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Friday, June 27, 2014

IGNORE THE DETRACTORS: THE SUN AND OUR WINDS ARE ALREADY MAKING A BIG ENERGY DIFFERENCE!

Renewable Energy World this week feature an article with the title:


Coming online were:
  • two wind farms providing 203 MW
  • five solar farms with 156 MW and
  • one new biomass facility of 5 MW
The only fossil/nuclear additions were two natural gas power plants with 49 MW.

For the year, renewables accounted for 54% with 3,136 MW (about three nuclear stations) of new domestic electrical generating input, but natural gas added 1,437 MW.  Since 2012, renewable energy sources have accounted for 48% of new electricity, natural gas at 38% and coal at 13%.


On the other hand, a Dr. A. Cannara commented:

Remarkable dancing with figures! Renewables: "accounted for 54.1 percent of the 3,136 MW of new domestic electrical generating..." Only 3.136GW? That's less than 1.5 typical nuclear plants. And the 54% renewables was "nameplate" or average capacity? If the latter, real number, then less than 20% was "renewable". 

The points are that the renewable contribution is still very small, and that the sun only effectively (clouds, night, etc.) shines, perhaps, eight hours/day, and our winds sometimes stop.  Of course, Alex Cannara (left) is a nuclear proponent.

The June 16 issue of TIME magazine, however, was effusive about the growing potential of the renewables, titled:


To summarize:
  • Over the past five years, wind capacity has tripled, while solar increased 16-fold.
  • 165 coal-fired power plants have recently been (or soon will be) retired.
  • In 2009, the Energy Information Administration predicted that the U.S. wind capacity would reach 40 GW--wind power has already passed 60 MW (equivalent of 60 nuclear power plants--but remember that the actual electricity produced is two-thirds less).
  • This increase in wind power is the equivalent of taking 20 million cars off the road.
  • Since 2009, the price of photovoltaic panels has dropped more than 80%!
  • Or, even more impressive:
    • when I first began writing with Waqidi Falicoff and George Koide Solar/Wind Handbook for Hawaii (which can still be had for $20 from Amazon.com) in the mid-1970's, the price of solar PV was $75/watt
    • today, it is a hundred times cheaper:  75 cents/watt.
  • Utility companies are corporate dinosaurs (cartoon courtesy of NC Warn), for they are mostly clinging to what they now own, and are fighting decentralization of renewable sources, which will be inevitable, for distributed power is cheaper and better.
  • Solar energy and wind power suffer from a lack of cost-effective energy storage, but fracked natural is changing the equation, and could well serve as the transition to a greener future.
  • LED (light-emitting diode) lighting (right) is finally getting cheap enough to compete with fluorescent and incandescent, for it is five times more efficient than incandescent bulbs, and lasts 25 times longer--the economic comparison with fluorescent today is debatable, but the trend is obvious--the LED market will zoom from $2 billion today to $25 billion in 2023, with lighting today using 15% of all the electricity generated.
  • The end of coal is around the corner, for the seriousness of global warning will tax this option into obsolescence.  Aside from Hawaii, the other 49 states use almost no petroleum for electric power generation because this fuel is already much too expensive and supply metastable.  Hawaii's electricity comes almost all from oil and our rate is 309% higher than the national average.  (Click on that chart to actually read it.)
  • Already, Saudi Arabia has launched a $100 billion solar initiative and China has announced plans for 250 GW (that's the equivalent of 250 nuclear reactors) of wind and solar BY 2020.  Air pollution in China cities can be 40 times higher than acceptable safety standards.
  • When someday externalities (adding the cost of pollution, security, etc.) must be included into energy pricing, the GREEN REVOLUTION for energy will prevail.  When?  Who knows?  The fossil lobbying effort remains powerful, but even some Republicans are getting concerned.  Just this week a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel of American leaders suggested that we've reached the tipping point.  Republican chiefs George Schultz and Henry Paulson were among the members:


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