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(UPI)   Oh, is gas getting cheaper again? Fark that alternative energy noise   ( upi.com) divider line
    More: Asinine, energy technologies, hydrogen fuel, alternative energy, alternative fuels, natural gas, oil exports  
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2155 clicks; posted to Business » on 20 Mar 2012 at 9:09 AM (5 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-03-20 09:28:43 AM  
I've never understood why people don't support alternative energy. It seems like more competition in the energy sector would be principally recognized as a good thing economically and for all of us.
 
2012-03-20 09:29:00 AM  
Let's see:

On one hand we have energy use that depends on a finite resource whose price is determined by supply and demand, commodities investors, taxes, and the trustworthiness of foreign suppliers, not to mention the fickelness of everyone's mood that day and whether or not someone in a foreign desert had a burrito for lunch.

On the other hand we could be using energy that is readily available and abundant...everywhere in the world. (Save for solar energy in Seattle and much of Britain.) Also, this readily available energy source is INFINITE.

Which one should we be basing our energy policy on? Oh yeah, the one that makes me curse every time I drive/pay my bills/buy food/buy porn.

/.02
 
2012-03-20 09:37:42 AM  
Wait, wasn't there a whole thread yesterday about how O'bama is causing gas prices to rise?

OTOH, Makes sense - marginal profit decreases, development of new resources decreases.
 
2012-03-20 09:38:55 AM  
FFS - stop lying about global warming and focus on the real problem - Petroleum for transport. Our energy headaches all come back to the small problem that the most cheaply accessible oil in large quantities is almost entirely in the Middle East and Central Asia.

If you just tax the stuff correctly and get rid of social engineering programs that create peverse incentives to live in sprawling and pedestrian hostile suburbs, we'd be able to get off our reliance of it. Having gas prices spike wouldn't cripple the economy. Instead, you want some bizzaro carb free utopia where oh so conveniently you'll get make work jobs to maintain.
 
2012-03-20 09:39:14 AM  
It's great living among people with the collective attention span of a gerbil.
 
2012-03-20 09:39:40 AM  

Cubs300: Let's see:

On one hand we have energy use that depends on a finite resource whose price is determined by supply and demand, commodities investors, taxes, and the trustworthiness of foreign suppliers, not to mention the fickelness of everyone's mood that day and whether or not someone in a foreign desert had a burrito for lunch.

On the other hand we could be using energy that is readily available and abundant...everywhere in the world. (Save for solar energy in Seattle and much of Britain.) Also, this readily available energy source is INFINITE.

Which one should we be basing our energy policy on? Oh yeah, the one that makes me curse every time I drive/pay my bills/buy food/buy porn.

/.02


We are still years from a practical alternative energy source. Oil is still by far the cheapest. And until we can develop clean long lasting batteries to store solar power, solar energy is kind of out of the question.
 
2012-03-20 09:39:47 AM  

SN1987a goes boom: I've never understood why people don't support alternative energy. It seems like more competition in the energy sector would be principally recognized as a good thing economically and for all of us.


Most people, if you offered them the chance to add a renewable/alternative energy device to their home for 100$ - 200$ , would probably go for it at least once.

The Problem is that these devices - like most generators - cost millions, and have a whole suite of operational details. This means that the only people who can 'do' this are usually people who are doing it as investments, meaning that they can find a better return on their money elsewhere.
 
2012-03-20 09:40:31 AM  

HotIgneous Intruder: It's great living among people with the collective attention span of a gerbil.


And the knowledge of economics, engineering and environment of Bush Ditto.
 
2012-03-20 09:47:39 AM  
Gas Prices go up - "We can't afford to waste money on alternative energy. Drill More, Drill Now!"
Gas Prices go down - "We don't need alternative energy. Gas is cheap. Drill More, Drill Now!"
 
2012-03-20 09:48:35 AM  
Last week I got in a discussion about energy woes with a pretty conservative Republican couple, never voted for a D in their lives, and one of them said:

"You know, if we had only listened to Carter..."

That about sums it up for me.

/csb
 
vpb [TotalFark]
2012-03-20 09:53:16 AM  

SN1987a goes boom: I've never understood why people don't support alternative energy. It seems like more competition in the energy sector would be principally recognized as a good thing economically and for all of us.


Because oil is subsidized. If the cost of maintaining access to oil were paid by a tax on imported oil, and the cost of using it (pollution including spills and CO2 emmisions) were paid by a tax on oil, alternatives could compete.
 
2012-03-20 09:56:04 AM  
Cheaper?

Yes, it's cheaper ($.05) than it was 2 days ago, but still $.20 higher than it was a week ago.

We really can't remember that we're paying more than last week?

I am pretty sure that we'll never go under $2/gal ever again, but we really should be under $3/gal before anyone calls gas "cheap".
 
2012-03-20 10:05:59 AM  
Election coming up. Obama is going to need those gas prices down for a while...
 
2012-03-20 10:12:20 AM  
Lol. Like "support" matters. What matters is money.

At the end of 2009, the US had about 1 gigawatt of total solar installed.

At the end of 2011, the US had over 3 gigawatts, with another 2.5 or so projected this year. All because banks and investors are turning to solar as it gets cheaper. Panel prices dropped 50% in 2011 and are projected to drop another 25-30% this year. Anybody who is against solar these days is either uninformed or has an agenda.
 
2012-03-20 10:12:55 AM  
Gas has gone up in price for the last 35 days around here. Highest it has been since 2008. If by cheaper, you mean more expensive...sure.
 
2012-03-20 10:27:42 AM  
What planet does subby live on where gas is getting cheaper? Is the weather nice there?
 
2012-03-20 10:33:41 AM  

SN1987a goes boom: I've never understood why people don't support alternative energy. It seems like more competition in the energy sector would be principally recognized as a good thing economically and for all of us.


i'd buy a volt if there was a no-frills $20k version
 
2012-03-20 10:39:01 AM  
I'm not sure if the article is alluding to natural gas, or gasoline.

Gas is up, Nat gas is way, way down..

There is a point to be made. It is indeed hard justifying putting up windmills and solar, when you can put in a combined cycle nat gas plant, powered with $2.40 per million BTU gas, and have 24X7 power, in the precise amount the grid requires.

To put the price difference of nat gas vs gasoline in perspective, a gallon of gas has about 120k btu
 
2012-03-20 10:44:51 AM  

AdamK: SN1987a goes boom: I've never understood why people don't support alternative energy. It seems like more competition in the energy sector would be principally recognized as a good thing economically and for all of us.

i'd buy a volt if there was a no-frills $20k version


That's pretty much the crux of the issue - the "buy in" price is still beyond that of most people. You could get away probably with a $3-$4k premium for a fully comparable electric car the electric component pay back time would be less than the loan payback time - you'd be "in the black" on saving gas money before you even finished paying off the car.

When payback on solar to fully supply a house gets below 5 years people will jump on board - of course we don't have anywhere near the capacity to supply that so prices remain high.
 
2012-03-20 10:46:18 AM  

AdamK: SN1987a goes boom: I've never understood why people don't support alternative energy. It seems like more competition in the energy sector would be principally recognized as a good thing economically and for all of us.

i'd buy a volt if there was a no-frills $20k version


media.ed.edmunds-media.com

Chevy Cruise ECO - EPA mileage est. (cty/hwy): 28/42 mpg - MSRP just under $20K

/Sure, no battery, but you can seat 5 people. And think how much gas you can buy with the $15K you saved.
//Buy the next-gen Volt - it might get cheaper...
 
2012-03-20 10:50:55 AM  

xtragrind: Election coming up. Obama is going to need those gas prices down for a while...


Take a good look at 2008.

/gas prices: because fark you, that's why
 
2012-03-20 10:51:48 AM  
Meanwhile, as "Socialist Europe" works toward getting off oil dependency...

I know, I know, critical thinking about the future in terms of decades is difficult for most US citizens. Long term solutions are not our strong skill these days.

When the US becomes the most oil dependent country in the world what do you think the crude producers will charge per barrel?

Whatever they want to.
 
2012-03-20 10:52:18 AM  
Apples and oranges, my friends. The cost to produce electricity then put it into an electric vehicle is still several TIMES the cost of petroleum fuels.

I find this funny:

Oil company tax rates go from 35% to 32% -- OMG!!! OIL COMPANY SUBSIDIES!

Solar project tax rates go from -200% to -150% -- OMG!!! CONSPIRACY AGAINST ALTERNATIVE ENERGY!
 
2012-03-20 10:54:31 AM  

Fubegra: xtragrind: Election coming up. Obama is going to need those gas prices down for a while...

Take a good look at 2008.

/gas prices: because fark you, that's why


Seems to happen every election cycle. The fun part is the scramble over who gets to take credit for it and the round of explanations as to why the price has changed.

THAT is my favorite part. Most of the time the reality is the price has changed because the oil companies just feel like changing it, in retrospect...
 
2012-03-20 10:55:53 AM  

chi_tino: Apples and oranges, my friends. The cost to produce electricity then put it into an electric vehicle is still several TIMES the cost of petroleum fuels.

I find this funny:

Oil company tax rates go from 35% to 32% -- OMG!!! OIL COMPANY SUBSIDIES!

Solar project tax rates go from -200% to -150% -- OMG!!! CONSPIRACY AGAINST ALTERNATIVE ENERGY!


I get a laugh when the BEV advocates try to say the $7500 tax credit for buying a PHEV/BEV isn't a subsidy, based on the logic that the buyer is getting to keep their own money.
But then they describe tax breaks for oil companies (which let them keep their own money) as subsidies.
 
2012-03-20 10:56:55 AM  

beta_plus: If you just tax the stuff correctly and get rid of social engineering programs that create peverse incentives to live in sprawling and pedestrian hostile suburbs, we'd be able to get off our reliance of it. Having gas prices spike wouldn't cripple the economy. Instead, you want some bizzaro carb free utopia where oh so conveniently you'll get make work jobs to maintain.


All tax policy is "social engineering", so let's move past that. Repuglicans want to shift the tax burden onto the poor under the "they want benefits, let them pay for it" umbrella, while Democrats want to tax the wealthy and corporations because "they can afford it, and they have benefited disproportionately from economic growth".

Public support for renewable energy has declined IMO because too often it has been couched in terms of "you NEED to do something about this STAT!" What nonsense. We will develop and deploy economically viable solar when its cost is consistently lower than that of the fossil fuels it replaces, and not sooner. (See electric street cars in NYC replacing horse-drawn cars.)

Incontinent_dog_and_monkey_rodeo: Lol. Like "support" matters. What matters is money.

At the end of 2009, the US had about 1 gigawatt of total solar installed.

At the end of 2011, the US had over 3 gigawatts, with another 2.5 or so projected this year. All because banks and investors are turning to solar as it gets cheaper. Panel prices dropped 50% in 2011 and are projected to drop another 25-30% this year. Anybody who is against solar these days is either uninformed or has an agenda.


The only people who are "against" solar are posturing Republicans. In case you didn't get the word there's a negro in the White House. Soshulizm. ;^)

AdamK: i'd buy a volt if there was a no-frills $20k version


Then buy a TDi now. They cost about $20k and get better fuel economy than any hybrid.
 
2012-03-20 10:57:29 AM  
Incontinent_dog_and_monkey_rodeo:
Panel prices dropped 50% in 2011 and are projected to drop another 25-30% this year. Anybody who is against solar these days is either uninformed or has an agenda.

...or can do math.

One of the big issues with photovoltaic prices is that panel costs aren't the driving the total costs of the systems any more. A couple of years ago, the cost per watt generated by panels dropped below the cost of the rest of the infrastructure of the plant.

In other words, the lifetime cost of the framework, installation, protective covers (can't leave the newer "thin" panels out in the weather), tracking systems (for the big high-efficiency plants), wiring, and electrical distribution hardware is now higher than the cost of the panels themselves (not to mention maintenance costs). Don't forget storage/load balancing hardware, while you're at it - large, reliable, long-life batteries are expensive. There are some interesting power storage schemes in use now, but even the best of them involve huge conversion losses, more than offsetting the recent increases in solar cell efficiency.

The big challenge is "high efficiency + low cost + long lifetime + cheap power storage." We're nowhere near that point.
 
2012-03-20 10:58:04 AM  
Eat it up. American people are stuck on Stupid. Hell, pay $15/gal, I don't care. If anyone thinks government even cares about the price of a gallon of gas, you shouldn't be allowed to vote.

/People, keep on learning...........
 
2012-03-20 10:59:45 AM  

mod3072: What planet does subby live on where gas is getting cheaper? Is the weather nice there?


Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. have publicly owned oil and sub-$2/gallon gasoline I think.
 
2012-03-20 11:07:39 AM  

mercator_psi: Last week I got in a discussion about energy woes with a pretty conservative Republican couple, never voted for a D in their lives, and one of them said:

"You know, if we had only listened to Carter..."

That about sums it up for me.

/csb


I hope they live long enough to see the disastrous, suffering-filled future their ignorance and hate helped create.
 
2012-03-20 11:12:56 AM  

SN1987a goes boom: I've never understood why people don't support alternative energy. It seems like more competition in the energy sector would be principally recognized as a good thing economically and for all of us.


I fully support alternative energy. I support government grants and competitions to develop new cheaper sources of energy. I don't support subsidies to more costly forms of energy in order to make them equal to current forms. So to make it simple for you, I do support subsidized development of newer more efficient wind and solar tech. I don't support subsidizing the less efficient versions to make them competitive with coal.
 
2012-03-20 11:13:40 AM  
Reverend Monkeypants:
Meanwhile, as "Socialist Europe" works toward getting off oil dependency...

They may be "working" on it, but they're not actually managing it yet. Or even making much progress. The biggest reason oil consumption in Europe has dropped is because the economy tanked.

The biggest near-term potential for solar power in Europe is for solar heating, not photovoltaic. They get a lot more economic advantage from heating water for home and office use than they do with much-more-expensive per watt photovoltaics.
 
2012-03-20 11:24:38 AM  

cirby:

The big challenge is "high efficiency + low cost + long lifetime + cheap power storage." We're nowhere near that point.


Efficiencies are fine, modern panels run 350 watts each, that's plenty. Low cost is here and only going lower.

Link (new window)

Notice the panel prices there. Under $1/watt for Suntech panels, biggest maker in the world. Balance of system is an issue, but much of that is also being brought down quickly, especially with micro-inverters, which majorly increase system efficiencies.

Long lifetime: current panels are warrantied for 25 years and will last at least 30, losing less than .3% a year, if that.

Storage: not an issue, use natural gas and hydro to back fill the down time.

So no, we're not "nowhere near that point". That point is zooming closer.
 
2012-03-20 11:32:25 AM  
StoneColdAtheist:
The only people who are "against" solar are posturing Republicans.

Actually, the only people who are "against" solar' are the imaginary Republicans that some Democrats have in their heads.

The problem with solar is (one more time!) cost per watt delivered. There are still huge barriers in effective cost per watt solar systems. Sure, you can get cheap panels - but you can't get cheap plants with cheap load balancing and cheap storage for off-peak or high-peak use. Solar plants are, by definition, dependent on received sunlight (which varies immensely during even the "peak" hours due to weather).

We've dropped billions of dollars on solar research. There have been big strides in the obvious parts - panel cost and efficiency. The problem is that, for a mature and reliable system, you need a lot more, and that's the part that's breaking the bank. Until they can make a total solar photovoltaic system that includes generation, storage, and delivery, all for approximately the cost per watt of a similar gas-fired turbine plant, it's just not going to be cost-effective.

Even the best PV plants are much higher in cost per watt than an old-style coal plant - and that's with the massive subsidies that are thrown at them by governments.

It's going to take some near-revolutionary advances in the "other" parts of the system to make PV competitive - or another twenty years of research - to match the cost of a gas-fired plant that we can build now, that will run 24/7/365.

Remember that solar photovoltaic plants aren't a new thing: there were two big Arco PV plants in California back in the early 1980s...
 
2012-03-20 11:52:52 AM  

cirby: StoneColdAtheist: The only people who are "against" solar are posturing Republicans.

Actually, the only people who are "against" solar' are the imaginary Republicans that some Democrats have in their heads...


You must have overlooked the "In case you didn't get the word there's a negro in the White House. Soshulizm. ;^)" that immediately followed.

Moar coffee?
 
2012-03-20 12:06:10 PM  

cirby: Reverend Monkeypants:
Meanwhile, as "Socialist Europe" works toward getting off oil dependency...

They may be "working" on it, but they're not actually managing it yet. Or even making much progress. The biggest reason oil consumption in Europe has dropped is because the economy tanked.

The biggest near-term potential for solar power in Europe is for solar heating, not photovoltaic. They get a lot more economic advantage from heating water for home and office use than they do with much-more-expensive per watt photovoltaics.


Which is also something most of us in the USA won't even consider, either.
 
2012-03-20 12:06:17 PM  
Incontinent_dog_and_monkey_rodeo:
Notice the panel prices there. Under $1/watt for Suntech panels, biggest maker in the world. Balance of system is an issue, but much of that is also being brought down quickly, especially with micro-inverters, which majorly increase system efficiencies.

Long lifetime: current panels are warrantied for 25 years and will last at least 30, losing less than .3% a year, if that.


Ah, but that's not really true. The Suntech warranty is a "25 year performance" warranty, which covers the power generation curve (at 25 years, each module should still be generating 80% of its original power). However, they have a ten year "limited warranty," which is the important part.

Things that void the Suntech warranty:
Misuse, abuse, neglect or accident
Alteration, improper installation or application
Non-observance of SUNTECH POWER' s installation manual or maintenance instructions
Repair or modifications by someone other than an approved service technician of SUNTECH POWER
Power failure surges, lightning, flood, fire, accidental breakage or other events outside SUNTECH POWER's control


Basically? You have a ten year actual warranty on that "25 years." If the system is not struck by lightning at any point, or other weather-related problems. In other words, you don't have a warranty that's worth a damn.

Storage: not an issue, use natural gas and hydro to back fill the down time.

Except that it IS an issue. To "back fill the down time," you have to keep a backup capacity (with fast power-up and down) equal to the full capacity of the solar system. This is not an option: if you have a really cloudy day, or a bit of snow, you effectively lose the entire solar output for that day - and have to supply it from other sources.

So why build a solar PV plant, if you also have to build a natural gas turbine (which costs less per watt generated in the first place)? No, hydro isn't an option here; hydro is "built out" in most of the industrialized countries, so you can't really increase the amount. Hydro is part of the "base load" generation capacity - it's effectively "always on," like nuclear plants.

Load balancing isn't just a case of better inverters, by the way. All that does is make sure the power coming out of the plant is clean. To really balance the power output, you have to be able to rely on the system on a high (99% or more) basis - or at least predict when a plant is not going to generate.

Gas, coal, nuclear, and hydro plants are all very predictable - you can schedule downtime in the majority of cases, barring accidents and breakdowns (which are rare). With solar PV, you have to allow for weather in addition to that - which means either a huge battery system (for short term outages) or a backup gas generator with a capacity equal to the PV system itself (for long term outages). Which means higher costs.
 
2012-03-20 12:17:52 PM  
(solar water heating)

Reverend Monkeypants:
Which is also something most of us in the USA won't even consider, either.

Mostly because it's not needed as much here - but you'd be surprised at how much solar water heating is in use. I didn't think there was much, either, until I started looking for it. A lot of US solar water heating isn't counted in the statistics because it's used to heat swimming pool water.

The problem with solar water heaters is the same problem as photovoltaic systems: effectiveness of the system relies on the sun. Parts of the US are really good for solar water heating due to higher insolation levels, and parts of Europe are good for it because of very high energy prices (even though insolation is comparatively low).
 
2012-03-20 12:21:26 PM  
You do not need a back up with equal capacity to PV. If you have a heavy snow fall, your consumption will be way below peak since peak happens in summer. If you have cloudy days, you will also be under peak load since you will have less heat gain and need less air conditioning. You can also greatly reduce your required turbine back up with wind. Solar and wind have a symbiotic relationship. Generally when the sun is not shining the wind is blowing.

With using wind and PV, you will need some sort of storage capacity or gas turbine back up. What you do not need is watt for watt turbine back up.
 
2012-03-20 12:47:51 PM  

Cubs300: On the other hand we could be using energy that is readily available and abundant...everywhere in the world. (Save for solar energy in Seattle and much of Britain.) Also, this readily available energy source is INFINITE.


I'd just like to hop in and say that over the average of the year, solar power works great for me in Seattle . . .
 
2012-03-20 12:52:15 PM  

max_pooper: With using wind and PV, you will need some sort of storage capacity or gas turbine back up. What you do not need is watt for watt turbine back up.


This is really a non-issue, since we already have a fully deployed electrical backup system in the US. It's the existing utility system. As renewables come on line existing power plants will augment them as required, with older and less efficient/dirtier plants shutting down first, until we arrive at a new balance of renewable and on-demand power supplies. The bottom line is that backups for the inevitable downtime of renewables (nighttime, no wind, etc.) is not an argument for not using renewables.
 
2012-03-20 01:01:10 PM  

dforkus: I'm not sure if the article is alluding to natural gas, or gasoline.

Gas is up, Nat gas is way, way down..

There is a point to be made. It is indeed hard justifying putting up windmills and solar, when you can put in a combined cycle nat gas plant, powered with $2.40 per million BTU gas, and have 24X7 power, in the precise amount the grid requires.

To put the price difference of nat gas vs gasoline in perspective, a gallon of gas has about 120k btu


Except, CO2 emissions. If cost were the only issue then we might as well stick with coal. Ok, natural gas is a lot cleaner than coal or oil and thanks to the shale gas boom, it's suddenly become cheap. Building gas power plants is a pretty good medium term solution, especially to replace ageing coal plant, but in the long run the world will need clean, renewable energy. Which means that we have to start developing the systems now and solving the problems that come from using this kind of energy.

People complaining about green energy subsidies are ignoring (or denying) the reason that we're bothering with renewable in the first place; CO2 and climate change. If you look at cost alone then fossil fuels will always be cheaper, especially if you don't account for the externalities.
 
2012-03-20 01:10:11 PM  

StoneColdAtheist: beta_plus: If you just tax the stuff correctly and get rid of social engineering programs that create peverse incentives to live in sprawling and pedestrian hostile suburbs, we'd be able to get off our reliance of it. Having gas prices spike wouldn't cripple the economy. Instead, you want some bizzaro carb free utopia where oh so conveniently you'll get make work jobs to maintain.

All tax policy is "social engineering", so let's move past that. Repuglicans want to shift the tax burden onto the poor under the "they want benefits, let them pay for it" umbrella, while Democrats want to tax the wealthy and corporations because "they can afford it, and they have benefited disproportionately from economic growth".

Public support for renewable energy has declined IMO because too often it has been couched in terms of "you NEED to do something about this STAT!" What nonsense. We will develop and deploy economically viable solar when its cost is consistently lower than that of the fossil fuels it replaces, and not sooner. (See electric street cars in NYC replacing horse-drawn cars.)

Incontinent_dog_and_monkey_rodeo: Lol. Like "support" matters. What matters is money.

At the end of 2009, the US had about 1 gigawatt of total solar installed.

At the end of 2011, the US had over 3 gigawatts, with another 2.5 or so projected this year. All because banks and investors are turning to solar as it gets cheaper. Panel prices dropped 50% in 2011 and are projected to drop another 25-30% this year. Anybody who is against solar these days is either uninformed or has an agenda.

The only people who are "against" solar are posturing Republicans. In case you didn't get the word there's a negro in the White House. Soshulizm. ;^)

AdamK: i'd buy a volt if there was a no-frills $20k version

Then buy a TDi now. They cost about $20k and get better fuel economy than any hybrid.


i don't trust VW reliability
 
2012-03-20 01:10:44 PM  

StoneColdAtheist: max_pooper: With using wind and PV, you will need some sort of storage capacity or gas turbine back up. What you do not need is watt for watt turbine back up.

This is really a non-issue, since we already have a fully deployed electrical backup system in the US. It's the existing utility system. As renewables come on line existing power plants will augment them as required, with older and less efficient/dirtier plants shutting down first, until we arrive at a new balance of renewable and on-demand power supplies. The bottom line is that backups for the inevitable downtime of renewables (nighttime, no wind, etc.) is not an argument for not using renewables.


You're right it is not a argument against it but it's a reality.

Existing steam turbines, be that coal or nuclear, are not good on-demand sources. They take too long to rev up. As we build more wind and PV, we need more fast start up turbines to handle volatility in the PV and wind output.

Of course we also need to work on reducing peak demand though effectiveness at both point of use and distribution of electrical power.
 
2012-03-20 01:15:13 PM  
max_pooper:
You do not need a back up with equal capacity to PV. If you have a heavy snow fall, your consumption will be way below peak since peak happens in summer.

You don't measure "peak" that way.

If your local grid (gas, nuclear, PV) is generating 10 gigawatts and you suddenly lose 100 megawatts because the solar system was covered by clouds, you're down 100 megawatts from that day's peak. The power has to come from somewhere. You can't just turn a knob and run the rest of them faster to make up for it - the power companies try to run their plants as close to max efficiency as they can. Increasing output drops efficiency enough to make adding capacity cost-effective in most cases.

If they could just run the rest of them faster to make up the power, why build the solar plant (at higher cost per watt) to begin with?

You should also know that a cloudy day can drop the output of a panel by 80% to 90% - yep, a sufficiently cloudy day will cut you to as little as 10% of plant capacity. Which, effectively, means that you need to completely replace the system output.

Worse, a cloudy day with intermittent sunshine will result in a system output that can vary by up to an order of magnitude in a matter of minutes. This is very, very bad for grid stability.

Solar and wind have a symbiotic relationship. Generally when the sun is not shining the wind is blowing.

"Generally," yes. Reliably? Not at all.

Far too often, you're going to see cloudy, windless (or too-windy) days (upwards of 10% or the time). Which means that you have to have a gas turbine plant or other backup power system to fire up to carry that load. It's even worse, besides - since solar and wind would both be out at the same time, you have to have backup power for both of them. Again, system costs increase to the point where the already-more-expensive solar and wind plants would be more cheaply and reliably replaced with gas turbine plants.
 
2012-03-20 01:29:23 PM  

cirby: max_pooper:
You do not need a back up with equal capacity to PV. If you have a heavy snow fall, your consumption will be way below peak since peak happens in summer.

You don't measure "peak" that way.

If your local grid (gas, nuclear, PV) is generating 10 gigawatts and you suddenly lose 100 megawatts because the solar system was covered by clouds, you're down 100 megawatts from that day's peak. The power has to come from somewhere. You can't just turn a knob and run the rest of them faster to make up for it - the power companies try to run their plants as close to max efficiency as they can. Increasing output drops efficiency enough to make adding capacity cost-effective in most cases.

If they could just run the rest of them faster to make up the power, why build the solar plant (at higher cost per watt) to begin with?

You should also know that a cloudy day can drop the output of a panel by 80% to 90% - yep, a sufficiently cloudy day will cut you to as little as 10% of plant capacity. Which, effectively, means that you need to completely replace the system output.

Worse, a cloudy day with intermittent sunshine will result in a system output that can vary by up to an order of magnitude in a matter of minutes. This is very, very bad for grid stability.


Which is exactly why you do not simply build one solar plant. You build many of them in different locations, same with wind. The only time the sun doesn't shine everywhere is at night, where electricity consumption is way below peak so. Again with cloudy days, you are running below peak capacity. Natural gas turbine plants do not simply have one gigantic engine that the they throttle up and down based up load. They have multiple generators that they turn on/off and throttle to achieve maximum efficiencies.

Solar and wind generating facilities cost much less to operate than coal or natural gas turbines because you don't have the immense cost of fuel. Why would pay to fuel a turbine with natural gas or coal when the wind does it for free?
 
2012-03-20 02:03:39 PM  

AdamK: StoneColdAtheist: Then buy a TDi now. They cost about $20k and get better fuel economy than any hybrid.

i don't trust VW reliability


My entirely anecdotal evidence has me confident I'll buy another VW.

My first one was a new 1980 Rabbit non-turbo diesel. Put 66,000 flawless miles on it before someone in Tegucigalpa wanted it badly enough to offer me more in '84 than I'd paid for it new. (I worked at the US Embassy, and Honduras had a 200% tariff on imported cars.)

My second was an '84 Quantum TD. Sold it in '04 with 308,000 on the clock. Everything still worked, though the clutch disc was getting soft. Never let me down. Not once.

Current one is an '02 Golf TDi. Gets 50 mpg around town and out on the highway at 70+ mph. The only issues it's had was the climate control panel light going out and a failed passenger window register, which was replaced under warranty.

Do scheduled maintenance and my experience has been that Volkswagens are as bullet proof as any well made modern car.
 
2012-03-20 02:06:45 PM  

max_pooper: Which is exactly why you do not simply build one solar plant. You build many of them in different locations, same with wind. The only time the sun doesn't shine everywhere is at night, where electricity consumption is way below peak so. Again with cloudy days, you are running below peak capacity. Natural gas turbine plants do not simply have one gigantic engine that the they throttle up and down based up load. They have multiple generators that they turn on/off and throttle to achieve maximum efficiencies.

Solar and wind generating facilities cost much less to operate than coal or natural gas turbines because you don't have the immense cost of fuel. Why would pay to fuel a turbine with natural gas or coal when the wind does it for free?


Here's reality, at least for the Pacific NW grid of WA, OR, ID and parts of MT:
transmission.bpa.gov
Since we're a major exporter of power most all year (some of the cheapest, cleanest power in the world BTW), the breakdown works out like this:

Regional demand = 6-8 GW
Hydro output = 8-14 GW
Thermal (nuke, coal, biomass) =2-4 GW
Wind = 0-4 GW

As you can see now, at this time of year a new storm front moves in every 24 hours or so, so the wind is quite predictable. At times, wind covers nearly 70% of the region's demand, freeing up more of our excess hydro power to be exported to either Canada & California (depending on season). We make a sizable profit on any hydro power exported, since most of our dams were built in the 1930's, publicly owned and paid off long ago. BPA's excess profits are used to directly lower the cost of our region's energy (due to a Congressional Act during the Great Depression).

We use a portion of those public utility profits to subsidize local production and manufacture of renewable energy, and a large chunk goes to direct efficiency improvements for consumers. Using this model, over the past 40 years, the region's energy demand has stayed largely flat (even when accounting for population increase), while the rest of the country more than doubled per household energy use. That's one of many reasons why our wholesale electricity rates are between $0.02 and $0.03 a kWh - and we're prepping to shut down the last of our region's 2 coal plants by the end of this decade.

It's essentially a Republican/Tea partier's worst nightmare. A public program that's performed awesomely for nearly a century, resulting in massive cost savings compared to any other de-regulated market, self funding - and pushes efficiency and conservation to meet future demand.
 
2012-03-20 02:30:05 PM  

Reverend Monkeypants: Meanwhile, as "Socialist Europe" works toward getting off oil dependency...

I know, I know, critical thinking about the future in terms of decades is difficult for most US citizens. Long term solutions are not our strong skill these days.

When the US becomes the most oil dependent country in the world what do you think the crude producers will charge per barrel?

Whatever they want to.


Hasn't the US been a net exporter of oil recently?

Bloomberg (new window)

But yea, I agree. More electric and more nat gas. I'd love the ability to top off my tank or battery at the house. They need to sell the convenience of alt energy. And the power. Electric motors can have alot of torque. I'd imagine, in a few years, the production electric cars will blow away gasoline in the 0 to 60.
 
2012-03-20 02:53:21 PM  

uber humper: Reverend Monkeypants: Meanwhile, as "Socialist Europe" works toward getting off oil dependency...

I know, I know, critical thinking about the future in terms of decades is difficult for most US citizens. Long term solutions are not our strong skill these days.

When the US becomes the most oil dependent country in the world what do you think the crude producers will charge per barrel?

Whatever they want to.

Hasn't the US been a net exporter of oil recently?

Bloomberg (new window)


The US is a net exporter of petroleum products. The US imports lots of oil, refines it and ships it back out. We are still net importer of oil.
 
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