Tag: Alternative energy

The Roads Must Roll

The thing that amazes me about the environmentalist movement is how easily they embrace what turn out to be terrible ideas. Not just ideas that are bad for the economy, but often ideas that bad for the environment. Corn ethanol. Food miles. CFC bulbs. Carbon offsets. Geo-engineering. Zero Population Growth policies. Plastic bag bans.

Well, we have a new one: solar roads. The idea is that we replace a road with solar panels secured underneath safety glass. And this will … something.

Coyote Blog has the rundown on a prototype solar road that is a fiscal nightmare:

In the US, we pay about 12 cents a KwH for electricity (the Dutch probably pay more). But at this rate, in 6 months, the solar sidewalk has generated… $360 of electricity. Double that for a year, and we get $720 of electricity a year.

How much did the sidewalk cost? The article doesn’t say. You will find this typical of wind and solar articles. If they quantify the installation cost, they will not quantify the value of power produced. If they quantify the power produced, they will never quantify the installation cost. This article says the installation cost was $3.5 million, though I suppose one should subtract from that the cost to build a similar length concrete bike path, but that can’t be more than $100,000 for 230 feet. They say they are getting 70kwh per year per square meter, which is $8.40 worth of electricity per square meter per year. Since regular solar panels – without all the special glass overlays and installation in the ground and inverters and wiring – cost about $150-$200 per square meter, you can see this is a horrible investment.

He points out, quite correctly, that a road is one of the stupidest ways you can deploy a solar panel. First of all, the panel is pointed straight up, instead of south toward the sun, cutting its efficiency. Second of all, you literally have things passing over it all day, blocking out the sunlight (and, I note, causing large sudden voltage changes that can’t be good for the electronics). And I would add that having two layers of safety glass means you are blocking out some of the light the solar panel needs to absorb. And it’s not clear that a solar road will either be as durable as a regular road or as safe as one (do you want to ride your bike on glass during winter?). And you’ll have to find a way to keep the glass clean or your efficiency will drop even further.

The argument in favor is that it replaces asphalt, which is an energy-intensive product. Fair enough. But solar panels don’t just fall from the sky. They are also energy-intensive to produce. And they are energy-intense to maintain and replace, especially if you have fucking cars driving over them. They also point out that replacing our roads with solar panels (at a cost of about $50 trillion) would provide a enough energy to power the entire country since we have a huge number of roads. Again, fair enough. But lack of space isn’t the biggest problem with solar power right now. Energy storage is. They also make pie-in-the-sky claims that solar roads can power illumination at night or melt snow during winter. But that again gets into energy storage issue. I’m not sure how these road are supposed to collect enough energy to melt snow when they’re covered in … you know … snow.

Solar panels on roofs are a shaky enough prospect. I think they are gradually getting more feasible but are still hung up on the energy storage problem (and no, giant lithium ion batteries are not a solution). But putting solar panels in roads has to be one of the dumber ideas yet to emerge from the green mind. And yet a startup in the US has raised over $2 million for this nonsense.

When even the science fs up your agenda…

I just recently had several discussions in the last week or so, with different people at different times, about energy and economic impacts of that energy’s availability and cost. I pointed out that people have spent the last 5 decades telling us we would be running out of fossil fuels in the next 3 or 4 decades, only to end up with scientific advances and human ingenuity raising the time we have at a curved use of the stuff from decades to centuries. Of course they all turned up their noses to what they consider to be Satan’s shit and wanted it replaced, but when asked by what, it was all pie-in-the-sky answers. For me, based purely and simply on the numbers and the science, the one viable technology that can produce energy in the amount we would need to replace fossil fuels, is nuclear. Nothing else can, but the people that want to get us green all seem to have bought into Hollywood’s depiction of how dangerous and nasty nuclear energy is. So instead they seem to propose we use the equivalent of unicorn farts as the alternative to oil, gas, and coal.

When we discussed these various alternatives the greens have a boner for and went through the list, one after the other fell off. Solar and wind have been terribly disappointing. We are not about to build giant space based solar arrays and beaming down the energy as microwaves any time soon, because the same green people would have heart attack at the potential use as a weapon. And we could cover the planet with windmills and it would still not produce enough power. So they always go to the renewables, of which far less is known, but far less is pretended can come, to justify the campaign to stop us from using fossil fuels. Of course, renewables have not really shown much other than promise at this time, but the greens have no doubt that this stuff will save their faltering agenda. And then there are the facts:

Two highly qualified Google engineers who have spent years studying and trying to improve renewable energy technology have stated quite bluntly that renewables will never permit the human race to cut CO2 emissions to the levels demanded by climate activists. Whatever the future holds, it is not a renewables-powered civilisation: such a thing is impossible.

Both men are Stanford PhDs, Ross Koningstein having trained in aerospace engineering and David Fork in applied physics. These aren’t guys who fiddle about with websites or data analytics or “technology” of that sort: they are real engineers who understand difficult maths and physics, and top-bracket even among that distinguished company. The duo were employed at Google on the RE<C project, which sought to enhance renewable technology to the point where it could produce energy more cheaply than coal.

REclosed it down after four years. Now, Koningstein and Fork have explained the conclusions they came to after a lengthy period of applying their considerable technological expertise to renewables, in an article posted at IEEE Spectrum.

The two men write:

At the start of RE<C, we had shared the attitude of many stalwart environmentalists: We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope …

Renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach.

One should note that RE<C didn’t restrict itself to conventional renewable ideas like solar PV, windfarms, tidal, hydro etc. It also looked extensively into more radical notions such as solar-thermal, geothermal, “self-assembling” wind towers and so on and so forth. There’s no get-out clause for renewables believers here.

Koningstein and Fork aren’t alone. Whenever somebody with a decent grasp of maths and physics looks into the idea of a fully renewables-powered civilised future for the human race with a reasonably open mind, they normally come to the conclusion that it simply isn’t feasible. Merely generating the relatively small proportion of our energy that we consume today in the form of electricity is already an insuperably difficult task for renewables: generating huge amounts more on top to carry out the tasks we do today using fossil-fuelled heat isn’t even vaguely plausible.

Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc etc would appear. All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms – and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on. The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.

The funny thing is that you don’t need a PhD to figure this stuff out. And note they point out this stuff won’t work as marginal energy just to reduce emissions. The logical conclusion is that it hence will also never be a replacement. But the greens seem to be immune to the simple facts and science and far more interested in science fiction and fantasy because they are driven by something other than either. The watermelons pretend to be scientific, but the fact is there is very little of that and a lot of feelings and the overarching collectivist agenda, and very little of the former. So for now we are stuck with oil, gas, and coal. Maybe someone will find a way to make fusion work and that can fill in the gap, but the other stuff the greens pine for simply is not gonna happen. That won’t stop them from taking advantage of the plethora of fools that will allow a few of them to get stinking rich at tax payer’s expense.

Monday Roundup

For reasons that I hope I’ll explain one day, this week is going to be a bit crazy. So here are a few stories I’ve been sitting on, awaiting longer commentary:

A few weeks ago, Marvel comics unveiled an alternative Spiderwoman cover which was immediately decried as sexist because of her pose. I suspected that this criticism was largely coming from people who weren’t terribly familiar with the medium. And indeed, Maddox easily found a spiderman cover that was almost identical. As a general rule, if you ask a rhetorical question like, “Would they draw Spiderman like that?” you should probably do a little bit of research to make sure the answer isn’t “yep”. I don’t agree with everything Maddox says, but his point is well taken.

Another video you want to take in is Matt Ridley talking about global greening — the apparent rise in plants that has resulted from global warming. I disagree with parts of what he says, but toward the end he hits a very important point: Europeans are now planning to burn zillions of tons of trees under the belief that this is “green energy”. There’s a reason we stopped burning trees for fuel.

A few months ago, the town of Peoria launched a SWAT raid into the home of Jon Daniel. This incredibly dangerous man had … uh … created a parody Twitter account of Mayor Jim Ardis. During the raid, the cops found some pot on one of Daniel’s roommates. A judge has decided that the raid was lawful and they can proceed with the felony possession charges. I have no idea how the raid could be lawful when the prosecutor is not bringing charges because mocking someone on Twitter is not illegal. We have now gotten to the point where cops can raid your house based on something that isn’t a crime.

Obama has unveiled a plan to deal with drug-resistant bacteria, mainly by curtailing the massive overuse of antibiotics in farming and creating incentives for companies to develop new antibiotics. All things considered, this could be the biggest accomplishment of his administration. I mean, he’s not actively making things worse, so it’s got to be one of the top five things he’s done, at least on par with the Great Deckchair Rearranging of 2011.

Just a reminder if you need one: slavery did not make America rich.


Now that energy secretary Chu admitted during testimony to congress that this administrations actually understands what they are doing is going to jack up energy prices and will do nothing to mediate that, can we stop pretending that these people want high gas prices?

COMMENTARY | President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu uttered the kind of Washington gaffe that consists of telling the truth when inconvenient. According to Politico, Chu admitted to a House committee that the administration is not interested in lowering gas prices.

Chu, along with the Obama administration, regards the spike in gas prices as a feature rather than a bug. High gas prices provide an incentive for alternate energy technology, a priority for the White House, and a decrease in reliance on oil for energy.

Yahoo is trying real hard to put a positive spin on this revelation, and Chu was forced this morning to recant on that admission, but those of us paying at the pump that are stuck with the pain, while our credentialed elite jet set and live large, now have proof we where right that was the plan from the start. Look, the left wants us off fossil fuels and dependant on the unproven, unreliable, and incapable of producing the needed energy technologies that their green bullshit initiatives will produce, while making these of them part of that insider lop – that’s people like you Al Gore! – stinking rich. We can now stop arguing if what they are saying means we are going to have to pay a lot more for energy, because in a candid moment we have the guy leading the effort to bring us these sky high prices admitting that’s the plan.

This is more of the same from the WH that claimed they had a “jobs” policy, only that policy seems to have been about protecting democrat constituents and their power. We need to do away with these people, and do so fast, unless we are content to have them set the standard of living for all of us not part of their special circle to tat of Bangladesh. Stop trying to get us off oil and making leftist investors in green energy rich, and give the people a damned break already. They are not doing this for our own good. Don’t believe that lie. This is so these poverty pimps can make astronomical amounts of money and gain even more intrusive and absolute power over the people. That’s the real driver here. It’s what’s behind all this green shit.