The WUWT Hot Sheet for Tuesday Oct 29th 2013

WUWT_hotsheet9

Bill McKibben’s crazy logic: He says wind is cheap as coal. Jo Nova says “so who needs a carbon tax then?”

To which I say, fantastic. If wind power is as cheap as coal, we don’t need a carbon tax, emissions trading schemes, renewable targets, or other subsidies … people will use wind simply because it is cheaper. Alternatively, Bill is talking out of his hat.

Kill the schemes, cut the subsidies. Bring it on. I say!

More at JoNova

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I don’t think the logic here is well thought out:

Thank Global Warming For Softening The Blow Of Hurricane Sandy

Beyond the general hurricane trends, it is quite possible global warming had a very direct, beneficial impact on Hurricane Sandy. Scientists have documented that global warming has increased upper-atmospheric wind shear, which rips apart hurricanes before they can grow to major hurricanes.

That might be true when Sandy was over the tropical Atlantic, where the effect is documented, but in its post tropical stage, when most of the damage was done, it really didn’t have an effect.  The “Fujiwhara effect,” probably had more to do with the damage path than anything. Watch this animation.

More at Chicago Tribune

Related: Atlantic Hurricane Season Quietest in 45 Years

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Taxpayer-Funded Solar Company Leaves Environmental, Financial Mess

By Paul Chesser, National Legal & Policy Center, 10/28/2013

It may be the height of irony that a company that was supposed to soar to the top of the new clean energy economy, with the help of U.S. taxpayers to undergird President Obama’s stimulus visions, has instead left both an environmental and financial mess after its demise.

Yet that’s exactly the case with miserable failure Abound Solar, which the president’s Department of Energy thought so much of, they awarded it a $400 million loan guarantee. That proposition quickly soured and the government halted payouts after about $70 million. The company went bankrupt in June 2012, leaving taxpayers out between $40 million and $60 million that was never recovered.

There was other collateral damage, not the least of which was a huge toxic mess from unused panels and abandoned chemicals at Abound’s former facilities.

Read the rest here: http://bit.ly/16h3ouz

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NOAA’s fmr. Jane Lubchenco: The climate change era is already upon us

We’re beyond debating the existence of climate change. Impacts we’re seeing now should compel us to reduce emissions further and start planning in earnest. It’s time to quit dithering.

Problem is, much of that is predicated on starting points from the urban polluted surface temperature record:

http://wwwp.dailyclimate.org/tdc-newsroom/2013/10/opinion-lubchenco-lovejoy-climate-departures

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Shades of RGGI:  US States & Canadian Province Sign Clean Energy Agreement

In an agreement announced Monday, the governors of California, Oregon, Washington and the environment minister of British Columbia, Mary Polak, will place a price on greenhouse gas pollution and mandate the use of cleaner-burning fuels.

AP

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While the west wails about trying to control CO2, other parts of the world still have real problems. There is so much pollution in China and India that it is causing computer motherboards to fail due to corrosion.

Intel engineers spotted the problem a few years ago, when the company noticed an unusual number of customers from China and India returning computers with failed motherboards, the component that houses the microprocessor brains.

http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2022132181_intelcorrosionxml.html

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Time to write more letters then, lest it become Dana 24/7:

BBC coverage criticised for favouring climate change sceptics

A letter from the BBC in response to the science committee’s criticism defends airing ‘misinformed’ arguments

More at the Grauniad

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NSIDC experiencing technical difficulties, please stand by:

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Tom Nelson writes:

I’m confused again: If the Arctic is at its warmest in 120k years, why the suggestion that 120 meters of Antarctic ice has built up over the last 1,000 years?

Antarctic drilling project to get to core issues of climate change

The team will drill three ice cores, one 400-metre core with data between 2000 and 3000 years old, and two 120-metre cores, which will cover atmospheric conditions over the past 1000 years.

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42 thoughts on “The WUWT Hot Sheet for Tuesday Oct 29th 2013

  1. I don’t know about the rest of you, but one links side article was about Brittany Spears’ music used to repel pirates. Is there a musician I could play that would kept the rapid warmists at bay?

  2. And another question to go along with Tom Nelson’s. If it is at its lowest, why is the historical evidence of farming in Greenland still under permafrost? did they possess a more advanced farming technique than known to man today?

  3. Wull, ya see … the EVIL Kock Brothers and the Church of Big C are religiously devoted to burning fossil fuel, even when there is cost parity. Therefore, we need to subsidize the alternatives to level the playing field. / sarc

  4. “they awarded it a $400 million loan guarantee. That proposition quickly soured and the government halted payouts after about $70 million. The company went bankrupt in June 2012, leaving taxpayers out between $40 million and $60 million that was never recovered.
    There was other collateral damage, not the least of which was a huge toxic mess from unused panels and abandoned chemicals at Abound’s former facilities.”

    see Our Hidden History of Corporations in the United States

  5. “Beyond the general hurricane trends, it is quite possible global warming had a very direct, beneficial impact on Hurricane Sandy. Scientists have documented that global warming has increased upper-atmospheric wind shear, which rips apart hurricanes before they can grow to major hurricanes.”
    So now that the observations clearly show few to no major hurricanes hitting landfall in the US for the last 8 years, and yet the AGW prediction was that major hurricanes would be more common, the warmists are reversing course midstream suggesting that global warming is possibly stopping major hurricanes from developing.
    Should we really be surprised by such a reversal, since now that global cooling is beginning to set in, the warmists are blaming global warming on the increasing cold and snow?
    What new reversals will pop up in the future in the CAGW camp?

  6. TImothy Sorenson says:
    Is there a musician I could play that would kept the rapid warmists at bay?
    “Rapid” or “rabid” makes little difference here. You would have to be “rabid” to believe that no warming over 15 years is “rapid” warming.

  7. Bill McKibben’s crazy logic: He says wind is cheap as coal. Jo Nova says “so who needs a carbon tax then?”

    To encourage industry to invest in the infrastructure. McKibben is probably referring to running costs, not outlay. Energy producers are not going to switch fully to wind power when they already have an energy infrastructure (coal). If the outlay + running costs per annum becomes cheaper than coal, then companies might have a reason. But coal is cheap to run and the infrastructure is already there, so they’d need some kind of incentive. Like a carbon tax. Or, as Tony Abbott prefers, you give them money to do it.

  8. Wall Street Journal: Oct. 30, 2013, Opinion
    The Coming Carbon Asset Bubble
    Fossil-fuel investments are destined to lose their economic value. Investors need to adjust now.
    Al Gore And David Blood

    the International Energy Agency has calculated a global “Carbon Budget” that accommodates the burning of merely one-third of existing fossil fuel reserves by 2050. Put differently, at least two-thirds of fossil fuel reserves will not be monetized if we are to stay below 2°C of warming—creating “stranded carbon assets.”

    This carbon bubble is not dependent upon a (failed) carbon trading market. Governments can cause the bubble to pop, much as ill conceived regulations on the mortgage markets popped the financial bubble.

    First is regulation that could strand assets in several ways: direct regulation on carbon led by authorities at the local, national, regional, or global level; indirect regulation through increased pollution controls,. ….

    I’d say regulation is shrinking the value of coal reserves beyond all reason right now. The EPA will continue down this road.
    His second point is that renewable technologies will strand fossil fuel reserves. BS.
    Gore’s third point exposes the flaw in his ruse

    Third, sociopolitical pressures (e.g., fossil-fuel divestment campaigns, environmental advocacy, grass-roots protests and changing public opinion) could create an environment in which carbon-intensive businesses could lose their “license to operate,” thereby stranding assets.

    Just how long could that last when people get cold, hungry, or just impatient to get from here to there?
    Cliff Robertson’s speech at the end of Three Days of the Condor (1975) is a fitting answer to Gore’s Foxy-Loxy tale.
    Higgins: It’s simple economics. Today it’s oil, right? In ten or fifteen years, food. Plutonium. Maybe even sooner. Now, what do you think the people are gonna want us to do then? …Not now. THEN! Ask ’em when they’re running out. Ask ’em when there’s no heat in their homes and they’re cold. Ask ’em when their engines stop. Ask ’em when people who have never known hunger start going hungry. You wanna know something? They won’t want us to ask ’em. They’ll just want us to get it for ’em!

  9. You know how a crack in a laminated windshield spreads after starting off from just a tiny chip, well ………….

  10. philjourdan says:
    October 29, 2013 at 9:03 am
    And another question to go along with Tom Nelson’s. If it is at its lowest, why is the historical evidence of farming in Greenland still under permafrost? did they possess a more advanced farming technique than known to man today?

    Yeah, obviously they farmed moss !

  11. barry:
    Your post at October 29, 2013 at 6:42 pm displays a combination of economic illiteracy, ignorance of electricity grid supply systems, and lack of common sense.
    It says

    Bill McKibben’s crazy logic: He says wind is cheap as coal. Jo Nova says “so who needs a carbon tax then?”

    To encourage industry to invest in the infrastructure. McKibben is probably referring to running costs, not outlay. Energy producers are not going to switch fully to wind power when they already have an energy infrastructure (coal). If the outlay + running costs per annum becomes cheaper than coal, then companies might have a reason. But coal is cheap to run and the infrastructure is already there, so they’d need some kind of incentive. Like a carbon tax. Or, as Tony Abbott prefers, you give them money to do it.

    Industry would not need encouragement to invest in profitable enterprise.
    The cost of an activity INCLUDES its infrastructure costs. Saying that it is profitable if you ignore costs of X, Y, … N is saying the activity is NOT profitable.
    The major infrastructure of “coal” is its power stations. And they need replacement as and when they reach the end of their operating lives. So, if “wind is cheap as coal” it will replace coal as power stations reach the end of their operating lives unless coal has other benefits over wind.
    And coal does have major benefit over wind: coal provides power when needed, but wind provides power when the weather allows. Therefore, thermal plant (e.g. coal) is needed to provide power when wind cannot. For this reason, wind has not displaced a thermal power station anywhere in the world and it cannot displace thermal power stations in the absence of a storage system for wind power.
    So, wind is NOT as cheap as coal. And if wind were cheaper than coal then wind could not displace coal because coal provides back-up for when the wind fails to provide power. Wind only adds the cost of unnecessary and expensive additional infrastructure (i.e. wind power facilities) to the needed power supply from thermal (e.g. coal fired) power stations.
    A more full explanation of this is at
    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/reprint/courtney_2006_lecture.pdf
    Richard

  12. Barry:
    My post addressed to you at October 30, 2013 at 3:28 am dealt with the existing situation and explained that wind cannot displace thermal power stations (e.g. coal).
    I now write to add an historical point to aid your understanding.
    Wind power was used for thousands of years. It was displaced by coal when the energy in coal became available as power by use of the steam engine.
    The idea that wind power is as useful and economic as the use of coal is a claim that the steam engine is ‘future tech’.
    Wind power now has useful small niches; e.g. to pump irrigation water at locations distant from a power supply. But the suggestion that wind is useful for large scale power supply is a denial that the industrial revolution required more energy and more reliable energy supply than wind can provide.
    Richard

  13. Richard,

    The cost of an activity INCLUDES its infrastructure costs. Saying that it is profitable if you ignore costs of X, Y, … N is saying the activity is NOT profitable.

    Cost/benefit is time dependent. McKibben did not elucidate his commentary. What he did say (of which I am skeptical) is that wind power was as cheap – not cheaper – than coal.
    If the outlay costs have been factored in McKibben’s comments (capital investment is 5 – 7 billion dollars to power 1 million homes in Australia), there is still no incentive to transition any faster than at the rate at which coal energy plants become inoperable or inefficient. You need incentive to transition faster. Like a carbon tax. Or government handouts taken from public taxes, which is the new policy Tony Abbott is lining up.
    Who said coal should be completely phased out? Red herring. There are other energy sources (including existing fossil fuel sources) that can replace wind power if necessary. At present, wind power is displacing fossil fuels by a couple of percentage points in many countries, and by between 10 and 20% in a few.
    Major fossil fuel companies (like Shell) already invest in wind farms. Clearly they think it is economically feasible. Incentive is designed to hasten an already existing trend. It’s not a black and white issue, despite much hype and propaganda. It’s important to read all sides.

  14. @richardscourtney at 3:28 am
    The major infrastructure of “coal” is its power stations.
    Railroads is another major infrastructure. If the rails and rights of way didn’t exist, coal power would be prohibitively expensive. But they do exist. As a result, coal power is cheap and via reuse of capital assets, other long haul transporation in container cargo is keep inexpensive, too.
    No single commodity is more important to America’s railroads than coal. Coal accounted for
    41.0 percent of rail tonnage and 21.6 percent of rail gross revenue in 2012
    AAR: Railroads and Coal

  15. Stephen Rasey:
    At October 30, 2013 at 9:25 am you say

    Railroads is another major infrastructure. If the rails and rights of way didn’t exist, coal power would be prohibitively expensive. But they do exist. As a result, coal power is cheap and via reuse of capital assets, other long haul transporation in container cargo is keep inexpensive, too.

    Indeed so, but I fail to see your point. Nobody is suggesting closure of the railroads. As you say, the use of the railroads for coal transportation maximises the utility of the railroads and the resulting improvement to their efficiency of use reduces other costs so provides a benefit.
    Richard

  16. barry:
    It is not clear to me if you are being deliberately obtuse or deliberately dense in your reply to me at October 30, 2013 at 5:38 am.
    Firstly, accelerating the costs of imposition of windpower is an extra and not needed cost on electricity production.
    Secondly, as I explained, wind power has not, does not, and will not replace any – n.b. NOT ONE – thermal (e.g. coal fired) power station unless and until somebody invents a safe and cheap method for storing the output of windfarms. Hence, your talk of “coal should be completely phased out” is a red herring which you have introduced. I don’t discuss the economics of impossible dreams such as wind power replacing “all coal fired power stations”. Indeed, I pointed out that coal DID displace wind power.
    Thirdly, Shell spend a lot of money on advertising and PR. Their investment in wind power is a small part of that PR expenditure. No oil company wants another Brent Spar incident.
    Fourthly, I do “look at all sides” but you are advocating wind power for electricity generation in comparison to coal. It will never happen. Coal usage increased as a percentage of total energy production by 8% over the last decade and that was while total energy production increased.
    Coal is a major fuel of the future because it is cheap and available from many sources. Gas will also also increase in use because of fracing. And neither needs “assistance” for this to be true. Wind power is a temporary fad that only exists because it farms subsidies.
    Richard

  17. @richardscourtney at 9:40 am
    You were refering to the cost of infrastructure to be included in the cost of Wind vs Coal.
    My point is that the war on coal has unintended consequences on other industries. If coal is 41% of tonnage and over 1/5 of revenue, railroads and the other industries that use them are indirectly harmed by the war on coal.

  18. Coal is a major fuel of the future because it is cheap and available from many sources. Gas will also also increase in use because of fracing. And neither needs “assistance” for this to be true. Wind power is a temporary fad that only exists because it farms subsidies.
    Yes, but how far into the future?
    Al Gore’s editorial on carbon-valuation bubble in the WSJ today is a load of “foxy-loxy” rubbish. But there is one nugget of truth:

    First is regulation that could strand assets in several ways: direct regulation on carbon led by authorities at the local, national, regional, or global level; indirect regulation through increased pollution controls, constraints on water usage, or policies targeting health concerns; and mandates on renewable energy adoption and efficiency standards. Even the threat of impending regulation creates uncertainty for long-lived carbon-intensive assets.

    If regulation is in the hands of a bunch of mindless jerks who don’t care if electricity rates “necessarily skyrocket”, then no matter how cheap and available coal is, it will only be the fuel of the future when the revolution comes.

  19. Stephen Rasey:
    Thankyou for your two recent replies to me.
    Your clarification at October 30, 2013 at 11:08 am says

    My point is that the war on coal has unintended consequences on other industries. If coal is 41% of tonnage and over 1/5 of revenue, railroads and the other industries that use them are indirectly harmed by the war on coal.

    Yes, I strongly agree. That is a good point and I thank you for making it.
    And you make another good point when you say at October 30, 2013 at 11:21 am

    If regulation is in the hands of a bunch of mindless jerks who don’t care if electricity rates “necessarily skyrocket”, then no matter how cheap and available coal is, it will only be the fuel of the future when the revolution comes.

    Again, you state an ‘obvious truth’, and it goes to the crux of the windfarm nonsense.
    We need regulation which prevents corruption. In business such regulation includes, for example, the provision of audited accounts. But when politicians misuse their necessary powers to regulate as a method to deliberately distort markets then that misuse IS corruption.
    There may be need for ‘start up’ subsidies in the power generation market to overcome novelty risk. And that possible need has been used as an excuse to subsidise windfarms. But there is no novelty risk with windfarms and, therefore, their subsidies are an example of the misuse of regulatory power. Furthermore, excessive environmental constraints on coal or other fuels are similar corruption.
    Hopefully, the revolution which overthrows such corruption will be democratic and not violent. However, violent revolution could be a result. For example, the ‘Arab Spring’ (which continues as the difficulties in Egypt and the Syrian civil war) was initiated by high food prices which were caused in part by Western developed nations adopting biofuels.
    People die without food, water and power. They will and do fight to survive.
    Richard

  20. Richard, you say: “We need regulation which prevents corruption. In business such regulation includes, for example, the provision of audited accounts. But when politicians misuse their necessary powers to regulate as a method to deliberately distort markets then that misuse IS corruption.” I concur, but there’s a lot more that needs to be said.
    I suggest that regulation (and its uneven enforcement) can also be corruption. (Look at the IRS mess on reviews and approvals for 501(c)(3) organizations, for example; I know of one applicant completely unaffiliated with politics that’s been waiting now about THREE years.)
    An effective deterrent to corruption within political and government employment corruptions is not necessarily more regulation, but better enforcement of existing rules and laws, plus the means for whistleblowers and others with evidence of wrongdoing to be encouraged to come forward, and to be protected (so long as they, themselves, were not part and parcel of the corruption campaign, in which case things get ugly very fast). If one government employee or politician gets away with a decade or more of bonuses he/she was not eligible to receive and the ability to lie about his/her role on a day to day basis without challenge, I dare say the system shows signs of systemic corruption. To use computer terms, a key question appears to be how government can reboot the system and get rid of the corruption problem if corruption inhibits a proper and complete reboot. Question #2: How may citizens and taxpayers be ensured that corruption is rooted out and not simply swept away to a new hiding place?

  21. @ Stephen Rasey: on October 30, 2013 at 9:25 am you say: “Railroads is another major infrastructure. If the rails and rights of way didn’t exist, coal power would be prohibitively expensive. But they do exist. As a result, coal power is cheap and via reuse of capital assets, other long haul transporation in container cargo is keep inexpensive, too.”
    I believe more coal is moved today by barge along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers than by rail. Rivers are not privately owned infrastructure, but the rails are… Roads are also “public” (i.e., not private) infrastructure. In your line of thinking, should not some portion of the cost of those also be incorporated into the costs associated with transportation of wind turbine components and solar panels?
    I suggest that some portion of the cost to haul coal by rail, barge and other means is already incorporated into the cost of the electricity so produced. Perhaps it’s not enough for some people, but then too, I have concerns about the aesthetic impacts by the “Cuisinarts of the Air” on ridge lines in WV, Western VA, and Eastern KY, among other places.
    Regardless, the costs of hazardous wastes associated with production should not be ignored or dismissed out of hand for some (wind & solar) while highlighted as a penalty for others. Likewise, the mining, processing and transportation of minerals and metals, and the associated waste production and disposal or stockpiling (e.g., rare earths) should also be acknowledged for all, which is not the case today.

  22. Eugene:
    re your post addressed to me at October 30, 2013 at 2:51 pm .
    It seems that we agree about much. I especially agree with your statements saying

    An effective deterrent to corruption within political and government employment corruptions is not necessarily more regulation, but better enforcement of existing rules and laws, plus the means for whistleblowers and others with evidence of wrongdoing to be encouraged to come forward, and to be protected (so long as they, themselves, were not part and parcel of the corruption campaign, in which case things get ugly very fast).

    However, I am not willing to discuss your two questions because their answers would be case specific. Circumstances differ between countries and I strongly adhere to the opinion that ‘outsiders’ should not interfere in the situations of other countries.
    If you were talking about my country (i.e. the UK) then I would discuss issues. For example, at this moment we have a scandal where the head of a child protection agency was sacked because of incompetence of her agency while she was in charge, and a Court has awarded her a large financial sum as compensation for “unfair dismissal”. That award does not assist accountability of executives in UK government agencies. I could offer my opinions on that issue of accountability but those opinions would not be applicable in, for example, the USA.
    I don’t have any ideas about methods for addressing your questions that would be applicable in all countries with their different laws, political systems, and cultures. So, I deliberately refuse to address your questions. Sorry.
    Richard

  23. Richard,

    Firstly, accelerating the costs of imposition of windpower is an extra and not needed cost on electricity production.

    The point Jo Nova made is about incentives to reduce mitigation. If there is no need to do that then discussion of her reasoning is moot.

    coal provides power when needed, but wind provides power when the weather allows.

    It was from this that I thoght you were arguing from a total replacement point of view.
    Coal powered energy generation also has back-ups. They go offline for repairs and maintenance, for example. All power sources have intermittent dropout.
    Energy prices in Australia have increased dramatically over the last 10 years. This hike comes mostly from coal powered energy (the Carbon Tax added 10%).. Coal may be cheap for producers, but we on the downstream are feeling the pinch. All technologies come with costs, coal is no magic bullet in this regard. I’d mention the cost to the commons of air polluton and GHG warming, but obviously there’s no point trying to discuss that here.

  24. @Eugene 10/30 3:04 pm
    In the USA, rail carries 70% of all coal and has carried more than 60% since at least the 70’s
    http://www.purdue.edu/discoverypark/energy/assets/pdfs/cctr/outreach/Basics7-Transportation-Apr07.pdf See Slide #2. But some good slides for other coal, oil, gas and Electrical Power facts.
    The cost of transportation of coal to Indiana from Wyoming is more than the price at the mine. But even then, coal can be delivered for mid-$30/ton. The cost of the rail infrastructure is covered by in the transporatation price per ton. For roads, a public asset, they are paid for by license taxes and fuel taxes, and maybe load permits. I don’t know about barge traffic, but to suppose you can operate a commercial vessel on the Ohio with out a “boat load” of permits and fees is far fetched.
    In some way, coal and solar could make friends with each other. What better use for reclaiming the land of a strip mine than to plant acres and acres of solar panels?

  25. As an aside:
    1 coal unit train (one hundred 100-ton rail cars) carries 10,000 tons of coal.
    Converted to electricity at 30% conversion factor is about 1 GW-day.
    I like this number because a coal unit train is a common sight for many.
    Delivered price of coal is about $30/ton (Black Thunder in Wyoming to Missouri-Indiana
    So, the energy cost of a unit train is $300,000 for 1 GW/day. So that is about $0.015 / kwh.
    One acre-foot of coal is 1800 tones.
    So a unit train is about 6 acre-feet of coal seam.
    The coal seam at Black Thunder is 100-140 feet thick.
    The mine has produced over a billion tons.
    Now, take a large wind farm. 100 turbines, each 1.5 MW name plate. Give them 25% utility factor (time the wind blows at a useful speed).
    That is 0.4 MW/turbine on average
    Times 100 Turbines.
    0.04 GW per 100 turbine farm.
    So a 100 turbine wind farm is equal to about 1 coal unit train per month.
    And with a coal-unit train, you don’t need batteries when the wind doesn’t blow.
    In fact, a lump of coal is the cheapest storage of electrical energy you will ever find.

  26. barry:
    re your post at October 30, 2013 at 5:59 pm.
    Earlier in the thread I suggested that you read this
    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/reprint/courtney_2006_lecture.pdf
    Please read it before again making daft statements I have already refuted in the thread or claiming I said things I did not (then claiming what I did not say was me providing a Red Herring!).
    The facts about windpower that matter are
    Windfarms are expensive, polluting, environmentally damaging bird swatters that only produce electricity when the wind is strong enough but not too strong and provide no electricity of use to an electricity grid at any time.
    Richard

  27. Stephen Rasey:
    At October 30, 2013 at 10:44 pm you ask

    In some way, coal and solar could make friends with each other. What better use for reclaiming the land of a strip mine than to plant acres and acres of solar panels?

    There are several better uses including agriculture and recreation. Willis Eschenbach was surprised to discover this for himself when he recently visited the UK; please see his report and the thread from it at
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/09/20/it-wasnt-a-good-britain-it-was-a-great-britain/
    Richard

  28. Comment to WSJ Article; The Solar Painted Desert (8/14/2012) made available by GWPF here
    This subject was the topic of How Green Was My Bankruptcy? “Roadmap for Solar Energy Development on Public Lands” Edition by David Middleton, on WattsUpWithThat, July 26, 2012, with 99 responses. [1]
    The WSJ [Solar Painted Desert] article above addresses well the hypocrisy and favoritism for the solar industry by Obama’s administration. Yes, all that is morally wrong. The Middleton piece explains how these solar projects are energetically, economically, and environmentally wrongheaded.
    First off, Solar energy delivers about 4 MW/acre. Put it at 35 deg latitude so angle to sun is 13 and 57 deg from zenith, let’s call the average cosine 0.75. Half the time it is night, a lot of the other half is morning and evening; so take 25% of max power for average over the day. Now we need solar panels to convert to electricity at an efficiency of 0.2. That is 0.64 MW/ac Nameplate or 0.16 MW/ac averaged over the day.
    But it is a lot of land. 285,000 acres = 445.3 square miles. [2] Another way of thinking about it is nothing but solar panels two miles on either side of I-40 for 111 unbroken miles. That must be a lot of power! 45.5 Gigawatts average over the day. 182 Gigawatts (Nameplate) at peak!. Oops… 182 Gigawatts that goes to zero within 6 hours. 0 to 182 GW to 0 every day; Might that be a problem? And who’s problem?
    Let’s talk economics. 182 GW (Nameplate) PV Solar Power. Let’s say the going rate for turnkey PV is $5/watt. So we need $900 Billion to fill this permitted space with PV Solar. Let us not forget the power plants we will need to replace that 182 GW of power when the sun goes down.
    OK, let’s include 182 GW of dispatchable, on demand, power generation for when the PV field is dark. What does it cost? About $0.60 / Watt. So $100 Billion in Advanced Gas turbine combined cycle plants to take over for 75% of the time we can’t use the $900 Billion of PV Solar plants. If you are in favor of Solar, the last thing you want to discuss is economics!
    Let’s talk environment. We cannot plop down $900 Billion work of PV on 445 square miles and not impact the environment. Every one of those 285,000 acres will be crisscrossed by dirt roads, sagebrush and cactus trampled without mercy. Imagine a motocross or dune buggy race in the desert day after day, year after year, rut after rut. If we were drilling for oil or gas, no one would stand for the environmental impact. But because it is “Solar!” who cares? At least there will be lots of shade — in an environment that had little of it.
    There will also be Lots of people! Do you think 285,000 acres of PV solar panels will maintain themselves for 20 years? Even if they don’t have solar tracking motors, someone needs to clean them. Just installing them, will require roads spaced every 50 feet, 100 per mile, or 44,500 miles of dirt roads! This is just a guess, but I don’t think Solar will be powering the vehicles running up and down those roads. But even if electric, there will still be billowing dust on to the panels in the process and everything downwind.
    If oil companies wanted to destroy the desert in the same way as the PV Solar farms will, the public would be rightly up in arms. But because the Solar people are getting the juice, the media and environmental groups look the other way. It sure pays to be in a business that Obama likes such as Solar. “Under my cap and trade plan, electricity rates will necessarily skyrocket.” (Obama 2008). And under any other plan it would seem.
    [1] http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/07/26/how-green-was-my-bankruptcy-roadmap-for-solar-energy-development-on-public-lands-edition/
    [2] Parenthetically, the whole drilling and processing footprint proposed for oil and gas extraction at the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), is less that 1% of this solar project. ANWR has been denied permits for 40 years.

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