You just can’t Replace a Coal-Fired Power Plant with a Solar Farm

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 23rd, 2014

Week in Review

What’s unique about Windsor, Ontario?  The city across the river from Detroit?  It’s the only place you can drive south from the United States to get to Canada.  So it’s about as far south you can get in Canada.  But it’s no Florida.  No.  They have cold winters in Windsor.  They also have snow.  And clouds.  So it’s probably not the best place to build a solar farm.  Any rational person would see this.  So guess what the government in southern Ontario is doing?  Building a solar farm (see Airport land leased for Samsung solar farm by Chris Vander Doelen posted 3/19/2014 on The Windsor Star).

A “major” developer of solar power will lease hundreds of acres at Windsor Airport for a green energy farm, city council has agreed after years of negotiations with the company…

He said the company picked Windsor as the site for its investment because “we have more sun days than any other jurisdiction in Ontario.” That clearly suggests a solar farm, but Francis wouldn’t confirm that…

The agreement approved Wednesday – the meeting was closed to the public for legal reasons, Francis said – is believed to be the final, long-delayed piece of a massive deal the Province of Ontario and Samsung announced in January 2010.

That’s when former premier Dalton McGuinty announced that the province had signed a $7-billion agreement to produce renewable power with the Korean industrial giant – a contract that became so controversial parts of it were later renegotiated…

But the deal also became controversial as the costs starting driving up residential and industrial power bills, all of which will be affected by the renewable energy plan.

The controversy eventually led to reductions in some of the feed-in tariffs paid to producers of solar and wind power, which likely added to the delays of the solar farm not announced until this week. It also led to the renegotiation of additional incentives for Samsung, which were reduced to $110 million over 20 years…

Installation of the panels would generate many years of employment for an undetermined number of labourers and IBEW electricians. But once built there wouldn’t be much employment generated by the static field of passive solar collectors.

The solar farms were to be part of something called the Ontario Alternative Energy Cluster, claimed by Samsung to be “the largest of its kind in the world” at 1,369 megawatts of output.

They may have more sun days in Windsor than any place else in Canada.  But Canada is a northern country.  Even Windsor is in a northern clime.  And they just don’t get as much sun as they do in more southern climes (see The Climate and Weather of Windsor, Ontario).  In the sunniest month they have 9.5 average hours of sun per day.  Which means they have 14.5 (24-9.5) average hours of no sun per day.  And during these hours of ‘no sun’ a solar farm will not produce electric power.  Which means on average this solar farm will produce no electric power for half of the day.

And it gets worse.  The average hours of sun per day declines going into winter.  October (5.5 hours of sun and 18.5 hours of no sun).  November (4.1 hours of sun and 19.9 hours of no sun).  December (2.6 hours of sun and 21.4 hours of no sun).  January (3.4 hours of sun and 20.6 hours of no sun).  February (4.4 hours of sun and 19.6 hours of no sun).  March (5.4 hours of sun and 18.6 hours of no sun).  So, on average, there are 5 hours of no sun for every hour of sun for half of the year.  So you can install solar panels that could produce 1,369 megawatts of output.  But they seldom will.  So you will need another power source to provide electric power when the solar panels don’t.  Which means a solar farm can’t replace something like a coal-fired power plant.  For that coal-fired power plant will have to on average provide power 82% of the time.  Which is why building a solar farm is a real bad idea.

And it gets even worse.  December has 10 days of snowfall on average.  January has 12.  And February has 9.  Just under half the days in the winter months will have snow which will have to melt off when the sun comes out from behind the clouds.  If it comes out.  Or someone will have to clear the snow from the solar panels by hand.

Windsor also has some other climate statistics (see National Climate Data and Information Archive).  They have the most thunderstorm days.  So they have more high winds, hail and tornados to damage delicate solar panels pointed skyward than any other part of Canada.  And more black overcast days to block out the sun.  They have the most smoke and haze days to filter out some of the sun from hitting the solar panels.  They have the most humid summer which will coat the solar panels with early morning dew that will run down and drain off in blackened streaks.  Reducing the efficiency of the solar panels.

This is why no one is building solar farms without taxpayer subsidies.  Which raises the cost of electric utility bills to pay for the subsidies.  Eating into household budgets forcing families to get by on less.  And for what?  You can’t shut down a coal-fired power plant during the day and turn it back on at night.  It takes time to make high pressure steam.  That’s why they use these plants for baseload power.  They’re on all the time.  And when demand picks up they add a natural gas-fired turbine ‘peaker plant’ to provide that peak demand.  Or some other source that they can bring on line quickly.  Like another turbine at a hydroelectric dam.  So the good people of Ontario will pay more for their electric power without getting anything in return.  Not even a cleaner environment.  Because you just can’t replace a coal-fired power plant with a solar farm.

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There would be no Green Energy Industry if there were no Green Energy Subsidies

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 15th, 2014

Week in Review

Green energy investments are a horrible investment.  The only reason why anyone is building green energy projects is because of taxpayer subsidies.  If you take away the subsidies the green energy industry is just going to stop building these bad energy projects.  Which is what’s happening now (see Here Are The 10 Best States For Clean Energy Jobs In 2013 by Aaron Tilley posted 3/12/2014 on Forbes).

Clean energy investments had it rough in 2013, and US job growth in that sector is having a bit of trouble too.

That’s at least according to evidence in a new report out today from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2),an environmental advocacy organization for businesses. While the clean energy industry made plans to add an additional 78,000 new jobs at 260 projects in 2013, that’s a 30% dip from the 110,000 job announcements in the previous year. (E2 has only been tracking clean energy job growth for the past two years…)

The biggest reason for the 30% drop in job growth over last year is due to ongoing regulatory uncertainty around federal tax credits and state renewable energy mandates, says E2 communications director Bob Keefe. Congress let the generous tax credits the wind energy industry had enjoyed for more than two decades expire in December–and it looks unlikely they’ll be reinstated in 2014. And four major energy efficiency tax credits and initiatives expired at the end of last year too. On top of that, several states, including North Carolina and Kansas, have attempted to roll back mandates on renewable energy requirements for their utility grids.

If anyone bemoans a cut in government spending in some government program don’t blame the Republicans.  Blame the Democrats.  And their green energy cronies.  The Democrats are taking money away from other programs to pay for these white elephants just so they and their crony friends can get rich.

These projects cost a fortune to build.  And the return on investment just isn’t there.  Which is why it takes hundreds of millions in taxpayer subsidies to build them.  That’s a lot of money to spend when these projects accomplish nothing. They don’t allow us to shut down one coal-fired power plant.  Because we’ll need those coal-fired power plants to provide electric power when the sun doesn’t shine and when the wind doesn’t blow.  And they take up so much real estate that they’re displacing wildlife from their natural habitat.  While wind farms are hacking American Bald Eagles and other birds to death.  So they’re not helping the environment.

And they’re not improving the reliability of our electric power.  Or lowering the cost.  Every time they shut down a coal-fired power plant they increase our electric bills.  And increase the brownouts and blackouts we have to endure when we have to rely on less reliable power that costs more (we have to pay more for our electric power to pay for those subsidies) than the more reliable power.  This is our government when Democrats are in power.  And just imagine how they will run our health care.  Who do you think they’ll make rich?  And how much will they increase our health care costs?  While giving us an inferior health care system?  It’s going to happen.  Because that’s what happens when Democrats are in power.

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Solar Farm dislocates Desert Tortoises – a Threatened Species

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 15th, 2014

Week in Review

The problem with renewable energy sources is that they take up a lot of real estate.  To save the environment they must take a big footprint in that environment.  And big things cost a lot of money.  Such as solar farms.  Or wind farms.  Even though the ‘fuel’ is free.  Sun.  And wind.  Which is why free solar and wind power is some of the most costly power.  And if that wasn’t bad enough we also have to evict some of the indigenous life from their natural habitat (see Sunflower mirrors power California’s desert farm by Rowan Hooper posted 2/13/2014 on New Scientist).

IT TAKES a couple of seconds to work out what’s going on in this photo. You’re looking at a pair of heliostat mirrors – sunflower-like reflectors that turn to track the sun during the day. These are just two of hundreds of thousands such mirrors arranged in the Mojave Desert in California, all part of the Ivanpah solar power project.

Their job is to concentrate the sun’s rays onto boilers located on three central towers, turning water into steam that drives turbines. The site (below) covers 14 square kilometres and will produce at least 377 megawatts of electricity, not much below the summer output of a typical nuclear power station in the US and enough to power 140,000 homes in California…

The project has been controversial. Native American groups have objected, claiming it will impact burial grounds. The project was also held up while desert tortoises – a threatened species – were relocated away from the Ivanpah site. It highlights the fact that even renewable energy projects can have some adverse environmental impacts.

Hundreds of thousands of mirrors?  That must have cost a pretty penny.  I wonder what happens when the desert winds blow sand onto those mirrors.  Either making them dirty and less reflective.  Or dulling them by the natural sandblasting of the blowing sand that has worn away solid rock in the dessert.  Making them less reflective.  Requiring periodic cleaning of these mirrors.  And their replacement over time.  Thus making a very costly power generation system even more costly.

If we’re not hacking eagles to death with wind turbines we’re kicking another threatened species from its home.  Neither of which happens when we burn coal in a coal-fired power plant.  While there is only a theory that these coal-fired power plants are harming the wildlife on the planet it is a fact that renewable energy is.  So one can only conclude that wildlife like eagles and desert tortoises prefer coal-fired power plants over solar and wind power.  Which isn’t harming them.  As is evidenced by their being around after centuries of burning coal only to suffer harm from solar and wind power.

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Wind Turbines versus a Coal-Fired Power Plant

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 26th, 2013

Economics 101

The Diameter of a 6 Megawatt 3-Blade Rotor is Greater than two 747-400s parked Wingtip to Wingtip

One of the largest coal-fired power plants in the world is in Macon, Georgia.  Plant Scherer.  Whose furnaces consume some 31,000 tons of coal a day.  Producing 3,500 megawatts of electric power.  Enough to power three good sized American cities.  A few million households.

One of the largest offshore wind turbines available on the market is 6 megawatt.  Which is huge.  One blade can be as long as 250 feet.  A typical 3-blade rotor can have a diameter of just over 500 feet.  To get a feel of this magnitude the wingspan of the world’s most common jumbo jet, the Boeing 747-400, is about 211 feet.  Which means one blade of a 6 megawatt wind turbine is longer than the wingspan of a Boeing 747-400.  And the diameter of a 3-blade rotor is greater than two 747-400s parked wingtip to wingtip.

A 6 megawatt wind turbine requires a tower of about 300 feet tall.  So the blades can spin without hitting the ground.  Which is about the same height of a 20 story building.  And if it’s an offshore turbine you can add another 2 stories or so for the tower below the surface of the water.  So these things are big.  And tall.  Some of the largest manmade machines built.  And some of the most costly.  It takes a huge investment to install a 6 megawatt wind turbine.  That can only produce 0.171% of the electric power that Plant Scherer can produce.

There is a Small Window of Wind Velocities that we can use to Generate Electric Power with Wind Turbines

So how many 6 megawatt turbines does it take to match the power output of Plant Scherer?  Well, to match the nameplate capacity you’ll need about 584 turbines.  If we install these offshore in a line that line would extend some 56 miles.  About an hour’s drive time at 55 mph.  Which is a very long line of very large and very costly wind turbines.

We said ‘nameplate capacity’ for a reason.  If 584 wind turbines were spinning in the right kind of wind they could match the output of Plant Scherer.  And what is the right kind of wind?  Not too slow.  And not too fast.  These turbines have gear boxes to speed up the rotational speed of the rotors.  And they vary the pitch of the blades on the rotors.  So the turbine can keep a constant rotational input to the electric generator.  If the wind is blowing slower than optimum the blades can catch more air to spin faster.  If the wind is blowing pretty strong the blades will turn to catch less air to spin slower.

In other words, there is a small window of wind velocities that we can use to generate electric power with wind turbines.  Too slow or no wind at all they produce no power.  If the wind is too great the blades turn parallel to the wind.  So the wind blows across the blades without turning them.  They also have brakes to lock down the rotors in very high winds to prevent any damage.  So if a storm blows through 584 offshore turbines they’ll produce no electric power.  Which means they can’t replace a Plant Scherer.  They can only operate with a Plant Scherer in backup.  To provide power then the winds just aren’t right.

The more Wind Turbines we install the more Costly our Electric Power Gets

Now back to that nameplate capacity.  This is the amount of power a power plant could produce.  It doesn’t mean what it will produce.  The capacity factor divides actual power produced over a period of time with the maximum amount of power that could have been produced.  A coal-fired power plant has a higher capacity factor than a wind turbine.  Because they can produce electricity pretty much whenever we want them to.  While a wind turbine can only produce electricity when the winds are blowing not too slow and not too fast.

So, if the winds aren’t blowing, or if they’re blowing too strongly, it is as if those wind turbines aren’t there.  Which means something else must be there.  Something more reliable.  Something that isn’t weather-dependent.  Such as a Plant Scherer.  In other words, even if we installed 584 turbines to match the output of Plant Scherer we could never get rid of Plant Scherer.  Because there will be times when those windmills will produce no power.  Requiring Plant Scherer to produce power as if we never had installed those wind turbines.  And because it takes time to bring a coal-fired power plant on line it has to keep burning coal even when the wind turbines are providing power.  So it can be ready to provide power when the windmills stop spinning.

Wind may be free but 584 wind turbines cost a fortune to install.  And this investment is in addition to the cost of building, maintaining and operating a coal-fired power plant like Plant Scherer.  All of which the consumer has to pay for.  Either in their electric bill (adding a surcharge for ‘clean energy investments’).  Or in higher taxes (property tax, income tax, etc.) that pays for renewable energy grants and subsidies.  Which means the more wind turbines we build the poorer we get.  Because we have duplicate power generation capacity when a single power plant could have sufficed.

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Wind-Generated Electric Power is 2-3 times more Costly than Coal-Generated Electric Power

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 25th, 2013

Week in Review

A lot of people think wind-generated electric power is free.  Because the wind is free.  But wind-generated electric power is not free.  Wind turbines are very expensive.  And you need a lot of them to produce enough electric power that is useful.  Making it more expensive than the old-fashioned power we once knew and loved.  That generated from coal-fired power plants.  And it’s not a little more expensive.  It’s a lot more expensive (see Offshore wind costs will fall if development continues by EDI Editor posted 8/23/2013 on EDI).

Now a study commissioned by the German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation, along with Siemens and other companies in the industry, has concluded that the cost of electricity from offshore wind can be reduced by about one-third over the next decade if development continues consistently. At present the cost of electricity produced by offshore wind is approximately three times the cost of conventionally produced power, so reducing costs is essential if widespread adoption is to happen…

In analyzing the projected cost development of electricity generated from offshore wind, the study concluded that costs could be reduced by about 31 per cent, assuming stable market development, reaching at least 9 Gigawatt installed capacity in Germany by 2023.

All right, wind-generated electric power costs three times as much to produce than conventionally produced power.  Such as from a coal-fired power plant.  But in a very rosy ‘best case’ projection where the economy is strong and there are great advancements in the technology of wind power they can bring the cost of wind-generated electricity down one third.  So it is only twice as costly as conventionally produced power.

So we will pay a premium for any electric power generated from wind turbines.  At worst it may triple electric power costs.  At best it may only double its cost.  Which is the last thing any of us want to hear as we struggle through the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  So why do it?

To save the planet, of course.  As the global warming fundamentalists warn us the end times will come unless we fall to our knees and affirm our belief in global warming.  And agree to pay 2-3 times more for our electric power to absolve us of our global warming sins.  And not to listen to the ‘factsayers’ who tell us the data shows the planet is NOT warming.  For Al Gore sayeth it is.  And he should know.  For he became a very rich man proselytizing people to the global warming faith.  Hallelujah.

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Australia’s Carbon Tax raised the Cost of Living so much that it’s hurting the Left’s Reelection Chances

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 20th, 2013

Week in Review

The political left says we need to stop global warming RIGHT NOW before it’s too late to save the planet.  And the children.  Of course they’ve been saying that we need to do something RIGHT NOW since the Nineties.  When global warming became all the rage.  Leaving poor old global cooling and the coming ice age it foretold behind in the ash heap of fear mongering.

Why the change?  Simple.  What can you do to prevent global cooling?  Force businesses to emit more carbon into the atmosphere?   To remove carbon scrubbing equipment from power plants?  To produce more of our electric power from coal-fired power plants and less from solar, wind and hydro?  Reduce business taxes to lower the cost of electric power?  Thus lowering electric utility costs to encourage people to use more?

As you can see these are all options that benefit taxpayers.  Not the government.  That’s why the 180-degree change from global cooling to global warming.  Because government can combat global warming.  By forcing businesses to emit less carbon into the atmosphere.  To add carbon-scrubbing equipment to power plants.  Produce more of our electric power from solar, wind and hydro (that the government can subsidize) and less from coal-fired power plants.  Raise the cost of electric power generation to encourage people to use less.  These things benefit the government.  Not the taxpayer.  For the whole purpose of fighting global warming is to transfer more wealth to the government.  So they have more money to spend (see Australia to scrap carbon tax for trading scheme by AFP posted 7/14/2013 on Yahoo! 7 News).

Key greenhouse gas emitter Australia on Sunday announced it will scrap its carbon tax in favour of an emissions trading scheme that puts a limit on pollution from 2014, a year earlier than planned.

The move is set to cost the government billions of dollars but Treasurer Chris Bowen said cuts would be made elsewhere to compensate with the Labor Party sticking to its plan to return the budget to surplus in 2015-2016.

Bowen confirmed media reports that the fixed Aus$24.15 ($21.90) per tonne carbon tax would be dumped in favour of a floating price of between Aus$6 and Aus$10 per tonne from July 1, 2014, to ease cost of living pressures for families and help support the non-mining sectors of the economy.

The political left in Australia implemented a carbon tax to save Australia from global warming.  Yet when they’re making changes in that program what is the BIG problem they have to address?  Billions of dollars of lost tax revenue.  As if they’re spending that money elsewhere.  On government pork.  Not just on subsidizing green energy.  Which makes the carbon tax not about saving the planet.  But about giving the government more money to spend.  As governments everywhere have an insatiable appetite to spend money.  So the carbon tax was a lie.  Surprise, surprise.

And how do you get billions of dollars in additional tax revenue in the first place?  By increasing the cost of living and business with more taxes.  People don’t like paying more taxes.  Politicians on the left understand that.  Which is why they lie during political campaigns.

Former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard’s popularity sunk after she announced plans for the carbon tax in early 2011 — after pledging before her 2010 election that it would not be introduced by a government she led.

The policy backflip prompted protests around the country and conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott, who opinion polls suggest will narrowly win the 2013 election, has vowed to abolish it.

Abbott on Sunday said the shift to 2014 was “just another Kevin con job”.

“Mr Rudd can change the name but whether it is fixed or floating it is still a carbon tax,” he said, adding that “it’s a bad tax, you’ve just got to get rid of it”.

Wherever you are in the world liberals make up a minority of the population.  So the only way they win elections is by lying.  President Clinton promised he wouldn’t raise taxes on the middle class.  But after he won the election he raised taxes on the middle class.  President Obama promised that he wouldn’t nationalize health care.  And within his first 2 years in office he signed the most sweeping health care bill into law.  Obamacare.  Which has put the U.S. onto the path to national health care.  And in Australia Julia Gillard promised she wouldn’t allow a carbon tax happen under her watch.  When she apparently planned to implement a carbon tax all along.  And just lied to the people.  Knowing that they never would have voted for her if she had told the truth.  That she intended to raise the cost of living for everyone.

Politicians lie.  Especially those on the left.  And yet they fool the people time and again.  Getting exactly what they want.  By going out of their way promising that they will never do what they always end up doing.  Clinton.  Obama.  Gillard.  They’re all the same.  They get what they want by saying one thing.  And then doing something completely different.

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Wind Power is both Costly to Build and to Maintain

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 9th, 2012

Week in Review

Green energy enthusiasts love wind power.  For they think it’s free and as good and reliable a source of electric power as is coal.  Because you don’t have to buy wind.  It’s just there for the taking.  As long as the wind is blowing.  But wind power isn’t free power.  For one you have to build a lot of wind turbines to get close to what a coal-fired power plant can generate.  Covering acres of land (or water).  That’s a lot of moving parts that someone has to maintain.  And a lot of gearboxes to wear out (see Deval-ued Wind Power by Kevin D. Williamson posted 12/3/2012 on National Review Online).

Last September in the tiny town of Princeton, Mass., the general manager of the local utility authority sent out an extraordinary little memo that is one part standard bureaucratic posterior-covering and one part cry for help, noting that a modest wind-energy project already has lost nearly $2 million — a whopping number for a community of only 3,413…

“As best I can look into the future,” general manager Brian Allen wrote, “I would expect the wind turbine losses to continue at the rate of around $600,000 a year. This assumes current wholesale electricity rates, no need for extraordinary repairs, and that both turbines continue operating. If any major repairs are required, this will be an additional expense for the PMLD. The original warranties on the turbines have expired, and extended warranty options are not available.”

Those warranties are an acute concern: After becoming operational in 2010, one of Princeton’s two wind turbines broke down in August 2011 and was not back online until nearly a year later. Princeton had a warranty from the turbine’s manufacturer, the German firm Fuhrländer, but the usual political cluster of agents and subcontractors meant that the whole mess still is in litigation. If Princeton does not prevail in its lawsuit, it will suffer hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional expenses. The cost of replacing a gearbox on one of the Fuhrländer turbines is estimated at $600,000.

Those breakdowns are real concerns. According to the trade publication, Wind Energy Update, the typical wind turbine is out of commission more than 20 percent of the time — and regularly scheduled maintenance accounts for only 0.5 percent of that downtime. The group also estimates that some $40 billion worth of wind turbines will go out of warranty by the end of 2012, leaving the Princetons of the world looking at a heap of expensive repair bills. In Europe, the largest wind-energy market, operations-and-maintenance expenses already are running into billions of dollars a year.

So, if you have a wind farm with let’s say 600 wind turbines that would be approximately $360 million to replace all of those gearboxes.  But if they’re lucky enough to only have to replace 20% each year that’s only $72 million a year.  That’s a lot of money for ‘free’ electricity from the wind.  Especially when you consider routine maintenance comes in at around $600,000 a year.  And even that number is a lot higher than anyone dreamed it would be for free electricity.

The truth is this.  Wind power isn’t free.  It’s very, very expensive.  And this for generating equipment that is offline 20% of the time.  Worse, for those that are online their capacity factor is only about 30%.  Meaning that over a period of time a wind farm will provide only about 30% of their nameplate capacity.  So not only is this power costly but it is intermittent.  Which is why no one builds wind farms without massive government subsidies.  As they are about the worst energy investment anyone can make.  With the only way of funding these projects is by bleeding the taxpayers dry.

It’s different with coal.  Green governments have to impose costly regulations to try and shut down coal-fired power plants.  Because they are such a good energy investment the only way they can stop the free market from building and operating them is reducing the return on investment through costly regulation.  Which increases our electric bills.  So with coal money flows from the power producers to the government.  And we get less expensive electricity.  For wind power money flows from the government to the power producers.  And we get more costly electricity.  Which makes no sense whatsoever for the taxpayer.  But it makes a lot of sense if you’re getting campaign contributions from your friends in green energy.

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Wind Power cannot work in the Free Market without Massive State Subsidies

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 9th, 2012

Week in Review

A typical size of a wind turbine is around 3 megawatts.  Whereas a typical steam turbine (the kind spun by a coal-fired power plant) can be as big as 500 megawatts.  So you would need about 167 wind turbines to produce the output of one steam turbine.  But even then they won’t produce the same amount of useable power.  Because the wind doesn’t blow all of the time.  Making wind power a very expensive, intermittent power.  So expensive that no free market solution exists.  Which is why the government heavily subsidizes wind power (see 7 Myths About the Wind Production Tax Credit by David Kreutzer, Ph.D., posted 12/4/2012 on The Foundry).

The wind production tax credit (PTC) has created an industry that produces overpriced, intermittent power, and it will continue to produce overpriced, intermittent power so as long as there is a PTC to pay for it…

… if wind were already cheaper, then it could compete right now. If it is on the verge, then wind-power producers could enter into long-term contracts (which they already do) that would allow them to recoup their investments in the near future when wind will supposedly be so cheap. Neither case argues for subsidies…

The legislation in force has been very clear ever since it was written: Wind turbines put in place by December 31, 2012, qualify for 10 years of production tax credits. Windmills placed in service this year will continue to receive credits—which are worth 40 percent or more of the wholesale value of electricity—for every kilowatt-hour generated until 2022…

Subsidies may well provide jobs and income for those receiving the subsidies, but, as the Spanish experience illustrates, whatever job-creating mechanism the subsidies put in play is offset by running this same mechanism in reverse elsewhere: Financing the subsidies requires taxing other parts of the economy.

A 40 percent or more subsidy?  Anyone that needs a 40% subsidy to stay in business shouldn’t be in business.  That’s a lot of money pulled out of the private sector to produce substandard electric power.  If we went with reliable electric power from coal-fired power plants we wouldn’t need to pull a 40% subsidy from the private sector.  And the power would be first-rate.  Whether the wind blows or not.  Which is why coal-fired power plants work in a free market economy.  And wind power does not.

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Australia turns away from Nuclear Power because of Fukushima and Irrational Fear and Scaremongering

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 11th, 2012

Week in Review

In the war to save the world from global warming one of the first campaigns was the battle against coal.  The backbone of baseload power.  One of the most reliable means to generate electric power.  Fed by a large domestic supply of coal.  You could always count on power being there in your homes with our coal-fired power plants feeding the electric grid.  But coal had to go.  Because they were melting the Arctic ice cap.  And raising ocean levels.  Not quite like they did during the Ice Ages when glaciers covered most of the Northern Hemisphere.  Until global warming pushed them back a couple of thousand miles or so.  At a time when only Mother Nature released the carbon boogeyman into the atmosphere.  But we ignore this historical climate record.  And only pay attention to temperature changes that suit the global warming agenda.  Because the real goal of the war to save the world from global warming is to expand government control into the private sector economy.

Australia wants to show the world that they take global warming serious.  They enacted a carbon tax.  To help fund their investment into renewable energy sources.  Which has increased the cost of electric power.  And if the carbon tax and higher utility prices weren’t enough they also are talking about raising their GST.  Of course the GST has nothing to do with climate change.  But it just goes to show that Australia is trying hard to raise tax revenue.  Which is perhaps the driving force behind their carbon tax.  Revenue.  On top of this there is a growing opposition to the only source of power generation that can duplicate what coal-fired power plants can do but without the pollution (see Meltdown fears crush case for nuclear power – Brisbane Times posted 11/11/2012 on Canberra Hub).

THE Fukushima nuclear accident has quashed consideration of nuclear power in Australia, with the government’s energy white paper arguing there is no compelling economic case for it and insufficient community acceptance…

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson has said it should remain ”a live debate”. Foreign Minister Bob Carr said before he re-entered politics: ”I support nuclear power because I take global warming so very seriously … [it] should certainly play a role in Australia’s future mix of energy sources.”

Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop has said it should be considered ”in the mix” and Senator Barnaby Joyce has said: ”If we are fair dinkum [i.e., truthful] about reducing carbon emissions … then uranium is where it’s going to be…”

Labor argues nuclear power is not economically necessary in Australia, since the carbon tax and the renewable energy target are already shifting power generation to renewables.

There are some fundamental truths about power generation.  Coal, natural gas, and petroleum provide reliable and abundant electric power while being safe but they pollute.  Nuclear power provides reliable electric power without any pollution but can be dangerous.  Though for the half century or so we’ve been using nuclear power the number of accidents that have claimed human lives is statistically insignificant.

There have been about 68 people killed in nuclear power accidents   If you count the future cancer deaths from the  Chernobyl accident you can raise that to about 4,000.  Fukushima in Japan claimed no lives other than one apparent heart attack someone had carrying heavy things in the aftermath of the accident.  It was nowhere near as bad as Chernobyl.  But if it, too, claimed 4,000 lives in future cancer deaths that brings the total death toll from nuclear power to approximately 8,000 deaths for the half century or so we’ve been using it.  Sounds like a lot.  But you know what nuclear power is safer than?  Driving your car.  In 2010 the number of motor vehicle deaths was just over 32,000.  Again, that’s for one year.  Making nuclear power far safer than getting into your car.

The opposition to nuclear power is based on fear.  And politics.  Not the facts.  Yes, nuclear power accidents are scary.  But there are very few nuclear power accidents.  For a statistically insignificant risk of a nuclear catastrophe we’re giving up the only baseload power source than can do what coal can do.  Give us abundant and reliable electric power.  But without the pollution.  However, they oppose nuclear power.  Not because of facts but because of irrational fear and scaremongering.  And if we know they’re doing this for nuclear power can we not conclude that they’re doing the same thing in the war to save the world from global warming?  Especially considering how many thousands of miles glaciers moved long before man released any carbon into the atmosphere?  Yes.  We can believe they base their war to save the world from global warming on nothing but irrational fear and scaremongering.

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Electricity, Heat Engine, Superheated Dry Steam, Coal-Fired Power Plant, Geothermal Power Plant and Waste-to-Energy Plant

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 7th, 2012

Technology 101

(Originally published August 1, 2012)

Geothermal Power Plants and Waste-to-Energy Plants each produce less than Half of 1% of our Electricity

We produce the majority of our electricity with heat engines.  Where we boil water into steam to spin a turbine.  Or use the expanding gases of combustion to spin a turbine.  The primary heat engines we use are coal-fired power plants, natural gas-power plants and nuclear power plants.  The next big source of electricity generation is hydroelectric.  A renewable energy source.  In 2011 it produced less than 8% of our electricity.  These sources combined produce in excess of 95% of all electricity.  While renewable energy sources (other than hydroelectric) make up a very small percentage of the total.  Wind power comes in under 3%.  And solar comes in at less than 0.2% of the total.  So we are a very long way from abandoning coal, natural gas and nuclear power.

Two other renewable energy sources appear to hold promise.  Two heat engines.  One powered by geothermal energy in the earth.  The other by burning our garbage.  In a waste-to-energy plant.  These appear attractive.  Geothermal power appears to be as clean as it gets.  For this heat isn’t man-made.  It’s planet-made.  And it’s just there for the taking.  But the taking of it gets a little complicated.  As is burning our trash.  Not to mention the fact that few people want trash incinerators in their neighborhoods.  For these reasons they each provide a very small percentage of the total electric power we produce.  Both coming in at less than half of 1%.

So why steam?  Why is it that we make so much of our electrical power by boiling water?  Because of the different states of matter.  Matter can be a solid, liquid or a gas.  And generally passes from one state to another in that order.  Although there are exceptions.  Such as dry ice that skips the liquid phase.  It sublimates from a solid directly into a gas.  And goes from a gas to a solid by deposition.  Water, though, follows the general rule.  Ice melts into water at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (or 0 degrees Celsius).  Or water freezes into ice at the same temperature.  Water vaporizes into steam at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (or 100 degrees Celsius).  Or steam condenses into water at the same temperature.  These changes in the state of matter are easy to produce.  At temperatures that we can easily attain.  Water is readily available to vaporize into steam.  It’s safe and easy to handle.  Making it the liquid of choice in a heat engine.

Today’s Coal-Fired Power Plant pulverizes Coal into a Dust and Blows it into the Firebox

A given amount of water will increase about 1600 times in volume when converted to steam.  It’s this expansion that we put to work.  It’s what pushed pistons in steam engines.  It’s what drove steam locomotives.  And it’s what spins the turbines in our power plants.  The plumes of steam you see is not steam, though.  What you see is water droplets in the steam.  Steam itself is an invisible gas.  And the hotter and drier (no water) it is the better.  For water droplets in steam will pit and wear the blades on a steam turbine.  Which is why the firebox of a coal-fired plant reaches temperatures up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1,650 degrees Celsius).  To superheat the steam.  And to use this heat elsewhere in the power plant such as preheating water entering the boiler.  So it takes less energy to vaporize it.

To get a fire that hot isn’t easy.  And you don’t get it by shoveling coal into the fire box.  Today’s coal-fired power plant pulverizes coal into a dust and blows it into the firebox.  Because small particles can burn easier and more completely than large chunks of coal.  As one fan blows in fuel another blows in air.  To help the fire burn hot.  The better and finer the fuel the better it burns.  The better the fuel burns the hotter the fire.  And the drier the steam it makes.  Which can spin a turbine with a minimum of wear.

In a geothermal power plant we pipe steam out of the ground to spin a turbine.  If it’s hot enough.  Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of geothermal wells that produce superheated dry steam.  Which limits how many of these plants we can build.  And the steam that the planet produces is not as clean as what man produces.  Steam out of the earth can contain a lot of contaminants.  Requiring additional equipment to process these contaminants out.  We can use cooler geothermal wells that produce wet steam but they require additional equipment to remove the water from the steam.  The earth may produce heat reliably but not water.  When we pipe this steam away the wells can run dry.  So these plants require condensers to condense the used steam back into water so we can pump it back to the well.  A typical plant may have several wells piped to a common plant.  Requiring a lot of piping both for steam and condensate.  You put all this together and a geothermal plant is an expensive plant.  And it is a plant that we can build in few places.  Which explains why geothermal power makes less than half of 1% of our electricity.

We generate approximately 87% of our Electricity from Coal, Natural Gas and Nuclear Power

So these are some the problems with geothermal.  Burning trash has even more problems.  The biggest problem is that trash is a terrible fuel.  We pulverize coal into a dust and blow into the firebox.  This allows a hot and uniform fire.  Trash on the other hand contains wet mattresses, wet bags of grass, car batteries, newspapers and everything else you’ve ever thrown away.  And if you ever lit a campfire or a BBQ you know some things burn better than other things.  And wet things just don’t burn at all.  So some of this fuel entering the furnace can act like throwing water on a hot fire.  Which makes it difficult to maintain a hot and uniform fire.  They load fuel on a long, sloping grate that enters the furnace.  Mechanical agitators shake the trash down this grate slowly.  As the trash approaches the fire it heats up and dries out as much as possible before entering the fire.  Still the fire burns unevenly.  They try to keep the temperature above 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (about 538 degrees Celsius) .  But they’re not always successful.

They can improve the quality of the fuel by processing it first.  Tearing open bags with machinery so people can hand pick through the trash.  They will remove things that won’t burn.  Then send what will burn to a shredder.  Chopping it up into smaller pieces.  This can help make for a more uniform burn.  But it adds a lot of cost.  So these plants tend to be expensive.  And nowhere as efficient as a coal-fired power plant (or nuclear power plant) in boiling water into superheated dry steam.  Also, raw trash tends to stink.  And no one really knows what’s in it when it burns.  Making people nervous about what comes out of their smoke stacks.  You add all of these things up and you see why less than half of 1% of our electricity comes from burning our trash.

This is why we generate approximately 87% of our electricity from coal, natural gas and nuclear power.  Coal and nuclear power can make some of the hottest and driest steam.  But making a hot fire or bringing a nuclear reactor on line takes time.  A lot of time.  So we use these as baseload power plants.  They generate the supply that meets the minimum demand.  Power that we use at all times.  Day or night.  Winter or summer.  They run 24/7 all year long.  Natural gas plants add to the baseload.  And handle peak demands over the baseload.  Because they don’t boil water they can come on line very quickly to pickup spikes in electrical demand.  Hydroelectric power shares this attribute, too.  As long as there is enough water in the reservoir to bring another generator on line.  The other 5% (wind, solar, geothermal, trash incinerators, etc.) is more of a novelty than serious power generation.

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