The Practical Path to Clean Energy


I found this picture on Facebook and it got me thinking about all the ways that this country could get serious about cutting down on the use of fossil fuels and speed the transition to clean, renewable energy production. This is a brilliant idea:

I’ve long wondered why every building in Las Vegas isn’t covered in solar panels or solar film. In that environment, even with the massive energy consumption, a significant percentage of their electricity could be generated that way. They’re just now starting to explore the ways they can use their abundant sunlight to power the city. For instance, they’re building a new solar farm outside of town, but it will only generate about 6 million kilowatts per year. There’s also a solar tower being built out in the desert, which is expected to produce 110 megawatts of power by next year. And the local schools are installing solar panels on the roof to supply part of their energy needs. But there’s much more that could be done, obviously. The City Center project has received LEED Gold Certifications for several of its buildings, and that’s a good start. But why hasn’t MGM Mirage or Steve Wynn built a hotel/casino that is covered in solar film so that a sizable portion of its energy needs are supplied with this clean and renewable resource? Once the first one does it, the rest will likely follow — if for no other reason, then because it will cut their massive electricity bills and reduce their operating costs.

Why aren’t we requiring all new homes to have either solar panels or small windmills on them, depending on the local environment? Yes, it makes building a house more expensive, but that can be offset by tax credits or subsidies. The same should be true of office buildings and factories, which can generate a lot of solar and wind power by designing their buildings correctly. How about we take the $4 billion a year we’re currently giving to the big oil companies — at a time when they’re making higher profits than any companies in the history of the world — and use it instead to subsidize practical solutions like the ones above?

Germany has taken the lead in solar power generation, producing 3% of its total electricity needs that way, with estimates that it could grow to 25% by 2050. And since the passage of a law that subsidizes solar energy, the cost of their photovoltaic systems has dropped in half. The same can be done here. And there are a thousand small, practical steps that could be taken to make that transition a reality. It would be good for the economy and good for the environment.

Comments

  1. slc1 says

    Hey, but Romney and the Rethuglicans say that mining more coal will lead to energy independence and anyway global warming is a lie perpetrated by nefarious climate researchers after more federal bucks. It’s all very simple, you’re just stupid if you don’t understand it. End snark.

  2. Michael Heath says

    The more we experience the harm currently caused by global warming and the looming threat we face from warming, along all the harm of our being overly dependent on oil, the more it appears this country’s failure in 1977 – 1980 and beyond wasn’t a failure of the Carter Administration during that period but instead a failure to follow President Carter’s energy policy prescriptions. History will not look kindly on the U.S. since then, but Jimmy Carter will look better. And I point this out as someone whose long concluded the Carter Administration was a failed administration; which I still think it was, however not so much with more retrospect.

  3. danielkim says

    After the Great East Japan Earthquake, new buildings, or at least new temporary housing, was required to have solar panels installed. After reading about that, I believe that every time there is a disaster that requires federal money for recovery and rebuilding, all new buildings should have solar panels installed. It would be one way to impose a new standard on construction where the cost will be partially covered by federal disaster relief money.

  4. Cuttlefish says

    Overseas, I got quite used to seeing solar water heaters on the rooftops of the vast majority of buildings in any given town. Here, I know of one solar water heater and two houses with photovoltaic arrays–that’s it. I’m looking into solar for my rooftop as soon as one of my trees goes–and it’s on its last years.

  5. jeremydiamond says

    But why hasn’t MGM Mirage or Steve Wynn built a hotel/casino that is covered in solar film so that a sizable portion of its energy needs are supplied with this clean and renewable resource?

    Because that technology was only invented last month.

    But I do hope we get that deployed soon.

  6. lordshipmayhem says

    Why aren’t we requiring all new homes to have either solar panels or small windmills on them, depending on the local environment? Yes, it makes building a house more expensive, but that can be offset by tax credits or subsidies.

    Actually, it wouldn’t be all that much more expensive, the high cost is in retrofitting existing homes that were never planned to take advantage of even passive solar energy. If you design the homes to accept solar panel roofs and to have the long stretch of roof oriented to take maximum advantage of the Sun’s location, the cost is not that significantly different from building a traditionally-roofed home.

  7. jamessweet says

    Yes, it makes building a house more expensive, but that can be offset by tax credits or subsidies.

    Sorry, giving tax credits or subsidies to any entity that is not either a corporation or an individual making a minimum $1 million/yr is class warfare.

  8. robb says

    here is a link to a blog by a physicist, Tom Murphy. his blog looks at energy production and use and uses calculations to compare different energy sources. a very good, enlightening read. here is his take on wind versus solar. in the end, fossil fuels win out because they are cheaper and don’t have the storage and intermittancy problems that wind and solar do:

    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/12/wind-fights-solar/

    with the advent of a cheap source of natural gas via fracking, fossil fuels will still be cheaper, so there won’t be the urgency of developing alternative energy sources. at least for a while now. however, there is a limit to our fossil fuel reserves. eventually they *will* be expensive compared to other sources. for now, we should still pursue alternative sources like Ed states above. a hotel covered with panels would be cool. Vegas can afford it!

  9. TGAP Dad says

    I think the Germans went about this the right way with its National Rnewable Energy Act. IIRC the solar panels are subsidized by low-interest loans, and the electric utilities are required to purchase the excess power at 21/2 times market value. And virtually all open spaces are fair game. They set a goal of 20% of electrical power being generated by solar energy by 2020, years ahead of schedule, and are currently on track to exceed 30% by that date.

    The problem is we, as a country, lack the political will to make it happen. We can’t even agree to fairly tax zillionaires or ban 100-round ammo magazines.

  10. says

    “but it will only generate about 6 million kilowatts per year,”

    Is this a typo, or is it some energy math that I don’t understand?

    Isn’t 6MKW the same as 6GW?

    That question aside, the standard answer for not using alternative energy sources is sunk cost/ROI, IIRC. As I have pointed out–on this blog–previously, if the nukes and the petrochemical folks had to pay what it REALLY costs to generate the power that they sell, my yard would already have a windmill in it.

  11. zekehoskin says

    Forgive me, but as soon as an article says “six million kilowatts per year”, I start wondering what other mistakes are in it. Six million kilowatts is six gigawatts, a huge amount of power. Do they mean peak or average? Or do they mean six million kilowatt-hours per year? Lessee, 8766 hours/year, call it 700 kw average, enough for a radio station. Given that the average home uses 640-odd kwh/month but air-conditioned homes much more, half a million kwh/mo is maybe 500 homes. I can do the math and the look-up, but why should every reader have to?

  12. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    For instance, they’re building a new solar farm outside of town, but it will only generate about 6 million kilowatts per year.

    This is dimensionally nonsensical. I assume you mean kilowatt hours.

    Other than that, this is a good idea, which probably explains why it’s not being done already.

  13. maureenbrian says

    You’ll like this then – http://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/view/1439 – solar energy provides one third of the power for a major inner London transport hub with rail, tube and multiple buses. It even has a very visible display saying how much energy it is generating this minute and how much over a period. Has been running happily for years.

    Now, if the present government could only make up its mind about green energy rather than bowing first to one lobby and then to another we might begin to make progress.

  14. KG says

    in the end, fossil fuels win out because they are cheaper and don’t have the storage and intermittancy problems that wind and solar do:

    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/12/wind-fights-solar/

    with the advent of a cheap source of natural gas via fracking, fossil fuels will still be cheaper, so there won’t be the urgency of developing alternative energy sources – robb

    “Cheaper”, of course, only if you don’t factor in the vast costs of the environmental destruction fossil fuels are causing – which at present, it appears capitalism is simply unable to do. It’s true that intermittency and storage problems are the big drawbacks of both solar and wind; and even if we take into account what could be done to reduce energy demand by increased efficiency (which is considerable, particularly in insulation of buildings, and vehicle fuel requirements), the plain truth is that there is no technical fix, or combination of technical fixes, that will avoid catastrophic climate change without radical changes in behaviour, particularly in rich countries: notably big reductions in long-distance travel, particularly flying; switching short-to-medium-distance travel away from autos to public transport, cycling, and walking; tolerance of a wider range of temperatures in buildings; and much less meat and dairy in the diet.

  15. Victor says

    The local high school is currently putting solar panels over the parking lot Chatsworth-Northridge Patch. It is expected to produce 40% of the power used by the school.

    Sounds good to me. No, make that great!!!. But then, here’s the first comment on that article:

    One branch of the City of LA government (LAUSD), undercutting another branch of the same City government (LADWP), while “creating” jobs that aren’t necessary. Sure, I’m writing negatively here, but I don’t believe in any actual long-term benefits with solar power for big applications like schools. Perhaps it makes sense for private homes, and certainly for things like yard lighting and lighted road signs;

    Yeah, it’s ok for a private home to save a few hundred watts in yard lighting, but a 484.12 KW system in a public school is just wrong??? WTF?

    And another commenter complains that reducing carbon footprint is a waste unless “China, India, E, Europe, S. America, etc” stop builing coal power plants.

    Sometimes I think we should just kiss our asses goodby and hope that whatever life-form comes next does a better job.

  16. erichoug says

    Meh! I was getting a little interested in Solar until I went out to see a Solar application outside of Midland. Now I am not so sure.

    Oddly enough, the solar cell was being used on a oilfield pump jack that was far enough out to be off the grid. The well was fairly small. A typical pump jack uses a 10-150Hp motor and a contactor or VFD for control the site may also have some lighting and a convenience recepticle. There is often some metering, some control and some valves as well.

    Just so you know, electric motors in industry account for about 60% of the energy consumed in this country.

    The motor in question was pretty small, about 22kW or 30Hp, 460V. The solar cells that were being used were larger than two semi trailers. And the power was pretty much maxed out. The batteries that they used are a substantial investment and the converter section that they put into place was around $60,000. Again, for some perspective, a 30Hp motor will cost you around $750-$1,500 a contactor will cost you another grand and a VFD would be around $3000 if you wnet that route. So, JUST the converter section is a HUGE extra cost. And keep in mind that 30Hp is a very small motor. I have seen installations running off 4160V at 10,000Hp. That would pretty much be out of the question for any solar panel smaller than Connecticut. Oh, and to add insult to injury, there was a Cat diesel generator on the site, mandated by the field manager because the solar is not reliable enough.

    I completely agree that home and office use of solar is a good idea, if they can ever bring the actual cost down. But, for industry, it isn’t likely to happen any time soon.

  17. says

    I’m pretty sure that if the Vegas hotels could produce their own energy cheaper with solar given the intermittentcy issue (casinos are busiest when the sun isn’t out), the expected time frame of the ROI, etc., they’d probably do it. The reason they’re not doing it is because while solar PV has become dramatically cheaper in the last several years, it’s still not as cheap as coal.

    The biggest problem is that coal produces massive externalized costs that consumers don’t pay, the rest of us pay. That’s the whole reason for wanting to get rid of it. The solution would be to tax coal in order to internalize those costs, in which case I’m pretty sure that solar (and lots of other things) would cost less. If that’s politically impossible, and it seems that way, the alternative thing we can do is subsidize clean energy, which we already do to some degree. But ultimately, Vegas casinos and everyone else will tend to buy whatever costs them less, and if they’re not buying solar or wind right now, then the way to change their behavior (without straight-up mandates) is to change the cost of things.

  18. regexp says

    Retrofitting an existing building for renewable energy is expensive. Its easy to build something like this into a new building. And casinos really don’t make that much money. Wynn’s profit margin looks to be about 11% and operates in an industry that is cyclical. Whereas google and Microsoft consistently operate in the 20s to 30 percent rage. They can afford to experiment a bit and waste investors money on experiments outside of their primary business (see googles self driving car as an example of a waste of money).

  19. erichoug says

    @Area Man

    I’m fairly sure that Las Vegas gets most of it’s power from the Hoover Dam.

  20. 'smee says

    @erichoug

    Meh! I was getting a little interested in Solar until I went out to see a Solar application outside of Midland. Now I am not so sure.

    The motor in question was pretty small, about 22kW or 30Hp, 460V. The solar cells that were being used were larger than two semi trailers. And the power was pretty much maxed out. The batteries that they used are a substantial investment and the converter section that they put into place was around $60,000. Again, for some perspective, a 30Hp motor will cost you around $750-$1,500 a contactor will cost you another grand and a VFD would be around $3000 if you wnet that route.

    FYI — your anecdote is not data

    So – tell me why they needed a convertor? Why they needed to convert a DC source to power an AC or tri-phase load?

    Oh, I know – ‘cos that’s what was already there! That’s how that particular pump used electricity from the grid to generate it’s motion. Maybe using a DC motor would have been expensive (for repair, etc). Maybe so… but using that particular anecdote as a cause celebre that for industry, it [solar] isn’t likely to happen any time soon.

    Simplistic cost comparisons ALWAYS come down in favor of the existing infrastructure, because it is already in place. So using it will often seem to be cheaper than replacing it.

    So solar works better with DC motors. Fine – replace the damn motor with a DC motor. Determine if you actually NEED the damn pump running 100% of the time, or if you can deal with a variable throughput.

    IF you need 100% then you are not in the market for solar right now.

    If you can leverage the sun for free-as-in-beer, available-when-shining energy, then do so. It will be better for everyone (because the energy you then don’t use will be available for folks elsewhere)

    I am certain that industry is ready for solar. It is industry accountants who aren’t! that infrastructure has not yet been fully depreciated! And why are you replacing that motor? It has 15 years of life still in it according to the asset-management schedule!

    By the way: your 22KW motor could be powered by about 220 basic, non professional PV cells (i.e. 100 Watt cells). Banked appropriately – providing the correct voltage and current to drive your pump. These would take up an area of about 45 x 45 feet (15 yards on a side) Put them on the sunward side of your pump — on the roof of the shack housing the rest of the equipment.

    Of course – they are only running when the sun is out (you did mention Midland, right. Texas is Zone 5. Considered pretty damn sunny.)

    Oh – and no gas costs…

  21. erichoug says

    @Smee

    DC motors are simply not practical. They are expensive and require more maintenance. I have personally seen design D oilfield motors sitting on a pump jack for 5 years without even having the grease changed. DC motors would be dead in this application in about 3 months.

    DC is really old technology. The vast majority of industry went to AC years ago. DC is probably less than 5% of the overall usage in industry. Mostly where you see it is on extremely large applications where you need high torque at low speed, like a heavy lift in a mine. And in those cases, it isn’t going to be 24V from a solar panel, it is more likely to be 10kV or more. The panel to supply that would need to be truly immense.

    By the way, I am not sure the power calculations you are doing is correct. Most industrial motors use 460V, and 600V in Canada. Most of the solar cells are a 24VDC out put that is rectified to 120VAC using a rectifier. Stepping that up requires a certain amount of toque that the solar cells are not going to be able to deliver.

  22. says

    “I’m fairly sure that Las Vegas gets most of it’s power from the Hoover Dam.”

    True, but the same point remains. As long as they have access to cheaper power elsewhere, businesses are unlikely to pay for solar power.

  23. erichoug says

    @area man

    I was just looking at solar power panels. and I found this (link). This would be about right for my living arangement. It says it would provide up to 1/2 of the usage for my home. I just got my July-August bill and it was right at $250. So that means it would pay about $125/month. If we consider the unit to require no additional parts or maintenance stretching into infinity, that gives me payback on my initial investment in about 5.5 years. Which isn’t very good. And keep in mind that that one is giving you the best case scenario. Personally, I doubt the unit would even pay for itself inside it’s expected lifetime.

    All in all, I think there are applications for the solar panels as well as for wind. But, I have spent 12 years of my professional life dealing with power and I am not really seeing much of a shift on this issue. A lot of the oil and water companies are using solar for their metering and comm equipment but not many are using it for actualy power.

  24. zxcier says

    We got net-metered solar on our Colorado house last year, it was a no-brainer and I highly recommend looking into solar lease programs if you own a house with a favorable roof. Total cost was under $5k, producing about 20kWh a day averaged over the year, which entirely meets our electric needs even this hot summer (I’d have gone for more panels, but the electric companies in their worry about the hoards of installations limit you to 25% more than your consumption…) They market it as a 20yr monthly lease that’s <= your current electric bill, but doesn't grow as electric costs will. Or you can pay the whole thing upfront and skip their ridiculous interest rate, get a home equity loan if needed instead to cover it for a much lower monthly rate – my payoff is about 6 years after which power is free. Best part is, they did all planning, permits, installation, tax credits, and will do all maintenance etc on the system for the 20 years.

    Not advertizing (although they do give decent referral kickbacks!), just pointing out that it's not unrealistically expensive or difficult; I'd bloviated for years about going solar if only I had the free cash. YMMV given local/utility incentives and location, but its not hard to get an estimate. I'd even bet they'd take care of Cuttlefish's tree issues.

    And yeah I'm under no illusion that I'm covering the additional agri/industrial energy use we Americans share in, but we can make our dent.

  25. eoleen says

    first of all, it will generate 6 million kilowatt-HOURS of ENERGY, not 6 million kilowatts of power…

    a watt, or kilowatt, or megawatt, is a unit of rate of flow, not quantity. The unit of quantity is the Joule, or the watt-hour: power flowing at the rate of x watts for an hour.

    Kapisch?

    Secondly, and more importantly, the rating(s) given are name-plate ratings, not actual in-the-field performance ratings. The nameplate ratings assume several things, such as squeaky clean panels: no dust, no bird “dirt”, etc. They also assume no haze in the atmosphere, which cuts down on the power available at ground level. I’ve seen projects described which quote the available power as 1.4 kw/sq meter, which is (approximately) the power available at the top of the atmosphere… On average, about half is available at ground level. During the day. Forget about generating solar power at night. And batteries run about 70% efficient at storing power… (I.e. put 100 watt-hours in and get only 70 watt-hours out…)

    A good-sized dust storm and that solar plant, or any solar plant, is useless. Ditto snow, hail, rain, heavy overcast, etc. etc. etc.

    That is why you don’t see too many solar power plants here in the northeast.

    I wish them luck. The power companies have been handing a “64 Megawatt” solar power plant around for many years now. It has yet to deliver a single watt-hour of power to the grid. It is used to brag about – to point out how forward thinking the power company under investigation is…

    Almost as bad as the ReThuglicans…

  26. zxcier says

    @erichoug See my post, the company I used happens to be affiliated with said box store. My installation is 4.2kW, with guaranteed operation for 20years (they give you a guarantee on the yearly generated power based on the solar cells degrading), and my total installed cost was half of the link posted. Look into it, the math works pretty well, esp given your apparently higher electric rates.

  27. fastlane says

    Solar isn’t the end all be all of energy, but it’s one way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. A combination of sun/solar works quite well in many small applications.

    I know of a mobile home park in Tucson that installed commercial, off the shelf PV on all the homes, plus 3-4 (I forget the exact numbers) 1.k kw (I think) wind generators. I don’t think the owner put in any batteries, but just pumps the extra electricity back into the grid.

    He claims that he nets about $1000/year, after maintenance and upkeep, from that system. It obviously varies from month and will change as the electric rates change, but even if it’s possible to make lots of neighborhood grids that are semi-independant, that would be a good way to go, IMO. Not all areas can use both solar and wind, but the two are quite complimentary.

  28. naturalcynic says

    @erichoug: Not even close. For its Southern Nevada operations, Nevada Energy gets 355 Mwatts from Hoover Dam and about 4.5 Gwatts from other sources, most of that as natural gas. There is one coal plant that produces about 500 Mwatts in Moapa that is supposedly as clean as possible, but don’t tell that to their neighbors on the Moapa Reservation. source . NVEnergy has slightly over 1 Gwatt under contract from outside renewable sources.
    Most of the electricity produced by Hoover Dam, about 2 Gwatts goes to Arizona and California.
    Walking around The Strip this week with my son, the thing that I noticed most profoundly was the frigid temperatures in many of the hotel registration areas. The casinos and most of the areas were slightly cooler than my heat-adapted body, but the lobbies were chill-provoking. Looking at the amount of clothing the staff behind the counters wore, they were probably the only ones comfortable with the temperature.
    Which reminds me of something about Tricky Dick in the White House. He cranked up the AC in the private quarters during the summer so he could put on a sweater and have a fire in the fireplace.

  29. erichoug says

    @zxcier

    I am sure there are even better deals out there and in the future, the home use will get even better. I think that, if you can make the economics work, it is a great idea to go with Solar. I have a deep hatred for Reliant energy and anything you can do to stick it to them is A-OK by me.

    But, the bulk of power used in this country is used by industrial users. If you have a steel works in your town, they probably use more kWh than tall the private residences put together. Unless you are in NY or LA.

    That one dinky little 22kW motor outside of Midland probably uses more power in a months than yo do in a year. And, for industrial applications, Solar is simply not going to work. Unless you get a BIG jump in the tech.

    The one that Ed posted is of a solar station that isn’t photo-voltaic. But rather it uses mirrors to concentrate the sun on a boiler to run a traditional steam turbine. This is a good idea, but I know industrial users who lose $50,000 and hour whenver their down so 100% uptime is always their goal. If the sun ain’t shining, they’ll have to get power from somewhere.

  30. says

    I’m sorry, but I’m not really seeing how a 5.5 year RoI is a bad thing. Houses are (theoretically) built to last decades. 5.5 years is hardly a fraction of the lifespan of a good house.

    Further, you’re saying you’d be able to provide about half your energy needs with a solar rig. That means you’ve cut the amount of fossil, or nuclear, or hydro powered fuel that you consume, thereby reducing the impact those power methods have on your local environment. Without even considering global warming, the health and environmental impacts of fossil fuel and uranium based energy is massive. The impact of hydroelectic dams on the local biomes is also significant.

    Imagine if everyone were able to cover half their power consumption with solar power.

    There is especially no (good) reason not to incorporate solar energy in new construction. The technology will only continue to improve. By building with solar energy in mind, upgrading later becomes much easier.

  31. says

    But, the bulk of power used in this country is used by industrial users. If you have a steel works in your town, they probably use more kWh than tall the private residences put together. Unless you are in NY or LA.

    This isn’t especially relevant. If a factory gets its electricity from the grid, they don’t care how it’s generated. What matters is the total supply and demand. Thousands of distributed solar panels can generate enough electricity to run anything.

    There are intermittentcy problems when it comes to solar and wind, at least if they were to make up a large fraction of total capacity, but we have a long way to go before that becomes a serious issue.

  32. tomp says

    Not just in Las Vegas. I live in NY and the solar panels on my roof should supply at least half of my electricity needs. Because of subsidies from our local power company and state and federal tax breaks it will take only 3 years for the panels to have paid for themselves. My actual out-of-pocket could have been as low as…. nothing. The solar power company took the rebate from the power company. They could have arranged an interest free loan until the tax rebate was received and a low interest loan for the rest. The question is why isn’t everyone getting solar panels installed?

  33. erichoug says

    @Nathaniel Frein

    5.5 ROI is assuming the most favorable conditions, no additional instal cost and no repairs.

    Most power electronics have an expected life of around 10 years. I doubt you would be able to pay for the system in that time. Not to mention the batteries which are not likely to last longer than 5 years.

  34. says

    I just got my July-August bill and it was right at $250. So that means it would pay about $125/month. If we consider the unit to require no additional parts or maintenance stretching into infinity, that gives me payback on my initial investment in about 5.5 years. Which isn’t very good.

    Actually, I think that’s very good. You’re talking about a 13% dividend on your initial investment, although you’ll have to discount the initial capital expenditure. So over 20 years, that’s about a 9% return.

    Seeing as how you can sell a mortgage on your house for 5% or less, that sounds like a no-brainer to me. Of course, there are maintenance and insurance costs, so it’s closer to break-even than this.

    We are getting right at the cusp of what they call grid parity with solar, meaning that if costs keep falling it will become cheaper for everyone to put panels on their roof than to buy energy from the grid. At that point, we should expect the panels to explode all over the place. From a policy standpoint, what we should do is put our thumb on the scales, through pollution taxes (ideally) or through subsidies, to speed that process up.

  35. erichoug says

    There are intermittentcy problems when it comes to solar and wind, at least if they were to make up a large fraction of total capacity, but we have a long way to go before that becomes a serious issue.

    This actually brings up a few points that I had forgotten about.

    First, The big push in recent years for solar and wind has caused a great increase in the use of these technologies. But, the last I heard Wind and solar were still less than 5% of the overall grid. So, what does that say about their capabilty to put a real dent in the issue?

    Also, as far as intermittency, A few years back, Slate reported that the big wind farm out by Amarillo was producing at around 5% during the months of June July and August. Care to hazard a guess as to when Texas needs more energy?

    Look, just so everyone knows, I am not opposed to wind, solar, geothermal, Hydro etc. But, as an engineer who has spent a good deal of his professional career working with power concerns in Industry, what I am trying to say is that these technologies alone are not going to budge us off fossil fuels. It will have to be a lot more than just that.

  36. erichoug says

    From a policy standpoint, what we should do is put our thumb on the scales, through pollution taxes (ideally) or through subsidies, to speed that process up.

    again, Meh!, We give subsidies to ethanol and it is the most solidly horrible thing we do. Ethanol isn’t viable without the subsidy, it actualy reduces the fuel economy of your car and the use of it has led to starvation in parts of the world and food riots in others.

    If wind and solar were truly the solution to the problem, they should be able to take their share of the market without the handicap. And, we already do pay polution taxes in the form of portions of the gas tax and government mandated fuel economy.

  37. erichoug says

    Oh, and I have been hearing the “Grid Parity” bit about solar since at least 76 and it hasn’t happened yet.

  38. says

    But, the last I heard Wind and solar were still less than 5% of the overall grid. So, what does that say about their capabilty to put a real dent in the issue?

    Nothing really. Any energy source starting at zero will take a long time to displace other energy sources. Especially when they depend on falling costs to be competitive, and are just now starting to cross that threshold. What really matters is how fast they’re growing, and they’re growing at an incredible pace, much faster than even the optimists predicted 15 years ago. (I’ll leave it to you to look the numbers up.) And they could grow faster still if we put policies in place to encourage them, or better yet, to discourage dirty energy. The solution is actually not that complicated, we just have a lot of entrenched interests to overcome.

  39. says

    again, Meh!, We give subsidies to ethanol and it is the most solidly horrible thing we do.

    Just because it’s a bad idea to give subsidies to one thing does not make it a bad idea to give subsidies to some other thing. Whether it makes sense depends on the thing in question. Ethanol has no relevance to this discussion at all.

    If wind and solar were truly the solution to the problem, they should be able to take their share of the market without the handicap.

    And they would be, if the actual costs of fossil fuels were completely internalized (i.e., the producers paid for the costs of their own pollution, including carbon). Since that’s not the case, and since pollution taxes are not politically realistic, you correct this market failure by subsidizing the clean stuff.

    And, we already do pay polution taxes in the form of portions of the gas tax and government mandated fuel economy.

    The gas tax doesn’t even cover the cost of the highways, much less offset the cost of pollution. And mandated fuel economy does not function as a tax. And what does this have to do with electricity anyway?

  40. erichoug says

    The solution is actually not that complicated, we just have a lot of entrenched interests to overcome.

    Again, I have been hearing this since the 70s. The tipping point is always just around the corner, just over the horizon. And yet, I doubt the grid is much more wind and solar than it has ever been. I would probably be able to say without fear of being contradicted that the total kW of wind and solar added to the grid in the last 30 years is still less than the total of any other single generation source added in the last 10 years.

    Also, everyone seems to be concentrating on home and comercial use. Which is great. But, industrial usesrs are the vast bulk of the kWh used in this country. Last I heard, something in the neighborhood of 70-80% of the power goes to industrial users. not to the 60W bulbs in your house.

    I was just at a potash mine in Saskatchewan. They were using 4 x 2000Hp 4160V fans to ventilate the mine, not to mention many smaller ones down in the mine. Those 4 fans probably use more power than all the homes in Saskatoon put together. And there is absolutely now way you would be able to power them by solar. You simply couldn’t step up the power to 4160V for the application. Or you would need a panel bigger than the state.

  41. says

    “Look, just so everyone knows, I am not opposed to wind, solar, geothermal, Hydro etc. But, as an engineer who has spent a good deal of his professional career working with power concerns in Industry, what I am trying to say is that these technologies alone are not going to budge us off fossil fuels. It will have to be a lot more than just that.”

    Really? Then you might want to come up with a better anecdote for the cost parity of alternative energies to nuclear and fossil fuels.

    You’re using the same anecdote that you used several months ago on this blog. Some people might not be aware of that, I am.

    Price-Anderson is what gives the nuclear industry a leg up on alternative energy sources. No Price-Anderson, no new nukes. Government subsidies in the form of tax breaks, sweetheart deals on mineral leases and the lack of enforcement of and penalization for violating environmental regs give the fossil fuel folks a leg up on alternatives.

    The TVA, Hoover Dam and the Grand Coulee Dam, to name but three are MASSIVE government funded projects. Let us see what happens if they invest that sort of %age of gummint budgets into alternatives.

  42. erichoug says

    @democommie

    OK, How do you power a 3000Hp, 4160V motor from a solar panel?

    Also, the consipiracy theory you mention doesn’t seem to have much of a good effect considering the last Nuclear power plant built in the states was more than 25 years ago.

  43. says

    Oh, and I have been hearing the “Grid Parity” bit about solar since at least 76 and it hasn’t happened yet.

    Yeah, we used to hear that dumb argument about electric cars. It didn’t happen in the past, therefore it won’t happen in the future. Strangely enough, we don’t hear it anymore.

    The cost of solar has fallen at a dramatic pace over the last 20 years and there’s no sign of it slowing down. Grid parity has already been reached in many places by some estimates. This is not some magical, mystical thing; it’s simply the logical consequence of falling prices.

  44. erichoug says

    @ Area man

    The electric car is hardly a good example. Most of what you see are hybrids that is using the regen energy of an AC motor rather than just wasting it. There are very few purely electric cars on the road and it doesn’t look like they are taking much of the market share. Although I do agree that they are improving and could potentially be a viable alternative one day. The only problem being that most of them will be fueled by coal power plants so it really isn’t that much of a step up.

    As far Grid parity, you’re talking about for residential and commerical buildings, and I agree it is getting cheaper and more cost effective. But, again, the lion share of power in this country and most others is from industrial users and Solar and wind have barely made a dent in the same time frame.

  45. says

    Uranium based nuclear energy is almost as bad as fossil fuel. We need to be working on thorium.

    Further, even if the costs maintaining the solar arrays break even with the reduced electric bills, you’ve still cut your reliance on fossil fuels and thereby reduced your impact on the environment. No one has said this has to be an all or nothing deal.

  46. says

    Electric cars don’t have to be powered by coal power. They can be powered by whatever method we choose.

    Fossil fuels have the market share now because they’re easy to use now and for the foreseeable future, and because we’re not requiring the companies or people using it to pay the pollution costs. If we were to come up with effective incentives for other energy sources we might actually see that change much faster than we are now.

  47. Randomfactor says

    Know what’s even more cost-efficient than solar OR natural gas? Turning the damned lights out. Setting the thermostat higher. Building smaller houses and putting less stuff in them.

  48. erichoug says

    Electric cars don’t have to be powered by coal power.

    You’re right, a lot of turbines run on diesel fuel so we can use those. But that seems kid roundabout.

  49. Michael Heath says

    robb writes:

    in the end, fossil fuels win out because they are cheaper and don’t have the storage and intermittancy problems that wind and solar do:

    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/12/wind-fights-solar/

    with the advent of a cheap source of natural gas via fracking, fossil fuels will still be cheaper, so there won’t be the urgency of developing alternative energy sources.

    Uh no. You are defectively conflating prices with total costs, where the total cost of coal and oil are not reflected in their price. Coal and oil have massive negative externalities not reflected in their price plus they’re both subsidized which further distorts their price from their cost, e.g,. for oil our military presence in the Middle East, especially the Persian Gulf. Derive a good approximation of the actual cost of coal and oil and you’ll find it’s insane to subsidize them as we do now rather than sufficiently tax that supply chain to send the market a far more accurate signal of their actual cost, which would also divert this cost from current and future taxpayers to the supply chain and consumers of coal and oil.

  50. erichoug says

    You are defectively conflating prices with total costs, where the total cost of coal and oil are not reflected in their price.

    Can you provide some actual costs then? I keep hearing this but I’m not really seeing anything backing it up. Oil companies and coal companies get sued all the time by people who are upset about their activities or the end results of their products.

    They pay quite a bit of money for this which ceratiainly gets passed along at the pump and in the cost per ton.

    When I hear this sort of thing it really doesn’t sound like they aren’t paying their fair share, it sounds like you’re trying to tax them out of the market. I really don’t have that huge of an issue with this as I am not really married to oil and coal. The real issue is that you don’t have a viable alternative to replace them.

  51. says

    The electric car is hardly a good example. Most of what you see are hybrids that is using the regen energy of an AC motor rather than just wasting it.

    Patently irrelevant. You used the “But we’ve been hearing about cheap solar since the 70s!” argument. The argument assumes that since a technological promise hasn’t been met within some arbitrary time frame, that it will never be met. The exact same argument was used for EVs. The mere existence of commercially available EVs is enough to debunk it. Just accept the fact that it’s not a legitimate argument. If you have some argument about how or why solar will not keep falling in price the way it has for 30 years straight, please share.

    The only problem being that most of them will be fueled by coal power plants so it really isn’t that much of a step up.

    They will be fueled by whatever our grid electricity is generated by. In case you haven’t noticed, some of us are arguing that it can come from renewables.

    As far Grid parity, you’re talking about for residential and commerical buildings, and I agree it is getting cheaper and more cost effective. But, again, the lion share of power in this country and most others is from industrial users and Solar and wind have barely made a dent in the same time frame.

    Also irrelevant. I don’t know why you’re so fixated on this, but I believe I have already explained that it doesn’t matter who buys the electricity. There is nothing magical about an industrial customer that causes solar panels not to work. All that matters is total grid capacity and load. Solar adds to capacity whether it’s on a roof or a giant farm, the same as any other power plant. The only issue is intermittentcy, which is an issue no matter who the customer is and can be solved in any number of ways.

  52. zxcier says

    @erichoug
    So lets just throw our hands up and do nothing, it’s too big a problem for us to try to solve!

    Or we can use rapid advances in technology, financing, and tax policy that finally encourages clean energy to start making a difference. For residential solar in much of the US, we are past grid parity given 0 transmission costs. In my example, using the min guaranteed 20 year production, my cost is under 4¢/kWh which is less than wholesale and far less than retail. Apparently even tomp in NY with less sun sees parity. Connected to the existing grid infrastructure so no batteries or downtime issues, and (for my particular company) 20 years guaranteed operation and maintenance. So why wouldn’t you?

    As for industrial, looking at the numbers 23% of US consumption is industrial, vs 34% residential. So yeah residential installations can make a dent, and as has been pointed out when you’re connected to the grid it doesn’t matter where the power comes from. And given the grid, your “how do I run a 4160V fan on solar” is nonsense – I connect my industrial installation to the grid and don’t touch the step-up infrastructure I already have in place. Sure, an isolated installation might need a substantial power inverter and battery setup, but that would apply to any off-grid generation. Assertions of cells the size of a state aren’t within many orders of magnitude of the applications you’re citing.

    On another note, also saw that transmission and other losses are almost 10%. I’m sure a good portion of this is intra-city, but still a good argument for coming up with a much better national transmission infrastructure. Then maybe we can generate power optimal locations without concern of getting it to where it’s needed!

  53. erichoug says

    @ Nathaniel Freen

    How does being more conscious of how and where you use energy prohibit you from also changing where you get that energy from?

    That’s kind of a dumb question. If you use less energy you don’t need to use all the resources available. So, maybe you close some of the coal plants and reply on the solar and wind more.

    As I said before, just upping the money we pay to subsidize solar and wind won’t get you there. You need a comprehensive solution. Without it you’re just going to eat your own success as the population growss along with the size of homes and the size of cars etc.

  54. erichoug says

    @zxcier

    You have some interesting ideas. But, It doesn’t seem like you know much about power.

    I like your bit about the step up infrastructure, that’s pretty revealing.

    For home use and lighting, solar and wind may come up. But, I think you have a better shot with wind or geothermal than with solar. It just isn’t robust enough for industrial use.

    I went to a cement Plant in Levan Utah that was surrounded by 100 Square miles of empty nothing. Believe me, if they could have gone solar and told the local power Co-op to go screw, they would have. But, the cost isn’t there, the technology isn’t there, the reliability isn’t there.

    I’m not saying it won’t be in the future.But, for now, I wouldn’t go investing in the next Solyndra.

  55. erichoug says

    Well this was fun, Everyone have a good labor day weekend and try not to do too much laboring.

  56. caseloweraz says

    Erichoug wrote: “First, The big push in recent years for solar and wind has caused a great increase in the use of these technologies. But, the last I heard Wind and solar were still less than 5% of the overall grid. So, what does that say about their capability to put a real dent in the issue?”

    For one thing, RE: wind, I’ve done a little research on the recent history of the production tax credit and it has been a real on-again, off-again story. Right now wind-turbine manufacturers are worried about it expiring again. The Danish company Vestas announced layoffs at plants in the U.S. for that reason.

    (And of course subsidies for oil production have been not only larger but far more constant.)

    You’re right that renewables won’t soon provide a major share of U.S. energy needs. But they could be providing more than they are, if political factors weren’t getting in the way.

  57. says

    @erichoug

    As I said before, just upping the money we pay to subsidize solar and wind won’t get you there. You need a comprehensive solution. Without it you’re just going to eat your own success as the population growss along with the size of homes and the size of cars etc.

    No one here who has argued in favor of solar power has tried to argue that it’s a “magic bullet” of any sort. Your argument seems to be that “well, since solar power doesn’t work for me here it can’t work.” If that’s wrong, show me how what you’ve stated previously can be interpreted otherwise.

    You are correct that by reducing power usage reduces the amount of materials used to generate that power. Dare I suggest that the “comprehensive” solution here would be to reduce power consumption with better building techniques and more intelligent usage, as well as taking advantage of solar energy where possible to reduce dependency on fossil-fuel energy, and finally by developing better sources for uninterrupted power?

  58. says

    Another suggestion I’ve heard is for local governments to require additions and upgrades like this, and finance them via the property tax on the land and buildings affected. That way, the owner won’t get stuck with all of the cost of upgrading a property they might be planning (or needing) to sell; every owner (present and future) who benefits from the upgrade has to share its cost; and those who share the costs are the ones who share the most immediate benefits, i.e., the reduced electric bills.

    Erighoug: I’m all for “comprehensive solutions” — but a comprehensive solution, by definition, consists of smaller innovations built up into a greater whole. Which means you have to accumulate small innovations before a “comprehensive solution” even becomes a meaningful concept.

    Comprehensive solutions are great, but if everyone just sits on their asses demanding that someone else offer a “comprehensive solution” before they’ll do anything themselves, then nothing will get done. And besides, human societies don’t always grow and change according to anyone’s comprehensive plans, so in many cases, it’s better for each person or business just to fix what’s in their reach, and THEN see how it can fit into a greater solution.

  59. tomhuld says

    There is a lot of misinformation flying around in this discussion.

    Erichoug: wow, just wow! Your assertions range from the misinformed to the surreal.

    I won’t go through all the stuff, just a few examples.

    Your statements about needing the area of entire states are obviously hyperbolic, yet setting the record straight:

    – If you made a PV system covering Connecticut, it would produce 1/3 of the electricity consumption of the U.S.

    – If you made a PV system covering Saskatchewan, it would produce almost twice the electricity consumption of the world.

    For these estimates I’ve used solar radiation data from NASA SSE, assuming crystalline silicon PV modules optimally inclined, with sufficient spacing to avoid shadowing.

    Grid parity: I don’t know electricity prices in the U.S., but in Europe, for domestic consumers we now have grid parity in Germany, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Portugal, southern France, parts of Greece, and Cyprus. In Cyprus, PV electricity cost is half the grid price. PV installations are booming in places where you have net metering, such as Denmark (NOT a particular sunny place, believe me, I was born there).

    On industrial uses: The claim that PV systems can’t handle higher voltage applications is weird. In Germany, PV systems >100kW must connect directly to the medium-voltage grid, 5kV or 10kV. That’s not a problem!

    I could go on, but it’s 2:30 at night here. If the thread is still alive tomorrow, I’ll have another look.

  60. danielkim says

    The Las Cruces convention center has similar panels in its parking lot.
    I am teaching a lab section for an engineering course at New Mexico State University on “Building Utilities”, and will be inviting a local PV installer to talk to the class. I am hoping to impress on the students that solar is a practical and normal accessory for a building, just like water and gas.

  61. jnorris says

    danielkim @ #5
    That’s exactly what should happen. The electric companies can’t complain because the first thing to fail in major storms, like Issac, is loss of electric power.

  62. says

    tomhuld “If you made a PV system covering Saskatchewan, it would produce almost twice the electricity consumption of the world.”
    But good luck getting Brent and Brenda Mulligan (of the Riel Crescent, Saskatoon Saskatchewan, Mulligans, doncha know) up and oot before work in January to sweep it off.

  63. iangould says

    “The Practical Path to Clean Energy”

    1. Don’t penalize efficient foreign producers with punitive politically motivated tariffs.

  64. says

    ” Last I heard, something in the neighborhood of 70-80% of the power goes to industrial users. not to the 60W bulbs in your house.”

    Whichever petroleum/nuclear industry flack you heard it from must not have seen this:

    http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/showtext.cfm?t=ptb0809

    For the year 2010, the figures indicate that Industrial end use of electricty was 962B KWH. For Commercial use, the figure was 1.329B KWH and for Consumer use, the figure was 1.451B KWH. So, it appears that Industrial use is around .27% of the total figure, not 80%.

    Correct my math if it’s wrong.

  65. iangould says

    @72 -this may be a point of genuine confusion over the meaning of “power”.

    Industry uses a much higher proportion of total ENERGY use than it does of total ELECTRICITY sue.

  66. KG says

    erichoug,

    You are defectively conflating prices with total costs, where the total cost of coal and oil are not reflected in their price.

    Can you provide some actual costs then? I keep hearing this but I’m not really seeing anything backing it up.

    It’s kind of difficult to cost the likely collapse of civilization in several decades time in terms of $s. Because that’s by far the most important cost of continued fossil fuel use.

    Oil companies and coal companies get sued all the time by people who are upset about their activities or the end results of their products.

    They pay quite a bit of money for this which ceratiainly gets passed along at the pump and in the cost per ton.

    What they most certainly don’t pay for is pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That has already changed the climate and acidified the oceans. You may have noticed that the USA has been going through the worst drought for several decades. While it’s always tricky to attribute a particular spell of extreme weather to climate change, an increase in both droughts and floods is a predicted result of climate change.

    When I hear this sort of thing it really doesn’t sound like they aren’t paying their fair share, it sounds like you’re trying to tax them out of the market.

    That would indeed be highly desirable.

    I really don’t have that huge of an issue with this as I am not really married to oil and coal. The real issue is that you don’t have a viable alternative to replace them.

    No, it isn’t. The real issue is that for every year we don’t take radical action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the probability of catastrophic climate change increases.

  67. spamamander, more skeptical-er and rational-er than you says

    I would so love to see this happening where I live.

    Here in eastern Washington we get 300 days of sun a year, I can’t help but see it being put to good use. Most of our current power (no pun intended) comes from hydroelectricity, supplemented by wind farms. I had a huge culture shock when I moved to Ohio and saw coal plants- I guess I logically knew places used coal, since we still mine it, but actually seeing the smoke from the plants kind of twisted my gut a bit. While dams and windmills have their own negatives as far as the environment they just don’t have nearly the wide-spread impact of fossil fuels.

    Sighs, me and my wishful thinking.

  68. says

    Iangould@73:

    The figures I’m using are for electrical power consumption ONLY. erichoug’s assertion:

    ” Last I heard, something in the neighborhood of 70-80% of the power goes to industrial users. not to the 60W bulbs in your house.”

    which it appears is quite a bit off the mark.

    erichoug also states, twice, that step-up from 480V (the maximum power level that SPV is currently capable of reaching) to 4160V is impossible/impractical. This link (http://www.conergy.us/Portaldata/1/Resources/usa/pdf-downloads/Solar_Energy_Government-SSJID_Project_Services_Case_Study.pdf) suggests that the problem is being worked on. 8o some years ago it was impossible to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, we’ve managed to overcome that problem. There are thousands of other problems that have been overcome by diligent and concerted effort.

  69. says

    “Also, the consipiracy theory you mention…”

    And which conspiracy theory would that be? That there is such a thing as the Price-Anderson Act? That it is a huge boon to the nuclear electrical power generating business?

    It’s gotta be one or the other–unless it’s true, which it is.

    You have made a number of extradordinary claims in this thread with not one fucking bit of evidence to support any of your assertions.

    You keep saying that you’re not a shill for nuclear power and the petroboys but your every comment on the subject is either pro-status quo or anti alternate energy. You’ll just have to accept that I don’t believe you, unless and until you present something other than conjecture and anecdotes to bolster your contention that alternative energy is unworkable/too costly.

  70. says

    democommie “8o some years ago it was impossible to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, we’ve managed to overcome that problem.”
    To be fair, the Atlantic was much bigger back then. It gave people something to complain about. Not like these kids today.

  71. says

    Modusoperandi:

    The ocean wasn’t bigger, but while the world was still flat (or still is, if you’re a subcriber to the GOP platform for 2012) it SEEMED bigger.

  72. lancifer says

    KG,

    “…the likely collapse of civilization in several decades time…Because that’s by far the most important cost of continued fossil fuel use.”

    Citation required.

  73. says

    KG:

    You WILL need to furnish a citation to Mr. Lancifer on that assertion–just as soon as he provides some citations for the many assertions that he has made about AGW being a hoax of some sort. Until then, carry on.

  74. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Oh for fuck’s sake, the Thermodynamics Denialists are drooling on this thread now?

  75. Ichthyic says

    don’t have the storage and intermittancy problems that wind and solar do:

    in case it hasn’t been mentioned yet, there are MANY ways of storing energy from solar and wind.

    I’ve seen at least 3 in use out in the desert SW California.

    the simplest of which is just using the excess energy during peak production times to pump water uphill to a resevoir. then you just let gravity feeds drive turbines when there is no wind or sun.

    simple, efficient, works.

    it’s a lie to say that there are no ways to store this kind of energy.

    and those that didn’t even consider that it could be stored aren’t doing themselves, or the world, any favors. Use your brains, please.

  76. Ichthyic says

    that gives me payback on my initial investment in about 5.5 years. Which isn’t very good.

    what?

    you’re crazy, that’s actually VERY good.

  77. Ichthyic says

    And yet, I doubt the grid is much more wind and solar than it has ever been.

    this is Eric in a nutshell.

    he doubts it, because he can’t fathom how it would work.

    it has nothing to do with any actual information available.

    Eric, you’re smart, but you’re way too lazy to be making conclusions like you have been.

  78. dingojack says

    “…that gives me payback on my initial investment in about 5.5 years. Which isn’t very good“.

    Hands up all those who have paid off thier mortgages in a mere 5½ years.

    Dingo

  79. says

    erichoug:

    ” Again, for some perspective, a 30Hp motor will cost you around $750-$1,500 a contactor will cost you another grand and a VFD would be around $3000 if you wnet that route.”

    In your dreams.

    This link ( http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/MARATHON-ELECTRIC-Vector-Motor-5THZ4) indicates that the motor might be a bit more than $1K. And if you can find an electrical contractor who will do a remote installation of ANYTHING, never mind a motor and control set-up that weighs at least 500 pounds, send him over to my house–he should be able to wire the whole building for less than $100, labor and materials.

    I think what we need to know about erichoug’s impartiality re: alternative power is summed up in this comment, by him:

    “In many ways, I can understand the dilema of Gay Republicans. There are many issues on which I agree with the Republicans

    Personal freedom
    Personal responsibility
    Gun Rights
    Much of the business and energy policy”

    here:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2012/08/31/gay-republicans-remain-hopeful/#comments

  80. lancifer says

    Someone blithely predicts “…the likely collapse of civilization in several decades time” and I request some evidence.

    None is provided, of course, since this is an asinine statement, and I am attacked for pointing it out.

    This is why no one is listening to your apocalyptic bullshit anymore. Even our centrist liberal president no longer brings up this dystopian idiocy.

    PV solar is great in limited applications and wind power only survives with massive subsidies. Wind power is also a hideous blight on the landscape. If there were oil derricks in the same places that are now infested with wind towers the hew and cry from environmental left would be deafening. Ugly is ugly my friends.

  81. says

    It’s good to see that racist lying piece-of-shit Mr. Lancifer demonstrating once again that he’s a clueless fuck.

    “PV solar is great in limited applications and wind power only survives with massive subsidies.”

    Citations, fuckface, citations. You wanna stop being called a lying piece-of-shit, stop being a lying piece-of-shit.

  82. Michael Heath says

    lancifer writes:

    Someone blithely predicts “…the likely collapse of civilization in several decades time” and I request some evidence.

    None is provided, of course, since this is an asinine statement, and I am attacked for pointing it out.

    You’ve earned this type of criticism; I think more than any other poster in this forum.

    That’s because you distinguish yourself in this forum as someone who neither provides cites for their absurd assertions, e.g., defectively conflating the physics of the Arctic with Antarctica in order to deny what’s going on in the Arctic being the latest, and ignoring citations by credible sources which represents the consensus scientific view and which falsifies your assertions. Where you then attempt to divert attention from those cites falsifying your assertions by acting as a tone troll. Such attempts of course don’t work on other commenters, but they do have you busily posting away on tone while avoiding the very facts presented to you which falsifies your view, apparently to protect indefensible policy positions you prefer keeping regardless of reality.

  83. lancifer says

    The anger of your replies only serves to underline the lack of evidence for your positions.

    Do you suppose vituperation is a substitute for substance?

    Prove me wrong; provide some evidence that using fossil fuels as the world’s main energy source, an activity that is sure to occur despite your ineffectual plaintive wails for “alternatives”, will result in the “collapse of civilization in a few decades”.

    I’m waiting.

  84. lancifer says

    Michael Heath,

    I love how you begin your tepid little diatribes with “lancifer writes”.

    As if addressing me directly is somehow beneath you, and that the other three people reading the thread at this point will care.

  85. says

    “Do you suppose vituperation is a substitute for substance?”

    Lancihoney, sit back with a great big bowlful of ‘go fuck yourself’, mmmkay?

    I never suppose vituperation to be useful in any way other than vituperation.

    As has been stated to you and other dickheads (including the likes of Mr. Bongo, mroberts, Milesius, Isabel and numerous others) the falsifying/debunking of your nonsensical assertions/deliberate lies has been accomplished many, many times–here and elsewhere.

    I see no reason to argue with a lying piece-of-shit like you. That is for others with more patience, less experience with your dishonesty and the need to educate themselves (any time spent working to educate a dick like you is a net loss) on the issues in these threads.

    Mr. Michael Heath who is much more patient than reached his TLV for lancifurious sometime back, about two years after I reached mine.

    Go fuck yourself.

  86. says

    It’s amazing how transparently stupid and hypocritical Lance can be when you question his religion…

    PV solar is great in limited applications and wind power only survives with massive subsidies.

    As opposed to coal and oil, which get no subsidies whatsoever, and not even lip service from politicians, nosireebob.

    Wind power is also a hideous blight on the landscape.

    Assopposed to strip-mining, mountaintop removal, or your typical oil spill? That statement is so stupid it can only be based on pathological hatred. Have you ever even seen a photo of a strip-mined landscape, or a landscape after being mined for tar-sands oil? Or do you hide from such awful truths in your Koch-funded bubble-verse like all the other libertarians I’ve encountered?

    If there were oil derricks in the same places that are now infested with wind towers the hew and cry from environmental left would be deafening.

    Why? Because oil derricks (and the shit that spills out of them) are a LOT uglier than wind towers. Thanks for inadvertenly admitting you know you’re wrong. (Oh, and it’s “hue,” not “hew,” you Randroid wanker.)

  87. lancifer says

    Raging Bee,

    Thanks for the correction on “hue” as opposed to “hew”.

    Other than that your post was your usual spit flecked, ignorant drivel.

  88. lancifer says

    democommie,

    You are a sad old fart. Your rambling rage filled retorts are no doubt a result of your failing health and diminishing mental faculties.

    Maybe if the home changed your Depends more frequently your disposition, and reasoning ability, might improve.

  89. says

    Oh dear, lancedboil is getting a little pissy, now.

    Invective and vituperation are certainly what you deserve but, “rage”? Oh, dear me, no, it’s not rage at all, you sad, sick lying fuckbag. It’s disdain, dickwad. Rage is what I might feel if I had to inhabit the same room with you while you told your ridiculous lies about AGW being some sort of hoax. But, since that will not be happening in this life than disdain to disgust is pretty much the gamut of my feelings toward you.

  90. lancifer says

    Show me where I ever said AGW was a “hoax”.

    You can’t, because I have never said that.

    Of course you have no problem saying things you know to be untrue if you think it will smear someone with whom you disagree.

  91. dingojack says

    Lance – try this:
    1. highlight the phrase ‘collapse of civilization in a few decades’ in your comment #93
    2. press ‘Cntl’ and ‘c’ to copy it
    3. press ‘Cntl’ and ‘f’ to open the find box
    4. click into the find box
    5. press ‘Cntl’ and ‘v’ to paste the phrase into the find box
    6. note how many uses there are of that phrase
    7. post back admitting you’re nothing more than a craven liar.

    Don’t worry your tiny little pinhead over the last one. I’m certainly not holding my breath.
    Dingo

  92. Michael Heath says

    DJ,

    KG did make an idiotic assertion @ 74 to which lancifer challenges:

    It’s kind of difficult to cost the likely collapse of civilization in several decades time in terms of $s. Because that’s by far the most important cost of continued fossil fuel use.

  93. Michael Heath says

    lancifer writes:

    Show me where I ever said AGW was a “hoax”.

    You can’t, because I have never said that.

    Maybe not, you’ve lied enough in both forums you certainly haven’t earned our trust. Unfortunately National Geographic is not displaying comment posts in Ed’s blog posts at scienceblogs.com so we can’t even check (I’ve bookmarked all the long threads where you’ve posted your uninformed, misinformed, anti-science, denialist crap).

    However I do recall you making an equally insane conclusion, that you’d written your representative to advocate we do nothing to mitigate the effects of global warming because you didn’t think there’d be any ramifications. That you lancifer were to be trusted rather than practicing publishing climate scientists, and in spite of your being almost wholly ignorant and misinformed regarding the physics of the climate and Science’s findings which impact the climate. That was in fact the first time I engaged you on the topic of climate change, at least with any energy beyond a comment post or two. Your position had, and I assume has you supporting current subsidies to coal and oil making them appear artificially cheap, the opposite of what science informs us given current observations and consensus predictions if we maintained a business-as-usual policy.

  94. dingojack says

    Ah but read #93 again, carefully*, then #100.
    Perhaps a case of ‘I make distinctions, you split hairs’ is called for in this case.
    ;) Dingo
    ——–
    * What was claimed to be a direct quote? Was it actually a quote or a quote-mine? What was the original context of Lance’s ‘direct quote’?
    See KG’s #18 (skim the various denialist hand-waving and special pleading) then his/her #74.

  95. says

    “Show me where I ever said AGW was a “hoax”.”

    In this thread or across the breadth of some thousands (likely) of comments over a space of several years? In the event, no thanks.

    I’ll settle for this:

    “This is why no one is listening to your apocalyptic bullshit anymore. Even our centrist liberal president no longer brings up this dystopian idiocy.”

    as a relatively clear example of your view that the AGW problem is, simply, nonexistent. Therefor, for its existence to be accepted by thousands of scientists (the vast bulk, according to other commenters’ citations) it would have to be a massive fraud, a hoax if you will, perpetrated on or by that group.

    You and I both know that you’re a fucking liar about race, climate and other things that you seem to feel that you are THE authority on; the self-report about your liberal progressivism cred:

    “For the record I am a college math and physics instructor, eat GM crops, have my family vaccinated, view evolution as rather obviously the best current theory of life on the planet, am an atheist and voted for Obama. What “tribe” that makes me I’m not sure.”

    couples with your adamantine indignorance on the subject of AGW or climate science in general (never mind which Attenborough brother is which) leads me to conclude that the “tribe” you belong to is the “tribe” of AGW denialist fucktards who are college math and physics instructors, eat GM crops, have their families vaccinated, view evolution as rather obviously the best current theory of life on the planet, are atheists and voted for Obama. That tribe might be small enough that you are it’s sole member.

    Regardless which tribe you belong to, lying and dissembling are you two major virtues.

    Michael Heath:

    I think it might be fair to say that this:

    “It’s kind of difficult to cost the likely collapse of civilization in several decades time in terms of $s. Because that’s by far the most important cost of continued fossil fuel use.”

    by KG, in response to erichoug’s:

    “Can you provide some actual costs then? I keep hearing this but I’m not really seeing anything backing it up.”

    in a previous comment, might be construed as snark or sarcasm.

    Since “several decades” might be as long as a half century or more if one thinks that “many” is more than, say, five. And KG is correct in saying that such cost is difficult to calculate but would certainly include the externalities of the energy production process which are usually socialized–when they are even know.

  96. Michael Heath says

    dingojack writes:

    Was it actually a quote or a quote-mine?

    KG made an assertion*, that assertion was challenged where I’m positive KG can not support his assertion with any credible and near-convincing evidence, therefore it’s idiotic to make such a claim. Where his assertion would also have to approach convincing because he framed his assertion as “likely”. It’s not a quote-mine to point out the absurdity of KG’s assertion.

    *KG @ 74:

    It’s kind of difficult to cost the likely collapse of civilization in several decades time in terms of $s.

    I don’t read KG’s posts. Now that I’ve read it a couple of times, it’s clear his idiotic assertion goes two levels. The first being the unfounded cite the collapse of civilization is “likely” within several decades. The second is that we can’t measure the economic impact of certain scenarios, which he uses here in lieu of providing a cite to back up his earlier challenged claims.

    DJ, your encouraging me to read KG’s claims did re-validate the wisdom of my not wasting my time reading KG’s posts.

  97. says

    erichoug:

    “First, The big push in recent years for solar and wind has caused a great increase in the use of these technologies. But, the last I heard Wind and solar were still less than 5% of the overall grid.”

    Nuclear power with MASSIVE support of the feds and Price-Anderson in place for 55 years is providing about 8-9% of the total of electical energy production in the U.S.

    I used to work in the power transmission business from mid 1978 to late 1981 and from late 1989 to late 1982. When I first worked in the industry in the Boston Area, a number of companies were designing and building wind turbines. They were being subsidized by way of tax credits and actual grants from the DoE. When Reagan became president in 1981 the Renewable Energy R&D budget was an item to be derided and discarded. By 1992 when Clinton became president it might well have never existed.

    The orders we had been seeing for bearings, belts, motors and related items simply stopped being written, many of the companies went bankrupt.

    The fossil fuel business has been heavily subsidized for at least the last 60 years–never mind that tax accounting chicanery has been a business tool of theirs since the birth of the industry.

    So, yeah, it’s not only easy to understand why alternatives have such a small market share, it’s hard to understand how they have any.

  98. lancifer says

    demmocommie,

    So your’e “O” for one on showing where I have ever said AGW was a hoax.

    Now try to find where I have lied about race.

    Oh, I did enjoy your use of the word adamatine. It was a refreshing break from your usual mindless string of grade school obscenities.

  99. says

    “So your’e “O” for one on showing where I have ever said AGW was a hoax.”

    I assume you meant “0”, although maybe you don’t know the difference between the letter and number keys; I will concede that such a thing might be possible.

    “Now try to find where I have lied about race.”

    Ha,ha,ha,ha,ha. Right, I’m going to waste more of my time when the evidence for that is all over Pharyngula and this blog. Not only are you a liar, you’re a smug fucktardlicious liar.SA

    “Oh, I did enjoy your use of the word adamatine. It was a refreshing break from your usual mindless string of grade school obscenities.”

    You should have c’n’p’d “adamantine”–then you might have gotten the spelling right. As for “grade school obscenities”, if you’re kids are talking like that, they’re in the wrong school, you adamantine fucking moron.

  100. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    “…that gives me payback on my initial investment in about 5.5 years. Which isn’t very good“.

    Hands up all those who have paid off thier mortgages in a mere 5½ years.

    Dingo

    By optimistic projections, I might be able to pay off my student loans in that time.

    Maybe.

    Does that count?

  101. says

    Show me where I ever said AGW was a “hoax”. You can’t, because I have never said that.

    Yeah, he used DIFFERENT WORDS to say the same thing, so nanny nanny boo boo, you socialist poopyheads!

  102. says

    You are a sad old fart. Your rambling rage filled retorts are no doubt a result of your failing health and diminishing mental faculties. Maybe if the home changed your Depends more frequently your disposition, and reasoning ability, might improve.

    Amazing how thin the libertarians’ veneer of smug rationality is these days, innit?

  103. lancifer says

    demmocommie,

    I assume you meant “0″, although maybe you don’t know the difference between the letter and number keys; I will concede that such a thing might be possible.

    That’s what you lead with, really? The expression is “O”(as in the letter o) for one. That’s why I put it in quotes. Maybe you don’t speak English as a primary language, or maybe you’re a petty little person grasping ineffectually at straws. Atleast you didn’t attack me for a typo… Oh wait.

    You should have c’n’p’d “adamantine”–then you might have gotten the spelling right.

    You are pathetic.

    I am going to have to put you in the “never respond to” category along with the dimwitted Ragin Bee.

    Enjoy your advancing senility.

  104. says

    Lancedfuck:

    As has been obvious for quite some time to readers who have a brain (that would not include you and the rest of your echo chamber AGWD’s) the climatic changes are abetted by the human tendency to be wasteful of resources and, for a species that prides itself on its ability to think (again, excluding you and your pals) to be well, thoughtless, about the consequences of their actions in that regard.

    “I am going to have to put you in the “never respond to” category along with the dimwitted Ragin Bee.’

    Oh, please, please, please do that. In fact, why not put the entire blog on your precious, fucking “never respond to” category. If we’re being honest your replying is sort of like serve and volley in tennis, with one small difference. You are served facts and links to other facts and you vomit Kochsucker talking points.

    May we count on your “never respond to” oath starting immediately. I’m betting not. Oh, though, you may be so clever that you will not NAME me or Raging Bee, but just flail against the truth and rail against the cruel, cruel world that fails to understand your genius.

  105. says

    I am going to have to put you in the “never respond to” category along with the dimwitted Ragin Bee.

    Notice how he only makes that vow AFTER we’ve debunked his nonsense? You’d think he would have learned by now that he’ll never be able to make himself look like the smartest guy in the room…

  106. says

    Raging Bee:

    If he only had to compete with me, he might be the smartest guy in the room. Fortunately, there are numerous other commenters here who can kick his ass where facts are concerned. I am far more interested in telling fuckwads like Lancifer to go fuck themselves.

  107. says

    Dear fellow commentors @ Mr. Ed’s perspicacious, pedagogic and philosophically peripatetic place of argumentativishness:

    It appears that my request to be added to Mr. Lancifer’s “never respond to” list seems to have had an effect much like the Elephant Repellent Charm that I bought online (we have had no elephants in this area since I bought one for the low price of 12 payments of $19.37+$300 S&H).

    I humbly suggest that if Mr. Michael Heath, slc1 and others who have striven mightily to educate the odurately indignorant Lancifer were to also request that he add THEM to his “never respond to” list that we might enjoy a little bit of sane debate on the subject of AGW. Just a suggestion.

  108. dingojack says

    Aww – but it’s just sooo fun taunting Cranky ’till he gets all atizzy, then watching with amusement when he inevitably punches himself square in the head.
    *Sigh* [kicks dirt up from the yard] aww OK then.
    Put me on your ‘do not respond’ list too Cranky.
    Dingo

  109. congenital cynic says

    By the way, I am not sure the power calculations you are doing is correct. Most industrial motors use 460V, and 600V in Canada. Most of the solar cells are a 24VDC out put that is rectified to 120VAC using a rectifier. Stepping that up requires a certain amount of toque that the solar cells are not going to be able to deliver

    Okay, I can’t stand it any more, and I don’t know if someone else did this earlier in the thread, but after having read 30 or so comments, this was driving me nuts.

    First of all, the OP stated an annual production in kW, which is not correct. Watts (and kilowatts) are the RATE at which energy is produced (or transported, or consumed), and no solar installation has a steady output of power, and kilowatt-hours (rate x time) is the amount of energy produced (or transported, or consumed). In most jurisdictions our utility bills come with ENERGY consumption expressed in kWh, but in some jurisdictions (e.g., Alberta, Canada) it is expressed in GJ (Gigajoules, or billions of joules), largely to simplify the comparison between utility bills for gas and electricity (gas bills are in GJ). And 1 kWh is not equal to one Gigajoule. The conversion factor is easy to calculate. One watt-second is a Joule. So one watt-hour is 60×60 or 3600 Joules. And one kilowatt-hour is 1000 x 3600 Joules, or 3.6 Megajoules. Simple enough.

    Now, that bit about AC and DC motors. With modern brushless DC motors the maintenance disadvantage of brushed DC motors is removed. And DC motors are MUCH more simply controlled for speed. And they have, for many applications a more far more favourable torque-speed curve. So it depends on the application one is looking at before one can determine which type of machine one needs.

    In Canada, industrial motors are typically 550 or 600 V three phase AC. You can’t “rectify” DC to AC. You rectify AC to DC. The DC to AC conversion is called “inversion” and requires a lot more sophisticated power electronics than rectification does (you can rectify AC to DC with a center tap transformer and a capacitor). And it doesn’t matter that the solar panel only produces 24V. Once you invert it to AC the voltage can be stepped up to 120 with a transformer, as is done in millions of transformers all over the world. Or you could series connect banks of solar panels to get a higher DC voltage for inversion. These problems are easily solved.

    The main problem with solar, wind, and other renewables is availability. Because they are intermittent, some kind of energy storage mechanism is required. And therein lies the big expense. There are many schemes that have been tried, but the price of storage at the scale required to meet demand when the generation is not producing is currently very high. I agree that big oil may retard progress in the development of the low-cost, high-capacity storage, but a lot of it is simply the state of the energy storage business. I could go on about this for pages, but I’ve got other stuff to do and I’ve done enough of a rant. People are working on this though. It will get better.

  110. says

    Congenital Cynic:

    Good comments.

    On the storage thing. Two factors might mitigate.

    One would be to use the solar collectors to be non-PV and just store the heat as heat in sodium or some other media and use that heat to run HW or Steam turbines. Yes, I know that would be grossly inefficient; otoh, “free” fuel will help offset a lot of infrastructural cost.

    The second would be if we all pulled together, on a planetary basis and took advantage of the fact that the sun sends us energy 24/7.

  111. dingojack says

    It worse that that! All your NH AC keeps running down and flowing out our power points!
    Damn, gotta go de-electicify the rugs again.

    ;) Dingo

  112. tomp says

    Yes, availability is an issue but if we can use solar and wind when it is available and gas when it isn’t we can reduce our need for gas. The solar panels on my house don’t eliminate my need for power from my electric company but it reduces that need by more than half.

  113. says

    Well, I must say that I’m happy that Lancifer has, thus far, not broken his promise to refuse to respond to me or Raging Bee (on this thread, at least). I would welcome, however, a comment from Mr. Houg who departed last friday after making a lot of unsupported (and pretty much unsupportable) assertions and has been back to comment on later blogs but seems not to feel any compulsion to re-visit this thread.

  114. says

    Well I hate to just beat it to death but it’s been 11 days since Mr. Houg decided to slink away from this thread after making a number of unsupported/unsupportable assertions on the impracticality/non-viability of alternative means of electrical power generation v traditional (or, as I prefer to call it, “fucktheworld”) means of electrical power generation–on this thread:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2012/08/31/the-practical-path-to-clean-energy/#comments

    I, for one, intend to keep a copy of this for future “arguments”.

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