Friday, April 17, 2009

TANSTAAFL: Renewable Energy Edition

WASHINGTON POST -- "Renewable Energy's Environmental Paradox: Wind and Solar Projects May Carry Costs for Wildlife":

As the push for renewable-energy development intensifies across the United States, scientists and activists have begun to voice concern that policymakers have underestimated the environmental impact of projects that are otherwise "green."

"Everybody in New Mexico loves the sandhill cranes," said Ned Farquhar, a former aide to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D). "We also love our renewable energy. So we have to figure this out."

"There is no free lunch when it comes to meeting our energy needs," said Johanna Wald, a senior lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council.


At 4/17/2009 11:49 AM, Blogger Marko said...

Nuclear. Power.

Closest thing to a free lunch. If we went on a crash building spree, especially of small, pre-approved liquid metal cooled plants, we could do this pretty quickly. Better than Obummer's plan to go on a crash building spree of trains. Sheesh, it is like they aren't really serious about this stuff!

At 4/17/2009 5:06 PM, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...


I could with you about the renewable energy, but that's for another time. I wanna let you know I posted a late comment on a recent post, "Cheap Oil Forever: Why Prices Will Keep Falling." There's a lot of good information that covers numerous energy platforms - oil, gas and renewables - and hopefully, you and others will find it useful.

At 4/17/2009 5:31 PM, Blogger Dave Narby said...

Unless it's economically viable, it ain't worth doin'.

And to Mark "TANSTAAFL" - Heinlein is smiling, wherever he is. :D

At 4/17/2009 5:55 PM, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...


Solar is expected to be cost-competitive with natural gas by the middle of next decade. This is a natural, technological progression of things to come; we will continue to use oil, gas and coal for many years to come, but renewables will make them obsolete, just like oil and gas made coal obsolete in many industrial applications. The market will dictate this. But yes, fire up the nuke plants.

BTW - Mark, I meant to include "argue” in the first sentence of my first post. Errr... air ports.

At 4/17/2009 6:56 PM, Blogger QT said...

"Do people think it's better all those birds are breathing CO2? I'm not a scientist, but I doubt it," said Engel, whose company is expanding its U.S. manufacturing and distribution operations. "Let's get the facts on the table and not the feelings. The fact is, these are not issues."

You have to love someone who doesn't know the difference between carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide...and this man wants to talk about the facts! LOL :)

Blogging Brewskie,

Take a good look at the reports by Clean Edge. This company is promoting clean energy. My favorite is "Carbon Free Prosperity by 2025".

There are several problems with wind and solar:
1. Solar and wind are intermittant so that they cannot provide reliable base load power.
2. Transmission distances are substantial and electricity is lost over transmission lines.
3. Wind and solar require vast amounts of land implying substantial land capital cost.
4. Electricity cannot be economically stored at present. Batteries to do this are massive and massively expensive.
5. Wind/solar are the most expensive methods of generating electricity at present. They have a long way to go to even be competitive. Solar & wind power have been around for why haven't they become economically viable? Answer, because they require tremendous capital investment and are highly inefficient ways of generating electricity.

In order for solar & wind to become price competitive, there would need to be major technological breakthroughs in generating technology, transmission technology and battery technology and the price of these new technologies would have to come down dramatically.

To imagine that all of these changes could be accomplished in 10 years is optimistic in the extreme.

At 4/17/2009 7:04 PM, Blogger QT said...

The following is from an editorial that appeared in the Wall Strett Journal on May 12, 2008:

"An even better way to tell the story is by how much taxpayer money is dispensed per unit of energy, so the costs are standardized. For electricity generations, the EIA (U.S. Energy Information Administration) concludes that solar energy is subsidized to the tune of $24.34 per megawatt hour, wind $23.37 and "clean coal" $29.81. By contrast, normal coal receives 44 cents, natural gas a mere quarter, hydroelectric about 67 cents and nuclear power $1.59."

A free-for-all perhaps, but definitely no sign of a free lunch.

At 4/17/2009 11:26 PM, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...


If you refer to the comment I left in "Cheap Oil Forever: Why Prices Will Keep Falling," you'll see I'm not exactly a tree hugger.

In terms of solar and renewables... the natural progression of technology will dictate what superior technology will overcome lesser ones in existence: the market will dictate this. Fossil fuels will remain in our usage for decades to come, no one as a realist should dispute this; however, as a realist, one needs to come to the realization that solar, battery, algae biofuels and others will come to onto their own through years to come.

I'll write more on solar tomorrow with some bits... a little inebriated right now (lol).

At 4/18/2009 12:32 PM, Blogger QT said...

"the natural progression of technology will dictate what superior technology will overcome lesser ones in existence: the market will dictate this."

I absolutely agree with you. Unfortunately, massive government subsidies hinder the market mechanisms that would do just this.

The same approach was taken by the Carter administration in the 1970s. The result was that subsidies not only distorted incentives but also caused a proliferation of projects with the result that the great ideas were lost amongst thousands of ill-conceived ideas like needles in a haystack.

Subsidies generally do not work as well as markets to develop new technologies. There are some exceptions for example, in fields that require huge capital investment like space exploration.

The reason that we use oil and natural gas is that they are highly efficient fuels.

At 4/18/2009 1:42 PM, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...


In terms of subsidies... this depends. No single entity has more gift of incompetence than central governments - take my country under consideration during George W. Bush's year:) - action by central government, when correctly utilized, can yield great benefit. Take Brazil for instance... after the Iran oil embargo of the late 1970's, Brazil desperately pushed itself to wean itself off of oil imports. This took massive subsides and many failed experiments - plus Brazil, like much South America, seemed to embark on the continent’s economic/currency crisis of the month through the past several decades, largely thanks to central government folly - but the hard work paid off: today, Brazil imports no oil, is a rising economic and oil player, and is self-reliant on sugar-cane based ethanol - a superior form of biofuels over America's worthless corn-based creation, and its cheap and comes with little or no tax subsides.

This isn't to say one should lean on government to solve problems: government is often the source of problems, whether it starvation, wars, drugs, economic development and so. I'm just saying that government, when it has its head on straight, can yield good results, too. Something to consider is central government was what built the Interstate Highway System here in the U.S.; it’s also the same entity that failed in Vietnam, needlessly invaded Iraq, and fights an unsinkable drug war that sees many victims incarcerated because of its effects.

At 4/18/2009 1:49 PM, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...

I'll add that I'm not a tree hugger: I'm not trying to dissuade anybody from using fossil fuels. These will be necessary for decades to come, but eventually, better technology will make all of these obsolete.

At 4/18/2009 3:46 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"action by central government, when correctly utilized, can yield great benefit"...

On which planet in which solar system bloggin brewskie?

Severin Borenstein of the UC Berkeley Energy Institute said his study shows photovoltaic solar panels are just too inefficient to save money over their 30 year history. He said the billions of dollars spent subsidizing solar panel installation are better spent on research and development, along with other energy conservation measures...


Solar-Powered Welfare

At 4/18/2009 6:14 PM, Blogger QT said...

Blogging Brewskie,

WRT Brazil's oil independence, a 55% ownership stake in one of the world's leading oil companies, Petrobras be helpful? Petrobras operates in 18 countries and is the 3rd largest company in the Americas (ahead of Microsoft and Wallmart).

With regard to consumption in Brazil, Sugarcane ethanol represented 16.7% of the country's total energy consumption by the automotive sector in 2007.

Agree with you that oil at that rate oil will be around for a long time even in Brazil where it is blended with gasoline. It's like hybrid technology. You still need gas.

At 4/19/2009 11:56 PM, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...


Before I dive into some links on solar and battery development, this comment will be used to dissolve any tree hugger impressions.

Petrobras is a rising star. They're puling some amazing stunt work with drilling their deep-water finds: they'll be drilling depths of 2000-3000 meters under water, 2000 under meters of rock, and some 2000 meters below salt. The pipes will need to withstand a huge variance in temps. - 4 degrees Celsius up to 100. Brazil's doing amazing things.

My blog reports on developments of all sources of energy, and includes a number of major oil and gas finds plus developments. Stories include: Petrobras’ monster finds (here, here and here - that’s just for this year); Saudi Arabia bringing on stream three major oil plays (here, here and here); Petrobras eyeing Angola, which has sub-salt formations very similar to Brazil’s; Israel's monster gas find;a recent Iranian oil bonanza; the prospects of East Siberia; a Iranian oil bonanza; a Jack II Sequel; America’s biggest gas play; and developments to make the process of Canadian tar sand easier, cheaper (here and here).

In regards to the current gas glut... I gave a heads up on my blog about it way before it occurred, way before the mainstream press caught wind of it - I was the one who tipped-off Mark Perry about it.

I fully support the development of all sources of oil, gas and coal, including: offshore, unconventionals (shale gas, tar sands, heavy crude, shale oil), ANWR, etc. I have no problem with their development, there's no problem with their usage; and I will admit, I botched on Brazil's sugar-cane ethanol.

Moving on... the links on solar and battery developments will be listed tomorrow. By all means, let's drink all the oil we can:)

The world is destined to use more energy, not less of it.

At 4/20/2009 2:35 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Solar is expected to be cost-competitive with natural gas by the middle of next decade. This is a natural, technological progression of things to come

What this is is a load of hooey.

Solar power, excepting perhaps for Ocean Thermal (and, unlikely but at least possible -- Solar Power Satellites), will NEVER EVER BECOME PROFITABLY WORTHWHILE ON A LARGE SCALE.

Period. No ifs, no ands, no buts.

To replace the US power grid with either photovoltaics or solar thermal would require covering a land surface not less than four fifths that of the State of Delaware with either mirrors or little blue cells.

And that is BEFORE cloud cover and assuming we have at least 50% conversion efficiency -- something not currently attainable on a large scale.

But no, go ahead, give yourself PERFECT solar cells -- 100% efficiency...

Then you only have to cover *TWO* fifths of the entire state... Oooohhhh, yeaaaah, bayyybeee! Give me some o' that!


Solar power is not just "before it's time" -- it's downright BRAIN DAMAGED.

I mean -- come on -- Delaware!!!.

Solar power is properly a niche system at best, and usually not even cost-effective there -- and that is proven by forty years of federal subsidies.

Anyone telling you otherwise is either a fool or a charlatan, and maybe both.


At 4/20/2009 2:38 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> You have to love someone who doesn't know the difference between carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide...and this man wants to talk about the facts! LOL :)

QT, this just puts him in line with noted "nuclear power expert" Amory Lovins, who once said "The only physics I ever took was Ex-Lax".

Such jackasses are usually smug condescending twerps who think they can feeeeeel their way through complex technical problems, and are among humanity's best justifications for post-natal abortion.

At 4/20/2009 2:40 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> it's cheap and comes with little or no tax subsides.

Well, other than all that new land torn out of the heart of the Amazon rainforest and made readily available for development.

...Other than that....

At 4/20/2009 2:45 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> better technology will make all of these obsolete.

Yeah, and they call that technology "Nukes".

Marko, what we need is a standardized set of Safety-inherent designs for plants which allow most plants to use interchangeable parts.

You should be able to narrow most site demands down to a half-dozen or so variations on the same design. Do that (and license the tech) and even if AGW does turn out to have any validity, the problem will be a thing of the past.

At 4/20/2009 2:04 PM, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...


You blind-side me here, but you pitch-in against VangeIV. Ehhh... you're not half-bad:)

At 4/20/2009 2:42 PM, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...


Who needs to put solar panels in Delaware(?) - we've got the American Southwest. Look how vastly populated Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and West Texas are. Consider Arizona; consider how many puny New England states would fit in that alone.

And best of all, there's plenty of sunshine in the Southwest. While solar isn't viable in New England or Canada, it's a great option in sparsely populated lands - with an abundance of sunshine - like the Southwest, the Sahara or the deserts in the Middle East.

Solar isn’t viable now, but costs are coming down and it’s technologically improving by leaps and bounds. Check out this development from last year, or this one; I have more to come. If we can collect 1% of 1% of sunlight that hits the earth (1 part of 10,000), we can power our energy needs on solar alone - not that we have to do that.

In my last post to QT, I made it quite clear I'm not a tree hugging environmentalist, and support the expanded production of all fossil fuels from all sources - offshore drilling, shale gas, shale oil, tar sands, heavy crude, ANWR, so on. An expanded nuclear profile is also supported. But in regards to land usage for solar... let's not forget how big the Hanynesville Shale is alone, or America's other shale gas prospects (look at the Marcellus!) Now, one doesn't need to dot the entire landscape with drilling rigs, pipes and storage tanks, but much drilling occurs in/or near communities.

Again... the expansion of all energy sources is supported.

At 4/20/2009 11:51 PM, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...

Okay, here's some bits...


The nanocapicitor, ultracapicitor and uber battery rolled into one.

Spin battery: the electromagnetic battery.

The lithium-ion battery that recharges in seconds, not hours.

More fast-charging batteries.

Electric motor update:

100W DC motor achieves near 100% efficiency.


Near-perfect solar absorption from all angles.

Solar will become cost-competitive with coal sooner than you think.

A new dye perfected by MIT.

Also, please refer to a previous post for several other links.

"But doesn't electricity loose oommph after traveling great distances? This makes transferring solar power from the Southwest to the Midwest unviable."

Today's antiquated grid system is no match for transferring solar power from the Southwest to the Midwest. HVDC Is one such answer, among others.

That's it for now. I can come up with more.


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