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Monday, June 15, 2009

ON TWITTER AND THE COST OF RENEWABLE ELECTRICITY

A few items caught my attention today:
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1. The 15June09 issue of TIME reported that from April 2008 to April 2009, GOOGLE increased visitorship 9% (121 million to 132 million), facebook 217% (22.5 million to 71 million) and twitter 1298% (1 million to 17 million). Clearly, something is happening with twitter, and you can gain a clue by clicking on "How Twitter Will Change The Way We Live."
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2. Matthew Wald (New York Times) reported in Scientific American the relative cost of power:
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Cost of electricity to U.S. residential consumers--11 cents/kWh
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Wind power--------------------------------------6.1-8.4 cents/kWh
--------------------------------(but transmission costs could be high)
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Geothermal power-------------------------------6.2-7.6 cents/kWh
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Solar thermal (trough)--------------------------19.9 -28.1 cents/kWh
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Solar Photovoltaic-------------------------------46.9-70.5 cents/kWh
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The shocker is the high cost of solar electricity. I've tended to recently use for solar thermal 10 cents/kWh from Southern California utility reports and for photovoltaics 20 cents/kWh. I was too low by a factor of two or three.
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Wind power looks good, and the big advantage of geothermal is that it is baseload. SHOULDN'T HAWAII TAKE A MORE PROGRESSIVE VIEW OF THIS OPTION? As at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, instead of treating and dumping the hot effluents in wells, this fluid can serve to initiate new industries, as proven in the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute's Community Geothermal Applications Program more than three decades ago.
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The Solar Thermal Global Pricemark Indices range from 21 cents/kWh (industrial, but 45 cents/kWh for a cloudy climate) to 37 cents/kWh (residential, but 80 cents/kWh for a cloudy climate). Best as I can tell, the solar system is the overall average of all types.
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Clearly, I will need to re-look at my earlier comparative assumptions. He did not mention conventional generation, but most references seem to use something between 4-8 cents/kWh for both coal and nuclear. However, my Huffington Post article of earlier this year reported that new nuclear powerplants (if they ever get built) and coal with carbon dioxide recapture would today cost from 15 cents/kWh to 30 cents/kWh.
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Hawaii, of course, suffers from much higher costs, for we use oil to generate most of our electricity. During the peak of prices last year, Hawaiian Electric charged more than 30 cents/kWh. Last month was exactly half that, 15 cents/kWh. Thus, we pay anywhere from 35% to 300% more than the U.S. average for electricity, and just accept it. People tend to complain about our higher price of gasoline, but the fact of the matter is that we pay just 10% more (U.S.=$2.70/gallon and Hawaii = $3/gallon--see table at right).
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The Dow Jones Industrials sunk 200 points in the first hour, and just sort of stayed there, down 187 to 8612, due to recession fears and geopolitical factors. World markets all dropped, and so did gold (minus $10/toz to $929) and oil (fell below $70/barrel, but recovered to $70.47).
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