Consumer options for choosing renewable energy

by Allen Green

What options do consumers have for choosing renewable energy?

Most households in the United States, and around the world, are very reliant on energy for electricity and to heat their homes. Most of the energy that the United States uses is generated from fossil fuels including coal and natural gas. Currently, fossil fuels supply more than 80% of the nation’s energy. More specifically, 46% of our energy comes from coal, 23% comes from natural gas and 7.5% comes from petroleum.

There are numerous problems associated with using energy generated from fossil fuels. Luckily, as a consumer or business owner, you have choices when it comes to where your energy comes from.  There are many alternative energy sources that are renewable and do not harm the environment. You have the right to choose where your energy comes from and you have the right to choose green energy rather than traditional energy.

Alternative Energy Choices At Home

There are many ways that you can make alternative energy choices right at home. The two most popular ways are installing solar panels or a wind turbine on your property.

Solar Panels

Solar panels are devices that convert light into electricity. Many homeowners are making the choice to install solar panels on their property (usually on the roof) to reduce their utility bills and to reduce their carbon footprint.  The price for solar panels varies significantly. However, a study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Lab in 2010 estimated that the national average cost of solar PV (photovoltaic) systems was $7.62 per watt.  Therefore, a typical 5-Kw system would cost about $38,000. Any local or state rebates would reduce this cost, as would the 30% solar tax credit.

If you live in a state that gets a lot of sunshine–like New Jersey, California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Hawaii–solar panel system can pay for itself in as little as three years and result in long-term savings. In other states, however, it can take years for the system to pay for itself in terms of utility savings.

Consumers should keep in mind that there are three different types of solar panel systems. The first type is the on-grid battery system. Obviously, these systems are connected to the grid but also contain batteries that can store excess energy generated. They can even send any extra energy out to the grid. On-grid systems without a battery are simple and inexpensive to install, but the system will shut down if power goes out in your area. Finally, there are off-grid solar power systems.  Homes that use these systems are not tied to the electricity grid and generate all of their power independently. This option is not typically recommended unless you live in a very remote area.

Wind Turbines

Wind power is a renewable energy source that is quickly becoming a popular form of energy around the world. Wind power is generated by harnessing wind through the use of a turbine. Most wind turbines are very large and are built in remote areas that are very windy.  It is possible for homeowners to purchase smaller-scale turbines and place them on their property to generate power for their home.  However, because wind power is inconsistent in most areas of the world, most people cannot generate enough power to independently power their home. But a single wind turbine can ease the grid-drawn power a household uses and lower utility bills. Typically, people that reside in areas with average sustained wind speeds of more than 7 miles per hour are the best candidates for wind turbines.

The initial cost of purchasing and installing a turbine at home is often quite high. Turbine prices vary dramatically depending on the type, manufacturer and the area in which you live. It can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $50,000 to purchase and install a small turbine. The American Wind Energy Association estimates that a typical home wind systems costs around $32,000. The cost is a major drawback for many homeowners because the money you save on utility bills will not offset the cost of the device, even over many years. However, the advantages of purchasing a wind turbine include cutting utility bills and being in control of how your energy is generated. Another benefit is the tax breaks. The federal government gives a 30% tax credit (for the entire price of the turbine) for homeowners who buy one.

Options for Deregulated State Residents/Businesses

There are a handful of states in the U.S where the energy market is deregulated. Deregulation means that independent power suppliers have been allowed to enter the marketplace. In these states, consumers have the ability to choose their electricity supplier rather than getting it from the public utility.  The electricity industry has been at least partially deregulated in the following states:  Oregon, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.

In these states, residents have the option to choose their energy supplier. Many utility companies will show you what percentage of the energy that they use comes from renewable energy sources.  Some providers only get about 5% of their energy from renewable sources while others get 100% from alternative sources.  Different plans within the same utility company will sometimes have different percentages. This information is usually available to consumers on the utility company’s website or by calling them directly.

You will have to do some research to find this information but there are intermediaries out there that can help. There are many websites that allow you to search for energy providers by your zip code. Company listings that come up will sometimes provide information about the company’s renewable energy investments.

There are many benefits of choosing a supplier that generates a large percentage of their energy from renewable sources.  Once you do the research and choose a supplier and plan you are happy with, the work ends there. You can stay with that provider for a number of years, making it easy to choose alternative energy.

There are drawbacks as well. You will have to do a lot of research to find a supplier that gets a lot of their energy from alternative sources. You must also be willing to spend more on your monthly utility bills.  Energy generated from renewable sources usually costs consumers around twice as much as traditional energy.

Options for Regulated State Residents/Businesses

If you live in a regulated state, and can’t afford to install solar panels or a wind turbine on your property, you are not without hope. While you might not have tangible options the situation isn’t necessarily bleak.

In fact, many states (including regulated states) actually require that utility companies generate a certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources.  Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota and Washington all get the majority of their energy from renewable energy sources. Additionally, Alaska, Iowa, Montana, New York and Vermont get more than 15% of their energy from renewable sources.

The United States as a whole has been making significant strides in developing their alternative energy market in the past few years. In fact, hydroelectric power now accounts for about 12.3% of all power generated in the U.S, wind account for 2.65%, geothermal accounts for 2.76% and wood accounts for 2.14%. Solar and biomass energy account for some a small percentage of the energy generated as well.

Therefore, even if you live in a regulated state, chances are that your utility company is still generating a large portion of their energy from renewable resources.

Bionotes: Allen Green blogs about saving money and energy topics  at http://www.utilitycompany.net/, one of the leading online resources for lowering your utility bill through deregulated energy. He is new to Twitter, but you can follow him @AllenGreen3.

JC comment:  This post raises the practical economical issues of using renewable energy in the U.S.  I would be interested in any personal experiences related to using alternative energy sources.

246 responses to “Consumer options for choosing renewable energy

  1. I heard about biofuel from aligator fat yesterday…

      • “Renewable” energy is as attractive as the “Fountain of Youth.” Both fables are unscientific propaganda.

        The study of thermodynamics begins with the empirical fact that heat flows from hotter regions to cooler regions. Nobody – not Al Gore, world leaders, nor the UN’s IPCC, can reverse the direction of nature.

        [Otherwise such great men as these would not grow old.]

        Honest science would make it possible for us to use the direction of natural processes for our benefit – e.g., to meet future energy needs.

        Pseudo-science – like the AGW explanation of climate change [1] and the SSM (Standard Solar Model) of Earth’s heat source as a giant fusion reactor [2] – threaten the security of our nation and that of the entire world.

        The problem was most clearly identified by the school child that took the head of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies – Dr. James Hansen (also NASA’s head AGW propaganda czar) – to task for deceit [3].

        1. “Earth’s Heat Source – The Sun”, E&E 20, 131-144 (2009)
        http://arxiv.org/pdf/0905.0704

        2. “Neutron Repulsion”, The APEIRON Journal, in press (2011)
        http://arxiv.org/pdf/1102.1499v1

        3. “Ponder the Maunder – Houston, we’ve got a problem”
        http://home.earthlink.net/~ponderthemaunderg/ponderthemaunder/

        With kind regards,
        Oliver K. Manuel

      • I read 3. “Ponder the Maunder – Houston, we’ve got a problem”
        http://home.earthlink.net/~ponderthemaunderg/ponderthemaunder/
        Near the bottom I read:
        You can also send your thoughts: Attention NASA Administrator Michael Griffin:
        That is a little out of date and I doubt if the current NASA Administrator would buck the White House over Global Warming.

      • Ask him!

        Obama is probably not in charge of this international scam, but anyone working for him MUST support the dogma.

        Big Brother became international since George Orwell wrote a book in 1948 and rearranged the date as the title of his book, “1948.”

        http://www.online-literature.com/orwell/1984/

        It was a child that noticed a few holes in the Emperor’s new suit.

        http://hca.gilead.org.il/emperor.html

      • The Oliver K. Manuel Method

        1) Wait for a new post on the blog
        2) Has someone beaten you to the first comment? If so jump immediately to step 3b)
        3a) As the first comment post some inane rant about how the standard solar model is wrong, science is all backwards, blah blah blah. It’s all a conspiracy. You’re done.

        3b) You’ve failed to grab the first comment, but attempt to get your inane rant as close to the top as possible by simply replying to the first commenter. Oh it doesn’t matter what they actually said, although add a little word glue to make it look like a reply, even though it will surely fool nobody. Just bend the conversation sharply back to how wrong the standard solar model is. You’re done.

    • I believe that biofuel from waste products is a good idea.

    • “Therefore, a typical 5-Kw system would cost about $38,000″

      A 5kwh system, 12 hours a day, 300 days a year generates about $1800 worth of power a year (at 10 cents/kwh). Very few places have that much sunshine, and 10 cents/kwn is very much higher than the 3 cents/kwh average spot price of power in the US. It is higher than most consumers pay.

      So, even if the cost of money is zero, if your maintenance costs are zero, you have a 21 year payback. Which is about the life of the system, if you are lucky. Many panels will not last that long at their rated output.

      • So the solution is to raise the price of electricity to bring the payback period down. The EPA is working on that. /sarc

  2. I usually decline participating in market research solicitations.

    Andrew

  3. Hundreds of millions returned to extreme poverty from biofuel.
    ================

    • I believe that making biofuel from corn is a crime.

      • I don’t think corn based ethanol is at all a reasonable substitute. Too large a percentage of the U.S.’s corn crop is meant for fuel, and once again, (as I commented above about waste based biofuels) I don’t think corn can get us off fossil fuels.

    • I disagree. I use wood in a wood stove and its cheaper than heating oil.

      Mmmm. Wood. Mother natures renewable.

      • Imagine a city where everyone heats their home/apartment with wood. Even with a high-efficiency wood-burner, the smoke & soot would be horrendous. Now, stretch the imagination to the quantity of wood that would be consumed by one city the size of Chicago. The price of firewood would sky-rocket.

      • Imagine a country …

        “The UK currently burns or co-fires around one million tonnes of wood, but the government has highlighted the importance of biomass in 2009’s Renewable Energy Strategy and this year’s Renewables Roadmap.

        Planning permission has been granted to more than 7GW of biomass power plants, which the IIED said is likely to increase demand to 60 million tonnes a year, five or six times the nation’s currently available resources.”

        http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2105569/government-denies-spiralling-biomass-demand-fuel-land-grabs

      • Wood is a terrible choice for large scale energy production.

      • Welcome to the UK.

      • “As for wood, consider the effect of a simple rule passed by the London borough of Merton in 2003 and slavishly emulated by planners all over the country. The Merton rule requires all developers who build a building of more than 1,000 square metres to generate 10% of energy `renewably’ on site. The effect has been to make it worth my while to thin my woods in Northumberland for the first time in decades.

        How so? Faced with the need to find an energy source sufficiently dense to fit on site, developers have turned en masse to wood (or biomass as they prefer to call it). This has led to convoys of diesel lorries chugging through the streets of London to deliver wood to buildings – how very thirteenth century! Delivering, drying and burning this wood produces far more carbon dioxide than delivering gas would.

        And lo, by bidding up the price of wood, the effect has been to cause landowners to harvest their timber younger than before, which increases carbon emissions. Thus enriched by having lost less money in managing woods, people like me take a holiday – on a jet. So as policy own goals go, the Merton rule is a quintuple whammy. According to one estimate, Britain is producing about six million extra tonnes of carbon dioxide each year as a result of redirecting its wood supply from current use by the wood-panel and other related industries into energy supply.

        The neo-medieval policy of picking winners – or rather losers – creates a salivating lobby for subsidies (even the RSPB takes money from wind farms to shut it up about their eagle killing). But it is saddling ordinary Britons with uncompetitive energy prices, lost jobs, rising fuel poverty, spoiled landscapes – and higher carbon emissions too.”

        http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/quintuple-whammy

  4. Untold ecosystems disturbed from low frequency vibrations.
    ===============

  5. Solar panels sucking tax dollars more efficiently than sucking the sun’s energy.
    =========================

  6. Here in the UK there seem to be mixed messages in renewable enery, for example the UK government has already changed the rules on feed-in tarrifs for buisnesses, but the so called Green Deal will have great importance on Energy use in the UK, so once the consultation has taken place at the end of 2011, the framework will be clearer. We are trying to learn from the mistakes of other countries, while working within a binding EU commitment (20% by 2020) so things are a bit up in the air. In Cambridgeshire, which is pretty flat, so good for wind, has had lots of wind farm proposals recently, some of which have been refused permission, others which will go ahead, but it is rather ad hoc rather than a planned strategy.

    • Hey Paul, I really like the idea of countries learning from other countries and hope the UK can work out a clear framework. Please correct me if I am wrong, but the Green Deal is mostly about increasing efficiency, right?

      There are bound to be some mistakes made as people work on building out wind farms and the like. There are a lot of good people with good energy (pardon the pun) who want to help, and it is difficult to regulate something so new. I definitely think that measures taken, while they need to be regulated at a national level, need to be developed locally.

      I hope Cambridgeshire get’s a wind farm soon.

      • Stirling English

        Pity, then, that most of the residents of Cambridgeshire hate the bloody things. And that they don’t provide any of the claimed ‘green’ benefits. Pity too that the rest of us poor saps in the UK have to pay the landowners seven or eight times the going rate for electricity as a compulsory energy tax to keep him in luxury..

        But I’m sure we will all keep warm this winter knowing that your good wishes have helped to make his dream come true. After all – we won;t be able to afford to buy any power any more.

    • The best lesson to learn is to tear down windmills asap.

  7. Hi Allen,

    Excellent post! Consumers need to know their options and to start engaging with these options. I would only add that, relatively speaking, citizens in the U.S. currently pay practically nothing for their energy (from fossil fuels); and that the transition in the coming years will likely occur concurrently with very significant increases in what is charged for fossil fuel consumption to individuals and families, so any failure to adequately prepare and plan for energy is going to leave poor citizens behind (which does not need to happen and should not happen).

    • I would agree that people do need to know their options. The option to choose (and subsidize) unreliable and more expensive sources seems like a loser to me. Natural gas, nuclear, hydro and geothermal (where those are viable options) all make much more sense than paying twice for less value.

      • I agree. The marketplace will ultimately determine what works quite well.

      • Rob,

        Maybe that’s true but it’s not what Gene said.

      • Gene –

        To what degree do you think that coal and oil are subsidized, currently? How would you evaluate the cost of the negative externalities associated with coal and oil? Are the prices for coal and oil truly reflective of their cost?

      • Joshua

        Missed you yesterday. Anyway let me jump in too. Answers to your questions:

        Considerably, but not enough to make grid parity.
        Through extended cost-benefit analysis, as done by EPA and Ross McKitrick among others.
        No, see response to #1.

        But you knew this…

        Bill

      • BillC –

        Do you have a link to your answer #2?

        Sorry – but I actually didn’t know to what extent Gene thinks that oil and coal are subsidized, how he would evaluate the cost of negative externalities associated with coal and oil, and whether the prices of coal and oil truly reflect their cost.

        That’s why I asked. Sometimes I get names confused a bit, but I believe that Gene and I (as opposed to a certain segment of “denizens”) generally have a fair exchange of ideas – and so I was interested in hearing his perspective on those questions.

      • Didn’t mean to suggest you know what Gene’s thinking, sorry ’bout that.

        Re: your question, are you looking for the names I specifically mentioned, or just a general reference? If general reference, consider the following publication: “Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use” from the National Academy of Sciences (2010).

        link: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12794
        (free PDF available)

        Costs per kWh and per VMT etc. for damages mostly from conventional pollution, using a model called APEEP from Yale (Robert Mendelsohn).

        Interesting stuff in there about the costs of CO2 emissions – ranging from $1 to $100 per ton…using models by Tol and Nordhaus among others…

      • No probs.

        Thanks for the links. A quick use of The Google on Mckritick’s name didn’t produce useful results.

      • The Google on Mckritick’s name didn’t produce useful results.

        Yes, well that’s hardly surprising. But if you’d actually searched for Ross McKitrick you might have produced “useful results”. Then again, such a search would only be useful as a starting point for one whose purpose was to ameliorate his/her ignorance. So maybe it’s just as well that you chose to lead yourself up a blind alley.

      • Steven Mosher

        errr you dont know who Ross is?

      • The Google knows what you were thinking. I googled “Ross Mckritick” and sure enough:
        Showing results for “Ross Mckitrick”. Search instead for “Ross Mckritick”.
        Search Results

        Ross McKitrick – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
        en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_McKitrick – Cached
        Ross McKitrick is a Canadian economist specializing in environmental economics and policy…

      • Wow! I missed all of this. Yes, I know who McKitirick is.

        A Google search on his name plus a related criterion did not produce any useful links on his cost/benefit analysis of coal and oil, although it did produce quite a few hits.

        Interesting what some people will conclude without any valid underlying evidence, isn’t it?

      • I thought that oil in the US is not subsidized. There are about $5B per year in tax benefits that they get that are for accelerated depreciation on equipment, but that is not really a subsidity.

      • This was my rationale for asking Joshua how he defined subsidy. I’ve seen some argue that normal deductions applicable to all businesses become subsidies in the hands of fossil fuel companies.

      • In the AGW believer world, any expense “big oil” writes off, and any standard deduction ‘big oil’ takes, is a tax payer subsidy.
        That is to help rationlize the direct operating, price guarantee and tax credits so-called alternative energy receives.

      • In addition to the “kitchen sink” claim that all defense spending is an “oil subsidy”, I’ve seen references to studies that claim the interstate highway system is an “fossil fuel subsidy”.

        In any event, even using such inflated claims of “subsidies”, on a joule/subsidy-cost basis, fossil fuels beat the snot out of renewables.

      • In any event, even using such inflated claims of “subsidies”, on a joule/subsidy-cost basis, fossil fuels beat the snot out of renewables.

        I’m wondering if you could provide a link that supports that conclusion.

      • Joshua,

        I’d have to ask for your definition of subsidy to even know where to start looking for that answer. I do know that I’m not being offered a tax break to install a coal or oil-fired heating system (which, as one of the 53% paying taxes in the US, would represent me giving me my money back, less shipping and handling).

        Likewise, I don’t have the background to give a good answer to the last two questions. I do notice that when externalities come up, only the negative ones seem to get mentioned.

        My main objection to subsidizing wind and solar is the reliability factor coupled with the price increase. If we’re going to subsidize anything, let it be something that merits the investment. Energy efficient improvements to homes and offices seem a better use of resources. Promoting a shift to reliable, cleaner energy sources such as nuclear, natural gas, hydro, and geothermal makes more sense to me as well (admittedly, that’s a lay opinion).

      • Gene –

        Sorry I missed this earlier. I completely agree that defining what is and isn’t a subsidy is a very important, and very tricky question.

        My point is that it is difficult to reach conclusions without a very consideration for how to answer that question – and thus it is difficult to determine the merits of different investments. I agree about a focus on energy efficiency. I do not share your view that only the negative externalities come up in discussions. I see both being raised – but unfortunately, the positive externalities are the primary focus on one side while the negative externalities are the primary focus on the other side.

      • Also – it is my understanding that you would get tax breaks to install highly efficient oil- and/or coal- fired heating systems. Am I wrong about that?

      • A quick use of The Google doesn’t return tax breaks for an efficient coal-fired system, but it does return a tax break for an efficient oil-fired system.

      • I stand corrected. And aghast…I can’t imagine anyone choosing an oil furnace these days. On a positive note, this one expires this year (as unfortunately do a lot of more sensible ones).

      • Gene, I know it sounds crazy that you could get a tax break for an oil fired unit, but efficiency is a major part of the issue. Even a nasty coal boiler with high efficiency is better than an inefficient natural gas boiler. As a consumer, the volatility of fuel price should stop anyone from thinking about oil fired.

        That is one of the big pluses for the ground source heat pumps, electricity is fairly stable in price and with a CoP of 3 and over, ground or water source is hard to beat.

        The pellet feed stoves/furnaces/boilers have some flexibility in that the pellets can be wood, paper, biomass (corn, corn cobs, wheat chaff, all manner of stuff even recycled trash). While they are very clean, I would be surprised if everyone in NYC could go pellet stove without some air quality issues.

      • Dallas,

        I think we’re in agreement. Higher efficiency should be a major consideration, but I can’t imagine choosing oil (as you noted, due to the price of fuel) over another alternative.

        The air quality isssues you mentioned re: pellet stoves – could you expand on what they are?

      • Gene, Re: pellet air quality issues. There is a large difference in emissions with fuel grade. The top grade is very low in emissions, but the mid and lower grades produce a good deal of creosote, therefore more volatile emissions. Maintaining a consistent supply of the right grade and/or blending grades correctly is important.

      • Dallas,

        Interesting…I didn’t even think about that.

      • My point is that it is difficult to reach conclusions without a very consideration for how to answer that question – and thus it is difficult to determine the merits of different investments.

        I have to disagree. I think the question of whether it’s a good idea to subsidize wind and solar can be answered independently. The reliability issues and the challenges they pose to the grid are two good reasons to question that policy. The reliability issue in particular is a thorny one in that it doesn’t go away with scale.

      • OK – I get where you’re coming from.

        To an extent I think that you’re right, but I still don’t think that you can make those kinds of decisions in a vacuum. The viability of investment in those resources does need to be evaluated independently also.

        But there is an existing context – and claims are made all the time relative to that context. For example, that increased investment in renewables will harm the economy. I just read a report that Germany is now up to close to 21% from renewables, and their economy isn’t doing so bad relative to ours. Mind you, I’m not making simplistic cause and effect conclusions here – but arguing against such conclusions. If the context is that investment in renewables comes from drawing resources from other energy sources that are effectively or otherwise being subsidized, and that have greater negative externalities – even independent of views of global warming – then it adds to the justification.

      • For example, that increased investment in renewables will harm the economy.

        I’m not sure the context is that the investment harms the economy, but that forcing use of wind and solar (I want to be specific on this as not all renewables share the same issues) can drive up costs and hurt the economy. Economic harm from waste of tax money diverted to less viable options (again, solar and wind) is another issue.

        The one point I’d make re: Germany is that it has a lot of neighbors less dependent on the wind from whom they can purchase electricity. A good thing since they’re taking down their nuclear capacity before the next tsunami hits (I know, not nice).

        If the context is that investment in renewables comes from drawing resources from other energy sources that are effectively or otherwise being subsidized, and that have greater negative externalities – even independent of views of global warming – then it adds to the justification.

        You’re really not arguing that a bad investment that takes money away from a worse investment becomes a good investment, are you?

      • You’re really not arguing that a bad investment that takes money away from a worse investment becomes a good investment, are you?

        Ha. No – but that it can be a less bad investment. The only solidly good investment, IMO, is in conservation and efficiency. But even there the complexities make everything complicated. Is investing in public transportation – which may well be more efficient than investing in automobile travel – “conservation,” or “efficiency?” I think so. And I’ve seen many instances where such investment (e.g., in transportation hubs) has had very solid economic returns.

        But in lieu of investing in greater efficiency and conservation, given that we have energy needs, do we continue to expend resources in such a way that effectively, or directly, subsidizes one energy source over another? I don’t see how to gain purchase on finding answers there without a full-on attempt to do thorough cost/benefit analyses – even independent of the variable of climate change. People argue another perspective, but IMO there is no way around the fact that keeping oil flowing comes at various geo-political “costs” that would not accompany, say, developing wind or solar. So, then you need to examine the “costs” of domestic development of oil as a resource relative to “costs” of relative inefficiencies of wind and solar. What I see is a lot of political argumentation that is being substituted for fully comprehensive analysis. And negative externalities, IMO, are a reality. Sure, they’re hard to quantify as are positive externalities – but when people simply want to dismiss them, as if they don’t exist anywhere outside of the imagination of ecocrazies, it seems to me that they’re doing little but arguing a partisan perspective.

      • Joshua,

        You make me work too hard…I never get away with short answers with you.

        Is investing in public transportation – which may well be more efficient than investing in automobile travel – “conservation,” or “efficiency?” I think so. And I’ve seen many instances where such investment (e.g., in transportation hubs) has had very solid economic returns.

        I think it can be, when done in an intelligent manner. I live just outside of a city that has a distinct problem in that regard. It has workers commuting in and out as well as a steadily dwindling number of shoppers. Mass transit has helped with the workers, but is a total loss with the shoppers. While it could be seen as promoting automobile usage, it would be much smarter to adopt a mixed approach involving free parking for those bringing business downtown rather than bemoan the steadily dwindling revenues from sales taxes.

        But in lieu of investing in greater efficiency and conservation, given that we have energy needs, do we continue to expend resources in such a way that effectively, or directly, subsidizes one energy source over another?

        I’d imagine we can find common ground on the direct subsidies. It’s the “effective” ones that require more precise definition before we can agree or not.

        People argue another perspective, but IMO there is no way around the fact that keeping oil flowing comes at various geo-political “costs” that would not accompany, say, developing wind or solar.

        There is a “cost”. Quantifying how much of that stems from our need (or our allies need) for oil gets tricky. I don’t think it’s reasonable to argue that an oil-free world would mean no US interest in the Middle East.

        So, then you need to examine the “costs” of domestic development of oil as a resource relative to “costs” of relative inefficiencies of wind and solar.

        Okay, but let’s throw natural gas, nuclear, biomass, geothermal and hydro in there as well. I’ll leave the hard numbers for those better qualified, but I’m willing to bet those will crowd out wind and solar.

        And negative externalities, IMO, are a reality. Sure, they’re hard to quantify as are positive externalities – but when people simply want to dismiss them, as if they don’t exist anywhere outside of the imagination of ecocrazies, it seems to me that they’re doing little but arguing a partisan perspective.

        I will agree with you there (at least partially). The metals mining industry is a good example where they have been quantified and steps have been taken to account for them (to varying degrees of success). Unquantified negative externalities, however, are more problematic in my opinion. Without a reasonable quantification of the potential liability, it’s difficult for a business to manage its risks. That type of uncertainty can create economic paralysis.

  8. Hank Zentgraf

    This looks like a typical sales job. A $38,000 system can “pay for itself in 3 years”. Where is the analysis to support such a claim?
    Until the market price for green technology comes down to a supply/demand crossover, these projects are just another way for government to transfer wealth.

    • And actually the $38K is not for a system adequate to operate your home independently. For my house I need a 20K generator and not the 5K one that cost $38K.

    • Here is a solar calculator.

      I claimed 350$ per month power bill in Arizona. And I wanted a 100% system.

      This could be supplied by a 17.1 kw solar panel system.
      The average price for a 17.1 system is $136800
      Rebates
      In Arizona you could save appoximately $3000 off the price of your solar system.
      Your new solar system price is $133800

      They then claimed a profit time of 12 years because the house would now be worth 60,021 more.

      http://solartradingpost.com/calculateB.php

      • The arithmetic doesn’t add up. If your monthly power bill is $350 then it would take over 30 years to pay back the initial investment even if we were to forget about costs of repairs and maintenance. I rather doubt that the equipment will function trouble-free for that long.

      • Almost all the solar calculators I found suggest positive cashflow after 8 years … no matter whether the PV system is 20,000 or 200,000.

        IPCC math I guess.

    • Hank,
      Agree, but this is a wrong way to transfer wealth for it goes into a black hole. There are other ways to transfer wealth with a solid return to the society as a whole.

    • Dr James Ward

      I was struck by the 3-year payback claim as well. $38k over three years is over $12k per year. This looks to me like a mix-up between financial payback and energy payback.

      Incidentally in Australia, there is a government subsidy for small household systems (around 1kW) that covers well over 50% of the capital cost, and electricity suppliers are then obligated to purchase any surplus power the household generates at a price more than twice the retail level (not wholesale). With these enormous subsidies to the household, many systems have 2-3 year financial payback but this obviously does not imply the technology is economically viable yet.

      Also there is a monumental difference in cost between grid-connected systems (with no battery storage) and off-the-grid systems where expensive batteries are required to cope with long periods without adequate sunshine (and generating capacity must be larger than demand to ensure a surplus that can recharge the batteries).

  9. Just an idea but the British could continue funding global warming research and the UK’s elderly can continue burning the filing cabinets full of junk science every winter to keep warm.

    • Latimer Alder

      Even better idea. Lets just stop funding global warming research instead. And carry on burning the junk science.

      Is ‘the data was burnt to keep warm’ a valid excuse to avoid FoI requests? Because if it is I imagine that they’re building a big bonfire in East Anglia

  10. ” Any local or state rebates would reduce this cost, as would the 30% solar tax credit.”

    “The federal government gives a 30% tax credit (for the entire price of the turbine) for homeowners who buy one.”

    “You must also be willing to spend more on your monthly utility bills.”

    So people that donot own the solar panels or wind mill help pay for it with no ability to use it. Then on top of that the price for alternative increased monthly bills.

    If it needs to be this heavily subsidized maybe it is not a good idea.

    Is it any wonder that people don’t have money to spend on other necessary items when government purposely raises the cost just to live.

    This whole CO2 claim is all about control of people. If I control the amount of energy what kind of energy and how much it costs I can control you.

  11. Stirling English

    In UK we have no choice.

    We have to pay for it whether we use it or not. Often there isn’t any to be had because of calm winds. But the tax on our electricity bills has to be paid willy nilly. Effectively transferring the money from poor old folk wanting to keep warm in the winter (like my Mum) to the Prime Minister’s father in law who has a wind farm on his rolling acres. All in the interests of ‘progress’.

    PS Cameron’s FiL estiamtes that he will ‘only’ make about 500,000 usd equiv per year from 8 windmills and doing f… all else. It is a scam.pure and simple. But people are at last beginning to wake up to it.

  12. Power Grids have trouble meeting peak demands and keeping up when they have unexpected outages or unexpected lack of delivery from renewable. We need more gas fired, clean coal fired and Nuclear powered generating plants. Providers don’t invest in these enough mainly because the subsidies and tax credits allow the renewable energy providers to suck off the profits and leave them holding the bag and taking the blame for outages when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun don’t shine.
    Renewable energy should take some of the responsibility for covering the cost of providing the power when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun don’t shine. They have unfair advantage and this is hurting the power industry and hurting the consumers.

  13. “However, a study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Lab in 2010 estimated that the national average cost of solar PV (photovoltaic) systems was $7.62 per watt. Therefore, a typical 5-Kw system would cost about $38,000. Any local or state rebates would reduce this cost, as would the 30% solar tax credit.”

    Nanosolar has utility scale panels for $1 per Watt. With associated inverters and electrical gear, you are looking at $2.5 to $3 per Watt. That is one of the problems with solar, it is growing less expensive. The other is of course grid impact.
    There are alternate energy options but each has a PITA factor. Buying something today that you could buy next year for half is a PITA factor.

    • Hank Zentgraf

      Dallas
      Do you have a return on investment analysis for an installed Nanosolar system?

      • Hank, not yet, they are currently testing in Germany and only selling the utility scale panels to select venders.

      • Hank Zentgraf

        Thanks Dallas. In my last house I had passive solar with a 650 gallon storage tank in the basement. Installed in the mid 70s, the system broke even in 8 years because the State and Fed subsidies covered 70%. The best part was my wife and 3 daughters could take long showers to thoroughly wash their hair. The next morning the hot water was replaced at just the cost of running a small electric motor to circulate the water for 5 hours.

      • I helped built and install a passive solar water heater here two years ago. Since we don’t have freezes, it only cost $100 and it rocks! No demanding women though, so we just used a 30 gallon tank.

      • We installed a Hills Esteem evacuated tube solar hot water system at our place SW of Sydney. It has 30 tubes and a 315litre storage tank. After subsidies and RECs, it was very affordable, and makes a major reduction in the cost of heating hotwater. Through summer, we don’t need to turn the booster power on at all, yet have heaps of hot water. Through winter, we only need to take the precaution of turning on the booster if there is a succession of cloudy wet days. This system makes sound common sense and is a very effective way of reducing grid power consumption.

        Interestingly, on a trek in Nepal last year, we noted many much simpler passive solar hot water systems. These consisted of nothing more than a black plastic container, about the size of a 44 gallon drum, mounted on the roof of the shower block. Yet they provided many very pleasant hot showers.

      • Yes, we have a 30 tube system here in Yorkshire in the UK. We got it because our boiler is off during the summer and we were previously reliant on an electric heater for hot water – very expensive. At these latitudes, the panel only really works well from late March to November but after that the boiler is lit so it doesn’t matter. In the summer, the system can be so efficient that I have to divert the circulation through a heat sink in the loft to prevent the water in the tank from getting dangerously hot.

        If you can site the hot water tank higher than the panel then you don’t even need an electric pump as the system will work using a thermal syphon. This makes it very cheap. You see systems like this on the roofs of many houses across southern Europe.

        In my view, solar hot water is the only renewable that makes financial sense.

      • “we only need to take the precaution of turning on the booster”

        Do you not understand how your “booster” is powered ?

    • Dallas
      Note the differences between cost per PEAK vs average or use weighted.
      For relative power plant capital costs see:
      EIA’s 2011 Overnight Capital Costs for New Electricity Generating Plants for 2015 to 2035.

      For relative commercial electricity costs see:
      LCOE by Data Set and Technology e.g.
      Coal $53/MWh,
      Biomass $75/MWh
      Gas Turbine $77/MWh
      Wind $63/MWh
      PV $270/MWh

      EPA’s new regulations are likely to cause power companies to discontinue use rather than upgrade. That is projected to cause an 8% decrease or 81 GW by 2018 in US generating capacity – with very serious degradation in power reliability and major increases in electricity costs. See:
      EPA moratorium
      EPA itself estimates that will cost $11 billion/year or about $100/family/year.

      EPA’s new emission regulations are projected to increase Indiana’s electricity costs about 80% over this next decade.

      Obama: My Plan Makes Electricity Rates Skyrocket It looks like we have the most expensive environmental regulations Obama and Congress could buy.

      • Scanning the over night and LCOE, the reports look a little overly optimistic. The PV slope could be nearly double and the 30 year useful life is about 5 to 10 years too long.

      • We may see some sanity in not imposing a lot more regulations on power plants after a lot of consumer objections.
        Obama halts controversial EPA regulation

        Obama overruled the Environmental Protection Agency and directed administrator Lisa Jackson to withdraw the proposal, in part because of the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and uncertainty for businesses at a time of rampant uncertainty about an unsteady economy.

        The announcement came shortly after a new government report on private sector employment showed that businesses essentially added no new jobs last month – and that the jobless rate remained stuck at a historically high 9.1 percent.

      • Some sanity is good after the past 3 years in particular. The truth is team Obama is tied to the hip with eco-fringe leftists. He will then go back and promise if reelected it will all be “hope and change” again for eco-agw radicalism. Really, how is uncertainty any different if you need to make long term investments in coal?? The only logical thing to do is wait until we reach a real regulatory mandate in 2012 and get rid of these people for a generation or so. Confidence can’t return under this administration.

        We can also expect another financial crisis phase as the banker’s know it’s going to be tough love with the next leadership. Better to default now and hope for full nationalization, the banking system needs to be liqudated. Investors will think they will get a better deal under the Keynesians which is misguided but reality. It’s going to tough owning risk assets watching this.

        If the left jumps ship Obama will be at 20% approval in no time, you can already see they know it’s coming and the narrative of his “weakness” is making the journOlist rounds. EPA retreat is just the beginning.

    • Dallas,

      For the last 6 years or so the State of CA has been installing allot of PV (in part due to the current 33%RES, and in part due to fairly large rebates to residential customers). If your into details (system size, and cost by year, by service provider) you may find this site of interest.

      http://www.californiasolarstatistics.ca.gov/reports/cost_per_watt/

      My wife and I put a 6.12kw (sts rating, 5.22kw AC-CEC rating) system on our roof(s) back in 2006. The net (sales price – rebate and tax credit from the feds) costs for our system was a bit under $28K. We generate 9400 kwh a year with our system. We have a time of use (TOU) E-7 net meter with PG&E- we get a credit of .315 a kwh for the energy we send to the grid during peak times.

      I wasn’t aware that Nanosolar is selling into the residential market.

      • Sorry about the web link- lets try this- http://www.californiasolarstatistics.ca.gov/reports/cost_per_watt/

        To come up with an estimate of an ROI on PV I have found that sharp’s web site is fairly accurate-
        http://sharpusa.cleanpowerestimator.com/sharpusa.htm

      • Mark, they are not selling residential yet, here at least in Florida. Their main manufacturing plant is in CA, so you may see them first. They really have a neat printing press manufacturing style that produces respectable efficiency at a lot lower cost. Here in Florida, the solar rebate money kept running out, it was $4 per PV rated kw, but with only 10 cent per kw electric cost, it was only worth installing PV if you were on the rebate list.

      • Dallas,

        I used to live about 2 miles from the Nanosolar facility in the SF Bay Area (San Jose). I also think that their thin film manufacturing process is very interesting. Our electrical rates are similar to the tax code out here in CA. The more you use the more (marginally) you pay. Hence payback for a self generation option will be a bit faster out here. The marginal rate for most residential customers (per the design intent of the rate schedules, and baseline quantities) in the residential market is just over $.30 a kwh. High electrical energy users in PG&E’s territory (tier 4 and 5 usage) have a marginal cost of $.3418 kwh. A year ago the top tier rate was closer to $.50.

        Out here we have a rather aggressive goal to have 33% RE in the electrical market by 2020. In order to meet this goal, we are going with large scale utility sized PV farms. Some of these facilities are located in neighboring states (NV and Az) and some will be built here. It looks like First Solar will be providing the panels to be used in the large PV farms that have been contracted out to date.

      • That’s why I love California, they spend all the big bucks testing stuff so we can figure out what to buy when the technology matures.

      • Belectric financed and built a first solar based project in Sacramento, they have since signed an agreement with nanosolar, so there may be a nanosolar project in the works out there.

    • Dallas,

      Nanosolar has been “near commercial” since at least 2005. You cannot as a consumer buy anything from nanosolar and it’s doubtful that you ever will.

      First Solar (CdTe) is the best in class right now. They’re profitable, but heavily dependent on subsidized customers.

      • True, and they are privately held. They did actually ship product a year or so ago a while after firing a PhD type and replacing him with an engineer :)

  14. In New Zealand renewable energy is very competitive with fossil fuel. Primarily because we are thousands of miles from anyone, we have limited fossil fuels (other than coal which is exported) and we actually have world class renewable resources, hydro, geothermal and wind. These resources are developed at the supply end not the consumer end and electricity costs in nominal terms have risen for consumers by almost 100% in about 20 years, but are generally competiive with fossil.

    It is easy to talk about the bad side of fossil fuel, but if we park CO2, fossil fuel is usually built with a relatively small physical foot print relative to hydro, wind or solar. It can be located in places people are less sensitive about compared to wind farms on ridge lines, hydro in valleys etc and non-CO2 emissions have been improving dramatically over the last 20 years.

    It is interesting that the article tries to suggest that a $38,000 solar system can pay for itself in three years. Ignoring the cost of financing, time value of money, any ongoing maintenance and the need to buy grid power when the sun is not shining, plus the cost of replacing and disposing of batteries through time if you use them, it has a simple pay back period of about 12 years at NZ retail power prices, similar at Maryland USA (PEPCO) prices and that is before I add back all the stuff I left out!

    I have been involved in developing 500MW of gas fired plant, and about the same renewable plant. There is no one solution. It is not currently possible for it to all be renewable without making people and economies so poor that it can be renewable because all we can afford to do is burn trees and dung!

    • You are aware that New Zealand IMPORTS coal from Indonesia to keep the generators going – especially on the North Island ?

      If you are unaware of this, well, so are most New Zealanders

      As part of an audit program, I spent a day counting the train load bogies to confirm the tonnages

  15. From my experience, on-grid systems with batteries are extremely rare. It’s the off-grid systems that need batteries since the have no other source of electricity when the sun isn’t out or the wind isn’t blowing. More importantly, this piece ignores the fact that on-grid systems benefit greatly from the ability to take electricity from the grid instantaneously when they need it. Also, when they generate more electricity than they can use, they feed it into the system and effctively get paid for it. This is a huge hidden cost for renewable energy that goes beyond what other commenters have said. The utility serves as a backup source. All wind and solar power requires backup if 24/7 energy is needed; either batteries (which is impractical on a large scale) or conventional backup power. Even uber climate activist James Hansen of NASA says:

    “Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”

    Yes, there are renewable options for consumers, but they are very impractical and exist were it not for the many direct and indirect subsidies that other taxpayers are forced to bear.

  16. I did not bother to read the arfticle thoroughly. There is one major problem with most “renewables”; at a reasonable cost, you cannot store the energy so you have it when you want it, not when Mother Nature, who is a bitch, wants you to have it.

    So, with the exception of using solar to heat water, using wind and solar on any sort of large scale, is completely useless. They are far and away more expensive than fossil fuels. In addition the number of kilowatthours generated per acre is so low, that using these devices is simply stupid. There are many other things wrong, like killing protected species of birds.

    The only viable renewable energy source that makes sense at the moment is cellulose ethanol. And until the first production plant comes on line in 2013, we have no idea whether this makes any commercial sense.

    • Power density and storage technology preclude market competitiveness for most applications of renewable energy.
      ================

  17. I use solar energy to help my grass, garden, and trees grow. I use wind when I open my windows to cool down my home. Each night it gets cool so each morning when the sun comes up I use solar to help heat it (or maybe its CO2 warming – according to some here). Also, I only live in 1 modestly sized eco friendly home. So where can I get those rebates?

  18. If I had a choice, I would use hydroelectric power. Going back to Lake Powell and the Colorado River catchment basin (from another post) the current maximum generation potential is from 25,000 cubic feet per second flow after a record snow fall in the Rockies; happily the present status. All’s well. Last year, and a decade before that, the flow through the turbines was 11,000 cfs, less than half the potential generation from hydro-electric because of less than record snow fall in the Rockies. If one looks at Niagara Falls hydroelectric generation, Great Lakes water levels dictates how much generation potential there is (diminishing by the way). Off to Quebec and the St. James River hydroelectric system and, and, you guessed it, water levels are dependent upon rain fall which is devilishly hard to predict. So, as I live in a flat state, sigh, I will have to forestall hydroelectric as a consistent, reliable electricity source. Now what about wind? Well, I travel the wind turbine corridor of Ontario, along the Eastern shores of Lake Huron and, as reported by me somewhere else, maybe WUWT, out of 500+ wind turbines, from Sarnia (Port Huron USA crossing) to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula there were 11 turbines turning. Now this was a hot summer day (high pressure area), calm winds and a glass smooth Lake (you could look clear through to the bottom), the only juice flowing was from Bruce Nuclear near Tiverton Ontario. Otherwise, the air conditioners in Toronto would not have been running &/or burning out from a brown out. As it is, I pay for wind energy regardless of whether or not the wind blows. I pay for nuclear energy, costs that has been escalated by the Ontario Green movement, first shutting down Bruce Nuclear before its usable life had expired therefore truncating the capital costs into a shorter time period; then paying for it to be restarted with today’s new built standards, and so it goes. In my opinion two things have to happen before the current crop of renewables can be regarded as serious energy sources: 1) technology advances such that the cost per kilowatt is comparable to current fossil fuel levels; 2) storage of electricity by means other than the current battery systems is a reality. Both are necessary to address the intermittency of generation, and the impoverishment of electricity users by subsidies and high electric rates. Renewable energy is no way to have disposable income in the hands of consumers. The bridge to renewables is nuclear.

  19. Although broadly correct and hence useful, there are of course points where this post could be… well, not corrected so much as brought up to date.

    The cost of residential solar is declining–has been since 1978, and prices per watt can get as low as $4 if you’re willing to install them yourself. They’re available from Amazon, Costco and Sam’s Club, if you’re so inclined. I have not seen a payback schedule that actually gets above water in three years. Most are on the order of 8 years. The true innovation in solar right now is in financing. Leased systems for $0 down mean homeowners can have net savings on their electricity bill from the minute they’re hooked up, and more companies (Sungevity, SunRun, SolarCity, SunPower) are offering them. (And get ready for a revolution in solar from BIPV and thin film–we may see a replay of the depression era sales of aluminum siding, this time with solar.)

    I would have liked to see more discussion of ground source heat pumps, which are technically not energy generating systems, but are very effective conservation techniques. With 700,000 of them installed in the U.S. (and more in Europe, where it’s quite popular) there are actually more homes using GSHP than solar and wind combined. And it’s reducing energy consumption impressively.

    Biomass used for heating in the developed world is also growing impressively, with wood pellets for stoves becoming more than a sideline industry. Again, this is growing most quickly in Europe, but it’s catching on stateside as well.

    But I think what we should all be on the lookout for is not single residential adaptation, but neighborhood cooperative efforts. Residential wind is probably not going to make a dent–but neighborhood level wind might. Similarly, residential solar is still expensive–but co-op Mosaic tile installations might be effective at a neighborhood or even small town level.

    Exciting times in the renewable energy world today–hope to see more discussion.

    • Hey Tom,

      Thanks for your comments. It’s hard to get too detailed with the confines of an initial article. I was not aware that those retailers had financing options. I have a lot of new reading to do, so thanks.

      And thanks for bringing up the heat pumps. They are a great way to reduce the need for electricity to manage home temperatures. Heat pumps require their own post, I think.

      Also I have to agree that solutions are not going to be unilateral and location-neutral. It will really come down to figuring out what will work using the natural resources on hand.

    • Tom,
      You are right on the mark irt ground storage heating and cooling.
      They are expensive to install but are completely dependable and reliable and last for decades.
      The cost savings, noise abatement and reduced footprint they offer makes them valuable.
      Space is an issue. It requires a fair amount available land to install the circulating wells.
      former Pres. GW Bush used this system when he built his ranch in Crawford and from all reports it is working as advertised.
      As to solar, I think it will be a niche producer, and if it is allowed to stay that way could expand its niche over time.
      But if the industry continues to be heavily subsidized (with actual subsidies), it will soon face another collapse.
      At least small to medium scale solar is not the blight on the landscape that windmills are.
      The sooner they are shut down and dismantled, the better.

  20. Norm Kalmanovitch

    The article claims “There are numerous problems associated with using energy generated from fossil fuels. Luckily, as a consumer or business owner, you have choices when it comes to where your energy comes from. There are many alternative energy sources that are renewable and do not harm the environment.”
    This is a ridiculous statement giving the false impression that fossil fuels have more of an impact on the environment than alternative sources which is simply not true. The most horrendous example of this is biofuels as we stated in our letter to the head of the IPCC in April 2008. “IPCC policy is already leading to economic and unintended environmental damage. Specifically the policy of burning food – maize as biofuel – has contributed to sharp rises in food prices which are causing great hardship in many countries and is also now leading to increased deforestation in Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, Togo, Cambodia, Nigeria, Burundi, Sri Lanka, Benin and Uganda for cultivation of crops”.
    Today 6.5% of the world’s grain is being used as feedstock for global ethanol production representing only one million barrels per day of the 85million barrels consumed daily. When 6.5% of the world’s grain is removed from the global food supply, the wealthy pay double for food and the poor simply starve because they cannot afford to eat.
    The US has now crossed the point where more corn is being used for ethanol production than for feeding people producing 206.5million barrels of ethanol in 2010. By comparison The US oil consumption increased by 137.6million barrels from 6851.4 mmbbls in 2009 to 6989.0 mmbbls in 2010 so this ethanol production did not stop the increase in US oil consumption and only served to raise the price of corn through government subsidies affecting only the poor.
    This article by John O’Sullivan gives some perspective of the problem:
    http://co2insanity.com/2011/05/12/global-warming-fraud-creates-third-world-food-crisis/
    This paper by Craig Idso is a more comprehensive look at global food production.
    http://www.co2science.org/education/reports/foodsecurity/GlobalFoodProductionEstimates2050.pdf
    Wind power has created a looming environmental problem from the toxic components of the massive battery banks needed for the stabilization of power from the highly fluctuating output from wind turbines. These batteries have a relatively short life and the disposal of these toxic materials when the batteries are replaced present a serious environmental problem.
    The other problem although not as serious but makes for better anti wind power commentary is the large number of birds and bats that are killed by these turbines.
    It is not the environmental problems as much as the economics that should concern Americans. Electricity can be produced from coal for between three cents and five cents per kWh, and at current prices about the same for electricity generation using natural gas. Power generated by wind turbines ranges from ten cents to twenty cents per kWh when full cycle costs are applied. This is why even with government subsidies power generation from wind has severely impacted the price of energy to consumers. Even worse instead of generating revenue for the government through taxed profits wind power being subsidized by the government reduces government income contributing to the deficit.
    It is this point that has devastated many economies:
    Wind Power runs out of Puff.
    Suddenly consumers and tax payers are waking up to the false promises and huge costs of wind power.
    In Ontario, Tories promise a wind farm moratorium and cut in subsidies:
    http://www.simcoe.com/news/article/1070802–moratorium-promised
    In Texas, wind power has become a standing joke:
    http://www.jonchristianryter.com/News_Blurbs/blurbs.html
    Even in Europe, wind power reality is emerging. Here is a powerful statement from Roger Helmer, a British member of the European Parliament (reported in CCNet 26/8/11).
    We must “Recognise that wind power implies building the same capacity twice over — once as gas-fired power stations to provide conventional back-up; and again, at far greater expense, for the wind turbines. Remember that the gas-fired back-up will run inefficiently, intermittently, as it responds to the vagaries of the wind, and that the gas-fired units will therefore be more expensive to run, and emit more CO2, than they need to be.
    “The solution is staring us in the face: just build the gas-fired plants, and forget the wind. Gas is increasingly plentiful, and (if you care about such things) relatively low on CO2 emissions. Only gas will keep the lights on in the medium term. For the longer term, we need nuclear and coal. Renewables may have a place at the margin, or in remote locations, but we should remember that wind turbines are garden ornaments, not power stations. As Shaun Spiers of the Campaign to Protect Rural England has remarked, wind turbines “risk becoming the redundant relics of our compulsion to do something”, even if the something is damaging and counter-productive.”
    http://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/there%E2%80%99ll-be-no-growth-with-current-energy-policies/

    Solar power is the perfect choice for campers and road signs but not for day to day consumption or for industrial needs.
    The article states: “However, a study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Lab in 2010 estimated that the national average cost of solar PV (photovoltaic) systems was $7.62 per watt.” so a 1200 watt electric kettle will require an investment of $9,144.00 just to run and most consumers would be much happier to pay less than a cent to make a cup of tea than to pay several dollars for the many years it takes to amortize the cost of solar power with no assurance that the solar panels will not break before they are paid off.

    If there are in fact serious environmental problems with fossil fuels it would be in the public interest to put resources into addressing these problems instead of wasting efforts and money on limited inefficient and costly alternatives which only serve to harm the economy and a failed economy cannot properly look after the environment

    • This is a ridiculous statement giving the false impression that fossil fuels have more of an impact on the environment than alternative sources which is simply not true

      This is a logical fallacy.

      Nothing that you have written aside from your concluding sentence, even assuming all you wrote to be accurate, speaks to the problems associated with using energy generated from fossil fuels.

      I didn’t read anywhere where the author said that there were no problems associated with using energy generated from renewables.

      In order to prove what seems to be your point – that there are more problems associated with using energy generated from renewables – it would help if you addressed quantifying the problems associated with using energy generated from fossil fuels. Perhaps you could start with the geo-political problems associated with keeping oil flowing?

      • The sun, the wind, and the water regulate climate. Because of efficiency losses, energy derived from the wind is always worth less than that same energy left in the wind, to regulate climate.

        The potential class for damages is all of us, as we are all downwind.
        =============

      • Norm Kalmanovitch

        The problems associated with keeping oil flowing are not environmental problems as much as problems created by humans in their quest for money and power and these same problems are present with alternate fuels.
        It was the government’s failure to stop BP from replacing the 14lb/gal mud with seawater before it was safe to do so that caused the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It was Saddam Hussein setting hundreds of Kuwait oil wells on fire which caused the greatest oil related environmental disaster to date.
        It is the idiocy and bigotry of the environmentalist lobby that distorts the picture and creates the public impression of these “geo-political problems” that you need defined.
        If you mention Halliburton the immediate reaction is one of condemnation of the company when in fact Halliburton has done more to protect the environment from oil related problems than any other company.
        Halliburton modelled the BP Macondo well and determined that 21 centralizers were needed to ensure the integrity of the casing cement; BP only allowed six.
        http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/energy-a-environment/103255-letter-to-tony-hayward-chief-executive-officer-of-bp-rep-henry-waxman-and-rep-bart-stupak
        Centralizers. When the final string of casing was installed, one key challenge was making sure the casing ran down the center of the well bore. As the American Petroleum Institute’s recommended practices explain, if the casing is not centered, “it is difficult, ifnot impossible, to displace mud effectively from the narrow side of the annulus,” resulting in a faiku cement job. Halliburton, the contractor hired by BP to cement the well, warned BP that the well could have a “SEVERE gas flow problem” if BP lowered the final string of casing with only six centralizers instead of the 21 recommended by Halliburton. BP rejected Halliburton’s advice to use additional centralizers. In an e-mail on April 16, a BP official involved in the decision explained: “it will take 10 hours to install them . … I do not like this.” Later that day, another official recognized the risks of proceeding with insufficient centralizers but commented: “who cares, it’s done, end of story, will probably be fine.”

        Cement Bond Log. BP’s mid-April plan review predicted cement failure, stating “Cement simulations indicate it is unlikely to be a successful cement job due to formation breakdown.” Despite this warning and Halliburton’s prediction of severe gas flow problems, BP did not run a 9- to 12-hour procedure called a cement bond log to assess the integrity of the cement seal. BP had a crew from Schlumberger on the rig on the morning of April 20 for the purpose of rUlUling a cement bond log, but they departed after BP told them their services were not needed. An independent expel1 consulted by the Committee called this decision “horribly negligent.”
        In Kuwait it was Halliburton’s engineers on the ground who, designed and built a facility which could essentially “cork” the flowing oilwells enough to allow the fire to be put out and the well capped within a day instead of the two weeks that would have been required for a relief well. This led to all the wells capped within three months instead of several years.
        This is how you address real oil related environmental problems; the way to address the ideological environmental oil related problems is with a dose of reality and confronting the ideology that fabricated the problems

      • The problems associated with keeping oil flowing are not environmental problems as much as problems created by humans in their quest for money and power and these same problems are present with alternate fuels.

        Let’s assume that the first point is true (although certainly in the case of oil spill and the negative environmental impact of coal energy, the relative nature of the environmental costs involved might be debatable, as would your apparent belief that all of the responsibility for the BP oil spill can be laid at the feet of government regulation).

        But moving past that, then your second point is a tad unspecific. “The same” problems may, indeed, be present but that doesn’t address the relative degree to which they are present. (As to your argument about if someone mentions Halliburton, please note that I never mentioned Halliburton.) I spoke about the geo-political costs of keeping oil flowing. I would question whether the “same” problems are all present with renewables, but even if they are to some degree, the question remains about the relative degree to which they exist.

        Now in my view, keeping oil flowing requires massive political interventions of the type we saw in Iraq, of the type that requires us to maintain a military presence over the wider ME, etc. – at a huge cost along a variety of lines of analysis. Do you doubt that such costs exist? Do you think that investment in renewables would require the “same” level of investment in a geo-political context? If not, then when you compute the relative costs of using renewables vs. fossil fuel, don’t you need to at least try to do a full accounting of the geo-political costs of keeping oil flowing? IMO, if you don’t, then your analysis isn’t sufficiently comprehensive to be dispositive – as you seem to assert it is.

      • Norm

        Thanks for an interesting description of one of the key problems leading to the BP Gulf disaster. I had seen a report pointing to the failure to secure the wellhead with a lockdown sleeve (mentioned in your attachment), but had not read about the missing centering devices leading to a bad cement job.

        Having visited Prudhoe Bay and hearing all about BP’s concerns for the environment there (which seem to be well taken care of), it was surprising how many screw-ups leading to the Gulf disaster were a result of sloppy shortcuts on the part of BP management.

        Let’s hope the new guy at the top does a better job communicating and enforcing the environmental policies of the company (instead of simply worrying about “getting his life back again”).

        Max

        PS You’re right that the oil and gas plus service industries have become the whipping boys for green activist groups (just listen to all the organized fear mongering out there concerning gas shale fracking). All in all, with the exception of some intentional disasters (such as Saddam in Kuwait) and monumental screw-ups (such as BP in the Gulf) this industry has done a fairly difficult job of supplying us the energy we need to survive without causing damage to our environment.

      • Norm Kalmanovitch

        Max,
        One of my jobs during my long geophysical career was the identification of drilling hazards and overpressure prediction for wells drilled in the critically environmentally sensitive Canadian Beaufort Sea during the 1980’s. In this regime there is zero tollerance for any form of oil spill because the open water season is only four months so any leakage could run for eight months under the ice before it could be stopped in the next drilling season.
        Every procedure was done in strict accordance with rigorous government regulations and everything had at least double and often triple or quadruple redundancy backup safety measures.
        For the most part these regulations were developed jointly by the companies operating in the Beaufort and the government and the legislation was based on their combined efforts.
        In the US the MMS is the second largest revenue generating agency second only to the IRS. It is the responsibility of the MMS to regulate offshore drilling but unlike Canadian equivalent agencies the MMS has been essentially rendered powerless in a battle between competing oil company and environmentalist lobbyists. One side is demanding that regulations be reduced because they are too costly and the other side is demanding that no operations even take place. This battle has purged the MMS of knowledgeable operational people and left it in the hands of know nothing bureaucrats who only operate on political directives which in the case of BP was to allow proper procedures to be circumvented to save costs. It should be pointed out that drilling operations are in the hands of the drilling contractor who out of necessity and concern for the safety of their employees follow procedure to the letter without interference from the oil company, but once drilling operations are completed the completion operations are entirely under the control of the oil company with the contractors working under the direction of the oil company drilling engineers. The Macondo well was way over budget by the time the drilling was completed and when BP took over the completion of this “well from hell” they changed the casing program from the original plans and sent this request to MMS for approval in early April. Any knowledgeable person would have immediately refused this request but by April 16 MMS still hadn’t responded and BP apparently took this as tacit approval to go ahead with the revised casing program with all its cost cutting measures.
        On April 20 with no objection from MMS in spite of inadequate centralizers, a failed negative pressure test of 1400psi inflow and no cement bond log verification of the casing integrity, BP switched out the 14lb/gal drilling fluid that had been keeping the compromised casing from flowing to 8.8lb/gal seawater which could not hold back the gas which leaked into the casing and reached the surface on the evening of April 20 causing the explosion that resulted in the deaths of eleven workers and led to the subsequent critical failure of the casing and the 50,000 bbl/day oil flow thgat lasted 86 days and spilled about 4.5million barrels into the Gulf of Mexico.
        The question of responsibility is simply whether it was the MMS for failing to properly enforce regulations or BP for circumventing proper procedure to save money; and the only way that I see it is both parties share the blame equally.
        The truly disgusting aspect of this tragedy is that the oil flow could have been ended within a few days instead of the 86 days that it took if experienced operational people were in charge. The riser is attached to the BOP with six bolts, and all that was needed to do was to undo these six bolts, remove the broken riser to gain vertical access to the hole and trip in to the reservoir level with drill pipe and pump kill mud down at the reservoir level to stop the flow.
        Instead because BP had initialy claimed the flow to be under 1000bbls per day they initiated a top kill through the kill line on the BOP falsely assuming that in spite of the gaping holes the flowing pressure was low enough that they would be able to force kill mud down the hole from the top. Apparently someone forgot that this was drilled with 14lb/gal mud and the reservoir was hjighly overpressured so the flow rate was not 1000bbls/d as claimed but fifty times that amount and the flowing pressure at the BOP was at least 100 times what they expected.
        If MMS had not been purged of competent people MMS would have stepped in and stopped this idiotic procedure which only wasted time allowing the oil spill to reach an uncontrolable size.
        The next approach was an inverted funnel but this failed because no one was aware that methane hydrates would form plugging the funnel and causing the operation to fail. The revised funnel which did work only captured a small portion of the oil and had little effect on the spreading oil slick.
        By this time the President set up his own team to develop a solution to put an end to the flow ahead of the relief well that was still several months away but having sat back for so long if thjis team developed a solution that could have stopped the flow within a few days of the explosion they woulf face the political liabilitiy of not taking over immediately and preventing the environmental damage that ensued.
        BP on the other hand faced potential financial liability if they initiated a procedure that could have been done immediately to stop the flow so for reasons of self interest neither BP nor Obama’s team used any of the 80,000 suggestions (including mine and likely much better ones from more experienced people) and sought out a solution that would avoid these liabilities. The solution that they came up with that took 86 days and 4.5million barrels of oil spilled was to undo the six bolts, remove the broken riser, attach an open ended assembly that had three valves (essentially a secondary BOP) tighten the six bolts and then close the three valves!
        All other issues aside the most important question is why did this have to be designed after the spill instead of being in place as a contingency measure before the well was drilled as a requirement for approval by the MMS to drill the well.
        Once the wall was capped with this assembly I sent a suggestion to Obama’s team to now do the top kill through the kill line on the BOP which is standard oilfield practice but something everyone seemed to have forgotten. This is what was done and the well was controlled a full month before the relief well was completed.
        In my suggestion to Obama’s team I pointed out that this would happen again if the MMS was not fixed and to his credit Obama has initiated meaures to do just that.
        The sad part in all this like the climate changer issue is that the general public is the ultimate victim of these battles of self interest and the government which is supposed to look after the people is abrogating its responsibility and looking after its own self interests instead.

      • Norm – my memory is they were afraid the well could not be sealed at the top as the pressure would breach the well far below the surface thus worsening the situation. Many believed it already was breached.

        I believe that actually happened on the Mexican well.

        Me – I would have tried your approach. When they finally did try the top kill, I think they basically proved the well could have handled the valve replacement.

      • Norm Kalmanovitch

        This is just another example of the ineptitude of those in charge. When the well, was drilled there was a 14lb/gal mud column from the surface applying enough pressure to keep the overpressued fluids in the reservoir at 18,000 feet below the surface.
        There was no problem with the pressure breaching the the well before the casing was installed so it was nopt possible for this to be a problem after.
        The one potential problem was that there was no lockdown ring leaving the possibility for extremely high pressures to lift the BOP off the casing causing a breach. I pointed this out in my suggestion for the top kill and recomended that the pumps only apply enough pressure to force the oil back down the hole using the weight of the mud to do most of the work.
        I also pointed out that before doing the top kill they should open the valves for a while to purge the well of a likely developed gas column to prevent hydrate formation that would compromise the top kill procedure. Instead they used oil based mud to prevent hydrate formation and the procedure wotked perfectly.

      • randomengineer

        Perhaps you could start with the geo-political problems associated with keeping oil flowing?

        Seriously? Rommel was in N Africa to procure/secure oil, Stalingrad was the gateway for the crimean oil fields, and a blockaded Japan was so starved for oil that this dictated their entire policy and strategy.

        Since the end of WWII the US has spent an inordinate amount of capital keeping the middle east stable, not so that oil companies can profit, but because the world (the one that exists in real life) depends on oil, and major interruptions of oil supply can and *will* result in another world war. The only “negative externality” of any note is the US military standing down which results in guaranteed global conflagration.

        (Try to grasp the notion that the USA has more than enough oil to run itself for centuries assuming no technological advances. Are we really so vapid as to assume that somehow the US needs a middle east supply to continue life as we know it?)

        This talk of “negative externalities” and “geo-political problems” sounds like academic navel gazing nonsense where the idiotic premise would be that the world uses oil merely for entertainment or some other non-factor rather than the necessity that it is.

      • Since the end of WWII the US has spent an inordinate amount of capital keeping the middle east stable, not so that oil companies can profit, but because the world (the one that exists in real life) depends on oil, and major interruptions of oil supply can and *will* result in another world war.

        You will note, that I never made any arguments about costs incurred so that “oil companies can profit.” So – it seems that you are having this discussion with someone other than me.

        I spoke about the costs associated with keeping oil flowing – which may ore may not be present to the same degree if we invested more, and relied more, on renewables.

        Similarly, I never made any arguments that are even loosely related to your mention of “the idiotic premise would be that the world uses oil merely for entertainment or some other non-factor.”

        Having these discussions are really much more fruitful if you stick to what I actually say.

      • randonengineer

        the USA has more than enough oil to run itself for centuries assuming no technological advances

        Yeah. But assuming fewer restrictions.

        I’m not necessarily for drilling in the middle of the Everglades, but there is a lot of ANWR plus oil and gas shale and offshore reserves, which could eliminate most of the US imports if these resources could be developed.

        IMO it would make good sense for the US government to go back to the slogan, “drill, baby, drill!”

        Max

        PS Solar and wind are OK for small domestic users as described above, but unless totally new technologies are developed they will never be economically viable without massive (taxpayer funded) subsidies.

  21. Tom:
    My fuel oil furnace is coming to the end of its useful life – 2012 or 2013. I have room for a geothermal replacement system. If you have any extended case studies that include cost information I would be interested.

    • Norm Kalmanovitch

      I have a super high efficiency furnace which I cannot justify on a cost basis but chose to install it strictly on the basis of reducing energy consumption. Before you switch to geothermal energy you need to first determine why you are doing so and if that rational can justify the cost. If you try to justify it strictly on cost you will not be making a good decision

      • Norm:
        Cost is my primary criteria. The major complication is estimating long-run oil prices. I have an old (1740) house. I cannot properly insulate the walls because of the architectural features: There are Indian shutters in 5 of the 8 rooms. Last year I burned some 1300 gallons of oil or nearly $6K. Geothermal struck me as a viable longterm option.

      • That should be $4K not $6K!

      • Bernie, you may be surprised how much you can improve the insulation without having to get in the walls. Windows are one of the largest heat losses, something as simple as insulated blinds or window treatments can make a pretty big impact, storm windows can be huge in an old house. While there are costs and aesthetic considerations, foil faced insulation sheathing is very effective and easy to install creatively (I have installed it under wainscot, half is better than nothing).

        The ground source in most cases is a better choice if you have any need for air conditioning with de-humidification. In a dry climate not so much.

      • Dallas:
        Thanks. Whenever we have had occasion to open up a wall we have added insulation. The attic is well insulated. We also have storm windows but they are really moisture barriers and are not particularly efficient. We have very old 12X12 windows and Historic New England (the former Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA) folks definitely recommend keeping the old windows as the wood is much denser than any of the new windows.
        Currently, thanks to shade trees and the almost omnipresent westerly breezes, we get by with the windows open and an occasional fan. That said, air conditioning with dehumidification would be a nice addition and respite from noisy neighbours.
        I have toyed with variants of window shades.
        The main issue remains replacing the old oil furnace.

      • Yeah, I kinda figured you had to deal with the historical preservation issues, they are beautiful, but can be extremely expensive to maintain. Storm windows can be souped up with reflective films, weather stripping and double glazing, depending on your budget.

        I was looking at insulated roller shades for my place a month or so ago. Decent R value and nice looking, touch pricy though for here. I am going to make my own once I get done with the 2499 other projects on my list. Not a priority since my residence (motor home) energy cost is only $35 per month. Amazing how a smallish gas hot water heater can motive some people to take quicker showers.

      • Forgot to mention the furnace. My brother in North Carolina added a pellet wood stove for the main living area and used his central heating only occasionally. A buddy of mine in New Mexico just added a pellet wood stove last year and loves it. I am not sure which type they bought, but they had auto fuel feed so they were easy to operate. Zoning really makes it cheaper, whether you pay the big bucks to a contractor or do it your self with a second system.

      • I’ve seen a lot of people in upstate PA and the Catskills region of NY using pellet stoves. They’re all over the place up there. Do you have any idea if they burn any cleaner than typical wood stoves?

      • Extremely clean actually. Not only is there little if any visible smoke you can have automatic ash removal, thermostat control, auto ignition, the works. They are pretty damn high tech with efficiencies around 70%

      • Thanks.

        Do they burn as clean as the new woodstoves that “double-burn” to remove particulates?

        It’s interesting that I haven’t seen nearly as many in other parts of the country – even relatively nearby like Vermont/New Hampshire.

      • Haven’t seen them with auto feed.

        Now there’s a good idea – although it kind of breaks down the whole “heats you three times” (splitting, carrying, and burning) that you get with traditional wood stoves.

      • I have a 150+ year old home, and I’ve looked into interior storms – glass that is custom-cut to fit the windows (even windows with arches, such as many of mine; I was going to measure and install myself, but they’ll do it for you also). I found the cost fairly prohibitive (I’ve got a lot of windows), although the merchant I was dealing with claimed that they paid for themselves relatively quickly (not so much, he said, because of insulating the glass of the window sashes, but because they effectively insulate the spaces around the sashes where, he said, most of the heat loss occurs).

        Anyway, they are (supposedly) much more insulation-efficient than typical triple track storms (which need to have venting to let moisture out because they’re on the exterior whereas with storms on the interior you don’t have condensation to deal with – the condensation is on the outside of the window sash), and they add soundproofing to the insulation value. They also don’t detract much from the historical nature of an interior. Unfortunately, most places you can’t get a tax rebate as you could for other types of insulation as they are considered to add solar gain that works against air conditioning (a policy that makes no sense, IMO – although you could try to write it off as “clear caulk.”)

        If you want some contact info, let me know and I’ll dig it up.

      • If you are a do it yourselfer, you can make pretty trick storms. Not the easiest home project by any means, but double paned argon purged with partial reflective coating inside. With the reflective coating they are reversible for winter/summer use. If you are not up to attempting the argon purge, you can build a faux frame in between the layers and pull a light vacuum to get rid of the water vapor.

        Since you are a little more convenience about the power of CO2 than I, you could try a CO2 purge :)

      • As soon as I build my state of the art shop, complete with argon purger and reflective coating application press, I’ll get right on that!!

      • Bernie and Joshua,

        If you happen to stop back by this thread, http://www.centerforabetterlife.com/eng/magazine/article_detail.lasso?id=210&source=1
        That link posted on the Navy thread really highlights what you can do with an older house that doesn’t have all the high tech bells and whistles.

      • Bernie,

        Your house is even older then mine (1883, wood farm house). I had an energy audit done on our main house earlier this year via a CA retrofit program- http://www.chfloan.org/Programs/Energy/Residential_retrofit_program.html
        We have really nice looking original wavy glass windows (big ones) throughout our home that are very energy inefficient. Our audit indicated that our best bang for the buck item would be to go with some improvements to our windows. We found a firm in the east coast (we are in CA) that manufactures interior storm windows (with a compression seal) that you might find of value in looking at alternatives to reduce your heating costs. http://stormwindows.com/

  22. Why should we buy into or be forced to debunk another false narrative that fossil fuels harmful? It plays into AGW and CO2 mythmaking as well.

    Again, the Pete Seeger crowd gathers here.

  23. “The United States as a whole has been making significant strides in developing their alternative energy market in the past few years. In fact, hydroelectric power now accounts for about 12.3% of all power generated in the U.S, wind account for 2.65%, geothermal accounts for 2.76% and wood accounts for 2.14%. Solar and biomass energy account for some a small percentage of the energy generated as well.”

    Numbers seem inflated. IEA puts US hydro electricity percentage of total as 9 % and rest of renewables (biomass, wind, solar and geothermal) + miscellaneous sources) at 5.5%. IEA says 14.5% max of electricity production in the US is renewable, Allen Green says over 20%.

    Who’s correct?

    http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/epm_sum.html

    • Jarmo

      On the renewables percentages, you always have to look at generated kWh, rather than installed kW.

      Solar and wind generally operate at around 25% on-line factor at best, while coal or nuclear run at over 90%.

      So, if you have X% of the installed capacity supplied by wind/solar, that’s really only around 0.3 * X% of the generated power.

      And it’s not always available when you need it, requiring the installation (and operation) of standby power plants (usually natural gas fired, which are very flexible).

      Max

    • Hey Jarmo,

      The stats I used were compiled from the Institute for Energy Research. They could be a little high but they were the only resource I could find that broke down energy production by type and by state.

      http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/states/

  24. I like the idea of anything that makes me independent of the grid, which would save me money. That’s my simple test. I buy organic if its cheaper, recycled if its cheaper, etc. If its more expensive I buy whatever is cheaper at the moment. For me wind powered bird-blenders are out. They are noisy, unsightly, horribly expensive to repair, and not reliable where the wind is variable like where I live. I’ve worked as a volunteer with brown eagles in my life and find them extraordinarily beautiful. I think its a travesty that wind operators are not billed the same as ordinary individuals when they kill them as happens here in northern California at too great a rate. My worry with solar, which I like the idea of, is that it may take me off the grid, but may not save me money. As I recall, France bills people living off the grid for not being on it since they reduce the utility’s revenue. Go figure. Still, I am considering investing in a solar energy system at some point in the future.

  25. So what options do consumers have if we do not want renewable energy? Oh, that’s right, it’s being jammed down our throats by the government by way of production subsidies and “portfolio standards”.

  26. It is intuitive to note that the public, when well informed, will invariably choose the most efficient, least costly sources of electricity. Lower cost will be the tiebreaker.

    Renewables, especially wind and solar, cannot compete with fossil fuels from the standpoint of both cost or efficiency. If you have genuine interest in learning about energy, from both a technological and policy standpoint, you should follow the excellent blog, MasterResource: http://masterresource.org.

    • Yes, I’ve seen the blog before. Many interesting links.

      “Renewable energy” is a coded left lexicon in practice, a form of political correctness or Newspeak. Same with carbon footprint measurements or BCE/ACE instead of BC/AD for dates.

      http://www.george-orwell.org/1984/index.html

      “‘You haven’t a real appreciation of Newspeak, Winston,’ he said almost sadly. ‘Even when you write it you’re still thinking in Oldspeak. I’ve read some of those pieces that you write in The Times occasionally. They’re good enough, but they’re translations. In your heart you’d prefer to stick to Oldspeak, with all its vagueness and its useless shades of meaning. You don’t grasp the beauty of the destruction of words. Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year?’

      Winston did know that, of course. He smiled, sympathetically he hoped, not trusting himself to speak. Syme bit off another fragment of the dark-coloured bread, chewed it briefly, and went on:

      ‘Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Already, in the Eleventh Edition, we’re not far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there’s no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It’s merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there won’t be any need even for that. The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak,’ he added with a sort of mystical satisfaction. ‘Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?’ ”

      What has been the human costs of imposing carbon rationing on the world? Very high indeed. It’s link to junk science AGW carbon fears? Direct. Somehow I think the cost to our reason is even higher than the topic at hand.

      Excuse me, I’m going to burn a tire in my front yard this afternoon after reading this article.

    • That may be changing, well, actually, since global warming is being down played and the economy sucks, it will take longer, but cheap solar panels (nanosolar) and relatively cheap hydrogen fuel cells (Ballard power package handling units in production) with small to medium scale electrolyzers are pretty close even with not so great hydrogen storage options. The rub is, it is better on smaller scales where electric is not normally as cheap or as reliable.

      Passive solar and hybrid passive systems can save a ton of energy, but they tend to have a PITA factor.

  27. If you look at the top renewables, hydro is 1st and biomass is usually 2nd. Most biomass is wood, but greens like to forget this. In the Pacific northwest, pulp and saw mills burn waste for heat and perhaps electricity.

    These forests produce 1000 tonnes or more per square km. Some is harvested, but much rots or burns naturally. I have yet to see any estimates of how much energy is available from unharvested wood.

    • Don’t forget in India and other place dung is considered one of top biomass fuels.

      ““If we could supply cheap, clean-burning cook stoves to the large portion of the world that burns biomass,” says Guruswami, a Sri Lankan-born professor of international law at the University of Colorado, “we could address a significant international public health problem, and at the same stroke cut a major source of warming.”

      Sooty, indoor air pollution from open wood or other biomass fires has long been linked to health problems and deaths. More recently, scientists have been surprised to learn that black carbon — not only from biomass fires but from dirty diesel engines and other sources — is a far larger contributor to global warming than previously suspected: The dark particles absorb and retain heat close to the Earth’s surface that might otherwise be reflected.

      Some two billion people around the world, Guruswami notes, do most or all of their cooking and heating with fires from simple biomass — dried dung, wood, brush, or crop residues. In India alone, the ratio is much higher — about three-fourths.

      http://e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2250

      And German is shutting downs its functioning nukes to squander money on wind/pv … disgusting.

  28. When you install a home (or business) wind or solar source, there’s a subtle back-door subsidy going on because these people are using the grid as their load leveler. They get to do something that the utilities generally can’t, which is shift the time-of-day problem to someone else. So even at twice the price, it’s still getting an effective subsidy through the utility rate structure. They get “free” power when the wind is blowing without the high cost of a backup plant when it isn’t.

  29. Alexander Harvey

    A couple of quotes from Allen Green:

    “You have the right to choose where your energy comes from and you have the right to choose green energy rather than traditional energy.”

    Is this the case? If so does it amount to a right without an opportunity? Does it mean “where” or simply “whom”?

    Perhaps at best even in an open market one could but bid for a preferred energy source. If one wanted all wind, one could bid for it as an when it is available, either at that moment or averaged or an interval such as the billing cycle. If supply fails to meet demand, only the highest bids would be satisfied. To pay a premium for what is in fact not produced is a scam, similarly to pay a fixed premium, as opposed to bidding, for a source that is produced as a proportion of the total by regulatory mandate but is under utilised is a scam. This can happen and is likley to happen more often if mandatory production becomes a norm.

    “Some providers only get about 5% of their energy from renewable sources while others get 100% from alternative sources. Different plans within the same utility company will sometimes have different percentages.”

    The ability to brand electricity, or energy in general, and buy by brand is to be welcomed, and could be seen as a litmus test for both the public desire for energy source choice when a competive price has to be paid, and the detection of hypocrisy in certain quarters.

    Alex

  30. ” I would be interested in any personal experiences related to using alternative energy sources.”

    Easy.

    I have downloaded all the hourly output data since 2006 for wind off the IESO website (the government agency who runs the system). Wind’s output is pathetic. Half the time in the summer, when we need wind the most, produces less than 7% of name plate. 30-40% of the time wind produces nothing at all. Wind output is a series of spikes as frontal systems move through the province. For Ontario to get 15% of its power from wind we would have to build some 40,000 in the next 20 years. That’s one every 100 meters from Windsor to Montreal.

    The US would have to build some 7 MILLION turbines by 2030 to meet thair goal.

    Will never happen.
    http://ontariowindperformance.wordpress.com.

    Solar: I have also started to get hourly solar output. It too is pathetic. 235 panels doesn’t even produce enough power to run a normal sized home. And at $150,000 for such a system, it will never be viable except for the fact our government is paying these people $20,000 per year for that power.

  31. The topic here is “consumer options for choosing renewable energy”

    In Switzerland consumers “have the option” to purchase “green power” from their power suppliers at a premium cost over “normal” electrical power.

    But, hey, the government is in the act, so it is a complicated issue.

    Now in Switzerland roughly half of the power comes from hydroelectric plants with the other half coming from nuclear plants plus a smidgen of geothermal, wood, wind, etc., so there is essentially zero “carbon footprint” in electrical power here to start off with.

    So what is “green power” (Ökostrom)? The definition is not clearly established. “Renewable” energy sources (geothermal, solar, wind, biogas, wood and biomass) are included but nuclear power is not considered “green”. Hydroelectric is generally included, but new large hydroelectric projects may be excluded in some cases. Some fossil fuel power may be included as long as waste heat is recovered.

    So it’s not real clear what you get when you pay the extra price for “green power”.

    Worse yet, it comes out of the same grid as the “normal” power and there is no guarantee (or even likelihood) that you are REALLY getting “green power” for your premium price. The extra cost is supposedly used to help the power company invest in future “green” sources (however these happen to be defined at that time).

    Sounds like a government-sponsored boondoggle to me, but there are people here who fall for it and actually think they are doing something good for the environment in the process.

    Was it P.T. Barnum (or David Hannum) who said: “there’s a sucker born every day”?

    Max

  32. Ciao, Max (Manacker), bisch e chlii cynisch?

    Do you actually know people who choose the Oeko plan? It seems like the post office also offers one, but the person who told me did not opt for it – intuitively felt that it should be cheaper, not more expensive.

    I take the train several times a month between Zurich and Bellinzona and was once wondering how I could compute my “carbon footprint” – if the train is full, surely less than when half-empty! Then was informed it’s mostly hydro with some nuclear, ergo no/low carbon, so interesting to find out it’s more evenly split (hmm, what powers those Lavazza espresso machines on the mini-bar trolleys, though).

    I did have a very renewable experience today cutting back an obnoxious bush that seemed to have grown overnight (that pesky CO2). Most will be sequestered – the twiggy, leafy stuff – but am saving the thicker bits for heat when they’re seasoned (wood stove – sorry, pellet too expensive and extremely high-maintenance, plus where to store the bloody pellets? Plus our local winemaker has gotten into wood – from our mountain – and I’d rather give him the business).

    I’m very pleased with my solar-powered trattoria lights around my door and on the apple tree. But I don’t try to cook with them.

    I’m also using wind power, the door is open, letting in a lovely breeze as well as a variety of weird critters.

  33. Pennsylvania and New Jersey are sunny states?

    http://www.nrel.gov/gis/images/map_pv_national_lo-res.jpg

  34. Doug Badgero

    I have no problem with people spending THEIR money on tings that make no sense from a purely economic perspective. We all do it, from the clothes we wear to the cars we drive. However, I have a big problem with others asking me to subsidize their desire to feel good about themselves.

    • One of the issues with subsidies for home renewables is that the receivers of the subsidies are generally high income people with the capital to deploy toward these renewables. Tax subsidies come from general tax payers, many of whom are lower income than those who receive the subsidies.

      An expensive way for society to fund green toy buyers.

  35. Doug Badgero

    Sorry should be “things” not “tings”.

  36. Eric Anderson

    “If you live in a state that gets a lot of sunshine–like New Jersey, California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Hawaii–solar panel system can pay for itself in as little as three years and result in long-term savings.”

    Say what? Three years is an incredibly optimistic timeframe for paying back your solar panels. It does, of course, depend on the size of the system and how your utility deals with peak/off-peak pricing, etc. But three years is not even close to typical.

    • It also is a completely selfish estimate that doesn’t factor the social costs of massive subsides others are forced to pay for people to make these bold claims. What else is new about corporate and social welfare?

  37. “You have the right to choose where your energy comes from and you have the right to choose green energy rather than traditional energy.”

    The right? Really?

  38. There can be no “right” that comes at others expense.

  39. Consumer options?

    Compare

    http://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/Sort.do with http://autos.yahoo.com/newcars/popular/thisweek.html

    The top consumer option is access to information and freedom to decide for oneself.. and the inclination to use the one to do the other.

    Btw, surprised no one seems to be mentioning the pro-subsidy (shudder) argument that goes this way: to build out the infrastructure will cost a huge amount, to pay consumers to get off the grid to small-scale generation is often cheaper for the government than for the government to give private large scale utilities the sorts of gifts and subsidies they demand.

    Anyone know the math on that?

    • I work for AEP but speak for myself. The infrastructure already exists although it does need updating. If small scale generation was competitive then it would need no subsidies. There are no hurdles to going off the grid except economic, all you do is buy the equipment and a small amount of “transmission system” and go off the grid. Utilities are obligated by law to offer customers service, customers ARE NOT obligated to accept that service. Utilities are already earning a return on their huge capitol investment and small scale generation still isn’t competitive.

      Your statement about supplying, “large scale utilities the sorts of gifts and subsidies they demand” is funny. These subsidies are instituted primarily via state and federal tax law and state renewable portfolio standard laws. How and why would a utility want or need these laws? In the case of tax laws the utilities have little to do with any of that cash flow and in the case of RPSs they simply implement the law as written, or are you suggesting that a company should be forced to buy above market power and sell at market prices? If you mandate that a company lose money I think the result would be predictable. These laws are passed to make environmentalists happy not utilities. Utilities just don’t want to take a loss so environmentalists and politicians can feel good about themselves.

      • Doug B

        I share your clear aversion to government interference in the fair market, be it tax laws or subsidies, gifts without obligation, or letting free riders skate by without paying for the benefits they obtain at an expense to all actors in the market.

        If a utility needs a government to keep it afloat, the question more to the point is how and why would the market need that utility?

        If a utility that can’t produce power and find a market for it at the real cost of production, including the cost of increased Risk caused by that utility’s operations, is kept alive by government artifice then the market is not going to run efficiently. That’s the reason Capitalists despise a subsidy.

        The corporate charities that take these subsidies are weeds that choke out competiive enterprise and put an anchor around the neck of innovation.

        They’re parasites that leech the vitality of the market for the benefit of a few at a greater cost to the whole market.

        This idea of industrial communism, that any tax dollar put unearned into a private company somehow supports the economy is dangerous deception.

        So, if you can after all the interference of governments in utilities tell me you know which alternative for consumers is economic, and which is not, then you’re far trickier at mathematics than I.

      • Bart – I am in almost full agreement with you. No subsidies and also minimal regulations for businesses – after all, if you aren’t paying them, you shouldn’t be regulating them either. My exception would be for nuclear. It supplies 24/7 base load, but does need regulation. I feel a solid energy supply is critical to our national security and would tolerate subsidies and regulation there.

      • Bart,

        Utilities are regulated monopolies. The government is now and has always been involved. The free market did not decide that the nuclear plant I work at should be built, regulators in Indiana and Michigan did. If we want to truly deregulate all electric utilities that is a different issue and one that will result in higher prices IMO……..for some very good reasons. Perhaps I will expound some more this evening. Consider this, do you allow deregulation of the transmission and distribution systems? What are the implications of that?

      • Doug Badgero

        I’m acquainted with the Natural Monopoly argument.

        Which only applies when a monopoly really is in the best interest of the Market, and which ought be re-evaluated as conditions change, and as well which itself is sufficient drag on the Market to justify every inducement for technology and innovation to develop new alternatives with greater Market efficiency.

        Demoting itself from monopoly to fair market competitor ought be one of the highest priorities of any honest industry finding itself in that position.

        Instead, we see the opposite behavior from utilities and their lobbyists.

        Overbuilding capacity and forcing marginal potential alternatives out of the marketplace, pressuring people and government for subsidies and gifts out of all proportion to their benefits, investing nothing in research.

        The implications of untrustworthy actions are that there should be no trust.

        Which is sad, because I mostly agree with Jim2 about minimal regulation. My standard for regulation is what is needed to prevent harm to the Market or unfair harm to Market actors.

        So the standard of ‘higher prices’ ought not be compared to what prices for energy some single player can achieve by subsidy and subterfuge, but to Market prices as a whole.

        Given past performance, this ought include GHG emission prices, too.

      • Bart,

        I am still not sure what you think the “right” answer is for electric utilities. Do we fully deregulate at the customer meter? Do we fully deregulate at the transmission and/or distribution systems? Do we fully deregulate at generation? Some combination?

        Only T&D is an obvious natural monopoly although generation has a high fixed to variable operating cost ratio also. We can deregulate but the price at the meter will go up IMHO.

      • Doug

        I’m quite sure what I think is a long way from a right answer for electric utilities.

        I think full deregulation is almost as noxious as full regulation by a well-intentioned but gullible, manipulable, unimaginative state, or its appointed committee members.

        Full deregulation, attractive as it appears to dimwitted philosophers, with its failure to protect the Market (both overall and at the individual level) from predatory, deceptive and dangerous practices is just plain madness.

        If T&D is still a natural monopoly after so many decades of opportunity to turn itself into a far better and larger free enterprise, it’s clearly failed to capitalize on its privileged position. This largely is the fault of the regulators who coddled and encouraged sloth and protectionism.

        It may well be that launching a kite off one’s rooftop ought be all the T&D a consumer of electricity really ought need. Who can say, given how pitiably little effort has been made in radical alternative T&D investment?

        Yes, we fully deregulate at the meter, if there is any place to deregulate more; the customers are more rarely the ones holding back innovation or scheming for subsidies than those higher up the chain with vested interests in the status quo.

        As for deregulating generation.. if the generators held full enforceable and unextinguishable liability for the full cost of generation, for the cost of research to innovate, for the easily administerable cost of Risk due carbon emission and particulates and spills and leaks and fugitive releases, what regulation would really be needed?

        Even if the price at the meter go up today, how then would that be unfair or wrong, for people who take a benefit to pay the fair market cost of it?

        Though I suspect the price at the meter today would be far lower were my fair market thinking the answer employed in past generations.

        The thinking it took to get us into this mess is not the same thinking that is going to get us out of it.

      • Caught in the spam filter, Doug, I think due hyperlinks. Hoping for release soon.

  40. I would note that efficiency is important as well–reducing use of any energy when possible is the optimum. Ground source heat pumps are practically a no-brainer if you are building a new home (practically, since drilling costs can be excessive depending on location): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geothermal_heat_pump

    I have had mine for two years now (replaced both a very old furnace and A/C) and have reduced my energy usage for heating/cooling in Nebraska (where we need a lot of both) by 60%. Simple and effective.

    • Before the ground source we had water source in Florida. I have seen 20 year old water source units replaced with brand new air to air units that nearly double the electric bills.

  41. Yeah, same principle at play–I think ground/water source needs more exposure. It isn’t flashy but it is effective.

    • We have a closed loop water source heat pump for heat and AC in southern Michigan. We installed it about 10 years ago and it is one of the best decisions we have made. They make a lot of sense if your electricity costs are fairly low. We installed it without any subsidies, there were none available at the time, and it still made sense economically.

  42. “Hey Jarmo,

    The stats I used were compiled from the Institute for Energy Research. They could be a little high but they were the only resource I could find that broke down energy production by type and by state.”

    http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/states/

    Hi Allen,

    I’m just putting your numbers here so I don’t have to go back and forth:

    “hydroelectric power now accounts for about 12.3% of all power generated in the U.S, wind account for 2.65%, geothermal accounts for 2.76% and wood accounts for 2.14%. Solar and biomass energy account for some a small percentage of the energy generated as well”.

    I just went to see Institute of Energy Research website and instead of compiling anything, just looked for a page that gives US totals:

    “About 8 percent of all energy consumed in the United States in 2010 was from renewable sources[i], and they account for about 10 percent of the nation’s total electricity production[ii].
    While a relatively small fraction of our overall energy supply in 2008, the United States is the world’s largest consumer of renewable energy from geothermal, solar, wood, wind, and waste for electric power generation using some 26% of the world’s total. In 2010, the distribution of U.S. renewable consumption by source was [iii]:
    •Hydropower 31%
    •Biomass Wood 25%
    •Biomass Waste 6%
    •Biomass Biofuels 23%
    •Wind 11%
    •Other 4%”

    http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/energy-overview/renewable-energy/

    Numbers still don’t match. Also, ratios of different renewables seem to be way off. Totals don’t mention geothermal and you say it is on par with wood?

    I do wish they would differentiate between energy and electricity more clearly. Wood is usually burned in CHP plants within wood processing and produce more heat than electricity.

  43. Renewable energy is not always what it seems. Politically, at least. In Washington State where we have a well-known wet climate, rain water harvesting for any purpose is illegal. It is considered to be grey water and not potable. That seems very caring and nurturing behavior by our law makers though I can think of dozens of nations around the world that would go to war to have the water that runs out to the blue Pacific ocean because we consider it grey. Our people in Olympia (the capitol of the state) then decided for all our goods that rain is not a renewable resource and cannot be considered in our green energy laws.

    See http://www.stoel.com/showalert.aspx?Show=2298
    and
    http://www.climate-connect.co.uk/Home/sites/default/files/Washington%20Renewable%20Energy%20Policy.pdf

    It does not require a lot of thought to realize the only green in all this is the money changing hands to develop wind energy, seen as a cash cow by many who are very bad at math, one presumes. http://www.efsec.wa.gov/kittitaswind.shtml

    The need to participate in money schemes based on green energy is an easy political decision – we, the rank and file green loving people pay the difference in energy cost. Someone really smart has figured out that rain that fell in BC, Canada and ran south across the borders and into lakes formed by our dams is somehow less renewable than wind blowing across the Kittitas plain where it smacks into dozens of churning foreign-made turbines. And don’t you know that isn’t all that smacks into those turbines: birds. Not everyone sees this as a problem, though it cannot be refuted that it is a problem: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/04/common_misconce.php

    Oddly, others see it as the greatest environmental problem facing wind energy: http://me-wserver.mecheng.strath.ac.uk/group2009/c/Bird_Strike.html

    So here we are in a state that has nearly 80% energy in the form of non-renewable hydro searching for more expensive forms of officially renewable energy. Wind, of course, the darling of the green movement (ignore the feathers, please) is big, but wait – watts this? http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/publications/legislative/nuclear-energy-must-be-part-states-energy-strategy-energy-strategy-relying-

    Whoops! Here we go again! http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,955183,00.html

    Time to take another look at what hydro provides: clean and renewable energy – 80% of our electrical power (100% of it if we didn’t sell so much out of state), irrigation water for our state’s largest industry, agriculture. Flood control. Recreation. The bluest skies you’ll ever see.

    Compare to what we get with less green renewables: dead birds that attract carrion hunters who will also be killed quickly, expensive electricity which is given priority grid access over other more stable and efficient power sources precisely because it is energy you have to use when the wind blows or you lose it. Don’t take your foot of the throttles at dams and steam plants because you never know when the call will come it to go on or off the wind farm energy. Oh – and because it is not stable or reliable, or even always available, you need to maintain 100% of your pre-wind generation capability to ensure power reliability, or suffer rolling brown-outs. But wait – there’s more! You get to join an exclusive, growing club: http://webecoist.com/2009/05/04/10-abandoned-renewable-energy-plants/

    More green energy side-effects: Nuclear waste – and not all nuclear waste is radioactive. There is a reason those things have monstrous cooling towers. They have a lot of waste heat that needs to be released into the environment. You need to store spent fuel – not to get hysterical, but that was a big problem in the Fukushima disaster. And you need to transport radioactive material from where it is to where it is needed. We’ve done that here with mixed results – some for, some against:
    http://wcpeace.org/History/WCPeace/wcpeace&bomb.htm
    http://www.lib.washington.edu/specialcoll/findaids/docs/papersrecords/GroundZero5336.xml

    Mostly against, but then, of course, nuclear wasn’t considered renewable and green.

    So I think as consumers we actually are just being carried along on the green train wreck and don’t have a lot of choices because our really smart people have already thought of it all and have pressed those palms and our job is to bend over and take it like good citizens.

  44. Speaking of ground water – anyone care to figure out how many petawatts of energy transfer this represents? Trenberth’s missing heat, perhaps?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/26/underground-river-amazon

  45. Here’s the story of people in the Antelope Valley who are off the grid. So they use solar panels and you see windmills at “Phonehenge” – not subsidized. They’re being harassed and forced off their land.

    At about 4:50, Mr Castaneda explains he was told he could stay if he got a building permit. The building permit is contingent upon drilling a new water well and – get this – connecting to the grid!!!! Which would cost him between $75,000 and $100,000!!!

    http://reason.com/blog/2011/08/24/reasontv-battle-for-the-desert

  46. Judith,

    You’ve hit upon consumerism at it’s finest.
    Each area has it’s long term problems from smoky plastics in solar to bearing maintenance to poor life of batteries and low amperage.
    Storing fuel as back-up fails as well as fuel breaks down over time. After all stem infuses water into oil to create fuels.

  47. As Stirling English says above, in the UK we have no choice. All electricity consumers are forced to pay for renewable energy schemes whether they want to or not. Very generous subsidies are given to wind developers through feed-in tariffs and ‘Renewables Obligations Certificates’ that force suppliers to get an ever-increasing proportion of their electricity from renewables, regardless of cost. All of these subsidies are paid for by the public through their electricity bills. The results are
    (a) widespread destruction of our former green and pleasant land,
    (b) higher electricity bills,
    (c) windfarm companies making pots of money.

    • Paul,

      Who is the expert that tells the government that these technologies are waisting more money on bad schemes?
      After all the government is paying schools to educate us, paying for research, paying for science studies by reputable profit driven companies.

    • Latimer Alder

      Don’t forget

      4. No environmental benefits whatsoever and a deleterious effect on wildlife, landscape and the amenity of our wilder heritage

      The loonies really have taken over the asylum in the Department of Energy and Climate Change

  48. Along with the “right” to use the energy source of choice, one also has the responsibility to pay the full price, unsubsidized, for energy from source!

  49. The cost of “green jobs”;

    http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article/583253/201108301734/Green-Jobs-Arteries-Clogged-By-Davis-Bacon.htm

    It’s a sad story, who cares if you are happy with your solar water heater (or if you made a buck on “investments” in green) if “everyone” had to pay through a subside or direct tax to make it so? Crony capitalism at its worst.

    http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2011/08/29/why-sinking-solar-prices-are-bad-startups-great-enterprises

    Yes, they want more price supports (higher prices to consumers and tax payers). Lazy and self-absorbed.

  50. The best trickle up reasoning ever;

    http://americanelephant.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/sunny-on-environmentalism/

    Do you think she could understand “renewables” and the concept of free market society??

  51. A few years ago, a friend told me he wanted to get a rooftop wind generator (he already had solar panels). I looked at the company’s literature and realized it was total BS. The 2.5kW or so that they were saying they could generate was totally unrealistic. Using the wind power formula, power is proportional to the cube of the wind velocity, the best I could see was maybe 250 W average, based on average wind speeds. The company had some ‘UDAF roof effect factor’ which was supposed to increase the power, but even with this fudge factor, there was no way they were getting 2.5kW, except on really windy days.

    Note that the power being proportional to the cube of the wind velocity works both ways. If the wind speed is 1/2 the rated speed, the power is 1/8th the rated power!!! Think about this. If the wind speed goes from say 10mph to 5mph, only about 10% of the power is going to be generated. We have had some high energy days here in Texas were wind power could only supply 1/10th of its rated power. (Yes, I know 30% is the usual capacity factor for wind – low expectations.)

    Energy expert Robert Bryce has a post showing how wind failed us when we needed it most:

    http://www.robertbryce.com/articles/380-texas-wind-energy-fails-again.html

  52. Dr. Curry, you should give out energy discount coupons to the best commenters on this topic. ;)

    Andrew

  53. All of the so called ‘renewables’ make sense some where with a given set of circumstance. I have solar powered garden lighting. It was cheaper, easier , faster then having a new circuit breaker put in, digging trenches and burying wire.

    I also have moss on my roof. I don’t care how cheap roof mounted solar panels become, they will never work on my moss covered roof. Yes, I know the solar panel salesmen was quite adamant that moss would not effect the efficiency of the panels. Of course this is what is wrong with the renewables industry, they will claim that the factors that do make a huge difference in the effectiveness of their products don’t make a difference. Then they claim it’s ‘big coals’ fault when people find out the truth.

  54. Would it change anyone’s mind about people’s sincerity if global warming alamists admitted they’d have no interest if it were not for revenue? Let’s face it: you are not going to fund the Big Government bureaucracy with a message like–e.g., no matter what we do the oceans are cooling and there is no end to the cooling in sight.

    • Like Seattle?;

      $20 Million Fed Dollars in, 14 jobs created;

      http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/08/29/seattle-green-jobs-program-gets-20m-creates-14-posts/

      There is always crony money issues but AGW is as much a hate movement, it’s a way to attack the private sector that is based on social envy. Much of the eco-left is driven more by this than personal gain. Sactimony could not be at this level unless, regardless of how misguided, the core wasn’t a self-rightous lot with a uncontrolled desire to dictate. Especially to those unregulated Americans who spit at government authority as routine. There is an elite and their motives could be both financial and ideology but I don’t think personal money is the core value.

      Socialist values of forced wealth redistribution area form of “greed” that the participants exempt themselves. They think they are doing it “for others”. The elite who don’t need the money are doing it for power and control. It’s actually worse than snake oil contractors bilking Fed money flows to buy a house or car. The AGW promised a green welfare state, no doubt but that illusion is in the tank in record time. Personal money greed can be found in the leadership but the rank and file are followers are a mixture of angry envy groups, government driven Utopianism etc.

      Does Dr. Curry need a dime from renewable energy scams? I don’t think so. Does/did she benefit from a central planning culture? You bet. That’s what collective research and education are; central planning. Plenty of skeptics have benefited as well in the 30+ year of climate planning wars and reactions. It’s just important to remember who started the war and why.

  55. My monthly electricity cost from street power is around $400 per month. With the power out due to Hurricane Irene I switched to our NG 100Amp gen set and burned through 75% of my 250 liter tank in four days. That’s about $400-$500 bucks in four days! There isn’t enough sun nor wind to run even one fridge in my house. Do the math! Nuclear, coal and hydro remain the most EFFICIENT sources of energy for mass consumption. EFFICIENCY determines the environmental impact. What I get from the street power today is the cleanest form of energy possible. Any other alternate source is less efficient (dramatically so) and therefore more damaging to the environment. This is what I find so frustrating, nay infuriating, about the larger populace that knows nothing about the basic physics of energy.

    • There isn’t enough sun nor wind to run even one fridge in my house.

      In all honestly…you need a new fridge. A modern energy star certified fridge consumes on average about the same as a 60 watt light bulb. I just bought one for my folks two days before the hurricane and the ice creme was still frozen when I left 36 hours after the power outage.

      If you are spending $400-$500 a month on electricity then your home probably is the one the ‘eco fanatics’ talk about that could make big savings on energy consumption thru some updating.

      My electric bill was $43 in July including the $10 service fee.(I don’t have air conditioning, but I do have a full size beer fridge plus a small beer fridge) The oldest appliance I have is 5 years old. It’s truly amazing how much energy savings the appliance manufacturers are squeezing out of the latest appliances.

      • I do have a full size beer fridge plus a small beer fridge)

        What happened to your extra-large beer fridge and your two medium-sized beer fridges? Did you get rid of them?

      • Of course, I was thinking of guessing that you don’t need those extra beer fridges because your mother-in-law moved out, but I didn’t because that would have been in bad taste.

      • And what about all of the energy required for you to earn enough money to buy your new fridge and ditch the old one? Did you do a full energy impact cost analysis of your consumption? Your suggestion is based upon the fallacy that ditching one fridge and replacing it for a new one requires no energy and therefore has no impact on the environment. The amount of energy required to manufacture your energy star fridge far exceeds the impact of me running my inefficient fridge until it reaches the end of its natural life.

      • The average refrigerator in the US in the year 2001 consumed 1,200 KWh/yr.
        http://205.254.135.24/emeu/recs/recs2001/enduse2001/enduse2001.html

        The most energy efficient 25 cubic foot refrigerators today consumes about 450 KWh/yr.

        EPA has a ‘retirement’ calculator here.
        http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=refrig.calculator

        According to the EPA a circa 1990 25 cubic foot refrigerator consumes 1,500 KWh/yr.(Assuming the seals and compressor are still functioning like new)

        Here is the most energy efficient 25 cubic fridge for 2011 – 450 KWh/yr
        http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=most_efficient.me_fridges_freezers

        You can do your own math…for me the savings in electricity over 10 years exceeded the cost of the new fridge, not to mention the new fridge is much more functional then the old fridge and does a better job keeping the fruits and vegetables fresh…which is another big savings…

      • But you didn’t include the energy cost of manufacturing the new fridge. Transportation cost to point of sale. Marketing and sales costs for you to pick and then purchase that particular fridge. Compliance, regulation and taxation costs. And that would stretch your 10 years out by perhaps doubling it to 20 years or even tripling it to 30.

  56. For those that think it’s a question of “scale”;

    http://www.masterresource.org/2010/04/ladwp-vs-los-angeles-expensive-renewables-hit-the-fan/#more-8990

    “And now renewables and global warming. California’s regulated utilities are all far from compliance with a requirement for 20 percent renewable energy by the end of this year, and now they face a 33 percent requirement for 2020. The Air Resources Board says that without those renewables its cap-and-trade program can’t possibly succeed. Municipal utilities are exempt from all this, and LADWP’s board knows what renewables and transmission will really cost.

    Nevertheless politics has given it informal renewables “goals” of about the same size. Like the other utilities, LADWP’s progress is largely a series of creative fibs, such as counting signed contracts with experimental solar generators as real resources. 44 percent of its power comes from out-of-state coal, and the idealistic City Council says it wants zero coal, lots of renewables, and soon.”

    and

    “But now we get a “Democracy in Action” vignette, the kind that never turn up at the Public Utilities Commission because most folks don’t even know where it meets. This January, LADWP cancelled a bunch of renewable projects (more precisely, contracts) because it claimed to be losing $6 million a week. It told the city council that if they wanted renewables they would have to raise rates, and in March LADWP’s board recommended council approval (required by law) of a 22 percent rate increase over the next year, growing to 37 percent by 2014.”

    Socialism always ends up costing a bundle! Generations of dead weight get priced in (often in the form of debt) while they try like mad to “scale” then demand more their political power grows. So coal is being inflated at the same time as “renewables”!! Look no further than the EU and California as proof of a failed culture dependent on lies.

    • CWON14 says: “So coal is being inflated at the same time as “renewables”!!”

      Why isn’t coal considered the original bio-fuel? Seems to me it should be. Ethanol is made from dead corn and coal from dead ground litter.

      P.S. As a retired CWO does your CWO stand for anything other than a name?

    • cwon14

      I believe that the recently signed into law (in CA) bill requiring electric utilities to have 33% of their generation come from renewable sources now includes municipal (SMUD, LADWP, Palo Alto, etc) generators. LADWP currently has some of the lest expensive electrical rates in the state ($.072 kwh for residential users for all their winter energy use- essentially 1 tier pricing- note PG&E’s tier 3 price for electricity is over .30 kHz). The inexpensive electrical energy available to LADWP residential customers means that LADWP has not been able to meet it’s goals for PV. You might find this reference of interest-

      “LADWP To Relaunch Solar Incentive Program http://www.solardaily.com/reports/LADWP_To_Relaunch_Solar_Incentive_Program_999.html
      ………….”Under SB 1, the state’s “Million Solar Roofs” legislation established a goal of 280 megawatts and mandated that LADWP spend $313 million through the end of 2016 for solar photovoltaic incentives. “We are committed to spending the full $313 million for customer incentives and achieving as much solar as possible with that level of funding,” Mr. Nichols said.”

      The state of CA’s loading order calls for energy efficiency to be the preferred way to meet increased demand. The Palo Alto Municipal Utilities District was/is a bit concerned about the effectives of this approach as the assumption of costs to benefits is questionable as noted here-

      City of Palo Alto Utilities Comments on the Draft Staff Report “Achieving Cost-Effective Energy

      Efficiency for California 2011-2020” (Docket number 11-IEP-1F)

      http://www.energy.ca.gov/2011_energypolicy/documents/2011-08-11_workshop/comments/City_of_Palo_Alto_Utilities_Comments_TN-61893.pdf

      …………..”At the August 11 workshop, NRDC repeatedly quoted the cost of EE at 2¢/kWh. This is a misleading number. Based on the SB 1037 reports submitted by CPAU in the past three years, the levelized cost of EE, as expressed by the total utility cost divided by present value of net lifecycle EE savings, has increased steadily, from 2.9¢/kWh in 2008
      to 6.4¢/kWh in 2010. Looking forward, as new lighting standards take effect and other low-cost efficiency measures reach saturation, the cost of EE will continue to increase.

      While CPAU expects EE to remain a cost-effective alternative compared to other supplyside resources, it is no longer the case that EE only costs 2¢/kWh.”………………. and a comment on model limitations-

      “It is important to keep in mind, however, that any model
      has limitations, especially when one is pushing the boundary scenarios. For example, increasing measure incentives does not result in proportionate increase in measure adoption. The determination of the market potential is highly dependent on multiple assumptions in the model that are somewhat arbitrary and has not been verified against
      field data.”

      • Mark, that’s part of the problem. If states pass laws requiring a per cent of renewable for all utilities then there is no real choice being made. In Michigan we have a 10% law that has raised rates and caused a local electic co-op (taht was all diesel generators) to purchase a hydro plant from Wisconson Electic so they could meet the requirement. The free market is being bastardized. Oh and to mention again the loss of money available to buy other needed things. And pols wonder why the economy is low. Cheap abundant energy with kick in the pants to the AGW idea will go a long way to cure our ills.

      • Mark,

        Total malinvestment. What I thought was especially illustrative was the fake counting of PV units.

        Just evidence that the targets are fake anyway, it’s about increasing regulatory controls. As long as government power increases emissions could increase for all they care. If they get to fake the counts, fine. When the failures are audited it will be private interests fault again in the narrative.

  57. Here is the news from our area in the Silicon Valley: “Solyndra, a California solar company backed by a half-billion dollars in loan guarantees from the Obama administration, on Wednesday announced it was shutting its doors and laying off 1,100 employees.”

    • This is just an obvious example of where more government doesn’t work–literally. A less obvious example is where–e.g., a controlled medical device that poses no danger to anyone and takes maybe 39¢ to make must sell to the public for $299.99 to cover all of the mandated rules and regulatory costs.

      Did you know that 1 in 8 Californians who receive a paycheck are employed by the state or local government and are not even worth the federal minimum wage?

    • It will be interesting to see how the Federal Govenment’s investment in First Solar plays out. Actually, I am not sure if the benificiary of the loans is First Solar anymore as they completed their sale of the Agua Caliente PV (290 MU) facility to NRG Energy http://www.semiconductor-today.com/news_items/2011/AUG/FIRSTSOLAR_080811.html.
      “The acquisition was contingent upon the financial closing of the project’s loan guarantee of up to $967m from the US Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office (announced last December).”

      In anycase, it looks like it’s really the PG&E ratepayers who are going to be picking up the costs for most of the project as noted below.

      The CEO of NRG stated-
      “Solar power is critical to transitioning our nation to having a greater emphasis on large-scale clean-energy technologies and it is going to be projects of the scale of Agua Caliente that will help us achieve this ambitious goal,” said David Crane, president and CEO of NRG Energy. “This investment significantly increases our presence in the state and benefits the residents of Arizona while providing attractive returns to NRG’s stakeholders.” last year when the deal was being developed http://www.pv-tech.org/news/nrg_acquires_first_solars_290mw_agua_caliente_solar_plant

      “Agua Caliente demonstrates the extraordinary progress the US has made to achieving energy independence through public–private collaboration and technological innovation,” says Tom Doyle, CEO of NRG subsidiary NRG Solar LLC.”
      “Electricity from Agua Caliente will be sold under a 25-year power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric Co, helping California to meet its renewable energy goals. At full capacity, the electricity generated by Agua Caliente will be enough to serve more than 225,000 homes. The project is expected to offset about 5.5 million metric tons of CO2 over 25 years (equivalent to taking more than 40,000 cars off the road annually).

    • Just like the big time solar power factory in Mass.
      Could it be there is a pattern of Obama backed governemnt funded “alternative power investments” and our money disappearing?

  58. Incompetent world leaders and scientists willing to support any “consensus opinion” in exchange for grant funds have been a disaster by

    a.) Falsely claiming CO2 from fossil fuels causes AGW;

    b.) Falsely claiming Earth’s heat source is a stable H-fusion reactor;

    c.) Falsely claiming that disposal of radioactive waste from fission reactors can be solved later; and

    d.) Falsely claiming we can build stable H-fusion reactors like those in the cores of the Sun and other stars to meet future energy needs.

    Moral: Noble goals cannot be achieved by deception!

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  59. I tend not to trust articles and blogposts that make unsubstantiated claims that disagree with what I have previously calculated.

    Several people have posted that they question the accuracy of the statement in the article: “If you live in a state that gets a lot of sunshine–like New Jersey, California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Hawaii–solar panel system can pay for itself in as little as three years and result in long-term savings.”

    @ Allen Green — you have posted comments several times, but have not addressed this issue that directly affects the credibility of your post.

    It would be very helpful if you could post a simple explanation of how one achieves a 3 year payback with a (photovoltaic ??) solar panel system.

    • LOL, Charlie that’s simple, you get more rebate money. With 50% rebate the payback is in about 18 years, with no rebate about twice that.

    • Charlie, I agree with you. Mr. Green seems ill-informed. Those states aren’t necessarily sunny, but they offer something else. The legislatures have mandated that utilities must either offer a certain percentage of solar energy (increasing over the years) or purchase credits from others (businesses and home owners) who install panels. In my state of Pennsylvania credits were selling for over $300 per MWh last year. In New jersey they have traded for over $600. Keep in mind that wholesale electricity in Pennsylvania actually goes for about $54/MWh.

      http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=2510

      By the way, when a utility buys the credits, they don’t get the electricity. That benefit accrues to the owner of the system that generated it. This, coupled with generous tax credits and sometimes grants, has made photovoltaic systems very popular. However, the free ride may be coming to an end. In PA and NJ the demand for credits has not kept up with supply so prices have plummeted.

      http://markets.flettexchange.com/pennsylvania-srec/
      http://markets.flettexchange.com/new-jersey-srec/

      Here is an article that discusses the issue:

      http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/blog/post/2011/03/why-spot-srec-prices-have-dropped-in-pa-adjacent-markets

      I think Allen Green needs to study the facts.

      • I think this (from the blog link) says it all:

        As compliance commodities, SRECs (which are simply the environmental attributes associated with 1 megawatt hour of solar electricity) have no intrinsic value. In other words, if there is no buyer for the solar REC, it is worthless.

  60. What other great ideas can America import from dead and dying Old Europe and repay by exporting inflation? Presiding over the decline and fall of Western civilization has become the capstone of secular, socialist ideology.

  61. Re: http://judithcurry.com/2011/08/30/consumer-options-for-choosing-renewable-energy/#comment-106868

    Joshua asks, we answer.
    Note that I’ve left the http portion of web links below off to avoid triggering the spam filter.

    Governments last year gave $43 billion to $46 billion of support to renewable energy through tax credits, guaranteed electricity prices known as feed-in tariffs and alternative energy credits, the London-based research group said today in a statement. That compares with the $557 billion that the International Energy Agency last month said was spent to subsidize fossil fuels in 2008.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-07-29/fossil-fuel-subsidies-are-12-times-support-for-renewables-study-shows.html

    (Note that a huge chunk of “fossil fuel subsidies” are direct consumer subsidies to buy fuel in Iran, Venezuala, and India. Good luck whining to Washington about that).

    Worldwide, energy from fossil fuel represents about 100x as from “renewables” (including “biomass”, which is mostly burning wood the old-fashioned way).

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:World_energy_consumption_by_type_2006.png

    Ratio of fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energy subsidies: ~12.4
    Ratio of energy from fossil fuel to energy from renewables: ~100

    Coincidently, if you add hydroelectric to “renewables”, which most enviros adamently refuse to, the ratio of energy from fossil fuels to “renewables” coincidentally becomes 12.4. Of course, you’d then have to account for subsidies given to hydroelectric generators, which are not included in the numbers above.

    And how about just the US you ask?

    …the U.S. government offered $72 billion in incentives for oil, gas, and coal producers between 2002 and 2008. Most of that was in the form of 23 different tax credits, especially the credit for overseas production ($15.3 billion) and a credit for production of non-conventional fuel ($14.1 billion). The rest was in the form of grants, R&D money, and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
    And how did clean energy fare? Over that same time period, the United States plowed just $29 billion into renewable energy. Worse still, the bulk of those renewable subsidies—about $16.8 billion worth—went toward corn ethanol, which likely makes global warming worse through indirect deforestation effects.

    http://www.tnr.com/blog/the-vine/76750/fossil-fuel-subsidies-still-dominate

    So in that time period, the US favored “subsidies” to fossil fuels (including the Strategic Oil Reserve, which I guess will count as a negative subsidy this year) over renewables by a ratio of ~2.5:1. In the US in 2006, fossil fuels provided 26x the energy renewables did.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_the_United_States

    • Actually – it was less involved than I thought.

      So, taking your numbers at face value, you make a good argument. I don’t doubt that within a strictly circumscribed analysis, subsidizing fossil fuels, in the short term, is more efficient in terms of energy produced per dollar of subsidization. Certainly, comparisons of subsidies need to be weight against relative efficiency..

      But I think it is relevant to evaluate the issue within a larger context: what if we enlarge the definition of “subsidy” (recognizing that already some feel that tax credits don’t meet a technical definition of “subsidy)? There seem to me to be costs associated with fossil fuels that would largely be absent with renewables – costs associated with the geo-political activities needed to keep the oil flowing, costs associated with pollutants and the environmental impact of coal, costs associated with the extraction and refining of oil. These are costs directly absorbed by taxpayers. In addition, we have the (admittedly difficult to measure) efficiency gains and gains due to economy of scale realized by investment in renewables – which are likely to increase more rapidly with renewables that with fossil fuels. That isn’t to say that there aren’t similar “costs” associate with renewables, or that they shouldn’t be factored into a cost/benefit analysis. My point is that conclusions about the merits of fossil fuels vs. renewables need to account, as best as we can, for these types of concerns.

      • “…as best we can…”
        Indeed.

        That’s why so much mush gets thrown into calculations by those who want to “account for externalities”.

        But somehow, they seem selective with “social costs”.

        Want to put a social cost on importing rare earths from China for windmills?

        Social cost on importing solar cells from China?

        Social cost on the knee-jerk response to the “need” for biofuels?

        Social cost on taking money from low income tax payers and utility customers to subsidize high income “first adapters”?

        Lotsa luck.

      • I see little valid alternative to doing the best we can.

      • ever seen what rare earth mining looks like in china?

        http://www.windturbinesyndrome.com/news/2011/china-is-dying-for-the-sins-of-our-clean-green-wind-turbines/

        The question is who decides what the best we can do is.

      • Photovoltaics use a lot of lead.

        http://www.edie.net/news/news_story.asp?id=20729&title=Lead+pollution+set+to+rise+as+solar+power+booms

        Wind Turbines slaughter bats and birds,.

        http://ecocentric.blogs.time.com/2011/03/31/the-economic-cost-of-losing-bats/

        “Wind turbines are apparently killing migratory bats as well—by 2020, an estimated 33,000 to 111,000 bats are predicted to be killed by turbines in the mid-Atlantic Highlands alone. ”

        “A new article in Science shows that bats have an important role to play in agriculture—one worth at least $3.7 billion a year, if not far more. That’s how much the extinction of bats throughout North America could cost the region’s food system, according to an analysis (access PDF here) by a group of researchers led by Justin Boyles of the University of Pretoria in South Africa. The logic is simple: bats eat bugs—tons and tons of bugs—and that includes crop and forests pests. (A single colony of 150 brown bats in Indianan has been estimated to eat nearly 1.3 million pest insects a year.) Remove the bats, and you remove one of nature’s most effective biological pesticides—which would have to be replaced by actual pesticides, at an economic and environmental expense.”

        “Shockingly high” numbers of bird and bat deaths caused by one of Canada’s biggest wind farms should serve as a warning to planners of other projects that may be built in crucial wildlife zones, one of the country’s key conservation groups says.

        The 86 huge turbines on Wolfe Island, just outside Kingston, Ont., began to produce power about a year ago, and an on-going count of bird and bats that have been killed by the blades has been conducted since then.

        A consultant’s report covering the period between July and December of 2009 was released recently, indicating that 602 birds and 1,270 bats were killed by the turbines over that stretch. While the report says the numbers of dead birds and bats are similar to other wind farms in North America, Ottawa-based environmental advocacy group Nature Canada says the figures are actually surprisingly large and represent a significant threat to several endangered species.

        “The monitoring reveals shockingly high numbers of fatalities of both birds and bats,” said Ted Cheskey, manager of bird conservation programs at Nature Canada. He said the figures underline what his organization has been arguing all along, that “there should not be wind turbines put in important bird areas or migratory corridors.””

        http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/windfarm-turbines-deadly-for-birds-bats/article1598597/

      • Bruce,

        My PV panels do not contain lead and I use the grid as my battery.
        “No toxic cadmium or lead solder in these Mitsubishi solar panels.”
        My panels are a bit more sensitive to high temperatures the other PV panels- the trade off for not using lead.

        Hardware similar to my system is noted below-
        http://www.gridtiesystemkits.com/mitsubishi-3924-watt-solar-power-systeme2.htm

      • Joshua

        Thank you for finding the Persian Flaw in my argument.

        John M.. Thank you for using decent grammar and good spelling.

      • Bart –

        I’ve heard about weavers deliberately putting flaws in their carpets, but was unaware of the term “Persian flaw,” until now. So thank you for that interesting reference.

        As to your point – sorry for not realizing that your inaccurate categorization of “leftists” was deliberate. I didn’t read carefully enough. I guess I’m just conditioned to accept such laughable claims at face value due to reading similar but unintentional categorizations here on these threads on a regular basis.

      • Let’s not take John’s (fairly good) numbers at face value.

        As execrable a topic as government subsidy to private enterprise is, we should be a bit more skeptical.

        Investigating what the US actually invests in that it calls alternatives, one comes with about 10% to the sort of alternatives most generally think of – solar, wind, geothermal, etc. (Lamar Alexander can be thanked for having the figures compiled in http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/servicerpt/subsidy2/pdf/execsum.pdf)

        The rest is sort of evenly split among coal, other fossil energy, and ethanol.

        The ethanol is purely scam, of course, to stabilize corn states and multinationals. Well, the one corn multinational, and there’s only one sort of fuel encouraged by ethanol mixing, that’s the fossil fuel ethanol gets mixed into.

        So John’s ratios (would that they meant anything in the first place, how in gap analysis is what is now important to what we need to get to in the future?) are thrown off a bit, from 100:12.4 to roughly 100:150.

        So aside from using an invalid argument, John’s ratios are just plain off by some order of magnitude.

        As for trying to out-China China.. when will people give up on such pointless comparisons?

        Could the USA ever have a one-child policy?

        Can the USA employ virtual slave labor? (Hrm, that may be a place America can compete, if Mexico obliges.)

        Still, I’m with John on biofuels, though we get there by different paths. And in this case, it’s the journey, not the destination.

      • “So John’s ratios (would that they meant anything in the first place, how in gap analysis is what is now important to what we need to get to in the future?) are thrown off a bit, from 100:12.4 to roughly 100:150.”

        Bart, I’m confused by what your new ratio is. My 100:12.4 was actually two ratios, the ratio of fossil fuel energy consumption to “renewable” energy consumption to the ratio of fossil fuel subsidies to “renewable” subsidies. Another way of looking at this is that you get about 8X bang for the buck by subsidizing fossil fuels, even with what are probably inflated fossil fuel subsidy numbers. My sources specifically said “renewable”, not “alternative”.

        What does your ratio refer to?

        Also, wasn’t Joshua’s point about the ratio of energy to subsidy? If you look at the table in your link, the only fossil fuel that’s out of whack is “refined coal”, which I would agree should be be…er…whacked.

        Indeed, if we account for how inefficient “refined coal” subsidies are, traditional fossil fuels really beat the crap out of renewables.

      • John M

        A ratio of ratios remains a ratio.

        Ratio of fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energy subsidies: ~12.4
        Ratio of energy from fossil fuel to energy from renewables: ~100

        Your 1:12.4 is a ratio of roughly 45: 557.

        The actual ratio, excluding fossil subsidies, is more like 3.7:557, or 1:150.

        Even if we take your wildly baseless “ratio of energy from fossil fuel to energy from renewables,” (as it assumes a baseline that excludes so many non-market renewable) of 100, we still reverse the ratio substantially on your mistaken subsidy figures alone.

        That would be if gap analysis worked the way you propose, which it doesn’t.

        Comparing the present benefits of old energy generation to the future benefits of yet-to-be-developed energy generation is bizarre on its face.

        It’s like saying the 26-year-old Mohammed Ali wouldn’t even consider one-year-old Mike Tyson an opponent in the ring in 1967, so Mike Tyson at 34 wouldn’t be dangerous to Mohammed Ali at 49 in 1990.

      • I think you’re making this too complicated. Joshua asked me to provide support for my claim that fossil fuels provide more energy per subisdy dollar than renwables.

        Can you put your argument in simple terms with regard to that request?

      • John M

        Simple terms? http://www.dilbert.com/2011-09-01/

        Joshua asked for a link.

        You supplied a link and an answer.

        I applied critical reasoning to your answer and link, as a skeptic ought.

        Your link and answer failed on every measure of critical analysis. But your spelling was nice.

        Now that I’ve put it in simple terms, I’ll follow up restating in more explicit terms:

        My argument is that your interpretation of the numbers in themselves is questionable because you’re, a) miscategorizing hugely components of both the antecedent and consequent of the ratios 1:12.4 and 100:1; b) applying an irrational standard to gap analysis.

        a.) Your first antecedent is 44.5 (I’m guessing you used 42/2+46/2?) but the 44.5 figure includes many subsidies to fossil fuels categorized as ‘alternatives’ or ‘research’. The actual figure is closer to 3.7 than 44.5; see the dated Lamar Alexander link I supplied for just how small a role government plays in alternatives (especially given the many cutbacks since the time of the report).
        Your first consequent is 557, which leaves out subsidies to the makers of vehicles that use fossil fuels. Sure, you only acknowledge first order participants, but how silly is that? Just how much has America subsidized the auto industry? Also, there’s a quibble as to whether/how much of the 44.5 was a component of the 557, but why waste time dissecting a mustard seed?
        44.5:557 gets you roughly 12.4; a better answer is 3.7:557=1:150, but there’s little doubt the figure is much, much more extreme.

        Your second antecedent is 100. This too is a skewed number, as it excludes the value of non-market alternatives. Like a sweater. Conservation. Insulation. Walking.

        b) Compare like to like in standard analyses. Compare where you are now to where you want to be in gap analysis. The whole point of applied research is how things will be after it succeeds, hence comparing present production of established technologies to alternative technologies misses the point. This is implicit in the data you are modeling. Your model is flawed.

        (Yes, I am indeed one of those whose philosophy considers all government spending on fossil fuels a subsidy to the fossil fuel industry. That would be based on the arguments of Free Market Capitalism, not some leftist bent — what leftist doesn’t excuse government spending on anything without limit? Corporate communism that refuses to acknowledge attribution of distortions in the Fair Market is the practice of statists, regardless of the good intentions or good first order effects of those expenditures. To a pure Capitalist, the corporate statist is as bad as the state corporatist. Philosophically, in a perfect, mathematically simple world, it’s just this easy: every penny government spends is a form of tax that picks my pocket. Since we don’t live in that world, and philosophers inevitably are time wasters anyway, I generally skip that part and treat it as an admirable objective that we should seek to move closer to but recognize we’ll never attain.)

      • Bart,

        You must have attended the “Kaczynski School of Convuluted Writing”.

        Anyways, back to the data from your own link (as opposed to the Bart R Kitchen Sink Algorithm for computing subsidies):

        (All in exajoules/billion dollars)

        Fossil fuels: 13.3
        Renewables: 1.5

        “Bang for the Buck”: Fossil fuel subsidies ~8.9X renewable subsidies.

        Good luck with you work on convincing the rest of the world to calculate subsidies your way.

        BTW, full disclosure wrt to my own use of Bart R. fossil fuel subsidies, I went to the bank yesterday. It was one of those that received a government bailout. They had the lights and AC on…

      • what leftist doesn’t excuse government spending on anything without limit?

        Seriously, how many “leftists” have you talked to about their beliefs?

        All leftists “excuse government spending on anything without limit?”

        Really?

        The rest of your analysis seems fairly sophisticated – but it’s hard to take you seriously when you make such overtly inaccurate and categorical conclusions.

  62. I left a comment earlier regarding Allen’s numbers. They don’t match with
    http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/energy-overview/renewable-energy/
    but seem way too high.

    Still hoping for an answer about the discrepancy….

    Regarding renewable energy, my father installed a ground thermal system for his house 6 years ago. Works well, annual energy required for heating is 6000 kWh. Direct electric heating would require at least 20 000 kWh annually so the saving is considerable.

    Most of the people in Finland install air or ground thermal pump systems to save money. My father is about as far from green as one can get.

    • Jarmo,

      It has been 5 years since I installed a 6.12 (sts) kw rated PV system and I wish my payback was three years. Living in Northern California we have close to the highest electrical rates in the country so I thought I’d see what a payback period would be today for PV in Northern California. The best payback period I could get for a family living in Lincoln, CA (zip 95648) with an annual electrical bill of $4000.00, with the purchase of a 4000 watt-dc PV system, for an installed cost per kw-dc of $4,000.00 per kw (having a net metered residential time of use rate schedule) was 4.8 years. http://sharpusa.cleanpowerestimator.com/sharpusa.htm

      To come up with the estimate I used the following additional detailed estimate variables- Tilt- 30 degrees; direction- South; Utility escalation- 5% per year, Payment Method- Home Equity, Loan Term 15 years; Down Payment- 0%, Tax Filing Status- Married Filing Jointly, Taxable Income- $80,000 per year.

      Trying to get someone to install a PV system for $4000.00 a watt is a bit problematic, but doable. If we had done this scenario a year and a half ago, when PG&E Tier 4 and 5 prices were above $.40 and close to $.50 a kwh for these tiers, then the payback time would of been faster.

      It was in Finland that I experienced my first triple pane window- which must come in handy (efficiency wise) during those cold winter nights.

  63. Mark,

    The payback time for ground thermal here depends on how much energy your house requires for heating and electricity price (around 11-12 (euro) cents /kWh with taxes). With Germany giving up on nuclear, prices will probably go up.

    Installation costs right now are around 12 000-15 000 euros, presuming you already have a water radiator or equivalent heating system installed.

    Nowadays they are installing systems for blocks of flats. Here is an article in Finnish, perhaps google translator will help.

    http://www.co2-raportti.fi/index.php?page=ilmastouutisia&news_id=2662

    • Jarmo

      Not all ground thermal systems require electricity, although it is clearly the dominant and almost exclusive mode in the consumer market.

      A windmill that drives ground thermal mechanically into a system built to store capacity at high times to release from its reservoir when the windmill is stilled is many times more efficient than one that generates electricity and stores power in batteries.

      Water, both by streams and tidal, and even wave energy, carries enough energy to power or assist the modest needs of water thermal systems.

      Reichsgraf von Rumford was right in his Yankee directness and ingenuity that mechanically heating water is impractical, and one might more efficiently heat by burning the fodder for the horses on the treadmill than use friction, but transferring heat by a heat pump mechanically is pure win.

  64. An alternative to MP3 players:

    http://www.harmonicwindharps.com/windowharps.htm

    Though you may have to balance the birdkilling nuttiness of windphobes with the braincancer superstition of emf-fearing loons when you consider your home sound system in these terms.

  65. Options for choosing renewable energy?

    Why not shorten it to …
    Using or choosing energy

    Unnecessary to consume energy unless one decides that one wishes to consume it.

    For example, homeless people don’t participate very much in a consumer society. Making people homeless or disenfranchising people in other ways is a fast and inexpensive means of reducing energy consumption per capita … /sarcasm intended/

    The next thing to consider about ‘renewable energy’ is to ask yourself … “What’s in it for me? Why am I being coaxed or forced to pay more than I might otherwise prefer?”

    The selfish … “Why must I pay?” … perspective is not stupid.

    A person is being urged to permit inefficiency. … to pay an additional burden that does not need to exist.

    There usually isn’t a good answer here. There can be obvious answers. Some of those obvious answers are crafted to deliberately mislead.

    For example, the best reason to use renewable energy is so that somebody else can make money by supplying you with a renewable utility. The emphasis being that your usage of a renewable source is neither here nor there. Nobody cares that you consume more or less fossil fuel. Nobody cares that you consume or don’t consume energy.

    They care because THEY MAKE MONEY out of your decision to bind yourself to using a ‘perceived’ renewable source.

    It doesn’t have to be that way.
    On the other hand, who’s to say that it isn’t that way?

  66. A $5 mist showerhead pays for itself in months in the average US home, replacing stream-type showerheads and their costly excessive use of hot water.

    A good place to start in terms of return on costs for existing homes and in general: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_conservation

    A particularly helpful primer: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_conservation_in_the_United_States

    A good place to start in terms of return on costs for new home design: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_solar_building_design

    Triple threat fuels

    It’s a fuel! It’s a product! It’s a waste disposed of!

    Energy sources that achieve three (or more) systemic functions:

    Algae – grows rapidly, harvests nutrients that are normally lost, diverts carbon from biomethane fugitive emissions, can be pelletized or converted to liquid fuel

    Miscanthus gigantus – and related grasses or wetland plants, useful in bioremediation, animal habitat, erosion control, and can be made into fuel without nearly the scamlike problems of corn or food-based ethanol.

    My personal favorite option: pay the real price of the energy you use, be it in transport, home, industry or commerce, including the cost of carbon emission. No subsidies. No gifts of land or tax holidays to energy (or any) companies. Let those who use up the carbon budget of the carbon cycle pay what the market will bear to those who own the carbon cycle — us.

    That way, the consumer’s individual and unbiased decisions will determine every consumers’ options among the viable alternatives.