How Green Was My Bankruptcy?

Guest Post by David Middleton

My apologies to the memories of the late Richard Llewellyn and late John Ford; but I just had to borrow their title for this post. This paragraph from a 2010 Telegraph article really says it all…

Its 500,000 photovoltaic panels will generate 30 megawatts of electricity, enough, in the popular measurement, to power 9,000 homes. It is costing about $250 million to build, significantly less than a gas, coal or nuclear power station, which can easily exceed $1 billion. And it represents a sea-change in America’s energy business.

America has been notoriously devoted to hydrocarbon fuels. Big Oil, Big Coal and big Texan hats in the White House were seen by the rest of the world to be keeping it so, whatever the global interest. Oil barons funnelled money to scientists ready to pour doubt on the science of climate change, and conservative Republicans led the charge to pour scorn on those such as the former Democrat vice-president Al Gore who were urging Americans to rethink where their energy was coming from.

The power plant described in the preceding passage is the Cimarron Solar Facility, built on Ted Turner’s 590,823 acre ranch in northern New Mexico. It is indeed true that most natural gas- and coal-fired power plants cost a lot more than $250 million to build. However, it’s also true that most natural gas- and coal-fired power plants have nameplate generating capacities a bit larger than 30 MW…

TVA to build natural gas power plant
By DUNCAN MANSFIELD, Associated Press
Posted June 4, 2009

KNOXVILLE — The Tennessee Valley Authority on Thursday decided to build an $820 million natural gas power plant in northeastern Tennessee to comply with a North Carolina lawsuit over air quality.

The 880-megawatt combined-cycle gas plant would be as large as the 1950s-era, coal-fired John Sevier plant in Rogersville that a federal judge has targeted for new pollution controls on North Carolina’s behalf.

[…]

LINK

  • $820 million divided by 880 MW works out to $931,818 per MW.
  • $250 million divided by 30 MW works out to $8,333,333 per MW.

Assuming that the gas-fired plant managed an 85% capacity factor and a 30-yr plant lifetime, the initial capital expenditure would work out to $0.004/kWh… A bit less than half-a-cent per kilowatt-hour. Assuming a 25% capacity factor and a 30-yr plant lifetime for the Cimarron Solar Facility, the initial capital expenditure works out to $0.127/kWh… Almost 13 cents per kilowatt-hour! The average residential electricity rate in the US is currently around 12 cents per kWh… That’s the retail price. As a consumer of electricity, I know which plan I would pick. I’m currently paying about 9 cents per kWh. I sure as heck wouldn’t seek out a provider who would have to raise my current rate by about 50% just to cover their plant construction costs.

Solar photovoltaic electricity is bankruptcy the green way writ large. Here in Texas, Austin Energy has agreed to a long-term purchase agreement to pay $10 million a year for 25 years, for the electricity generated by the Webberville Solar Farm. That works out to more than 15 cents per kWh.

Figure 1. Levelized Cost of New Electricity Generating Sources

In concert with his efforts to drive up the cost of coal- and natural gas-fired power plants, President Obama has aggressively pursued an agenda of financing expensive power plants with taxpayer dollars. Many of these taxpayer-guaranteed loans have gone to financially strapped companies, lacking the means to repay those loans. In most cases local utilities were coerced or enticed into signing long-term purchase agreements to buy electricity at nearly double the cost of coal- and natural gas-generated electricity. The sole justification for this “green” centralized industrial policy is the Lysenko-like junk science of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.

The economics of this “green” centralized industrial policy are mind numbingly horrible.

Figure 2. The economics of solar photovoltaic poer plants are simply awful.

The capex for solar power plants averages between $6- and $7-million per MW of installed capacity. Coal-fired plants generally run less than $2-million per MW and natural gas plants currently run less than $1-million per MW. The average retail residential electricity rate in the U.S. is currently less than 12¢ per kWh. The levelized generation cost for the plants being financed by the Obama administration is more than 20¢ per kWh. His “green” centralized industrial policy will drive the wholesale cost of electricity to nearly double the current retail rate.

One need not literally seize the assets of businesses and install gov’t bureaucrats into management position to effectively nationalize those businesses. All it takes is to make them dependent on gov’t and/or direct their activities through regulatory constraints.

268 thoughts on “How Green Was My Bankruptcy?

  1. You also have to consider degradation of that solar farm of about 10% capacity per year. So they might get 30 megawatts the first year but that will drop to 27 megawatts the second year. 24.3 year 3, 21.9 year 4, 20.7 in year 5. After 5 years they will have lost 1/3 of the original generating capacity due to various things such as individual cell failures, degradation of individual cells, etc.

  2. Here in Australia where our dollar is pretty much parity with the US$, we’re paying about 30 cents / kW-hr (summer tariff) and around 25 as the winter tariff. Our summer tariff is higher because of peak demand for air-con cooling in summer.

  3. At least they don’t frequently have the problem of snow covering the panels for weeks at a time…

  4. Solar power will only ever get close to the rated capacity on sunny days in mid-summer. Come winter, it might generate 20% of rated capacity on a sunny day and as little as 5% on a cloudy day.

    The seasonality of solar power (at mid to high latitudes) is such an intractable problem that no one is even pretending to try and solve it.

  5. How many megawatt-hours will that solar plant produce between 8pm and 6am?

  6. Ted Turner and friends should be required to pay for these costly fiascos entirely.
    If greenie watermelon types want to do un-economical politically correct projects, they may finance their own fantasy companies to try to do them. Don’t make all of us pay for this crap.

  7. Whether or not you believe in CAGW and on this blog most are sceptical as indeed am I, the development of non polluting forms of energy production surely is a plus for the environment. Isn’t it? Everything isn’t always down to the dollars and cents. Is it?

  8. You’v forgotten that very critical factor in green thinking, job creation:

    Solar panels require thousands of person years to build the manufacturing plant and install the solar panels.

    Natural gas plants are evil, so the jobs to build it don’t count.

    Solar plants require thousands pf person years to maintain.

    Natural gas plants are evil, so the jobs to maintain it don’t count.

    Yes, there is a cost to the economy to support green energy, but look at all the jobs it creates!


  9. ■$820 million divided by 880 MW works out to $931,818 per MW.
    ■$250 million divided by 30 MW works out to $8,333,333 per MW.

    How dare you compare apples to apples like that! This is no longer allowed in post modern science. You have to use “adjusted units” for comparisons between green energy and evil energy. For example, you can’t compare the 30 MW green energy “in the popular measurement, to power 9,000 homes” to the evil energy powering 264,000 homes; no, the evil power must use “home” units of the “Al Gore type” such that it can only power ……. naught ….. naught ……. carry the one …….. ………… 42. You see, this way instead of the cost being about $28k for each home the green plant powers compared to $3k for the evil power, once properly adjusted it’s $28k per home powered greenly compared to $19.5 Million per home* powered evilly.

    [*: fine print too small to see.]

    For your own sake, I hope you get the hang of this soon.

    (Surely, this is not necessary, but just in case: /sarc)

  10. In the UK, the green boom seems to be fuelled by the desire of rich people to make more money by hosting heavily- and even fully-subsidised wind-farms, and I’m sure, as flooding continues during the heavy rainfall of our “drought”, solar cell farms will follow. It’s enclosure all over again

  11. And so the tax dollars must continue to swirl, swirl, swirl down the solar powered drain…

  12. Crosspatch – is that true, where can we get more information in an easilydigestable form?

  13. “It ain’t easy, being green.” Kermit the Frog

    It ain’t cost effective either, Kermie! Mac the Knife

  14. In Ireland, at current exchange rates I am paying $0.21 per kWh,( €0.161) thanks in part to green subsidies and carbon taxes. I can only dream of the authors $0.09 rate, which converts to under €0.07.

  15. The costs described in this article also leave out the costs of building the gas/coal/nuclear power plant that still has to be built as backup for the times when the solar station isn’t generating. Which then also have to be paid to sit idle at times when the solar station is generating.

    These are the economics of the madhouse.

  16. One of the main benefits of solar energy is that it can be produced at the place of consumption. If you cut out the need for (extra) transmission lines and compare to the energy retail price its almost comparable to conventional energy. Add a decade of further development and I think we will see a lot of solar panels complementing other energy sources, especially photovoltaic and heat producing version.

    Big solar farm with todays technology doesnt seem a good idea though.

  17. davidmhoffer says: “…Yes, there is a cost to the economy to support green energy, but look at all the jobs it creates!”

    Real jobs create wealth. A quick look at the economics shows that sunbath power is long on capital investment and short on net wealth creation. The money would be better invested in real power plants. These things are elitist toys.

  18. Most people stop taking in information at the first ‘illion’ and assume that the jumping eco-politico-clowns (sorry Julia and Al) are trustworthy.

  19. Ian of Fremantle says:
    May 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm “ . . . non polluting . . .

    Nonsense. These things are expensive, damaging to the environment where they are built, and almost useless. Look intently at the photo at the top of this post and explain the environmental “plus” you see. Yes, I know, you were thinking of CO2 emissions and global warming. The contribution of this facility to a reduced future temperature to the nearest whole number is zero. In scattered remote locations when cost is not an issue, small scale solar power can find an effective home. The type of activity represented by the Cimarron Solar Facility is a parasite within a developed economy.

  20. It’s far worse in the UK where we don’t get much sun. The average capacity factor of solar farms is less than 6%. The subsidies are much larger than in the US and the solar farms are built on farmland, as we don’t have much in the way of desert.

  21. I think I’m getting the picture but it’s patently obvious that pictures of solar panels covering the desert floor are vastly superior to pictures, complete with the inevitable sun blocking camera angle, of smoke stacks belching dangerous white steam.

  22. I read somewhere that solar panels only produce their peak power when they are aligned to within seven degrees of normal of the the incoming sunlight. That means rigidly mounted solar panels only produce their peak power for about one hour per day (sun moves across sky at fifteen degrees an hour).
    Also the efficiency of the current solar panels is just 20% so 1,000 watts of sunlight will give 200 watts of electricity. I understand 40% efficiency UV panels are under development but not commercially available as yet. Does the above UV panel field really produce 30 megawatts?

  23. Crosspatch – is that true, where can we get more information in an easilydigestable form?

    There are several methods of degradation. The most common these days is cell delamination in the cheaper cells coming from China, basically the layers come apart. There is another problem where the output of the cell fades over time. This article states that average is something 4.5% per year degradation ( http://energy.aol.com/2011/10/07/solar-panels-dont-work-and-no-one-knows/ ) but industry reports from Germany are that the cheaper cells from China have twice that rate.

    The thing is that a panel is often made from many individual cells. One single cell can fail or greatly degrade and there is really no decent way to tell. Google has done some work with monitoring each individual cell on a panel to spot problem cells.

    This document shows some case histories with older modules with somewhat better results but even then we see a significant number of modules (which contain many individual cells) with considerable degradation: http://www.solar-santral.com/menuis/Long%20Term%20Performance%20of%20PV%20Systems030226.pdf

    What I am looking for and not finding was a report from a newer German plant that had to be abandoned because the solar cells were simply falling apart. The pictures I saw showed pieces of delaminated cells on the ground around the panels. Systems installed up to about 2006 or 2007 seem to be OK. Systems installed more recently seem to be of poorer construction quality.

    IF you can get very well-constructed panels, you might get 1% per year degradation assuming no hot spots, no browning, no delamination, no chemical degradation. If you get the cheapest ones available on the market, you are going to have trouble maintaining 5% per year degradation and are likely to see closer to 10%.

  24. First of all the prices for solar panels dropped in the last two years dramatically, now you get panels already for 0,7 USD/Watt and the prices are steadily going further down. So taking two year old prices for comparison is already manipulatory. In addition the sun power is free whereas the natural gas operating costs were disregarded. Furthermore PV is producing electricity usually at times of peak consumption, i.e. midday, thus lowering- at least in Europe- the electicity peak prices for industrial customers.
    All in all I do not understand why it always has to be “either-or”, I think we will need in the future all sorts of power supply to safeguard our streadily rising consumption needs.

  25. FrankSW says:
    May 4, 2012 at 10:11 pm
    Crosspatch – is that true, where can we get more information in an easilydigestable form?

    Beware of simple answers to the question of degradation or anything else about solar power. ‘crosspatch’s’ numbers are likely high but there are other issues. The panels and the instillations are quite variable. Some home set-ups will have battery storage, others connected to the local utility may not. These require additional safety features and add cost. Does the area get snow? Are they self cleaning or do you have this chore to do? Commercial facilities (utility-scale solar) in warmer reliably sunny areas likely do not have a snow problem but may have a dust issue and need a self-dusting capability. These and many other issues are moving targets. Do a lot of reading and watch the date of publication and who the source is. Someone selling panels may not be the best place to get information – although the contract you are asked to sign may enlighten. Many hits on Bing or Google — one source of green tech info is here:

    http://www.greentechmedia.com/

  26. Only those photovoltaic solar plants in the very best locations (think Mojave Dessert) achieve 25% capacity factors. CCGT plants routinely exceed 90% capacity factors. Therefore, the spread between the economics of the two technologies is even more extreme than the author supposes. Yet the band plays on!

  27. At least they won’t have to look for a place to encapsulate and contain vast quantities of radioactive waste for thousands of years. And the millions of dollars that will be spent trying to rectify the polluting result of fracking. And the millions of dollars spent on cleanup of oil spills. And the millions of dollars spent trying to scrub the coal fired plants of the release of toxic chemicals into local environments. Time is of the essence. When we have to drill many miles into the sea floor. When we are cracking rock to squeeze out the last remaining fossil fuels, the knock is on the door. We should be finding new ways to provide the energy our children and our children’s children will need. Gas and oil are highly concentrated and very valuable sources of energy. But they are limited indeed. They should be conserved. We’re gonna need them, big time.
    Time to dump this silly propaganda from the oil and gas industry and start looking to future sources of energy, whatever they may be.

  28. David, can you please add the price for the fuel itself to the equation. You don’t want to be blamed for incorrect calculations. My guestimate is that it still boils down to only 2 to 5 cents per Kw.

  29. Wally says:
    May 4, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    Here in Australia …….. Our summer tariff is higher because of peak demand for air-con cooling in summer.

    It is sheer insanity even if you accept the AGW belief that they are generating power at three times the cost when many years ago we has absorption refrigeration that slots neatly into a solar powered system cooling via direct heating panels at least five decades ago. I know it sound daft but it worked and we had a gas heater powered fridge for years when I was young.
    Unlike other applications the solar power available to drive the cooling system increases at exactly the rate that demand for it increases. All it needs is for a good old fashioned water heater type panel and the return of a refrigeration system that only commercial pressures from a big company GE against its smaller rivals like Electrolux, removed from the market, The market cost differential we were talking about was about a ten percent one, so we are talking about a twenty percent one to include the extra heat exchanger and a no mechanical parts system with panel cleaning as the only maintenance cost.
    If the grants thrown away on the PV and wind follies were spent on a new factory to produce this type of unit it would save more fossil fuel than the far more expensive plants generate which would be good for both those with and without the faith.

  30. Ian of Fremantle says:
    May 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm
    Whether or not you believe in CAGW and on this blog most are sceptical as indeed am I, the development of non polluting forms of energy production surely is a plus for the environment. Isn’t it? Everything isn’t always down to the dollars and cents. Is it?

    How many people do you know who are prepared, voluntarily, to to pay 50% extra for electricity above current rates, solely because the source is “green?” Of course, if you look at the real numbers, which include the degradation of plant and the necessary backup plant, etc. as mentioned by other commenters, that 50% is a major understatement. It is not an efficient use of capital, which is just as much “a resource” as anything else.

  31. Has anybody who governs any of the Western world countries thought this through? Our economies at the moment are close to collapse, so what do we do? Hike energy prices by a huge amount to satisfy some delusional theory! In the UK, they have opted to derive energy from wind and sun, this is despite the fact that neither of these are exactlystrong features of the UK climate. What we do have though is geological stability, so if our government believes in AGW why not build nuclear power stations?
    Our governments are not fit to govern and as a consequence China and India will be the major economies and consequently dominant military powers within a few years.

  32. boydo3 N Albany says:
    May 4, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    At least they won’t have to look for a place to encapsulate and contain vast quantities of radioactive waste for thousands of years.

    Have you any idea of the materials used in these panels. Clearly not. As for the thousand year nuclear waste I think it was Goebbels who said for a good plausible lie make the claim outrageous and contain a grain of truth.
    The green movement certainly succeeded with this claim. Waste contains a mixture of long half life low energy and short half life high energy. The fifty to one hundred year waste is a problem but after that only the low energy components are still active and the really low energy ones are around for a thousand years. The danger of these can be judged from the fact that the same ingredients were used in luminous dials in WW2 planes and one old lady I knew said they used to lick the brushes to get a finer point on them. She left us in no doubt that to her us kids today ( us being pensioners) were self indulgent fuss pots when she read about the action on waste in Scotland which was just this sort of instrumentation. She died aged nearly 90.

  33. A great article David. Very well written and presented. No fudging or weasel words and calculations.. directly comparable costs of energy generation in MW and cents per kw/h to allow people to see just what a major fraud these Govt-backed solar schemes are. I hope many people read this and send it onto family and friends. People really do need to know how they are being robbed blind by these evil buggers.

  34. There was more radiation coming up through the floor of my parents house in Cornwall than you could get by sitting on the top of the pile of so-called low level contaminated waste at Windscale. I must ask my 94 year old, perfectly fit, mother how much it has shortened her life.

  35. At least sunlight is free. ????
    Dhuh, gas, oil, coal and uranium are all free too. All you have to do is drill a well or build and operate a mine and you have free fuel. Even if you understand arithmetic and calculate the cost it is still much less expensive than solar. The developed cost of every energy source is a direct reflection of its associated pollution, Higher cost means more resources have been exploited and consumed to produce a unit of energy..

    All types of energy are only free if you don’t use them, except maybe sunburn and forest fires.

  36. I have abandoned utility companies that have sizable wind and solar facilities in their energy portfolios. It is delusional to think that solar and wind power are economical. As of the last bill from my current utility company, which is using mostly coal and natural gas facilities, my current rate is $0.0993/kWh. Which is considerably less than my average bill from the so-called “environment-friendly” utility: around $0.12 – 0.15/kWh.

    Barack the Usurper’s energy policy is a sure prescription for bankruptcy for everybody, especially the United States.

  37. What never ceases to amaze (me) is how the costs of these government mandated things can and do simply skyrocket.
    Example:
    Presently in the UK, installers are saying they can put 4kW of solar PV on your roof for ~£6,000, call that £1.50 per watt or US$3.2. It is possible to buy (at RETAIL) prices, the basic panels for £0.50 per watt. Each installation is a custom job, with scaffolding, climbing about inside the roof space, lifting and replacing roof-tiles, installing new meters and piles of paperwork for each (4kW) job. Custom built, it still comes in at US$3.2 per watt, delivered, as a turnkey project.
    So, given the obvious economy(s) of scale of planting 240 acres of panels in a desert, how do they still turn $3.2 per installed watt into $8.33?
    Maybe it is really true that governments, like insurance companies, have more money than they know what to do with.

  38. In these remote desert locations, these solar panels are such inviting targets, that vandals will use long-range, high-powered rifles and blast them bits like they do to road signs.

    Sand storms are common in deserts and will probably destroy the panels before their rated lifetime. Some types of desert dust are very fine, abrasive and corrosive. I just learned this today from a doc on the History channel about African desert dust.

  39. Magzan:

    At May 4, 2012 at 11:12 pm you say;

    “In addition the sun power is free whereas the natural gas operating costs were disregarded.”

    I wish greens could understand that
    ALL ENERGY IS FREE BUT COLLECTING IT HAS COST.

    Total power output cost of a power plant are the sum of
    • the costs of collecting the energy,
    • power plant capital costs,
    • power plant operating costs
    • power plant decommissioning costs,
    • output power delivery costs.

    With the exception of hydropower, the power available from ‘green energy’ is very expensive because the collected energy is very diffuse and, therefore, collecting the energy has very, very high cost. And that is why – with the exception of hydropower – ‘green energy’ was abandoned when the greater energy intensity in fossil fuels became available by use of the steam engine.

    (As Scotty said to Kirk, “Ye canna buck the Laws Of Physics, Jim”.)

    Richard

  40. Since the Industrial Revolution in the 18th/19th centuries in England, where coal and iron were concentrated in the north, economic growth has been a direct result of cheap energy. Higher energy prices naturally lead to industrial decline.

    In the US I believe there is at least 860 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas and 270 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Europe has slightly less at around 640 trillion cubic feet of shale gas.

    In recent years in the US, the mining, oil and gas industries have created over 500,000 new jobs. Expansion of the US oil and gas industries could lead to an additional 1.5 million new jobs. There is a boom in traditional energy in the US whilst the green sector has lost about 500,000 jobs.

    The boom has resulted in the expansion of factories such as a $650 million steel mill in Youngstown making gas pipelines. The growth of US energy production and the industrial developement that follows will begin to redress the loss of 5 million jobs in manufacturing and construction since 2006.

    So instead of politicians in Europe and America trying to buck the market with their bankrupt policies of rigging the prices of solar and wind energy caused by their infatuation with the CAGW scare they should be thinking: cheap energy =industrial growth=jobs=exports=
    economic recovery=prosperity.

    Clever, inventive people will in time develop cheap and truly sustainable sources of alternative energy.

  41. Ian of Fremantle says:
    May 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm
    “Whether or not you believe in CAGW and on this blog most are sceptical as indeed am I, the development of non polluting forms of energy production surely is a plus for the environment. Isn’t it? Everything isn’t always down to the dollars and cents. Is it?”

    I would say it differently. Everything is always down to the dollars and cents, Ian, especially environmental degradation. The dropping price of PV means that it becomes less destructive for the environment. It is produced using rather noxious chemicals and loads of coal power with all that that entails. When PV cells become cheaper this means the production process becomes less energy intensive and cleaner (because less of those chemicals are used and lost in the process, more of these not only poisonous but also expensive substances are re-used).

  42. Economic madness! $11.5 billion (If my eyes don’t deceive me), to produce a paltry 1788MW. That’s less than the output of a single, coal-fired power station, like Radcliffe-on-Trent, where the Greenies had a protest last year!

  43. @Magzan The OP compared costs for building the power stations and their outputs. The cost of the solar cells is therefore included. I don’t think that anyone is saying the panel cost is an issue as its already fallen to a point where its a relatively small part of the overall cost of the solar farm. It’s everything else that has to be built around the solar farm that makes the electricity expensive for the potential yield. This includes the gas power station required as backup :-)

  44. Although I am mathematically challenged, I think this works out to around 55 panels per household.

    Our daily consumption is 12.5 KW/h, I have the latest bill in front of me ($ 0.30 ave per KW/h) no off peak , just immersion water heating, evaporative cooling as we get long hot summers, usually, fan all night all year round. Something doesn’t add up, 55 panels for just over 500watts per hour.

    Double , triple it, still seems odd.

  45. GlynnMhor says:
    May 4, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    At least they don’t frequently have the problem of snow covering the panels for weeks at a time…
    This area gets quite a bit of snow actually.

  46. Can the person upthread who thinks “green” solar energy devices don’t harm the environment just think about the damage making, maintaining, de-mantling the things does to the environment, and then compare that to their output?

    And then tell us which system is more damaging? Guess what so-called “green” solutions are BAD for the planet. Rare earth refinement has RADIO-ACTIVE waste, where you gonna store that? But “green” solutions also wreck huge swathes of the planet … lose lose.

  47. Stop solely blaming Obama. Most of this policy was introduced by the two Bushes, and if your boy Romney gets into office, he will expand it even more than Obama. Guaranteed.

  48. Julian Braggins says:
    May 5, 2012 at 2:57 am
    “Although I am mathematically challenged, I think this works out to around 55 panels per household.
    Our daily consumption is 12.5 KW/h,”

    What they say is 55 panels or 3,300 Wattpeak per household. Now consider that they might have about 1,300 sunhours per year, out of a total of 8,000 hours. Let’s say 1/6th of the time. That’s the factor you’ve missed. 3,300W / 6 = 550W.

    The journalists are very careful to avoid explaining that. That’s what they get their wage for.

  49. Ian of Fremantle says May 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    …, the development of non polluting forms of energy production surely is a plus for the environment. Isn’t it?

    Look at that photo, Ian. How is covering the land with solar cells “good for the environment”?

  50. Richard111 says:
    May 4, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    “I read somewhere that solar panels only produce their peak power when they are aligned to within seven degrees of normal of the the incoming sunlight. That means rigidly mounted solar panels only produce their peak power for about one hour per day (sun moves across sky at fifteen degrees an hour). Also the efficiency of the current solar panels is just 20%. Does the above UV panel field really produce 30 megawatts?”

    I used a small 15 watt panel to try and keep a 12v battery charged. I fitted a simple digital meter to see how it was doing. On a clear July day in the UK (with the panel aimed directly at the sun), it never gave more than 12 watts, which dropped over the course of 5 years… A cumulus cloud passing between sun and panel would half the output. By the time winter was in full swing (even having re-aimed the panel lower), I would be lucky to get 10% output, and some days it was virtually unmeasurable.

    Jonathan Smith says:
    May 5, 2012 at 12:08 am

    “If you plot graphs of the data you will find, particularly in winter, that PV provides very little when it is needed.”

    Pierre Gosselin reports on a very expensive “energy-efficient home” which includes a graph of solar output vs demand:http://notrickszone.com/2012/05/03/germanys-3-million-energy-efficient-test-home-of-the-future-flops/

  51. And another point, or question. Don’t solar panels decrease the albedo, i.e. absorb more incoming short wave energy than the desert? Wouldn’t this increase global warming?

  52. Costs aside, does no one ever consider the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the manufacture of these solar cells? The carbothermic reduction process for making silicon from lump quartz (not sand, as is common believed) emits a lot of carbon dioxide. On a per-weight basis it is much greater than the weight of the silicon in the solar cell. Given the degradation of the cells with time-in-service, I guestimate that the pay-back of the “carbon debt” of manufacturing the cells is approximately equal to the service live.

    The carbon dioxide emissions of these cells is seldom if ever discussed. It is a huge problem.

  53. @boydo3 N Albany,

    Fracking has never polluted anything.  It is physically impossible for a hydraulic fracturing operation to pollute a groundwater aquifer thousands (or even hundreds) of feet above the hydrocarbon reservoir.

    @Magzan,

    The solar plants being built today will be inflicting economic damage for 30 years or longer.  Any improvements in the cost-effectiveness of solar panels over the last two or next thirty years are irrelevant.  You can’t just replace the solar panels every year or two, like your smart phone. 

    Furthermore, the levelized costs in figure 1 are from the most recent EIA survey.  It was published this year.

    @Magzan & Timmo,

    The levelized costs in figure 1 include fuel.  The ballpark fuel consumption of a natural gas plant is 0.01 mcf/kWh.  At the current US price of about $2.40/mcf, the fuel cost is ~$0.024/kWh.  For the levelized generation cost of a gas-fired plant to approach that of solar PV, sustained natural gas prices would have to approach $20/mcf. 

    Furthermore, the gas plant operates 24/7/365.  Even if you had an efficient battery storage system, you would have to build 3-4 MW of solar generating capacity to replace each 1 MW of gas, coal or nuclear capacity.

  54. Combined cycle power plant full cost, $ 1.5 million per MWh.
    Distributed power generators (DG) cost for small-scale generators, European Type 1 million dollars per MWh with (CHP). Hyundai of South Korea for $ 650 000 per MWh. Dual fuel system (Natural gas – Gas oil).
    A power generating stations (DG, distributed generators) 25 MWh, is 16.38 million dollars. (Korean made- Hyundai).
    SM Independent Power Plants, Ltd.

  55. …you would have to build 3-4 mw of solar generating capacity to replace each 1 mw do gas, coal or nuclear capacity”.

    That still doesn’t solve the problem. The earth’s rotation and declination FIXES the output of the solar panel to the time of day. With conventional sources, as long as one has fuel one has electricity, on demand, 24/7.

    The next logical step for the greens will be rationing (read “time of day”).

    Cheers!

  56. David Jones says:
    May 5, 2012 at 12:13 am

    Ian of Fremantle says:
    May 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm
    Whether or not you believe in CAGW and on this blog most are sceptical as indeed am I, the development of non polluting forms of energy production surely is a plus for the environment. Isn’t it? Everything isn’t always down to the dollars and cents. Is it?

    How many people do you know who are prepared, voluntarily, to to pay 50% extra for electricity above current rates, solely because the source is “green?” Of course, if you look at the real numbers, which include the degradation of plant and the necessary backup plant, etc. as mentioned by other commenters, that 50% is a major understatement. It is not an efficient use of capital, which is just as much “a resource” as anything else.

    I think the issue is more complicated than that. Much of what passes for green energy initiative isn’t that at all. For example, in Ontario the government is upgrading several old power lines (in fact this seems to be where the bulk of their investment is going) so that feed in tarrif power can be supported. But when you look through the green energy banner these lines are being replaced because they are old and need replacing and their capacities are being upgraded so that they can carry electricity from more distant power sources to reduce the possibility of power outages. In other words, they had to do much of this work anyway.

    If you look at the power rates through many American states, the poorer states tend to have lower power rates because power is a subsidized commodity. As governments run bigger deficits they are not able to absorb these lower power rate subsidies. Rather than tell you they are mismanaging your economy the green energy banner is stuck on.

    We do have a responsibility to develop clean energy. But modern gas-fired plants and clean-burning coal plants are an integral part of that clean energy program, not just solar and wind.

    In Middleton’s analysis it would have helped to quote the cost of natural gas per MW to better compare it solar which gets it energy “free” from the sun. Unfortunately for solar I suspect the maintenance costs are poorly known (due to the lack of track record for large installations).

    I use to poke fun at Californians for their high electricity rates. Our rates in Ontario are now tipping $0.15 per kWh and are set to become the second highest in North America just below Alaska. Green government sure is costly. I’m going to have to keep the helicopter going twice as long just to break even.

  57. Enter $3 nat gas, and the Green’s energy plan falls apart. So they must cram it down our throats by back-door restrictions on the generation of power with nat gas. The median household income in $52,026, so for every $1 million in waste, either from wealth destruction or higher prices, we destroy about 20 jobs. And we wonder why the labor force participation rate is falling out of the sky. The liberal secular utopia is really dangerous to our liberty and prosperity

  58. boydo3 N Albany,
    thanks for the review of lefty talking points.
    If you actually believe them, then go review your points against the facts and see if you are amenable to facts. You imply you live in Albany NY. Would you be OK if we forced you guys in Albany to live off of solar power only? Please advise.

  59. davidmhoffer says:
    May 4, 2012 at 9:58 pm
    Yes, there is a cost to the economy to support green energy, but look at all the jobs it creates!

    True. And most of them are in China….

  60. The view from space (Google Earth): 36°28’07.30″ N 104°37’59.77″ W

  61. Others may have said the same above but I’m not going to read all of the comments right now.

    “generate 30 megawatts of electricity” (… when the sun doth shine and brand new)

    8.3 million per megawatt (… when the sun doth shine, with commercial dual gas/heating oil available at less than 1.0 million per megawatt ginning 24/7/365)

    So where is all of this dumb money coming from? $250,000,000 in this case.

    I think most realizes these are actually crooks and need to be jailed along with the elected representative and public servants involved for embezzling tax payers monies via collusion, unless this is totally private money invested without ties, once again, back through elected representative and public servants into tax money in like manner.

    Makes you fume doesn’t it? Now who is going step forward and stop them? The DOJ? lol.

  62. Harold Pierce Jr says:
    May 5, 2012 at 1:57 am
    Some types of desert dust are very fine, abrasive and corrosive. I just learned this today from a doc on the History channel about African desert dust.

    And once talcum powder-type dust has settled on something, you can’t blow it off — you have to wash it off using a low-pressure hose.

    If Ted gets his water from a well, the pipe better be sunk about fifty feet below the water level, or he’ll be sucking air during the dry season…

  63. @Steve from Rockwood,

    According to the EIA the levelized cost of natural gas (w/o CCS) is $60-65/MWh.  Solar PV is ~$210/MWh.

    Capital costs are ~$0.96 million per MW ($4/MWh) for gas and ~$6.5 million per MW ($127/MWh) for solar PV.

    Fuel costs for gas run about $10/MWh per $1/mcf of gas.

  64. $127/MWh was based on my estimate for the Cimarron facility. The EIA puts the capital cost at just under $200/MWh.

  65. If we trust the genius of the invisible hand of an optimally regulated free market, we wouldn’t be stuck with Governments and their crony capitalist, socialist, and communist friends forcing “solutions” that are not yet ready for primetime.

  66. In the USA when costs are measured in units of cents most consumers don’t care or understand if something is .03 higher than something else if that something else is better. The key to changing the discussion is to use a measurement that has a larger impact to it. Maybe a comparison of the cooling cost of a 2500 sqft home for ten years contrasting fossil vs green would bring to light the utter foolishness and consequences of idiotic policy and dishonest pols.

  67. It is odd that there are no public sources that summarize the engineering facts and economics of ‘green energy’. The obvious first question is how much will total carbon dioxide emissions be reduced if trillions of deficit dollars were used to subsidize ‘green’ energy projects? Space tourism to the moon is a good idea except for the costs and practical issues such as the risk of death.

    Oddly enough spending trillions of dollars on ‘green’ energy does not significant reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions unless the ‘green’ energy source is nuclear.

    Photovoltaic systems that scaled up to power a city are not economically and if constructed and installed will not significantly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to power the city.

    Comment:
    ‘Green’ energy advocates are either part of the scam or are ignorant of the facts and support ‘green’ expenditures because it makes them ‘feel good’. We have already had the example of the conversion of food to biofuel. The cost of biofuel from corn is twice the cost of fossil fuel and the carbon dioxide emissions if one includes all energy inputs to grow the corn, transport the corn, and triple distill the ethanol is 7% higher than fossil fuel. (Not including the residue energy value of the processed corn which can be fed to cattle as the cows are not used to pull cars. The economic value of feeding the processed corn to cows is included.)

    The cost of a battery storage unit per MW is four times the cost of a single cycle natural gas power plant. The batteries have a limited life and need to be replaced. Batteries are not economical or practical based on the amounts energy storage required. Also significant amount of energy is required to fabricate and install the battery system.

    The cost estimated for a photovoltaic power system needs to include the cost for a single cycle natural gas plant to provide backup power for the times when the sun does not shine (i.e. night) or cloudy days.

    The problem is a single cycle natural gas plant is roughly 30% efficient. A combined cycle natural gas power plant is 60% efficient but costs roughly 4 times more.

    If one uses a single cycle natural gas plant to provide backup as compared to a combined cycle natural gas power plant there is minimal reduction in CO2 emissions over a combined cycle natural gas plant.

    Also the calculations above do not include the energy input required to produce the photovoltaic system and to install the photovoltaic system. As noted above one must construct a combine cycle gas plant complete with a pipeline system to provide gas in addition to the photovoltaic system. The costs are not ‘or’ but rather ‘and’.

    Oddly enough spending trillions of dollars on ‘green’ energy does not significant reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions unless the ‘green’ energy source is nuclear.

  68. Isn’t extra CO2 one of the greenest things we could do for the biosphere? It blows my mind that the CO2 = pollutant meme could have ever gotten off the ground as it has, but I suppose that’s the power of propaganda, especially when it becomes removed 1 degree from the initial source and becomes self propagating.

  69. Proponents would tell you that solar and wind power is cost effective when compared to other “new” conventional sources of power. There goes that theory.

    In Ontario (or “Ontari-owe” for the financially inclined) distributors must purchase electricity generated by wind and solar ahead of other sources. We have surplus power, so we pay 13.5 to 80 cents per kWh for wind and solar power that we don’t need, and spill “free” water over hydro dams, especially this time of year. We sometimes have to pay other jurisdictions to take this expensive “green” surplus power off our hands. The local power company installed smart meters ($500 a shot?) on my home AND seasonal cottage, along with everyone else’s. The cost is added to the pool of expenditures that will eventually show up on our bills. They are spending hundreds of millions to build transmission lines to tie widely distributed wind and solar projects into the grid. New technology (likely another financial black hole) will be required to manage and stabilize the grid because of the variable nature of wind and solar. All for power we don’t need. How’s that for perverse economics?

  70. …And at night..?
    Is the developer going to follow the inventive Spanish developers, who installed diesel generators so that they got the same (ridiculous) price for their electricity during the hours of darkness..?

  71. George says:
    May 5, 2012 at 4:19 am
    “Given the degradation of the cells with time-in-service, I guestimate that the pay-back of the “carbon debt” of manufacturing the cells is approximately equal to the service live. ”

    The energy payback time for a complete solar installation with German insolation (800 sun hours per year) is about 7 years according to

    http://festkoerper-kernphysik.de/erntefaktor

    (German, but with schmatics explaining the EROEI concept).
    Minimum lifetime is usually assumed to be 20 years.
    So basically you get 3 calories out for one calory in.

  72. In Australia, where the Greens have had perhaps more influence at state government level, we are paying about 22 cents per kWhr (23 cents US). Energy is regulated by the states in Australia. We are told to expect about 30% price increase on that too over the next few years. The MSM in Australia thinks that is a great idea. And that is with one particular state having about 1000 years supply of brown coal.

  73. ‘crosspatch says:
    May 4, 2012 at 9:26
    You also have to consider degradation of that solar farm of about 10% capacity per year. ‘

    This is pure bologna based on your own references. Panel manufacturers provide 20 to 25 year 80% performance warranties. The data from your references:

    Pg 12: Conclusions
    There is no statistically significant difference in the performance of the
    modules with monocrystalline and polycrystalline cells
    (average degradation rate 0.7% per year)
    Furthermore two thirds of modules have the final maximum power verified
    to be more than 90% of the initial power value after >20 years of outdoor
    exposure.

    Pg 18:
    Conclusions for the 10kW TISO Plant
    Not good looking, but perfectly functioning plant
    Good expectation for at least 30 year lifetime?

    Pg 19:
    Average weighted degradation of 5.2%, over the 19 years of operation
    (0.4% per annum including initial degradation)

    Pg 23:
    Conclusions from the operation of a-Si thin film facade
    Altogether the system has had an uptime > 99%

    It does no good to exaggerate your arguments. I have a solar system that was heavily subsidized by the local municipality. I agree that the ROI simply does not work without subsidies. There are a lot of considerations that go into the costs that are often not considered or are glossed over. The main culprit is installation costs. This is often about 50% of the overall system cost. There is technology that will hopefully significantly reduce the costs such as micro-inverters.

  74. What is the goal of US federal government’s energy policy? According to the Dept. of Energy’s (DOE) web site (http://energy.gov/about-us):
    “The mission of the Energy Department is to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.”
    Notice that their mission statement says nothing explicitly about abundant or inexpensive energy, but is instead technology focused. The phrase “ensure America’s security and prosperity” implies abundant and inexpensive energy.
    Simple math reveals that solar and wind power are not even transitional solutions, and certainly not the “transformative” solutions sought by the DOE.
    The DOE website promotes the DOE-backed transformative solutions currently in progress. None of these will “ensure America’s security and prosperity” unless the outcome is abundant and inexpensive energy.

  75. David, you have omitted the most valuable output from these projects – that of warm, fuzzy feelings. WFFs are essential to the mental well being of those who are alarmed by everything. We live in a terrified society, where every shadow, could be a Earth ending event. WFFs will rescue us from mental breakdown, and any cost is gladly paid. WFF is what makes our world go round. MW(e) output is irrelevant to MWFF(emo) output. GK

  76. @Dirk H,

    EROEI is the perfect example of Lysenko-style accounting to go along with the Lysenko-style science of CAGW. I don’t spend energy to fill my tank. I don’t give energy back to the gas & electric companies in exchange for them being nice enough to heat and light my home. My company doesn’t drill for oil & gas to make energy.

    I spend money to fill my tank. My company drills wells for oil & gas to make money. My gas & electric bills are paid for with money. My pay check, ExxonMobil & Shell credit card statements and checks to the gas & electric companies aren’t denominated in joules, kilowatts or btu – They are denominated in $.

    I don’t give a rat’s @$$ if 1 barrel of amoeba farts uses less energy to produce than 1 barrel of crude oil… Because the barrel of amoeba farts costs $800 and can’t be produced in sufficient quantities to be waiting for me at the Exxon or Shell station when I need it.

    If oil companies (or any businesses) used EROEI to guide their investment decisions, they would go out of business (unless the gov’t was footing the bill).

  77. I have been experimenting with a small solar setup here in central NM. During the winter with the shorter daylight hours, power generation is nearly equivalent with summer due to the colder cell temperatures. I adjust the panel orientation monthly to the optimum point (elevation angle changes) to maximize the power generated. Using the latest generation of inverter technology, I average 20% of rated panel capacity. For example, 1kW of panels would produce on average 200 Watt/hours of power. The article states “500,000” panels. Assuming these are the larger 260W panels (5×10^5*260*20%= 26MW). Close enough to the stated capacity, but no compensation for panel aging (as well as the other degradation issues mentioned).
    Panel prices have dropped to below $1/Watt, with the extra costs of inverters and assorted support hardware, a self -installed system (read as free labor), in my area the payback time is around 10 years assuming nothing breaks…..

  78. Gen4 energy formerly hyperion will be selling self contained nuclear 25mw for under 100 million, good for ten years 24/7.Seems as if they will be rebuildable but no current exchange value.

  79. David Middleton says:
    May 5, 2012 at 6:40 am
    “EROEI is the perfect example of Lysenko-style accounting to go along with the Lysenko-style science of CAGW. I don’t spend energy to fill my tank. I don’t give energy back to the gas & electric […]
    If oil companies (or any businesses) used EROEI to guide their investment decisions, they would go out of business (unless the gov’t was footing the bill).”

    Of course they do. Energy and money are interchangeable as long as there is a market price for energy. When you say a decision (e.g. to drill in the Gulf of Mexico) makes sense financially, you also imply that it makes sense energetically. Ignoring political distortions for the moment.

    Yes, I know the argument that some forms of energy are more valuable than others, I have ignored that as well. Liquid fuels are more valuable (but conversion methods do exist; and the losses are significant but often only in the order of 15% or so, so that would not be an absolute showstopper. If you absolutely need it liquid, go turn something into a liquid and lose a liitle bit in the conversion).

    Anyhow, I just wanted to point to a in my view fair assessment of the energy expenditure for PV. You get some far more glowing assessments from the PV industry; they’ll tell you that the energy payback time is months. They ignore all the contributing factors like the energy cost of the inverters, the installation etc.

    I find 7 years not that glorious at all. This is the table from where I found the document.

    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energier%C3%BCcklaufzeit#Energetische_Amortisationszeit

    It is surprisingly informative for a wikipedia page. Notice that a nuclear reactor has to run for just 2 months to pay back the invested energy.
    The English wikipedia has other numbers, but also interesting.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_returned_on_energy_invested

    Historically, high cultures vanished when their EROEI dropped under 3; there was no more enough surplus to maintain a bureaucratic caste. The current EROEI of PV is in that range. I expect it to improve in the future. The subsidy regimes you criticize are the exact symptom of the fact that the current state of PV is best described as uncompetitive. The moment it becomes competitive the subsidies will not be necessary anymore (well, duh).

  80. Few people seem to point out that solar panels cause man-made global warming. Obviously they decrease the albedo, and all of that energy not being reflected back into space is warming up the globe. Solar panels are intrinsically inefficient, and most of the energy received isn’t even producing electricity; it is simply warming up the air around the collector array.

  81. Anthony, I would like to point out that using flat rates for kwhr usage is not necessarily a fair comparison. As you know I’m not a greenie econut but if we are going to criticize the solar industry for it’s costs we need to put this in perspective.

    Firstly, there is an apples to oranges comparison on useful life expectancy of PV solar to any of the standard means of electrical generation. 25 years is the tops for PV where as coal, gas and oil fired units have been know to last up to 100 years. The typical industrial life of these fired units is around 50 years with good maintenance and timely upgrades as technology progresses. As for gas turbines 25 years is not unreasonable but coaxing 50 years out of one might be possible. Steam systems can be run indefinitely due to their ability to replace components. So a careful analysis is required of maintenance cost must be considered, after all when utility companies are shutting down coal plants (steam systems) in favor of gas turbines there must be something to the lifecycle analysis that indicates retrofitting such plants is not cost effective. This means replacing whole sections of PVs in the future may be cost effective.

    Secondly, solar is a load following technology, that is during the 4 hours per day (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) when electrical generation is practical it coincides at the same time peak usage occurs in the business community (as opposed to residential which is after 5 p.m.) Having said that businesses pay time of use rates with retail Kw demand charges of $10 and more during the same period in which solar generated electricity is available. So IF you are going to do a cost comparison then to do so you are comparing the peaking generation of electricity Kw demand and NOT THE BASE LOAD kwhr cost structure. Both the proponents and critics of solar PV have over sold their positions by including solar for residential use. Which means that 13 kwhr cost is NOT accurate as it should be (13 x (24/4)) 78 cents/kwhr that is unless this figure has already been computed in that fashion. So IF solar is only for business electric use and not residential then current time of use rates adequately cover the cost of solar IMO.

    Thirdly, if you have ever done a residential cost comparison of off grid power generation, you will see while the first cost of solar PV is twice as high as a conventional gasoline/diesel/propane/natural gas fired unit, the operational costs are WAY cheaper for solar. IF you had to power your house off the grid for a month (say after a hurricane) or indefinitely, the cost for conventional runs from $5000 per month to $3000 per month respectively using those fuels. (gasoline->diesel->propane->natural gas) Whereas solar PV operating cost is virtually zero with a battery storage system. Virtually since you obviously have to amortize the replacement/maintenance costs of the batteries and PV as things wear out over the 25 year life of the system. BUT if you compare the amortized off grid cost of PV residential generation to on grid conventional fuel then conventional is cheaper.

  82. So let me get this straight. How many endangered plants, butterflies, and lizards were displaced by this government-subsidized solar array built on private land? Were they as worried about what WAS under the panels as they always are about the flora and fauna when the same size track of renewable trees are harvested?

    Which group of greenies sued to keep this array from scaring the land? [crickets are so shocked even THEY aren’t making a sound]

  83. jabre says:
    Pg 23:
    Conclusions from the operation of a-Si thin film facade
    Altogether the system has had an uptime > 99%

    A solar system that works at night? That is so cool!

  84. Play hard but play fair. Capex isn’t the whole analysis. I see no mention of fuel cost in this article. I’d like to see an analysis of what makes solar capex expensive, and a discussion of likely areas of improvement. Remember that James Watt invented the condenser in 1765. There’s a lot of improvement that happened for traditional means of generation between 1765 and today. Let’s also not forget that the basic problem with fossil fuels is the fossil part. It would be interesting to do a comparison where increased demand for fossil fuel was projected out in light of growing demand in China and other places. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t invest any of my savings in a solar power plant, but then again there was a time when I refused to invest in anything but IBM because I didn’t see a future in the personal computer. Ultimately you have to trust that the operation of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” will sort things out and believe that schemes coming from Washington DC will interfere with that. We like to celebrate success in business, but the operation of the “invisible hand” also involves things that are tried but don’t work out. The future is coal and natural gas. Solar is just business adventurism – but where would progress come from if there were no adventures?

  85. David, I remember when urban sprawl (habitat destruction by human expansion) was one of the environmentalist causes and during a trip across Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado I noted a significant amount of normally productive acreage is now being used for wind harvesting. These were actually beautiful structures at first but after a couple hours on I70 they became simple eye soars but at least I didn’t see any deer along the highway. After the dazzle of the technology wears off, will not the eco-sprawl find itself in the vernacular of “evil energy” along with coal and gas? In the Cimarron example the density of the panels would be significantly more intrusive on the natural habitat than the wind farms but the result is the same impact to wildlife. Once these energy farms become recognized as eco-sprawl what will be the disposal costs for these technologies? It’s my understanding that especially the solar cell employ hazardous materials in production and with their relatively short effective life cycle there will be significant maintenance and replacement work, so wouldn’t it follow that disposal will be a costly endeavor and that with the current trends, that disposal will be at public expense?

  86. Here in W MD I’m paying $.0625/kWhr (6.25 cents) — minus all the rent-seeker tax/tariff add-ons. I guess that’s what I get for using those coal/gas-powered sources…

    Anyone ever notice how all public utility services get more & more “add-ons” as the yrs go by? Your government (local/state/federal) rent-seekers slowly but surely at work….

  87. @DirkH,

    Money and energy are not interchangeable (fungible). If energy was fungible, natural gas would be trading at about $17/mcf all over the world… Or oil would be trading at about $15/bbl.

  88. jabre: Panel manufacturers provide 20 to 25 year 80% performance warranties.

    That’s good until the manufacturer goes bankrupt. I have a 2 KW Sunpower installation that is performing very well and producing almost all of our power. Their product appears good and I hope their warranty will never be invoked. But if I ever need it, I want them to still be in business.

  89. Ian of Fremantle says:
    May 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm
    …the development of non polluting forms of energy production surely is a plus for the environment. Isn’t it? Everything isn’t always down to the dollars and cents. Is it?
    ————————
    This will sound cold in our PC age, but everything involving econmoic transactions does come down to dollars and cents or else how will this solar plant sustain itself? We really cannot organize society based on the whims of the Ted Turners of the world and still maintain prosperity and economic opportunity for the masses.

  90. David.. don’t use engineering units and financial units….that will only confuse the eco-weirdo’s newspeak.

    Also…Energy and $ are entirely interchangeable…well, oil and $. Everything we use can be equate to so much oil. And the cost of a commodity is a reflection of the amount of oil used to produce it. But again, that requires math and units and stuff…. a pointless exercise with the green religion.

  91. Ian of Fremantle says:
    May 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm
    “Whether or not you believe in CAGW and on this blog most are sceptical as indeed am I, the development of non polluting forms of energy production surely is a plus for the environment. Isn’t it? Everything isn’t always down to the dollars and cents. Is it?”

    Actually, yes, the “environment” would be far better off if more attention were paid to market prices. If that solar plant costs ten times what a gas-fired plant would cost (per megawatt), then effectively it’s eating up approximately ten times the resources initially.

    During operation, it then is supposed to gain back that disadvantage due to the gas plant’s requirement for fuel. However, you also have the required maintenance on the solar plant to consider. Virtually all of these considerations (plus all the others that might be missed or, when regulators with an attitude are involved, consciously ignored) will eventually be captured in a price somewhere.

    If, in the end, you consume a product that costs ten times the cost of another product, you’ve probably consumed nearly ten times the resources, assuming the market is allowed to function properly. In short, the solar plant is wasting significant resources, not money, but real resources.

    There are external costs, of course, but a good economist can devise ways to capture those in pricing, and that’s where the regulators should focus their efforts, instead of on favoring one method of production over another while completely ignoring pricing signals (as is the case with solar and wind today.)

    And this isn’t even considering the quite likely possibility that millions of dollars of government loans are being bled off the project into the pockets of our President’s bundlers…

  92. One of my (several) computers which crunch numbers 24/7 pulls a shade over .5KW/Hr.
    It’s a powerful machine with real production measured in TFLOPS, but there is no getting around the cost of feeding and cooling it. On the bright side, it helps warm the office in winter.

    If solar photovoltaic panels made economic sense, they would have already been installed on my roof.

    A great deal of profit- motivated research for at least the past 35 years has yet to create photovoltaics which are a rational investment for me. Maybe in another 35 years…

  93. These solar panels will create hundreds of jobs. Low-paid low-life cleaners’ jobs, mostly illegal aliens, cleaning the panels from desert dust, continuously for the 25 years of the PV’s expected lifetime. I just wonder from where qre they getting all that water and how much it will cost. If the panels are not cleaned continuously, their efficiency will drop dramatically, especellially in a desert environment where it doesn’t rain.

  94. Steve Cota says:
    May 5, 2012 at 7:55 am
    “. . . but at least I didn’t see any deer along the highway.

    Do deer object to the towers (sight, sound, buzz)? Our local elk herd seems to find them attractive and often are seen in the midst of the “wind farm.”
    ————————————————-

    dscott says:
    May 5, 2012 at 7:45 am
    “Steam systems can be run indefinitely due to their ability to replace components.

    I have a double bit felling axe like that. I’ve replaced the handle 3 times and the business end once. Best darn axe I’ve ever owned.

    Oh, note that the post is not by Anthony, but by David. Nice post. Interesting comments.

  95. Fundamentals are: If solar was cost effective it wouldn’t need subsidies. It would just be cheaper. It isn’t. Many places in the US have 200 or more cloudy days per year. How is solar going to work there? Binghamton New York is an example. Solar is generally a big giant waste of time and money for most of the US. Where you CAN possibly gain efficiency is to build a system as if you are going to run your home off-grid. Have the storage and charge controllers. Now, charge your system at night off the grid. Have a natural gas generator for charging your system when the power is out. Now if you want to add a wind turbine or solar panels for additional charging, fine. The point here is you have “load shifted” the house to charge at night when electricity prices with the new smart meters might be cheaper. But even that is huge expense gone to get around government regulation.

    The primary issue is that there is NO NEED for all of this. The reason they claim to be doing all this is to reduce carbon emissions and nobody to date has shown any good reason to reduce carbon emissions except some computer models that have not matched observations. If you want to get rid of CO2, build nuclear power and recycle the fuel.

  96. @ David Middleton,

    My question is, what would happen to the capex cost of solar if the cost of a square foot of wafer were halved? The follow up is, is that kind of cost cutting a realistic expectation (understanding they might be coming out of China)?

  97. @Hank Henry,

    I don’t know; nor is it relevant to the economics of building comercial solar PV plants today.

  98. Pamela Gray says:May 5, 2012 at 7:48 am
    So let me get this straight. How many endangered plants, butterflies, and lizards were displaced by this government-subsidized solar array built on private land? Were they as worried about what WAS under the panels as they always are about the flora and fauna when the same size track of renewable trees are harvested?

    Yeah but it’s all about equality and …some endangered species are more equal than others.

    The BLM’s new assessment estimates that more than 3,000 acres of tortoise habitat would eventually be lost as a result of construction, and more than 160 adult tortoises in the project area will have to be captured and moved, in addition to 600 dying as a result of the project.

    So if I have this straight, if you make the lamest of attempts to move 21% of an endangered species for “the cause”, to hell with the rest and you’re instantly absolved of wrongdoing! If only they could build solar farms in the arctic they could immediately resolve the polar bear ‘problem’ huh?

  99. Let’s not forget the grid disruption caused by cloud shadows in particular,
    and more generally by the lack of the inherent grid synchronization capability
    of rotating generators. The only kind of solar power plant that avoids this
    is the solar chimney, basically a vertical windmill runing steady, 24/7.
    But it’s as expensive and land-wasting as the rest.

  100. Rod Everson says:
    ——————————–
    Thanks, Rod. The concept of opportunity cost seems to have been sent to some sort of Gulag in the world of greenanomics.

    Apparently, there is an endlessly fruitful money tree (known as the Magic Pudding in Australia) whereby you can just keep taking out and squandering forever.

  101. Slightly off-topic: a note on solar power in India:http://www.solardaily.com/reports/Ambitious_Solar_Program_in_India_Drives_Prices_to_Impressive_Lows_999.html

    Back to today’s topic:

    $820 million divided by 880 MW works out to $931,818 per MW.
    $250 million divided by 30 MW works out to $8,333,333 per MW.

    That’s nice, but the natural gas plant, at $820 million, won’t produce any electricity. For the production of electricity, it has to buy natural gas, the prices for which, over the next 30 years, are not known, but will most likely average out to more than current gas prices.

    Assuming a 25% capacity factor and a 30-yr plant lifetime for the Cimarron Solar Facility, the initial capital expenditure works out to $0.127/kWh… Almost 13 cents per kilowatt-hour! The average residential electricity rate in the US is currently around 12 cents per kWh

    Solar power produces electricity to meet peak demand. Other methods of meeting peak demand cost way more than average costs, so this is probably price-competitive, in that area, for meeting peak demand. It would be helpful to know the actual cost in that area, to confirm this; anybody know? Peak demand is strongly driven by A/C, and A/C demands are generally reduced at night, and in cloudy days.

    And lastly, PV prices continue to decline. A good solar power review every year at about this time might be a good idea.

    I am in favor of building more natural gas fired power plants, but natural gas will not be as plentiful and cheap in the future as solar power.

  102. Arid NM gets lots of (daylight) sun because there are few clouds. Few clouds means little rain to wash off the dust. A layer of accumulated dust means lower efficiency. How much valuable well-water will be needed to periodically clean the panels, where will it come from, and who will do the panel-washing? The solar radiation may be free, but the operating costs are not.

    And, just as the cost of natural gas at a distant burner tip can be much higher than that at a wellhead where it is produced (particularly one located far from a pipeline), beware the value ascribed to power generated in a desert far from very many motors and lightbulbs that can utilize it.

  103. jabre says:
    May 5, 2012 at 6:27 am

    “This is pure bologna based on your own references. Panel manufacturers provide 20 to 25 year 80% performance warranties.”
    ___________________________________________________
    Given the track record of solar panel manufacturers lately, how many do you expect will still be in business 20-25 years from now?

  104. Matthew R Marler says:
    May 5, 2012 at 11:21 am
    “Solar power produces electricity to meet peak demand. Other methods of meeting peak demand cost way more than average costs, so this is probably price-competitive, in that area, for meeting peak demand. It would be helpful to know the actual cost in that area, to confirm this; anybody know? Peak demand is strongly driven by A/C, and A/C demands are generally reduced at night, and in cloudy days. ”

    Let me correct you, Matthew. We’ve heard the “Solar power produces at peak demand” meme often. It is not entirely accurate. It must read: “Solar Power, WHEN it produces, it produces most during peak demand hours.” But it cannot replace a peaker plant, as a peaker plant is ready to deliver; that’s part of the contract; solar power can never deliver on demand.

    BUT what solar power does very well is it destroys the economics of peaker plants. Under German law, renewable electricity must be preferred by the grid operators. This means that NatGas peaker plants idle even more than they usually would. It has gotten so bad that none of our utilities is willing to invest in new peaker plants. They are urgently needed as the German nuke phase out has created a perilous situation for the grid.

    How will that be resolved? Well, guess what, taxpayer Euros or ratepayer Euros will pay for it… a neverending chain of market intervention… chalk another one up for the Greens…

  105. GlynnMhor says:
    May 4, 2012 at 9:34 pm
    “At least they don’t frequently have the problem of snow covering the panels for weeks at a time…”
    Glynn, search engines are your friends. Check annual snowfall records for Raton, New Mexico. It appears that it snows in the area six or more months of the year. Last time I was through there, in 2007, there was a virtual blizzard going on. I’m aware that you cover your bases by saying “don’t frequently” and “weeks at a time”, but snow is nevertheless “likely” to impact power production significantly.

  106. DirkH: solar power can never deliver on demand.

    In places where peak demand is heavily influenced by A/C, delivery rises as demand rises. In a lot of places, that is good enough for now. From time to time, in extremely cold weather, gas does not deliver power on demand either, though it is more reliable overall than solar. To my knowledge, solar is not “replacing” peaker plants, but adding new capacity to meet increasing demand.

  107. Our religious friends have not factored a couple more costs into the solar equation. A very real problem is neighbourhood disputes over shading and family breakdown over the wanton use of a hairdryer. I used to live entirely on solar with battery back-up, I say used to as I have had to use 24 hours of diesel generation this year due to Tim Flannery making a mess of our drought in Australia. ( I hate clouds).
    When I look at Ted’s field of panels and hear Al/s prediction of more frequent storms of greater intensity, I see a vision of a twister full of flying panels, a cartoon for JOSH?

  108. @ David Middleton
    “I don’t know” would have sufficed. What’s relevant to a writer is often tangential to what’s relevant to a reader. In addition to what you say I object to regulators trying to mold consumption by interfering with light bulbs – the great icon for *good* ideas.

  109. How do you defend solar farms against a terrorist attack out in the middle of no-where? I can think of a really simple and quick way that would severely disable the entire farm for months for under $1000. (I won’t say what that is here but it doesn’t involve explosives or anything involving permanent destruction at all.)

  110. Jon at WA says: …. I see a vision of a twister full of flying panels, a cartoon for JOSH?

    Probably similar to the problem of the John Hancock Tower in Boston back in the mid 70’s but on a much much broader scale. ‘Pei got his way’ and created an airfoil anchored to the ground at the bottom and twisting in the breeze at the top. The oscillating strain racked the heavy glass panels right out of their frames that came crashing down all around the building. They replaced them with plywood while wrestling with how to fix the problem earning the building the nickname “Plywood Ranch” at the time referencing an existing retail lumber chain of the same name at the time.

  111. Matthew R Marler says:
    May 5, 2012 at 11:21 am

    That’s nice, but the natural gas plant, at $820 million, won’t produce any electricity. For the production of electricity, it has to buy natural gas, the prices for which, over the next 30 years, are not known, but will most likely average out to more than current gas prices.

    WRONG. Dave Middleton has already answered this spurious argument – his above figures DO include fuel prices.

    David Middleton says:
    May 5, 2012 at 8:03 am
    @HankHenry,
    Figure 1 includes fuel costs.

    Furthermore, fracking and other new extraction technologies have driven way down the price of gas in the USA, as I am sure you are aware (a fact that fills the AGW ranks with misanthropic angst). So gas prices for the forseeable future will stay LOW. Solar will stay very uncompetitive.

    Solar power has contributed materially to Spain’s bankruptcy.

  112. David, oil, particularly light sweet crude is most definitely a fungible asset; almost to the extent that gold is. it is traded on the global market and a bbl of oil costs the UK, France, Japan or the USA the same (shipping costs may vary). To a lesser extent coal and CNG are fungible assets. Electricity is NOT a fungible asset for all the obvious reasons, not the least of which is that you have to generate it at the time you need it. Further, there is high value and low value electricity. Despite claims to the contrary, “renewable” electricity sources such as wind and solar tend to be very cost and low-value sources. One might argue that solar provides augmented capacity for business use (particularly in the summer months) on sunny, cloudless days. The problem is the businesses are located a long way away from where the solar electricity is produced, inverted to AC, stepped up in voltage and sent through transmission lines that are inconveniently not resistance free. On the flip side, most residences use the most electricity after the sun goes down.

  113. @Dr. Dave,

    Crude oil and LNG are very fungible. Pipeline-bound natural gas is fungible within its pipeline system. Crude and LNG are almost interchandeable on a BTU basis. “Energy” is not fungible and that’s why EROEI is akin to Soviet Union accounting.

  114. Phlogiston: Furthermore, fracking and other new extraction technologies have driven way down the price of gas in the USA, as I am sure you are aware (a fact that fills the AGW ranks with misanthropic angst). So gas prices for the forseeable future will stay LOW. Solar will stay very uncompetitive.

    You might be correct. I can’t see more than 5 years into the future, and maybe not that long. If solar prices decline 40% every 2 years, as expected in the review I posted, then the discussion will be much different in 5 years.

  115. Jobs are never a benefit they are always a cost. Think back to agricultural. In the past a large majority of the population had to work to provide food for all. As jobs were lost due to technology (tractors etc) fewer people were required to provide increased amounts of food for all. So if you divert more people to creating energy then you have fewer people using it productively.

  116. Interesting industry response to falling PV prices:

    Why Solarcity Is Succeeding in a Difficult Solar Industry

    http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/40352/?p1=A1

    Most of the money being made in the solar industry doesn’t come from making and selling solar panels. In the case of some small residential systems, solar panels account for only 20 percent of the overall cost of a system. The rest includes the cost of electricians to install the panels and hardware to connect the systems to the grid. Most of that money goes to companies like Solarcity. Indeed, some established solar-panel manufacturers, such as SunPower and First Solar in the United States, are looking to survive by not only selling panels, but also building the systems and selling the power.

    Solarcity is finding ways to expand the market for existing technologies—mainly solar panels, but also equipment for improving efficiency and storing electricity. It also addresses one of the big challenges with selling solar-panel systems to homeowners—the high upfront cost—and that’s allowed it to quickly increase its share of the residential solar-installation market.

    The real areas where costs have to be wrung out of the turn key solar package to make them cost effective is the labor to install and the inverters to convert the DC power to AC.

    As I see it you have 3 options, 1) a peak Kw load set up that is sized to your highest peak demand to offset all of the electrical load between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to sell that power to businesses 2) a full kwhr load set up to offset all of the kwhr (2 to 3 x size option 1) you consume per day and use the utility as de facto storage by spinning the meter backward from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. OR 3) Off grid set up with battery storage sized at 1.5 to 2 times of a full load kwhr system to account for cloudy days.

    Option #1 makes the utilities happy by them not having to purchase expensive out of area electricity during the peak, this is essentially free power to them and charge you base load at night; option #2 makes the utilities ambivalent since unlike #1 they lose billing you for your base load at night while they still have to supply it so they are just getting the monthly service fee to offset meter reading and billing expenses but they are making money off your souped up power generation at peak demand to sell at a profit to businesses and option #3 makes the utilities very sad, they lose the benefit of the free peak power and a customer.

  117. I live in Northern California and get my electricity from PG&E, For me electricity costs $.34/kWh and if it costs $.12 or $.01 to produce, the difference to me, as the end consumer, is much smaller than to someone who pays only $.12/kWh for their power.

    Interestingly, PG&E’s “Tier 1″ residential rate for regular households is only ~$.13/kWh, Tier 2 is ~$.15/kWh. However, just about all households I know of end up in Tier 4 or 5, where the rate is $.34/kWh. This is an improvement over $.42/kWh PG&E used to charge for the top tier, but the trade-off for lowering the top rate was the shift of tiers down, so that more consumers ended up in Tier 4.

    To be absolutely fair, PG&E does discount their rates for low-income households, starting at $.08/kWh and topping out at $.12/kWh. With a seasonal rate program, there are additional discounts for the low-income consumers, (like top winter rate of $.08).

  118. Solar panel fields have their problems- no plants run by uncontrollable sources of power (sun, wind,etc) can replace any of the current controllable power plants. Those plants must remain operational and fully staffed and ready to ramp up at a moment’s notice. The only savings is in fuel, but fuel in some plants (such as nuclear) accounts for a very small portion of total operating expenses (nuclear fuel costs around 1/2 cent per kilowatthour, for example). Nor can a 30 megawatt solar plant be considered equal to a 30 megawatt controllable power plant. In the desert figure a daily average, year round, of around 6 suns per day. Thus panel arrays with a 30 MW output capacity would be reasonably expected to produce only 6 times 30 MW (180 MWhrs) each average day, minus losses (figure 10%). A controllable power plant with a 30 MW output capacity could obviously produce 30 times 24 (hours) or 720 MWhrs of electricity per day, or roughly four times as much.
    The data cited about solar panel costs are way out of date – solar panels have come way down in price – for thin film to less than 80 cents per watt, and around $1.20 for crystalline. Inverters cost around 60 cents per watt. Large projects usually use thin film, although it no longer has the cost advantage it once had. I would figure somewhere around $2 per watt for the solar equipment.
    You also should include the cost of the land and what’s left would be the labor to install and maintain all those panels. Only considering equipment costs, $250 million would buy roughly
    125 million watts, or 125 MW. If equipment costs are half of what’s required (typical) then
    that $250 million should produce a solar power plant with a capacity (when the sun is shining)
    of roughly 62 MW, not the 30 MW stated in the article of several years ago. The big problem, only recently recognized in England with respect to wind, is that the fact that solar and wind cannot lead to the shutdown of a single controllable power plant (can) mean a near duplication of expenditures for power. THAT is why uncontrollable power plants are so expensive – at best they simply duplicate existing power plant capacities. They are far more expensive than the flawed and simplistic estimates always provided by environmentalists. Just as inexplicable as the phony arguments of the environmentalists are the invalid arguments offered by opponents of uncontrollable power sources. The issues are not all that complicated or difficult to understand.

  119. Well just eyeballing the photo of this plant, it looks as if the solar cell occupancy factor is 50% at absolute most. So with solar irradiance at air mass one being about 1 kW/m^2, this thing is looking at no more than 500 W/m^2 of occupied real estate; and if the average conversion efficiency of the system is 20 %, then we are looking at about 100 Watts of electric power (peak) per square metre of occupied land.

    If the cost of building the plant is $250 meg, what is it’s actual value, and what will be the property tax increase in the State of New Mexico, for that kind of real estate improvement ?

    And that peak power comes to about 3.3 kW per home.

    Most new houses provide two phases of 120 Volts at 200 Amps capacity. That works out at 48 kW peak power capability, so this boondoggle will actually provide only about 7% of an actual house peak needs; and that’s all you get for your $28K cost to build per house.

    And since this is in New Mexico, I dare say the average house would need a tad more air conditioning than I currently need in Silicon Valley (which is precisely zero actually.)

    What was it Fred Singer said;- “Who’s going to clean all those solar cells ?”

    Count me as among the non investors in this project; well other than as an enslaved tax payer who will get dinged by the gummint to subsidize this foolishness.

    Hey Ted; I’m all for you doing this on your ranch, so long as you pay for the whole thing, and leave me out of it.

  120. “”””” dscott says:

    May 5, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Interesting industry response to falling PV prices:

    Why Solarcity Is Succeeding in a Difficult Solar Industry “””””

    Because their customers are too damn dumb, and they allow Solar City to use THEIR real estate for Solar Cty’s solar collecting system, for zero rental cost, and then THEY allow Solar City to sell THEM back THEIR own solar energy, instead of buying THEIR own solar panels and gathering THEIR solar energy for themselves, without Solar City.

    So what is the going rate per square foot for office space rental ? Seems like that would be a good price to charge Solar City for Roof space rental.

  121. Brewster says:

    May 5, 2012 at 6:46 am

    I have been experimenting with a small solar setup here in central NM. During the winter with the shorter daylight hours, power generation is nearly equivalent with summer due to the colder cell temperatures. I adjust the panel orientation monthly to the optimum point (elevation angle changes) to maximize the power generated. Using the latest generation of inverter technology, I average 20% of rated panel capacity. For example, 1kW of panels would produce on average 200 Watt/hours of power. The article states “500,000″ panels. Assuming these are the larger 260W panels (5×10^5*260*20%= 26MW). Close enough to the stated capacity, but no compensation for panel aging (as well as the other degradation issues mentioned).
    Panel prices have dropped to below $1/Watt, with the extra costs of inverters and assorted support hardware, a self -installed system (read as free labor), in my area the payback time is around 10 years assuming nothing breaks…..

    BS:

    For one, solar insolation difference from summer to winter in central NM is approx 42% . You know how I know this? Well let me tell you a story.

    My father installed a solar system just like one you described in the 1980’s in which it was motorized and would adjust itself based on settings. My father was a tinkerer and made it even better by making the angles “perfect” so that the machine was at any time of the year at the ideal angle to capture sun-beams.

    The winter differences are staggering in NM. My father measured the generation at about 42% of summer highs in amount of power generated. (that is rounded up by the way too) I remember him talking about how he had installed the system in one of the best locations in the country and during the winter it was like farting in the wind so to speak. That 42% figure by the way is for sunny winter days too. (Ideal anyway). That is a comparison of apples to apples and nothing less.

    So basically you just lied to us here. That is rather uncalled for. If you were being truthful with “nearly equivalent” you would have said less then half of the power generated during the summer is generated during the winter. You should tell the truth. I expect nothing less.

    As far as payback time…what a joke. When the taxpayer is paying for these things, you could just increase the subsidies and pay people to install them and the payback time is zero. Subsidies make payback times irrelevant for comparison purposes. I don’t want to pay for your novelty projects in the NM desert that you make up things about and lie about.

  122. The effects of renewable (unreliable) power on spot trading prices. When the wind blows and sun shines, you can’t simply turn off the power like throwing a light switch. You must sell the excess, often at negative prices.

    http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/andrew-mckillop-forget-global-warming-and-face-up-to-real-climate-change/#more-6225

    As Vahrenholt asks, taking the present day case of Germany, on an average non-winter Sunday, Germany will need about 35,000 MW only, but in winter that can jump to 80,000 MW. However, the country already has 27,000 MW of wind and 28,000 MW of solar capacity, so what does Germany do on a non-winter Sunday when it is windy and sunny? As he answers, right now, Germany is forced to give it away to neighboring Poland and other countries, at negative prices, with major power transport and transformer capacity headaches. For the growing business of electricity trading, of course, this destabilization of power supply over large areas, on a hard-to-predict but recurring basis is pure gold. When the wind blows in Germany, they can talk down power prices to nothing, even less than nothing. Later on, they can rack up power prices to extreme highs of beyond 150 euros per MWh (1000 kWh): life is fun, for traders !

  123. @Matthew R Marler,

    You might be correct. I can’t see more than 5 years into the future, and maybe not that long. If solar prices decline 40% every 2 years, as expected in the review I posted, then the discussion will be much different in 5 years.

    This is like me saying, “We need to drill this well right now, because I think rig rates will decline by 40% over the next two years.”

  124. David Middleton: This is like me saying, “We need to drill this well right now, because I think rig rates will decline by 40% over the next two years.”

    That is true. Drillers think things like that; they cut back drilling when they anticipate increases in costs or decreases in oil prices. These are calculated risks, and the question arises, how solidly are the expectations based on good evidence?

    Complementarily, one could say “We need to avoid investments in solar because the prices have never declined as promised, and we know for sure that gas prices will never be higher than now”.

    Perhaps we can meet again in 5 years and compare notes. I expect that electricity prices for new PV installations will be less than 1/4 what they are now.

  125. Recent snippets from Oz:

    THE nation’s strongest growth in renewable energy jobs is predicted in South Australia.
    Almost seven times [sounds a lot – JT] the current number of green workers are projected to be employed in SA by 2030. There were 751 people employed in the state’s industry in 2010 [but from a very low base – JT], with the Clean Energy Council predicting 5081 people will work at wind, solar, geothermal and renewable energy facilities within two decades. It compares to 6603 workers projected for NSW, 6523 for Queensland, 6516 for Victoria and 4386 for WA. Nationally, 36,632 jobs will be created in the renewable energy industry by 2030, up from 8085 in 2010. Policy director Russell Marsh said wind and solar technologies would account for most jobs growth, with 14,281 jobs forecast to be created in wind power alone.

    Meanwhile:

    SA WATER faces an annual carbon tax cost of about $6.2 million, putting further significant pressure on spiralling water prices.The new Clean Energy Regulator has released a list of 248 high-polluting companies and entities expected to pay the tax from July, including some of South Australia’s biggest employers, based on their exceeding amount of carbon emissions.

    In Australia, the water authorities charge a fixed amount for ‘availability’ (if it runs past your house, even if not connected, you pay this charge) then for each kilolitre consumed. I have 50,000 litres of storage and rarely have to use mains but they are putting up the ‘availability’ charge to ensure everyone gets hit, regardless of use. The additional $6.2M will be added to the availability charge, without doubt.

    Bring on an election.

  126. Dave, great post, it looks like I missed another good one
    To the weirdos arguing “gonna get better”…. it delivers x,y, or z….. nonsense.

    My thoughts……..Comparing solar energy to traditional forms is incredibly vapid. From nameplate to uptime they’re apples to oranges…… or better ripe to rotten. Uptime is the most egregrious comparison. Yes, traditional plants, as individual plants don’t have the daylight uptime as solar plants. But, traditional plants don’t operate by themselves. They work in tandem to where if one is down the others are up. At night, all regional solar plants are down. Always.

    In most places peak solar output does not coincide with peak demand. Typically peak demand occurs between 4pm-8pm. This is the typical peak output times for solar.

    Comparing various fuels in like terms is almost as vapid as nameplate capacity. While their functions overlap, they aren’t the same and have different market forces effecting their value. 1btu of coal energy is not equal to 1btu of gasolene. It’s stupid to make such comparisons.

    The cost of solar energy underscores how little importance fuel for energy has on the retail cost of electricity. We could make nat gas and coal free and most would only see about a 2 cent/kWh reduction in cost.

    Well, we can extrapolate from there regarding the various other issues.

  127. “”””” davidmhoffer says:

    May 4, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    You’v forgotten that very critical factor in green thinking, job creation:

    Solar panels require thousands of person years to build the manufacturing plant and install the solar panels. “””””

    The “green Job” creation, is the very reason that the tax payer should stay out of the solar energy business. A real economically viable industry creates fewer jobs; not more jobs, than that which it replaces, otherwise the real cost can NEVER go down.

    It is NOT an economic problem; it is a TECHNOLOGY PROBLEM !

    Namely the technology DOES NOT EXIST !

    Solar energy when it is made available to us by the sun, is supplied at a power density of 1362 W/m^2 extra-terrestrially (TSI); or more practically at about 1kW/m^2 for a ground level air mass one or maybe AM-2 location. That is the best conditions peak power density.

    Present high production Single Crystal silicon PV panels, apparently can reach 23% solar to PV (DC) conversion efficiency; probably more like 20% in really high volume.

    Solar city Cadmium Telluride solar panels don’t come anywhere near that.

    The current record for solar-PV conversion efficiency is 43.5% for a triple junction; triple bandgap solar cell, and I am sure that is not terrestrial solar. That is an admirable figure, and better is yet to come. The PV group at Santa Barbara under Shoji Nakamura, are working on a GaN/InGaN PV junction for the shorter wavelength (wider bandgap) cap for a multi junction; multi bandgap PV cell, and they believe they may be able to reach 60% total solar conversion efficiency.

    Such technologies are not cheap; but such cells are used in multi sun concentrator optical arrays such as have been pioneered By Roland Winston; formerly of the U of Chicago, and now with the U of California; Merced; who knows more about optimised non imaging optics, than anyone on earth. He has actually made solar images that are brighter than the sun (inside high refractive index YAG crystal non-imaging concentrators.

    Unfortunately such two axis steered Optical concentrator arrays, are even less land efficient than are flat solar panels.

    The two axis steered mirror steam turbine thermal solar arrays, may be the worst of all in terms of land utilisation, because most of the mirrors are off-axis mirrors, focussing on a common focal point boiler system. But steam turbine technology is well developed, and may yield solar-electricity conversion efficiencies in the 40-60 % range. Those systems are Carnot efficiency constrained, so they rely on very high steam pressures and Temperatures to reach those efficiency levels.

    Meanwhile other groups are spending taxpayer dollars on low efficiency PV converters that can be cheaply sprayed on base substrates. I call those the garden hose sprayed fence systems.

    They brag about how cheaply they can spray their goop on to battleship plate substrates; well they aren’t too efficient; maybe 5-10%

    Hey you can cover land with Saran wrap quite cheaply; and it also doesn’t give you a whole lot of solar energy collection efficiency.

    In the end NOTHING matters in solar PV technology, besides total conversion efficiency; from solar photons in to 60 (50) Hz AC electricity out. No matter what it costs the land availability and cost set the economic basis; so efficiency is the first, second, and third most important technology problem and that is not yet solved.

    I truly believe the high tech PV folks are going to reach that 60% conversion efficiency; at least for the solar – DC , and it won’t surprise me a bit if they do it in the next five years.

    But these charlatans of the Solyndra type; who had the perfect technology scam, long before they had a financing and political skullduggery scam, will keep on bleeding the taxpayer for their fly by night schemes like Energy Sectretary atom trapping Nobellist Steven Chul\’s microbial renewable energy.

    But so long as alternative energy is perceived as an economics problem to be solved by economists (and their political hacks); instead of a science and engineering problem to be solved by scientists, engineers and technologists; then the world will wait for free green clean renewable and plentiful, non polluting alternative energy.

    In the meantime we do have that stored chemical energy that comes from liquid and gaseous “rocks” deep beneath our feet, known as petroleum and natural gas.; not to mention that fossilized bio fuel known as coal.

  128. Ted Turner has made quite an investment in those worthless panels. He must be thinking very hard about how to make sure he doesn’t lose all of his billions again. Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, and George Soros agree with him on this: “Mitt Romney “would probably make a good president,” liberal icon Ted Turner says in an appearance on the network that fired him on Thursday night.

    Making an appearance on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight,” the station’s founder refused to endorse either Romney or President Barack Obama, but says that he has no problems with the GOP’s presumptive candidate.

    “He’s a real gentleman,” he says according to a partial transcript released by the show. “I think he’s been very successful. I think he’s really smart. And I don’t agree with everything that he believes, but I agree with a lot of it. And I think that he’d probably make a good president.” http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/Turner-Romney-CNN-president/2012/05/03/id/437981

    Perhaps their support comes from the fact that Romney wants to invest $20 billion in “car technology” and “energy.”

  129. This renewable energy shortfall was predicted by Sallie Baliunas, Tim Patterson and me in 2002, at:

    http://www.apegga.org/Members/Publications/peggs/WEB11_02/kyoto_pt.htm

    “The ultimate agenda of pro-Kyoto advocates is to eliminate fossil fuels, but this would result in a catastrophic shortfall in global energy supply – the wasteful, inefficient energy solutions proposed by Kyoto advocates simply cannot replace fossil fuels.”

    Grid-connected solar power is much more expensive that wind power, and suffers similar problems of intermittency. Still, I have some hope for solar power in the long term, because of the rapid pace of progress in the electronics industry – we’ll see …

    In the interim, for all you uber-subsidized solar power enthusiasts, a catchy slogan:

    “Solar power – stick it where the Sun don’t shine!”

    Forgive my rudeness, but a trillion dollars of scarce global resources has been squandered on energy nonsense including wind power, solar power and corn ethanol. Sometimes being polite is just wrong – these green energy scams are deplorable.

  130. ferd berple says: May 5, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Good comment !

    Grid-connected solar and wind power generated at off-peak times is like garbage – you often have to pay to get rid of it !

  131. Ian of Fremantle says:
    May 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Whether or not you believe in CAGW and on this blog most are sceptical as indeed am I, the development of non polluting forms of energy production surely is a plus for the environment. Isn’t it? Everything isn’t always down to the dollars and cents. Is it?
    _______________________________
    And how many acres of land have those panels taken out of the biosphere? plants do not grow well under solar panels and you are going to want the vegetation kept trimmed back around the panels so they do not end up in the shade. Mowing would be a real pain and could damage the panels. That means the best most economical method will be to use a seasonal or year long Complete Vegetation Killer such as Ortho Ground Clear Complete Vegetation Killer

    You are talking about 240 ac of completely dead ground soaked in chemicals where nothing lives.

  132. The only thing green about this “eco-friendly” energy fiasco are the greenbacks sliding into the pockets of the scam artists…. I wonder how much under the table the likes of [SNIP] are getting for murdering science? [SNIP: Gail, associating names here might be libelous. -REP].

  133. Avfuktare vind says:
    May 4, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    One of the main benefits of solar energy is that it can be produced at the place of consumption….
    _______________________________
    No one is saying solar panels do not have their place if used with a bit of sense. Solar powered electric fence chargers for example are great for large ranches as are solar panels for providing some electric in third world countries that do not have the transmission capability. Wind mills for pumping water or grinding grain in third world countries are also decent on site applications.

  134. @Mattew R Marler,

    You totally missed the point.  No one would drill an uneconomic well today because they thought the cost of drilling was going to decline in the near future.  The concept is idiotic. A future reduction in the cost of solar panels doesn’t improve the economics of comercial solar power plants built in the present.

    Obama’s war against fossil fuels may soon force the shut-in of “30 to 50 gigawatts of coal-fired generation” capacity.

    What will it cost to replace that capacity?

    If solar PV actually worked, the cost would be as much as $7 million per MW installed capacity… That’s $7 billion per GW… A total cost of $210 to $350 billion. Of course, solar PV plants only operate at an average of 25% of their name plate capacity – Because they don’t work when the Sun don’t shine.

    Research and development of alternative energy sources is a wise use of capital allocated to R&D. However, Obama’s attempt to force a widespread build out of alternative energy infrastructure is proving to be disasterous in terms of increasing the costs and decreasing the relaibility of the nation’s energy supply. Govt mandated widespread and immediate build out of alternative energy infrastructure would be comparable to a gov’t mandated installation of a UNIVAC I in every American household in the 1950’s because gov’t officials foresaw the need for home computers by the 1990’s. On technological and economic scales, from UNIVAC I to modern PC’s & Mac’s, current solar and other “green” energy sources are the UNIVAC I. You wouldn’t have the money to upgrade if you had been forced to spend trillions of dollars installing UNIVAC’s in every American household in the 1950’s.

    Forty-six UNIVAC’s were installed in the United States from 1951-1954. The initial unit cost was supposed to be $159,000. By the end of the production run, the unit cost was as much as $1.5 million.

    There were about 50 million US households in the 1950’s. Even if the unit cost was held at $159,000… The cost to install a UNIVAC in every household would have been $7.5 trillion. The total US GDP from 1951-1960 was less than $4.3 trillion.

    The handful of UNIVAC’s that were installed, were purchased by gov’t agencies and businesses that needed them at the time. The work on UNIVAC did lead to the development of better mainframes and eventually personal computers… But a gov’t-mandated nationwide build out of UNIVACs in the 1950’s would have deprived the private sector and the gov’t of the financial means to upgrade anything.

    A gov’t mandated, nationwide build out of “green” energy infrastructure over the next few decades would have a similar effect on our financial means to conduct the R&D needed to actually build economically sound “green” energy infrastructure. In its present state “green” energy, particularly solar, is not economically viable. Tidal, wind and solar power sources are intermittent… And the initial real investment ($) is far higher than fossil fuels.

    It would cost more than $6 trillion to replace the nation’s current coal and natural gas power plants with solar power plants… Which would leave you with no capital to expand generation capacity and 6-8 hours of electricity per day.

    Building commercial solar plants now is exactly like building UNIVAC’s 60 years ago, with two big differences: There was no alternative to the UNIVAC back then and solar power plants will lose money and/or double or triple the consumers’ and/or taxpayers’ cost for decades.

    The few companies that purchased UNIVAC’s back then, did so because it improved the profitability of their business.  They didn’t invest in them because of gov’t coercion or taxpayer-funded bribes. When better technology came along, the UNIVAC’s were scrapped in favor of more cost-effective main frames.  Today, some leading (or bleeding) edge companies replace their computer hardware almost annually.

    You can’t scrap and/or replace power plants on less than a multi-decadal scale.  A gov’t mandated full-scale build-out of solar infrastructure today would be exactly like a gov’t mandated home version of the UNIVAC in the 1950’s.

  135. boydo3 N Albany says:
    May 4, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    At least they won’t have to look for a place to encapsulate and contain vast quantities of radioactive waste for thousands of years……We should be finding new ways to provide the energy our children and our children’s children will need. Gas and oil are highly concentrated and very valuable sources of energy. But they are limited indeed. They should be conserved. We’re gonna need them, big time.
    Time to dump this silly propaganda from the oil and gas industry and start looking to future sources of energy, whatever they may be.
    _______________________________
    Then I hope you are supporting thorium. It is the only reasonable source of energy I have seen so far and can be used in conventional nuclear reactors. ( EM smith on thorium )
    Change.Org: Get Nuclear’s ‘Clean’ Little Secret Off the Backburner

    Other references:

    http://energyfromthorium.com/faq/

    http://energyfromthorium.com/history.html

    http://www.txchnologist.com/2011/the-thorium-laser-the-completely-plausible-idea-for-nuclear-cars

    http://www.resourceinvestor.com/2009/03/18/a-report-on-thorium-the-newest-of-the-technology-m

    Physics Forums: http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=358038
    World Nuclear.org: http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf62.html and mini-reactors -> http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf33.html

  136. Eastern Germany Hit Hard by Decline of Solar
    The global solar industry has entered a brutal phase of consolidation and nowhere are the effects as dramatic as in eastern Germany. Several companies have already declared bankruptcy, leaving towns and cities in the region struggling with job losses and tax revenue shortfalls. The future bodes ill.
    The growing crisis in the solar industry has not chosen to exclusively victimize eastern Germany. Solarhybrid, Solar Millennium and Scheuten Solar, all based in western Germany, likewise found themselves making their way to bankruptcy court recently. The Sarasin report also stated that Freiburg-based firm Solar-Fabrik faces an uncertain future as well.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,830188,00.html

    First they bankrupt the economy, and now they complain there is no money.No Money No Green Energy

  137. Solar cells only work when the sun is shining. To have electricity flowing 24/7, there must be either a system for storage of excess electricity produced (batteries) or a back-up generating system (natural gas, coal, diesel or nuclear. Therefore, since consumers require electricity 24/7, the costs of the back-up generating system or the storage system must be added into the cost of the solar generating system. And since all the systems’ (solar, gas, coal, diesel and nuclear) outputs must be the same, there is no good reason for the solar anyway!

    Jay Davis

  138. David Middleton

    Obama’s war against fossil fuels may soon force the shut-in of “30 to 50 gigawatts of coal-fired generation” capacity.

    Just a nitpick. If you look at the ‘aging’ of the US coal fired fleet.

    Slide 3 – http://web.mit.edu/mitei/docs/reports/simbeck-slides.pdf

    Obama’s policy will force the shutting of 60+ year old coal fired plants in desperate need of expensive refurbishing.

    /sarc
    Draconian Regulation = asking the electric utilties which plants they plan on retiring in 10 years then making a regulation to ‘force’ the utilities to retire those plants AKA Leading from behind. AKA Finding a parade and getting in front of it.

  139. What caught my eye in the gov’t documents depicted was the word “centralized”. What’s with the notion that electricity generation requires thousands of homes to be served from one generating plant? It’s not economical. Small natural gas fueled plants are quite efficient. What’s being centralized is POWER over people, evern since Insull got the bug in his hat to impose regulated monopoly.

  140. William Astley says: It is odd that there are no public sources that summarize the engineering facts and economics of ‘green energy’…… ‘Green’ energy advocates are either part of the scam or are ignorant of the facts and support ‘green’ expenditures because it makes them ‘feel good’….. The cost estimated for a photovoltaic power system needs to include the cost for a single cycle natural gas plant to provide backup power for the times when the sun does not shine (i.e. night) or cloudy days. The problem is a single cycle natural gas plant is roughly 30% efficient. A combined cycle natural gas power plant is 60% efficient but costs roughly 4 times more. If one uses a single cycle natural gas plant to provide backup as compared to a combined cycle natural gas power plant there is minimal reduction in CO2 emissions over a combined cycle natural gas plant.
    Your comment bears repeating. I mighty quibble with your number of 30% (probably closer to 40% if talking about peak efficiency) but overall, you are exactly right and have put your finger on what for me is the most aggravating aspect of what the ‘greenies’ are trying to pull over on the population. As oft stated, facts are stubborn things and because the engineering facts don’t support wind and solar as ‘electrical sources to a grid’….yes, complete ignorance or being part of the scam are the only two conclusions one can draw.
    The problem is very simple and it revolves around the basic fact that wind and solar are both sporadic contributors to a grid where it is imperative that the demand can be met instantaneously to whatever extent is required. Now if we want to use electricity that is to be powered with wind and solar, their sporadic nature can be accommodated one of three ways…. 1. People only use electricity when it is available (how would you like to be scheduled for brain surgery under those conditions?). 2. The wind and solar are used in whole or in part to supply a charging mechanism such as giant raised reservoir where the down flowing water can power a turbine driven generator or 3. The wind and solar are used to supply a grid that has adequate other highly variable sources that can either rapidly reduce or increase depending on the availability of wind and solar. In almost all cases, solar and wind advocates are talking about choice #3 with gas driven turbines being the variable supply…. nuclear runs at essentially a constant load point which cannot be raised or lowered, hydro electric also runs at a constant load point (unless one wants to argue that ‘spilling’ the water to not generate power makes it a variable supply) and meanwhile, coal power plants have become equipment non grata due to their ‘carbon footprint’ (gas also burns carbon of course but has been deemed to be much cleaner than coal) which of course is no great new information to those who even remotely follow this stuff.
    In order to make the option of solar/wind work as a grid component, the less efficient gas turbine (referred to as either single cycle or open loop) almost always has to be used as opposed to the more efficient combined cycle. Why is that? One of the features of open loop gas is that it goes from zero to 100% in about 10 to 20 minutes flat. Meanwhile, combined cycle takes at least 1 ½ hours which is not nearly fast enough. Since wind and solar can turn off and on very rapidly which makes the options very limited and realistically, the choice comes down to 1. Wind/solar as partnered and supplemented by inefficient open loop gas and 2. Efficient combined cycle gas all on its own. Kent Hawkins at MasterResource has done plenty of analysis on this very question and for those interested enough, you might want to at least check out this page that discusses the uselessness of wind as a component of the overall grid electrical supply…. http://www.masterresource.org/2009/11/wind-integration-incremental-emissions-from-back-up-generation-cycling-part-i-a-framework-and-calculator/comment-page-1/#comment-3244 You don’t have to read the whole article as here is one small paragraph near the bottom that clearly makes the point and if you want to dig into this more, there is plenty of information on this site….
    In November 2009, Kent Hawkins, a Canadian electrical engineer, published a detailed analysis on the frequency with which gas-fired generators must be cycled on and off in order to back up wind power. Hawkins findings: the frequent switching on and off results in more gas consumption than if there were no wind turbines at all. His analysis suggests that it would be more efficient in terms of carbon dioxide emissions to simply run combined-cycle gas turbines on a continuous basis rather than use wind turbines backed up by gas-fired generators that are constantly being turned on and off. Hawkins concludes that wind power is not an “effective CO2 mitigation” strategy “because of inefficiencies introduced by fast-ramping (inefficient) operation of gas turbines.”
    The fact that wind/solar don’t actually give a net gain in power supply over what combined cycle gas does on its own is only part of the problem and doesn’t touch on many many relevant issues…. the increased maintenance and reduced reliability of gas plants due to all the cycling, the poor economics of solar/wind and the fact that they both have their own very serious environmental problems far beyond the fact that they don’t actually reduce the consumption of gas. Years from now, people will look back at this era and shake their heads at how on earth could people have moved so quickly and readily into the scam of solar/wind before the odour of the scam of ENRON had a chance to leave the room.

  141. benfrommo says:
    BS:

    For one, solar insolation difference from summer to winter in central NM is approx 42% . You know how I know this? Well let me tell you a story….

    Yep, quite the story!

    I monitor my system automatically. Summer heat reduces PV voltage, winter cold increases it. Learn some engineering dude!

    NM has elevations ranging from 3000+ feet to over 130000 feet. The air in places ranges from hazy humid to dry-as-a-bone clear, winter and summer.

    I’m sure your father had good access to MPPT inverters back in the 80’s as well. If not, I’m sure he was outside adjusting his load point every few minutes to properly extract maximum power from his panels. He surely did some temperature compensation as well.

    benfrommo says:
    I don’t want to pay for your novelty projects in the NM desert that you make up things about and lie about.

    I don’t recall you giving me a dime.

  142. You need to include fuel costs to compare solar and gas fired generation. That will drive up the cost of the gas fired electricity up to around $.05/kwh, which is still a hell of a lot cheaper than solar.

    Also, unless you have better figures, add about 6% of the total capital costs per year for maintenance to both estimates.

  143. Brewster,

    I pay taxes. The solar panels you buy are subsidized by the Government. Ergo I am paying for your novelty projects in the desert.

    The technology has not progressed that far at all since the 80’s. I hate to tell you this, but automatically tracking it with computers versus tracking it with tools he bought by hand is not all that different.

    That being said, are you seriously arguing that somehow your solar panels are overcoming the laws of physics and extracting more power from the sun then the sun puts out? I mean, by golly I think you just came up with something that I will call perpetual motion or free energy from nothing!

    As far as this comment goes:

    NM has elevations ranging from 3000+ feet to over 130000 feet. The air in places ranges from hazy humid to dry-as-a-bone clear, winter and summer.

    Well yes, of course it does, that is NM. we lived in central NM at an elevation of approx 5-6k. Where do you live that you bork the laws of physics and somehow the Earth does not tilt during the winter or summer at all? Come on, we all want to know this. Where in central NM do you live? In the winter I remember the cold winter days when it would snow at night and the snow would melt before noon because desert snow is fickle and does not stick around for long. The day-time temperatures often melt it and it was not uncommon at all to get snow at night and then get temperatures of up to 50-60 degrees F the next day in the middle of winter. That is at an elevation of 5-6k too mind you.

    So if temperature does play such a “Super role” in your efficiency I really am curious on how this works in central NM because your location is critical in this. Yes, New Mexico ranges from deserts to high deserts to even forests and mountains. The state is rather varied and anyone who thinks for a second that the state is automatically a great place for solar panels needs to remember that the state is covered in mountains, has local weather conditions all across the state, and is one of the most varied states as far as topology goes.

    This is why I read your post and was so sceptical to begin with. I used to live there as a very young kid and I remember the desert weather very well. The coldest days in the high desert were when it was cloudy, but when the sun is shining you would tend to get the hotter days.

    Granted, maybe my memory is off since I was young, but I do recall the average high being around 50 or so in the winter…..so what is your experience since you live there?

    Why am I pestering you about this? Because I want you to show us your actual data and to show us your actual information instead of making claims that do not make since for central NM. Show me the proof.

    I have lived most of my life in Missouri, which is the show me state, and I want you to show me the proof. I might have lived my early years in New Mexico, but I grew up in Missouri and want to see your proof since your claims are rather far-fetched and I don’t tend to believe far-fetched claims without proof. Show us your data. Show us your proof that despite the Earth tilting away from the sun in the winter according to physics and science, your panels still produce the same power.

  144. V Martin says: May 6, 2012 at 7:14 am

    Dear Mr. Matin

    Where Mr. Hawkins states:

    Hawkins findings: the frequent switching on and off results in more gas consumption than if there were no wind turbines at all. His analysis suggests that it would be more efficient in terms of carbon dioxide emissions to simply run combined-cycle gas turbines on a continuous basis rather than use wind turbines backed up by gas-fired generators that are constantly being turned on and off.

    Mr. Hawkins is absolutely correct. I would add that it is also more economically efficient to simply continuously run combined-cycle gas units, certain coal units, and combustions turbines (CTs).

    There are at least two factors commonly overlooked in academic studies of wind/solar dispatch by the green community. These are: 1) high start-up cost for the fossil plants (over and above the start-up fuel cost), and 2) line-losses for getting power from sunny/winding parts of the country to populated areas.

    In practical terms the actual cost of dispatching a wind/solar resource is roughly an order of magnitude higher than dispatching the next economical resource. Indeed these other factors make wind/solar less economical than the energy-inefficient high-variable-cost combustion turbines (CT). Consequently, wind/solar “assets” are almost always dispatched last. Meaning these units become the last units called upon to supply power to customers. This is true even in high-gas-price scenarios.

    The only thing keeping wind/solar “resources” on most utilities dispatch lists are a combination of State renewable requirements, political pressure, and federal subsidy. Even then, wind/solar are called upon only if all other options have been exhausted.

    Regards,
    Kforestcat

  145. That $.12/kWh figure is inflated when you take out high prices induced by California and other blue state stupidity. Most of the middle of the country enjoys ~$0.09/kWh.

    As an aside I also have a problem with the EIA’s levelized costs for wind. I simply do not believe that a proper accounting of availability has been made for wind when it shows a lower levelized cost than nuclear.

    @Mathew Marler
    Quoting directly from your McKinsey source,
    “Indeed, the cost of a typical commercial system could fall 40 percent by 2015 and an additional 30 percent by 2020…”
    That is not a 40% annual decline. It is a 40% decline from 2012 to 2015 and an additional 30% decline in the following 5 years. Given that even the Chinese are realizing that they are subsidizing a boondoggle, I find the claim highly suspect. Furthermore, if you look at their comparison figure at the bottom of the posting you see that they claim solar is already competitive with existing grid-tied sources in “good sunlight, developed markets (e.g. California (where have I heard that one before?), Spain, Austrialia.” Even more absurd they claim that electricity costs in those markets are already $.20-.30/kWh. Well California can essentially buy the same power I access here in the Midwest at $.09/kWh, so those costs are completely distorted by other political agendas.

  146. 1. kforestcat says:
    Consequently, wind/solar “assets” are almost always dispatched last. Meaning these units become the last units called upon to supply power to customers. This is true even in high-gas-price scenarios.

    Thanks for your additional comments. I have one quick thought that comes to mind… you obviously don’t live in Ontario or for that matter, the UK. Effectively in these jurisdictions, solar/wind have priority access to the grid… these sources of supply have to be taken allowed access first and the rest of the grid adapts acordingly. Being dispatched last is enough of a horror story… now imagine them being first!

    Regarding the economic side of the picture, an excellent resource that I encourage everyone to read is a document by Prof Gordon Hughes from the University of Edinburgh. It is entitled “Why is Wind Power so Expensive – An Economic Analysis”. http://www.templar.co.uk/downloads/hughes-windpower.pdf The following is from the Forward….. As Gordon Hughes’s report shows, meeting Britain’s target for renewable energy by 2020 would require a total investment of some £120 billion in wind turbines and back-up. The same amount of electricity could be generated by gas-fired power plants that would only cost £13 billion, that is an order of magnitude cheaper.

  147. David Middleton: In its present state “green” energy, particularly solar, is not economically viable. Tidal, wind and solar power sources are intermittent… And the initial real investment ($) is far higher than fossil fuels.

    It would cost more than $6 trillion to replace the nation’s current coal and natural gas power plants with solar power plants… Which would leave you with no capital to expand generation capacity and 6-8 hours of electricity per day.

    Building commercial solar plants now is exactly like building UNIVAC’s 60 years ago, with two big differences:

    At the present time, solar is economically viable in some places. As costs continue to decline (I can’t tell for sure whether you are stating outright that costs will NOT continue to decline, but you seem so), it will become economically viable in more places. I would not propose to replace the entire fossil fuel based electrical power generating capacity with solar power; building commercial solar power plants is only like installing UNIVAC’s in every home in your imagination, since no one is proposing anything like that.

    Up above a price of $0.13/kwh for electricity from solar power was quoted, and compared to average costs of $0.09/kwh for a particular person, and $0.12/kwh for people nationwide. Of those, which do you expect to decline the most in the next 5 years? On recent trends, solar will decline about 80% or more over the next 5 years, but other sources will most likely increase in cost. Because my grandparents lived into their 80s and I am only 65, I expect to see electricity from solar power at under $0.01/kwh; PV factories powered completely by sunlight (following the example of the Boeing 787 assembly plant in South Carolina, which is 100% powered by solar and other renewables); and hydrogen and butanol from solar power cheaper than natural gas on an energy equivalent basis. I don’t expect that you and I can resume this discussion and compare notes when I am 85, but perhaps 5 years from now we’ll still be slogging away at WUWT, and we’ll be able to resume this discussion.

    For what it’s worth, I favor more development of America’s coal, oil and natural gas resources, I just do not expect the price reductions to parallel the price reductions of solar. I would, of course, be happy if they did. I also favor diverse nuclear power technologies.

    I linked to a cost analysis from McKinsey and associates forecasting 40% declines in the cost of solar power over the next 2 years. We’ll probably still be here in May 2014, and we can appraise their forecast.

  148. oops, I wrote: since no one is proposing anything like that.

    Actually, a few people are proposing that , but I am not one of them.

  149. Gail Combs says:
    May 6, 2012 at 5:34 am

    Then I hope you are supporting thorium. It is the only reasonable source of energy I have seen so far and can be used in conventional nuclear reactors.

    And what about coal? We have plenty. The only ostensible reason for not burning all we need is the CO2 scare, and CAGW hysteria.

  150. Matthew R Marler says:
    May 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm
    If solar prices decline 40% every 2 years, as expected in the review I posted, then the discussion will be much different in 5 years.

    An unrealistic assumption. No manufacturer is going to sell a finished product for less than the cost of manufacturing it — ask any former Solyndra employee how that marketing strategy worked out for them…

  151. jabre says:
    May 5, 2012 at 6:27 am
    Panel manufacturers provide 20 to 25 year 80% performance warranties.

    Unless the climate on Turner Ranch is sunny and mild all year long, with no precipitation, no tumbleweeds, no pollen, and no wind to deposit talcum-powder dust on them, those panels won’t last half that long, let alone deliver 80% performance.

  152. Steve P says:
    May 6, 2012 at 9:50 am
    Gail Combs says:
    May 6, 2012 at 5:34 am
    “Then I hope you are supporting thorium. It is the only reasonable source of energy I have seen so far and can be used in conventional nuclear reactors.”
    And what about coal?

    My guess would be that the reaction wouldn’t be energetic enough to make it worthwhile.

    Sorry. I just *had* to say that…

  153. Matthew R Marler says:
    May 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm
    If solar prices decline 40% every 2 years, as expected in the review I posted, then the discussion will be much different in 5 years.

    If people expect that after 40 years that suddenly solar is going to jump down in prices due to anything other then increased subsidies, they are seriously deluded. If you increase subsidies and make things cheaper by Government intervention, well then of course the cost of solar goes down for the consumer!

    But the consumer is still paying for it and the actual cost is still the same and its really just being delusional in the end or lying to say that costs are going down. The costs are the same as before, the only thing that is changing is that there is more Government financing going into solar.

    That is great if you are some weird person who thinks Government money is “cost neutral” or some other nonsense like that, but that money does cost the economy and costs real jobs in the real world. Delusional, like I said.

  154. Bill Tuttle says:
    May 6, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Funny – ain’t it? – when we get to the crux of the issue, it’s more important to be funny than relevant.

    If the CO2 scare is a scam, then we can freely burn all the coal we need.

    That is the issue.

  155. benfrommo says:
    May 6, 2012 at 10:31 am
    “If people expect that after 40 years that suddenly solar is going to jump down in prices due to anything other then increased subsidies, they are seriously deluded. If you increase subsidies and make things cheaper by Government intervention, well then of course the cost of solar goes down for the consumer!”

    Ben, there is a real phenomenon called the experience curve. For different industrial products, costs scale differently with volume, and in the past, with each doubling of the volume of produced PV modules, costs went down by 18%. (An extreme example is software where all the cost is in development so each volume doubling causes a drop of 50% in per unit costs)

    The module prices don’t go down through subsidies, as most subsidies are Feed In Tariffs for the user of the PV module.

    I looked at the cost curves, there was this optimistic assumption by Edenhofer in one of the PIK reports that costs of PV half each 5 years or so it looked like, it was this document

    http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/report/srren-spm-fd4

    BUT I found various other graphs that give a price of 7 USD per WattPeak in 1980 so I think Edenhofer is overly optimistic.

    Oh,I see that Edenhofer paper was the infamous Renewables report by the IPCC and they have memory-holed it. Maybe their numbers were fake and they don’t want me to see them again. Stuff happens.

    Well, anyhow, the experience curve effects are probably real.

  156. Matthew R Marler says:
    May 6, 2012 at 9:36 am
    “On recent trends, solar will decline about 80% or more over the next 5 years, but other sources will most likely increase in cost. ”

    That is probably an artefact caused by FIT cutbacks of broke European nations and especially Germany which was taking half the world’s output. So there’s massive oversupply in the market now. We see the first bankruptcies now so that falling trend will end quickly.

  157. benfrommo: If people expect that after 40 years that suddenly solar is going to jump down in prices due to anything other then increased subsidies, they are seriously deluded.

    No one is claiming “suddenly”. “Tipping point”, maybe.

    Bill Tuttle: ask any former Solyndra employee how that marketing strategy worked out for them…

    As you probably know, American Airlines has gone bust and been bought by a former competitor. For reliable news of the industry, I’d recommend you get the information from the purchaser, not AA. Same with solar. Look to the companies who sold 30+ GW of solar generating capacity last year, not the bankrupts.

  158. DirkH: We see the first bankruptcies now so that falling trend will end quickly.

    You might be right, but other reviews (like the McKinsey review that I linked) have noted the dramatic declines in the costs of manufacture in the last few years.

  159. A last note on natural gas pricing. Some private investors and some municipalities are planning and constructing new pipelines and liquified natural gas terminals to sell more US natural gas to the rest of the world. Once those are completed, US natural gas prices, like US petroleum prices, will be subject to bidding by foreign purchasers. That’s likely to raise the price of US natural gas above what it is now. But, that’s the future, and we won’t know for sure for a few years yet.

  160. The following data is the total energy produced each month in 2011 by PV power sources connected to the national grid of Spain. The source is the annual report of Red Electrica, Spain’s only transmission and electrical system operator. The report stated that the sources are a mixture of fixed and tracking arrays. Spain began 2011 with 3647 MWs (name plate) of installed PV power and the year ended with 3903 MWs, a difference of just 7%. About ¾ of the PV power sources are located in southern Spain, at about the same latitude as northern New Mexico. For 2011, Jan. produced about 36% of July. Regardless of the year to year variations it’s clear that winter months produce substantially lower energy outputs than the summer months. Solar thermal (parabolic mirrors…I don’t know what the solar towers will do) does even worse with winter months at about 20% the output of summer months.

    2011 Mwh

    Jan 340 *
    Feb 462
    March 526
    Apr 691
    May 771
    June 829
    July 901 *
    Aug 827
    Sept 757
    Oct 655
    Nov 387
    Dec 423

    2012
    Jan 495
    Feb 641
    March 789
    Apr 684

  161. As others have aptly pointed out, the fuel costs for electricity generation are a relatively small proportion of the overall costs of generating and transmitting adequate electricity supplies on demand. The apostles of ethanol like to point out that there’s only about 5 cents worth of corn in a box of cornflakes. Of course there’s much more than that in a pound of beef or pork and they miss the broader point. But the basic premise is valid (within certain constraints), that a tripling of corn prices will do little to affect the cost of a box of corn flakes. In terms of generating electricity, most of the cost exists in the form of facilities, equipment, infrastructure and manpower. Fuel is indeed a factor but it pales relative to the cost of regulatory burdens. Other industries are more sensitive to fuel costs (e.g. shipping, airlines).

    A friend of mine is a mechanical engineer and a motorhead. He likes to restore classic muscle cars to showroom quality. Most of these cars get maybe 18 mpg at best. Several years ago we discussed this with reference to the mileage of modern vehicles. He provided me with this example. Suppose he spends $15,000 (and his own time as a hobby) restoring a vintage 1969 Pontiac Firebird and it gets 18 mph. Now compare this to a new $30,000 vehicle that gets unlimited mileage. This was back when gasoline was about $1.75/gal. He would have to drive his restored vehicle over 154,000 miles before he hit the break even point on fuel costs relative to the greater acquisition cost of the modern vehicle. Assuming fuel prices remained the same and that he drove an average of 11,000 miles/year, it would take him 14 years to break even. I encourage everyone looking to dump a paid-for 5 year vehicle for a much more expensive but more fuel efficient vehicle in the name of fuel economy. Plug in whatever numbers you want, assume a best case/worst case scenario and see how many years it is likely to take to break even.

    The same analogy can be extrapolated to solar power. Even if PV panels magically became “free”, the necessary real estate, regulatory burdens, infrastructure, transmission lines, maintenance and manpower would still exist. So too would the reality that solar only makes electricity when the sun is shining and requires spinning backup. Like wind power it also places unnecessary burdens on the grid. If PV panels were free we could all cover our roofs and backyards with panels, buy expensive charge controllers, inverters and (very expensive) deep cycle batteries and live “off the grid”. That still would not obviate the need to maintain and replace the batteries and panels when they fail (and they will) nor will it do much for that stretch of 4 or 5 cloudy days that even the best sited installations encounter.

    The sun and the wind may be “free”, but harvesting them for something useful is very expensive. Until that changes solar and wind power will remain non-viable for the purposes of generating utility electricity. Even when something appears to be “free”…it almost never is.

  162. Bingo!

    Avfuktare vind says:
    May 4, 2012 at 10:35 pm
    One of the main benefits of solar energy is that it can be produced at the place of consumption. If you cut out the need for (extra) transmission lines and compare to the energy retail price its almost comparable to conventional energy. Add a decade of further development and I think we will see a lot of solar panels complementing other energy sources, especially photovoltaic and heat producing version.
    Big solar farm with todays technology doesnt seem a good idea though.

  163. Slightly off current thread:

    PostShow – http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/26/getting-your-mind-right-in-australia-round-2/ which many of you remember from 26th April; it runs until end-May, and I guess many who are concerned about Australia – her future, her sanity – have already voted.
    Latest [2148 Z – 6th May ’12]
    Dismissive 50%
    Alarmed 23%
    Concerned 13%
    Doubtful 9%
    Cautious 4%
    Disengaged 1%

    5003 votes counted

    Don’t forget – Australian postcode needed;
    one site – not alwys 100% reliable – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postcodes_in_Australia

  164. Not to mention the wind farms based on a latest report (rolls eyes)

    Robert of Ottawa says:
    May 5, 2012 at 4:10 am
    And another point, or question. Don’t solar panels decrease the albedo, i.e. absorb more incoming short wave energy than the desert? Wouldn’t this increase global warming?

  165. The paradigm of centralized, photovoltaic generating stations that then transmit power to high density urban areas is severely flawed. If PVs has any chance of becoming economically viable, it is as rooftop installations to provide supplementary power, peak off set power in areas where peak loads are caused by the demand for air conditioning, and back up generation when there are power outages. With a homeowner owned installation in a low density suburb, PVs benefits from being installed on an existing structure rather than a purpose built facility and the homeowner will take care of cleaning dust and snow off of the panels.

    Of course the best backup power for PV or wind is hydroelectric. A hydro plant can be brought on line very quickly.

  166. Garacka says:
    May 5, 2012 at 6:02 am
    Isn’t extra CO2 one of the greenest things we could do for the biosphere? It blows my mind that the CO2 = pollutant meme could have ever gotten off the ground as it has, but I suppose that’s the power of propaganda, especially when it becomes removed 1 degree from the initial source and becomes self propagating.

    ******

    That’s why they always refer to it as “carbon emissions” or “carbon tax”, it sounds more ominous that way.

    It’s akin to saying that clouds are Hydrogen. Hydrogen is evil because it can explode like the Hindenburg. Therefore we must do everything we can to eliminate dangerous clouds and control evaporation. Big Dry is against this of course, hence the need for subsidies and the Hydrogen Tax.

  167. James Crawford says:

    May 6, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    The paradigm of centralized, photovoltaic generating stations that then transmit power to high density urban areas is severely flawed. If PVs has any chance of becoming economically viable, it is as rooftop installations to provide supplementary power, peak off set power in areas where peak loads are caused by the demand for air conditioning, and back up generation when there are power outages.

    Your first one is not a good example. Other power sources can do this cheaper, more efficiently and in the long run with less CO2 emissions (see nuclear power).

    There is zero advantage of using anything hooked into the national grid that isn’t competitive with the national grid as far as cost goes or is not superior in some form. Solar and wind are inferior sources of power compared to any other source of power hooked into the national grid. They are not on demand power sources and therefore inferior. Why spend more money on solar power and hook it into the national grid? There is zero reason.

    As far as temporary sources of power during power outages, that is one usage for solar that makes sense. Or even wind for that matter perhaps if you can set-up a portable system (doubtful) but perhaps that is just solar’s domain. Something that can be hooked up to make a temporary power grid while the real grid is fixed is something that makes sense, can be inferior in that some power is better then none…and there you go.

    ————————————————————————————————————–

    @DirkH, the experience curve will not work with solar power or anything driven with subsidies. There is no incentive to drive down costs in manufacturing because if they drive down costs, the subsidies get cut. So why would these companies spend more money to increase efficiency when they would end up saving nothing and probably in the end manage to just lose subsidy money? The subsidies are simply determined to make sure that companies that manufacture these products can make X profit and stay in business so that the better solar companies keep going and the ones that are managed by morons go out of business. It seems like capitalism on the surface, but you can not apply the theories and practices of capitalism economics to this at all.

    In essence, the experience curve and build-up of factories will just produce what is called a “standardized” company and process that every company uses. There is no reason to be in competition all that much except to make sure no one new pops up, you just want to be efficient enough to make sure the top dogs stay at the top, so you keep anyone new from coming into the market. You do this by making yourselves just slightly more efficient and hide the earnings by investing in inventory or something of that nature. So the various companies talk to each other and instead of competing, they share just enough insights to stay on par with each other and in the end these companies just become copies of each other and what does this end with eventually?

    I will let you figure it out, but this system produces not innovation but standardization and lack of competition to the point that the companies simply cooperate together to lobby congress for subsidies and other stuff like that. That is what happens when Government picks the winners not based on whether the product is good or bad, but on whether people “like the technology” and instead of letting the industry either succeed or fail in the real world, we let delusions run wild.

    I hope this explains why the experiences of the software industry and elsewhere will never be seen with solar. And if you do want to see these experiences, you have to eliminate every competitive edge these companies have and force them to play on an even playing field as every other company. Eliminate subsidies, tax breaks, FITS, and everything. Make it a truly level playing field and if the technology can survive, it will, otherwise bust….

  168. Here in California, where we have a ‘green mandate’, the lowest lifeline tier on my bill is about 14 cents / kW-hr and it rapidly jumps to about 23 cents / kW-hr if you use enough to live comfortably in a 1000 square foot home (about 100 sq m ).

    If you pay less than that, we are your future.

    BTW, our rates will ‘necessarily skyrocket’ as we’re committed to much more “green” in the future. (Or, IMHO, we ought to be committed for our commitment…).

    At those prices, I can make my own electricity at parity. On my “to do” list is to replace my electric stove with a gas stove and make a wood chip ‘gasogen’ and feed the gas to my generator so I can turn yard waste into electricity cheep. Yeah, it will put a fair amount of crap in the air, but at least I’ll be able to run the lights and heater. I’d rather buy cheap clean natural gas or nuclear power, but hey, you do what you must…

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/diy-gasoline-and-diesel-from-wood-and-trash/

    Welcome to a “DIY 3rd World approach to life” here in The Peoples Republic of Kalifornia…

  169. jayhd says:
    May 6, 2012 at 6:20 am
    Solar cells only work when the sun is shining. . .

    Well, not entirely. You can fire up some diesel generators at night and shine powerful floodlights on the solar panels. As I recall, some company in Spain tried this. As long as you are getting a government subsidy for the electricity you supply from your ‘solar’ cells, does it matter how efficient they are?

    Spain is doing really well, now, aren’t they?—leading the path to our ‘green’ future.

    /Mr Lynn

  170. Well I’m hoping to see a substantial off the grid push for PV solar. The big solar farms make no sense to me; but re-use of existing roofs (residential makes a lot of sense.

    Two reasons for staying off the grid. It costs real money and efficiency loss to convert DC from solar cells to 120 AC locked to the grid; and that means both phase locked and power factor corrected. The second reason to stay off the grid is LED solid state lighting.

    CFLs are going to be a flash in the pan, and then they too will be gone to the ash bin of history. LED lighting is far more efficient, and the basic flux source is far more tractable for optical system design for illumination.

    And it costs a lot of money and further efficiency loss to convert LEDs which are current fed DC deices to AC Voltage feed at 120 Volts.

    The people who make LED AC drivers, think 80% conversion efficiency is acceptible; it’s not. The cost of recovery of 25% more photons from LED chips is astronomical. The best LEDs now are quite close to 100% internal quantum efficiency, and some reach close to 60% (58%) in external QE.

    The circuit guys need to get their rear ends in gear. A minimum of 90% ACV-DC current conversion efficiency, is required, or better yet eliminate the AC.

    OK for residential lighting; but it requires battery storage. I could easily run every single LED lamp in my house off an ordinary car battery, with daylight PV charging. And I don’t have any Edison incandescents; nor do I have any mercury filled fluorescents; 100% LED, including inside the refrigerator. Still dunno if it goes out when I close the door; but now I don’t even care.

    The solid state lighting scene is about as bleak as is the PV solar industry. Lots of people in it, and many credible giants; but still too many who have no idea what they are into; they think they do, but they don’t even know how much they don’t know. But the leading companies in solid state lighting are very good; just like some of the top PV solar cell people. A quick look at Fry’s solid state lighting offerings will show you how bad it can get.

  171. benfrommo: I hope this explains why the experiences of the software industry and elsewhere will never be seen with solar.

    Beware of sentences containing the word “never”.

  172. Ian of Fremantle says:
    May 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Whether or not you believe in CAGW and on this blog most are sceptical as indeed am I, the development of non polluting forms of energy production surely is a plus for the environment. Isn’t it? Everything isn’t always down to the dollars and cents. Is it?

    No, and no. By the time you factor in the mfr. of the panels and substrate, and build and use the additional fast-response gas plants needed for passing clouds and most of the 24 day, the “pollution” benefit is probably negative. IAC, wealthier, cleaner societies are the real key to non-abuse of “environmental resources”. The “dollars and cents” bleeding of the economy at the level of energy generation is just about the most destructive attack on both humans and environment that could be devised. Which is why it’s so favoured by Greens such as yourself.

  173. gerrydorrian66 says:
    May 4, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    In the UK, the green boom seems to be fuelled by the desire of rich people to make more money by hosting heavily- and even fully-subsidised wind-farms, and I’m sure, as flooding continues during the heavy rainfall of our “drought”, solar cell farms will follow. It’s enclosure all over again

    For those not familiar with Brit terminology, this refers to the notorious de-population of the Scottish Highlands by new English landlords to make room for large sheep farms after the defeat of the Scots armies. Lots of things now associated with Scotland, like the usually seen styles of arms-to-the side dancing, were actually introduced (from France in that instance) and modified (no touching, arms still, etc.) to suit the Calvinist tastes of the new landlords. Scots fled across the world, notably to North America.

  174. George E. Smith says:
    May 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    OK for residential lighting; but it requires battery storage. I could easily run every single LED lamp in my house off an ordinary car battery, with daylight PV charging.

    Used efficiently and appropriately (often in conjunction with a solar panel for charging) in 3rd world environments, where it even has health benefits, as it substitutes for smokey indoor flame-lighting. See the Light Up The World project, at lutw.org . They also sell kits, if you want to try it out for yourself.

  175. Ian of Fremantle says:
    May 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Whether or not you believe in CAGW and on this blog most are sceptical as indeed am I, the development of non polluting forms of energy production surely is a plus for the environment. Isn’t it? Everything isn’t always down to the dollars and cents. Is it?
    ===================================================
    Ian….. I don’t wish to pile on, so forgive me……… but, I don’t believe you understand what the function of “dollars and cents” is.

    The question isn’t what “pollutes” more or less. Pollution is stupid expression. Everything pollutes. With or without mankind. Everything.

    The question is always, “What works for the greatest good of mankind?”.

    I firmly believe windmills and solar panels work against the greater good. It is silly to think otherwise. We’ve shown the utiliization of our fuels have increased our quality and quanity of life. It has also been shown that we can increase our quanity and quality of life and still increase quality and quanity of the flora and fauna of the earth.

    Sustainable is a chatch word with alarmists/leftists. But, consider the American bison. They would be extinct if not for us being able to utilize other resources. In fact, their numbers have increased to the will of the American people. Why? Because they serve no utility to nature any further. They would have died out save for our efforts……. only accomplished by our utilization of various sources of fuel, food, and energy. Polar bears….. the same answer. Certain species of trees…. again, the same. A hungry person will eat the last of anything to save themselves. As all living things would do so.

    Our use of energy and fuels saves us from being reduced to animals. It pisses me off for anyone to suggest we should return to such an existance. Anyone believing we should are either evil or stupid. Either way, if we left it to Darwin…….

  176. Steve P says:
    May 6, 2012 at 10:45 am
    @ me, May 6, 2012 at 10:15 am
    Funny – ain’t it? – when we get to the crux of the issue, it’s more important to be funny than relevant.
    If the CO2 scare is a scam, then we can freely burn all the coal we need.
    That is the issue.

    Gail was talking about advancing thorium reactors and your response was coal-fired generators, which I thought an interesting disconnect. BTW, I *like* coal — it’s plentiful, economical, helps keep the railroads running, and provides jobs in some pretty depressed areas..

  177. Matthew R Marler says:

    May 6, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    benfrommo: I hope this explains why the experiences of the software industry and elsewhere will never be seen with solar.

    Beware of sentences containing the word “never”.
    ———————————————————————————

    I always say never to economic systems that require subsidies for survival. They are depended on said subsidies and in the end they will eventually die out when the host decides to just get rid of the leech.

    Mark my words, one way or another, the entire solar energy boondangle will fall along with wind because the US as it is has almost no money and it is just plain nuts to think that a country that is going bankrupt has the money to spend on “novelty” power sources.

    Projects like these are doomed to failure because they will eventually run out of other people’s money to spend. And then what happens? Do they magically become efficient or just go bankrupt? Any takers on what will happen to solar and wind companies when the subsidies dry up completely?

    Heck, this article above shows the costs in a comparison so that should show what will happen if the subsidies and “attempt at leveling the playing field for these novelties” stops when our out of touch leaders in Washington really do realize that you can not spend money you do not have forever on novelty projects like this.

    They are already spending 100 billion a year on this in the US (wind + solar) so not sure this entire economic system can survive once the real cuts start coming to the budget. The first things to go when times are tough are the novelty stuff like this.

  178. “”””” Brian H says:

    May 6, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    George E. Smith says:
    May 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    OK for residential lighting; but it requires battery storage. I could easily run every single LED lamp in my house off an ordinary car battery, with daylight PV charging.

    Used efficiently and appropriately (often in conjunction with a solar panel for charging) in 3rd world environments, where it even has health benefits, as it substitutes for smokey indoor flame-lighting. See the Light Up The World project, at lutw.org . They also sell kits, if you want to try it out for yourself. “””””

    Gee ! I could have sworn that I wrote that I HAVE already done it myself.

    I’m typing this sitting in my 12th floor room in the Aria Hote ln Las vegas where tomorrow, I will be attending Light Fair at the Convention Center right here in this Hotel. It is the largest Lighting Industry convention in the World. And solid state lighting will feature prominently in the technical papers, and in the product exhibits; including some that I may have had something to do with.

  179. benfrommo says:
    May 6, 2012 at 4:30 pm
    “@DirkH, the experience curve will not work with solar power or anything driven with subsidies.”

    The 18% cost per unit reduction on doubling of volume was not a prognosis; it is what is observed with the price curve in the past. The subsidies are – at least in Germany – not given to the companies Solyndra-style. The subsidy is the FIT. So the user of the PV panel will shop for the cheapest panels. That is competition in my book. Even though the end user will get a subsidy.

    “I hope this explains why the experiences of the software industry and elsewhere will never be seen with solar. ”

    Of course you cannot expect to see the 50% reduction per unit cost in PV due to the need for physical manufacture, shipping and handling. I used software as the example for the extreme end of experience curves. Different products show different experience curves. For PV cells, it was 18% per doubling in the past. You cannot prove that it can’t happen; history has already refuted your argument.

    I am against subsidies just like you. But I won’t deny that scale effects exist.

  180. George E. Smith says:
    May 6, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    “”””” Brian H says:

    May 6, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    George E. Smith says:
    May 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    OK for residential lighting; but it requires battery storage. I could easily run every single LED lamp in my house off an ordinary car battery, with daylight PV charging.

    Used efficiently and appropriately (often in conjunction with a solar panel for charging) in 3rd world environments, where it even has health benefits, as it substitutes for smokey indoor flame-lighting. See the Light Up The World project, at lutw.org . They also sell kits, if you want to try it out for yourself. “””””

    Gee ! I could have sworn that I wrote that I HAVE already done it myself.

    I was actually thinking in terms of DC direct to LED (from battery or panel) rather than using AC/DC conversion. Don’t know how complex it would be to wire up and control, but it seems that solar that stores in a battery bank, then is inverted to AC, which goes to a lamp rectifier return it to DC for the LED, — all very lossy, as you point out — could be “short-circuited”. ;)

  181. Bill Tuttle says:
    May 6, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Gail was talking about advancing thorium reactors and your response was coal-fired generators, which I thought an interesting disconnect.

    Bill, thanks for the partial clarification, but if you read again, I think it’s pretty clear I was challenging Gail’s assertion that “thorium…is the only reasonable source of energy I have seen so far”

    Gail Combs says:
    May 6, 2012 at 5:34 am

    Then I hope you are supporting thorium. It is the only reasonable source of energy I have seen so far and can be used in conventional nuclear reactors.

    ….and, I did specify burning the coal, so there was no disconnect, at least in my comment.

    Steve P says:
    May 6, 2012 at 9:50 am

    If the CO2 scare is a scam, then we can freely burn all the coal we need.

    That’s the point.

  182. Bill Tuttle says:
    May 6, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Gail was talking about advancing thorium reactors and your response was coal-fired generators, which I thought an interesting disconnect. BTW, I *like* coal …

    Bill, thanks for the partial clarification, but if you read again, I think it’s pretty clear I was challenging Gail’s assertion that thorium is the only reasonable source of energy she has seen so far:

    Gail Combs says:
    May 6, 2012 at 5:34 am

    Then I hope you are supporting thorium. It is the only reasonable source of energy I have seen so far and can be used in conventional nuclear reactors.

    Further, in response to Gail, I did specify burning the coal, so there was no disconnect, as least in my comments.

    Steve P says:
    May 6, 2012 at 9:50 am

    And what about coal? We have plenty. The only ostensible reason for not burning all we need is the CO2 scare, and CAGW hysteria.

    That’s the point, and it still stands.

  183. ANother factor is that the output of a gas powered plant does not degrade significantly over time. That is, at the end of it’s 30 year operating life, a natural gas fired plant wll be producing almost as much power as it did when it first opened. Solar plants on the other had do degrade significantly. It may be producing 30MW on day one, but it will be producing much less, perhaps as much as 50% less by the end of it’s life.

  184. Ian of Fremantle says:
    May 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    First off, you are assuming that solar is non-polluting. It isn’t, the production and disposal of solar cells produces a lot of toxic waste. Then there is the heat pollution aspect of all those solar panels. Then you have to consider all of that land that is converted from a natual setting.

  185. NM has elevations ranging from 3000+ feet to over 130000 feet

    Wow. Who knew that the tallest mountain on the planet was in New Mexico?

  186. Avfuktare vind says:
    May 4, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Getting rid of power lines would only be feasible if it were possible for solar to completely replace electricity. Since this isn’t possible, there will always be power lines, and the blight of solar panels.

  187. From the FERC database, for Q1 (Jan-Mar 2012), buried within the quarterly data spreadsheet for Southern Company Services, Cimmaron produced 65490 MWh (25.6% cf average) and received $137/MWh (13.7 c/kWh). The power is purchased by the Tri-State Generation & Transmission Assoc, a co-op of many smaller power utilities.

    The Cimmaron array is within the territory of Springerville Elec Co-op. Residential rates are $10.957 c/kWh flate rate, or TOU @ 13.858 c/kWh from 0700-2000, and 7.076 c/kwh 2000-0700. Full rates are found here:

    http://www.springercoop.com/rates.cfm

    Basically, the power from Cimmaron costs more for the co-op to buy than it can sell it for. Cimmaron (and other New Mexico solar PV arrays such as Roadrunner in Santa Teresa, NM) exist only because of the NM RPS requirements.

  188. benfrommo spews:

    Brewster,

    I pay taxes. The solar panels you buy are subsidized by the Government. Ergo I am paying for your novelty projects in the desert.

    Great, you claim the Chinese are getting US$ to build cheap solar panels. Thank you for your support!

    The technology has not progressed that far at all since the 80′s. I hate to tell you this, but automatically tracking it with computers versus tracking it with tools he bought by hand is not all that different.

    Here is where you show your ignorance. 30 years of inverter technology makes a world of difference. No one was standing outside with their panels tweaking the load by hand every few minutes back in the 80’s. You don’t seem to grasp the significance of the I/V curve of a PV cell. This is critical to maximize panel efficiency over changes in light and temperature. It is all done automatically now. If you can’t grasp what this all means then I feel sorry for you. Data logging can be done with a volt meter and pad of paper or a data acquisition system. Nothing fancy needed for that.

    That being said, are you seriously arguing that somehow your solar panels are overcoming the laws of physics and extracting more power from the sun then the sun puts out? I mean, by golly I think you just came up with something that I will call perpetual motion or free energy from nothing!

    Just where did I claim I’m getting more power than the sun puts out?

    …So if temperature does play such a “Super role” in your efficiency I really am curious on how this works in central NM because your location is critical in this.

    Did you know a typical PV cell has a temperature coefficient of 0.4-0.5% V/degC ? Obviously you did not. Did you know that the peak power point of a PV cell shifts with temperature and light? obviously not. Consider that a typical cell will have its power reduced 25% on a ‘normal’ NM summer day versus a winter day? (you can do it!) What would a reduction of power by 25% do to a panels power production (hint: no math required).

    Yes, New Mexico ranges from deserts to high deserts to even forests and mountains. The state is rather varied and anyone who thinks for a second that the state is automatically a great place for solar panels needs to remember that the state is covered in mountains, has local weather conditions all across the state, and is one of the most varied states as far as topology goes.

    Now you have those synapses firing!
    Did you know that giving a solar panel on a fixed mount about 10 deg. of eastward tilt during the summer will boost power generation by favoring improved solar angle of incidence when the cell is cooler?
    Did you know that another 5 deg. or so also boost power since anyone who lives in NM (my entire life, 50 years, thank you) knows that during the summer, virtually every afternoon/evening, will have clouds form. You may not realize this but clouds actually block sunlight and it is better to collect photons more efficiently during the morning hours than waste optimum panel orientation on cloud blocked photons during the heat of the afternoon.
    Did you know that the solar angle of incidence is much more constrained during the winter versus summer? This allows for greater light capture efficiency during the winter with a fixed mount system.

    Granted, maybe my memory is off since I was young, but I do recall the average high being around 50 or so in the winter…..so what is your experience since you live there?

    Depends, are you talking about Roswell or Chama?
    Anyone with knowledge of science would deem that optimum PV panel orientation has to consider weighing angle of solar incidence with typical cell temperature curves determined by local weather trends. Simply setting a panel facing dead south with an elevation approximating where the sun will track is only getting part of the optimum power from their system. You only seem to have 30 year old second hand knowledge of what you talk about.

    Why am I pestering you about this? Because I want you to show us your actual data and to show us your actual information instead of making claims that do not make since for central NM. Show me the proof.

    Sorry, I have no motivation to give people with attitudes like yours anything. You have shown that you think solar panel power is maximized by pointing to some angle based on a solar insolence chart and plugging in daddy’s RV battery inverter. I contend that local conditions such as temperature trends, expected cloud cover, maximized solar angle of incidence, atmospheric opacity due to spring conditions (air born dust for ex.), and peak power point tracking. Conditions are harsher in the summer. Panel efficiency is down by double digit percent, afternoon illumination is iffy, the solar angle of incidence tracks wider of normal than during the winter. Winter conditions bring cool temperatures, crystal clear, low humidity skies.
    Look, I know PV solar will never work commercial scale unless there is a way to efficiently store energy. Without this, every solar installation will require a backup generator for unexpected events (namely clouds).
    A home system lets me cut my grid power costs when panels are producing power and use grid power when they are not. The early bird gets the worm, I am in the noise as far as utility power consumption goes and my load changes don’t even get seen. If everyone did this (equivalent of a utility scale solar plant), the grid power supplier would go nuts when a cloud floats over.

  189. Getting rid of power lines would only be feasible if it were possible for solar to completely replace electricity.

    I think what you’re looking for is “..if it were possible for solar to completely replace fossil fuels or nuclear means of generating electricity”. Or some such.

  190. @Dirkh

    Regardless of how the subsidy is figured in through tax breaks, fits or whichever, why would a company want to lower costs? If they lower costs, and there is not a need for as high of subsidies regardless of whether its a FIT, or whatever, the FIT will be reduced and the company will be back to square one. The reason you see efficiency increases and scales of industrialization increase is that competition breeds larger companies to put their competitors out of business which also drives them to make even larger profits.

    There is no incentive here. I explained how the companies will more then likely band together to increase efficiency as a group to drive newer companies out, but to keep subsidies high, they will want to make sure that it appears they are barely breaking even. That is the point in an artificially tailored business….make your money and not make waves when you are forced to work together with your competition to ensure that subsidies are kept as high as possible.

    Competition simply breeds ever increasing cost cuts that then also drives subsidies and FITS down. That is reality, and the companies are not stupid. They realize this, so in the end why would they scale their manufacturing up instead of just building additional factories which costs less, carries less risk, and above all else ensures that the process is fair for everyone in their group?

    Remember, they are forced to work WITH their competition to ensure that subsidies remain as high as possible regardless of how they are applied. This is not your normal business and you can’t apply lessons that you learn from previous businesses in any respect. The companies have zero incentive to risk it all on scaling production up when the subsidies could be cut in 2 years and make that investment a complete loss. The FIT could be likewise reduced which is the same thing.

    This is why you do not see the scaling and I did not make this clear before because I thought I could explain it in fewer words, but that is artificial markets for you in a nutshell. That is how they work because frankly why should these companies be stupid and shoot themselves in the foot? They are in business to make money and those businesses regardless of what business it is that do not make money go out of business.

    But like I said, you will see marginal cost decreases as the larger companies will find more efficient ways to do things (not the 20% mind you) but they will pass some of this onto the consumer just to make sure that any increase in subsidy dollar and fits is kept with current companies. That is the name of the game with this kind of business. If a large ramp-up does happen, they will just build additional facilities that are no bigger then what they have now…because that is the name of the game. They are in it to make money and since they are solely depended on FITS, subsidies or tax breaks to survive, investing in larger scale production methods is a risk none of them is going to make. And if they do, well good for them, they made it so that subsidies can be reduced across the board…good job stupid as they say.

  191. Brewster says:

    May 7, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Its like this sir. extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Your claim that you can get the same energy from the sun during the winter (or roughly) as during the summer is VERY extraordinary considering the solar insolation in that part of the country is roughly 42% rounded up. (41.something to be exact.) – difference between winter and summer…..

    Show me the proof or don’t make extraordinary claims. Its that simple. How does a device which extracts energy from the sun get the same energy in the summer as it does in the winter and vice versa when the sun’s energy is 42% (less then half) of what it is in the winter? How is that possible? That is such an extraordinary claim that I don’t know where to begin.

    Prove me wrong if you can. If you do, Ill eat my hat and admit I am wrong. Until then, you can post all you want, but tell one lie as they say and I trust nothing of what you say. Or just admit you are wrong and I will accept it, and move on. Its that simple.

  192. benfrommo says:
    Its like this sir. extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Your claim that you can get the same energy from the sun during the winter (or roughly) as during the summer is VERY extraordinary considering the solar insolation in that part of the country is roughly 42% rounded up. (41.something to be exact.) – difference between winter and summer…..

    Until you learn some basic physics and learn that PV power is tied to solar angle of incidence and cell temperature, NOT solar insolation, I’m going to ignore you. Read up on it, learn something, crunch some numbers, pop the lid on your Prozac.

  193. BTW,

    The solar insolation _difference_ between winter/summer in NM is ~40% not winter being only 42% of summer as you falsely claim. Are you sure you were not looking at Minnesota (MN)???

  194. Brewster, that is uncalled for. There is no need for insults. I am going by what I remember from central NEW MEXICO and the readings my dad got from his solar cells. Those were his actual power output levels.

    All you have to do to prove me wrong is show me your actual power readings over the winter and summer months. If you have indeed gathered similar amounts of power and want to prove it, why is this so hard to do? I am not asking for much here.

    If you want some empirical proof that you are wrong, another poster already provided it. So I will let that stand and I am done on this topic and I am sure everyone else who bothers to read this far into the thread will let this stand too without you providing proof.

    Just read and see what PV cells actually accomplish in real world situations:

    Richard Hanson says:

    May 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    The following data is the total energy produced each month in 2011 by PV power sources connected to the national grid of Spain. The source is the annual report of Red Electrica, Spain’s only transmission and electrical system operator. The report stated that the sources are a mixture of fixed and tracking arrays. Spain began 2011 with 3647 MWs (name plate) of installed PV power and the year ended with 3903 MWs, a difference of just 7%. About ¾ of the PV power sources are located in southern Spain, at about the same latitude as northern New Mexico. For 2011, Jan. produced about 36% of July. Regardless of the year to year variations it’s clear that winter months produce substantially lower energy outputs than the summer months. Solar thermal (parabolic mirrors…I don’t know what the solar towers will do) does even worse with winter months at about 20% the output of summer months.

    2011 Mwh

    Jan 340 *
    Feb 462
    March 526
    Apr 691
    May 771
    June 829
    July 901 *
    Aug 827
    Sept 757
    Oct 655
    Nov 387
    Dec 423

    2012
    Jan 495
    Feb 641
    March 789
    Apr 684

  195. “It is costing about $250 million to build, significantly less than a gas, coal or nuclear power station…”

    The fraud and deciet of the media is notorious Anthony. I suggest you start applying the “liar” label to Charles Lawrence and the Telegraph too.

  196. benfrommo: I always say never to economic systems that require subsidies for survival.

    Well, those include the air transportation system, which receives government subsidies for air traffic control and airports; and most of the surface road system which is paid for out of state and local taxes.

  197. Matthew Marler,

    While I agree with your comments in general, I have to point out that your examples do not require subsidies. The market is there. Regulation providing for a level playing field and public safety is required. But are subsidies required? No.

    And benfrommo, are you aware that an oligopoly is probably the most intensely competitive economic model? eg: Japanese cars. Toyota and Honda are fiercely competitive with each other and with the other Japanese manufacturers. The result is ever higher quality at lower cost for the consumer.

    Competition improves everything in nature. But self-serving groups and individuals do everything in their power to insulate themselves from competition, whether it is a public employee labor union, or a subsidized solar plant. Eliminate the subsidies, make them compete, and the country will be much better off.

  198. Smokey: I have to point out that your examples do not require subsidies.

    That is not something that we know. What we know is that they persist while receiving perpetual subsidies.

  199. Matthew Marler,

    I agree with your comment on perpetual subsidies. Regarding what we know, I’ll leave you with this question: Do you think if all government subsidies were eliminated, that air travel would cease, and airports would stop operating?

    The government serves a valuable function regulating fair competition and promoting public safety. Taxpayer subsidies are not necessary for either of those functions.

  200. Smokey: Do you think if all government subsidies were eliminated, that air travel would cease, and airports would stop operating?

    They would be reduced and they would be more expensive. For some participants, the subsidies are required.

    I think that with the right level of continued subsidies for R&D, the costs of electricity and fuel from alternative sources will be reduced below the costs from fossil fuels in my lifetime. This is already true of ethanol in Brazil and solar for electricity in large parts of the world. Which milestones are achieved in which which year I don’t know, but the whole discussion will be different in 10 years, and I expect electricity at $.02/kwh (at the source) in 5 years. Previous successful subsidy programs were for radar, jet engines, aircraft design, and medical R&D, railroads, waterways (e.g. the Intracoastal Waterway and Mississippi Valley systems) and canals.

  201. I am going by what I remember from central NEW MEXICO and the readings my dad got from his solar cells. Those were his actual power output levels.

    No, you never said what his power levels were, you wrongly claimed the winter solar insolation was 42% of summer.
    Relating solar system power output directly to solar insolation is just nutty. You still will not specify if the panels peak power point was tracked during the day and if panel orientation was adjusted to maximize daily power generation.
    Solar insolation could only be determined with a solar panel IF the panel could track the sun (maintain a solar incident of 1.0) and was in a temperature controlled environment. IF these tow conditions are met, THEN you can argue that the daily power output of a panel linearly tracks with solar insolence. Dad’s 30 year old RV inverter tied into a radio shack solar cell mounted on the dog house roof is hardly proof of anything.

    Sorry, arbitrary claims about relating solar system power outputs to winter/summer seasons without any specifics as to panel orientation, inverter technology, temperature, etc. is basically meaningless.

  202. Solar Energy Zealots going strong since 1970. Too bad we can’t say that for actual solar power output.

  203. Mattew Marler says:

    Airports and air transportation “…would be reduced and they would be more expensive.”

    That was not the question.

  204. Brewster, There is nothing to say to you in those regards. I already answered those questions in previous posts. But since you want to dodge the pertinent question, here is more proof that you are wrong.

    Just look at the length of day during the winter versus the summer in central New Mexico. How is a solar system going to produce power when the sun is set? That is more then 4 hours more of daylight on average during the summer then the winter.

    And the altitude…the angle of incidence. Why are you trying to argue this in the first place?

    Source: (For Albuquerque, NM)

    http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/astronomy.html?n=394&month=6&year=2012&obj=sun&afl=-11&day=1

    Date Sunrise Sunset LOD Solar: noon Altitude Distance
    Jun 20, 2012 5:53 AM 8:24 PM 14h 31m 27s 1:08 PM 78.3° 152.026
    Dec 21, 2012 7:11 AM 4:59 PM 9h 47m 29s 12:05 PM 31.5° 147.155

    Face it, solar power has serious disadvantage during winter outside of the tropics.

  205. Boydo3,

    The” vast amount” of high level radioactive waste in the entire world would fit onto one basketball court. Or did you even know that? Did you know that of that “vast”, one basketball court pile of long lived radioactive waste, only less than 1/2 of one percent stays dangerously radiaoctive for more than 100 years? The other 99.5% is safe in about a hundred years give or take.

    The only long lasting high level radiaoctive waste is less than 1/2 of 1% of the sludge that Mr. Carter and the his stupid cohorts, wished to bury under a mountain at the edge of Death Valley.

    The French have developed a process that takes 1/4 of the 1%, or about half, of the long lived radioactive waste and tranmutes it in special incinerators. This isn’t theoretical either, they already do it, rather routinely. We already have 104 of these special incinerators, and could do the same, except for JACKASSES like Mr. Gore and Mr. Obama, who won’t consider doing so.

    We already know how to take the other half or the other 1/4 of 1% and incinerate it too, leaving Nada, None, Zero, Eephus of such long lived radioactive waste, instead transmuting it into short lived radioactive materials, that are safe in a hundred years or so.

    We store the Gold in Fort Knox for longer than that. Surely we know how to store something safely for a mere hundred years. But for this portion, we need to build a special incinerator to do so, which we also know how to do, too. We even have three acknowledged designs, to accomplish it too. So there is no insurmountable problem to removing all high level radiaoctive waste, enduring for more than a hundred years or so.

    I can’t help it if you are ignorant, and/or stupid, and never heard of “Actinide Burning”. Dig the dirt out of your ears, and open your eyes, and stop listening only to greenie idiots and their propaganda. Your CASSANDARA JACKASSES don’t want you to know we could have no radioactive waste at all in a hundred years, or so.

    By the way, did I tell you we already plan to build the special incinerator required, for the other half of the long lived rdaioactive waste, and many more besides? Did I tell you that you could make money while we did it, and make electricity to sell, too? Wecan and would, if we had the will to do it.

  206. Smokey: That was not the question.

    You omitted the part where I wrote that the subsidies were necessary for some of the participants in the market.

    I think we have exhausted these topics for this year. I’ll end my contribution by repeating what three things that I wrote earlier.

    1. Be cautious with sentences that have the word “never.”

    2. We ought to review the technologies and economics of renewable energy supplies next year.

    3. I also support development of fossil and nuclear fuels.

  207. Steve P says:
    May 7, 2012 at 6:29 am
    Bill, thanks for the partial clarification, but if you read again, I think it’s pretty clear I was challenging Gail’s assertion that thorium is the only reasonable source of energy she has seen so far…

    Ah. Got it In context, now — I’d read it as advocating thorium as the only reasonable source of energy *for reactors*.

    Mea maxima culpa!

  208. I am highly skeptical of the traditional wind and solar power solutions as replacements for petrochemical energy. These techniques require huge, extensive structures to produce the same energy that we presently obtain from petrochemicals. I see no effort being made to construct these or set aside land that will be dedicated to this purpose on the scale that would be required when petrochemical energy is no longer available. If we are going to limit ourselves to these resources after petrochemical energy is depleted, I believe that most of our current global population will disappear, because modern agriculture depends on abundant cheap energy. Some have said this will mean “The End of Liberalism” and a return to the barbarous practices of past ages.

    There are indications that we may, at the very least, be approaching the “End of the Beginning” of the exploitation of petrochemical energy as we are having to go ever farther to find new sources, which are of ever lower grade quality fuel. (In the middle of the last century, the “Rich Texas Oilman” was a media stereotype, now it is the “Rich Arab Prince.”)

    The talk of ‘electric cars’ seems to be missing the point also. I do not suppose anyone has calculated the size of the solar panel array needed to keep just one car fully operational–not to mention trucks or taxis. Of course, nobody is talking about electric aircraft.

    The only energy option that I can see as possibly replacing petrochemical energy is thorium nuclear, but, except for one small start-up company, no real effort is being made in that direction either. As far as I know, no university in this country has built, or plans to build a thorium cycle reactor and they also have been in the process of decommissioning their uranium reactors, so that ever fewer trained nuclear engineers are bring graduated.

  209. RE: Spector: (May 8, 2012 at 3:08 am)
    Why did you say thorium, one might ask . . . that is based on the assertion that this element is so common in the Earth’s crust that it will always be available. I understand this is not true for the fuel of today’s uranium reactors. Also thorium liquid state recycling reactors should produce orders of magnitude less of the dangerous, long lasting, transuranic waste (plutonium, etc.) products, which must be cumulatively sequestered for tens of thousands of years.

  210. benfrommo says:
    May 7, 2012 at 4:07 pm
    Brewster, There is nothing to say to you in those regards. I already answered those questions in previous posts.

    No, you just made stuff up out of second hand hearsay. Sorry. You really need to learn something about basic physics and engineering.

    Just look at the length of day during the winter versus the summer in central New Mexico. How is a solar system going to produce power when the sun is set? That is more then 4 hours more of daylight on average during the summer then the winter.

    Well duh!
    And as you keep ignoring (since you don’t seem to understand), there are other physical conditions that determine PV power output other than how many hours of light there is during the day. And tell me again how a difference of 4 hours of daylight between summer/winter creates a 60% difference in insolation?

    And the altitude…the angle of incidence. Why are you trying to argue this in the first place?

    Some basic physics for you: Higher altitudes have thinner air, mainly lower levels of moisture and dust loads (read this as clearer, i.e. more intense sunlight). Angle of incidence, this is the angle the sun makes with the plane of the solar panel. When a solar panel is on a fixed (non-tracking) mount, one wants to maximize the angle of incidence (as near normal as possible) to collect maximum light. Compensations for cell temperature can be applied on top of this panel orientation optimization to take advantage of the cooler cell temperatures (more power) provided during the morning hours.

    But I though your second hand hearsay anecdote claimed to optimize angle of incidence? I guess you didn’t understand what they were doing.

    Source: (For Albuquerque, NM)

    http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/astronomy.html?n=394&month=6&year=2012&obj=sun&afl=-11&day=1

    Sigh, you just don’t get it do you. Weight the inverse temperature profiles on top of the solar insolation curves and optimize with local cloud cover trends. The information is out there, you just need to have the slightest clue about what you are trying to do.

    Face it, solar power has serious disadvantage during winter outside of the tropics.

    Yes, I’m not arguing with this. Solar has no advantages large scale unless costs go down more and efficient storage is invented.

    True tracking solar panels will maximize power during the day and given the daylight hour differences between summer/winter, power will be nearly proportionally higher during the summer. With fixed panel systems, the sun cannot be tracked. Optimizations must be made. These optimizations are more effective for winter power generation than for summer, i.e. the summer advantage over winter is less. In my experiments, I’ve found further tweaks based on local conditions that give a percentage power increase over simple optimum panel positioning. This also provides more gain for winter months than summer. I realize you have no clue how solar PV energy is produced and what must be done to get the most out of it, but at least don’t go calling people liars and spouting off made up numbers as ‘proof’, all you are doing is showing the world how ignorant you are while patting yourself on the back. It’s called narcism, look it up.

  211. Stas Peterson says:
    May 7, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Hey Stas, couple quick questions:

    Since we’ve got a lot of coal, abundant natural gas, as well as arguable amounts of remaining crude, why do we even need nuclear at all?

    How high is your basketball court piled with the waste, and what is the source of your data?

    What needs to be done at Fukushima?

  212. Here is a video showing an official, sometimes dry, discussion of what might be called ‘near term’ energy outlook–perhaps for the next fifty years with increasing unconventional petrochemical production. On a long term basis, there will eventually be a need to convert to a new energy source. Perpetual Petroleum as a primary source of energy is an obvious fantasy.

    Unconventional Oil and Gas: Reshaping Energy Markets
    “Published on Apr 12, 2012 by csisdc”
    1 likes, 0 dislikes, 52 views; 1 Hr, 19:37 min
    “Amid volatile energy markets, one notable bright spot has emerged on the energy landscape: the development of vast unconventional oil and gas resources in the United States. The success of these resources has widespread economic, geopolitical, and environmental implications and offers a unique opportunity to rethink conventional energy policy.”

  213. Benfrommo, Brewster: Gentlemen, Gentlemen…. Civility, please.

    I never really looked at the relative seasonal output of my rooftop installation, but my impression was that the variation wasn’t all that much. So my initial reaction to your comment, Ben, was that your numbers were high but possibly due to some local condition. However, the discussion prompted me to go take another look at my electric bill, and I see that my original impression was wrong. In July I produced 550 KWH, but in January only 231. No, a single 6 month period with no controls on any of the variables isn’t worth much statistically. Heuristically, however, it illustrates the danger of relying on unexamined impressions, rather than looking at the numbers. (One reason I didn’t notice the difference is that excess production in the summer was carried over month to month to reduce my electric bill–mostly to zero.)

    Personally, I am utterly opposed to large commercial solar projects. One good reason for solar is to make us less dependent on Bullmoose Industries. (That’s a reference to Al Capp’s L’il Abner, for you young whippersnappers.) And I think the economics are also a good reason, but only if you live in the sunbelt. Temptation here is to elaborate that, but I’ll resist.

  214. The present administration has wasted more than enough money on wind and solar to have designed and built several Molten Salt fluoride nuclear reactors. Oak Ridge National Labs operated the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment for about 5 years over 40 years ago. They can use Uranium, Thorium or waste fuel from present reactors as fuel.
    Characteristics of liquid core reactors:
    a) These reactors will shut themselves down with no harm if there is a power failure.
    b) They can not blow up or explode.
    c) 100 Megawatt units can be manufactured in a factory and shipped on a tractor trailer truck for emergencies.
    d) They can destroy spent nuclear fuel form other reactors.
    e) The reactor operates at very low pressure (near atmospheric).
    f) There is no need for a huge containment vessel.
    g) One ton of Thorium fuel will produce a gigawatt of power for a year.
    h) The US government already has over 330 tons of thorium stored in the Nevada desert.
    i) Thorium is plentiful in the US and the world.
    j) Fuel can be added while the unit is operation.
    k) Fuel reprocessing is carried out while the reactor is in operation.
    l) They will follow the load over a considerable range without control rods or other controls.
    m) Valuable fission by products can by processed out while it is in operating.
    n) They will consume near 100% of the nuclear fuel; current reactors only consume from 0.005% to 0.007% of the nuclear fuel before it has to be removed from the reactor.
    O) The fission products that are not valuable will decay to be harmless in a few hundred years rather than the thousands of years necessary for present day reactors.
    The projected cost per KW for such a plant would be less than $0.10.

  215. Steve P says:
    May 6, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Gail Combs says:
    May 6, 2012 at 5:34 am

    Then I hope you are supporting thorium. It is the only reasonable source of energy I have seen so far and can be used in conventional nuclear reactors.

    And what about coal? We have plenty. The only ostensible reason for not burning all we need is the CO2 scare, and CAGW hysteria.
    ___________________________
    As a chemist who worked in plastics, textiles and the drug industries I really rather save petrochemicals for other applications. You can make so many useful things out of long chain hydrocarbons so why burn it if you can use thorium for energy (electricity) instead?

    From what I can see the whole debate needs a healthy dose of common sense. Use the correct chemical/engineering application in the correct place and kick the money sucking politicians and their corporate buddies away from the public money trough.

  216. Troy Jordan says:
    May 8, 2012 at 10:31 am

    I am glad you wrote that. As with continued investment in almost everything else, I think that the price per kwh would eventually be driven down with continued investment, though I would be surprised if the initial units achieve the price that you “project” — the quotes are for emphasis, not mockery or disdain.

  217. Matthew R Marler says:
    May 8, 2012 at 10:58 am

    I am glad you wrote that. As with continued investment in almost everything else, I think that the price per kwh would eventually be driven down with continued investment, though I would be surprised if the initial units achieve the price that you “project” — the quotes are for emphasis, not mockery or disdain.

    The videos and data that I based my estimate on said electricity for less than the cost of coal @ $0.04/ KWH. Since the data and videos were a couple of years old I increased my estimate to “less than $0.10/KWH”

  218. Steve P says:
    May 8, 2012 at 8:02 am
    What needs to be done at Fukushima?

    Who knows? We don’t know what’s really happened. We’ve got enough to piece together that it was far worse than reported – Japan has of a few days ago now closed down all its nuclear reactors, some 50 of them, they say for maintenance.

    “Time is running out for the 35 million people in the Tokyo metropolitan area though and in fact, in a year or two all of northern Japan might become quite uninhabitable. Radiation levels are creeping up and it is sad.”

    http://blog.imva.info/world-affairs/atomic-suicide

    http://akiomatsumura.com/2012/04/682.html

    “Japan’s former Ambassador to Switzerland, Mr. Mitsuhei Murata, was invited to speak at the Public Hearing of the Budgetary Committee of the House of Councilors on March 22, 2012, on the Fukushima nuclear power plants accident. Before the Committee, Ambassador Murata strongly stated that if the crippled building of reactor unit 4—with 1,535 fuel rods in the spent fuel pool 100 feet (30 meters) above the ground—collapses, not only will it cause a shutdown of all six reactors but will also affect the common spent fuel pool containing 6,375 fuel rods, located some 50 meters from reactor 4. In both cases the radioactive rods are not protected by a containment vessel; dangerously, they are open to the air. This would certainly cause a global catastrophe like we have never before experienced. He stressed that the responsibility of Japan to the rest of the world is immeasurable. Such a catastrophe would affect us all for centuries.”

    Image of it here: http://blog.imva.info/ http://blog.imva.info/world-affairs/hanging-thread

    http://enenews.com/breaking-us-senator-issues-press-release-on-no-4-spent-fuel-pool-warns-situation-worse-than-reported-after-tour-of-fukushima-plant-urges-japanese-to-accept-international-help

    http://ascendingstarseed.wordpress.com/category/radioactivity-from-fukushima-nuclear-plant/

    http://www.colinandrews.net/Japan-NuclearAlertUpdates-2012-Debate-Colin-Andrews.html

    Last time I looked at this I’d found mention that the usual reporting of deaths by region etc. was now excluding the area immediately affected

  219. I should also add I most certainly am not “Anti-coal” far from it. Coal plants should continue to run as long as they are safe to run. However thorium is an abundant resource in the USA with no other use and therefore should be looked at as an energy source for future power plants especially the mini-nuclear plants that decrease energy loss from long distance transmission.
    …..

    On the decrease in the price of solar. It has been over forty years that solar has been on the market. That make it a “mature market,” unless there is some sort of major breakthrough it is not going to get much cheaper. Solar has been around almost as long as commercially available computers. Home computers had pretty much fully penetrated the home market in the mid eighties. Prices are still dropping but not at the rate they were. Essentially you are talking an exponential curve.

    WIKI “PC hard disk capacity (in GB). The plot is logarithmic, so the fitted line corresponds to exponential growth.” graph

    Here is an article that explains it better than I can The Seduction Of The Exponential Curve

  220. Gail Combs says:
    May 8, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I really rather save petrochemicals for other applications. You can make so many useful things out of long chain hydrocarbons so why burn it if you can use thorium for energy (electricity) instead?

    So far, it hasn’t been an either/or proposition – we’ve been able to burn our fuel, and tinker with it too – and I’ve seen no credible evidence that we will be running out of anything anytime soon; certainly not coal, and probably not natural gas either. The question about oil reserves is open, I think, and the biogenic origin of fossil fuels itself remains a theory, and one with some special pleading to make it work.

    Whatever happened to that Nazi coal gasification process? Did I read correctly that those papers were sealed after WWII for 50 years? And then sealed again for 50 more, or was that just my imagination?

    Thorium seems to be everyone’s darling these days, but there are no operating commercial thorium reactors, and my take on it is that daunting engineering challenges remain.

    http://debatepedia.idebate.org/en/index.php/Debate:_Thorium_based_nuclear_energy

    Finally, I’d like to draw special attention to this interesting dichotomy, from the debatepedia link, just above:

    “the advantages of thorium come from the reprocessing and extraction of the uranium-233 produced by breeding. This reprocessing has proven challenging because of the highly radioactive byproducts produced during breeding and the resulting high costs associated with processing fuel and building fuel assemblies
    […]
    Making nuclear bombs with Thorium is harder than with Uranium. While it is possible to build a bomb from U233, the fissile isotope in a Thorium reactor, it’s not very easy to do. This is because the gamma radiation is much higher than with U235, making material handling much more challenging. There is less chance, therefore, of weapons diversion.

    So, on the one hand, the engineering challenges of building weapons from thorium waste are too daunting, but on the other, the engineering challenges of reprocessing and extracting the U-233 are within our grasp.

    It does not compute.

  221. RE: Steve P: (May 6, 2012 at 9:50 am)
    “. . . And what about coal? We have plenty. The only ostensible reason for not burning all we need is the CO2 scare, and CAGW hysteria.”

    Yes, until we run out of it. Remember that the plenty we have is based on current usage modes, not the usage rate, perhaps more than fifty years away when we start using it to manufacture all our liquid transportation fuels as the Germans did during World War II.

    The primary technical problem I see with nuclear reactors is handling the structural neutron corrosion issue. Just as, for example, the flow of neutrons can cause thorium to change into fissile uranium, that same flow can cause structural carbon-twelve to become stable nitrogen-fifteen after three successive neutron captures. I assume this is a well-known and manageable situation.

  222. Matthew R Marler says:
    May 7, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    I think that with the right level of continued subsidies for R&D, the costs of electricity and fuel from alternative sources will be reduced below the costs from fossil fuels in my lifetime. This is already true of ethanol in Brazil and solar for electricity in large parts of the world.
    ——————————–
    Brazilian Alcohol based fuel is not below the cost of “gasolina comum” (per unit of energy). Anyway Brazilians pay more for fuel than Americans, and their per capita fuel usage is WAAYYY less. The gas is below American standards down there too at about 85 octane. You mustn’t listen to Bill Maher.

    Since solar and wind combined don’t even account for 1% of the electricity produced worldwide where is this “large part of the world” where solar out performs fossil fuels? It appears only Germany has more PER CAPITA solar than the USA, and from what I’ve read solar is a loser in Germany & the USA.

  223. Justa Joe: Brazilian Alcohol based fuel is not below the cost of “gasolina comum” (per unit of energy).

    I got my information from an article published in Science a few years ago. Since then, the cost of producing ethanol has declined slightly in Brazil, and the cost of gasoline has increased somewhat, along with the world market increase in petroleum.

    where is this “large part of the world” where solar out performs fossil fuels?

    Places with lots of sunshine but poor roads and grids. Rural India is included, and some other areas named in the McKinsey report I provided the link to above.

  224. Steve P says:
    May 8, 2012 at 12:15 pm
    ….Thorium seems to be everyone’s darling these days, but there are no operating commercial thorium reactors, and my take on it is that daunting engineering challenges remain….
    ______________________________
    There are no operating commercial thorium plants because the military wanted weapons materials and I am sure there are major regulatory hoops to jump through to make the change to thorium in currently operating nuclear reactors a royal donkey fest.

    See: EM smith on thorium: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/21/the-moon-and-sick-plans/#comment-964024 He states, with back-up links, that thorium can be used in all the USA nuclear plants already in operation. Oak ridge operated a thorium reactor for four years before it was shut down.

    Please note when I say I prefer thorium, I meant as an alternative to Solar, Wind and dinosaur farts… or was that unicorn farts. And yes I am aware of adiabatic oil, however if we are going to spend tax money chasing unicorn farts at least have it something with a real possibility of a return on investment and safer than the current nuclear plants. Thorium seems to fit that description.

    ….. First proposed by R.C. Briant of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in 1951, the liquid fluoride reactor was radically different from other reactors that relied on solid fuel. The liquid fluoride reactor had tremendous safety and performance advantages over solid-fueled reactors, as well as a remarkable versatility in potential fuels. A proof-of-concept fluoride reactor was built and operated in 1954 at Oak Ridge. It was called the Aircraft Reactor Experiment (ARE), and it demonstrated that fluoride reactors had the chemical and nuclear stability that Briant and his colleagues had predicted. After the success of the ARE, the fluoride reactor was baselined for the nuclear aircraft project, but the advent of intercontinental ballistic missiles led to cancellation of the nuclear aircraft in 1960.

    Dr. Alvin Weinberg, the director of ORNL and the inventor of the solid-fueled light water reactor (LWR), recognized the remarkable potential of the fluoride reactor and turned the attention of the fluoride reactor team from aircraft propulsion to terrestrial energy. He was particularly impressed with the ability of the fluoride reactor to safely and efficiently use thorium. Unlike any other reactor power source, a liquid form of thorium existed (thorium tetrafluoride, ThF4) that could be easily reprocessed to unlock thorium’s potential.

    In 1959, using his contacts in the AEC, Weinberg pushed for funding of a more advanced demonstration of fluoride reactor technology and was able to win funding for the second fluoride reactor: the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE), which was built and operated by ORNL from 1965 to 1969. The MSRE was a much-improved design over the ARE and led to the demonstration of reactor operation on different fuels, stable self-controlling operation without control rods, removal of reactor poisons online, and strong passive safety features.….

    http://energyfromthorium.com/history.html

  225. Myrrh says:
    May 8, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Steve P says:
    May 8, 2012 at 8:02 am
    What needs to be done at Fukushima?

    Who knows? We don’t know what’s really happened.
    ____________________________

    Here is the update as of 27 April 2012 for Fukushima at World Nuclear Association: [we provide information on nuclear power, nuclear energy, sustainable development, mitigating climate change….] http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/fukushima_accident_inf129.html

    You can compare it to their report for Chernobyl: http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/chernobyl/inf07.html

    For what it is worth we have Kevin Cave here on WUWT who lives near Fukushima and reported on it. His name links to this website: http://hackfud.net/

  226. Matthew R Marler says:
    May 8, 2012 at 2:20 pm
    Justa Joe: Brazilian Alcohol based fuel is not below the cost of “gasolina comum” (per unit of energy).

    I got my information from an article published in Science a few years ago. Since then, the cost of producing ethanol has declined slightly in Brazil, and the cost of gasoline has increased somewhat, along with the world market increase in petroleum.
    ——————————-

    I’d love to see this article because I lived and worked in Brazil, and “álcool” may be slightly less per liter than gasoline, but this is not offset by the lesser amount of energy per liter contained in alcohol vs. gasoline. From my observation it’s a wash. I’ve seen nothing to indicate that Brazil’s sugar alcohol fuel biz is anything but a government sponsored make work program just like the USA’s corn alcohol program. It’s certainly not the panacea that you’re trying to make it out to be evidenced by the fact that Brazil is trying to exploit all of its Petroleum resources. None the less fuel is more expensive in Brazil particularly factored against per capita income. Why would I want that?
    ………………..

    where is this “large part of the world” where solar out performs fossil fuels?

    Places with lots of sunshine but poor roads and grids. Rural India is included, and some other areas named in the McKinsey report I provided the link to above.
    ———————————

    Take a step back. Take a deep breath. You’re comparing Brazil (almost a 3rd world country) & India (a 3rd world country) with the USA. Rural India’s energy demands are not in the same universe as that of the USA. Nobody sane can accept “rural India” as an example of a model to be followed by the USA.

  227. Justa Joe: It’s certainly not the panacea that you’re trying to make it out to be evidenced by the fact that Brazil is trying to exploit all of its Petroleum resources.

    I didn’t claim it was a panacea.

    Nobody sane can accept “rural India” as an example of a model to be followed by the USA.

    I also cited the example of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner assembly plant in S.C., and powering A/C in modern southern California.

    Since solar and wind combined don’t even account for 1% of the electricity produced worldwide

    At one time, fewer than 1% of American homes even had electricity. At one time, fewer than 1% had radios. At one time, fewer than 1% had televisions, then fewer than 1% had color televisions, then fewer than 1% had cable. And so on. At one time fewer than 1% of the world’s children received measles vaccines. At one time, less than 1% of the transoceanic travel was by air, and at one time less than 1% was by jet-powered aircraft (at that time, jet engine development was even more heavily subsidized than it is now.)

    The world installed about 27GW of solar electric generating capacity in 2011, more than it installed nuclear powered electric generating capacity. What will happen in the future can not be predicted any better now than any time previously, but the technologies and economics of the alternative energy sources are being changed rapidly.

    I think we have beaten this issue to death for now, and we should revisit it next May, and in May 2014, to see, among other things, whether the predicted 40% reduction in PV power has been achieved. I think you’ll agree that a reduction from $0.13 to $0.08 would be noteworthy, should it occur, especially noteworthy if the export of LNG from the US has raised the cost of electricity from gas compared to what it is now.

  228. oops that’s $0.13/kwh and $0.08/kwh. And if it’s $0.05/kwh by 2016, even more noteworthy yet. That may seem like a long time in the future, but it’s only the next scheduled US presidential election. These administrations really fly past in a hurry.

  229. Justa Joe says:
    May 8, 2012 at 4:02 pm
    ….You’re comparing Brazil (almost a 3rd world country) & India (a 3rd world country) with the USA. Rural India’s energy demands are not in the same universe as that of the USA. Nobody sane can accept “rural India” as an example of a model to be followed by the USA.
    ___________________________________
    I am afraid you are wrong Joe, the naive city-dwelling supermarket preditors who yearn for the “simple life” depicted in Walt Disney movies seem to be real luddites.

    Zombie really catches the essence of what I mean.

    Zombie http://pjmedia.com/zombie/2012/01/31/the-coming-of-the-new-ice-age-end-of-the-global-warming-era/

    …Stewart Brand said this in the “Whole Earth Catalog” back in the Seventies;

    “We have wished, we ecofreaks, for a disaster or for a social change to come and bomb us back into the Stone Age, where we might live like Indians in our valleys, with our localism, our appropriate technology, our gardens, our homemade religion- happy at last!”

    (quoted in “All the Trouble in the World” by P.J. O’Rourke.)

    The deep-eco dream is a Stone Age agrarian socialist culture, with themselves as the nobility, living in their fortresses, and the rest of us (whom they graciously allow to survive) as the serfs, living in mud huts and spreading night soil (don’t ask) on the rice paddies by hand.

    The fact that such a subsistence level culture could never support even 10% of Earth’s present population is a feature, not a bug, to them. As per Ehrlich’s “Population Bomb”, they think there are just too damned many grotty humans around now, and only they, their own perfect, eco-conscious selves, are truly entitled to exist. (Plus however many slaves they need to do the scut-work, of course.)

    Here is more evidence of this “back to the simple life” mind set.

    …I had the opportunity a few days ago of talking to a bright young anti-nuclear activist about the way Fukushima has helped the anti-nuclear cause….

    He said that the ideology of sustainability and anti-nuclearism was so important for the future of humanity that facts should be of no concern. Moreover: if the invention of fake information (i.e. lies) about nuclear energy could bring closer the day of elimination of nuclear power from the earth, then that meant that producing and spreading fake information should (and indeed was) a top priority of all anti-nuclear groups…..

    ….Finally, I asked him why he thought nuclear power should be eliminated even after he told me that he agreed that nuclear power was good for the economy. His reply was simply that an additional goal of the antinuclear movement (as far as he was concerned) was in fact the reduction of economic activity, since according to him, the greatest cause of ecological damage was increased economic activity.

    So in his mind, the fact that nuclear power was a boon for the economy was all the more reason to try to eliminate it. In closing, I told him that a reduction in economic activity would also reduce his own prospects for a high quality of life and prosperity. But he didn’t agree with me. He said that further economic expansion was of no use to him, because he believed in living a simple life…..

    http://atomicinsights.com/2012/03/conversation-with-an-anti-society-antinuclear-activist.html

  230. Matthew R Marler says:
    May 8, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    I didn’t claim it [Brazilian alcohol based fuel] was a panacea.
    ———————–
    It’s not “already” cheaper than fossil fuel either.

    At one time, fewer than 1% of American homes even had electricity. At one time, fewer than 1% had radios. At one time, fewer than 1% had televisions, then fewer than 1% had color televisions, then fewer than 1% had cable. And so on. At one …
    ———————–
    Sorry friend, Your analog(ies) are all flawed. You see we already are 100% electrified. Nobody really needs what you’re peddling.

    The world installed about 27GW of solar electric generating capacity in 2011, more than it installed nuclear powered electric generating capacity.
    ———————–
    That solar power did not come into existence by market forces. It was forced on the people politically so the solar bubble is due to burst. We’re seeing that already it would appear.

  231. Matthew R Marler says:
    May 6, 2012 at 9:36 am

    I expect to see electricity from solar power at under $0.01/kwh; PV factories powered completely by sunlight (following the example of the Boeing 787 assembly plant in South Carolina, which is 100% powered by solar and other renewables);
    ——————————-

    Under the arrangement with Boeing, SCE&G will own and maintain the solar generation system and will supplement the solar-generated energy with power from its system resources, coupled with green attributes from its North Charleston biomass generator, to meet all of Boeing’s energy requirements.

    http://www.charlestonbusiness.com/news/41866-sce-amp-g-completes-boeing-rsquo-s-solar-rooftop-project

    Seems like a lot of PR. a lot of govt grant money, and bit of sleight of hand. It also seems like your 100% “green” miracle solar powered plant has only been obstensibly solar powered for about 6 months, which would make it a tad premature to declare it a complete success for their 100% “renewable” goal. My guess would be that SCE&G has an incredible amount of electrical service going into that plant. Being involved in mfr’ing one thing I know you absolutely cannot go down.

    to paraphrase Chris Horner one can build a windmill with a steel mill, but you can’t run a steel mill with a windmill. My guess if we factored in the whole Boeing 787 supply chain about 1% of the energy used to make that jet would be from “renewables.”

  232. Justa Joe says:
    May 8, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Under the arrangement with Boeing, SCE&G will own and maintain the solar generation system and will supplement the solar-generated energy with power from its system resources, coupled with green attributes from its North Charleston biomass generator, to meet all of Boeing’s energy requirements.
    http://www.charlestonbusiness.com/news/41866-sce-amp-g-completes-boeing-rsquo-s-solar-rooftop-project

    …… Being involved in mfr’ing one thing I know you absolutely cannot go down.

    to paraphrase Chris Horner one can build a windmill with a steel mill, but you can’t run a steel mill with a windmill. My guess if we factored in the whole Boeing 787 supply chain about 1% of the energy used to make that jet would be from “renewables.”
    _________________________
    Joe, I think it is the “North Charleston biomass generator” that is actually running that plant. Solar is just a feel good that generates enough electric in the summer during the day to run the LED lights (DC) and possibly the A/C. If it is like the plant where I worked in Columbia SC, it is not heated at all.

    I worked in a polystyrene manufacturing facility that used “waste oil” from the process to fire a generator that ran the plant. South Carolina has a big timber industry. There are about 75 primary processing plants that produce 600 million cubic feet or more of “roundwood” South Carolina is also a big farming area.

    …Field crops such as corn, cotton, hay, oats, peanuts, soybeans, tobacco and wheat are grown on over 1.3 million acres. In addition to traditional uses, crops are used for renewable fuel sources, too…. South Carolina Department of Agriculture

    Those two industries are where the waste biomass is coming from to power that plant. It might work in one or two factories down south but it will not work in the Northeast or especially in the Northwest.

    This is just a typical greenie sleight-of-hand to say “SEE it can be done, now let’s do it for ALL industry” They figure people will not notice it is impossible for more than a couple of plants in prime locations.

  233. Gail Combs says:
    May 9, 2012 at 3:41 am

    Joe, I think it is the “North Charleston biomass generator” that is actually running that plant.
    ———————–

    BTW – Thanks for the heads up on that zombietime article.
    Common sense tells us that the Boeing plant requires a lot if not the majority of its juice at least part of the time from the “supplemental” sources. The plant probably runs 2 or 3 shifts. Looking at SCE&G resources they are dominated by conventional electrical generation. I rather doubt they can parce out only the Biomass to Boeing. I haven’t read where the biomass plant(s)’ output is exclusively allocated to Boeing.

    Two-thirds of SCE&G’s electricity comes from fossil plants. The V.C. Summer Nuclear Station supplies approximately 19% of SCE&G customers’ electricity. Hydroelectric & Internal Combustion Turbines (nat gas) are also in the mix.

    http://www.sceg.com/en/about-sceg/power-plants/

    Keep in mind that this singular plant was proffered by Matthew as an example of his claimed “large part of the world” where “renewables” were more cost effective than fossil fuels. We don’t even know if this Boeing plant’s electrical situation is even cost effective.

  234. Justa Joe: Two-thirds of SCE&G’s electricity comes from fossil plants.

    Sure. I never said otherwise.

    My guess if we factored in the whole Boeing 787 supply chain about 1% of the energy used to make that jet would be from “renewables.”

    Sure. I never said otherwise. You are back to the 1% argument. It’s as though you are asserting that 2% is impossible everywhere for everything.

    See you next year. On a recent projection, about 35GW of new solar electricity generating capacity will have been installed between now and then. How long do you think it will take to get electricity from PV panels at $0.05/kwh? $0.02/kwh? As pointed out above, that will not be the net cost to the consumer in a bill, just the cost of the generation; and, as others have pointed out, they will still only work in the daytime.

    How long before electricity from PV panels is less than electricity from natural gas? Some say never. McKinsey and associates say it’s cheaper in some places now, and the area over which it can be said to be cheaper is growing.

    Till next year, …, keep those predictions coming. And read recent reviews. Everything two years old is probably too unreliable.

  235. Matthew R Marler says:
    May 9, 2012 at 9:27 am
    “How long do you think it will take to get electricity from PV panels at $0.05/kwh? $0.02/kwh? ”

    I estimate it now to be at 30 US cents or 20 Eurocents, all costs included. I think this will half about every 10 years.2022: 15 US cents; 2032: 7.5 US cents; 2037: 0.05 $/kWh. 2050: 0.02 $/kWh.

  236. Matthew R Marler says:
    May 9, 2012 at 9:27 am
    —————————————
    C’mon Matt. Don’t get shifty. You told us that the Boeing SC plant was an example where “renewables” were more effective than fossil fuels. That doesn’t appear to be the case. The plant only appears to be 100% renewables if you have a child like credulity for corporate “green” PR. When will solar energy be a viable entity without the massive subsidization by taxpayers & rate payers, the massive set asides, and the massive mandates & political manipulation?

    You continue to tout the reports from this McKinsey outfit. A quick search of the internet shows that KcKinsey is just another “renewables” advocacy group making the usual incredible claims.

  237. Matthew R Marler says:
    May 8, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    ….I also cited the example of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner assembly plant in S.C., and powering A/C in modern southern California…..
    ___________________________
    If you want something “green” that does not produce CO2 and actually can work. Look at this site: http://mb-soft.com/solar/saving.html

    Bloomington IN is 52.5F and Sonora (cavern) Texas is ~ 70F (if I remember correctly) Dick was the first guy that I knew of who came up with the concept (1960’s.) He was in the process of building in 1969 – 1972 when I knew him.

  238. Dirk H: I estimate it now to be at 30 US cents or 20 Eurocents, all costs included. I think this will half about every 10 years.2022: 15 US cents; 2032: 7.5 US cents; 2037: 0.05 $/kWh. 2050: 0.02 $/kWh.

    You could be right. I think recent trends argue against 10 years for the “halving time”, but as everyone knows the future is hard to predict, and the grid charges and other electricity charges are not “halving”.

    See you next year.

  239. Matthew R Marler says:
    May 9, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Meanwhile, here are some notes on nuclear power developments in China:

    http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/05/china-plans-to-have-5-megawatt-liquid.html#more

    ___________________
    OH, I LOVE this part.

    The China Academy of Sciences in January 2011 launched a program of R&D on thorium-breeding molten-salt reactors (Th-MSR or TMSR), otherwise known as Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR), claiming to have the world’s largest national effort on these and hoping to obtain full intellectual property rights on the technology. A 5 MWe MSR is apparently under construction at Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (under the Academy) with 2015 target operation.

    I am not sure where I saw it in my copious reading, but the Chinese were over here rather recently and getting all the information about Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors from Oak Ridge as part of the World Trade Organization’s Information Technology Agreement.

    Who’s that knocking at ORNL’s front door? Yep, it’s China (again and again)

    Oak Ridge National Laboratory received thousands of foreign visitors in 2011, with the total up by about 800 over the previous year. There were 114 different countries represented, but China again topped the list in a big way. More than a fifth of the lab’s total foreign visitors were from China. It’s at least the fourth year in a row that China has headed the roster at the U.S. Department of Energy’s largest science lab, having more than twice as many visitors as the next country (India)…..

    China is targeting patents as a source of economic power: China’s race for patents

    Here are other some links:

    http://www.ustr.gov/trade-topics/industry-manufacturing/industry-initiatives/information-technology

    http://www.sinomania.com/CHINANEWS/china-wto.html

    http://www.usitc.gov/publications/332/journals/info_tech_agreement.pd

  240. Matthew R Marler says:
    May 9, 2012 at 11:20 am
    “You could be right. I think recent trends argue against 10 years ”

    I used to be on the “5 years” side but found more data…

  241. To add to China’s race for patents, including the thorium flouride reactor, are these tidbits. Chinese hackers steal private data from 760 firms this also included research universities and government institutions.

    Oak Ridge National Laboratory was hit by a targeted hacker attack in 2011…

    Luckily, only two employee machines were infected with the code. But that was enough for the intruders to get onto the lab’s network and begin siphoning data. Four days after the e-mails arrived, administrators spotted suspicious traffic leaving a server.

    Only a few megabytes of stolen data got out, but other servers soon lit up with malicious activity. So administrators took the drastic step of severing all the lab’s computers from the internet while they investigated…..

    antivirus firm McAfee identified some 70 targets of an espionage hack dubbed Operation Shady RAT that hit defense contractors, government agencies and others in multiple countries. The intruders had source code, national secrets and legal contracts in their sights.

    Source code and other intellectual property was also the target of hackers who breached Google and 33 other firms in 2010. In a separate attack, online spies siphoned secrets for the Pentagon’s $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter project….

    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/05/everyone-hacked/

  242. I trust that everyone here will remain sceptical about future prices in the solar power industry? There are several claims of prices “halving within X years” which is not even realistic for a power industry based as it is.

    We have plenty of options for power. The question is whether the Government is going to keep picking winner and losers or let the best source win?

    Cost should be what holds back solar and wind..but look how that works out…instead of cost, the Government has picked the winners here and everyone else pays for that choice.

    How nice that the Government can pick what companies win and lose. From personal solar panels to large solar power plants, the end result is the same, more Government Pork when we are already broke and in debt. And who pays for this?

    Every little person. The costs that the utilities are forced to pay are simply passed onto the users of electricity. Therefore, even the poorest person without a job in todays recession pays for these choices our Government makes on their behalf. How nice for the solar power industry that the Government makes that decision for someone who can not afford to pay the power bill?

  243. My impression is that Uranium Nuclear beat out Thorium Nuclear for much the same reason that the Apple Macintosh lost out to the IBM PC despite being considered by many to be a technically superior system.

    According to the Google Tech-Talk video “The Thorium Molten-Salt Reactor: Why Didn’t This Happen …”, he indicates that President Nixon was committed to achieve U. S. energy independence by the development of a more conventional breeder reactor that would use neutron transmutation to convert a more abundant, but non-fissile form of uranium into fissile plutonium. The Nixon Administration apparently viewed the thorium nuclear work to be an unwanted distraction to the main effort and shut it down. After vast amounts of government money were spent on uranium breeder project, it was cancelled by President Carter, who believed the government should be pushing solar power instead. There was also the disturbing fact that the plutonium it produced would be perfect for the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

    The Thorium Molten-Salt Reactor: Why Didn’t This Happen (and why is now the right time?)
    “Uploaded by GoogleTechTalks on Dec 22, 2011″
    461 likes, 13 dislikes; 38,675 Views; 36:02 min
    “Google Tech Talk
    December 16, 2011
    Presented by Kirk Sorensen”

  244. One interesting video that also may be applicable is Joe Bonometti’s upbeat “Lessons Learned” presentation for potential Thorium Developers on the typical problems encountered on earlier technical programs of similar scope. It illustrates why some projects, such as developing a new energy source for mankind, can be much more easily said than done.

    Joe Bonometti – LFTR Development Lessons Learned @ TEAC3
    “Uploaded by gordonmcdowell on Dec 26, 2011″
    22 likes, 1 dislikes, 12,577 Views, 36:02 min
    “http://thoriumremix.com/2012/ Joe Bonometti summarizes lessons learned from similar engineering projects, and how to avoid these pitfalls when constructing the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor.

    “Presented at the 3rd Thorium Energy Alliance Conference, in Washington DC. http://thoriumenergyalliance.com

    “Watch a feature length documentary on Thorium and Molten Salt Reactors: http://YouTube.com/watch?v=P9M__yYbsZ4

  245. Troy;

    The projected cost per KW for such a plant would be less than $0.10.

    I do b’lieve you mean 10¢ per W capacity, $100/KW.

  246. Steve P commented on How Green Was My Bankruptcy?.

    in response to David Middleton:

    Guest Post by David Middleton My apologies to the memories of the late Richard Llewellyn and late John Ford; but I just had to borrow their title for this post. This paragraph from a 2010 Telegraph article really says it all… Its 500,000 photovoltaic panels will generate 30 megawatts of electricity, enough, in the popular […]

    Gail Combs says: May 8, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I really rather save petrochemicals for other applications. You can make so many useful things out of long chain hydrocarbons so why burn it if you can use thorium for energy (electricity) instead?

    So far, it hasn’t been an either/or proposition – we’ve been able to burn our fuel, and tinker with it too – and I’ve seen no credible evidence that we will be running out of anything anytime soon; certainly not coal, and probably not natural gas either. The question about oil reserves is open,

    The GAO has recently determined that recoverable shale oil in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming is 30-60% of 3 TRILLION barrels. Which is a much recoverable reserves as the entire rest of the planet currently.

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