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Can Wind and Solar be Useful?

March 24, 2015

There are certain areas around the world where wind and solar can be economically useful.

While so-called clean energy is a ruse in the United States and Europe to cut CO2 emissions, there are places where wind and solar can make a real contribution.

Primarily they fall into three categories.

  • Islands lacking oil, natural gas or coal
  • Isolated locations, remote from the grid
  • Countries where natural resources can be better used for generating income

Many islands around the world have had to rely on diesel generators for power generation.

This has generally required the importation of expensive diesel fuel.

Some larger islands, such as Malta and Aruba, have used steam-driven power plants, but this has required the importation of expensive oil. In a few instances, natural gas has been imported for use with gas turbines.

Valletta, Malta, Photo by D. Dears

Valletta, Malta, Photo by D. Dears

Consumers on these islands have paid 50 cents or more per kWh for electricity, or five times what the average American pays. On Pacific Islands, the cost has been as high as $1.00 per kWh.

This affords wind and solar an opportunity to lower the cost of electricity on islands, large and small, which can benefit all who live there.

Even if wind and solar generated electricity cost 11 cents per kWh, or 30 cents per kWh respectively, they can lower the cost of electricity on these islands.

Hawaii may be able to make good use of both wind and solar, which is far different from the remaining states where the motivation isn’t economic, but rather to cut CO2 emissions.

Included in the second category are situations where solar can provide power for remotely located instrumentation, data collection, signs, etc.

In the third instance there are countries where installing concentrating solar power plants can be economically viable.

Saudi Arabia, together with some Gulf countries, is considering the installation of concentrating solar power plants (CSP). They are projecting that CSP will reduce their use of oil for generating electricity, thereby freeing the oil for export at a large profit.

These countries are considering, and in fact, have started building nuclear power plants for similar reasons.

Some countries with mining operations, such as Chili, are considering the use of CSP to augment power generation which is often done locally due to the mines being located far from the grid.

Common sense, good judgment and sound economics should be the basis for deciding when and where, wind and solar should be used.

Even on islands where solar and wind may make some sense, they can only augment, not replace, fossil fuels.

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Dramatic and Misleading Fear Tactics

March 20, 2015

Here is a statement from a highly recognized and leading environmental author:

“We are depleting the world’s supply of oxygen by burning vast quantities of fossil fuels.”

Here is another statement, made in 1971:

“The only genuine solution to the food problem is population control.”

And finally:

“We must rapidly bring the world population under control, reducing the growth rate to zero and eventually making it go negative.”

At the core of his writing is his statement:

“The world is running out of vital resources, and the American economic system must adjust to this reality.”

Why is it extremists always claim the world is running out of resources and that the free market economy must be changed?

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, the international body seeking to establish a treaty on climate change similar to the failed Kyoto treaty, said:

“This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model, for the first time in human history. This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for the, at least, 150 years, since the industrial revolution.” Emphasis added.

Which of course, means abolishing the free market, capitalist system.

This Malthusian thinking must somehow be inculcated into the minds of extremists, or perhaps it merely represents an approach to propaganda designed to scare people so they will support the extremists’ agenda.

A currently fashionable scare story claims sea levels will rise 20 feet, flooding much of Florida and leaving New York City underwater.

The premise for this scare story is that Greenland’s glaciers or the Western Antarctic ice sheet will melt, but neither of these melted when temperatures were as high as, or higher than today, during the Medieval Warm period 1,000 years ago, or the Roman Warm period 1,000 years earlier.

Why would they melt today, when they didn’t melt during these two warm periods?

The proponents of this scare story don’t answer the question because it doesn’t fit their agenda.

The National Geographic magazine also touted this scare story in a lengthy article using hurricane Sandy to enhance the scariness of the supposed threat.

It didn’t matter that the National Geographic article omitted mentioning that New York City would have incurred similar damage in 1938 if that hurricane had hit 60 miles farther west from where it made landfall on Long Island.

Sensational Cover Showing Statue Of Liberty Being Submerged by the Sea

Sensational Cover Showing Statue Of Liberty Being Submerged by the Sea

There is no question sea levels have risen about 8 inches every hundred years, but to claim they will rise 6 feet, as did the National Geographic, or 20 feet, as did Al Gore, is pure speculation designed to scare people.

In 2007 the IPCC predicted the Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035, eliminating drinking water for millions of people in Asia.

But, like so many scare stories, this one was shown to be false, and the IPCC admitted to publishing inaccurate information.

Can anyone say with absolute certainty that the Population Bomb won’t explode, or that an eruption on the sun, with the resulting electromagnetic storm, won’t destroy the grid?

Of course not.

Which is why scare stories have such appeal.

Scare stories make headlines. Factual information is dull.

Would this make the news?

“Over 300 million people enjoy having low-cost electricity at their fingertips.”

The best way to combat scare stories is with knowledge.

The Himalayan scare story was snuffed-out with knowledge.

The movie, An Inconvenient Truth, claimed the snows on top of Mount Kilimanjaro were disappearing due to global warming.

Knowledge disabused the claim by establishing that temperatures didn’t get above 32 degrees F, and that the loss of snow was due to sublimation.

Extreme claims, especially by those predicting disaster, need to be tested, using knowledge and common sense.

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The Quest for Storing Electricity

March 17, 2015

It’s generally accepted that wind and solar require storage if they are to be utilized on the grid without the very expensive cost of back-up power, such as from gas turbines.

California has issued a mandate requiring the addition of 1.3 GW of energy storage to the grid by 2020. In October 2013, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) mandated that 200 MW of this goal come in the form of energy storage installed in individual buildings and homes.

California is not alone in recognizing the necessity for storage to support renewables, such as wind and solar.

California can force the adoption of storage no matter what the cost, but is this good for consumers? Does it establish a bad precedent for the country? And is it realistic?

The latest information suggests that only batteries have the possibility of creating large amounts of storage in the near future. Of all the storage installed during 2014, 70% used Lithium-ion batteries, according to GTM Research.

Other alternatives, except for pumped storage, are more pie-in-the sky ideas, or have limited applications.

Even pumped storage is unrealistic unless a reservoir is already in place.

Pumped storage requires building a dam, and there are only a limited number of locations for new reservoirs. Dams are expensive, and are usually objected to by radical environmentalists.

Some of the remaining alternatives include:

  • Hydrogen, produced from electricity when it isn’t needed on the grid, which can be used to power a gas turbine to generate electricity.
  • Compressed Air (CAES), where air is compressed using electricity when it isn’t needed by the grid.
  • Ice, where electricity is used to run a refrigerator to produce ice, which, when it melts, can return the energy to run a generator.
  • Other heat storage, such as salt beds, to store heat for use later, to run a turbine to generate electricity. Salt beds and concrete have been used for concentrating solar projects.
  • Flywheels where electricity is stored as kinetic energy in a spinning rotor, primarily for frequency correction, a special type of requirement.
Huntorf, Germany, CAES plant. Photo from DOE.

Huntorf, Germany, CAES plant. Photo from DOE.

While PV rooftop solar is being extolled by activists, most homeowners don’t want to spend the money for batteries that would allow them to disconnect from the grid.

Homeowners with PV rooftop solar want to sponge off the grid to save money, and to provide backup for when the sun doesn’t shine.

According to GTM research, 90% of all storage in 2014, was installed by utilities.

GTM also predicts that storage, based on size, will more than triple in 2015, compared with 2014.

This large increase is primarily due to California’s mandate requiring the installation of storage.

Little thought is being given to the environmental impact of manufacturing and disposing of batteries, which are the only realistic method for providing storage.

From available data, the installed cost of storage is $2,100 per KW.

This is twice the cost of building a new natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plant.

The NGCC power plant is also superior to batteries because it can provide electricity for long periods of time, not for just a few hours.

It also doesn’t have to be replaced after a few years, as do batteries. With batteries, the $2,100 / KW cost must be incurred every time they are replaced.

Storage to support wind and solar is fundamentally unrealistic and expensive, and bad for consumers.

Essentially, the only reason for incurring the cost of storage is to help cut CO2 emissions.

 

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People Jumping to Conclusions

March 13, 2015

Many people believe the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established to determine the cause of global warming.

However, the panel was not formed to determine why global warming was occurring, but rather to determine how mankind was affecting global warming.

The International Panel on Climate Change was established by the United Nations, General Assembly Resolution 43/53 of 6 December 1988, which stated:

“Concerned that certain human activities could change global climate patterns, threatening present and future generations with potentially severe economic and social consequences,

“Noting with concern that the emerging evidence indicates that continued growth in atmospheric concentrations of “greenhouse” gases could produce global warming with an eventual rise in sea levels, the effects of which could be disastrous for mankind if timely steps are not taken at all levels.”

(Emphasis added.)

There was no pretense about seeking to determine what was causing global warming. It was assumed global warming was being caused by human activities.

The UN jumped to a conclusion.

It’s true that temperatures were rising and that there was an hypothesis postulated by Arrhenius in the late 1800s that CO2 could cause warming, but no attempt was made to examine other possibilities.

As a result, governments also jumped to the conclusion that CO2 was causing global warming, especially the EU which has developed an entire complex political structure, including cap and trade, to reduce CO2 emissions 80% by 2050.

This same presumption, that human activities were the cause of global warming, permeated the 1992 Rio conference, known as the Earth Summit.

The conference passed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and President Bush signed the UNFCCC treaty on June 12, 1992. It was then ratified by the Senate on October 15, 1992.

It was passed by the Senate during a very contentious presidential election where Senator Gore was a candidate to be the Vice President of the United States.

The UNFCCC entered into force on March 21, 1994.

Since then, no government body has been established to evaluate any alternative hypotheses for the cause of global warming.

If an individual had headaches, and it was assumed the cause was a brain tumor, wouldn’t that person seek a second opinion before having brain surgery?

The proposed solution for preventing globe warming is, in its effect on the world, akin to the potential negative effects of brain surgery.

Rather than getting a second opinion, the issue has become politicized, with those wanting a second opinion called deniers, and skeptics, and with the issue morphing into climate change.

In their efforts to predict the outcome of climate change from CO2 emissions, the IPCC has failed badly.

The computer programs being used to predict the terrible consequences of climate change have been consistently wrong, yet the IPCC, the UN and even the government of the United States haven’t been willing to admit they may have jumped to a conclusion.

IPCC global temperature forecast compared with actual.

IPCC global temperature forecast compared with actual.

There are alternative hypotheses, some have been highlighted in earlier articles. See, Sun Power Part 1, and Sun Power 2.

It has been left up to a few think tanks to put forth alternative hypotheses. The Science Environmental & Policy Project (SEPP), the Heritage Foundation, the Marshall Institute and the Heartland Institute have all published information on alternatives to the CO2 hypothesis.

The Heartland Institute has conducted nine international conferences on climate change with hundreds of scientists and engineers attending them.

The Heartland Institute will hold the Tenth International Conference on Climate Change this coming June, in Washington DC, precisely twenty-three years after the Earth Summit in Rio.

Watts up With That, http://wattsupwiththat.com contains numerous documents on the science of climate change.

The IPCC, the UNFCCC and many governments have jumped to a conclusion on global warming, aka climate change.

Shouldn’t we all look at the alternatives before implementing actions that will have very damaging consequences on society everywhere?

The tenets of science require that every hypothesis and theory be constantly subjected to scrutiny, where only a single piece of new evidence can overturn any hypothesis or theory.

This is not only the scientific process, it’s the right thing to do.

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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.

Wind and National Security

March 10, 2015

Several questions have been raised about whether rotating blades on wind turbines are interfering with radar at airports and military installations.

Wind Turbine. Photo by D. Dears

Wind Turbine. Photo by D. Dears

There have been several confrontations between military installations and wind farm developers, including:

  • Boardman Naval Weapons System Training Facility in Oregon
  • Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in California
  • Naval Air Station Kingsville in Texas
  • Dare County Bombing Range in North Carolina

One of the more interesting situations, and one that definitely affects national security, is at the Patuxent Naval Air Station along Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where there is a proposal to build a wind farm along Chesapeake Bay.

Once again, it pits advocates for alternative energy against the safety of American servicemen and women.

The United States has developed amazing stealth fighters and bombers that are crucial to any attempt to destroy enemy air defenses. Without the ability to destroy such defenses many American lives will be lost.

During Desert Storm, the F-117A Nighthawk flew 1,300 combat missions without the loss of a single plane.

But technology doesn’t stand still, either defensive or offensive, and advances in technologies must be tested and evaluated.

The Patuxent NAS is where new designs and equipment are tested. It is the only facility of its kind in the world, according to our military.

The radar cross section testing of aircraft is essential to ensuring their survivability.

Both military and FAA radar work by emitting signals and then evaluating the return signal. This occurs at airports, such as Kennedy and SFO airports, and at military bases.

The rotating blades of wind turbines produce echoes that can be interpreted as coming from aircraft. The wind turbine blades can appear to be an airplane, or they can result in numerous false tracks and clutter. They can also result in dropping actual aircraft from the screen, or, even worse, indicate an aircraft is in a different location. (Reference: USNI Proceedings, February 2015)

A large investment has been made at Patuxent in highly specialized equipment to ensure that the United States maintains a war fighting advantage with superior stealth technology.

The test range at Patuxent covers a 3,000-square-mile expanse extending over Chesapeake Bay.

It’s critical that the test range be kept free of electromagnetic interference to allow the proper testing of aircraft, not only new designs, but also exiting aircraft that have been modified with new weapon systems to be certain their stealthiness has been maintained.

To help resolve the conflict between DOD and the advocates of clean energy, DOD commissioned the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to asses whether wind turbines along Chesapeake Bay would interfere with the ability to test aircraft at Patuxent NAS.

The MIT study determined that the wind farm would interfere with testing, and that the mission at Patuxent couldn’t be accomplished if the wind farm was built.

It appears as though enough political pressure is being put on DOD to force DOD to accept the installation of the wind farm, even though the wind farm will damage the installation’s effectiveness and put American pilots at risk in any future conflict.

In essence, we are allowing the proponents of clean energy to harm other Americans.

The Chesapeake Bay wind farm is the most egregious example, but wind farms located near civilian and military airports can also affect airplane safety.

It’s difficult to even comprehend why this is an issue.

Our servicemen and women deserve better. For that matter, every American should expect that their safety and security is being put ahead of clean-energy.

 

Note: You can use this article if you write your Senators, Congressmen and women.

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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.

Role of Combined Heat Power

March 6, 2015

Environmental organizations repeatedly attempt to deride the efficiency of existing power plants and promote the use of combined heat and power (CHP).

Some radical environmental organizations, such as Greenpeace, claim that CHP has en efficiency of over 90%. Greenpeace makes this claim in its plan, the Energy [r]evolution, which is riddled with hype and misinformation.

To make the 90% claim appear more awesome, it is compared with traditional coal-fired power plants that have a thermal efficiency of 33%.

Cover of Greenpeace [r]evolution Paper

Cover of Greenpeace [r]evolution Paper

Even today, the American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) claims that CHP has an efficiency of 80%.

Amazingly, an editor from a leading industry magazine, who is a lawyer, also said CHP can reach 90% efficiency. He has probably accepted at face value the claims of some manufacturers, some of whom make the claim, but always seem to miss the obvious truth about waste-heat energy.

These claims are misleading at best, and are probably better described as bogus.

Proponents of CHP arrive at these thermal efficiency numbers by comparing apples with oranges.

The mistake arises when people assign the same value to the heat, extracted in exhaust steam from a turbine, with the electricity produced by a power plant.

The exhaust steam has low heat content and therefore less value than the electricity produced by the power plant.

Under the second law of thermodynamics, the exhaust steam can do less work.

The best analogy is one suggested by the former editor of Power magazine:

“An automobile’s engine using gasoline has considerable horsepower and also heats water in the engine’s cooling system. The hot water is then used to heat passengers during the winter. While this takes advantage of the heat in the water, the water doesn’t have the power to drive the automobile. Gasoline has high energy density, while hot water has a low energy density. Using the hot water for heating the car does not increase the engine’s efficiency.”

Organizations promoting CHP have become imbued with the idea that CO2 is causing climate change and insist that America change its ways.

While there are legitimate applications for CHP, such as in chemical plants that need the steam for processes, the only people pressuring for the adoption of CHP are environmental organizations and their allies in government.

At a recent meeting in Washington, DC, the keynote speaker was from the White House. She was the “federal environmental executive”, a position established by executive order. She noted that CHP was a way to cut CO2 emissions, and that the President had issued an executive order to double federal CHP systems, with a target of adding 40,000 MW of CHP generation by 2020.

States are likely to adopt CHP as part of their plans to comply with the EPA’s proposed regulations for cutting CO2 emissions 30%, under the mistaken idea that CHP significantly improves energy efficiency.

Once again, the fear of CO2 induced climate change is affecting energy policy.

In practice, CHP systems have a thermal efficiency of around 60%, not 80% or 90%.

They are no more efficient, and possibly less efficient, than natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants that can have a thermal efficiency of 63%.

At the core of promoting CHP is the use of steam to heat buildings.

District heating is widespread in Europe, largely because so many people live in cities.

It’s ludicrous to attempt to apply CHP heating to America’s suburbs. (Suburbs with free standing residential buildings are an anathema to city planners and to those promoting CO2 induced climate change, so CHP fits a strategy that promotes mixed use development.)

An examination of Europe’s district heating infrastructure and its adoption of regulations promoting CHP is beyond the scope of this article. Basically, it’s predicated on the need to cut CO2 emissions.

The allure of CHP is to use exhaust steam for area heating. This reduces the need for individual heating units in buildings. Fewer heating units in buildings probably reduces CO2 emissions, as emissions can be more easily controlled by a single central CHP plant.

In addition, the European CHP plants promoted in Power magazine use fuels such as biomass and syngas rather than coal or natural gas.

In countries other than in Europe, CHP is used where there is a need for steam for industrial or chemical processes.

Finally, as is so often the case when discussing energy issues, the proponents of CHP switch horses and obfuscate the discussion.

CHP has always, until now, been associated with centralized installations for power generation, using steam and gas turbines, or diesels and natural gas engines.

The switch is to include fuel cells for CHP.

  • Fuel cells are a separate technology, and are more closely related to batteries than power generation installations. They can generate electricity and be used for distributed installations, including heat for local use, say in a building.
  • Fuel cell CHP is less efficient, as measured by thermal efficiency, than NGCC power plants. They also cost more. Fuel cell costs in 2010, according to DOE, were around $5,000 / KW, compared with $1,100 / KW for NGCC power plants.
  • Fuel cells for CHP are currently a distraction, and do not achieve 90% efficiency, with the possible exception of units using hydrogen. Hydrogen isn’t readily available, and besides, the losses incurred to produce hydrogen would negate any efficiency advantage Fuel Cells might have.

Higher cost CHP is being promoted by the federal government to reduce CO2 emissions and promote mixed use development, using the excuse that CHP is more efficient than existing power plants, which is not true.

Natural gas combined cycle power plants produce electricity at the lowest cost, with the possible exception of large scale hydro.

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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.

Is Wave Energy in Our Future?

March 3, 2015

Having had some experience with the ocean, wave energy has always seemed to me to be on the fringe of reality. Especially devices mounted on the surface.

The ocean has the power to destroy anything made by man.

One ship I was on hit a rogue wave, and pounded heavily. While damage was not immediately apparent, it was discovered when the ship went into dry dock.

The wave had buckled the 3/4-inch steel plates on the ship’s bottom inward, by about 4 inches between several frames for much of the width of the ship.

Some may remember pictures of the cruiser Pittsburgh, where 100 feet of its bow section had been shorn from the ship by waves.

These forces will inevitably destroy devices on the surface trying to capture the motions of waves to produce electricity.

There have been several attempts to manufacture devices of this sort. Most have failed.

Here’s a list of a few companies that have had problems with wave development.

  • Voith Hydro decided to shutter its Wavegen operations in Scotland in 2013
  • Irish wave energy converter maker Wavebob shut down
  • Oceanlinx, a wave energy developer, went into liquidation in 2014
  • Ocean Power Technologies, who make PowerBuoys, canceled an Australian project
  • Aquamarine announced plans to lay off a “significant” number of staff

There have been two successful tidal wave projects: One, in France in 1966, the second, in South Korea in 2011. These are rated 240 MW and 254 MW respectively.

Bulb hydro turbines were used in these installations, and have also been proposed for use in some other tidal installations as depicted in this artist rendering, courtesy Swansea Bay tidal lagoon.

Artist rendering of Bulb turbine, courtesy Swansea Bay tidal lagoon

Artist rendering of Bulb turbine, courtesy Swansea Bay tidal lagoon

But the wave sector is having serious problems.

Of 40 projects announced between 2006 and 2013, they are all still in the demonstration phase.

It would appear as though a few tidal projects have some reasonable chance of becoming operational, though the cost of electricity produced by these installations is expected to be very high.

Andritz Hydro has an order for three 1.5-MW tidal current turbines for a planned tidal array at Pentland Firth in Scotland. These units have the shape of wind turbines, and being located beneath the surface, may not be subject to the extreme destructive forces of the ocean.

Wave Turbine of the Configuration Proposed for Tidal Installations

Wave Turbine of the Configuration Proposed for Tidal Installations

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) noted, “Levelized costs of ocean energy technologies are currently substantially higher than those of other renewable energy technologies.”

There is no question that the ocean has tremendous power and virtually unlimited energy, but trying to capture that energy to generate electricity is unlikely to be accomplished economically on a wide scale with any existing technology.

There are few environments on earth that are as harsh as that found in the ocean.

The allure of wave energy is understandable, but the reality is that we won’t be seeing widespread generation of electricity from the motion of waves or tides.

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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.

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