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The High Cost of Renewables

February 9, 2016

Numerous attempts are made by the media and others to claim that renewables are less costly than electricity generated from fossil fuels.

The prevailing mantra is that costs are “rapidly declining” and that wind and solar are competitive, or will be shortly.

The fact is, wind and solar, of all varieties, are not, and will not be competitive with fossil fuels in the foreseeable future.

Wind farm in New York State. 2013

Typical wind farm

This administration fosters this misinformation.

An example is the Energy Information Administration (EIA) that used to publish levelized cost (LCOE) information that was current, but has now resorted to publishing LECOEs for the future, most recently for 2020.

This misleads the reader into believing something that isn’t true.

These projections increased the LCOE for natural gas combined cycle from the current cost of around 5 cents per kWh, to 7.5 cents in 2020, four years from now.

While claiming that wind will also be 7.4 cents per kWh in 2020, when, today, it’s at least 10 cents per kWh.

This leads the media and casual observer to say wind is competitive with natural gas … which it isn’t.

Even more egregious is that the EIA adds a cost for carbon of 15 dollars per ton of CO2 for coal-fired power plants, which arbitrarily increases the LCOE to 9.5 cents per kWh, when in fact, it’s approximately 6 cents per kWh today.

Here are the EIA’s LCOEs projections for PV solar and Thermal solar, of 12.5 cents and 24 cents per kWh respectively … in 2020.

Obviously, neither type of solar power is or will be competitive with natural gas, or coal.

The media hype is misleading, and the EIA aids and abets the effort to mislead and deceive Americans.

In the real world these deceptions have consequences.

One need only look at the residential cost of electricity where renewables are being forced onto the grid compared with where coal-fired power plants provide most of the electricity.

The clearest examples are California, where the residential rate is 17.4 cents per kWh, and Arkansas, where the residential rate is 10.2 cents per kWh.

A more dramatic example is where wind and solar have become major components of the electricity mix … Germany.

The residential rate for electricity in Germany, depending on the exchange rate, is approximately 40 cents per kWh … or 4 times the rate in Arkansas.

Forcing wind and solar onto the grid will result in increasingly higher costs for electricity, especially as storage, essential for operating the grid when the percentage of renewables reaches 30% or more, is added to the grid.

It’s not greedy utility companies that are increasing the cost of electricity, it’s wind and solar.

 

References:

LCOE information is at http://1.usa.gov/23NqVjm
Residential rates at http://1.usa.gov/1SP8CVU

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See Chapter 9, of Nothing to Fear: The Utility Death Spiral.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.
Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

* * * * * *

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© Power For USA, 2010 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Solar Potential

February 5, 2016

A recent news story by McClatchy Tribune trumpeted an announcement from the Air University at Mawwell Airforce Base about power from space.

A team from the Air University has proposed installing PV solar panels in space to capture the energy from the sun and transmit it to Earth. The team is in line to receive a $10 million grant from the Department of Defense for the team’s proposal, “Carbon-Free Energy for Global Resilience and International Goodwill.

The McClatchy story didn’t explain why this proposal was any different from those made over a decade ago.

While the science fiction aspect of electricity from space dates back to Asimov in the 1940s, the concept has been given serious study by NASA and others.

The 2007 report by DOD’s, National Security Space Office’s Advanced Concepts Office identifies the issues.

Quoting from the DOD report:

“The magnitude of the looming energy and environmental problems is significant enough to warrant consideration of all options, to include revisiting a concept called Space Based Solar Power (SBSP) first invented in the United States almost 40 years ago. The basic idea is very straightforward: place very large solar arrays into continuously and intensely sunlit Earth orbit (1,366 watts/meter squared), collect gigawatts of electrical energy, electromagnetically beam it to Earth, and receive it on the surface for use either as base load power via direct connection to the existing electrical grid, conversion into manufactured synthetic hydrocarbon fuels, or as low‐intensity broadcast power beamed directly to consumers.”

Graphic from National Security Space Office Report

Graphic from National Security Space Office Report

Like all futuristic proposals, including those put forward by devotees of Concentrating solar and PV solar installations on the earth itself, translating the huge amount of energy available from the sun into a practical method for collecting and distributing the energy is glossed over.

The proposal from Air University,”Carbon-Free Energy for Global Resilience and International Goodwill” would appear to be another politically motivated attempt to glamorize solar power rather than address the real issues highlighted in the DOD report. (See http://bit.ly/1TjW7Cn )

The DOD report phrased the question as follows:

“Can the United States and partners enable the development and deployment of a space‐based solar power system within the first half of the 21st Century such that if constructed could provide affordable, clean, safe, reliable, sustainable, and expandable energy for its consumers?”

The military could, of course, use power from space even if it cost several dollars per kWh, because getting energy to remote areas of the world can cost much more in terms of money and lives.

Unfortunately, the report merely proposed additional studies, but a few major obstacles stood out as to why spaced based solar remains impractical at this time.

These obstacles were:

  • The cost of installing the infrastructure in orbit, i. e., the ability to launch and assemble solar panels into structures the size of several football fields
  • The ability to safely transmit the energy to Earth using lasers or microwaves
  • Protecting the solar panels from solar storms
  • Preventing any adversary from destroying the panels which would cut off the supply of electricity from space

The last two are critical if we were to rely completely on obtaining our electricity from space. Space based power actually compounds the threat that already exists if the grid were destroyed by a super solar storm, such as the Carrington Event, or by a nuclear EMP or cyber attack.

The media, such as McClatchy, try to glamorize solar power, rather than doing a professional job of reporting, not only the obvious story, but also reporting on what’s behind the story.

The government has already spent approximately $100 million investigating space based solar power. Shouldn’t it spend some time and effort resolving the obvious four issues identified above, before spending another $10 million of tax payer money on a politically motivated proposal such as the Air University’s “Carbon-Free Energy for Global Resilience and International Goodwill?”

 

* * * * * *

See Chapter 9, of Nothing to Fear: The Utility Death Spiral.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.
Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

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NOTE:

It’s easy to subscribe to articles by Donn Dears.

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© Power For USA, 2010 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Getting Paid for NegaWatts

February 2, 2016

The supreme court recently held that a FERC rule requiring utilities to pay large customers for not using electricity was legal.

While FERC may have acted legally, the concept of paying a customer for not using electricity defies common sense.

From FERC Web Site

From FERC Web Site

The concept of Negawatts, however, has been widely promoted by extreme environmentalists in their efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.

If customers use less electricity there will be less need to generate electricity, which, with the exception of nuclear and renewables, such as wind and solar, would require the use of fewer fossil fuels, ergo, fewer CO2 emissions.

Historically, over the past 80 years or so, utilities have reached agreements with large users to cut back their use of electricity during peak periods so as to temporarily reduce the load.

Large users usually obtained a preferential rate for agreeing to shed load when asked to do so. This preferential rate was justified economically by recognizing that customers might require some investment to allow the segregation of circuits and that the customer could be inconvenienced by shutting down selected circuits when instructed by the utility to do so, and that it would reduce, temporarily, the need for the utility to invest in peaking turbines.

Now, with the FERC ruling, utilities are required to pay large users for providing Demand Response, which is a fancy term for what utilities have already been doing with load shedding programs. Presumably aggregators who bundle large numbers of smaller users into a package, can also receive payments for not using electricity.

The bizarre concept could be utilized in other applications.

The most obvious is traffic control in metropolitan areas.

For example:

If major routes into a city are congested, the Department of Transportation could pay people to not to drive into the city. Instead of paying a toll to enter the city, the driver would take a bus, get a credit and not be required to pay the toll next time he drove into the city. The mechanics for such a system would be straight forward and easy to implement.

This demonstrates why the concept of forcing utilities to pay for Negawatts, the term used to reflect that watts weren’t used, defies logic.

It may now be legal, but is absurd on its face.

Customers who participate in NegaWatt DR programs are now benefiting twice. First, for not paying for the electricity they don’t use, and, second, for being paid for the same electricity they didn’t use.

Utilities are essentially now paying for buying nothing.

The entire concept of Negawatts and paying for Demand Response, demonstrates how far the system is being manipulated in order to cut CO2 emissions.

It will also increase the cost of electricity for ordinary Americans

* * * * * *

Nothing to Fear explores how the system is being manipulated with Renewable Portfolio Standards and Net Metering, which places utilities at risk while increasing the cost of electricity for ordinary Americans as well as industry.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.
Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

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© Power For USA, 2010 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

False Promise of Biofuels

January 29, 2016

Millions, probably billions of dollars have been wasted by investing in biofuel companies in an effort to replace oil.

Fortune magazine recently highlighted the failure of a biofuel company, but there have been many more.

The company Fortune reported on was KIOR, which received a start-up investment from Vinod Khosla. This was not the first investment in biofuels by Khosla where the company went bankrupt.

Range Fuels went bankrupt after Khosla’s initial investment and $86 million in grants from the Department of Energy and the state of Georgia, plus an $80 million loan guarantee from the US government. Overall, Fortune reported that Khosla has invested in a dozen biofuel and biochemical companies.

But KIOR and Range Fuels are merely the tip of the iceberg.

A few more biofuel companies that have gone bankrupt include:

  • Western Biomass Energy LLC
  • Seneca Bioenergy LLC
  • Purified Renewable Energy

Others, such as Algenol, are probably in financial trouble. Algenol recently cut its workforce.

The fundamental problem with KIOR was that it couldn’t achieve the required output or yield to make the company profitable. It claimed it could achieve a yield of 67 gallons of gasoline from a ton of dry biomass, yet apparently never achieved that yield.

These failures highlight the first reason why biofuels are a false promise, while the second reason is equally important:

  1. It’s extremely difficult to achieve the yield necessary to be profitable.
  2. Even if the required yield can be achieved, there is not enough feedstock to permit the production of enough biofuel to replace a significant amount of oil.

For example, a company highlighted in Nothing to Fear claims to achieve a yield of 91 gallons per ton of wood from pine trees. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough pine trees throughout the United States to replace the jet fuel used by the world’s airlines. And jet fuel represents only 6% of the oil used by the world.

There probably are a large number of biofuel companies that were initially started to develop biofuels to replace oil, but who have now found themselves in financial trouble.

These companies seem to have shifted their focus from producing biofuels to producing an alternative product, in some cases foodstuffs. Algenol, for example, is shifting to a “water treatment and carbon capture now, and maybe fuels later” strategy after replacing its CEO.

Each of the following companies seem to be shifting to foodstuffs:

  • Sapphire Energy
  • Solazyme
  • Heliae
  • Cellana

Interestingly, Celliana still apparently received funding from the Department of Energy (DOE) after making the switch to foodstuffs.

All the money being invested by the government comes from taxpayers, who could have used the money for items they deemed more important, or to increase their retirement savings.

These companies attempted to use feedstocks other than corn. Corn is a food, and it is a moral outrage to use food to produce ethanol to replace gasoline.

Biofuels are not a viable alternative to gasoline, diesel or jet fuel.

* * * * * *

From Chapter 10 of Nothing to Fear:

“The possibility of producing biofuels economically and in required quantities seems remote … if not absurd.”

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy

 

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

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NOTE:

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© Power For USA, 2010 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Contents of Nothing to Fear

January 26, 2016

When announcing the availability of Nothing to Fear, the endorsement of an internationally recognized energy expert explained why Nothing to Fear was an important book, but the announcement did not itemize the book’s content.

The table of contents makes it easy to see the topics covered in Nothing to Fear.

Table of Contents
Chapter Page
Foreword 1
Part One, The Establishment Takes Aim
1 Rio 11
2 The IPCC 19
3 Creeping Agreement by the U.S. 25
4 Why the CO2 Hypothesis is Wrong 29
5 Current Status of CO2 Emissions 37
Part Two, Renewables
6 Wind Energy 45
7 Utility Scale CSP & PV Solar Energy 51
8 PV Rooftop Solar Energy 57
9 The Utility Death Spiral 67
10 Inadequacy of Biofuels 79
11 Role of Taxpayer Funded Subsidies 87
Part Three, Reality
12 Carbon Capture & Sequestration 97
13 Waxman Markey 105
14 Impossible Objective 113
15 An Alternative Hypothesis 121
Part Four, The Miracle of Fossil Fuels
16 Tragic War on Fossil Fuels 133
17 Advantages of Fossil Fuels 143
18 Remarkable Availability of Life-Saving Fossil Fuels 149
Conclusion 155
Appendix 1: PV Rooftop Investment Return 157
Appendix 2: Ultra-supercritical Coal-fired plants 163
Appendix 3: Decline of U.S. Nuclear Power 165

Given the controversies now erupting in Vermont and Nevada over the rise in residential rates and the impact of PV rooftop on other customers, chapter 9 should be of interest.

And, here is some initial, interesting feedback:

  • The origin of COP 21, and that the United States had already ratified the UNFCCC treaty came as a surprise.
  • The availability of factual information for use in the classroom was welcomed by a teacher who read Nothing to Fear.
  • The high cost of rooftop PV solar was a surprise.
  • The threat to utilities was made clear.

The book has only been available for three weeks, so this feedback is preliminary.

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

The opening paragraph of Nothing to Fear sets the tone:

“Nothing to Fear explains why mankind has the ability to withstand nearly everything mother nature may throw at it, so long as mankind doesn’t institute policies that cripple its ability to respond to potential threats.”

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy

 

* * * * * *

NOTE:

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© Power For USA, 2010 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Green Fleet Nonsense

January 22, 2016

The Carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) departed Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton, Washington for a seven-month Western Pacific deployment on Friday, which will involve the Stennis Carrier Strike Group (CSG) as the center of the Great Green Fleet.

This will be “a year-long initiative highlighting the Navy’s efforts to transform its energy use to increase operational capability,” read a statement from the service.

USS Stennis CVN 74, photo by US Navy

USS Stennis CVN 74, photo by US Navy

During Great Green Fleet exercises the ship’s escort vessels will use biofuels made from beef fat and petroleum.

Similar to prior such exercises, the biofuels will come at a high cost, that will divert funds from more important uses by the Navy.

In this age of tight military budgets, using money for a useless demonstration project is tantamount to incompetency by the Secretary of Navy, Ray Mabus.

As described by the US Navy website, “this is one of the Secretary of the Navy’s key energy goals.” The website says the purpose of the Great Green Fleet exercises is “to make sailors and marines better war fighters.”

Replacing one fuel with another is somehow going to make sailors and marines better war fighters?

If anything, it will compound the Navy’s problem of supplying ships with its needed fuels.

Task forces operating in distant foreign waters must rely on the availability of fuels locally, or from replenishment ships utilizing underway replenishment. While this is an old photo, underway replenishment procedures have changed little. Counterbalanced rigging has improved the ability to maintain course and speed with fewer instances of rigging sagging into the sea, but it is still an operation requiring great skill.

US Navy Oiler during underway replenishment. Photo by D. Dears

US Navy Oiler during underway replenishment. Photo by D. Dears

The fact is, there are no sources of biofuels in foreign areas, and there are few sources now, or in the future, of biofuels in US homeports. And, as has been repeatedly demonstrated, the availability of biofuels from any feedstock, whether it be algae, trees, garbage or grease, will be limited in supply and expensive. Nothing to Fear describes this in detail.

Here is what RAND, an independent research organization, concluded about whether DOD should spend money on alternative fuels.

The RAND report opens with the following statement:

“Over the past few years, the U.S. Department of Defense has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the development, testing, and certification of alternative fuels that can substitute for petroleum-derived fuels used by the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, and Air Force in their tactical weapon systems.”
(Emphasis added.)

The Rand report went on to say, “Within the United States, the prospects for commercial production of alternative fuels that have military applications remain highly uncertain, especially over the next decade.”

Obviously, the prospects for alternative fuel availability overseas is virtually nil.

Here is RAND’s conclusion found on page 83:

“Findings on Military Use of Alternative Fuels”

“There is no direct benefit to the Department of Defense or the services from using alternative fuels rather than petroleum-derived fuels.”

Diverting the attention of the military from being prepared to defend the United States from any foreign enemy, by having it spend time and money attempting to cut CO2 emissions, is a terrible policy, and could be tragic if the military is unable to win any war in which the United States becomes engaged.

* * * * * *

From Chapter 10, of Nothing to Fear: “The possibility of producing biofuels economically and in required quantities seems remote … if not absurd.”

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.
Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

* * * * * *

NOTE:

It’s easy to subscribe to articles by Donn Dears.

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© Power For USA, 2010 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Google Confirms PV Rooftop Solar Uneconomic

January 19, 2016

Google has recently unveiled a project to help homeowners determine whether they should invest in PV rooftop solar to save money. Inadvertently, Project Sunroof is demonstrating that PV rooftop solar is uneconomic.

Project Sunroof is being rolled out across the United States, but is currently only available in a few cities.

The Project Sunroof website uses a few specific examples to demonstrate the viability of PV rooftop solar at those locations.

The book Nothing to Fear provides similar information by state, using a program supplied by an installer. Google’s evaluation’s are probably more accurate because the satellite images of rooftops used by Google can discern shading by trees or other obstacles.

From Google Project Sunroof web site

From Google Project Sunroof web site

Using the data from the Project Sunroof web site, paybacks, without subsidies, are 13, 17, 12 and 27 years respectively, to recover the initial investment in Redwood CA, Somerville MA, San Jose CA, and Cary North Carolina.

The payback periods calculated by Project Sunroof are longer than those shown in Nothing to Fear.

The installer program used in Nothing to Fear estimates 8-year and 12-year paybacks for Los Angeles CA, and Massachusetts, and 16 year payback for North Carolina, but these estimates don’t include the cost of labor to install the PV rooftop system.

An acceptable financial payback is usually less than 3 years. Any investment that requires more than 3 years is probably not a good investment. Payback periods of 6 years or more are bad investments.

In all 50 states, only PV rooftop installations in Hawaii could be acceptable investments with payback periods of 3 years, as calculated using the installer’s program in Nothing to Fear.

Google’s Project Sunroof is now the third method for calculating payback periods to demonstrate that PV rooftop solar installations are uneconomic.

The first method uses 0.75 kWh per square yard of solar panel, as used by the University of California, San Diego, and as shown in Nothing to Fear: The second, an installer’s program, also shown in Nothing to Fear: And third, Google’s Project Sunroof.

PV rooftop solar is a bad investment, and a bad use of taxpayer money.

Google’s Project Sunroof is now helping to confirm this.

Money wasted on a bad investment isn’t available for a good investment.

* * * * * *

Nothing to Fear explains why CO2 isn’t to be feared, that politicians are harming Americans by pushing the CO2 agenda, that mankind has benefited from using fossil fuels and can continue to do so, perhaps for 1,000 years.

The appendix itemizes payback periods for PV rooftop solar by state.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon: http://amzn.to/1miBhXy

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

* * * * * *

NOTE:

It’s easy to subscribe to articles by Donn Dears.

Go to the photo on the right side of the article where it says email subscription. Click and enter your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

If you know people who would be interested in these articles please send them a link to the article and suggest they also subscribe.

© Power For USA, 2010 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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