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Saturday, September 10, 2016


I have access to a range of sustainable energy/resources publications, and most of them tend to be overly optimistic.  However, you can imagine why.  They are authored by individuals hoping and praying that solar does well.  The fact of the matter is that the price of petroleum for the past two years has been  half of what it was:

Under these conditions, all those inflated prognostications about the future of renewables just could not be met.

Here is one example from Daniel Fleischmann, owner of Mountain Man Alternative Energy Consulting:

Your first thought is, wow, this is terrific and progress has been fabulous.  Well, yes, but mostly no.  In 1999 five states had biomass in their top three sources of electricity generation.  The dominant ones are coal, nuclear, natural gas, petroleum and hydroelectric (which, of course, is a renewable resource, albeit limited).

However, the article states, in 2015, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) reported:
  • half of the U.S. States had a source of electricity generation outside of those five conventional sources.
  • while in 1999 13 states had petroleum in their top three, in 2015 it was only four
  • while in 2005 petroleum liquids and petroleum coke made up 3% of generation, in 2015 it was only 1%
  • however, from 15.4% in 1999, natural gas is now up to 32.8%
  • coal was #1 in 31 states in 1999, but in 2015 only in 20 states
  • nuclear power is generated in 30 states, was #1 in five states in 1999, and was so in 7 states in 2015
  • in 2015 every state generated a measurable amount of electricity from either wind, solar and geothermal
  • in 1999 no state had W/S/G among the top three electricity generation sources
  • in 2015 W/S/G was in the top three sources in 22 states
  • by 2020 this number could be more than half
  • Iowa could be generating half its electricity from wind by 2020
  • Kansas wind is getting closer to catching coal as #1
  • solar placed #2 in 2015 for California
  • Nevada is likely to have solar and geothermal as #2 and #3 in 2016--no other state is close to having two renewable sources in the top three
Yes, absolutely, renewables are becoming mainstream.    However, subtracting hydro, the average electricity coming from the renewables in around 8%.  Hydro adds another 7%, which is declining.  Geothermal, too, seems to be dropping.  The good news is that same EIA not too long ago predicted that renewables would not reach 14% until 2040, and here we are at 15%.

Well, maybe not quite, for a more reliable site, the EIA itself, reported the renewables were in 2015 only at 13%, so there is some ongoing confusion.  This Department of Energy study indicated that of all the electricity produced in the USA:
  • wind       4.7%
  • biomass  1.6%
  • solar       0.6%
  • geo         0.4%
  • hydro     6.0 %
All those residential solar PVs on the roof and giant solar farms in the West?  They add up to 0.6%.  So that grand announcement about solar / wind / geothermal to perhaps being primary sources in half the states by 2020?  Well, okay, but this will most likely be third place, and the percentage of total clean generation will still remain in the 10% range, with fossil and nuclear providing 90%.

Okay, what makes it worse is that all the above only refers to electricity.  More than 60% of energy used in the U.S. does NOT go to electricity production.  With oil at less than $50/barrel, all the biofuels and hydrogen efforts are floundering, with very little real progress on the horizon.  Aviation?  Almost zero, except for those airlines wanting to create positive PR by running sporadic experiments:
However, the Obama Administration is still trying, for fighting off withering Republican criticism:

This article appeared earlier this year, but drop-ins like $424/gallon algae-based fuel actually make little sense today.  Yet, the Navy on one recent contract only will be paying $2.05/gallon to AltAir Fuels.  How does the company do it?  Well, they get some help from the Commodity Credit Corp, which is, of course, Federally-owned.  No recent Air Force purchases.  In any case, the justification is that companies need a transition bridge to commercialization, and that is an important role for government.

Hey, don't get discouraged.  This is still progress.  Any new energy option takes time and is tested by transition.  Once petroleum again shoots past $100/barrel, wonderful things will no doubt happen.  So this setting sun almost surely will become a rising sun tomorrow.

In the West Pacific, Tropical Storm Meranti is predicted to attain Category 4 strength and roll over Taiwan:


1 comment:

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