From the IEEE: A Skeptic Looks at Alternative Energy

From the IEEE Spectrum Journal: A Skeptic Looks at Alternative Energy

It takes several lifetimes to put a new energy system into place, and wishful thinking can’t speed things along

By Vaclav Smil

In June 2004 the editor of an energy journal called to ask me to comment on a just-announced plan to build the world’s largest photovoltaic electric generating plant. Where would it be, I asked—Arizona? Spain? North Africa? No, it was to be spread among three locations in rural Bavaria, southeast of Nuremberg.

I said there must be some mistake. I grew up not far from that place, just across the border with the Czech Republic, and I will never forget those seemingly endless days of summer spent inside while it rained incessantly. Bavaria is like Seattle in the United States or Sichuan province in China. You don’t want to put a solar plant in Bavaria, but that is exactly where the Germans put it. The plant, with a peak output of 10 megawatts, went into operation in June 2005.

It happened for the best reason there is in politics: money. Welcome to the world of new renewable energies, where the subsidies rule—and consumers pay.

Without these subsidies, renewable energy plants other than hydroelectric and geothermal ones can’t yet compete with conventional generators. There are several reasons, starting with relatively low capacity factors—the most electricity a plant can actually produce divided by what it would produce if it could be run full time. The capacity factor of a typical nuclear power plant is more than 90 percent; for a coal-fired generating plant it’s about 65 to 70 percent. A photovoltaic installation can get close to 20 percent—in sunny Spain—and a wind turbine, well placed on dry land, from 25 to 30 percent. Put it offshore and it may even reach 40 percent. To convert to either of the latter two technologies, you must also figure in the need to string entirely new transmission lines to places where sun and wind abound, as well as the need to manage a more variable system load, due to the intermittent nature of the power.

All of these complications are well known, and all of them have been too lightly dismissed by alternative energy backers and the media. Most egregious of all is the boosters’ failure to recognize the time it takes to convert to any new source of energy, no matter how compelling the arguments for it may be.

An example is the 2008 plan promoted by former vice president Al Gore, which called for replacing all fossil-fueled generation in the United States in just a decade. Another is Google’s plan, announced in 2008 and abandoned in 2011, which envisaged cutting out coal generation by 2030. Trumping them all was a 2009 article in Scientific American by Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil engineering at Stanford University, and Mark Delucchi, a researcher in transportation studies at the University of California, Davis. They proposed converting the energy economy of the entire world to renewable sources by 2030.

History and a consideration of the technical requirements show that the problem is much greater than these advocates have supposed.

Read the entire article here.

h/t to WUWT reader “the1pag”

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144 Responses to From the IEEE: A Skeptic Looks at Alternative Energy

  1. michaeljmcfadden says:

    In terms of alternative energy, I believe it was here on WUWT that I saw both an analysis of the “net” energy costs (after subtracting energy costs of building/maintaining/rebuilding) of wind turbines. as compared to those of other sources. Also think it was here that I may have seen a figure on the numbers of birds chopped up by them.

    Anyone know of any particular pointers that have that information handy? I’m a bit suspicious about the bird thing because the argument just seems a bit too “convenient” (i.e. the environmental wind turbines engaged in unenvironmental bird destruction) . Plus, while a wind turbine isn’t exactly something that birds would have “evolved” to deal with it seems a bit unlikely that birds wouldn’t be able to avoid a steadily moving object while flying.

    - MJM

  2. Edohiguma says:

    Very interesting. Thank you. It confirms a few things I’ve been dabbling with myself. Especially the ration between China’s and India’s growth compared to how quickly and efficiently we’d manage to “phase out” conventional power production, which, as I’ve been maintaining for a while now, can’t be phased out as simple as our so called leaders claim. Flip a switch, wave the magic wand, that’s how things are today and, pardon my French, it’s beginning to piss me off. Doesn’t anyone think anymore?

    This reminds me of the idea a few Eurocrats had a few years ago: Let’s build a huge solar park in North Africa. Every engineer I know literally facepalmed. I kid you not. They really slapped themselves on the forehead with their palms. The engineering issues for such an idea are astronomical, and that’s not even delving into the geopolitical problems connected to such, yes, nonsense. Apart from that, how insane does one have to be to think that putting power production on a foreign continent and countries is smart?

  3. David Larsen says:

    I have done solar applications in the early 1980′s because we were in remote areas with no transmissions feeds and solar was the right application. A friend of mine start using solar with my encourage 10-12 years ago for remote oil and water applications with the same success. Bringing transmission lines even back then cost at least $ 100k per mile. Solar is stil intermittant and if you use storage the batteries of a use life of 3-4 years. Over the life of the panels that is 7-8 new battery system per panel application. Real costs have to calculated for the life of the system. It is kinda like nukes, who pays for the million years of waste storage? All costs have to be calculated into system costs. That then gives you the REAL cost per kWh. Something the greenies do NOT do.

  4. speed says:

    Nine women can’t make a baby in one month.

  5. Interstellar Bill says:

    The most hypocritical aspect of renewable-energy advocacy is that all their costs, whether for materials, components, or installation, are based on petroleum energy. Talk about subsidies!

    Imagine how even more economically ruinous renewable energy would be if it’s entire energy input had to be provided by other renewable sources, rather than petroleum. By the way, since hydroelectric is not counted as renewable it can’t be counted here, only wind and solar and biofuel.

  6. Archonix says:

    Michael, you must remember two things that are important about windmills: they’re usually sited on top of hills to catch the best winds – the very same winds that birds will catch in order to use their updrafts to gain altitude (usually circling the turbine itself as that’s where the best updrafts occur); and the tips of those blades are moving at a very high speed an, almost always at 90 degrees to the path the bird is taking around the turbine. They aren’t adapted to something coming straight up or down at them at well over 100 mph, which is what tends to happen when the bird flies through the path of the turbine blades. It’s good to be sceptical but, at the same time, a little common sense will tell you that those windmills are more than capable of all that bird death.

  7. archonix says:

    Incidentally there are plenty of videos of birds being hit by wind turbines. Too many to just be feak accidents.

  8. Steve P says:

    According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the excise tax credit for ethanol production cost taxpayers US $6.1 billion in 2011. On top of that direct cost are three indirect ones: those related to soil erosion, the runoff of excess nitrate from fertilizers (which ends up in the Gulf of Mexico, where it creates dead zones in coastal waters), and the increased food costs that accrue when the world’s largest exporter of grain diverts 40 percent of its corn to make ethanol. And topping all those off, the resulting fuel is used mostly in energy-inefficient vehicles.

    You might argue that [PDF] subsidies aren’t bad in themselves; indeed, there is a long history of using them to encourage new energy sources. The oil and gas industries have benefited from decades of tax relief designed to stimulate exploration. The nuclear industry has grown on the back of direct and enormous R&D support. In the United States it received almost 54 percent of all federal research funds between 1948 and 2007.

    (my bold emphasis)

    One can only hope that future generations will be smarter, but the signs aren’t good.

  9. clipe says:

    Anyone thought of capturing a Derecho? Batteries not included of course.

    http://www.universetoday.com/96157/powerful-derecho-storms-as-seen-from-space/

  10. D. J. Hawkins says:

    @ Steve P

    Do you have a source for the 54% of R&D going to nuclear? It seems way too high.

  11. Simcoe surfer says:

    Most birds migrate at night.

  12. Gail Combs says:

    I love Gomez’s comment. It is so typical of the CAGW touchy feely type of thinking.

    All the skeptics A) are short-sighted and selfish, and B) assume that business-as-usual will prevail in the oil world, which it won’t.

    So we (Australia & the USA) are supposed to commit economic suicide while shipping low cost coal to China. With no other buyers the coal is going to be a real bargain too. Of course China has such a great history on caring for the environment SEE: Toxic Rivers

  13. I am puzzled. Surely Vaclav Smil’s analysis is off the mark a fair bit. He seems to suggest that we must worry about increases of atmospheric CO2 that will drive up global temperatures due to anthropogenic emissions of CO2.

    However, Vaclav Smil completely ignores that only 3.5 percent of CO2 emissions are man-made, and that the remaining 96.5 percent of emissions are from natural sources.

    That makes any discussion of reducing atmospheric levels of CO2 (or even limiting them) through energy production from alternative sources look more than a bit ludicrous, doesn’t it?

    It seems to me that Vaclav Smil got suckered by a strawman-argument.

  14. Doug Proctor says:

    The naive idealism is why scientists shouldn’t, in a Wellsian world, rule it. Friction in any theoretical system is zero, and if it isn’t zero today, then with advances in technology, it will be. Real soon.

    Communism’s failure to deal with human nature should be the only lesson necessary to understand the difference between our real natures, our real world of gains and losses, and those worlds dreamt of in the minds of philosophers, anarchists, libertarians and the socially concerned (while covers the various types of the eco-green). Clearly this lesson, learnt at the cost of huge sorrow, tears and literal blood, has not been enough. Perhaps it is a lesson that every second generation needs to learn anew, in its own way.

    “Raising awareness” is not just a weak act, it is a cruel one. Say there is a problem, a deep problem, but propose only a magical solution, accepting no responsibility for the harm delusional programmes bring: this is a mean way of seeking to improve the common lot. A problem identified does not need the exact solution identified at the same time, but the direction and a short-term fix should be supplied. Yelling “Fire!” without first identifying the exits is an exercise in self-indulgent grandiosity.

    The renewable concept is admirable. If it can be effected without shutting down the general living that goes with life. The eco-green are all about life, not living. The subsistence farmer on his eco-sustainable farm has life enough to provide a place to squat for his offspring, but what would he say about his “living” conditions? If the condition of the non-1st world were so wonderful, why are not the Gores and Suzukis selling of their Ferraris and moving to Livingoffthelandstan?

    The eco-green revolution is a child’s answer to his personal guilt.

  15. RK says:

    Observation 1: I fly between San Francisco and Burbank often for business. There are acres and acres of flat roof top in Southern California and the sun does shine a lot there. If solar is compelling, why don’t the owners of these (mostly commercial) buildings put up solar panels and start putting electricity into the grid? I am suspecting that the economics does not work.

    Observation 2: If solar is viable and sensible, why don’t we hear more about the countries along the equator adopting the technology en masse? They get the most sun I imagine. Just an unpublicized fact or these countries don’t see the economics working for them either?

  16. Steve P says:

    D. J. Hawkins asked at
    July 6, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Do you have a source for the 54% of R&D going to nuclear? It seems way too

    The number was given in the article by Vaclav Smil, which you can read in full at the link given above.

    Do you have a source for what seems?

  17. TimO says:

    Find a true believer and you can make them cry by just explaining that even at 100% efficiency (which is impossible) there is just SO MUCH energy falling on a square meter of the Earth and the amount you can really collect in a day even if the weather is perfect just won’t cut it. Then start taking away for weather, clouds, aging of components and dropping efficiencies…. you can watch the tears form as they realize you can’t manufacture miracles and unicorns and rainbows in the REAL WORLD….

  18. Resourceguy says:

    I genuinely love this science site, but the energy posts leave a lot to be desired. The capacity factors listed are nowhere near reality unless you are talking about Russia and Japan where they have been known to operate nuclear reactors with half the building blown apart! These erroneous numbers make the rest of the post suspect. Sorry.

  19. Steve P says:

    –sorry Mods; I didn’t want to misquote Mr. Hawkins–
    D. J. Hawkins asked at
    July 6, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Do you have a source for the 54% of R&D going to nuclear? It seems way too high.

    The number was given in the article by Vaclav Smil, which you can read in full at the link given above.

    Do you have a source for what seems?

  20. He doesn’t mention hydro-electric, the only feasible ‘renewable’ energy source for base load power that doesn’t suffer the cost/feasibility issues he describes. HydroE has the added benefit that it can be used to ‘store’ wind and solar power to meet peak demand.

    Not only are China, India and Brazil building coal fired plants, they are building hydro-electric projects as well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroelectricity#Major_projects_under_construction

  21. Tom Jones says:

    The article noted:
    The nuclear industry has grown on the back of direct and enormous R&D support. In the United States it received almost 54 percent of all federal research funds between 1948 and 2007.

    My first thought was that, this was a process of a bureaucracy picking a winner and jamming it down our collective throats. If the pressurized water reactor was forced to compete with LFTR, it would not have survived and proliferated like it did. We would all be better off for it.

  22. Gail Combs says:

    D. J. Hawkins says:
    July 6, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    @ Steve P

    Do you have a source for the 54% of R&D going to nuclear? It seems way too high.
    _______________________________________
    A lot of that was Defense budget – the Manhattan project et al. but I agree it seems a bit high.

  23. Poriwoggu says:

    “Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil engineering at Stanford University, and Mark Delucchi, a researcher in transportation studies at the University of California, Davis”.

    There is the root of the problem. Power systems are designed by electrical engineers. Civil engineers don’t know a lot of about power systems other than a couple “EE for non-EEs” courses, and “researchers in transportation studies” know nothing about power systems.

    Electrical Engineers tend to have a higher regard for mechanical engineers than civil engineers because, after all, “Mechanical engineers build weapons, civil engineers build targets.”

    Found some useful information on R & D:
    http://www.issues.org/22.3/realnumbers.html
    http://www.misi-net.com/publications/NEI-1011.pdf

    The number 54% (see the MISI.net publication) is high – the number is 48% and about 35% of that is breeder reactors. If you toss out the breeders and other reactors types which were just drawing board exercises – that number gets considerably smaller.

    The bottom line – building a prototype reactor is hard and expensive – building a new solar cell is easy and cheap and requires much less R & D funding.

  24. Gail Combs says:

    Resourceguy says:
    July 6, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    I genuinely love this science site, but the energy posts leave a lot to be desired…..
    ________________________________
    It was an article in IEEE Spectrum magazine.

    IEEE Spectrum magazine is the flagship publication of the IEEE, the world’s largest professional technology association. It is a monthly magazine for technology innovators, business leaders, and the intellectually curious. Spectrum explores future technology trends and the impact of those trends on society and business.

    IEEE Spectrum is read by over 385,000 technology professionals and senior executives worldwide in the high technology sectors of industry, government, and academia. Subscribers include engineering managers and corporate and financial executives. Deans and provosts at every major engineering university and college throughout the world are also Spectrum readers.

    If you have better information I am sure Anthony would be happy to publish your submitted article: SEE Submit Story in the header or click on the link. Getting good material from his experts in the “audience” is how this blog has become such a great resource. As you noted we often get feed mushroom growing material in the “professionally published” magazines and other media outlets

  25. glenncz says:

    Let’s compare all the wind energy in the world to the Three Gorge Dam in China.
    In 2010 the IEA writes the world produced 328 billion kWhrs.
    That’s 328 million MWhrs, which is 328,000,000 MWhrs.
    Divide by 8760 hrs in a year to result = 37,443 MW’s.
    That’s like 15, 2400 MW Nuclear Plants going 24/7.
    The Three Gorge Dam in China produces 22,000 MW’s.
    So, all the wind energy in the world in 2010 is about 1.5 Three Gorge Damns
    http://www.eia.gov/cfapps/ipdbproject/iedindex3.cfm?tid=2&pid=37&aid=12&cid=regions&syid=2005&eyid=2010&unit=BKWH
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_hydroelectric_power_stations
    But that does not include the fact, that the wind doesn’t blow when we need it. In most locations it blows more at night than during the day. Most locations also produce more energy in the spring and fall, when we need it less. In fact many nuclear plants shut down during the spring or fall for maintenance. Also, it does not include the firming and lost energy from the nat gas or coal plants that must constantly vary their output to match the constantly varying output of the wind.
    http://www.eirgrid.com/operations/systemperformancedata/windgeneration/
    (scroll back through previous 24 hrs)
    Then consider the environmental damage. To achieve those 37,443 of wind output in 2010 using 1.5 MW turbines operating at average output of 25% you would need, the world had about 100,000 wind turbines. The amount of ridge line, farmland, and shoreline occupied by those 100,000 is enormous, even compared to the destruction caused by 1.5 Three Gorge Dams.

  26. SAMURAI says:

    From my own research, it seems that Thorium/fluoride nukes are by far the most sustainable and cheapest form of energy on the planet, theoretically capable of producing energy at US$0.01/kWh from an element that is as plentiful Pb; there are 1,000′s of years of this stuff easily mineable.

    India will apparently have it’s first Thorium test reactor up and running from 2016 and China and Japan are also spending a lot of R&D on the technology.

    America had an up and running Thorium test plant in the 60′s, but the powers that be decided that fissionable security was more important that fiscal security and put the ax to the technology. Did DC miss the memo that USSR is defunct?

    Anyway, Thorium reactors have the Holy Trinity of energy: cheap + safe + abundant, but it is trumped by the Unholy Trinity of: Environmental + Protection + Agency… As long as the EPA exists, no private-sector Thorium R&D program will be seriously started in the US as the barriers to entry established by the EPA will prevent it; the EPA wants solar and wind farms. LOL!

    And so it goes…..until it doesn’t…..

  27. Gunga Din says:

    “Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil engineering at Stanford University, and Mark Delucchi, a researcher in transportation studies at the University of California, Davis”.

    =================================================================

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

    Of course if they ever built one a ridiculous MPE (Miles per Erg) limit would soon be set. (Maybe it would require 15% radioactive ethenol?)

  28. Dave Worley says:

    “They aren’t adapted to something coming straight up or down at them at well over 100 mph, which is what tends to happen when the bird flies through the path of the turbine blades. It’s good to be sceptical but, at the same time, a little common sense will tell you that those windmills are more than capable of all that bird death.”

    It is difficult to judge the speed of large moving objects. That’s why a 747 appears to float in the air. That’s also why so many folks are killed by trains going 65 mph when they appear to be doing 30. It’s an illusion of scale, and birds have the same problem. They are not accustomed to such large objects moving through the air and they misjudge the speed.

    IMHO the argument against solar and wind energy is that they are an attempt to gather diffuse energy, and so they require an inordinate amount of surface area. The surface is the foundation of the ecosystem, and diffuse energy gathering is an inefficient use of it. Fossil fuels are concentrated energy and require very little surface disturbance relative to the energy produced.

  29. Roger Sowell says:

    I have written this before, but Greenies who dreamed of renewable energy, solar and wind, becoming large-scale technologies were betting on the price of oil and gas soaring.

    Remember just a few years ago when oil was predicted to be $200 per barrel, and natural gas was to be $20 or $30 per million Btu?

    If that had come true, the economics of solar and wind would be much, much better today. But, it didn’t. What happened?

    Smart guys figured out how to do directional drilling with fracking, and tapped into enormous reserves of oil and gas. Prices for gas plummeted. Oil prices are a bit more complicated.

    Solar and wind are doomed to perpetual subsidies, for at least as long as the oil and gas guys keep innovating.

    It will be interesting to see how much longer governments are willing to waste money in such subsidies for renewables.

    There ARE ways to overcome the intermittency issues of solar and wind. Solar thermal can continue to produce power at night, which is already done in California. Wind power can pump water uphill into a hydroelectric reservoir. This too is done in a few places. But, worldwide there are far too few elevated lakes near wind power farms.

    The oil and gas geeks have won. As usual.

    Maybe the Greenies will fare better next time, when natural gas prices rise to $30, in about 100 to 150 years. Adjusted for inflation, that will be about $300 to $500 per million Btu.

    Such fun to watch the Greenies run smack into real world economics, and lose completely to the oil and gas guys.

    Roger Sowell, consulting engineer in oil refining/petrochemicals 1974-2001.

  30. Dennis Cox says:

    “It takes several lifetimes to put a new energy system into place”


    Nah! It only took me a couple of weeks to install enough solar panels, batteries, inverters, and charge controllers to be able to tell the power company they can put their smart meter someplace the sun doesn’t shine. And for those who think a solar system won’t work in places where they get a lot of rain, all I can say is that ours does a good job of supplying enough power both to run the house, and charge the batteries during the day. And it does so rain or shine as long as the sun is up. We run on the batteries at night

    “sustainable power” is only a question of scale. One home at a time works just fine. I don’t need to produce enough power to light the whole damn county. Just my own house.

  31. “The ultimate justification for alternative energy centers on its mitigation of global warming” says it all: There is no justification for alternative energy, at least not in the near future.
    I say: Continue to investigate, that needs prosperity to make the research sustainable.
    If you tax the people into poverty there will be no more research.

  32. Claude Harvey says:

    My comments on the IEEE article reproduced below. I’m a Life Member of that august society.

    Claude Harvey
    The professor is dead right on all counts. I developed, built and operated alternate (renewable) energy plants for 20 years. I avoided wind and solar because the economics was simply disastrous to everyone but the subsidized investor. In addition to dismal capacity factor, the problem dooming them both is “energy density” that is so poor, reasonable economy of scale can never be achieved. Too much material required for too little average output. Without massive subsidies, if I GAVE you the solar cells free of charge, you still could not build a solar-voltaic central power plant that made economic sense.

  33. u.k. (us) says:

    Don’t forget the IED’s, and sniper fire.

  34. Gunga Din says:

    Claude Harvey says:
    July 6, 2012 at 7:07 pm
    My comments on the IEEE article reproduced below. I’m a Life Member of that august society.

    Claude Harvey
    The professor is dead right on all counts. I developed, built and operated alternate (renewable) energy plants for 20 years. I avoided wind and solar because the economics was simply disastrous to everyone but the subsidized investor. In addition to dismal capacity factor, the problem dooming them both is “energy density” that is so poor, reasonable economy of scale can never be achieved. Too much material required for too little average output. Without massive subsidies, if I GAVE you the solar cells free of charge, you still could not build a solar-voltaic central power plant that made economic sense.

    =====================================================================
    And then along came Derecho …..
    You’d have to give the stuff away again.

  35. Reg Nelson says:

    michaeljmcfadden says:
    July 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Also think it was here that I may have seen a figure on the numbers of birds chopped up by them.

    Anyone know of any particular pointers that have that information handy? I’m a bit suspicious about the bird thing because the argument just seems a bit too “convenient” (i.e. the environmental wind turbines engaged in unenvironmental bird destruction) .
    ——

    There’s no money (funding) in that. If these were hydro or fracking projects the Greens would find someway to sue to halt their progress. Solar and Wind farms get the “Green” light no matter how detrimental they are to the local ecosystems.

    Now if these birds were Flying Sacramento Delta Smelts, this might be a different story;

    “Environmentalists have long complained that the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta’s pumps, which send water to Central Valley farmers and southern California residents, trap and kill fish. In 2006 the Natural Resources Defense Council sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for issuing a biological opinion that supported pumping more water south because the agency didn’t analyze how the pumping might affect the smelt. A federal court ordered the agency to be more mindful of the smelt.

    So the agency demanded that water regulators reduce pumping. The National Marine Fisheries Services joined the fun by recommending that regulators restrict pumping to protect salmon, sturgeon and steelhead too. These opinions have superceded the water contracts of farmers and resulted in 3.4 million acre-feet of fresh water flowing into San Francisco Bay each year—enough to irrigate over a million acres of land.

    More than 10,000 farm jobs have been lost as a result, and regional unemployment stands at about 15%. Environmentalists blame the water shortages on drought, but even in wet years farmers aren’t getting the water they’re due.”

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203918304577239472081683362.html

  36. D. J. Hawkins says:

    @ Steve P

    Posted at Mr. Smil’s article:

    Mr. Smil;
    I’m curious as to the source of the 54% figure for all US federal R&D funds going to nuclear. Was this straight funding for nuclear power applications, or did it include weapons development, nuclear medicine, and power supplies for satellites? Otherwise, it just seem too high.

    If you look here http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf01334/pdf/histb.pdf
    you’ll see that the Atomic Energy Commission’s share of the federal pie bounces around 8%-15% until 1974 when the Energy Research and Development Agency took over, still around 10% and then in 1977 the Department of Energy steps in. Now, the Defense Department’s share hangs around 50% pretty consistently, but you can hardly claim it all goes toward nuclear power.

    We’ll see what he has to say.

  37. Philip Peake says:

    speed says:
    July 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm
    Nine women can’t make a baby in one month.

    No, not *one* baby. But, if they are impregnated one per month, the rate of delivery is … one per month.

    One woman can not deliver one per month.

    I know what you are trying to say, but this is a particularly bad example (although widespread).

  38. John Slayton says:

    Dennis Cox, I’d be interested in knowing where you live.

    On June 16, we completed the first year of operation of our 2KW solar installation. During that year, it produced as much power as we used, less about 10 kwh. The only reason I can think of that people in sun belt states aren’t lining up to order these installations is that nobody has any money right now. If the greenshirts really wanted this to catch on, they would be reluctant to enact stupid policies that keep us all broke.

  39. Poriwoggu says:

    Resourceguy says:
    July 6, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    I genuinely love this science site, but the energy posts leave a lot to be desired. The capacity factors listed are nowhere near reality unless you are talking about Russia and Japan where they have been known to operate nuclear reactors with half the building blown apart! These erroneous numbers make the rest of the post suspect. Sorry.

    Don’t know what point you’re trying to make. The typical US nuclear power plant has been run at above 90% utilization for the last two decades. Since most of the plant cost is “fixed” cost and very little operational expense is fuel cost, they are used for base band power generation and run at capacity. Coal utilization is a little lower than what is quoted because of the low natural gas cost – whether coal or gas is used for base band power generation is a cost per delivered BTU decision.

    Only base band power generation facilities would or could be used at high utilization.

    Japan nuclear utilization however has been more than cut in half and is below 34%.

  40. Well, all of those comments provide interesting insights and observations, but I still don’t understand why we must worry about anthropogenic CO2 emissions being a controlling problem with respect to CO2 causing rising global temperatures. How can 3.5 percent of annual global CO2 emissions cause so much havoc that the remaining 96.5 percent of annual CO2 emissions from natural sources can be ignored?

    I’m just a farmer and have only common sense to guide me on this, seeing that no one else here seems to pay any attention to my concern. I thought that someone here would help me out on this, given that no one in the MSM does.

  41. u.k. (us) says:

    John Slayton says:

    July 6, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    “During that year, it produced as much power as we used, less about 10 kwh…”
    ——————————–
    Really?, you must live a spartan lifestyle.
    Is it possible to recharge your car, and run the a/c at the same time ?

  42. Gunga Din says:

    John Slayton says:
    July 6, 2012 at 7:38 pm
    Dennis Cox, I’d be interested in knowing where you live.

    On June 16, we completed the first year of operation of our 2KW solar installation. During that year, it produced as much power as we used, less about 10 kwh. The only reason I can think of that people in sun belt states aren’t lining up to order these installations is that nobody has any money right now. If the greenshirts really wanted this to catch on, they would be reluctant to enact stupid policies that keep us all broke.
    ==========================================
    Yes, they are their own worst enemy. Ours too.
    (1 year is not really a proof of concept. Keep your coal plant. Stockpile coal like northern states stockpile salt to treat the roads in winter, not knowing what the winter will be like. )

  43. _Jim says:

    John Slayton says:
    July 6, 2012 at 7:38 pm
    Dennis Cox, I’d be interested in knowing where you live.

    On June 16, we completed the first year of operation of our 2KW solar installation. During that year, it produced as much power as we used, less about 10 kwh. The only reason I can think of that people in sun belt states aren’t lining up to order these installations is that nobody has any money right now. …

    Sun belt states? My consumption can run about 1 MWhr (1,000 kWhrs) per month in the summer months, or about 33 kWh per day for the house which includes air conditioning (or resistive heating in the winter) plus appliances, and, I run the A/C frugally. Try more like 1.5 to 2 MWh for a larger house and with several kids and more appliances (plus more hot water usage!) … or about 66 kWh used per day. Clean, ALL-ELECTRIC house here BTW (no nat. gas).

    What’s required in the way of solar cells and batteries etc for that kind of consumption in a ‘sunbelt home’ given the above requirements? Temperatures have been near 100 deg F (from both sides) now for 3 or 4 weeks running (nc Texas) …

    .

  44. davidmhoffer says:

    Walter H Schneider;
    How can 3.5 percent of annual global CO2 emissions cause so much havoc that the remaining 96.5 percent of annual CO2 emissions from natural sources can be ignored?
    I’m just a farmer and have only common sense to guide me on this, seeing that no one else here seems to pay any attention to my concern
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>

    1. Don’t apologise for “just” being a farmer. My experience is that farmers understand a great deal about precipitation patters, cloud cover, and other issues that are important in terms of understanding climate.

    2. I’m not certain where you got the 3.5% number from, I’ve seen both higher and lower. At day’s end however the exact percentage isn’t the biggest part of the issue. The issue relates to sensitivity. The alarmists are of the opinion that even small increases in CO2 will be amplified be secondary effects of changing the CO2 concentration. To date, the data seems to suggest otherwise.

    Thanks for the food!

  45. Bill Tuttle says:

    Gail Combs says:
    July 6, 2012 at 6:20 pm
    A lot of that was Defense budget – the Manhattan project et al. but I agree it seems a bit high.

    It sounds like whoever compiled the figures believed that the entire budgets of the AEC (and successor, DoE) went to supporting nuclear R&D — which they didn’t.

  46. John Slayton says:

    u.k. (us): Really?, you must live a spartan lifestyle.

    Well, actually no. Our kitchen is all-electric with normal stove, oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, etc. Heating/cooling is high efficiency heat-pump. Several computers, TV, a gazillion electrical gadgets. It works here because of the S. California climate. Wouldn’t work at all in northern states.

    Is it possible to recharge your car, and run the a/c at the same time ?

    Not sure I follow you on this question. The car is conventional gasoline, runs fine at 270K miles. I’ve considered plug-in hybrids, but if I ever replace it, it will more likely be with natural gas.

    I actually agree with Mr. Smil’s general thesis, but I think distributed solar makes economic sense right now for a huge number of people, and without governmental incentives. (Best I not detail the economics again.)

  47. UzUrBrain says:

    I have been looking into the use of solar or wind since 1960. The reasons I am still looking into it is that it STILL has the same problems it did in 1960, – unreliable, expensive, high-maintenance, not ready for prime-time yet. But they always say that in 5-10 more years with more government help it will be more efficient, cheaper, better, etc. so I have waited for this “better” system.

    Here is a well documented webpage with observations on a 3 kWh Solar Panel instalation.

    http://www.csudh.edu/oliver/smt310-handouts/solarpan/solarpan.htm

    Would you want this on your roof? If you live north of Washington DC you only get 75% of the energy he is getting and have to deal with scrapping off the snow in the winter. Can you climb up on your roof and clean the panels? How many users will fall off? How much to pay to have it cleaned? Will you do it in the winter? How much are the maintenance costs (More than for your furnace and air conditioner combined I would bet.) How about insurance? At latitudes north of Washington DC it would never pay for itself! It sure would make the salesmen rich though. What good are they in hail-stone areas?, Tornado areas? $45,000 paid for over 20 years is more than 200 dollars a month. And then you get to buy a new one. Now add in all of the above maintenance costs. My total electric bill for the year is way less than $100 a month. AND, you still pay your minimum electric bill and everyones electric bill goes up.

    Google a “grid connected solar collector” a solar panel like this will cost more than $30,000 PLUS instlation charges. (oh, and since the government will give you 1/3 they sell them for about 50% more than they are really worth.)

  48. Terry Jackson says:

    Wind and solar can be made to work for RVs and boats and some residences in the sunny areas. It is almost always supplemented with a suitable generator for larger loads. A welder will not be nice to batteries. Where it will simply not work under any circumstance is industrial and commercial loads. Solar powered aluminum smelter, anyone?

    An RV or residence can usually place enough solar panels on the roof to power the low loads of some lighting and appliances, even air conditioning provided they are hooked to the grid to provide the peaking power. It may well be feasible to get the sunbelt to provide enough solar and wind from residences to power those residences on average over the course of a year, but it will not have the power to supply any industrial or commercial uses.

  49. John Slayton says:

    Jim:

    Texas…. Hmm. We talking Brownsville or Amarillo?

  50. Wally says:

    The point made is a good and valid one.

    Things like solar for a central system running a country are fanciful. (And for same odd reason we are not allowed to consider hydro as “renewable”. Whats with that?)

    However where I live the price of electricity has just gone up 20% – some of that due to a carbon tax. The rates are now about 37 c / kW-hr (A$ and US$ are roughly parity). The summer tariff is even higher.

    So – even though the technology is silly, it now makes economic sense for me to put solar on my roof. I’ll sign the contract next week. Here, there are no panel subsidies, there is a renewable energy kickback (Which goes to the installing company not me!), and this lowers the price by about 15%. The numbers look a bit like this:

    Annual power bill = $3000
    Cost of solar install = $9200

    Stated reduction in power bill = >65% but I will assume 50%: so power bill drops to $1500

    Return on investment, per year = $1500 / $9200 = about 16%

    Payback period is about 6 years. If the price of power goes up more (it is expected to rise another 10% to 20% in another year). then the return is better and the payback shorter.

    There is a feed-in tariff also, which I’m assuming is worth nothing. The feed-in rate is now about 2/3 the price of just buying power, so we are not forcing the neighbours to pay for our solar indulgence (our feed-in tariffs WERE very high but have now come back significantly). Any benefit from the feed-in is, again, a bonus. Of course the other big factor here is that the generation is greatest in summer, when the a/c needs are highest and the power price is highest. This helps reduce the demand of us EVIL people with a/c which our politicians keep banging on about.

    Of course, when there is no sun I have to buy power from a nice big coal plant. And this just illustrates the fallacy of central generation. Local… little bits… is finally making more sense. Just look into the numbers very carefully.

    A full disconnect / battery system is also possible for home use, but vastly more expensive, and the cost of replacement batteries is significant. This might make sense when there is no grid connection available but when the grid is there, its harder to see any benefit: paybacks up around the 10 year mark are silly.

  51. Robert-in-AZ says:

    The solar leasing deals in AZ are interesting. I have a quote for 6500 KWH/Year for 20 years for $5K down and $20/month for a total of $9800. That is a cost of 0.076/KWH which is less than I am paying. The lessor guarantees the production for the term of the lease. Of course, the lessor recovers a good portion of the cost of the installation up front and then gets depreciation in addition to the lease payment. The $0 down quote was $63/month for a rate of 0.116/KWH. If I get my 6500 KWH/year for 10 years and then the system dies and the lessor walks away, I will have paid 0.113/KWH. Prepaying works for me because I hope not to be working for the last half of the lease.

    I paid an average of 0.13/KWH last year on a plan that peaks out at 0.245/KWH during summer peak consumption times which correspond to peak solar production times. This makes solar in AZ on this rate plan even more compelling.

    I’m gathering more quotes including a DIY option.

    Do we all believe that solar panels will be producing at 80% capacity in 20 years?

  52. Eric Simpson says:

    They proposed converting the energy economy of the entire world to renewable sources by 2030.
    Talk about the limits of insanity. These heavily subsidized green energies cannot exist without… heavy subsidies. On top of this crowding out conventional energy (on the margins [but with a lot of green energy, the margins become substantial]), and causing energy costs to rise for everybody, it’s just a huge down the drain money sink. It is clear that the profligate spending on green energy is a significant factor responsible for the Euro crisis. Clearly, if you tried to run the entire economy on these subsidized boondoggles, we as a nation or world would go belly up before we could count to nine.

    [they had a] plan to build the world’s largest [boondoggle] southeast of Nuremberg.
    Well, at least it would be near a convenient place for the perpetrators of this bankrupting farce… the be tried for crimes against humanity. / semi-sarcastic

  53. Gail Combs says:

    Walter H. Schneider says:
    July 6, 2012 at 8:05 pm
    …… but I still don’t understand why we must worry about anthropogenic CO2 emissions being a controlling problem with respect to CO2 causing rising global temperatures. How can 3.5 percent of annual global CO2 emissions cause so much havoc that the remaining 96.5 percent of annual CO2 emissions from natural sources can be ignored?

    I’m just a farmer and have only common sense to guide me on this, seeing that no one else here seems to pay any attention to my concern. I thought that someone here would help me out on this, given that no one in the MSM does.
    ________________________________________
    The whole CAGW mess is a hoax and the MSM is the propaganda arm of the “Regulating Class”
    Here are some links to good articles.

    POLITICS
    Climate Coup — The Politics “How the regulating class is using bogus claims about climate change to entrench and extend their economic privileges and political control. – Dr David M.W. Evans, 29 Feb 2012, last updated 13 Mar 2012,”

    Watch the “companion video” at Democrats Against U.N. Agenda 21 Rosa, a California government employee, explains a lot of the politics.

    SCIENCE
    On the Scientific side here is a smattering of good papers, articles and websites.
    CO2: The Greatest Scientific Scandal of Our Time by Zbigniew Jaworowski, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc.

    Questioning the CO2 Ice Hockey Stick
    Introduction to paper below: Do glaciers tell a true atmospheric CO2 story? by Prof Z Jaworowski, Prof T V Segalstad and N Ono

    CO2 figures, cycle, solubility, GHG effect,
    oceanic scale, and biosequestration (Lucy Skywalker’s data base)

    Several more papers by Tom V. Segalstad et al @ http://www.co2web.info/

    The Acquittal of Carbon Dioxide by Jeffrey A. Glassman, PhD

    ON WHY CO2 IS KNOWN NOT TO HAVE ACCUMULATED IN THE ATMOSPHERE & WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH CO2 IN THE MODERN ERA by Jeffrey A. Glassman, PhD

    The CO2 Record in Plant Fossils (stomata)

    Tree response to CO2 (We are/were close to starvation levels of CO2 for plants which is why C4 and CAM plants evolved)

    A heck of a lot of papers and other info on plant response to CO2 at
    CO2 Science

    That should keep you reading for a week or so…

  54. Poriwoggu says:

    Terry Jackson says:
    July 6, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    Just looked up the numbers;
    Boston averages 4.3 “sun hours” per day in summer, year-round sun-hour average is a
    mere 3.0.
    Tucson averages 7.4 sun hours in summer and 6.6 sun hours year-round.

    Using simple trig: the winter solstice solar hours in Boston are 44% of peak summer.
    The winter solstice solar hours for Tuscon are 57% of peak summer.

    Boston peak summer intensity is only 94% of Tuscon peak summer intensity to begin with.

    Just looking at this – anyone using solar in the north for utility power is deranged. Potential power (winter) is less than half potential power (summer) even without clouds factored in.

    You might be able to make a case for Tuscon.

  55. Mike Jonas says:

    Walter H. Schneider – you ask “How can 3.5 percent of annual global CO2 emissions cause so much havoc that the remaining 96.5 percent of annual CO2 emissions from natural sources can be ignored?”“.

    The answer as I understand it is that natural sources of CO2 are roughly balanced by the sinks. For example, plants emit CO2 in autumn and absorb in spring. Or the low latitude oceans emit CO2 while the higher latitudes absorb. Man-made CO2 is minor when compared to the gross natural flows, but are still large enough to disturb the balance.

    However, that only addresses the CO2 flow part of the question, not the ‘havoc’ bit. There never will be any of that ‘havoc’.

    I am intensely critical of CAGW, but I do think that the “only 3% of CO2 is man-made” argument is incorrect. As I understand it, the errors in CAGW are in the claimed “feedbacks”, in the lack of supporting evidence, in the failure to test, in the unequal treatment of natural factors, and in the wilful ignoring of empirical evidence.

  56. gallopingcamel says:

    As a member of the IEEE (and the IEE too) it is encouraging to discover that some of my peers have not lost all their marbles.

    Thank you Vaclav Smill for a refreshingly sane view of our energy options!

  57. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:

    Regarding wind turbine mortalities…I’m more alarmed about the bats than the birds! Check this out, and also the stories linked into it….hundreds of thousands of bats killed each year?? Amazing!

    http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/renewables/fixing-wind-powers-bat-problem

  58. Allan MacRae says:

    Wholesale undelivered prices of North American grid-connected electrical generating costs, are approximately:
    4 cents/kWh to generate electricity from natural gas, before distribution costs, at most 5-6 cents;
    13.5¢/kWh for (intermittent and therefore essentially worthless) wind power;
    64.2¢/kWh for (intermittent and therefore essentially worthless) solar power.
    __________________

    With respect, wind power is far worse than Mr. Smil has stated.

    The Capacity Factor for land-based wind power is typically ~20-25%, but it is the Substitution Factor that really measures the usefulness of wind power, and that Substitution Factor can be as low as 4% of installed peak capacity.
    See Fig. 7 in http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/wp-content/uploads/eonwindreport2005.pdf

    That is, for every 100 units of installed wind power capacity, you can replace only 4 units of conventional energy generating capacity.

    “Wind Power – It Doesn’t Just Blow, It Sucks!”

    Solar power is even worse than wind power, in that solar requires subsidies (paid by the consumer) many times that of wind power.

    “Solar Power – Stick It Where the Sun Don’t Shine!”

  59. chris y says:

    The SciAm article in 2009 was really bad. It ignored the cost and size of the transmission line construction needed to move 10 TW of electrical power from Nevada/Arizona to the Eastern seaboard load centers. At the time I estimated it to cost at least $20T, not including the cost of new rights of way and all the WWF/ACLU/NatureConservancy/Audubon fun that would entail.

    The SciAm article described a pipedream by avoiding all of the difficulties associated with a large infrastructure project. I was surprised that PhD and Nobelist Albert Gore was not a co-author. I believe he was pushing for all underground transmission, with complete changeover in 10 years.

  60. James Sexton says:

    Terry Jackson says:
    July 6, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    Wind and solar can be made to work for RVs and boats and some residences in the sunny areas. It is almost always supplemented with a suitable generator for larger loads. A welder will not be nice to batteries. Where it will simply not work under any circumstance is industrial and commercial loads. Solar powered aluminum smelter, anyone? ……..
    =============================================
    Thank you, Terry. Spot on.

    I’m very glad people have found a way to supply their own electricity. Good on them. But, they shouldn’t try to convince people this is a viable alternative to … well anything other than personal use. It works in some places, but not others. The cost for this is beyond most of the people in the world and for many of the ones who do possess the wealth to do so, their location is improper. I would be very interested in their cost and when they expect to recoup this cost. The solar homes I’ve experience with have a tremendous upkeep and reinvestment, but battery arrays are getting better.

    I believe one mentioned scale….. and that’s true. Scale is what is impossible. The story on solar ended the other day. It’s just that most people haven’t read to the end, yet. I did a post this morning on solar, (just click on my name), but, mostly it was to encourage people to read an article.

    Italy’s morass can serve as an example of this madness. Anyone remotely interested in the subject should read this…. http://www.europeanenergyreview.eu/site/pagina.php?id_mailing=292&toegang=1700002963a49da13542e0726b7bb758&id=3792 The fellow lays it out quite well.

  61. Asmilwho says:

    VaclavSmil wrote “I grew up not far from that place, just across the border with the Czech Republic, and I will never forget those seemingly endless days of summer spent inside while it rained incessantly”

    Sorry, this just isn’t true. Average rainfall in Nürnberg per month during the summer is about 3 inches/month with over 150 hours of sunshine per month.

    http://www.weather-and-climate.com/average-monthly-Rainfall-Temperature-Sunshine,nurnberg,Germany

    I know from personal experience , as I have lived here for over 10 years. What tends to happen during the summer is that there is a lot of sunshine during the day, followed by a thunderstorm in the evening. This doesn’t count in any way as “incessant rain”, though those days might be recorded as “rainy” days.

  62. Dennis Cox says:
    July 6, 2012 at 6:57 pm
    And for those who think a solar system won’t work in places where they get a lot of rain, all I can say is that ours does a good job of supplying enough power both to run the house, and charge the batteries during the day. And it does so rain or shine as long as the sun is up. We run on the batteries at night

    You don’t say where you live. I live in one of the sunniest cities in the developed world, Perth. The problem is that cloudy/rainy days are almost all in winter. On a rainy winter day, my solar panels produce as little as 5% of the electricity they produce on a typical summer day. So I am somewhat sceptical of your rain or shine claim.

    There is no feasible way to store enough electricity from summer to winter to make a difference.

  63. thisisnotgoodtogo says:

    Vaclav Smil interviewd by Andrew Revkin. Vaclav was a sane guest on the wretched TVO/Perimeter Institute “sustainability” hoax show.

  64. thisisnotgoodtogo says:

    Link to the Revkin Interview mentioned above

  65. hillrj says:

    Roger Sowell said
    ” What happened?”
    “Smart guys figured out how to do directional drilling with fracking, and tapped into enormous reserves of oil and gas. Prices for gas plummeted. Oil prices are a bit more complicated….”

    It is worth noting that the “smart guys” were mostly good ol’ boys from Texas, driven by the market. (maybe helped a little by R&D types with degrees) Whereas solar R&D has mostly been government funded.

  66. Michael Tremblay says:

    On the critical side, Vaclav’s original article was written in 2004 and the plant was commissioned in 2005. Is there any new information on the Bavarian Solarpark PV generator which can bring some relevance to its current operation? Is it working as expected?

  67. The coal-fired generation capacity is wrong for large base load plants. There are a number operating at over 90% particularly new ones in Australia and Asian countries (ie similar to nuclear power stations). The 65-70% applies to the smaller units in areas where most of the power is supplied by coal-fired units and reflects demand changes during the day and in seasons. The latter is similar to gas fired turbines which may be mainly on standby and have a capacity factor over the year of 10% but have a capacity factor of close to 100% when required. On the otherhand solar and wind generation may have zero capacity when required in peak times. Even hydro may have little capacity in drought times as experienced in Tasmania a few years ago. when a new gas fired power station was built (assisted by alarmist such as Flannery saying it will not rain again)

  68. George says:

    How many wind turbines were completely destroyed in last week’s storm back East? Those turbines now have an efficiency of 0% and need to be completely replaced at full cost.

  69. davidmhoffer says:

    Asmilwho;
    Sorry, this just isn’t true. Average rainfall in Nürnberg per month during the summer is about 3 inches/month with over 150 hours of sunshine per month.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Well, based on a 12 hour day and a 30 day month, that would mean that there were 150+ hours per month out of 360 hours, leaving over half the day time hours being either rain+cloud, or just cloud. Given that it is a mid-high latitude, I’m guessing that June would feature more like (rough estimate) 420 day light hours, meaning that at only 150 hours of sunshine per month, about 2/3 of the daylight hours are cloudy/rainy. Seems to me that you’ve provided a link to information that is basically supportive of Vaclav Smil’s comment.

  70. Eric Simpson says:

    Archonix, a good and disturbing explanation you give (at 4:41pm) on why birds or so vulnerable to falling prey to the blades of windmills.
    Shut down the monsters!

  71. Jack Simmons says:

    If you really want to shut down a wind turbine project, just build it in a way that offends the Kennedy clan:

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/07/18/248500/rfk-jr-in-murdochs-wall-street-journal-urges-abandoning-cape-wind-for-canadian-hydro-he-once-opposed/?mobile=nc

  72. tonyb says:

    I have no particular hang up on renewable energy-the idea of sustainable energy within our control, rather than at the whim of a despot of an unfriendly political or religious persuasion, seems to me to be the hinge on which the idea of renewables-and co2 reduction-shoud be sold.

    However, we should think of the maxim ‘horses for courses’. In Britain-where nowhere is further from the coast than 70 miles- we have great opportunities for tide and wave energy which is sorely neglected. Not such a good solution for land locked Switzerland. Solar panels in sunny Spain may be a great idea. In Bavaria? In Southern Britain?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-18649254

    Clearly not.Hugely expensive, inefficient and pointless, for as well as trashing countryside pointlessly most of these locations will need new transmission lines to get them to centres of population.
    tonyb

  73. Perry says:

    I spent 1966 working as a mechanical fitter in the steel rolling section at Bofors AB in Karlskoga, Sweden. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time!

    We used imported cotton waste and rags to clean up the rolling mills, whilst they were being stripped down and rebuilt every three weeks or so. The source of the cotton waste and rags was Japan. In amongst the rags there were kites and Noburi banners.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kyoto_Toji_Nobori_C0922.jpg

    I rescued one Noburi, yellow with red Kanjii characters, which accompanied me upon my eventual return to England. A year later, I had the opportunity to get the Noburi translated. I entertained expections it might have been used to represent different divisions within a Samurai army, Instead, it announced the opening of the “Sunshine Water Heating Company”.

    Was it a debut that turned out well? Who knows, but that Noburi, nearly ending up soaking in hydrocarbons and dirt half a world away, would not bode very well for success. With hindsight, I now suggest that that single banner’s presence in a bail of rags in 1966, presaged even then, the doom of politically correct, post normal science solar panels.

  74. tonyb says:

    Asmilwho

    All that you demonstrate with your excellent charts is that there is a modest amount of sun during summer months (5 hours per day) when power is not needed as much, and a very small amount of sun during the rest of the year at those times when it is most needed AND the level of daylight/sun is much poorer. Not forgetting of course that for very large parts of a 24 hour period there is no generation at all as night time settles over the installations
    It sounds a nice climate over your way but not really suited to solar power is it?
    tonyb

  75. I Am Digitap says:

    You don’t suppose, that Al Gore, recently off-the-public wean and needing some cash and groupies, made a movie he had no IDEA would take of as it did, exposing MANN, HANSEN, JONES, TRENBERTH, WIGLEY, others…

    you don’t suppose the reason that REGLU’h AWWu’L aiN’T No GOOD No Moah, is, PEAK AWUL.
    An COAL AINT NO GOOD CAUSE uh.. puLLOO’SHuN,
    but ALTERNATIVE ENERGY BOY NOW – ‘AT ‘TAIR’S poWWWWerFUL soNN !!!

    Because Al Gore’s personal fortune’s derived from OCCIDENTAL OIL the THIRD LARGEST OIL COMPANY ON EARTH? 2ND LARGEST IN CALIFORNIA? NAH?

    MAYBE the REASON YEW AINT NEVER HERD of BIG AL GORE’S OCCIDENTAL OIL as BIG
    is caWS HALF THAIR HOLDINS AINT IN – OIL. Or COAL.

    THAYS IN
    yeah. It never was magic treemomiturs and magical hockey stick math and magic gas
    it was that about half of OCCIDENTAL OIL’S HOLDINGS are in

    AL
    TERNATIVE
    ENERGY
    GORE’s HOLDINGS in OCCIDENTAL
    al
    ternative
    energy
    AL GORE is running the biggest scam, you ever saw.
    Running that terror campaign about ‘install my policies or die, in SPITE of the election?
    That’s the D.E.F.I.N.I.T.I.O.N. of POLITICAL TERROR.
    While Old goofy George Bush was really fighting one, Big Oil Al took the opportunity to run his own
    end run around the election’s disappointing turn.

    It’s criminal and has been from the beginning and it’s simply Al Gore, CRIMINAL SCAMMER.
    Period.
    No? Then you explain it better.
    Simpler.
    More perfectly.

  76. Perry says:

    Bale of rags. Apologies.

  77. michaeljmcfadden says:

    Thank you to those who responded on the bird/windmill question, though it would still be nice to know if there was any particular study based upon reasonable data or models showing the extent of the problem.

    In terms of the N. Africa solar panel farm idea, maybe it shouldn’t be brushed off so quickly. The two main problems are political and (transmission-related) economics. Both could be addressed to at least some extent.

    Right now and on into the moderate future the N. African countries are likely getting most of their power from oil. Given the right financial incentives they could easily be persuaded to switch over to solar, built and maintained by Euros, in return for which they would supply their oil more cheaply to Europe. The transmission cost problem would disappear in the process. (Although it would be replaced by the transmission cost of the oil: is that factor figured in when talking about the comparative cost of power transmission through electric lines?).

    Yes, it would leave Europe vulnerable to some extent politically: what if the N. African oil nations decided at some point, “Hey, the damn thing’s built already. Why should we continue giving the Euros the free/cheap oil for it?” BUT… how is that so different than what we presently have? Those same countries could turn around and say “Hey, btw, we’re increasing our “oil tax” by 2,000% right now if they wanted to. (Heh, Obama got away with a 2,000% tax increase on tobacco for the poorer RYO smokers, so the increase would have a precedent!) Just as with the smokers though, the Euros always have and will have alternatives in the form of putting more money into nuclear, alternatives, and conservation (thereby devastating the middling long-term finances of the N. African countries). Politically it would be in the interest of the N. Africans to maintain the relationship on a good basis, particularly if the Euros maintained a technological lead that kept increasing the efficiency in the maintenance/production of those panels.

    Overall it’s obviously not as helpful an approach as a massive breakthrough in conservation but the contribution to world pollution from the N. African oil-fuel use would decrease in the same way that it would decrease from a Euro installation. Meanwhile, *IF* solar is cost-effective in that part of the world without the long-range transmission costs, expenses for both the N.Africans AND the Euros would go down.

    So, while there are obvious problems with it, the concept *could* conceivably have some merit.

    - MJM

  78. Jimbo says:

    James Sexton made a point recently that’s well worth reading. Basically he points out that even in the unlikely scenario that the whole world agreed today to do something about co2 and decided today to adopt the renewable sources of energy we will still see a rise in co2 of over 600ppm.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/07/05/by-this-logic-chris-mooney-should-be-blaming-obama-for-not-seizing-the-opportunity-to-talk-about-global-cooling-last-winter/#comment-1025504

    Study referenced:
    http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/7/1/014019/article#fnref-erl410200bib5

  79. Dave Mitchell says:

    A lot of the responses to Vaclav Smil’s excellent post have focused on the feasibility (or lack thereof) of supporting domestic living with wind and solar power. My own experience in Australia was to install a massively subsidised 1.5kW solar system, with insanely generous feed-in tariffs, and a pay-back period of less than 3 years. It was an offer too good to refuse and I didn’t, and I’ve hardly spent a cent on power bills since – in fact in summer they send me a cheque. Of course this taxpayer-subsidised boondoggle had to be closed to new entrants for being unsustainable, and now the rest of the state’s electricity users are subsidising my lifestyle. The net result of all this stupidity is that my energy costs have gone down – but overall, the cost of electricity provision to the state has gone up – significantly.

    The point I’d like to make is that while such ‘sustainable’ energy is anything but in the domestic setting, it is even more farcical in a modern industrialised country. Most heavy industry needs power 24/7/365 and uses the lion’s share of national generation. The viability of said industry is closely related to the cost of energy. Some major industries, such as aluminium smelting, can throttle back demand to reduce pressure during short peak periods of limited supply, but many, such as manufacturing, petrochemicals etc, can not, without having production gaps and workers/plant sit idle. Attempting to run a modern industrial economy using significant wind/solar power is a pipe dream in terms of reliability alone, to say nothing of cost. While Western governments persist in distorting their energy markets with subsidies which do not reduce energy costs nor improve reliability/efficiency, energy costs will rise, industries will fold and jobs and the future’s of our children will move to countries where energy and other costs are cheaper.

    On an entirely unrelated matter /sarc: the Gillard Labor government in Australia introduced a carbon tax on July 1st. Oh, and two Australian aluminium smelters have recently been slated for closure – Newcastle http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-05-23/smelter-close/4027786 and Geelong http://www.theage.com.au/business/hundreds-of-smelter-jobs-at-risk-20120208-1ragj.html. The federal and state governments may put in place a rescue package to keep Geelong open http://minister.innovation.gov.au/gregcombet/MediaReleases/Pages/40millionfundingforPointHenryaluminiumsmelter.aspx. The eternal cycle – Governments: tax – spend foolishly – distort the economy – stuff things up – raise costs and lose tax revenue – spend more on subsidies/handouts to deal with the stuff ups – borrow/put up taxes to deal with lost revenue/handouts – spend even more foolishly – and so ad infinitum – until the collectors knock on the door (e.g. Greece, Ireland, Spain etc). \sarc

    Note: Most smelters have long forward contracts for power supply, and so are immune to immediate cost hikes resulting from such things as carbon tax hikes. So it is probably true to say that the carbon tax did not ’cause’ these plants to close per se. But in tough global economic times and with a strong Australian dollar, the plant owners would have looked at the inexorable and rapid rises in Australian power costs over the last five years – now some of the highest in the World. Carbon taxation, which can move power costs in one direction only, was probably the straw which broke the camel’s back. In an environment of expensive electricity the future for aluminium is bleak and so the operators probably decided to shut up shop. Ironically, Australia will probably end up importing aluminium from countries to which it exports coal (carbon tax free) to generate electricity with. We really are living in the age of stupid.

    Note: I am in the pay of big oil, so please discount all of the above as carbo-centric propaganda

  80. Jimbo says:

    michaeljmcfadden says:
    July 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm
    ……………….
    Plus, while a wind turbine isn’t exactly something that birds would have “evolved” to deal with it seems a bit unlikely that birds wouldn’t be able to avoid a steadily moving object while flying.

    Browse at your leisure. ;-)
    http://www.google.com/search?q=youtube+wind+turbine+bird&btnG=Search

  81. DirkH says:

    michaeljmcfadden says:
    July 7, 2012 at 1:01 am

    “In terms of the N. Africa solar panel farm idea, maybe it shouldn’t be brushed off so quickly. The two main problems are political and (transmission-related) economics. Both could be addressed to at least some extent.”

    I’m sure a UN comittee could mandate sandstorms to stop. /sarc

    “Right now and on into the moderate future the N. African countries are likely getting most of their power from oil. Given the right financial incentives they could easily be persuaded to switch over to solar, built and maintained by Euros, in return for which they would supply their oil more cheaply to Europe. The transmission cost problem would disappear in the process. (Although it would be replaced by the transmission cost of the oil: is that factor figured in when talking about the comparative cost of power transmission through electric lines?).”

    An uneonomic solution stays uneconomic no matter how you shove money around. The darn thing needs to be paid for either way. The oil exporting countries use oil for their energy BECAUSE THEY HAVE OIL. You say for using the MORE EXPENSIVE solar installation they could simply give us better prices? They would LOSE money otherwise they’d be doing it already.

    “Yes, it would leave Europe vulnerable to some extent politically: what if the N. African oil nations decided at some point, “Hey, the damn thing’s built already. Why should we continue giving the Euros the free/cheap oil for it?” BUT… how is that so different than what we presently have? Those same countries could turn around and say “Hey, btw, we’re increasing our “oil tax” by 2,000% right now if they wanted to.”

    In energy markets NOT destroyed by green price-fixing madness, there is COMPETITION and THAT is the ONLY reason they DIDN’t already jack up the prices by 2000%. EVERY supplier will try to MAX OUT his prices. You already pay the maximum prices that are possible.

    I mean, all of this is totally trivial. Mandated energy forms are mandated BECAUSE they are money losers. Otherwise the market would promote them all by itself.

  82. davidmhoffer says:

    michaeljmcfadden says:
    July 7, 2012 at 1:01 am
    Right now and on into the moderate future the N. African countries are likely getting most of their power from oil. Given the right financial incentives they could easily be persuaded to switch over to solar, built and maintained by Euros, in return for which they would supply their oil more cheaply to Europe.
    >>>>>>>>>>>

    Why this makes perfect sense. North Africa winds up dependant on a power infrastructure which is only viable through massive subsidies, which of course, will be available forever. Europe in return gets the illusion of cheap oil because nobody would clue in that the subsidies being paid to support the uneconomical power infrastructure in North Africa are actually part of the cost of the oil. This way both North Africa and Europe wind up paying more than they should for power and whoever runs the scheme makes off with billions and billions in “consulting fees”.

    One of history’s lessons is that schemes like this do far more damage than good, and rarely achieve their goals. But the people that run them make out like bandits at the expense of everyone else. What both Europe and North Africa NEED is democracy, the rule of law, and free market economies. The rest will take care of itself. The strongest economies in the world are those that have the least government interferance.

  83. Paul Schauble says:

    ->RecourceGuy:
    The article gives 90% as the capacity factor of a typical nuclear plant. That’s not too far off.

    Palo Verde plant in Arizona has an actual capacity factor of 84% counting all three units since their initial commerical operation through the end of 2011. Individual units in particular years had capcity factors well over 95%. Since the outages in nuclear plants are infrequent long outages, you could easily say that in a typical year (the mode, not mean) the capacity factor will be over 90%.

    Coal plants operated by the same company averaged a capacity factor of 86% in recent years. The two largest coal plants had capacity factors of 78% and 82% in 2011. This will drop drastically in the near future because of EPA mandated refits.

  84. Bart says:

    Steve P says:
    July 6, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    “The nuclear industry has grown on the back of direct and enormous R&D support. In the United States it received almost 54 percent of all federal research funds between 1948 and 2007.”

    I find the 54% figure dubious, but immaterial regardless. If one assumes that similar funding for windmills and solar panels would make them just as viable, then one must be off one’s rocker.

    The big difference is this: E = mc^2. Nuclear power is actually capable of supplying all of our energy needs within a finite time and using feasible amounts of materials. Because of their low energy density, we could not construct enough windmills and solar panels to provide anywhere near our current consumption within 100 years at current rates of production for the raw materials alone.

    Try it sometime. As an exercise, just calculate the amount of various materials which would be needed to carpet a 100 mile by 100 mile area with solar panels (that’s about 280 billion square feet) and compare to current rates of production. You will generally find the timeline to stretch into centuries. Not gonna’ happen.

  85. davidmhoffer says:
    July 6, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    ….
    “2. I’m not certain where you got the 3.5% number from, I’ve seen both higher and lower. At day’s end however the exact percentage isn’t the biggest part of the issue. The issue relates to sensitivity. The alarmists are of the opinion that even small increases in CO2 will be amplified be secondary effects of changing the CO2 concentration. To date, the data seems to suggest otherwise.”

    Figures for human annual CO2 emissions that I have seen varied a little, from about 2 percent to 5 percent from all sources. It is not too hard to figure out what those human emissions are. They depend on consumption of fuel from all sources. I used 3.5 percent because that is the mean of the estimates I have seen. I don’t know what they IPCC estimates are. I ignore those anyway, because they are not even based on a complete list of all natural sources and probably are wrong with respect to human emissions as well.

    Dr. Murray Salby puts his estimate of annual human CO2 emissions at 5 Gt/year and all CO2 from natural sources at 150 Gt/yer (3.33% of annual emissions). He identifies that human emissions are dependent on global population growth.

    See “Global Emission of CO2: The Contribution From Natural Sources”, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrI03ts–9I&feature=youtu.be (at about 7:20)

    Mike Jonas says:
    July 6, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    “….I do think that the “only 3% of CO2 is man-made” argument is incorrect.”

    I think that I prefer to go by Dr. Murray Salby’s estimate, but I will accept that his figures are wrong if you provide a more credible estimate from a more reputable source.

    In the meantime, my concern remains unanswered. How can anyone justify concerns about human CO2 emissions driving global temperatures when 96.5 percent of annual emissions are from natural sources?

  86. kwik says:

    It is very good to know that the chinese are into Thorium reactors. If they solve all the problems involved, and gets a safe reactor running, it would be fantastic.

  87. nofreewind says:

    >How can anyone justify concerns about human CO2 emissions driving global temperatures when 96.5 percent of annual emissions are from natural sources?

    Because before bad man greedy and wasteful – Mother Earth was in perfect balance. You have pointed out one of the very large holes in the AGW theory.
    And to ponder even more read the pdf CO2 The Houdini of Gases

  88. Allan MacRae says:

    “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.”

    Written by Sallie, Tim and me in 2002 – apparently, that just too difficult to understand.
    Full article at http://www.apegga.org/Members/Publications/peggs/WEB11_02/kyoto_pt.htm

    Ten years and a trillion wasted dollars later, even some of the dimmest politicians are beginning to realize that wind and solar power and corn ethanol are “wasteful, inefficient energy solutions” that “simply cannot replace fossil fuels”.

    Ten years and a trillion wasted dollars later, even some of the dimmest citizens are beginning to realize that we are governed by scoundrels and imbeciles.

  89. Simcoe surfer says:

    Michael, here are some numbers for bird/bat fatalities on Wolfe Island Ont. Brought to you by the company (TransAlta……BIG OIL?) that owns/operates the “wind farm”. I believe that Wolfe Island has the second highest death per turbine rate in north america.
    http://www.transalta.com/sites/default/files/WI-PCM-Report-4_final_July2011.pdf
    But I prefer this link
    http://windfarmrealities.org/?p=1224

  90. Mike M says:

    michaeljmcfadden says: ….seems a bit unlikely that birds wouldn’t be able to avoid a steadily moving object while flying.

    I can tell you firsthand why it is likely and from two totally different perspectives.

    A Barred owl crashed right into the windshield of my motorcycle one evening, (around dusk), while riding along only about 15 to 20 mph. I didn’t see it in time to be able to avoid it; sadly it died of broken neck. I called a local zoo initially to confirm out what kind of owl it was and how it was possible. The person explained that owls have very specialized eyesight that leaves them with excellent binocular vision but poor peripheral vision especially for something appearing nearly stationary at the edge of their field of view, (I was traveling at a worst possible speed). They cannot even rotate their eyes like we can. Once they have prey in sight and begin flight toward their prey – it’s like extreme tunnel vision. They can probably count the hairs on a mouse 200 feet away but do not interpet a motorcycle coming toward an intercept point of their flight 30 to 40 degrees off that line of sight – as a potential threat. (Maybe if I had been going faster it might have noticed me and been able to evade the collision?)

    Flying along at 1500 feet in a small airplane at 110 mph along the coastline I’ve encountered sea gulls that often exhibit a bizarre behavior just about when things start looking ‘dicey’ for each of us when I’ve closed to a ~couple hundred feet. They start trying to fly away in either direction left or right (which would of worked for both of us), but then will oddly and abuptly turn around to fly back in the opposite direction toward my line of flight. What I belive is happening is that their cortical processing is unable to account for something as big as an airplane about to hit them; each eye sees an airplane but their brain thinks there are two airplanes, smaller but much closer than reality and they are trying to avoid both of us. After a couple reversals I’ve already started pulling back on the yoke for three reasons, it slows me down, I can get the greatest acceleration to change my direction in that direction and .. they usually pull their wings in and drop when they go into full panic mode.

    The birdie Cuisinart effect at Altamont Pass is well documented; they’ve estimated 10,000 birds a year with many of those being raptors, bats and other protected species. If Exxon owned the wind farm it would have been shut down a long time ago.

  91. Allan MacRae says:

    Walter H. Schneider says: July 7, 2012 at 2:56 am

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/03/09/apparently-ive-irritated-the-fruit-fly/

    Walter – you are on the right track and so is Murry Salby. I reached the same conclusion as Murry in 2008, although Murry clearly provides more supporting evidence in his 2011 video.

    _____________________________

    My Summary – The “Mainstream” Catastrophic Humanmade Global Warming Debate:

    Conventional climate theory, assuming zero feedback, suggests that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 would result in ~1 degree C of global warming.

    Warming alarmists say there are positive feedbacks to increasing CO2 (and build this assumption aggressively into their climate models), whereas climate skeptics say there are negative feedbacks.

    The skeptics easily win this mainstream debate, because there is no evidence of net positive feedbacks to increased CO2 in the climate system, and ample evidence of negative feedbacks.

    Also, despite increased atmospheric CO2, there has been no net global warming in about a decade.

    The probability therefore is that “climate sensitivity” to a hypothetical doubling of atmospheric CO2 is less than 1 degree C.

    Furthermore, I suspect that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 is unlikely to happen due to human activity – so we can expect much less than 1 degree C of global warming.

    The above ASSUMES that one accepts the premises of the mainstream debate.

    BUT there is perhaps a bigger problem with the mainstream debate:

    Atmospheric CO2 LAGS temperature at all measured time scales, from hundreds of years on a long cycle, to 9 months on a short cycle;
    SO
    the hypothesis that CO2 is a significant driver of global temperature, core to the mainstream debate, apparently assumes that the future is causing the past.

    The popular counterarguments are:
    a) The lag of CO2 after temperature is a “feedback effect”,
    OR
    b) It is clear evidence that time machines really do exist.
    Both counterarguments a) and b) are supported by equal amounts of compelling evidence. :-)

    This thorny point may not be resolved in my lifetime, but I’ll just remind you of some of the assumptions that are near and dear to the hearts and “logic” of the global warming alarmists:
    1. They apparently assume that the Uniformitarian Principle has been especially exempted for their particular brand of “science”.
    2. The also assume that Occam’s Razor can similarly be ignored, apparently again, just for them.

    The increasing desperation of the warming alarmists is evidenced by their evermore Byzantine explanations of the observed flat or cooling global temperatures in this century. What is it this week – aerosols, dust, volcanoes. the appalling scarcity of buffalo farts… the list of farfetched apologia is endless and increasingly pathetic.

    Earlier, there was Mann-made global warming, the “Divergence Problem” and “Hide the Decline”. The list of global warmist chicanery is increasingly long and unprincipled.

    It is notable that not one of the very-scary global warming predictions of the IPCC has materialized. The IPCC has demonstrated negative predictive skill. All its scary predictions have proven false.
    __________________
    If the above post is too political, try this one:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/06/a-reply-shakun-et-al-dr-munchausen-explains-science-by-proxy/#comment-948287

    CO2 lags temperature at all measured time scales from ~~600-800 years in the ice core records on a long temperature-time cycle, to 9 months on a much shorter time scale.
    http://icecap.us/images/uploads/CO2vsTMacRae.pdf

    We really don’t know how much of the recent increase in atmospheric CO2 is natural and how much is manmade – possibilities range from entirely natural (~~600-800 years ago was the Medieval Warm Period) to entirely manmade (the “mass balance argument”). I lean towards mostly natural, but I’m not certain.

    Although this questions is scientifically crucial, it is not that critical to the current “social debate” about alleged catastrophic manmade global warming (CAGW), since it is obvious to sensible people that IF CO2 truly drives temperature, it is an insignificant driver (climate sensitivity to CO2 is very low; “feedbacks” are negative) and minor increased warmth and increased atmospheric CO2 are both beneficial to humanity AND the environment.

    In summary, the “climate skeptics” are trouncing the warming alarmists in the “mainstream CAGW debate”.

    Back to the crucial scientific question – is the current increase in atmospheric CO2 largely natural or manmade?

    Please see this 15fps AIRS data animation of global CO2 at
    http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a003500/a003562/carbonDioxideSequence2002_2008_at15fps.mp4

    It is difficult to see the impact of humanity in this impressive display of nature’s power.

    All I can see is the bountiful impact of Spring, dominated by the Northern Hemisphere with its larger land mass, and some possible ocean sources and sinks.

    I’m pretty sure all the data is there to figure this out, and I suspect some already have – perhaps Jan Veizer and colleagues.

  92. anticlimactic says:

    If wind and solar are good at producing free energy why would they require subsidies? If free energy were produced in sufficient quantities there would be vast amounts of investment money ready and waiting with no hint of subsidies. Subsidies simply prove they are failed technologies.

    The best reason to promote wind and solar is as a means to destroy wealth. For those who want to stop progress and de-industrialise it is perfect, and it works! Much of Europe’s current woes are due to wealth wasted on fighting climate, and the descent of California is well reported. Australia has just jumped on the bandwagon, but may jump off again after the next election.

    It will be interesting to see if Canada succeeds in escaping these shackles, or whether the electorate votes for a return to a new dark age – in a literal sense!

  93. michaeljmcfadden says:

    Interesting, informative, and well-argued replies on both the turbines and the solar thought! That’s why I like this place!

    :>
    MJM

  94. _Jim says:

    John Slayton says July 6, 2012 at 8:57 pm
    …:

    Texas…. Hmm. We talking Brownsville or Amarillo?

    Silicon Gultch – DFW area. 33 degrees North Latitude. Original home to Texas Instruments, SouthWest Airlines etc. A point ‘further south’ than Los Angeles; Sun reaches a point nearly overhead these days (summer) owing to the tilt in our Earth’s rotational axis relative to its orbital ‘plane’ around our sun.

    (Clue was left with these last characters in my post: “nc Texas”, indicating the north central Texas area which includes Dallas and Ft Worth … Amarillo of course is in the ‘Panhandle’ and we are in what had traditionally called ‘North’ Texas …)

    .

  95. M Simon says:

    I see the dreaded “libertarians” have been mentioned. So lets do some political science and compare the libertarians of today with the Conservatives of 1900. Uh. Jeeze. Hard to tell them apart. Since this is not a political blog I will go no further. But you can do your own research.

    BTW I’m a Conservative – 1900 style.

  96. Ric Werme says:

    Dennis Cox says:
    July 6, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    “It takes several lifetimes to put a new energy system into place”

    Nah! It only took me a couple of weeks to install enough solar panels, batteries, inverters, and charge controllers to be able to tell the power company they can put their smart meter someplace the sun doesn’t shine. …

    “sustainable power” is only a question of scale. One home at a time works just fine. I don’t need to produce enough power to light the whole damn county. Just my own house.

    The context of the quote was global, or at least national. My employer is quite happy with dealing with local utilities for managing load – except for our data centers, but the newest one was sited someplace with costs in mind.

    My fellow employees get annoyed when the HVAC system switches to night mode – at 1630. We’d revolt if there were rolling shutdowns of some of our server and test systems on high load days or when a power is shutdown for maintenance.

    Of course individual and remote energy systems work, especially if the goal is to not write a monthly check to the utility company or to run an extension cord to geosynchronous orbit.

  97. Asmilwho says:

    Hallo tonyb & davidmhoffer

    I take issue mainly with the comment from Vaclav Smil regarding “incessantly raining” , which it most certainly doesn’t. Sorry if that wasnt clear.

  98. Ric Werme says:

    Speaking of alternative energy, this is a good place for an Andreas Rossi and E-Cat update.

    The hype/claim of the month is that Rossi has high temperature (600°C) reactors running. If they or better designs are manufacturable, there will be no reason to run a wind farm. Well, there’s no reason to run a wind farm now except for the subsidies, but that’s getting OT.

    Various headlines/links/notes, take all with a large dose of salt like ThF or whatever the formula for thorium flouride is.

    http://www.mydigitalpublication.com/display_article.php?id=1104768 has a guest editorial from the Journal of Petroleum Technology which shows that some of the petro industry is watching LENR in general:

    Guest Editorial – the Precipice Of a New Energy Source?

    Steve Jacobs, COO, and Patrick Leach, CEO, Decision Strategies, and David J. Nagel, CEO, NUCAT Energy

    The potential new source of energy is low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR). With any discussion of a new technology, caution is advised. The world of LENR is filled with mystery, contradiction, gross speculation, misinformation, slippery timelines, and skepticism that sometimes spill over into outright denial. Healthy skepticism on LENR (or any new technology) is a good thing, but so is an open mind. If LENR is for real – and many well-qualified physicists believe it is – it will not only change the petroleum industry, but also significantly affect almost every aspect of our world. Some call it “the new fire.”

    If proven to work, what impact would LENR have on the petroleum industry? It is difficult to say for certain, but it would undoubtedly be significant. The vast preponderance of oil is used for transportation and heating (Fig. 1) [not at website], which would now be competing with LENR. While there still would be a need for petrochemicals and other applications, collectively these end uses represent less than about 20% of each barrel. Natural gas would not fare much better; its main applications are heating and electricity. If LENR works, the impact on the petroleum industry, power generation, and coal industry would be enormous. Even wind farms and other emerging alternative energy technologies could not compete economically with LENR.

    So what can be done to prepare for LENR? First, watch it closely and do not let skepticism blind you. When the Wright Brothers flew their first plane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the scientific community reportedly argued for years after the fact over whether a heavier-than-air craft could actually fly. Even the most obvious evidence was not enough to make some people abandon their preconceived notions of what was possible. Drake had to battle similar skepticism when he drilled the first oil well; many people in Pennsylvania called it “Drake’s Folly.”

    The following is mostly self explanatory. Rossi calls his detractors “snakes.”

    http://www.e-catworld.com/2012/06/rossi-approx-20-reactors-running-above-600c/ says in toto (except for the 272 comments):

    Rossi: Approx 20 E-Cat Reactors Running Above 600C
    June 24, 2012

    We’re used to Andrea Rossi making statements about his work on the Journal of Nuclear Physics web site. Some are more dramatic than others, and this latest one could be considered more on the dramatic side:

    Italo R.
    June 24th, 2012 at 10:42 AM
    Dear dr. Rossi, in these hot summer days we all are sweating.
    What about you, near your 600 °C device?
    Warm (or, better, fresh) regards…
    Italo R.
    -
    Andrea Rossi
    June 24th, 2012 at 1:37 PM
    Dear Italo R.:
    Actually, I am in the USA, close to 20 reactors working above 600 Celsius. We must collect at least 20 000 hours of test. This is not sweating: this is vaporizing, as correctly the snakes say.
    Soon (weeks) we will publish the report of the high temperature reactor validation.
    Warm Regards,
    A.R.

    If we take Rossi at his word here, the fact that he says there are “close to 20″ reactors suggests that Rossi has been able replicate this high temperature effect successfully. If 20,000 hours of testing are required, it would take 20 reactors about 42 days to reach that cumulative total.

    Rossi says that these reactors are running “above” 600 C – how high above, we are not told. Also, he mentions that the published report will be a ‘validation’. Taken literally, that would suggest that there could be some 3rd party signing off on the data, but sometimes Rossi’s English can’t be taken as a perfect translation of what he means. Anyway, it looks like we’re going to have to wait at least a few weeks more, however, for more details on all this.

    (I hope the double blockquotes worked.)

    One complaint about Rossi’s work style is his zealous guarding of his devices. Call it intellectual property, or no perceived need for what he knows works, it’s the source of a lot of flak. So far, things are still under wraps, but, he says outside folks are evaluating the high temperature reactors. http://www.e-catworld.com/2012/07/rossi-third-parties-will-validate-high-temperature-e-cats/ says in part:

    Rossi: Third Parties Will Validate High Temperature E-Cats
    July 5, 2012

    Many people have been wondering about how the upcoming tests on the high temperature E-Cats are being performed, and now Andrea Rossi has stated in unambiguous language that an outside entity is carrying out the tests. On the Journal of Nuclear Physics today, [Rossi's blog, so named due to hassles getting other papers accepted for publications in real journals], Bernie Koppenhofer asked:

    There has been a lot of speculation on this site and other LENR sites about whether the statistics about your new 600c reactor will be validated/Confirmed by your customer or third party. Will it be?

    Andrea Rossi replied:

    Yes, the validation of the high temperature reactors is made by third parties.

    Rossi has said that the results of the testing will be published “within weeks” on the Journal of Nuclear Physics.

  99. M Simon says:

    SAMURAI July 6, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Roughly 80% of the cost of any power plant is not the thermal generator. It is the BOP. Now if Polywell works the BOP may be a direct conversion device lowering the BOP by 50% or more. So far all we know is that the work continues (it has gone gray – US Navy is doing the work). Even if the fuel is free thermal plants are not coming down much in price. And then you have to pay for transmission no matter what.

    So cheap you don’t have to meter – at the plant – may be true. But you need to meter users to allocate fixed costs. TINSTAAFL.

  100. M Simon says:

    “sustainable power” is only a question of scale. One home at a time works just fine. I don’t need to produce enough power to light the whole damn county. Just my own house.

    Well yes. For a house. Fine. But houses only account for about 50% +/- of living space. And then there is the energy required for the industrial system. About equal to residential requirements. Now you are down to 25% of energy reqmts. if every single house had the eqpt. And then there is the cost of the sq ft needed to support the added infrastructure at the home.

    BTW what is the NPV of your set up? Most folks find that it is cheaper to buy the metered stuff.

  101. Phil C says:

    There is a modicum of realistic argument for installing a small solar array on individual houses. Without any subsidies a 5-6kWh installation will produce about 10,000 kWh a year. Depending on where you live that is roughly $1200-2400 a year. The plant costs around $35000, so it can pay for itself, and then some, over a life span of 20-30 years. The big plus from a energy policy standpoint is that the output almost exactly matches the airconditioning usage which is a plus for keeping the electric grid balanced. At least some states recognize this benefit and require the electric utility to utilize some percentage of solar or renewable energy in the portfolio. The homeowner can another $1000 or so a year by selling the solar energy credits to the utility. The ROI isn’t great, but on a par with a good quality bond fund and a heck of a lot better than Treasury bonds. It all depends on the exact detail of current and expected utility rates and the total installed cost, but I suspect most places south of Detroit get enough sunshine to make it work.

  102. M Simon says:

    Philip Peake July 6, 2012 at 7:36 pm,

    The “baby month” comes most often from “The Mythical Man Month” by Brooks. An excellent book on high tech management BTW. The short version – it is very difficult to speed up a late project by adding bodies. Best to get staffing levels as close to correct as you can from the start.

  103. John Slayton says:

    Jim, if you’re still there, I’d be interested in how much of your power usage is attributable to water heating, and how much could that be reduced by using a heat pump water heater. (Assuming you haven’t already done that.)

    I looked at UzUrBrain’s link. (http://www.csudh.edu/oliver/smt310-handouts/solarpan/solarpan.htm) A lot of good real-life information there, and apparently being kept current to provide a multi-year experience record. However, I think the basic installation is seriously dated, particularly as to panel efficiency (much less area now needed) and initial costs.

  104. kcrucible says:

    “Electrical Engineers tend to have a higher regard for mechanical engineers than civil engineers because, after all, “Mechanical engineers build weapons, civil engineers build targets.”

    There’s also the fact that there are hierarchies of difficulty in classes. I wasn’t aware of any civil engineer at my school (though I’m sure there were some) that didn’t start as a Mechanical Engineer and decide it was just too hard/not for them and redirected into Civil. Similar, but not as dramatic, EE washouts tended to become Computer Science majors.

  105. climatetruthinitiative says:

    Perry-
    Interesting story about the rescued Japanese nobori. As for the year 1966 and “Sunshine Water Heating Company”, that might have been advertising for roof-top solar water heaters. They were a common sight when I first travelled through Japan in 1970 and they are still a very common sight throughout the Japanese countryside (or were the last time I travelled in Japan).

    IanM

  106. A quick “ctrl-f” of all the comments above reveals no mention of EROEI, Energy Returned On Energy Invested. Yes, I am a broken record on this issue. But this IS THE ISSUE when it comes to alternative energy.

    You would not expend 3 barrels of oil to find one barrel But that is precisely what wind power is all about.

    Even if solar pv panels were given away, the energy required to manufacture and install the balance of the infrastructure needed for solar pv electric generation can never be recovered. So, why do these numbskull politicians keep trying to repeal the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

  107. Allan MacRae says:

    anticlimactic says: July 7, 2012 at 4:39 am
    “It will be interesting to see if Canada succeeds in escaping these shackles, or whether the electorate votes for a return to a new dark age – in a literal sense!”

    Canada has recently withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol – we adopted Kyoto under the kleptocracy of former PM Jean Chretien (big programs like Kyoto create more opportunities for big graft).

    Ontario continues to embrace nonsensical wind and solar schemes and has become a have-not province, after 200 years of prosperity.

    Quebec, which is hydro-rich, continues to beg for handouts based on its low CO2 footprint and it’s fifty-year tradition of economic parasitism – plus can change…

    Alberta carries the entire country economically, based on the prosperity provided by the much-maligned Athabasca oilsands.

    The scoundrels and imbeciles of the enviro movement continue their campaign to starve North American consumers of energy by opposing pipelines to distribute oil produced from the oilsands.

    One result of the enviros’ campaign is more crude oil being shipped by rail, which is much more likely to increase the volume of spills.

    Another result is much higher gasoline costs for those parts of the USA and Canada that have to import much more expensive crude from abroad. Saudi and Brent (UK) crude has recently been priced at $12-25 more per barrel than WTI (USA).

  108. Gail Combs says:
    July 6, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Gail, thank you for all of those references. Your long list contained a couple of entries I had not yet come across or read.

    “…That should keep you reading for a week or so…”

    Your suggestion misses the point of my question, but perhaps that is my fault, because I did not make myself sufficiently clear.

    I am not concerned about finding confirmation of the fact that human CO2 emissions cannot possibly be the culprit when it comes to global warming or that all such assertions are a hoax, part of a hoax and a fraud. My concern is based on the following observations. Given that,

    1.) Anthropogenic CO2 emissions comprise a minuscule fraction of annual CO2 emissions from all sources;
    2.) The subject of anthropogenic CO2 emissions has been examined well and for many years, by many reputable scientists, the result of those examinations being the conclusion that the minuscule fraction of total annual anthropogenic CO2 emissions cannot possibly be the driving force for global temperature trends, and that
    3.) Prof. Vaclav Smil, the author of the lead-in article in this discussion thread nevertheless erroneously assumed anthropogenic CO2 emissions to be the culprit in his otherwise excellent analysis of futile and and varyingly expensive methods for the mitigation of the consequences of anthropogenic CO2 emissions through development of energy generation from alternative sources (on account of which wrongful assertion I cannot see for the life of me why he should be celebrated as a skeptic, as his key-assumption about the cause of global warming is fundamentally flawed), therefore

    the question remains why it is that anyone should worry about something that cannot possibly be harmful for the simple reason that it is minuscule and totally insignificant, namely the wrongfully alleged controlling role of ill effects of anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

    Vaclav Smil’s basic assumption is fundamentally flawed. It should not be accepted, used or promoted by anyone. Any solution for a non-existent problem is wrong, no matter how advantageous it may seem compared to other alternatives — all of which are logically wrong as well and have no justification.

    What purpose does it serve to discuss the economic justification and accuracy of the cost estimates shown in Vavlav Smil’s analysis? All of the alternatives discussed are solutions for a non-existent problem!

  109. Roger Sowell says:

    @. Charles S. Opalek, PE on July 7, 2012 at 8:40 am
    A quick “ctrl-f” of all the comments above reveals no mention of EROEI, Energy Returned On Energy Invested. Yes, I am a broken record on this issue. But this IS THE ISSUE when it comes to alternative energy.

    —————-

    It is because EROEI is immaterial. Economics is material. As an example, if EROEI was the criterion, no electric power plant would ever be built or run. At 33 percent efficiency, you burn 3 units of energy (natural gas) to yield one unit of energy (electricity).

    There are far worse examples: burning diesel fuel in compression engines to turn an electric generator. One burns far more than 3 units of energy to produce one unit of electricity in these systems.

    Economics is all that matters, provided that safety is not an issue.

  110. Allan MacRae says:

    Charles S. Opalek, PE says: July 7, 2012 at 8:40 am
    A quick “ctrl-f” of all the comments above reveals no mention of EROEI, Energy Returned On Energy Invested. Yes, I am a broken record on this issue. But this IS THE ISSUE when it comes to alternative energy.

    Absolutely correct Charles – I wrote in this issue in 2002 and 2003 and coined the term Negative on Net Energy (NONE) to describe the follies of grid-connected wind and solar power.

  111. michaeljmcfadden says:

    Hmm… with all these alternative energy knowledgeable type folks here, I wonder if I may float an idea that’s been bugging me for years? Basically, a big problem with energy efficient housing is limited ventilation. Ventilation is limited largely because it’s so inefficient to keep cooling/heating massive quantities of air from the temperature differentials in the air outside. My idea (which may, for all I know, already be in common use in modern housing) is to pipe air in through a slightly underground ductwork fitted with thermal fins so that by the time the ductwork rises to go up into the living area the outdoor air will have been significantly heated/cooled by the ground under the house (with that heat/lack-of-heat conducted away into the earth.) The .5 house-unit-per-hour(HUPH) air exchange could then be replaced by something more like a 1 or 2 HUPH deliberate air input without as great an impact on heating and cooling.

    Are they already doing that sort of thing out there? If not, and if someone here makes a bazillion bux on it, can I get 1%?

    :>
    MJM

  112. Todd says:

    There is an assumption, sometimes stated and sometimes unstated, that Solar will get cheaper over time, and will eventually be as cheap as Coal/Gas/Nuclear,

    “Without these subsidies, renewable energy plants other than hydroelectric and geothermal ones can’t yet compete with conventional generators.”

    “The nuclear industry has grown on the back of direct and enormous R&D support. In the United States it received almost 54 percent of all federal research funds between 1948 and 2007.”

    But it won’t. Ever.

    There are several sources of improvement that make things cheaper over time. Improvements in the underlying design, improvements in manufacturing processes, and economies of scale, but there is one other that usually goes unstated, but is in the back of every green weenies mind, which is costs reductions in computers. The cost reductions in computers are possible, because you can reduce the size of a transistor in an integrated circuit, and it is not just as good, it is actually better. It uses less electrical power, and it can switch faster.

    But this scaling down which works in integrated circuits does not work in anything else that I know of. So the improvements in cost and function that we see in computers, will never occur in wind turbines or solar cells.

    There will be minor improvements in basic design, manufacturing process, and economies of scale, but no amount of Research and Development is going to make more than a few per cent improvement in functioning.

    It does not make economic sense now, and it never will. Not in the 21st century, and not in the 31st century.

  113. Claude Harvey says:

    kcrucible says:
    July 7, 2012 at 8:25 am

    “There’s also the fact that there are hierarchies of difficulty in classes. I wasn’t aware of any civil engineer at my school (though I’m sure there were some) that didn’t start as a Mechanical Engineer and decide it was just too hard/not for them and redirected into Civil. Similar, but not as dramatic, EE washouts tended to become Computer Science majors.”

    To add to the meanness, there was Chemical Engineering for those who stalled out on “dynamic mechanics 201″. The pacifists might appreciate that Chem E’s (in general) can’t calculate the evil trajectory of that despised artillery shell (although on second thought, they might design a noxious load to be placed inside that projectile). And then there were the incentives for transferring to “Industrial Engineering”. Blessed memories.

  114. Roger Sowell says:

    @ Todd:

    Exactly. Computer chip economics do not apply to solar cells. Cell efficiency is already some number around 20 or 30, I have not looked for a while. But it is never going to double then double again then double yet again. That would exceed 100 percent efficiency. Not going to happen.

  115. Allan MacRae says:
    July 7, 2012 at 4:01 am

    Walter H. Schneider says: July 7, 2012 at 2:56 am

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/03/09/apparently-ive-irritated-the-fruit-fly/

    Walter – you are on the right track and so is Murry Salby. I reached the same conclusion as Murry in 2008, although Murry clearly provides more supporting evidence in his 2011 video.

    Thank you for that. I understand that Murray Salby hopes to have a paper published in which he expounds his analysis of the relative importance or lack thereof, of the CO2 contributions from natural sources (96.5 percent of annual emissions) vs. CO2 contributions from anthropogenic sources (3.5 percent of annual emissions).

    Thank you also for this:

    Please see this 15fps AIRS data animation of global CO2 at
    http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a003500/a003562/carbonDioxideSequence2002_2008_at15fps.mp4

    It is difficult to see the impact of humanity in this impressive display of nature’s power.
    All I can see is the bountiful impact of Spring, dominated by the Northern Hemisphere with its larger land mass, and some possible ocean sources and sinks.

    I’m pretty sure all the data is there to figure this out, and I suspect some already have – perhaps Jan Veizer and colleagues.

    The colours for the display of the global distribution of atmospheric CO2 cover a range of 12ppm (from 363ppm to 386ppm) cover the spectrum from a deep, cool blue to a vivid read. That, of course, produces a map that fits the purpose. It shows increasingly more alarming expanses of bright-red colour covering the globe as the years go by.

    All that the map display illustrates is that global CO2 emissions are well-mixed, with local variation being rather insignificant, whereas overall global levels of CO2 increase inexorably to ever larger and ever more alarming red expanses.

    That “evidence”, whatever it may portend, leaves me to wonder what the colour scheme for that map will change to for CO2 levels that will without a doubt grow to 400 ppm and beyond.

    The human signature in all of that can, of course, not be detected. As of now no one has managed to devise a method by which a human signature in the geographical distribution of CO2 can be detected, except for one thing, but that is something that is so obvious that it will probably never be promoted as avidly as the increasingly ever more red expanse of CO2.

    Why does no one show what really matters, the beneficial impact of CO2, the consequences of which could be shown in a similar animation which depicts, say, the geographic distribution of the annual changes and increases of the volume of the global flora?

  116. Resourceguy says:

    Hey, I would write and post my own energy market post but the undertaking is more on the scale of a book or series of books along the lines of Dan Yergin’s The Quest (2011) and The Prize (2008). For now let’s just say that the capacity load factor numbers are misleading and that they cycle over time with market conditions, technical issues, and fuel cost swings. The load capacity of U.S. nuclear might be expected to go up from 60 percent in the 1980s to 89 percent in 2011 because of 1) decommissionings of the one-of-a-kind designs, 2) ratepayer-funded retrofits over the decades, and 3) timing of regulatory cycles for retrofits. That last issue of regulatory changes can also hit coal-fired generation capacity and make their capacity factors look low during more ratepayer-funded changes or plant conversions to combined cycle gas capacity. These regulatory and some would say political science-based changes of plants should not be construed as some technical factor of capacity load as if we are saying boiler plate coal plants are somehow becoming inefficient over time where once they made nuclear plants look pathetic for reliability. Beyond these factors we also have the don’t-ask-don’t-tell statistic of zero capacity utilization of permanent nuclear waste storage for spend fuel rods that pile up on site at these supposedly highly efficient nuclear generating stations. See NEI for some basic statistics and one long-term chart of capacity factor and EIA list of shutdowns.
    http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/graphicsandcharts/performancestatistics/

    http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/nuc_reactors/shutdown.html

  117. Tsk Tsk says:

    John Slayton, I’m skeptical of your usage claims. In order for a 2kW array to meet your annual needs you’ve made other lifestyle changes. Your computers are probably quite low powered and most likely laptops. I’m guessing your TV is more along the lines of what Europeans would use, i.e. 42″ is considered large, and all of your lighting is CFL. I can tell you that the floods alone in my kitchen/great room burn ~500W. Aside from the size I’m confident that my house is significantly more efficient than yours as I have both GSHP for HVAC and base hot water (~120F boosted by a second electric water heater to 135F) and my house is ICF with triple pane windows. Where I do suffer is that I have my own well, so I have to raise all of my water myself. The low end of my usage with fair weather (no heating or cooling) is 1500kWh. The high end in the winter time is ~3300. Your system, assuming 100% utilization and perfect weather generates 720kWh/mo or not even half of my best case usage.

    Sorry, I don’t buy it; at least not without some twisted feed-in tariff.

  118. usJim says:

    John Slayton says:
    July 7, 2012 at 8:21 am
    Jim, if you’re still there, I’d be interested in how much of your power usage is attributable to water heating, and how much could that be reduced by using a heat pump water heater. (Assuming you haven’t already done that.)

    John, not an appreciable amount compared to what is used just for the A/C and other applicances; about this time each year the water heater can be/is turned off as a matter of fact since the water from the city has warmed to the point of no longer being ‘cold’ and I still use a little over 1 MWh of electricity during the months of July and August … if anything, I would like to chill the water coming from the tap! It’s not like having well-water where one sees water at say 50 deg F year round …

    .

  119. the1pag says:

    Solar energy subsidies come in at least two ugly forms — direct and hidden. The direct form that is generally provided by governments but is funded by taxpayers is bad enough. The hidden subsidy is the most pernicious because it is buried in the electric bill from the utility that serves its customers, and most of them have no idea how excessive it is. Here in NJ where I live, any excess power not used by the owner of the solar panel(s) can be fed into the grid at 4 to 6 times the retail market cost of the power produced by comercial conventional generation. This excessive charge is folded into the rate charged by the public electric utility. Without these extreme taxpayer and consumer-ripoff subsidies, simple uneconomics would kill most new solar energy projects here.

  120. Bart says:

    Walter H. Schneider says:
    July 7, 2012 at 2:56 am

    “How can anyone justify concerns about human CO2 emissions driving global temperatures when 96.5 percent of annual emissions are from natural sources?”

    Short answer: The Warmists believe that nature is balanced on the edge of a knife. Nature just happens to sequester precisely as much as it puts out, and these quantities, how much it puts in and how much it takes out, are fixed and immutable. You can think of it like a fountain with a pump at the bottom which pushes the water up to fall back into the fountain. Assuming no evaporation or splashing outside of the fountain, the level of water in the basin stays the same. Then, humans come along and start pouring water into the fountain, and the level in the basin rises by the accumulated human input.

    Longer answer: Even the warmists know this picture is incomplete. There is a drain in the fountain – some fraction of the incoming CO2 is sequester away at least semi-permanently. The Warmist contention is that the drain is small, and there is additional input from non-human sources which balances it out. So, to their thinking, it isn’t the 96.5% number, which is the ratio of all natural input to total human and natural input, upon which you should focus. It is the ratio of natural input which specifically counteracts the “drain” to human+counteracting natural which matters, and they contend this number is small.

    There are several reasons, however, that this cannot be so. For one, the natural flows are quite variable, and more than an order of magnitude greater than human inputs. Thus, it takes only a small amount of natural variation to swamp the human contribution entirely. Such variability, with the tiny “drain” they envision, would create a highly variable atmospheric concentration, which runs counter to their claim that CO2 levels were uniform for thousands of years. This claim is founded on measurements taken from ice cores, based on a hypothesis about how CO2 gets trapped in the layers of ice. However, we have no way of validating this ice core hypothesis, as we have no other measurements which agree with it to check it against, no “control” experiment, if you will. The ice core measurements are assumed to be the best because they seem logically straightforward and, inter alia, support the scenario of rising atmospheric CO2 concentration due to humans.

    There is also straightforward evidence which says it cannot be so. If we look at a plot of the time rate of change of CO2 concentration versus the global temperature anomaly metric with respect to a particular baseline, we see that they are effectively proportional to one another. This says that the direction of causality is temperature to CO2. Additionally, the only things you need to predict CO2 concentration are: starting concentration, temperature anomaly, and the scale factor and baseline offset – you just take the starting concentration and cumulatively sum the offset and scaled temperature anomaly. In other words, human inputs are extraneous and superfluous – their effect on overall concentration is negligible, and you do not need them to get a very good estimate of atmospheric CO2 concentration given temperature.

    What this means is that the “small drain” hypothesis is wrong. The drain is large, and it readily sucks in the human inputs as well as much greater natural inputs than assumed. While the Warmist hypothesis could happen, that is not the Earth upon which we live, and humans have very little effect on overall CO2 concentration.

  121. Allan MacRae says:

    Walter H. Schneider says: July 7, 2012 at 9:58 am
    “The human signature in all of that can, of course, not be detected.”

    Certainly NOT in industrial areas Walter. But in deforested areas, perhaps it can.

    See Murry Salby’s video at time 10:38 – the major global CO2 sources are apparently NOT in industrial areas – they are in equatorial areas where deforestation is occurring.

    The greens’ agenda is to spread a falsehood – to blame big bad industry for killing the planet, when in fact more atmospheric CO2 is sourced in non-industrialized areas that are subject to deforestation.

    Whether increased atmospheric CO2 is bad or good is yet another question, for which the correct answer may be quite different from the current fashionable fad.

    Finally, North America, with its vast tracts of growing forests, is probably a net sink for CO2, not a net source.

  122. Allan MacRae says:

    P.S. Walter, I also agree with Bart above – I wrote on this subject in 2008.

    I discovered then that dCO2/dt changes ~contemporaneously with temperature and atmospheric CO2 lags temperature by ~9 months.

  123. oeman50 says:

    Dennis Cox says:
    July 6, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    “It takes several lifetimes to put a new energy system into place”

    Nah! It only took me a couple of weeks to install enough solar panels, batteries, inverters, and charge controllers to be able to tell the power company they can put their smart meter someplace the sun doesn’t shine. And for those who think a solar system won’t work in places where they get a lot of rain, all I can say is that ours does a good job of supplying enough power both to run the house, and charge the batteries during the day. And it does so rain or shine as long as the sun is up. We run on the batteries at night

    “sustainable power” is only a question of scale. One home at a time works just fine. I don’t need to produce enough power to light the whole damn county. Just my own house.

    =============================================

    Good for you, Dennis. You made a decision and spent your own money and sweat to make your power system. No /sarc, here

    However, I imagine government subsidies had nothing to do with defraying the costs (now invoke the /sarc). And the energy you consume in your own homestead does not begin to cover the energy required to produce and transport your solar panels, inverters and batteries (try running an aluminum smelter on solar power). And what about the other amenities we expect in our lives? Internet server farms, broadcast TV/radio, even the local grocery. And the square footage to solarize everyone living in high rises and cities? Fuggetabout it! There is some low hanging fruit that will work for the use of renewables, but the transformation of the entire energy system? Hmmmm. Ask Germany in about 8 years.

  124. DirkH says:

    oeman50 says:
    July 7, 2012 at 1:22 pm
    “Ask Germany in about 8 years.”

    I can tell you already what you will find. It follows the principle “Add insult to injury”. First, all electricity users get ripped off to the tune of 200 EUR/yr to pay for the solar installations of the do-gooders; and in 8 or 10 or 20 years they will very smugly point to the “success” of their visionary actions like they already do today, explaining to us that only through their contraptions the electricity price at the exchange drops (when wind or solar deliver abundantly) – which is of course meaningless to the end consumer as he pays a much bigger surplus for the cross subsidy as he could gain through these price drops.

    Besides, Germany will do just fine; the loss in GDP through reduced growth through capital misallocation is manageable for us. Much worse, the German green cult has been exported to the rest of the EU, wind turbines in Ireland and Portugal, Solar in Spain, Italy and Greece, this continues right now even though these countries are already technically broke, and like in Germany, the local ratepayers get ripped off.

    When you’re unemployed and on benefits or without income that stings a little harder… During the last EU summit a week ago a 120 bn “infrastructure” stimulus was decided; this will, as is SOP in the EU, go largely into wind + solar IN THE BROKE COUNTRIES. The madness continues. The first rule of holes comes to mind; but it seems to be unknown in Berlin and Brussels.

  125. Bart says:
    July 7, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks for the good explanation of the variations and changing balances of the carbon cycle as reflected in atmospheric CO2 trends.

    I understand that and have read extensively about it, exactly because it appears impossible that the minuscule human CO2 emissions (3.5 percent of annual emissions from all sources — man-made as well as natural) can be the driving force in climate change.

    Nevertheless, and I hate to persist in pointing this out, it is absurd that in the face of such good and solid, logic reasoning there can be anyone, especially amongst climate scientists, who obstinately clings to a belief that defies all logic. They are the true deniers, and Vaclav Smil, the author of the lead-in article for this discussion thread, should not be assigned the honourable lable “skeptic”. He is, after all, a true denier (at best ill-informed) of the solidly reasonable conclusion that mankind is not to be blamed for climate change on account of CO2 emissions, but that the blame doubtlessly lies with Mother Nature, if blame must be laid on anyone’s shoulders.

    However, blaming anyone is another ludicrous proposition, given that CO2 is a natural, ubiquitous fertilizer, the dearth of which has without a doubt frequently contributed to the famines that afflicted mankind throughout history.

    It’s a good thing that we finally see higher levels of atmospheric CO2 level that have measurably and substantially increased agricultural production in modern times. The promotion of expensive schemes for the mitigation of a non-problem is more than somewhat irrational and no doubt outright inhuman.

  126. Bart says:

    Walter H. Schneider says:
    July 7, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that, until atmospheric concentration either starts rising faster than human inputs or reverses course, the fact that humans have little effect on CO2 will not gain much traction. It’s just the reality of human nature: most people are superficial, scientists included, and though they may understand the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, they don’t think it applies to them. They feel that it’s too incredible a coincidence, when in fact, it is no more than a coin toss – emissions came up heads, and concentration indicates heads, too. Case closed (along with their minds).

  127. Olaf Koenders says:

    @michaeljmcfadden:
    “..Plus, while a wind turbine isn’t exactly something that birds would have “evolved” to deal with it seems a bit unlikely that birds wouldn’t be able to avoid a steadily moving object while flying.”

    I used to think exactly the same way, but evidence shows otherwise and has many examples:

  128. John D. says:

    Germany has proven it’s possible with significant production of domestic renewable energy…we’re being left in the dust. Israel is doing it. China is leading in R&D and production. We’ll continue borrowing money from China to fund Oil-Strategy Wars, until we need to borrow from China, to buy from China, to catch up with Germany. Way to Go Team USA!!

  129. Allan MacRae says:

    John D. says: Pulp Fiction!
    July 7, 2012 at 9:20 pm

  130. Mark says:

    Doug Proctor says:

    The naive idealism is why scientists shouldn’t, in a Wellsian world, rule it. Friction in any theoretical system is zero, and if it isn’t zero today, then with advances in technology, it will be. Real soon.

    Sounds like a metric for distinguishing ‘science’ from ‘engineering’ would be needed here.
    There are also plenty of cases where friction is essential to the correct operation of a machine :)

  131. Allan MacRae says:

    Roger Sowell says: July 7, 2012 at 8:59 am

    I stand corrected, to a significant degree, by your post Roger – thank you.

    Economics IS paramount, whereas EROEI is a only useful secondary parameter, to be used with discretion.

  132. Brian H says:

    Walter H. Schneider says:
    July 6, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Well, all of those comments provide interesting insights and observations, but I still don’t understand why we must worry about anthropogenic CO2 emissions being a controlling problem with respect to CO2 causing rising global temperatures. How can 3.5 percent of annual global CO2 emissions cause so much havoc that the remaining 96.5 percent of annual CO2 emissions from natural sources can be ignored?

    There are at least 2 parts to the answer.
    1. Rising CO2 (which may be due to human activity, or may be a hundreds+ of years lagged response to sea temperature increase long ago) has boosted agricultural yields significantly this century. Some havoc, right?
    2. If emissions (human and natural) shrank significantly, atmospheric CO2 would drop, and your crops would starve. As I’m sure you’re aware, at noon over/in a cornfield, e.g., CO2 is pretty much zero, as is growth. They await some breezes to move new supplies in, and a drop in sunshine, before they can catch up! Personally, I suggest trickle-irrigation with soda water to keep them supplied all day long!! ;)

  133. Bart says:

    John D. says:
    July 7, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    In actual fact, it is we who will be leaving them in the dust, because they have chosen to pursue an uneconomical and inefficient means of providing their power. Well, Germany and other European economies anyway. Israel has recently hit a mother lode of fossil fuels, and will no doubt be taking advantage of it. Formerly, they were driven to find other solutions because they had to get fossil fuels from hostile or, at best, luke-warm trading partners.

    Don’t believe all the press release hype. Alternatives have grown in the German mix largely because conventional sources shrank dramatically after they shuttered half their nuclear capacity, and they have done an about face from being a net energy exporter to an energy importer. It will end badly.

  134. allohm says:

    Let me share a thought as well: being economically sensible is a huge matter and not so straightforward. Has one ever thought that all fossil fuel generating methods imply a political risk ie the fact that they are not infinite or everywhere and that you get enslaved to your supplier? And yes if you own the fuel (oil, gas, etc) everything is ok, what if not?

  135. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:

    Roger Sowell says:
    July 6, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Smart guys figured out how to do directional drilling with fracking, and tapped into enormous reserves of oil and gas. Prices for gas plummeted. Oil prices are a bit more complicated.

    This is a very complete and interesting history of oil well production increases through use of nitroglycerine and, eventually, today’s fracking:

    http://aoghs.org/technology/shooters-well-fracking-history/

  136. Bart says:

    allohm says:
    July 8, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    “… the fact that they are not infinite…”

    Perhaps not infinite, but vast. Enough so that we do not need to punish ourselves in a pell-mell rush to transition to something else. We can take the time to develop optimal alternatives, which solar and wind power are most decidedly not.

    “… and that you get enslaved to your supplier?…”

    No more than they are enslaved to us – they need our cash and finished goods as much as we need their oil. Besides which, we have plenty of domestic supply, if we choose to develop it. North Dakota is booming with oil development right now. There is more oil locked up in shale in the US than the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia.

    Relax, and let the people whose business it is to bring energy to market do their jobs.

  137. George E. Smith; says:

    “””””…..Simcoe surfer says:

    July 6, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    Most birds migrate at night……”””””

    I’m sure you can provide us with a reference for that conclusion.

    True migratory species travel day and night. In the Sacramento/San Joachin delta portion of the Pacific flyway, migrating flocks can be seen during the season flying overhead at high altitudes. if you have never been standing out on a fishing boat when a flight of thousands of migrating birds goes overhead, and seemingly the whole flock decides to bomb simultaneously, it gets kinda messy, and the water around the boat dances like in a hailstorm.

    The wind turbine farm in that delta region also happens to be the habitat for one of the largest assemblages of golden eagles, which hunt rabbits and other varmints in the open rolling pasture lands; and they often fall prey to those turbine blades, which are travelling a good bit faster than those birds can move..

  138. George E. Smith; says:

    “””””…..

    Whether increased atmospheric CO2 is bad or good is yet another question, for which the correct answer may be quite different from the current fashionable fad.

    Finally, North America, with its vast tracts of growing forests, is probably a net sink for CO2, not a net source……

    Allan MacRae says:

    July 7, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    P.S. Walter, I also agree with Bart above – I wrote on this subject in 2008……”””””

    Well Allan, The USA is indeed a net carbon sink; the only large land carbon sink on earth. You can goggle “A large carbon sink in North America” to find the peer reviewed paper on the subject; and of course it involves more than just the forestry, since old forests tend to be more carbon neutral; other than farmed forests of course. But of course the USA is also the world’s food basket, so we grow a lot of carbon capturing crops. New Zealand too, I am sure is a net carbon sink, but only a small one. Neither of those two countries is allowed to offset their carbon “sources” against their agricultural sinks.

  139. George E. Smith; says:

    The June 2012 issue of the IEEE Nano-Technology magazine, has an extensive article on nano-tech based possible advanced solar cell technologies.

    Authors are Christiana B.Honsberg, and Stephen M Goodnick. It’s a very readable article packed with some good information that should be understandable by anyone who can read SciAm.

    They report that single crystal silicon cells have achieved 25% efficiency for single sun air mass 1.5 solar conversion efficiency against a theoretical single band gap limit of 33.7%. The current record for a triple bandgap tandem solar cell is 43.5% out of a limit of 51.5% for triple junctions.

    While a theoretical maximum sun concentration (46,300 suns) conversion efficiency of around 87% is thought to be possible with exotic conversion methods; no such postulated alternative architecture (than multi-bandgap tandem stacks) has been implemented and demonstrated to exceed Tandem bandgap cells with their present 43.5% limit. They mention no such example that exceeds the 25% silicon single bandgap record. even.

    Evidently the first determination of the thermodynamic limits of solar cell efficiency was derived by W. Shockley andH. J. Quiesser in 1961 ; J Appl Physics, vol 32 no. 3 pp 510-519, 1961.

    The basic problem of simple band gap solar cells, is that they don’t convert photon energies less than the band gap energy, and photon energies above the bandgap energy are simply lost as heat, in a manner similar to the Stokes shift loss in phosphor conversion LEDs.

    Surprisingly, the nano-tech paper made no mention of the possible recovery of any solar thermal energy from the above bandgap energy losses.

    So I don’t know what the real limits of solar energy collection are, if all stops are pulled out. I have no idea whether any of the exotic nano tech architectures can ever be rendered practical. Does sound like a “bring money” call to me. It is possible that the GaN/InGaN technology being worked on by Nakamura’s group at UC Santa Barbara, is one of those exotics, rather than simply a high bandgap part of a tandem stack; but that is just a WAG by me; I have no information to that effect.

    Offhand, I don’t know what the surface level air mass one solar insolation.number is. Maybe some giggling expert can locate that number.

  140. George E. Smith; says:

    “””””…..Todd says:

    July 7, 2012 at 9:36 am

    There is an assumption, sometimes stated and sometimes unstated, that Solar will get cheaper over time, and will eventually be as cheap as Coal/Gas/Nuclear, …..”””””

    The assumption goes something like this; If we just “subsidize” solar PV arrays to “bring the cost down” then people will start using them and due to economies of scale, the increased volume will bring costs down. But it doesn’t work that way.

    Solar energy comes in at around 1,000 W/m^2 or 100 W/squ ft. At 20% conversion efficiency, thats 20 W/squ ft at peak sun.

    So let’s tax fossil fuels to make them more expensive, and use the tax dollars to subsidize PV solar.

    How about $1Meg per barrell of oil or equivalent; that should make fossils very uneconomical.

    so you go down to your local solar cell emporium, with your megabuck, and you order 10,000 solar panels whch they had on their ad yesterday for $100 per panel.

    “Sheesh !!!” says the solar cell vendor, “too bad you didn’t come in yesterday. Oil was $25 per barrel, and I could make about 6 peak Watts of solar cells out of a barrel of oil’s energy, so I could have sold them to you at around $4 per watt, and at least broke even. But some idiot just raised the price of oil to $1,000,025 per barrel, so now I will have to charge you $166,670.33per Watt, just to break even, because I can still only make 6Watts of cells out of a barrel of oil.

    You see the price doesn’t have anything to do with it. It’s the technology that sucks, not the economics.

    And since the dictators still think it is economics, they will put economists to work on the problem, so the technology problems will never be solved.
    I think solar PV may have a future to look forward to for small applications; but you still have to deal with the fact, that you can’t build any structure that would withstand the 100 year storm; even if it does absolutel nothing but sit there, for the cost that is necessary for effective use of valuable real estate. And if you succeed anyway, the property tax collector is going to kill your project when he raises your taxes, for the land improvements.

    It’s a lack of technology; not a lack of money.
    ,

  141. George E. Smith; says:

    And at Kevin Trenberth’s 341 W/m^2 TSI value, the result is even more dismal.

  142. D. J. Hawkins says:

    michaeljmcfadden says:
    July 7, 2012 at 9:11 am
    Hmm… with all these alternative energy knowledgeable type folks here, I wonder if I may float an idea that’s been bugging me for years? Basically, a big problem with energy efficient housing is limited ventilation. Ventilation is limited largely because it’s so inefficient to keep cooling/heating massive quantities of air from the temperature differentials in the air outside. My idea (which may, for all I know, already be in common use in modern housing) is to pipe air in through a slightly underground ductwork fitted with thermal fins so that by the time the ductwork rises to go up into the living area the outdoor air will have been significantly heated/cooled by the ground under the house (with that heat/lack-of-heat conducted away into the earth.) The .5 house-unit-per-hour(HUPH) air exchange could then be replaced by something more like a 1 or 2 HUPH deliberate air input without as great an impact on heating and cooling.

    Are they already doing that sort of thing out there? If not, and if someone here makes a bazillion bux on it, can I get 1%?

    :>
    MJM

    Sorry, you’re a little late to that particular party. I recall reading in Popular Mechanics or Popular Science 10 or 15 years ago articles on using heat exchangers buried in the ground to temper incoming air for HVAC. One scheme is to sink a well and bring up water and use a heat exchanger to dump to or extract heat from the water and drop it back down. I think the EPA nowadays has some strange objection to the re-injection of the water. The other is to bury pipes 3-4′ below ground, in the constant temperature zone, and extract and reject the heat as before. You can probably find out more at their respective web sites.

  143. David Larsen says:

    I got one. Oxygen is the second most common element in our galaxy. Carbon is the fourth most common element in our galaxy. So, when the second and fourth most common elements combine in our galaxy they are considered illegal and will ruin the earth. I must be STUPID!

  144. Phillip says:

    What about conservation of energy? When you account for entropy, doesn’t the conversion of energy from one form to another result in no net increase or decrease to the total energy in the system? If so, what will happen if we convert enough wind power, for example, to contribute significantly to the grid? I wonder if there been any environmental impact studies touching on this.

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