might throw in the ‘old man’ on the stream act as well, pretending to know where the best fishing is and suggesting he take that portion of the stream as my guest.”

    Charming, I’m sure.

    [go ahead and snip this]

  112. manacker, thank you for your thoughtful comment — and link. Smokey, do you have the link to the Forbes article that figure was taken from?

    Ultimately, it’s the levelized cost/kWH that should be compared between alternatives — recognizing of course that some alternatives are more susceptible to variations in fuel price than others. Another thing I pay attention to are the cost trajectories over time for each alternative. In other words, the figure I linked to gives a sense of how costs are changing over time. The last figure in your article (pg 12 in the pdf version) gives a sense as well. And Smokey’s figure, providing as it does the current share of output, indicates which alternatives are likely to benefit most from increases in economy of scale, namely biomass, wind, geothermal and solar. Of those I’d say solar (both solar thermal and solar PV) is poised to drop significantly in the next few years — assuming it’s helped along until it expands enough to capture a reasonable market share.

    Finally, since Smokey’s a fan of Forbes, I thought I’d throw in this article about the biggest, fattest, lowest-hanging fruit on the energy tree: energy efficiency.

    Fully exploiting wherever practical the best available efficiency techniques throughout the U.S. economy could save half our oil and gas use, and three-fourths of our electricity, at about an eighth of their current price.

  113. Jack Simmons: There is only one way to determine what the behavior of Shell’s in situ processing of oil shale truly is: let them build a full scale operation.

    My understanding is that Shell doesn’t think they’re ready to do that. And as that GreenCarCongress article I cited earlier pointed out, “In 2007, Shell withdrew the application for a mining permit on one of its three oil-shale research and demonstration leases for economic reasons: costs for building the underground freeze wall of frozen water to contain melted shale had ‘significantly escalated.’” That doesn’t bode well.

  114. And Smokey’s figure, providing as it does the current share of output, indicates which alternatives are likely to benefit most from increases in economy of scale, namely biomass, wind, geothermal and solar.

    I wouldn’t count on that. Especially with Biomass, Wind, and Solar. There’s enough production now that any more advances in scale will be incremental at best.

    Fully exploiting wherever practical the best available efficiency techniques throughout the U.S. economy could save half our oil and gas use, and three-fourths of our electricity, at about an eighth of their current price.

    I’ll have to read the article, but seriously doubt those claims as well.

  115. O.K.

    I read the Forbes article on efficiency. High energy costs will do what he is proposing, probably already are. That’s the nature of free markets.

  116. Checked out Ed Scott’s 80MW CleanTech / PG+E solar power generation plant being planned for Fresno, CA.

    This plant is expected to have an on-line factor of around 25% and is being justified on the basis that it will provide “peak power” during hot, sunny summer days for AC, etc., which appears to makes sense. Plus, it’s green and clean (and “sexy”).

    I couldn’t find any investment cost figures, but the next largest solar plant is being built in Moura, Portugal, using essentially the same modular photovoltaic cell technology. This plant has a nameplate capacity of 62MW, and is also expected to have a 25% on-line factor. It is expected to cost $400 million.

    So let’s assume the slightly larger PG+E plant at 80MW will cost $500 million (keep your fingers crossed).

    For this same investment you could build a combined cycle gas/steam turbine plant of 650MW with an on-line factor of 92%. These plants are very flexible, and such a plant could also be used to provide “peak power”. But the main difference is that it could provide this power whenever needed, not just when the sun is shining.

    Yes, the gas-fired plant would need natural gas while the solar plant could use “free” solar energy, but the difference in investment cost and on-line availability still makes solar power a “long shot”, which still has a long way to go to be truly competitive on a cost basis.

    Wind power appears to be considerably more competitive than solar, but also suffers from the on-line availability problem, and cannot compete today with either conventional fossil-fuel or nuclear power. In addition, wind farms cannot be built near the largest demand centers and peak winds are usually at night, when power demand is lowest.

    So it looks like the solar/wind proponents still have a lot of homework to do.

    Max

  117. Almost all high mileage vehicles (taxis, buses, etc) and many private vehicles here in Perth Western Australia run on LPG (liquid natural gas), for the simple reason it is a third the price of petrol or diesel.

    LPG is a propane/butane mix, not natural gas (methane).

  118. Ricorun (15:40:00) :

    Seems odd, doesn’t it, for Shell to allow all the publicity to go forward on something they are not going to do?

    I was quite surprised to see such a detailed report on their efforts, not only in the Forbes article, but in the Denver Post.

    In any event, the decision needs to be based on the economics, not politics. Again, it is all on Shell’s nickel.

    Waiting for further developments.

  119. To manacker,

    I could not find a mention of the subsidies that make projects such CleanTech’s Fresno solar project possible. I did find a reference to the necessity of subsidies at: http://www.tmcnet.com/usubmit/2004/jan/1023355.htm

    Government Subsidies Vital in Making Solar Power Technology Price-Competitive

    Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst Patricia Seifert. “Subsidies will be necessary for another three to five years until solar power can compete with more common energy sources such as natural gas or oil.”

    The consumer pays at both ends, as in the subsidizing of ethanol.

  120. Prolly meant LNG.

    No, LPG is a very common fuel for high mileage vehicles in Australia – particularly in Victoria. It’s considerably better as a vehicle fuel than natural gas, for a number of reasons. First, higher energy density. Second, it’s a liquid at room temperature and only fairly low pressure – meaning you can carry more fuel at the same pressure, which is much safer. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find see an LPG equipped vehicle that has caught fire and the LPG tank is intact and still containing fuel – it was the petrol (gasoline) that caused the fire! And third, because it requires very little engine modification to run a petrol (gasoline) engine on LPG (propane), it’s possible to run on both fuels, switching between them as required/desired.

    It’s a very common and popular fuel, and is a favourite of high mileage drivers because, even though you consume about 10% more to cover the same distance compared to petrol, it’s only about about 50% the price per litre of petrol, making it extremely cost effective. It would be even more so, considering we (Australia) export it in bulk for less than 10c/L, yet retail pricing at the bowser is around 70c/L!

    Further, because it’s delivered to the engine as a gas, and because of it’s lower carbon content, it’s a very low emissions fuel on *all* fronts – HC, NOx, CO and CO2. So low, in fact, that vehicles using purely LPG as fuel are not as severely tested for emissions, and one can register such a vehicle in NSW (strictest state for registration requirements) with only a basic CO check. So “green”, in fact, that there is a Govt. subsidy of $2000 to convert a vehicle to this fuel. You can even buy vehicles brand new with factory fitted LPG only engines.

    Because it’s a mix of propane and butane, it also allows the refineries to get rid of significant amounts of butane that they would otherwise flare off as waste product.

  121. Neil Fisher wrote about West Australia using LPG as a motor fuel. From his post it appears that LPG is pretty big in Australia today.

    LPG as a motor fuel has been going on for some time in many parts of the world. The Dutch were among the first to start this back in the 1980s.

    http://www.envirogas.co.uk/faqs.htm

    Quoting from the article, “LPG is used to power about 4 million cars and vans around the world [2001 statistics]. Larger markets include Italy with 1.1 m vehicles, Australia with 490,000 and The Netherlands with 360,000 -the highest percentage of the total number of vehicles of any country.”

    These statistics are from 2001, and the numbers are significantly higher today. I have seen the figure for 2008 of “over 9 million vehicles world-wide” running on LPG.

    Nearly all the taxis in Japan run on LPG, and India, Brazil, Turkey and the USA all have significant numbers of gas-fuelled cars. Hong Kong has been replacing diesel driven taxicabs with LPG taxis since 2000 and completed the process in 2006. This was done in order to reduce real smog pollution from CO, unburned hydrocarbons, NOx and soot from the diesels (not “greenhouse” CO2 emissions, which were of no concern).

    The article states, “Buses, light vans and heavy duty trucks can be converted to run on the fuel, as can diesel-engined boats, fork lift trucks and generators.”

    Here is a link to a June 2007 writeup from Perth, which describes a more recent move to natural gas vehicles:

    http://www.pakcng.com/cng-news/International/news-intl-main-05.asp

    ”West Australian based Advanced Engine Components Limited (AEC) has commenced a development and promotion strategy for Isuzu trucks, fuelled by liquefied natural gas (“LNG”), for the Australian market. The initiative will benefit significantly from the new LNG capacity and infrastructure becoming available in Western Australia. The first LNG refueling station, for the heavy duty vehicle market, is planned to be operational in Perth, Western Australia by the last quarter of calendar 2007. The site is to be the first of a planned refueling infrastructure, for heavy duty vehicles, throughout WA and into the Eastern States.”

    So it looks like West Australia is already using LPG and may be going to LNG as well.

    I’ve seen another report that states that there are apparently around 4 million vehicles worldwide running on natural gas today. Most of these run on compressed natural gas (CNG) and a few on liquefied natural gas (LNG).

    Max

  122. manacker: Yes, the gas-fired plant would need natural gas while the solar plant could use “free” solar energy, but the difference in investment cost and on-line availability still makes solar power a “long shot”, which still has a long way to go to be truly competitive on a cost basis.

    It might be worth mentioning that that’s pretty much what they said about nuclear back in the 80s, too. It wasn’t as much “greenies” that killed nuclear power (not to mention wind, solar thermal, and solar PV) as it was economics. The cost of fossil fuels tanked, and every indication at the time was that they would stay tanked. And they did — until fairly recently. And no one gave it much of a thought — until very recently. At least in the US. Other places (Iceland, France, Brazil, Denmark, etc.) weren’t so easily suckered. They got into various technologies while the getting was good. Who woulda thought back in 2003 that anything French woulda smelled sweet? Lol!

    Be that as it may, since costs today are primarily driven by demand, not artificial supply manipulation, prices aren’t likely to tank again. It’s more likely that costs of fossil fuels will continue to rise. Likewise, it’s also likely that costs of wind, solar thermal and (especially) solar PV will continue to fall (relatively speaking) — but only if one of two things happen: (a) they are assisted (while fossil fuel prices remain relatively low) until they sufficiently penetrate the market, or; (b) we can wait until fossil fuel prices go through the roof and we start scrambling around. Hmmm… which to choose.

    Going back to Forbes again, this article mentions that “Over the last two decades, the cost of manufacturing and installing a photovoltaic solar-power system has decreased by about 20% with every doubling of installed capacity.” … and… “As a result, solar power has been creeping toward cost-competitiveness in some areas. California, for example, combines abundant sunshine with retail electricity prices that, partly as a result of the state’s policies, are among the highest in the country–up to 36 cents per kilowatt-hour for residential users. Unsubsidized solar power also costs 36 cents per kilowatt-hour, but support from the California Solar Initiative cuts the price customers pay to 27 cents.”

    In terms of solar thermal, in the southwestern United States, the cost of electricity from CSP plants (including the federal ITC) is roughly 13-17cents per kilowatt-hour, meaning that CSP with thermal storage is competitive today with simple-cycle natural gas-fired power plants. The U.S. Department of Energy aims to reduce CSP costs to 7-10 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2015 and to 5-7 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2020, making CSP competitive with fossil-fuel-based power sources.

    But of course, none of that would happen if current costs were allowed to be the only thing driving the market. And I suppose you could say therein lies the dilemma. Pure free market types insist that there be no drivers except unfettered supply and demand, and any attempt to manipulate either is a big no-no. On the other hand, there are others who recognize that that whole notion is a fantasy unto itself for any industry with significant impacts beyond (i.e., external to) the transaction itself. And perhaps with the exception of national defense, in no industry are those externalities more obvious than in the energy sector. Under those circumstances,
    if the free market is left alone it often leads to entrenchment of vested interests, not innovation. Manipulation is often necessary to change the nature of the equation and drive innovation. If you think about it seriously, if it weren’t for government investment in the biomedical industry, pharmaceuticals, transportation… heck, just about any major industry you can think of — even oil and gas (and nuclear, of course), the world would be a very different place. And the US (along with Europe, Asia, and any other advanced country) would not be technology leaders. Governments that don’t invest in RD&D (research, development and deployment) aren’t technology leaders for long.

    Getting back to your original point… yes, the cost of utility scale solar PV is high. But five years ago, anyone even contemplating a utility scale solar PV plant would have been considered nuts. I suspect that five years from now it will look like a wise investment. As the costs of these technologies approach grid parity all kinds of good things happen — patents obtained along the way become more valuable, jobs are created, manufacturing opportunities open up, energy prices become essentially locked in, exports increase, imports decrease, energy security improves. And eventually we can tell the Saudis, and others of their ilk, to go pound sand. Wouldn’t that be nice?

    One more sort of nitpicky thing… you suggested that a combined cycle gas/steam turbine plant has an on-line factor of 92% while also being flexible enough to provide “peak power”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the on-line capacity factor represents the percentage of the nameplate capacity that the facility could produce if it runs at maximum production all the time. In which case it wouldn’t be very flexible, correct?

  123. Ricorun (15:33:04) :

    Smokey, do you have the link to the Forbes article that figure was taken from?

    It’s here: click

    Here’s another interesting Forbes article that shines some needed daylight on the pop-opinion, error-prone site Wikipedia: click

  124. Hi Ricorun,

    Sorry, the numbers still show that wind farms, and to a much greater extent, solar energy, still have a very long way to go to become truly competitive with nuclear, natural gas or coal. These are the facts of life today, despite rosy articles about these renewables becoming “almost competitive”.

    I am not arguing that they might not some day do so.

    They just have not yet done so. By a long shot.

    So let’s let companies try to develop these new fields, maybe even with some taxpayer R+D support, at the same time let the utility companies construct new plants based on proven nuclear technology and coal-fired plus gas-fired plants.

    And (for motor fuels) let’s explore all avenues that make sense to break away from reliance on oil imports. More US offshore drilling, development of the vast oil shale reserves, syn-fuels from coal, bio-fuels, etc. No taxpayer money required here. Just let the energy companies do their thing without strangling them with bueaucratic federal regulations.

    Regards,

    Max

    That’s what makes sense.

    Regards,

    Max

  125. Hi Ricorun,

    Back to your query, “One more sort of nitpicky thing… you suggested that a combined cycle gas/steam turbine plant has an on-line factor of 92% while also being flexible enough to provide “peak power”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the on-line capacity factor represents the percentage of the nameplate capacity that the facility could produce if it runs at maximum production all the time. In which case it wouldn’t be very flexible, correct?”

    No, Ricorun, you’re wrong on that assumption.

    A gas-fired plant can produce power at an on-line factor of 92% (if that is what the grid requires), or it can be used as a “peak demand” generator, since it can be turned on and off fairly easily. So it is extremely flexible.

    A solar plant does not have this advantage. It has an on-line factor of maximum 25%, not based on the demand of the grid, but on the availability of the sun.

    Wind plants have the same problem based on availability of the wind, although somewhat higher on-line factors approaching 40% have been mentioned here, for isolated cases such as West Texas or certain locations in Hawaii.

    Neither wind nor solar are competitive today on a large scale, although each can make sense for certain niche areas, particularly with some taxpayer subsidies.

    Regards,

    Max

  126. Here is a really promising solar energy company, discussed earlier on this site.

    http://www.nanosolar.com/

    If they can get installation costs down to $1 per watt, I’ll take a serious look at installing it on my house.

    Will still need something for the night.

  127. Manacker said:

    So let’s let companies try to develop these new fields, maybe even with some taxpayer R+D support, at the same time let the utility companies construct new plants based on proven nuclear technology and coal-fired plus gas-fired plants.

    And (for motor fuels) let’s explore all avenues that make sense to break away from reliance on oil imports. More US offshore drilling, development of the vast oil shale reserves, syn-fuels from coal, bio-fuels, etc. No taxpayer money required here. Just let the energy companies do their thing without strangling them with bueaucratic federal regulations.

    Extremely well said, Max. I couldn’t agree more.

  128. Hi Jack Simmons,

    The Nanosolar thin film solar panel concept for building medium-size power units (2-10MW) sounds good. Thanks for link.

    They mention getting costs for the panels themselves down to $1,000 per nameplate KW.

    A 11MW solar plant being built in Seville, Spain is scheduled to cost $53 million or $4,800 per nameplate KW, almost 5 times the Nanosolar figure.

    The much smaller domestic solar panels of 5KW cost around $35,000 today (installed) or $7,000 per nameplate KW. This should come down as more are produced.

    So if the $1,000 per nameplate KW is really a correct figure for the entire installation (not just the delivered panels), this is a major improvement.

    At 25% on-line factor it still leaves solar much less economical than gas-fired stations, at $770 per nameplate KW with a 92% on-line factor, but it brings it closer, particularly for smaller scale plants.

    But if you can get a 5KW home system installed for $5,000, this would be a fantastic deal. Depending on where you live, you might even get the government to pick up a big piece of the tab.

    Regards,

    Max

  129. The government is distorting the market [as usual] by giving a 10% tax credit for wind & solar. Boone Pickens, the Texas oil scamster, is capitalizing on this free handout.

    Note that oil companies’ profits are around 9%, and the gov’t’s tax grab is much higher than what oil companies earn.

    The free market always solves any shortages before they become critical, to the constant astonishment and dismay of the Luddite Malthusians. The only reason we are so dependent on foreign oil is due directly to Congress, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the enviro lobby. They are solely responsible for high gas prices. That unholy alliance is totally responsible for the fix we’re in now; they are 100% to blame, not CO2, not the Arabs, not American workers. It is a conspiracy, pure and simple. Anyone with eyes and a brain can see it.

    Unleash American industry and know-how, and watch $1.60/gal gas come back [it's happened before. In 1998 oil was close to $10/bbl].

  130. You’ve got a point there, Smokey.

    Let’s hope the US congress can get out of the way and not block Shell (and others) from developing the oil shale deposits (plus lift off-shore drilling ban).

    Oil shale is projected to be very profitable at $60/barrel, so gasoline prices could come down.

    Combine this with developing more fuel-efficient automobiles and this would give the USA a secure supply source of oil for the next 100+years, without the need for major imports.

    Long before this starts to run out there will be new developments that will enable the long-term shift away from oil. These innovations will be driven by industry (oil companies plus others) and will not require massive government intervention.

    Regards,

    Max

  131. “Bats are not being [killed] at all the wind projects all over the country—it is happening in some places and not others,” she said…

    I wonder if the areas where the wind projects are killing the bats are located near cell phone towers or power lines or some other source of EMR?

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