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This just in: Fox News ‘experts’ are lying shitsacks

You might have seen this already: Media Matters caught it and it’s making the rounds, including at my green energy joint at KCET. Fox News talking head Shibani Joshi says the reason Germany’s leading the U.S. in solar power installations by a factor of about 20 is that Germany has more sun than we do in the U.S. It’s toward the end of the clip:

Money quotes: Gretchen Carlson asked “What was Germany doing correct? Are they just a smaller country, and that made it more feasible?” Joshi: “They’re a smaller country, and they’ve got lots of sun. Right? They’ve got a lot more sun than we do.”

Here’s the inconvenient truth (as they say), courtesy the National Renewable Energy Laboratory:

NREL-Insolation-map-2-8-13

It’s almost like they just don’t care they’re lying.

Comments

  1. says

    Just going off that quote, it sounds more like gross ignorance than deliberate lying. Maybe the guy actually believes that Germany is a tropical country. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

  2. shallit says

    Fox News is right. Haven’t you ever seen that TV show with Danny von Vito, “It’s always sunny in Garmisch Partenkirchen”?

  3. says

    Ok, having watched the video, I’m more willing to believe the “deliberate lying” angle. She (not a guy, as I first thought) seemed quite sure of herself, which she couldn’t possibly be if she had bothered to look it up. Sounds to me like they’re trying to sell the line of “Germany has lots of sun, we have lots of natural gas”.

  4. glodson says

    Just going off that quote, it sounds more like gross ignorance than deliberate lying.

    I’m going to say yes to both. They are deliberately lying and exposing their own gross ignorance.

  5. says

    Germany can afford to bail out the rest of Europe, it was able to absorb the economic basket case that was East Germany, it has extensive social services and it has massive subsidies for alternative energy.

    So why is Germany so wealthy? Could it be because socialism works better than lassaiz faire capitalism? Could it be that a nation that invests in it’s people is better off than a nation that tends to concentrate its investments only on rich people?

  6. Kevin Dugan says

    So Chris, is there any work by environmental group to propose undeveloped areas that would be ecologically acceptable for setuping up a solar farm? Perhaps its a media bias, but my perception is that they wait for a company to start purchasing land or proposing development and then rally against them NIMBY style. I’m sensitive to the ecological cost of development and think rooftop solar kicks as an idea, but if we want this idea to work on an energy-company scale and replace fossil fuels, some kind of cooperation and forethought is in order.

    (At least until we get a space-elevator up and can put solar farms in orbit.)

  7. illdoittomorrow says

    National Renewable Energy Laboratory? That’s just a commie-librul, nanny-state gummint waste of the taxpayer’s money, come to take our cars and our FRRREEEEEEEDDOOOMMMM away.

  8. illdoittomorrow says

    Sorry, I tried adding a tag like /Faux Nooze-watching rube at the end, but I can’t even get made-up, nonfunctional html tags to do what I want.

    Also, I fail at preview.

  9. clastum3 says

    ok, so PZ is the master of the universe and he’s also the world expert on energy questions.

    Solar in Germany is bankrupting the county, that’s why the government is trying to rein the enormous subsidies for it in. . Electricity here costs 25 eurocents /kwh and rising . Do Americans want to pay that?

  10. stonyground says

    @markmckee
    Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germany was a socialist state, West Germany was, and still is, broadly capitalist. It was the socialist half that was an economic basket case.

    Regarding solar panels. They are totally brilliant for powering calculators and wristwatches. Totally useless at powering a modern industrialised society. They can however be useful for pretending that you are reducing your dependance on fossil fuels and pretending that you are reducing your emissions of CO2.

    The premise of the OP stands though, The US has deserts FFS, hot arid places with near permanent blue skies, if solar panels are going to work anywhere it is in a desert. Germany does not have any deserts.

  11. says

    Hey, clastum3!

    1. Read the byline.

    2. Read the content.

    3. Then try to make a relevant comment that actually addresses points the author made.

  12. Rob Grigjanis says

    @stonyground: “West Germany was, and still is, broadly capitalist.”

    Definitely. But the “entitlements” render it socialist by US standards.

  13. dcg1 says

    I live in the Uk and we receive a similar amount of sunshine to the Germans.
    This year however the sunshine has reached exceptional levels and many people have drowned or been flooded out of their homes. Although some people have survived by clinging to the red hot solar panels on the roof of their home. Sorry my sarcasm meter just exploded.

    Where do Fox news get these fuckwits???

  14. says

    @stonyground:

    No. Solar panels are in no sense “totally useless”.

    They are a good component of any carbon-neutral power grid. They are expensive, but in good locations like the American southwest only slightly more so than advanced nuclear plant designs, and costs are coming down.

    There are problems with large-scale power storage that may limit the fraction of power that can be generated by solar, but it can certainly be a significant percentage of the grid – comparable to hydroelectricity at least.

    (I just looked up the cost numbers as reported at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source

  15. says

    the reason Germany’s leading the U.S. in solar power installations by a factor of about 20 is that Germany has more sun than we do in the U.S.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  16. tprc62 says

    Germany subsidizes solar installations by guaranteeing a certain payback for 20 yrs(I believe) for solar installs. People could then get bank loans and solar installs popped up everywhere. This is paid for by higher electricty rates.

    As to whether this was good policy(from May 2012):

    (Reuters) – German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour – equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity – through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday.

    The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world’s leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed.

    Tedd

  17. says

    Solar in Germany is bankrupting the county

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    American conservatives/libertarians are so fucking proud of being fucking ignorant doucheweasels, aren’t they.

  18. says

    They’re really that desperate to avoid acknowledging that a “socialist” government can ever do its people any long-term good. That’s really how far down the hole they’ve gone.

  19. says

    oh god, is clastrum really in Germany? and he really beleives Germany is going bankrupt, and that it’s going bankrupt because of somar? that’s even more sad-funny than the fox news thing.

  20. Draken says

    Yes, they stoles all the precious sunlight from us seventy years ago, them filthy Germanses!

  21. says

    Slightly modified from when it came up in the lounge:
    Don’t you people see? We have American sunlight, not like that commie German sunlight. Our sunlight understands the essential need for Americans to drive huge cars and get our power from good American coal and oil shale*, mined by dirt poor Americans, for the profit of American CEOs and shareholders**, dammit. That’s why it won’t give those freeloading solar panels as much energy.

    *and Canadian natural gas

    **Americanness of shareholders is measured by the amount of shares they own; actual nationality is irrelevant.

  22. says

    So Chris, is there any work by environmental group to propose undeveloped areas that would be ecologically acceptable for setuping up a solar farm?

    Environmental groups have, for the most part, rolled over and shown their fluffy little bellies to the solar developers, approving a plan to open up more than 20 million acres of public lands in the American west to solar development.

  23. leftwingfox says

    Never understood why Solar isn’t huge in the US Southwest. Major power drain down there is Air Conditioning running due to… heat from sunlight.

  24. leftwingfox says

    approving a plan to open up more than 20 million acres of public lands in the American west to solar development.

    So much rooftop space, and this is what they come up with?

  25. says

    Solar in Germany is bankrupting the count[r]y…

    Yeah, Germany is totally broke and that’s why everyone else is asking Germany to bail them out from their respective debt debacles.

    Remember the good ol’ days when libertarians were better at pretending to be intelligent? Time was, you had to walk through three feet of snow to go to a library to do actual research to find out how full of shit they were. Now we have the Internet, and it takes less than ten seconds before we’re all laughing at whatever they pull out of their asses. You kids today don’t know the meaning of hard work…

  26. robb says

    solar will never work! have you noticed that as the sun revolves around the earth, it only shines 1/2 the time? natural gas and coal burn 24/7!!1!!

  27. says

    Electricity here costs 25 eurocents /kwh and rising. Do Americans want to pay that?

    We will whether we want to or not, whether in solar feed-in tariffs like Germany’s or through moving our cities a hundred meters uphill.

    Besides which, Germans can hook up a solar panel and receive 25 cents (us) [edited: per kwh, I mean] for the power they generate. Do Americans want that? Once they hear it’s possible, yes.

  28. Brian E says

    I would have thought the south west of the u.s. was prime solar territory. Nothing there but a few ugly yuccas, grizzled greenies and assorted varmints. Plenty of sun however. ;)

  29. tprc62 says

    Near my house, I can watch the railcars loaded with coal(100 tons each) go by, and each of those railcars is going to make 200-300 tons of CO2.

    Fixing this problem won’t be free. Paying 25 cents/kwh instead of 12-15 cents/kwh isn’t that awful. Just one of the things we are going to have to do to deal with climate change.

  30. says

    I would have thought the south west of the u.s. was prime solar territory. Nothing there but a few ugly yuccas, grizzled greenies and assorted varmints.

    Absolutely. Why, just check out this documentary film of the region:

  31. Gregory Greenwood says

    It’s almost like they just don’t care they’re lying.

    Of course they don’t care they are lying – they are telling their rightwing core audience what they want to hear, secure in the knowledge that something as insignificant as reality with never intrude on their pious worship of Yahweh, Capitalism and the American Dream (among other popular delusions, and not necessarily worshipped in that order). Should anyone else call them on it, they will simply declare their critics ‘unamerican, godless commies’, and their audience can then be relied upon to supply any required volume and quantity of ‘boo, hiss!’ as a Pavlovian conditioned response.

    We have the same thing over here in the UK, except for us it is the Red Tops like the Daily Heil Mail doing the Pied Piper bit, and the trigger of their readership’s bigotry feeding frenzy is usually immigrantion and/or muslims.

  32. georget says

    Michaelbusch; You’re comment makes no sense. Hydroelectric energy can power 100% of a power grid, as the potential energy behind the dam can be governed to follow the demand of the load being served. Solar power will never be able to power more than ~2% of the load because of things like clouds and night-time. And when solar cells can provide power, it is simply not an economical way of converting energy. It works out to about 8 acres of machinery for 1 megawatt. Having to be backed up continuously by conventional sources. Solar plants are net energy consumers.

    Wind power makes no sense; solar power is worse.

  33. Lofty says

    In 2008 I put solar panels on my roof (in sunny South Australia), which cost approx 8 cents per watt in installed capacity. Now panels cost well under 2 cents per watt. Back in 2008 they weren’t in any way giving a decent return on investment without a substantial ($8000) rebate and a 50 cent feed-in tarriff.
    The original rebate was applied by the then conservative government. It was not advertised. When the leftist party was elected, the first thing that our PM did was go in front of the cameras and state he was means testing the applicants to under $100,000 pa income. The scheme went wild and was hit by approximately TWENTY TIMES as many applicants. Demand helped Chinese manufacturers ramp up production, flooding the market with cheaper panels. New technologies have the potential to drive the cost down even further.
    The government subsidies are pretty much over now for new customers. Now solar pays for itself just by displacing daytime use. I would have put solar up without the subsidies, I had the money and I felt it was a good idea.
    Australia has some very good sites suitable for concentrated solar power, including the site of an ancient brown coal fired plant that is in dire need of closing down, at Port Augusta. The locals have been campaigning for a solar thermal plant there. Would the same situation in the USA attract gun totin’ rednecks demanding the rebuild of the coal plant and shooting the solar system full of holes every night and day?

  34. Francisco Bacopa says

    Never understood why Solar isn’t huge in the US Southwest. Major power drain down there is Air Conditioning running due to… heat from sunlight.

    True that. It would make sense just to paint roofs white to cut down on the AC bills. I live in a shed roof apartment that faces south stuck on the end of a row of townhouses.

    But WTF Fox? How does the fact that Germany is a smaller country even matter? Percentage of energy use is percentage of energy use without respect to size.

  35. says

    Wind power makes no sense…

    Really? Then why do farmers in the US want to build wind turbines on their land, and why are they chafing at local regs that restrict their ability to do so?

  36. texasaggie says

    Recently I read an article about the use of solar panels in the developing world. It turns out that electricity from solar panels costs about half of what it costs to produce it by diesel generators so solar panels are taking off in places like India and parts of Africa. And installing the panels costs much the same as an equivalent generator.

    I also saw an article yesterday about several different programs using completely different processes for storing energy from variable sources like wind and sun. They can do a lot to reduce the problems, especially since they can come on line a lot faster in response to fluctuations in electrical supply/demand than gas fired plants can. And needless to mention is that when a grid is big enough, the lack of power in one place is compensated by overproduction somewhere else.

    California did a good job in putting in rooftop panels and the people who participated have seen their electrical bills reduced considerably. The business of requiring power companies to buy excess power is a big draw. One woman mentioned how irritated she gets when her electric meter starts to run the “wrong” way.

  37. texasaggie says

    @clastum3 the government is trying to rein the enormous subsidies for it in.

    The fact that they are overproducing solar electricity to the extent that the distribution system can’t handle the overload has a lot to do with the fact that they are trying to slow down the growth of home generated electricity. Being bankrupted, not so much, but you knew that anyhow, nee?

  38. says

    @georget
    Your comment (@43) seems quite confused. One moment you’re talking about the distribution of energy production over the course of a day, next about total amount of power produced, then about economic viability, and finally about energy cost of production vs. energy produced over a lifetime. Then you also add in a jab at wind energy, which you’ve mentioned nothing about previously, and on top of that, you’re tossing out figures left and right with no citations.

    This is not effective communication, nor does it leave me with the impression that you’re a reliable source of information. I strongly encourage you to structure your posts a bit more.

  39. evilDoug says

    Just to give a perspective on how big a PV array has to be to produce 22 GW:

    Peak insolation in Germany is likely somewhere around 1 kW/m² on a nice clear day.
    Spectacularly good PV cells will be around 20% efficient (and that is pointed directly at the sun).

    For 22 GW This works out to about 110 square kilometres of PV array – more likely at least 20% more than that.

    This is why utility companies want to build in deserts – lots of sun and an attitude that deserts are “wasteground”. I don’t think residential roof tops are a very good option, but I can think of a suburban shopping mall with vast parking lots where covering the whole shebang with a giant PV array might work tolerably well.

    PV isn’t “good for the environment”, but it may be less horrible than some of the options.

  40. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    This just in: Fox News ‘experts’ are lying shitsacks

    This just in

    We landed on the moon.

  41. cicely (Nothing to see here; move along now!) says

    1) They are confirming their right-wing audience’s biases.
    2) Here in Amurca, we don’t do that jogrofee shit…but if we did, then Germany = Austria = Australia—and everybody knows that that sucker is nothing but desert, 24/7.
     
    (WARNING: This product was manufactured in a facility that also processes sarcasm, and may, therefore, include trace amounts of sarcasm. Persons with sarcasm allergies should not consume this product.)
    -

  42. doubtthat says

    @55

    The point about roof top cells is to just begin replacing some level of carbon emitting energy production with cleaner options. The smaller, roof-top cells won’t solve the whole problem, but in a place like Phoenix, if every residence replaced some of their air-conditioning cost with the daily energy produced, you’d have decently large carbon savings.

    And, as I linked before, the space those cells take up isn’t that massive, so combining smaller production with bigger parks is a fairly significant addition. It obviously doesn’t solve everything, but it’s a pretty damn good start.

  43. says

    @georget @43:

    Cut out the nonsense.

    Solar plants are net producers of energy, with the time to energy payback for current designs being between one and a few years as compared to several decades of operation. Go look it up.

    Solar power cost per kilowatt hour in various places is listed in the link that I provided above. As Chris showed, the southwest US is close to optimal for solar generation because we have lots of sunshine. The question becomes where to put the panels, and how to load-balance the power grid.

    Hydroelectric power in the US is close to the maximum possible value, because all of the high-volume rivers with good drops have been dammed and used since the 1970’s. That’s maybe 6%-10% of total power production. Again, look it up.

    Both solar and wind plants need to be load-balanced on timescales of hours/days. If that is done only by adjusting the flow rates on the dams and by throttling up and down load-following power plants, the limit is some tens of percent of the total energy demand. There other proposals for large-scale grid energy storage, but they are still expensive.

    We should be investing in advanced nuclear reactor designs in a big way, since that is currently the most cost-effective carbon-neutral way to cover the bulk of power generation, but solar can be and is a useful component of a carbon-neutral grid.

    I give references in support of my statements:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power#Energy_payback_time_and_energy_returned_on_energy_invested
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroelectric_power_in_the_United_States

  44. spamamander, internet amphibian says

    Wind power makes no sense? Guess we better tell that to all the wind turbine installations around here on the tops of the arid steppe ridges and Cascade foothills. I’m sure solar would be even worse, considering the 300 days of sun a year in central/eastern Washington. Next we should take down all the dams along the Columbia and Snake. Should I mention I naively had NO idea coal powered electric plants were still a thing until I lived in Ohio for a while? Talk about shock.

  45. says

    It would make sense just to paint roofs white to cut down on the AC bills.

    This is a huge factor that’s often ignored in these discussions. There are many, many things that can be done to make energy use more efficient, which will reduce the amount of energy generation that’s needed in the first place. Building with consideration for local climates, for instance, instead of identical boxes made of ticky tacky spread across the continent like a cancer, cold or hot by turns, but who cares, we can just burn more oil and coal for more heating and AC, right? White painted roofs are the least of it; ground source heat pumps, insulating windows, insulation generally, efficient appliances, the list goes on.. There should be subsidies for property owners to retrofit such efficiency as can be, and to account for any extra upfront costs to make new construction more efficient. This should be combined with escalating financial penalties for rental property owners who don’t take advantage of the aforementioned subsidies. (I’m sick unto death of making it all be about incentives for homeowners to install solar, or improve efficiency, or whatever; roughly half of Americans rent, and we don’t get a choice about taking advantage of the lower power bills and other benefits no matter how much we want to, and the landlords don’t give a rat’s ass about my electric bill.)

  46. Synfandel says

    @stonyground: “West Germany was, and still is, broadly capitalist.”

    Definitely. But the “entitlements” render it socialist by US standards.

    Places that are not socialist by US standards:
    – Somalia
    – Afghanistan
    I think that’s about it.

  47. says

    The rest of us are paying over 6 dollars per installed watt, and then we have to maintain the equipment and replace it on a periodic basis.

    If you aren’t smart enough to find a solar leasing company to do that for you with no cash upfront, then I can’t help you.

    By the way, georget? Given the odious bigotry you expressed elsewhere on the site last night, I strongly suggest you save me the trouble of banning your trolling ass by just going away.

  48. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    This just in

    We landed on the moon.

    I’m not sure how FoxNEWS has reported this though.

  49. says

    We should be investing in advanced nuclear reactor designs in a big way, s

    There’s enough Uranium for what, 50 years at current loads? Maybe 70? And that assumes that base load doesn’t increase, which on a global scale it’s definitely going to. I realize that Scientific Amreican isn’t exactly peer reviewed, but I don’t feel like digging through the NEA for the original cite. This article indicates that there’s enough uranium for about 200 years at current consumption, and nuclear produces just over 12 percent of the world’s power now, so the more base load you want to put on nuclear plants, the less time you’ve got. If we’re looking for long term solutions, nuclear isn’t one.

  50. mildlymagnificent says

    Being from South Australia also – I have solar panels on my roof – and I had free hot water for 20+ years from the solar hot water system on my previous roof. One thing that happens when the price of solar goes down so much, we now have home renovation companies advertising free systems – both the panels and the installation – as an incentive to use them to replace/renovate, gutters, roofs, shutters. And you get the FIT as well.

    As it happens, my quarterly bills neatly cover the seasons. So we have a small net credit for the spring and autumn seasons, and the net cost for summer and winter depends pretty much on the weather. Haven’t been here long enough to have a reliable record for that, but having six months absolutely free power every year is not to be laughed at.

    The other thing about being from SA, we now get 25+% of our grid power from wind. We have actually had days when we’ve been able to sell surplus wind power to neighbouring states. I’m just waiting for decent distributed storage to make it easier for both the state as a whole and for individual sites to be completely carbon freee.

    As for larger scale solar, regardless of domestic roofs, cities are full of schools, warehouses, stadiums and churches and many other commercial and community facilities which all have substantial exposed roof area and extended periods when they use little to no power for their own purposes. I see no reason why power companies couldn’t do very neat deals which would benefit both the organisations in question and power suppliers.

  51. says

    This is why utility companies want to build in deserts – lots of sun and an attitude that deserts are “wasteground”.

    It really has more to do with being in the position that the RIAA was in when Napster started taking off. PV is a democratizing technology, and investor-owned utilities are fighting tooth and nail to keep their 20th century business models intact.

    Plus, transmission is a profit center for utilities. Costs of construction and maintenance covered by ratepayers, with income accruing to the utilities even if the lines carry not a single watt of power ever.

    Storage is a huge but not insoluble problem, with solutions well within our present technological repertoire. They just aren’t cheap. Pumped hydro is likely going to figure very large in the picture. So is conservation, especially in the profligate US. Solar thermal storage is five years away the same way fusion is twenty years away — and possibly always will be. Of all the utility scale solar plants currently being built in the US, one has storage, and it’s having tech problems. The high-tech, google-funded BrightSource Energy corporation, now building the Ivanpah SEGS plant near my former home of Nipton, isn’t even going to try to build storage until they get a couple more concentrating solar plants w/o storage under their belt.

    As for solar meeting more than a fraction of a percent of grid needs, you might want to check out this recent report by the Rocky Mountain Institute.

  52. fastlane says

    I think you’ll all be surprised to learn that georget is probably lying. Solar/wind combination works very well in the southwest on a small scale. Most homes or neighborhoods could easily be off the grid and mostly energy independent if the political will were there, and the big electric companies would stop blocking legislation to effect the change needed.

    I know several individuals who use a small (~1kw, I think) wind generator, and a PV array on the roofs of their homes, and they average $400/year in profit from the electric company (after having to take the EC to court to get them to install two way meters). Another friend installed 2 larger wind generators, and a distributed array of PV panels in the small mobile home park he owned in Tucson, and he also makes a decent amount of money back from the EC every month, plus he has the added bonus of not having to charge his tenants on fixed income for their power.

  53. crayzz says

    There should be subsidies for property owners to retrofit such efficiency as can be, and to account for any extra upfront costs to make new construction more efficient.

    We got something like that here in Ontario. I was working on building an addition to an old couples home. We had an inspector pop by just to have a look to make sure we weren’t building a deathtrap. He then informed us that there is [was? maybe it’s over now?] a rebated program for more effective insulation. It ended up costing the same for both crappy and good insulation.

  54. evilDoug says

    doubthat @ 58
    In a place like Phoenix, roof top units would probably be pretty darned good in performance, plus the installation spaces is “free”. A problem that arises in many places is partial shading of arrays by trees or other buildings. Depending on design, you can “knock out” an entire section of a panel or an entire array with shading on just a small part of it. I doubt if that is a problem in Phoenix (it is a problem for me – I have a tree that shades the “good” side of my roof pretty much year round, which means I can’t test PV power converters that I have designed on my own property).
    A large PV array on a Phoenix roof would probably help to reduce solar loading of the building, provided there was a space between the array and the roof surface (this is important for the array, since array temperature is a big negative coefficient factor in output).
    Like you say, you have to start somewhere. There is a risk in not using adequate care though, since bad performance can tarnish reputations (I have grim experience with this – the PV array would permanently drop in efficiency as a result of dark storage, in spite of the fact the manufacturer said the drop was temporary – pretty much completely killed a project I was working on).

  55. unclefrogy says

    regardless of the cost in money or the comparative efficiencies
    if the only choice is carbon based energy and by the accumulating evidence that is changing the climate and weather patterns to such a degree that it threatens our modern civilizations survival than the choice boils down to acting in our own best interest or acting in a self destructive way.

    what is survival worth? what cost is too high to pay?

    wishful thinking, ignorant self-interest and outright lies wont stop climate change

    uncle frogy

  56. says

    @Dalillama, Schmott Guy @65:

    At current prices, there is ~85 years worth of economically-recoverable U-235. But notice my specifier of _advanced_ nuclear power plants. Included in that were the assumptions of nuclear fuel reprocessing and of using the breeder reactor designs that use U-238, which is about a hundred times more common than U-235 is. That pushes the current economically-recoverable supply up to something measured in tens of thousands of years of current demand.

    Certainly we should work on reducing the demand for power too, but things can only be reduced so far with the current population without standard of living taking too big a hit.

  57. clastum3 says

    #52 texasaggie

    The fact that they are overproducing solar electricity to the extent that the distribution system can’t handle the overload has a lot to do with the fact that they are trying to slow down the growth of home generated electricity. Being bankrupted, not so much, but you knew that anyhow, nee?

    Yes, the masters of the universe round here can get the sun to shine when it’s needed, like at 7 am on a winter morning.
    Unfortunately we in Germany are subject to the laws and vagiaries of nature, and solar output rises to useful levels when it’s not needed so that they have to effectively dump it, or pay other countries to take it away.
    Ever heard of the storage problem?

  58. F [nucular nyandrothol] says

    but if we want this idea to work on an energy-company scale and replace fossil fuels, some kind of cooperation and forethought is in order.

    Why must we continue to think in these terms? Who made that rule?

  59. evilDoug says

    Several years ago I did some work on a project using very unconventional energy storage – domestic hot water tanks.
    I many areas, direct solar thermal collection systems seem to be prone to all sorts of problems. NIST came up with a system (which they patented) using a much-modified household electric water heater and a rather elaborate microcomputer-based system to do “peak power tracking” for the PV array (at a given level of illumination and temperature, an array produces peak power at a specific combination of voltage and current – and the damned curve is non-monotonic). I thought it was silly until I did the calculations. In places like California, where water is heated electrically anyway, it was actually very sensible, and the system “battery” would be very cheap. You couldn’t power anything else, but you could off-load the grid (a very big issue in parts of California where the grid is seriously overloaded).
    I came up with a method of doing the job, with better performance, very simple low-cost circuitry, easy expandability and an off-the-shelf water heater. My #*!!#! partner in the project kept insisting we needed to buy into NIST’s patent, when I insisted we had something far in advance of what they had patented. Went nowhere! Ψ

  60. tomhuld says

    Discussions like this are really frustrating: misinformation flies around and meets misunderstandings coming the other way. The result is not pretty.

    @43: your numbers bear little resemblance to reality, Italy now produces about 6% of its electricity from PV, and that is not yet the limit. Indeed, so far the effect has been positive; a few years back there were problems every summer with brownouts due to excessive electricity consumption compared to the generating capacity. Now hese problems have magically disappeared, though nobody wants to talk about why. Solar energy could be expanded to well above 10% even now, and much more if we increase storage, move consumption into the daytime, or allow a bit of curtailing of PV power at peak times.

    @50: if you are paying $6/W for PV you are being ripped off. Typical prices for turnkey roof-top systems here in Italy are around $3/W and it’s cheaper in Germany.

    @12: 25 eurocents/kWh in Germany is NOT caused only by PV subsidies. It’s true that in the beginning the subsidies were quite high (>40cents/kWh) but now they are down to ~17cents, i.e. well below retail electricity prices. Taxes are probably a much bigger chunk of the final electricity price.

    @Chris: 22 million acres opened for development of solar doesn’t mean that all that area will be used. I would estimate that 8 million acres in a sunny area like the US south-west would be sufficient to cover the entire US electricity consumption. This is based on the following assumptions: From EIA (www.eia.gov) the total US electricity sales in 2011 were 3750TWh. A good site in the south-west could produce 1700kWh/year per kW installed (based on the map you showed and 75% performance ratio). You need around 7sqm of PV panel area per kW and maybe twice that in land area to avoid one row of panels shadowing the one behind (at around 30 deg. latitude).

    This does NOT mean that allowing solar energy development in ecologically sensitive areas is a good idea, but given the fact that 10% of the area of Nevada could supply nearly 100% of the electricity needs of the US, surely some suitable areas could be found?

    Bottom line: the map you showed is an excellent illustration of the solar energy potential of the US; in the southwest it should be possible to produce PV electricity at less than 10cents/kWh, which would be competitive with most other technologies except coal and onshore wind.

  61. says

    @F [nucular nyandrothol] :

    Not all power usage is from private consumers. Factories, large-scale transportation, office buildings, even large apartment blocks all use more power than local solar generation can provide. Returns to scale mean that, for example, large nuclear plants are more efficient than smaller ones. So there has to be a power company, even if it is structured as a public utility.

    I assume you weren’t questioning why we need to shift to carbon-neutral or carbon-negative power generation.

  62. evilDoug says

    I should clarify my remark “California where the grid is seriously overloaded”.
    It was the wires that were overloaded. The big problem was not a source of power, but the ability to deliver the power through the existing transmission lines. Residential solar was of great interest to the California gov’t more because of its distributed source nature rather than “bulk” generation.

  63. clastum3 says

    It really sounds blissful where you guys live. The sun shines when you want it to, like in the middle of the night, and the wind also blows just to meet your needs, and there’s no second law of thermodynamics.

    Where I live, for every watt of so-called renewable energy there has to be a back-up, so called spinning reserve, much of which burns coal, because we haven’t managed to tame our sun and wind like you.

    Because this spinning reserve is not working a lot of the time at optimum loading, it has a poor thermal efficiency. The net effect is: more CO2 per watt-hour.

  64. georget says

    Being an obedient person, I will try to explain this more clearly for LykeX:

    1. Power costs around $0.20 /kW-hr in the US. The cost from solar panels is comparable if you don’t store it which is impossible in reality. When you do store it, the battery cycle costs roughly double the generation costs and you have very expensive energy. These costs do not include maintenance.

    2. The Germans are sometimes easily led and ended installing ~20% of their electrical generation capacity in the form of wind. Unfortunately the laws of physics make wind stop and conventional power plants hard to start up. So the maximum contribution of wind to the German electrical grid is 5%. Wind is also not cost effective. Google ‘gearbox maintenance’.

    3. It is somewhat disturbing that noting differences in the genders has put me on the FedGov ThoughtBlog watchlist. Sometimes I question the genuine compassion and thirst for knowledge.

  65. madtom1999 says

    When I was building microchips in the early 80’s a polysilicon PV array would take 15-20 years to pay for itself. You could buy 5000 transistors as a microchip for $100.
    Now you can buy 200,000,000,000 transistors for $100, electricity is 3 or 4 times the price in real terms and an modern PV array takes 15-20 years to pay for itself.
    The price of pv or wind tends to the price of electricity – no one is going to sell you something to put on your house so YOU can make a fortune out of it.
    If I could get a $100Million or so together I could produce polysilicon PV tiles that would be about 5% efficient for about the current price of a roof tile. That’s not very efficient but you have to tile your roof anyway and even in the UK on a wet Wednesday it makes financial sense.
    But then if I had $100Million I’d get a lot more by influencing government policy in my favour.

  66. mildlymagnificent says

    I reckon the first step in distributed storage is likely to be the “old-fashioned” “inefficient” large water heater.

    http://climatecrocks.com/2012/12/18/water-heater-energy-storage-inefficient-electric-heaters-may-have-role-in-smart-grid/

    This gives me a little frisson of perverse glee whenever I think about it. In all the years we had a virtually unlimited supply of free hot water from our “inefficient” large hot water service, I groaned when I saw all those articles about doing laundry in cold water because it was “more efficient” or everyone must replace their services with small “efficient” water heaters.

    Now, it looks as though those inefficient water heaters might be the ideal household device for people wanting to buy an EV. Even if the heated water only gives you a couple of hours recharge, that means you get most of your recharge free for most cars, and all of it for cars that are only used a couple of times a week.

  67. says

    It really sounds blissful where you guys live. The sun shines when you want it to, like in the middle of the night, and the wind also blows just to meet your needs, and there’s no second law of thermodynamics.

    alright. Next time I’m back home, I’ll let my aunt know her reality isn’t actually real. I’m sure she’ll find that surprising.

  68. unclefrogy says

    so clastrum3

    are you saying that all this alternative power generation is impossible or impractical and will not ever work? that’s what it sounds like if so then how are we to address the growing problem of global climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuel?

    uncle frogy

  69. Lofty says

    clastum3, natural gas is a much better partner to expanded solar and wind power. Peaking plants are built expressly to fill the gap. They react much more quickly than coal fired plants. And I read that the US now has a surplus of NG due to enhanced extraction methods.
    http://www.gastopowerjournal.com/projectsafinance/item/1224-australia%E2%80%99s-origin-energy-opens-new-gas-peaking-plant
    Past practice is not a good guide to current and future best practice.

  70. scottrobson says

    And what do you suppose her husband does for a living? Check for wikipedia page for details…

  71. tomhuld says

    @80: I wonder where you live. The probability that the solar or wind power would drop suddenly over a large area like Germany is practically zero, so keeping full spinning backup would be silly. Meteorological forecasts for solar and wind power are already now being used to predict the output and hence the backup power needs. In most places where wind or solar power is implemented on large scale, there is also hydropower or gas turbines available so there is no need to run base load plants for this.

    Your comment in #74 is really strange. In most places (definitely in Germany) the electricity consumption is higher during daytime, so solar energy fits well with the demand curve. You could probably find a couple of hours on a Sunday in June where the PV power in Germany was excessive, but that is not a serious argument.

  72. says

    @georget @81:

    >>The cost from solar panels is comparable if you don’t store it which is impossible in reality. When you do store it, the battery cycle costs roughly double the generation costs and you have very expensive energy<<

    More nonsense. In many areas (e.g. southern California), solar power generation total cost is at grid parity and not more expensive than other energy sources.

    Yes, it has to be load balanced. That's done short-term local load-balancing and long-term by throttling hydro up and down and by adjusting the output of load-following fossil fuel plants.

    Also, there is no 'watchlist'. There are just people who don't want to be reading nonsense.

    @clastum3:

    Load balancing for solar and wind can, up to a point, be accommodated by short-term local balancing (e.g. the flywheels in wind turbines) and then by throttling hydro and geothermal lines up and down. In the US, load-following and peaking fossil fuel plants are also usually based on methane burning. I can't speak to other countries' power grids, but all the data I find informs me that solar gives a total greenhouse gas footprint less than 10% that of fossil-fuel plants. Go look it up:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life-cycle_greenhouse-gas_emissions_of_energy_sources

  73. says

    @madtom1999 @82: Actually, payback time for new array construction is now more like 8-12 years (see the links I provided @59). One of the reasons for lots of installation-for-share-of-power-purchased.

  74. evilDoug says

    mildlymagnificent @84
    Well that just ruined my day completely!
    That’s exactly the sort of thing I was talking about at #76. I just checked the dates on my design files: 19 friggin 98! And here, 15 years later, someone is talking about it again. And someone is making money from it.
    I think I’m going to go sit on the floor of my darkroom and sob quietly for awhile. Then I’m going to find out how much it would cost to have my former partner kneecapped.

  75. maddog1129 says

    “It’s almost like they just don’t care they’re lying.”

    What do you mean, “almost”?

  76. georget says

    I am very glad michaelbusch is good with reading comprehension, read my blog-post, and now agrees with me that solar generation is theoretically cost-comparable with standard generation. In reality this makes some pretty grotesque assumptions, like that ageing of the equipment does not happen when there are clouds, and that the disposal of all the toxic crap that is a solar panel in 15 years will be free of cost, but we are nonetheless making progress. Only a challenged person would install batteries at a solar plant. Batteries are installed at point of use for small users such as residences.

    The problem with your theory is that the cost of that itty bitty thing of load balancing is more expensive than batteries. What you will see is power purchasers making stipulations that power has to be of a certain reliability, and if it is not, to impose a fine upon the generator. This fine represents the true cost of what a destabilizing and expensive pain even a small source of unpredictability cycling generation is upon the grid. To supply more than a small percentage of the nation’s bulk electrical energy needs, probably 5% max, with other than stable conventional sources is simply not going to happen.

    Basing a national strategy on shutting down cost-effective production and replacing it with crappy technology that can only supply 5% of the grid is a thought-process that is less smart than Gretchen from Fox and Friends.

  77. says

    >> now agrees with me that solar generation is theoretically cost-comparable with standard generation. <<

    It already is, for areas with high power cost and plenty of sunshine. Or were you not reading what I wrote?

    And, again, I have explained that solar is one part of a carbon-neutral grid. Advanced nuclear is the bulk of it. And a carbon-neutral grid _will_ eventually happen, if for no other reason than that the costs of fossil fuels are increasing while solar is going down and nuclear is flat.

    And solar panels last 25-40 years, not 15, as noted in the references I gave @59. No please either stop saying nonsense, or go away.

  78. yubal says

    The german officials are perfectly aware that Germany is far from ideal as solar energy producer but even the low solar hours are suficcent to generate reasonable amounts of energy. Go to some backwood village in southern Germany and you will see most south facing roofs covered with solar panels.

    Major drive for the subventions was to get a market running so the industry and academia can develop better panels.

    Primary intrest of Germany is to export solar technology and also this project to cover the Sahara with solar panels. Energy for Europe from Africa. Good for both continents.

  79. mildlymagnificent says

    To supply more than a small percentage of the nation’s bulk electrical energy needs, probably 5% max, with other than stable conventional sources is simply not going to happen.

    This is patent nonsense. South Australia gets 25% from wind power and sells surplus into the national grid on high wind days. Apart from Germany, look at Spain or Denmark for wind and solar. Solar PV has flattened SA’s extremely peaky power demand – just like California we have super demand in hot weather and we used to have power cuts in the worst of our heatwaves (or couple of 40+C days that don’t meet the local heatwave definition). Doesn’t happen now. The only times we now have blackouts is when lines are cut for some reason, or when fire is threatening a district.

    As for power dumping. This will cost money in setting up transmission signalling but not as much as it once would have. All you need to do is to have switching mechanisms – and pricing/measuring systems – so that, when wind or solar are producing more than demand, the system can automatically switch on a few things. Like overnight airconditioning in commercial buildings or unoccupied hotel rooms or water heaters anywhere or refrigeration/freezer systems or EV charging stations or turning on lighting during daylight if the excess occurs during the day. All you need to do is look at the way things work and have time out and see if those are factors you can use in balancing your network and how the costs line up.

  80. says

    @georget @96:

    Also:

    >>To supply more than a small percentage of the nation’s bulk electrical energy needs, probably 5% max, with other than stable conventional sources is simply not going to happen.<<

    Subject to what you meant by 'stable conventional sources', this is already nonsense.

    Current US power generation is ~12.7% renewable power:
    ~6% hydro (subject to annual variability; near saturation)
    ~3% wind (potential for considerable future expansion)
    The rest is a mix of geothermal and various carbon-neutral biomass. Solar is under 1%, but very rapidly increasing.

    And right now, nuclear is just under 20% of US electricity generation.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_the_United_States
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_the_United_States

  81. evilDoug says

    Lofty @ 87
    Do you know anything about supercritical coal-fired generators? I have a vague recollection of something about them being much better suited to fast load changes than conventional coal-fired plants.

    One of my cousins works in a large natural gas processing plant. They sometimes generate electricity – they watch the minute-by-minute price paid to producers and start or stop based on that.

  82. Graydon Saunders says

    At a conservative estimate[1], the United States has 3,500 square miles of parking lots.

    At US solar averages, 10% efficiency, and some slop for access roads, you’re looking at 20 square miles per gigawatt-power-plant equivalent. (that is, as much electricity comes out in a year as a gigawatt thermal plant run 24/7/365. NOT that the peak output from the solar is a gigawatt.)

    All the parking lots is therefore 175 gigawatt-plants equivalent; all the ~60,000 square miles of roads is another 3,000, equivalent.

    So call it 3,000; total US energy use is somewhere around 25 PWh, peta-watt hours. 25,000 Terra Watt hours. Divide the gigawatt-plant equivalents into that, you’re looking at ~ 8500 hours, which is, oddly, 354 days. (We already took the intermittent nature of solar into account with the _area_ required.) If you’ve got any kind of storage, you’re completely fine; cover all the roads and parking lots with solar, you’re nearly done.

    Never mind that the current efficiency figure is 15%, or that nickel-cobalt batteries are, at current low volume prices of something like 20 USD/kwh/year, cheap enough to do the balancing, or that you’ve got a simply stupid amount of easy efficiency improvements available.

    There aren’t any technical barriers to going right straight off fossil carbon right now. There are a lot of political ones as people who are very, very rich want to guarantee that the US stays an oil empire.

    [1] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/arts/design/taking-parking-lots-seriously-as-public-spaces.html

  83. says

    @Graydon Saunders:

    There is still a cost penalty for large-scale solar. Eventually the load-balancing and energy storage do become prohibitive. Hence the need for a multiple-method grid. But, yes, we can switch things over, just not overnight. It can only happen on a decadal timescale, though, because it is such a big project.

    Re. the particular plan you describe: some engineer friends of mine at the Hertz Foundation played around with this, for roads rather than parking lots. They decided that the extra expense necessary to make cells/a transparent road surface that could handle being driven over by cars for a long time made the idea less than ideal.

  84. georget says

    The usual propaganda suspects are behind this whole global warming-government thing michaelbrush so you have to do a little more research beyond linking to Wikipedia to understand the costs of solar power. The Wikipedia costs assume a cost basis of the plant running and delivering power. This is ‘theoretical’. If there is any load balancing fee whatsoever, the token plant they are highlighting is surely on some affirmative action program to inflate its economic viability. This model surely does not include maintenance, spinning reserve, disposal of the toxic components, or capital replacement at way before 25 years.

    Solar power, when the final accounting is done, is probably a net energy loser.

    America has 300 years of petroleum in the Wyoming-Utah-Colorado shale deposits alone. The usual suspects dislike the ideal of a portable portable source in the form of an internal combustion engine and want us all to plug into the grid and be monitored with smart meters so these fuel sources are not discussed, but they are nonetheless there. Smart meters are rooted in paranoia. The electric grid in 100 years will look like it did pretty much 20 years ago, once we pass from this age of idiocy.

    It is as an aside stupid to use natural gas to fire electric generation plants as natural gas can be easily liquefied and used in internal combustion engines. Coal should produce electricity as it is harder to liquefy and transport.

  85. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Georget, unless you cite your claims, your OPINION is *floosh* sent to the toxic waste with other drivel. Either cite sources for every claim you make, or shut the fuck up as it will all be dismissed as abject loser talk. Your choice cricket. Chose wisely…

  86. Lofty says

    evilDoug@102
    Do I know anything about supercritical coal-fired generators? No, but nothing a google search won’t fix.
    (searchy)
    Mmmm. It may play a useful role in balancing renewableoutput, and in areas where NG is unavailable in sufficient amounts even its 5-7% reduction in CO2 emissions would help too.

  87. yubal says

    georget 105

    Even if global warming would be wrong, there is nothing wrong about investing in renewable energy. Just because they are renewable and fossil energy will run out at one point. Improving the accessibility of difficult to mine resources does not change a thing about the fact, only moves the time point they will be exhausted.

    Oil is such a great resource for chemistry. Future generations will ask why we were so stupid to just burn it.

    ..and yes, solar IS the most expensive renewable energy but it has striking advantages. Solar hours are more predictable than wind hours and biomass competes with food production.

    If our species wants to survive on long term and keep at least the current technological level we need to tap all resources and balance wisely.

  88. echidna says

    Georget,
    IRL, I’m an electrical power systems engineer. You’re spouting nonsense. One example: smart meters have nothing to do with paranoia, they are everything to do with market operation when you have different producers selling a product which cannot be distinguished by origin at the point of sale.

  89. Outrage Zombie says

    I would love to pay $.25/kwh if it meant we they’d stop destroying my region. Between blowing up hundreds of mountains in one of the oldest, most biodiverse mountain ranges in the country and leaving behind moonscapes that flood the towns around and below them, and diapering up coal sludge in an artificial pond and leaving it there (because drying it and disposing of it would cost more, and even if it would mean no worries about a sludge pond giving way and giving anyone living nearby a Very Bad Day [which has happened, and will continue to happen so long as these poison pits remain] , that would mean reduced profits) while tainting the water supply, plus the whole air pollution/anthropogenic climate change angle (but everybody deals with that, not just coal-producing regions) — we are already paying that much and more just from the effects of relying on coal.

  90. Adela Doiron says

    Kinda wish someone would amend the Rueters news release of Germany’s accomplishment with a clarification on that 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour which is not the same as 22gigawatt hours. Someone probably misspoke or translation error but in science and engineering there is a world of difference since one would be a smaller amount of energy than the other. For those not in the know a watt is already a time signature, joule per second. Unless they were talking about change in power(ramp up rate) which again would mean a very different number in terms of energy.
    It would be a sad thing to crow about if they were talking about generating 0.0061 GJ of energy.

  91. georget says

    After the whole globalization scheme falls apart, a smaller and smarter population will have several hundred years of hydrocarbons to use. Then several thousand years of terrestrial atomic power through breeder reactors. Then humanity will either have to turn to gravitational power or mine asteroids. Things will be fine.

  92. says

    @georget:

    >>the usual propaganda suspects are behind this whole global warming-government thing<<

    I will indulge in some internet-specific vocabulary:

    If you are seriously denying anthropogenic climate change, STFU and go learn science.

    Goodbye.

  93. crocodoc says

    I’m German. We used to have all those sunny colonies in Africa before WW2, that’s where our solar power investments originated from.

    To all those idiots who wrote we’re facing bancruptcy as a result of renewable power sources: For solar power you have to invest first. With nuclear and fossil power you leave it to the next generation to deal with the waste that you leave behind. Which isn’t a real problem, of course, because Lord Jesus is coming soon anyway.

  94. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Georget, another wasted OPINION post, which is *floosh* sent to the toxic waste disposal site. The only way to avoid that natural occurance is to (link to ) citations to the scientific literature. Your OPINION will be dismissed. Welcome to science, where your uneducated OPINION is irrelevant, and your EVIDENCE speaks volumes. You are silent….

  95. consciousness razor says

    After the whole globalization scheme falls apart, a smaller and smarter population will have several hundred years of hydrocarbons to use. Then several thousand years of terrestrial atomic power through breeder reactors. Then humanity will either have to turn to gravitational power or mine asteroids. Things will be fine.

    Sure, things will be just fine, as long as billions of people die off after some mysterious scheme. I don’t see how there could be a downside.

  96. georget says

    You may justly consider my opinions to count as scientific literature Nerd of Redhead, dances OM Trolls. I don’t get paid to do this. Besides, the flying spaghetti monster is coming soon anyways and will melt the glaciers and then you will burn and die for humanity’s sins of harnessing the power of fossil fuels. Repent, Ye sinners, thine only chance of salvation is driving Priuses and building solar farms.

  97. Who Cares says

    Georget (#81) said:

    2. The Germans are sometimes easily led and ended installing ~20% of their electrical generation capacity in the form of wind. Unfortunately the laws of physics make wind stop and conventional power plants hard to start up. So the maximum contribution of wind to the German electrical grid is 5%. Wind is also not cost effective. Google ‘gearbox maintenance’.

    This is bunk. Denmark gets 20% of it’s electricity from wind. Want to know how they cope with this? Weather forecasting. Short term to be able to predict the amount of wind (estimated error is just under 4%). Longer term to be able to be able to tell if a company can sell or has to buy energy the next day (get it wrong and the company gets fined). They aren’t there yet for the longer term predictions, it still has an error of around 18% to 20% but it is improving steadily compared to 10 year ago when this error was in the 35% to 40% range.

    I’ve got a better suggestion which you should google: ‘direct drive’. Oops no more gearbox.

    @Georget (#96):

    Only a challenged person would install batteries at a solar plant.

    Not completely wrong since you would install them at a central point. But battery banks get build to store wind and solar power. The Japanese for example require that for every wind park built there is also a corresponding battery bank (The type used is Natrium-Sulfur, these require a temperature of 300C-350C even then they get around 90% efficiency).
    This isn’t completely fair to your argument since these are more to stabilize short term fluctuations then the daily period of night. For that there is, in Germany, the serious proposal of building a pump accumulation plant that doesn’t require a suitable body of water the biggest problem is going to be the engineering challenge. Even better this is a proposal by a private company so someone expects to make a profit of storing all that expensive wind and solar generated electricity.

    And there is a whole array of other options to make a profit on storing electricity. From the batteries (short) and pump accumulation (daily/medium) mentioned above all the way to hydrogen storage (very long).

    The biggest problem you’ve displayed in this discussion thread seems to be the following line of thinking:
    It doesn’t work in the current situation so it is never going to work.

  98. Owlglass says

    @62, Synfandel
    Germany is a capitalist country just like the USA in any measurement I know of. It is just a lot more centrist and less extreme than the US for a whole lot of reasons. From your perspective our political system could be considered green-left shifted, but it actually doesn’t feature strongly socialist parties (and no communist parties, either) unlike some other European nations. Keep in mind that socialist parties often went through a business friendly neo-liberal phase during the nineties anyway.
    ***
    The reason why Germany has an exit nuclear power strategy, and is relatively strong in regenerative energies isn’t of course due to the sun. The political system is rather good at picking up broad zeitgeist while not being fickle. Parties have to overcome a 5% votes threshold which gives them seats in state and national parliaments. They then have to team up, (while keeping an eye on their interests) to form a majority. Each party that leaps over the the 5% gets media attention and small parties can be the tip of the scale (which brings their agendas rather well into the spotlight). There used to be only three national parties, until 1990 when the green zeitgeist (acid rain, Chernobyl, ozone layer…) allowed the Greens to enter the fray (which was a new thing, with media attention and all), and only 8 years later they were part of a government. They practically went from hippies to expensive suit wearers. Their public maturation process essentially “greenified” larger parts of the society, so that by now even the Republican equivalent of Chancellors Merkel’s Party couldn’t resist. Merkel who is a political Thaumoctopus Mimicus, just needed that Japanese reminder that nuclear energy is not exactly rational (nobody knows how to get rid of the toxic waste, and there is the black swan issue paired with cognitive blindness).

  99. Lofty says

    Translated georget: how dare you question my dystopic predictions, I know in my heart for sure I am 100% correct. I am one of the chosen ones.

  100. georget says

    Fine, I’ll provide a reference: Who Cares #120 teaches us: “This is bunk”. A German energy integrator provides us with further insight against their best economic interests. The Germans get a bad rap, they on the whole are a highly ethical people.

    http://www.nerc.com/docs/pc/ivgtf/EON_Netz_Windreport2005_eng.pdf

    Weather forecasting augmented with hamsters running in cages and perhaps cattle moving around in a circle rotating a wheel attached to a gearbox would be a far more realistic solution to the problems of matching electric supply and electric demand recognizing that small frequency deviations can cause protection events to trip equipment off line and create, like, cascading blackouts.

  101. says

    georget, I asked you politely to stop filling up my thread with shit. You failed to do so and ramped up your efforts to include climate change denialism. I have a stack of bunny videos right here. You will cease and desist.

  102. omnicrom says

    So Georget in 124, what exactly are you attempting to say?

    That report is firstly only about Wind Power. Discussions of Solar, Natural Gas, and every other renewable energy source are not part of it. Secondly the report is extremely PRO Wind energy, the company that put it out is bragging about how good they are at Wind Power infrastructure. This means that thirdly the record of complete incoherence in your posts has been maintained.

  103. mildlymagnificent says

    Oil is such a great resource for chemistry. Future generations will ask why we were so stupid to just burn it.

    Yup. This is the thing that gets my goat. When you look at the progress in carbon fibre and associated technologies just in the last few decades, even though we can’t envisage the specifics we know that there’ll be absolutely marvellous improvements in the next few generations. And we’re burning their inheritance – just to get around or keep warm or cool – when we already have the technology to do these things without digging stuff up, cutting stuff down, blowing stuff up ……. and burning it. (And this applies to nuclear as well as other power generation. I see the people who think power generation has to be *big* with **explosions** as overgrown nine year olds.)

  104. evilDoug says

    Adela Doiron #133
    I puzzled over that for a bit too, and finally concluded they meant an output of 22 GW, supported by the stated equivalence to 20 nuclear plants.

    In one of the Iron Man movies he says the generator he whips up and stuffs in his chest produces (3 giga ?) joules per second. I guess it sounds more impressive than watts.

    ~~~
    0.0061 GJ would be quite a lot for one meal.

  105. Rob Grigjanis says

    Chris @67: I’ll bet you a gazillion dollars we’ll have fusion power in 50 years.

  106. rikz9443 says

    First off, she was completely incorrect with what she said. However, if you listen without a plan of hunting for her to make a mistake, you might see that her point was that Germany has more sunlight as a whole, as opposed to parts of the US that dont. She even explained that parts of the US would be great using solar…

    My Real problem is, as the title suggest, who is really the lying shitsack?

    Did anyone actually look at the map you’re using? The data for the US is from 1998-2005, the German data is from 1981-1990.

    That’s a slight misrepresentation at the least. Why dont you look up the most up to date German map. Of course that would be harder than just jumping on a blog and calling people names.

    good point Mildymagnificent, and look, you didn’t have to insult anyone to make it.

  107. says

    @evilDoug @128: It was supposedly a peak power of 3 gigajoules per second -> 3 GW -> 3 grams of matter converted to energy every day. So apparently Stark had perfected an air-breathing total-conversion device and also the superconductors necessary to pull the energy out of the thing without cooking the reactor and his entire body along with it. And this is one of the many reasons I have trouble enjoying the Marvel cinematic universe.

  108. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    You may justly consider my opinions to count as scientific literature Nerd of Redhead, dances OM Trolls.

    Your OPINIONS are nothing but bullshit. The peer reviewed scientific literature, which can back your fuckwitted OPINIONS, is found places like this. You know, libraries at institutions of higher learn worldwide, which you are not familiar with, as they don’t support your idiotology…

  109. evilDoug says

    That’s a slight misrepresentation at the least. Why dont you look up the most up to date German map.

    Are you actually trying to suggest that mean insolation of Germany has increased or that of the US decreased by more than a few percent in the past 30 years? Global warming is concentrated entirely in Germany? NREL is not a reliable source?

  110. Who Cares says

    @georget(#124):
    You just proved my point that you are making the mistake of looking at the current situation then saying it is not possible now so it will never be possible.

    About your report
    The first point in the summary I already countered with the pump accumulation plant (PAP) proposal which will significantly reduce the number of conventional power plants having to run partial or idle.
    The second point is a non issue since it requires only the ability to do short term predictions. All that this company has to do is talk to the Danish net operator to get the required expertise.
    The third point is just investment.

    There is a notable absence in the paper you link. Nowhere is there any suggestion about temporary storage. Which is strange if you see a proposal by another company to do so (and profit from it).

  111. says

    @Rob Grigjanis: We have fusion power already. It just happens that the only way to extract a lot of energy is explosive (there were half-serious suggestions for fusion energy plants that involved setting off a bomb inside a very large vat of water, then using a heat exchanger to go from heat to

    @rikz9443: The average distribution of clouds over the world has not changed much over the last thirty years, nor has the simple fact that Germany is further north than most of the US and so gets less sunlight automatically. Try again.

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

  112. says

    @myself: Well, that was an awkward time for my browser to crash. Not sure how that got submitted. Let me finish the thought:

    “There were half-serious suggestions for fusion energy plants that involved setting off a bomb inside a very large vat of water, then using a heat exchanger and a turbine to go from heat to electricity.”

  113. evilDoug says

    michaelbusch, I did think his wires were a bit on the light side. Though I have said you can put a thousand amps through a 30 gauge wire – you just can’t do it for very long.
    I would be afraid to be in the same building as something capable of producing that much power. Planted in my chest?! Could make for one final and prodigious burp! I certainly be quite concerned about ALL of the post-decimal significant digits in the efficiency specs.

  114. timberwoof says

    German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour

    This is the History Channel Error and can’t be relied upon to mean any specific quantity. The History Channel Error results from some dimbulb journalist not knowing the difference between jigglewhats and megajewels. For example, they report that the Bull Run Steam Plant produces 900 megawatts of energy every year. (Yes, and my 11-watt CF lamp uses eleven watts of energy … every day.)

  115. w00dview says

    FedGov ThoughtBlog

    So….you are pretty much admitting you deny climate change because it conflicts with your ideology. I imagine you think you are superior to those irrational religious people too?

    After the whole globalization scheme falls apart, a smaller and smarter population will have several hundred years of hydrocarbons to use. Then several thousand years of terrestrial atomic power through breeder reactors. Then humanity will either have to turn to gravitational power or mine asteroids. Things will be fine.

    The complete and utter certainty with which you make such an assertion is incredible. Wind and solar power are a crazy pipe dream to you and yet you are completely sure we can just mine a few asteroids and we will be OK? We are way further from achieving asteroid mines than we are from getting most of our energy from renewable sources. The fact that you are so glib about a real issue makes me hope you are in no position of power.

  116. unclefrogy says

    one doubt monger disappears and an other one turns out to be blithering fool.
    I’m glad I’m sitting down because the shock makes me feel faint.

    uncle frogy

  117. mildlymagnificent says

    And for anyone still in doubt about this stuff, wind power in Australia is now cheaper than both coal and gas. And that’s before you add in the effect of the carbon tax. With the tax the difference only gets bigger.

    http://www.theage.com.au/business/carbon-economy/rising-risk-prices-out-new-coalfired-plants-report-20130207-2e0s4.html
    When combined with solar, the effects compound.

    “The signal is most clear in South Australia,” Professor Sandiford said, with the number of houses in the state now approaching one in four residences.
    Extending the state’s trend of solar PV take-up over the past five years for another five years could see midday demand for power from the national grid drop to the low levels seen during early morning hours, he said.
    “You’ve got 20 per cent coming from wind, and a high-level of PV now driving a big chunk of demand out of the middle of the day,” Professor Sandiford said. “South Australia is a fascinating experiment.”

  118. rikz9443 says

    @evilDoug, I’m not suggesting anything about global mean, I’m saying use “like” data.

    @michaelbusch, I never said anything about cloud cover. I just suggest that when someone puts out information, then it should be the most accurate. As usual, attack one sentence…The first thing I said was that her statement was incorrect.

    keep up the name calling and changing people’s words though. It will really help you advancing the ability to have an honest exchange.

  119. Graydon Saunders says

    Let me first note that reading http://www.withouthotair.com/ is _highly_ recommended, if you haven’t. It’s got math in it.

    michaelbusch @104 — Not the road surface! over the road. Same as the parking lot. You’ll need some sort of support frame for the solar panels anyway, road-spanning support hardware is well-understood. (though getting off fossil carbon for road _surfaces_ is probably the single most challenging thing about going off fossil carbon extraction.)

    Mixed, yeah; you can’t do, for example, aluminium refining without a steady supply of power on a multi-day time scale. The point I was trying to make is that there’s no actual technical bar to replacing _everything_ with solar. It’s not optimal, it’s not desirable because it’s not the right way to handle heavy industry, but it’s actually obviously possible, using pessimistic assumptions and only land area we’ve already killed dead by paving. (Didn’t even have to invoke roof area!)

    Personally, I figure solar and nuclear and maybe synthesized ammonia for energy storage for things like ships and trains and maybe cars is where we need to be headed, with great speed. We’re not very far off weather conditions, climate inconsistency, that will make large-scale agriculture cease to work.

    (With a side note that fusion is _easy_, you can get fusion from 10 kUSD worth of lab equipment. It’s break-even fusion that’s apparently hard and throwing a few billion at experimentalists to prove the avenues that were dismissed on the road to tokamaks really are harder than tokamaks would be money well spent. (If the military-industrial complex really has to do something, it can at least do nice things.))

  120. says

    Mixed, yeah; you can’t do, for example, aluminium refining without a steady supply of power on a multi-day time scale.

    Which is why Iceland’s the right place to do it. Oh, the geothermal.

  121. says

    For those who are still reading georget‘s posts, FedGov is a shibboleth of a particular strain of heavily-armed white-supremacist libertarianism. All of his posts make sense* taken in that context.

    *To the extent that he’s able to construct a coherent sentence, anyway.

    michaelbusch
    I don’t really see breeder reactors as proven technology at this time, plus which there’s a very large lead time for nuke plants. I’m not opposed in principle, but I think that if we’re going to sink money into something new to support current off-the-shelf technologies, we should be focusing on storage to ameliorate the variability of renewables.

  122. says

    @rikz9443:

    You suggested that there should be some reason why an older German sunlight map could not be directly compared with a newer US one.

    There are exactly two things that determine the amount of sunlight at the surface of the Earth: the pattern of sunlight incident onto the top of Earth’s atmosphere and the average amount of cloud cover at each point. The pattern of sunlight incident onto the atmosphere is determined only by the direction of the Earth’s spin axis, which gives more sunlight near the equator and less near the pole. Germany is further north than almost all of the continental US, thus it automatically gets less sunlight at the top of the atmosphere. It also happens that there is more cloud cover over Germany than there is over much of the United States, as you can see in the Wikipedia article I linked. Thus Germany gets even less sunlight at the surface.

    At the levels significant for climatology, Earth’s spin axis has not moved significantly over the past few decades. Nor has the pattern of cloud cover changed that much over that time.

    To anyone who understands a certain amount about planets and their atmospheres, this chain of logic is automatic. You made an assertion that made no sense, and then used it as the basis of a misplaced attack on Chris’ writing. Perhaps you could have taken the time to look up what I have explained here, and not made a nonsensical statement?

  123. Richard Smith says

    @rikz9443 (#144):

    I just suggest that when someone puts out information, then it should be the most accurate.

    You do realize that those maps are showing how much sunlight particular areas receive? Not how much solar power they are generating? And, as such, a 15-year difference between the measurements of two countries in regards to how much sunlight hits the surface of the planet is about as great as a 15-year difference between the regular geographic maps of two countries. So, unless someone moved one of those countries in the intervening 15 years (or moved the sun), the data would be pretty much identical for either time frame. One might even consider a complaint over such a trivial issue to be a slight misrepresentation, at the least…

  124. says

    @Graydon Saunders @145:

    Apologies for my confusion. There would be some other concerns with that one, although they aren’t likely to be fatal. How high up is high enough? Will there be enough air circulation underneath? How hot will it get under there? Importantly: how expensive will these supports be as compared to putting the panels somewhere else? But yes, we could replace everything with solar. It would just be far from the optimal solution.

    @Dalillama, Schmott Guy @148:

    As I said, a good carbon-neutral grid uses a variety of technologies and we should work on improving all of them (although some, like hydro and geothermal, are close to limiting performance). For nuclear power, fuel reprocessing is perhaps easier than building breeder reactor designs. Both are expensive right now, and need a lot of work to bring the cost down. But we don’t have to choose one or the other – the energy market is very large, so it can support a huge investment in R&D of many different kinds.

    I defer opinions on exactly which of the different advanced nuclear power methods are optimal for different situations to those with more knowledge of the relevant engineering.

  125. says

    We should give Shibani Joshi some credit for correcting herself:

    Germany isn’t all that sunny and a case for a diversified energy world</b?

    But I incorrectly stated that the chief difference between the U.S. and Germany’s success with solar installations had to do with climate differences on a “Fox and Friends” appearance on Feb. 7. In fact, the difference come down more to subsidies and political priorities and has nothing to with sunshine.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/02/08/germany-isnt-all-that-sunny-and-case-for-diversified-energy-world/#ixzz2KNPIQPI0

  126. Akira MacKenzie says

    >After the whole globalization scheme falls apart, a smaller and smarter population will have several hundred years of hydrocarbons to use. Then several thousand years of terrestrial atomic power through breeder reactors. Then humanity will either have to turn to gravitational power or mine asteroids. Things will be fine.

    So, your solution to our energy problems is to increase hydrocarbon supply by counting on massive, human die-off as well as relying upon technologies that are horrifically toxic (i.e. breeder reactors), speculative (i.e. asteroid mining), or pulled right out of your ass. I mean, what the fuck is “gravitational power” and why do I suspect that it involves crashed flying saucers?

    You sound like the right-wing, sociopathic version of those Zeitgeist “Venus Project” loons.

  127. jaybee says

    Say there are 100M households in the US, and say that the government gave each one $20,000 credit for installing solar panels. That would cost $2T, which is shocking, but less than the cost the wars we have conducted recently. Not only would it reduce the cost of future wars, it would result in huge demand for various industries and jobs to build, install, and maintain these systems, jobs that could be filled by the large number of soldiers we wouldn’t need to deploy.

    Of course, the military-industrial complex would fight tooth and nail to prevent shutting down their money spigot.

  128. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    @ 31 So much rooftop space, and this is what they come up with?

    There is a company that is putting a lot of panels on rooftops in AZ “for free”. The deal is that you let them use your roof for their equipment and you buy all your electricity from them (even the amount that isn’t generated by solar). They get the money from the power company’s buy-back if there is a surplus fed back into the grid.

    Also becoming extremely popular are covered parking areas with solar panels on the shade structures. They are sprouting all over the schools and some shopping centers.

  129. tomhuld says

    @rikz9443 130+144: Your statement about using data from different time periods suggests that you don’t really understand the issue and just want to make a point, any point.

    Anyway, I don’t really want to plug our work (well, maybe a bit), but we have a new version of the maps of Germany and other European Countries, with data from 1998-2011 available here.

    Generally the solar radiation values in Germany are a few percentage points higher, probably because industrial pollution has decreased, leading to a drop in aerosol concentration. The few % change is tiny compared to the difference between Germany and the US southwest and in no way changes the general point Chris made.

  130. says

    @myself @149:

    I fear I was simplifying the radiative transfer through the atmosphere – conflating aerosols and cloud cover and atmospheric absorption. Cloud cover is the biggest single contribution, but as tomhuld mentions, aerosols are significant too. Atmospheric absorption also gets higher as we go away from the equator, since the Sun spends most of its time nearer to the horizon.

  131. Christoph Burschka says

    Maybe the guy actually believes that Germany is a tropical country. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

    Well, I live in Germany and I rode my elephant to work yesterday.

    (Because the bicycle was snowed in.)

  132. says

    All around the little town in Germany, where I work, most, if not all, of the manufacturing plants got their rooftops covered with solar panels in last few years. There is one exception to this I know of, and that is the company I work for.

    When they made the evaluation, the result was, that all of so produced electricity would be used up by our machinery and therefore the ammortisation (with current electricity pricing) of this investment would be – the horror! – almost five years. So those damn solar panels would produce profit only about 60% of their estimated 15 years lifetime. Absolutely not feasible at all, and absolutely not worth it /snark.

    The corporate management expects that any investment will be amortised in under one year and then PROFIT, and anything that does not meet this criteria is ignored. Do I have to say, that my employer is the only one far and wide, who is part of American-owned international corporation or is it at this point redundant?

    I hate stereotypes, but I am beginning to suspect, that there is a stereotypical thinking in american management culture, which revolves around short-time profits being always better than any long-time solution with lesser profits for company, but huge profits for community. I see the difference between how US-educated and Germany-educated managers think first hand, and though my experience is just an anecdote, there seems to be plethora of data to support its broader validity.

  133. says

    So why is Germany so wealthy? Could it be because socialism works better than lassaiz faire capitalism?

    That is about as ignorant as Fox news’ statement.
    Germany isn’t “socialist” in any way. It’s a Capitalism with a bit of sugar coating. Hell, the Liberturdials are looking to the USA with envy

    claustum3

    Solar in Germany is bankrupting the county[1], that’s why the government is trying to rein the enormous subsidies for it in. . Electricity here costs 25 eurocents /kwh and rising . Do Americans want to pay that?

    [1] Ignorant, evidence-free bullshit. Subsidies for renewable energy are 5,3 ct. And the problem is that those companies that use the most energy pay nothing at all AND that the energy companies couldn’t make more profit if they simply printed the money.
    On the other side, the costs for one of the “intermediate storage units” for radiactive waste will be 2 billions at least.
    [1] Bank bailout: 500 billions
    [2] I guess that if Americans had the same energy-use we have, they’d be off cheaper with our prices than they are now.

    tprc

    The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world’s leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed.

    The two biggest problems there are is the need for new landlines (wind in the north, sun in the south) and storage.
    I assume that most of the “totally not possible” things will actually work if they really try.

    Chris

    Besides which, Germans can hook up a solar panel and receive 25 cents (us) [

    There IS a social problem with this, because only people who have a house can do so, while poor people stuck in rented flats have to pay the subside. I’m totally in favour of investing lots in renewable energy, but I’m not quite happy with poor people paying for the income of not that poor people.

    doubtthat

    The smaller, roof-top cells won’t solve the whole problem,

    They won’t, but they can be part of the solution.
    One of the ideas there is is to downsize stuff and make it more efficient, like combining regular house-heating with small power-plants so you get more energy from using fossil fuels.

    Dalillama

    White painted roofs are the least of it; ground source heat pumps, insulating windows, insulation generally, efficient appliances, the list goes on.

    The house I live in was insulated 5 years ago (building is from the 1960’s), as part of the evil, country bancrupting renewable energy scheme we’re running. Energy costs for heating have gone up by more than 30%. Our actual bill has gone down by 10% or so due to less energy needed. The increase in the rent is paying off nicely already.

    yubal

    Major drive for the subventions was to get a market running so the industry and academia can develop better panels.

    One of the more interesting research projects at my university is about how to renovate some of the old buildings in a way they need less energy and are increased in comfort (the comfort of living in a well insulated house is not to be snezed on.)
    So, we have public investment that will be a net benefit for the public university AND a benefit for the industry AND a benefit for the environment.

    crocoduc

    I’m German. We used to have all those sunny colonies in Africa before WW2, that’s where our solar power investments originated from.

    Wrong WW

  134. Rasmus says

    The “solar industry crisis” is not a solar industry crisis, it’s not even a PV panel factory crisis. It’s a PV panel factory crisis in high-wage economies. Apparently you can’t make a profit without subsidies by producing cheap high volume commodity-like goods in high wage countries. Who could have guessed…

    The solar industry is actually doing better than ever if you remove the US/EU factory qualifier. Prices are down, volumes are way up and by now PV is probably the cheapest way to get intermittent power in places close to the equator. The reason why most of the panels end up in Germany is because of the subsidies, of course.

    Realistically speaking most of the solar jobs in the US and Europe are likely going to based around importing Chinese-made panels and doing all of the the local jobs that the corporations haven’t figure out how to outsource yet, things like installing, maintaining, marketing, accounting, planning and doing legal work.

  135. kreativekaos says

    Fox News lying, or simply pure stupidity.
    For anyone who wants to check it out, there is a documentary called Here Comes the Sun about the level of development of solar (and I think wind) alternatives in general, but I believe specifically focusing on Germany and the leaders engineering the policies around alternatives, their political and energy philosophy, and how they are rapidly moving forward with their intent on making Germany essentially fossil fuel and nuclear-free.

  136. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

  137. madtom1999 says

    As for storage it was shown in the early 90’s that you could create create and store hydrogen with greater that 80% energy efficiency – i.e. every watt of electricity used to generate the hydrogen for storage would result in 0.8w return in electricity from a power cell.
    Now if you perform this at a thermal generating station you get a lot of oxygen left over too – this can be used to improve the thermal efficiency of the burning reaction -air is 80% nitrogen so removing that from the burn means it gets a lot hotter! So you can get, in some cases, more energy back than you put into making the hydrogen AND lower Nx emissions.

  138. says

    Giliell:

    There IS a social problem with this, because only people who have a house can do so, while poor people stuck in rented flats have to pay the subside. I’m totally in favour of investing lots in renewable energy, but I’m not quite happy with poor people paying for the income of not that poor people.

    I hear you, though as a poor person myself it seems merely a question of which wealthier people I’m subsidizing with my electric bill. But there are attempts here in California to allow people to buy in to solar “gardens,” essentially co-ops that allow you to buy shares in an array and receive some pro-rated portion of the proceeds. Not a bad idea.

  139. jaybee says

    Nick Gotts suggested this for energy storage:

    charge up your car battery if there’s excess power available, but feed it back to the grid if there’s a shortage:

    The battery (of any electric car with decent range) is a large cost. Batteries have a finite number of charge/discharge cycles they can go through. It would seem like a bad exchange to me unless they develop batteries with much greater durability.

  140. says

    @madtom1999:

    A more reasonable number for hydrogen storage energy efficiency is 40%, which is still not too bad. There are concerns about cost – electrolysis often uses platinum as a catalyst, and platinum is not cheap. There are also concerns about storing the very large masses of hydrogen you would need for long-term grid-scale storage. Hydrogen and methane are both quite explosive, but hydrogen is more annoying to hold on to because it has much lower density for a given pressure.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grid_energy_storage#Hydrogen

  141. yubal says

    An alternative way to produce store-able energy from sunlight is using methane producing bacteria or better communities of microorganisms that produce methane when exposed to the sun. Such a technology is not ready yet but it would have the significant advantages that methane is safer to store than hydrogen and the output is already in a ready-to-store chemical form. On the con side it requires a lot of water, which is getting increasingly scarce and also some bioengineering which some people will always object. On top of that, the methane absorbers that can efficiently increase the methane from ~15% in the production vessel to >75% that is required in fuel cells are not easy to engineer.

  142. says

    @yubal:

    Biochemistry isn’t particularly efficient (few percent of sunlight -> chemical energy and less to electricity). Means you need a much larger area for culture. The environmental impact statement is not particularly encouraging.

  143. yubal says

    I know, but the use of genetic engineering, bioengineering and application of several species of microorganisms with complementary metabolic pathways hasn’t been explored yet.

    I could imagine that you could end up with somewhat more than 20% efficiency and you would save the loss of energy transformation into a chemical form that you will always have with photovoltaic.

    {more research needed}

    Application would be limited to tropical areas and of course not in desert.

    Idea is to acquire as many complimentary technologies as possible and use them whenever they fit best.

    [Another issue is, you could couple the waste from the photo reaction tanks to another system that breaks down the biomass for food production. i.e. fish cultures and the waste from the fish tanks could flow back into the photo biomass tanks to supply nutrients for the microorganisms. Those permanent fish cultures already exist, e.g. for Tilapia. First you have a tank that produces algea, then the tilapia that eat the algea and then a tank with bacteria that degrade the tiplapia waste for algea consumption. circle closed.]

  144. says

    Idea is to acquire as many complimentary technologies as possible and use them whenever they fit best.

    This strikes me as a particularly important point. It’s hopeless to seek or the magic bullet technology that will be perfect in all circumstances. What we need is a suite of available technologies that can be adapted for local circumstances.
    E.g. if solar power is not economically viable in a particular place; ok, don’t use it there. However, that’s no argument against using it when it is viable, and every time we do use it, we’re cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions. So, it’s not going to solve all our problems at a single stroke. Did anybody really think it would?

  145. John Morales says

    [OT]

    yubal:

    On the con side it requires a lot of water, which is getting increasingly scarce

    Um. Non-brackish, potable water is getting to be in short supply in some places; water, not so much.

    (Guess what’s the major input into turning the latter into the former?)

  146. says

    >>Idea is to acquire as many complimentary technologies as possible and use them whenever they fit best.<<

    That is certainly true. As I said, a diverse grid is what we want. Biofuel approaches have just been sometimes oversold.

  147. DLC says

    One thing we have plenty of in the Southwest is urban rooftops. now we just need everybody to cooperate and have panels installed.

  148. leepicton says

    There are 11 states in the U.S. that encourage solar power I with subsidies, but it is expensive to purchase these systems. The newer business model is to lease them, which I do. I am guaranteed a certain number of kwh per year and if it is not reached, I will be paid for the difference. There is the leasing expense, but it is cheaper by some than purchasing from the local power utility. My system went live last April and it is only February and zi have a 6000 kwh excess, which zi will sell back to the power company in April, when I expect it to be more. I will get a check for several hundred dollars. Overall, I am not getting rich, but seem to be saving about $600 a year on my electric. That is significant for me, and so far, I love it. My power company is happy to do this, because they are trying to avoid having to build a new power plant. Win, win.

  149. paulbc says

    The weird thing about this lie is that it goes against stereotype. Maybe I’m showing my age to suggest that my earliest beliefs about Germany’s climate were set by watching daily reruns of Hogan’s Heroes (since adjusted by reality, but I digress). The average Fox viewer may be surprised to hear that it is not perpetual winter there, and it’s hard to imagine convincing them it is ever sunny enough for solar power.

  150. Rip Steakface says

    Germany gets less sun than western Washington?

    Do Germans, like, subsist on darkness and clouds? PZ knows what an average western Washington day is like – battleship gray.

  151. mildlymagnificent says

    Honestly, have none of these people ever heard of German wine? Can’t grow vines without sun – and some of them are much improved for a healthy dose of frost at the right time. Never heard of Oktoberfest? Blue skies over carnival attractions and all the rest. It ain’t Barcelona or Naples or Los Angeles, but it’s bright and cheerful nevertheless.

  152. yubal says

    Yah yah,

    Germany does not get a lot of sun in average, we get that.

    but get the fun fact, too:

    When Germany decided to push renewable energies and to quit nuclear power, there were many voices that predicted Germany would have to import nuclear energy from France in the future. France runs on nuclear energy. +50% (or more like 70% but i don’t look that up now). Last years summer was so dry that the rivers had not enough water to cool nuclear power plants. The French had to shut many of them down and wait for rain. In that time, Germany exported solar energy to France. Peak capacity that was quite abundant due to the sheer numbers of solar panels installed and the good summer.

    It might not be the sunniest country on the planet, but on a good day the german solar panels put out a neat amount of energy. Very neat, indeed. When the wind is blowing the same day it rocks because Germany also invested significantly in wind power.

  153. says

    Chris
    Sure, I prefer my money to go into things I actually support, but the problem remains that this is more or less exclusively financed by the private sector and small businesses while the big industry will profit imensely once the whole thig gets running and you don’t have to rely on oil and gas and uranium anymore which won’t get any cheaper.

    BTW, our local energy provider, which is mostly publicly owned finances their new investments in renewable energy by taking credits from customers. They cut out the bank in the middle so I get a decent interest rate (more than most banks offer me for that money over that time) and they pay way less than bank interest rates for the money. And the profits they make go mostly into stuff like the public swimming pool, child daycare, the zoo…

    re: storage
    I’m just guessing, but I think the main hurdle has already been overcome: The broadly supported decision to tackle the problem. Seriously, with every major environmental problem there was so far, the nay-sayers deemed it to be “not possible” and “too expensive” and that includes public plumbing…

  154. birgerjohansson says

    kreativekaos
    I have been looking for Here Comes the Sun
    at both Amazon.com (the US version) and Amazon.co.uk (the Brit version. Unfortunately, it was available in neither site. Was it a very recent documentary?

  155. notfromvenus says

    @145 – I love the idea of solar panels over the road. I wonder if it would be possible to somehow use the panels to charge electric cars that were driving under them? (I know f***-all about engineering, so this is entirely speculative and could be a totally impossible idea. I’m just thinking about how subways are powered by the rail.) That would solve the problem of using electric cars for long commutes or trips.

  156. notfromvenus says

    @179 – What company did you use? We’re planning on leasing solar panels after we put a new roof on the house (no point in putting them up and then having to move them in a year or two and risk damaging them). So I’m curious to hear about people’s experiences.

  157. Ichthyic says

    The battery (of any electric car with decent range) is a large cost.

    on a larger scale, unused energy can easily be converted to potential energy for use it later power generation.

    examples abound, including in the desert where Chris lives.

    excess wind energy is used to pump water to the top of San Jacinto, where it is stored in large resevoirs, then gravity fed to feed water turbines when there is a need.

    this can be done on any number of scales, with various permutations of potential energy storage.

    it doesn’t have to be batteries in the chemical sense.

  158. ck says

    I currently enjoy extremely low energy costs because the local hydroelectic Crown corporation is required to only break-even when selling to residents and our excess production is sold to the U.S. which indirectly subsidizes capacity expansion and other projects undertaken by the crown corp. So, I must implore the U.S. not to invest in renewables, energy efficiency, and other technologies that would make my local power company less profitable. However, to the people in my province, please invest in renewables, energy efficiency, and other technologies to decrease local power consumption.

    :-P

  159. bradleybetts says

    @ Chris Clarke

    The fact you bothered to provide hard data in the form of a lovely colour-coordinated map in order to repudiate such blatant bullshit is to your credit. I’m not sure I would have had the patience.

  160. says

    Re: 181 Rip Steakface 9 February 2013 at 10:26 pm
    I know, I grew up there, too. One January it rained for thirty-odd days and nights non-stop. However, if you average the days, you end up with blue sky. Because there’s lots of partly-cloudy or not-at-all-cloudy days you tend to minimize in your head.

    Heck, I feel cold and grey today, even though it’s perfectly blue here because I live under trees and the 50F max outside makes me kinda want to stay indoors. I’m thinking of making a rack for my ruggedized panels – I use solar panels to fuel my camping trips – that would hang in the tops of the trees and trickle power down to me on the ground. I used to use the panels to charge handheld devices round the house, and the car.

    Re: 170 jaybee 9 February 2013 at 12:50 pm
    They do have expensive batteries with a limited number of charge cycles – but they also have a limited life on the shelf. If you’re not using a charge every day, every other day you lose a charging cycle anyhow. So it’s not actually a losing proposition. I’ve lost more batteries due to the fact that I’m not cycling them frequently enough than I have over-cycled them. And this is not unrepresentative.

  161. Doug Little says

    One of my cousins works in a large natural gas processing plant. They sometimes generate electricity – they watch the minute-by-minute price paid to producers and start or stop based on that.

    Absolutely, this is my experience with how the power generation industry works also. It it essentially price driven not necessarily based on demand.

  162. Doug Little says

    excess wind energy is used to pump water to the top of San Jacinto, where it is stored in large resevoirs, then gravity fed to feed water turbines when there is a need.

    this can be done on any number of scales, with various permutations of potential energy storage.

    it doesn’t have to be batteries in the chemical sense.

    Yes and I’m sure that given 5 minutes any one of us could come up with 10 ways to store the excess as potential energy, The water idea is a good one though, a back of the envelope calculation could be interesting as to what efficiency you would get, but anything is better than having to dump it anyway.

  163. geofail says

    LOL – Who would have thought that the MODEL based on satellite data from 1998-2005 showing the average kWH/m^2 of Nevada (about 111,000 mile^2), during a one hour window of the most intense sun exposure Nevada sees, wouldn’t even double the average kWH/m^2 recorded in Germany (about 138,000 mile^2) from stationary, albeit optimally inclined (as they should be), solar arrays in use from 1981-1990 (archaic in terms of solar array technology). Read the white papers if your infantile brains can even understand the data and research presented. This map is such a doctored crock of shit… Alaska is 3x the size of Germany. I realize the disclaimer seen on every map that Alaska is not scale, but where is that disclaimer for Germany and Spain? Spain, which quite obviously get’s more sun exposure beacuse of its geographic location, is 60,000 square miles larger than Germany. Please, please, please spin this bullshit faster, the ride isn’t fun enough yet. SO FAIL!!!

    #resarchfail, #whitepaperfail, #ignorance, #inconvenienttruthisright, #flamemecauseyoucantproveimwrong. #geographyfail, #bigsolar

    Your’s truley, geofail – Manufacturing/Renewable Energies Engineer