Tag: Renewable-energy economy

Need proof Solar is not ready for Prime Time? Here ya go…

We have had repeated discussions here about the viability of some green technology, and I am certain everyone here knows my stance on solar energy. As someone educated in engineering, I know that technology is simply not ready for use and the cost is prohibitive. many have argued otherwise, but then you occasionally get stories like this one which illustrate the futility of pushing this unready technology. From the article;

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The 20 solar panels Jeffrey Punton installed in the backyard of his Rochester, N.Y., home won’t ever generate enough electricity to cover their cost. Which is the whole point.

He means them as a cautionary tale, one that Punton said cost him $13,000 and for which he received an additional $29,500 in state and federal subsidies and tax credits.

He installed the panels in 2009, and they work: He has generated about 15,000 kilowatt hours of electricity in four years, saving several hundred dollars a year on his energy bill.

That’s a lot of savings, but it’ll take many years to recoup his initial investment, let alone the public money involved. It’s that public money that chafes him, evidence of governmental intrusion in the marketplace.

It’s a message that runs counter to the prevailing trend, especially in New York’s Monroe County. Greece, N.Y., a town in the county, recently lured a solar manufacturer from California, a coup local and state officials are touting as part of the region’s future.

Punton doesn’t buy it — at least on the consumer scale. And spending $13,000 of his own money on a project he predicted would fail doesn’t bother him.

He considers the $29,500 the government gave him a foolish investment — throwing good money after bad — and misses no opportunity to point it out.

“It’s a billboard to talk about it to people as they come by,” he said. “It’s disappointing how little people know about the economics of it. … I don’t think it’s a smart investment to pay someone three times what they’re putting in.”

About $17,000 of the money for Punton’s panels came directly from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The lesson here is absolutely indisputable. Without heavy government subsidy, this technology not only is prohibitively costly, but it will never pay for itself. Let’s not kid ourselves: any technology that is not at a point where it generates enough savings to warrant the total cost of production, setup, maintenance, and usage, is not ready fro prime time. And any technology that requires so much government subsidy to become marginally palatable, is definitely not worth it.

I got a tax deduction and subsidy a few years back in my state for window replacements. I got rid of some leaky and old windows & sliding doors and replaced them with newer, better insulated ones. The state gave me some $1000 credit (the maximum) towards my taxes, and another $1600 towards the manufacturer’s costs, and I ended paying some $6K out of pocket. I immediately saw improvement in my energy bill. It dropped by over 50% for both summer (cooling) and winter (heating) expenses, from a hefty averaged $245 a month to a little over $115. That’s a big saving. I recouped my investment a couple of years ago, and by now, even the subsidy and the tax deduction have been paid for in energy savings. Yes, my monthly bill is now higher, but that’s because the price of energy has all but doubled in the same timeframe. Consequently, the argument could be made that my savings also doubled, and that’s just awesome. This program was a good one.

That’s not even close to being the case with solar. I know. I researched it because I wanted to do that when I bought my house some 18 years ago. I abandoned it, just like I abandoned the idea of purchasing an electric or hybrid car, because the cost – the total cost, which includes maintenance, and disposal – was insane. I recently looked at it yet again. The numbers have moved a bit, but the cost is still prohibitive and the whole thing is still a loss.

Personally, I am not one of these fucking assholes that likes to tell people my fart doesn’t smell, (South Park – Smug Alert – episode) and is willing to piss away good money just to preen, and I don’t have anything to prove like the guy in this article did. Solar simply is not ready for prime time, and no amount of government manipulation or incentivizing will make a difference. Governments have been trying to change that equation for over 3 decades now, and it has not gone anywhere. The technological advances to make it viable will not come until they are absolutely needed and someone figures out there is huge money to be made. But this reality will never fly with the watermelons that want to steer energy money to their buddies, so we will keep pissing away money on something that’s still not able to deliver the value for the cost, and pretend it is a good thing.

Renewable energy idealism and reality clash

That’s not me, that’s a NYT Opinion piece by Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, titled The Gas Is Greener, and pointing out how fantasy eventually goes south when reality and real science come into play.

IN April, Gov. Jerry Brown made headlines by signing into law an ambitious mandate that requires California to obtain one-third of its electricity from renewable energy sources like sunlight and wind by 2020. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia now have renewable electricity mandates. President Obama and several members of Congress have supported one at the federal level. Polls routinely show strong support among voters for renewable energy projects — as long as they don’t cost too much.

But there’s the rub: while energy sources like sunlight and wind are free and naturally replenished, converting them into large quantities of electricity requires vast amounts of natural resources — most notably, land. Even a cursory look at these costs exposes the deep contradictions in the renewable energy movement.

First a clarification: no, the reference to “mandates” isn’t about two guys dating, but in this case about a governor’s royal decree. Sorry to disappoint those of you into that sort of stuff. Anyway, here is the killer: renewable energy projects have both a cost and a foot print, and when they replace real and viable technologies that meet real world requirements, the problems become instantly evident. But let me not get ahead of the facts and, man are they fun ones:

Consider California’s new mandate. The state’s peak electricity demand is about 52,000 megawatts. Meeting the one-third target will require (if you oversimplify a bit) about 17,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity. Let’s assume that California will get half of that capacity from solar and half from wind. Most of its large-scale solar electricity production will presumably come from projects like the $2 billion Ivanpah solar plant, which is now under construction in the Mojave Desert in southern California. When completed, Ivanpah, which aims to provide 370 megawatts of solar generation capacity, will cover 3,600 acres — about five and a half square miles.

The math is simple: to have 8,500 megawatts of solar capacity, California would need at least 23 projects the size of Ivanpah, covering about 129 square miles, an area more than five times as large as Manhattan. While there’s plenty of land in the Mojave, projects as big as Ivanpah raise environmental concerns. In April, the federal Bureau of Land Management ordered a halt to construction on part of the facility out of concern for the desert tortoise, which is protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Wind energy projects require even more land. The Roscoe wind farm in Texas, which has a capacity of 781.5 megawatts, covers about 154 square miles. Again, the math is straightforward: to have 8,500 megawatts of wind generation capacity, California would likely need to set aside an area equivalent to more than 70 Manhattans. Apart from the impact on the environment itself, few if any people could live on the land because of the noise (and the infrasound, which is inaudible to most humans but potentially harmful) produced by the turbines.

That bolding is me. Where to begin? So a solar energy project that has the footprint of Manhattan Island will generate ½ of the 1/3 required by mandate (sorry don’t get excited again), at the cost of $46 billion – that’s the $2 billion cost multiplied by 23 to preempt CM’s demands for a dissertation to prove my point – and the environmental impacts be damned! To do it with wind we would need a tract of land 70 times that of Manhattan Island? Do the math to figure out what it would take to produce 100% of the 52K MW Cali is burning right now, then factor in the needed growth to keep up with the economic demands. Don’t bother looking at the cost. Obama already told us it will cost us a shitload more. But it’s for a good cause!

So then I get to something that actually gave me some enjoyment: reality smacking stupid in the face. I got a huge kick form how these watermelons are eating each other up, the greenies are pitted against the animal lovers & eugenicists that think anyone but them should be made to live in caves if not exterminated to save the spotted owl or some other such nonsense. As if nature doesn’t already have a mechanism built into it to make sure that only those that can adapt survive. Anyway, here is the fun stuff.

Industrial solar and wind projects also require long swaths of land for power lines. Last year, despite opposition from environmental groups, San Diego Gas & Electric started construction on the 117-mile Sunrise Powerlink, which will carry electricity from solar, wind and geothermal projects located in Imperial County, Calif., to customers in and around San Diego. In January, environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit to prevent the $1.9 billion line from cutting through a nearby national forest.

Not all environmentalists ignore renewable energy’s land requirements. The Nature Conservancy has coined the term “energy sprawl” to describe it. Unfortunately, energy sprawl is only one of the ways that renewable energy makes heavy demands on natural resources.

Consider the massive quantities of steel required for wind projects. The production and transportation of steel are both expensive and energy-intensive, and installing a single wind turbine requires about 200 tons of it. Many turbines have capacities of 3 or 4 megawatts, so you can assume that each megawatt of wind capacity requires roughly 50 tons of steel. By contrast, a typical natural gas turbine can produce nearly 43 megawatts while weighing only 9 tons. Thus, each megawatt of capacity requires less than a quarter of a ton of steel.

WTF? This stuff isn’t going to magically save Gaia and actually might do just as much if not more harm? Who woulda thunk that? So what then?

All energy and power systems exact a toll. If we are to take Schumacher’s phrase to heart while also reducing the rate of growth of greenhouse gas emissions, we must exploit the low-carbon energy sources — natural gas and, yes, nuclear — that have smaller footprints.

Yeah, good luck with that. If this shit was for real we would already be furiously working with these technologies, especially nuclear, which is the only one that is completely CO2 free, but we all know how likely that is to ever really get a shot at anything. Instead what we get is taxation. And don’t worry California! At the rate you are going you probably go bankrupt long before the date Brown has mandated – there we go again – and then you won’t have to worry much about anything like this. That is if the enviromentalists don’t end up at war with each other over all this first.