After Fukushima Meltdown shuts down Nuclear Power Industry Japan turns to Solar Power

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 10th, 2013

Week in Review

Japan shows how easy it is to go green after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant meltdown.  Nuclear power is unsafe.  Coal-fired power plants are too dirty.  So what to do?  Why, go solar, of course (see Kyocera launches 70-megawatt solar plant, largest in Japan by Tim Hornyak posted 11/8/2013 on CNET).

Smartphone maker Kyocera recently launched the Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant, a 70-megawatt facility that can generate enough electricity to power about 22,000 homes.

The move comes as Japan struggles with energy sources as nuclear power plants were shut down after meltdowns hit Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima plant in 2011.

Set on Kagoshima Bay, the sprawling Nanatsujima plant commands sweeping views of Sakurajima, an active stratovolcano that soars to 3,665 feet.

It has 290,000 solar panels and takes up about 314 acres, roughly three times the total area of Vatican City.

Wow, 70 megawatts.  Sounds big, doesn’t it?  With 290,000 solar panels on 314 acres.  An installed capacity of 0.22 megawatts per acre.  It must have cost a fortune to build.  And they built it on a bay.  At sea level.  In the shadow of an active volcano.  It would be a shame if that volcano erupts and covers those solar panels in a layer of ash.  Or if another typhoon hits Japan.  An earthquake.  Or a storm surge.  For if any of these things happen those 22,000 homes will lose their electric power.

So how does this compare to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant?  Well, that plant sits on 860 acres.  And has an installed capacity of 4700 megawatts.  Or the installed capacity of 67 Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plants.  And an installed capacity of 5.47 megawatts per acre.  Which is perhaps why they built this on the bay.  Because it is such an inefficient use of real estate in a nation that has one of the highest population densities that they put it on the water.  To save the land for something that has value. 

We used the term ‘installed capacity’ for a reason.  That reason being the capacity factor.  Which is the actual amount of power produced over a given amount of time divided by the maximum amount of power that could have been produced (i.e., the installed capacity).  Nuclear plants can produce power day or night.  Covered in volcanic ash or not.  On a sunny day or when it’s pouring rain.  Which is why a nuclear power plant has a much higher capacity factor (about 90%) than a solar plant (about 15%).  So the actual power people consume from the Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant will be far less than its 70 megawatts of installed capacity.

So in other words, solar power is not a replacement for nuclear power.  Or any other baseload power such as coal-fired power plants.  Power demand will far exceed power supply.  Leading to higher costs as they try to ration electric power.  And a lot of power outages.  Some longer than others.  Especially when powerful typhoons and/or storm surges blow in.  As they often do in the Pacific Ocean.

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Spain’s Massive Investment in Solar Power has Greatly increased the Cost of their Electric Power

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 24th, 2013

Week in Review

People think renewable energy is the answer to all our energy problems.  But that isn’t quite so.  In fact, all it does is increase the cost of our electric power.  For sunshine and wind may be free.  But the equipment to harness the energy in sunshine and wind is not free.  It is very, very expensive.  And you need a lot of it.  You will not see one wind turbine service the power needs of one metropolitan area.  You may see a wind farm providing a small percentage of the electric power needs of a large metropolitan area.  And only when the wind blows.

Wind can blow day or night.  But it can also NOT blow day and night.  While solar panels will not work at all at night.  So you have massive investments to install renewable energy generation capacity.  And there will be times when they will provide no power.  So what do you do?  What do you do when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine?  You turn to old reliable.  The electric grid.

This is why renewable energy is so costly.  It cannot replace our fossil-fuel power plants that can provide reliable power day or night in any type of weather.  It can only supplement what we call our baseload power.  Like our beloved coal-fired power plants.  One of the most cost-efficient ways to produce reliable electric power.  Which the power companies have to still run and maintain day and night.  For those who don’t have a wind turbine or a solar array providing their electric power.  And to light up the night.  So instead of one cost-efficient power generation system we have two systems.  One cost-efficient and one cost-inefficient.  And those who invested heavily into renewable energy are now having to deal with these very real problems (see Out Of Ideas And In Debt, Spain Sets Sights On Taxing The Sun by Kelly Phillips Erb posted 8/19/2013 on Forbes).

With so much sunshine at its disposal, Spain has aggressively pursued the development of solar energy: over the past ten years, the government has made significant advances in pressing solar energy and is one of the top countries in the world with respect to installed photovoltaic (PV) solar energy capacity.

It might, however, be too much of a good thing. Spain is generating so much solar power, according to its government, that production capacity exceeds demand by more than 60%. That imbalance has created a problem for the government which now finds itself in debt to producers. And not by a little bit. The debt is said to have grown to nearly 26 billion euros ($34.73 billion U.S.).

So how do you get out of that kind of debt? You propose incredibly onerous taxes and fines, of course. And you do it on exactly the behavior that you encouraged in the first place: the use of solar energy panels. That’s right. Spain is now attempting to scale back the use of solar panels – the use of which they have encouraged and subsidized over the last decade – by imposing a tax on those who use the panels…

…many residents in Spain generate enough electricity from solar that they get paid to selling the excess energy back to producers. This, it turns out, is a problem. The government is putting a stop to that, too: as part of the reform efforts (read: desperate measures), there will be a prohibition on selling extra energy.

If the power companies are providing all the power at night they have to maintain their power plants.  And their power distribution system.  Which means they even have to trim the trees away from their overhead power lines from people who use solar power during the day.  Nothing changes for the power companies.  Except that they can’t sell as much power as they once did.  So their costs of producing power remain the same.  But their revenue has fallen.  Forcing them to operate at a loss.  Or find other ways to replace their lost revenue.  Which they have to.  Because they must have the same capacity available during the day that they have at night.  Even if they aren’t selling as much power during the day as they are at night.  And the last thing they want to do is buy excess power back from homeowners with solar panels on their house when they’re producing their own power that they can’t sell.

Baseload power plants like coal and nuclear take time to bring on line.  They have to produce the heat that boils water into steam.  Then superheat the steam to remove all water from it.  So the steam can spin the generator turbines without damaging the vanes on the turbine.  And once they start these plants up they run these systems at full capacity where they produce power most cost-efficiently.  During peak demand they may bring on some gas-fired turbines that can start and produce power quickly.  And add them to the grid.  When the peak subsides they can shut down these gas-fired turbines and let the baseload generation carry the remaining load.

The Spanish government invested heavily into solar power for whatever reason.  It’s ‘free’ power.  It’s ‘clean’ power.  Or it was just a good way to create a lot of jobs.  But what Spain has now is a surplus of peak power generation during the day that doesn’t eliminate the need to maintain baseload power generation during the day.  Creating a surplus of electric power during the day no one wants.  While requiring power companies to maintain their baseload power during the day so they can provide power at night.  Incurring great costs on the power companies.  Which must be passed on to the same people who paid for the renewable energies subsidies.  The electric power consumer.

This is a classic example of a Hayekian malinvestment.  Friedrich Hayek of the Austrian school of economics said this is what happens when governments interfere with free markets.  They make investments to produce what they think is best while the market demands something else.  The market demanded low-cost electric power.  Which baseload power plants (coal and nuclear) provided.  But the government intervened and subsidized the more costly solar power.  This bad investment—or malinvestment—has only increased the cost of electric power for the Spanish consumer.  And now the Spanish have a big problem on their hands.  What to do with this surplus of peak power no one wants to pay for?  And how to replace the lost revenue of the power companies so they can cover their costs?  Two problems they didn’t have until the government intervened into the free market.

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Solar Power grows at 76% Annual Growth but you wouldn’t know it by the Power it Adds to the Grid

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 16th, 2013

Week in Review

The government subsidized solar power industry is growing like gangbusters.  Thanks to all those government subsidies.  For it appears if it weren’t for that there would be no solar power industry.  Except in space.  Where it is the best choice.  But here on earth?  It just doesn’t work that well (see U.S. Solar Market Grew 76% in 2012 by Ucilia Wang posted 3/14/2013 on Forbes).

Imagine 16 million solar panels blanketing large pieces of land and covering roofs of homes and businesses. That was the number installed in the United States in 2012, when 3.3 gigawatts of the solar equipment materialized to representing a 76% annual growth.

Cumulatively, the country had about 7.2 gigawatts of solar generation capacity from solar panels by the end of 2012, according to a report by GTM Research the Solar Energy Industries Association. That capacity doesn’t mean consumers could tap that much power from solar power projects. The amount of production depends on whether the sun is up and unobstructed by clouds.

So how much useable power do we get from that installed 7.2 gigawatts?  Well, to determine that we must look at the capacity factor.  Which is the ratio of actual power to potential power over a period of time.  According to the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center they calculated the capacity factor for a solar array in Arizona.  A pretty sunny place.  They found the capacity factor to be 19%.  So if we use that we can calculate the useable power from that installed 7.2 gigawatts.  Which comes to approximately 1.4 gigawatts (0.19 X 7.2 gigawatts).  Now, assuming a house with a 200-amp, 240-volt service uses about 30 amps on average over a period of time that 1.4 gigawatts could power maybe 190,000 homes.  Of course, this power can only go to the grid when the sun is shining.  And in Arizona that means the air conditioners are running at maximum capacity.  So if we assume these houses are consuming 100 amps on average when the sun is shining this 1.4 gigawatts may only power 57,000 homes.

The U.S. is one of the fast-growing solar energy markets in the world, thanks in part to the generous federal tax benefits, loans and grants to support solar technology development and deployment. On top of that, over half of the states require their utilities to sell an increasing amount of renewable electricity.

The declining prices for solar panels in recent years have helped to make them more attractive. The fall — 28% for wholesale silicon solar panel prices — came largely as a result of a global oversupply of solar panels and a fierce competition. While project developers and consumers benefit from the lower prices, dozens of manufacturers have filed for bankruptcy or needed financial rescues to stay alive.

According to the U.S. Census there were 132,312,404 housing units in 2011.  So that massive investment in government subsidized solar power can at best in the southern United States (where it is very sunny) power only 0.043% of the houses in the country.  While providing no power for our businesses or institutions.  Or our street lighting.  Which, of course, it can’t.  As the streetlights only come on when solar power doesn’t work.  When it’s dark.  Because the sun isn’t shining.

Which explains why solar power is so heavily subsidized by government.  Because it is so bad an alternative to coal-fired power plants that no private investors will provide the financing for these boondoggles.  Which is typical for any government investment.  For if there were any value in it private investors would be pouring money into it.  But they’re not.  Because solar power is a bad investment.  For it is such a poor producer of energy.  It has its applications.  Such as in space.  Where it is a cheaper alternative than running power lines to the International Space Station from a coal-fired power plant on earth.  But back on terra firma we are far better off running power lines from coal-fired power plants than from solar arrays.  Because coal is good.  Coal is right.  Coal works.  All of the time.  Even when the sun isn’t shining.

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The American Left loves the Chinese Economic System despite its Inefficiencies, Income Gap and Crimes Against Humanity

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 6th, 2013

Week in Review

The American Left looks at China with awe and reverence.  They see that huge export economy and they know how they did that.  Massive government control over the economy.  And Keynesian economics on such a grand scale that it would  even impress Paul Krugman.  Nobel-winning Keynesian economist who’s constant refrain is that the government just never spends enough.  Something no one can say about the Chinese Communists.  And that’s why the American Left loves China.  For when it comes to the economy they wield dictatorial power.  If the American Left had those powers they could accomplish so much.  Beginning with the arrest of the Republican opposition and deportation to reeducation camps.  Then they could make our economy hum.  Just like in China.  Where brilliant government bureaucrats educated in the finest Ivy League universities called all the shots.  For only those who despise free market capitalism would know how to truly optimize economic output (see Game Over for China’s Photovoltaic Manufacturers by Gao Zitan & Frank Fang posted 1/6/2013 on TheEpochTimes).

It was in October of 2011 when the U.S. and European PV companies decided that enough is enough. Over the last years they had to compete against Chinese companies selling their products below cost. As a result many European and U.S. companies had to close down. The remaining ones chose to appeal to regulators to stop the unfair practices.

Note once again who is complaining about companies selling things too cheaply.  It is not the consumer.  For the consumer never complains that they aren’t being charged enough.  It is always another business requesting antitrust protection against a company they cannot compete against.

The Chinese regime viewed solar photovoltaic production as a promising industry with rapid scalability and production, and high profits. It could add to GDP growth and employment. This is why the regime greatly promoted the growth in the domestic PV market through business-oriented regulations and incentives. Banks, local governments and other financial agencies were ordered to heavily subsidize the solar industry with cheap loans.

Starting in 2009, the regime sponsored some large-scale national PV projects. The Solar PV building program comprised 111 projects and the Golden Sun program included 275 projects. Provincial or municipal funded programs provided the framework for many other PV related projects.

This is exactly what the Left wants to do.  What the Obama administration did.  They want smart government bureaucrats to tweak market forces to make things better.  At least this is what these government people think.  Because they are so smart.  Even though they have no business experience.  So the American Left wants to do exactly what China did.  What the Americans did but on a much grander scale.  Because their communist government had the power to do it on a grander scale.  Something the American Left laments that the American government doesn’t have that kind of power.  Yet the Americans want to penalize the Chinese for unfair practices.  Despite constantly championing the Chinese way.

In 2008, there were less than 100 PV enterprises. But by the end of 2011 there were more than 500 PV companies, a five-fold increase, according to Guangzhou-based business newspaper 21st Century Business Herald…

On the surface, Chinese companies were doing well. Revenue of the PV industry was more than 300 billion yuan ($48 billion) and Chinese companies occupied five spots in the top 10 of global solar cell manufacturers, according to the report. However, the fast expansion of PV production capacity did not match domestic demand.

According to statistics of EU ProSun, in 2011, China reached a total PV production capacity of 45 GW but domestic consumption was only 2 GW. The production capacity spurred by massive subsidies and state incentives was over 20 times higher than actual demand for solar powered electricity. The only way out was exporting the surplus production…

As a result of lower subsidies in Europe and tariffs in the United States, the overproduction stimulated by state subsidies can no longer be exported. One indication is a rapid growth in inventories. Sixty-six listed Chinese PV companies of the Shanghai A-Share Stock Market showed a 20 percent increase in inventories compared with the same period of the previous year…

President of EU ProSun Milan Nitzschke said, “Chinese subsidies shield manufacturers from insolvency, and are pumped into solar companies even if they are unprofitable. Most Chinese solar companies would have gone bankrupt a long time ago if not for endless government subsidies.”

This is what happens when you have ‘smart’ government people take over the free market economy.  You build a lot of stuff no one will buy.  Just like the Soviets built a lot of tractor parts that sat on store shelves unsold while people stood in line to buy soap and toilet paper.  This is why the command economies of communism failed.  And while the command economy of the Chinese Communists will fail, too.  What Friedrich Hayek of the Austrian school of economics called malinvestments.  Which directs resources from making things people want to making things people don’t want.  Creating shortages of the things people want (like soap and toilet paper in the Soviet Union).  And overflows inventories with things people don’t want (like solar panels in China).  All because a government bureaucrat decided to make more tractor parts and solar panels instead of soap and toilet paper.

And if that wasn’t bad enough there are other costs for the Chinese way (see Never Mind the Fiscal Cliff, China is Headed For a ‘Real’ Cliff by Michelle Yu posted 1/6/2013 on TheEpochTimes).

China is dangerously close to a catastrophic political, economic, and social meltdown, according to a Chinese business scholar, who cites China’s growing income gap as one of its serious crisis indicators…

Rural versus urban inequality has long been recognized as a key factor in China’s income gap. Not only does the rural income level fall far below the urban level, but the income inequality is also more obvious within rural regions…

Another notable factor is high unemployment rate. The SUFE study suggests that China’s national unemployment rate was 8 percent in July 2011, suggesting an unemployed population of 27.7 million, which is almost twice as high as what authorities have admitted to. The unemployment rate doubles for 51-55-year-olds, reaching 16.4 percent, and is attributed to mergers and standardized bankruptcy of state-owned enterprises in the early 2000’s. (An explanation of mergers and standardized bankruptcy are available here  and here.)

Surprisingly, the unemployment rate for 21-25-year-olds who hold college or above degrees is also 16.4 percent—the same as for the 51-55-year age group. By contrast, the rate for 21-25-year-old poorly educated migrant laborers from rural areas is only 3.4 percent. A shortage of cheap labor has affected some of China’s key export industries such as apparel and electronics, especially on the east coast.

But the root cause of the income inequality and a battery of other economic problems in China can be found in the communist regime’s overexploitation of social wealth, according to Winifred Tung, an attorney and commentator from Taiwan.

The exploitation has been realized largely through preferential policies in favor of state-owned enterprises and suppression of the private sector, Tung told NTD Television, citing recent data, which says that the GDP of large-scale state-owned enterprises (SOEs) accounts for 60 percent of China’s overall GDP. However, among the different culprits of tax evasion in China, SOEs came in first place with 26-28 percent.

So this is why they can make so many solar panels (and other export goods) so cheaply.  By exploiting poor rural laborers in their big city factories.  Resulting in something the American Left say wouldn’t exist if they had control over the economy like the Chinese do.  An income gap.  Income inequality.  Something that is apparently worse in the country where the government has the power to make life fair.  But it’s more than just an income gap.

The Chinese factory workers aren’t like UAW workers.  They have low pay, no benefits and often live in dormitories in the factory compound.  And these have it good (see The Difficulty of Smuggling a Slip of Paper From a Chinese Labor Camp by Guo Jufeng posted 1/6/2013 on TheEpochTimes).

Like the person whose plea made headlines around the world, I was also in Liaoning Province, China. Twelve years ago, I was imprisoned in Huludao City Forced Labor Camp, Liaoning, for 2.5 years for practicing the meditation discipline of Falun Gong. My companion Cao Yuqiang, who was eventually tortured to death, and I were watched 24 hours a day by two criminals, so that we could not exchange information regarding the persecution of Falun Gong.

One day, I came up with the bold idea to find a way to communicate information about the persecution to the outside world.

The first obstacle we faced was that we didn’t have pen or paper. So, as more and more information was passed on to me, it became quite a challenge to memorize everything! To improve my memory, I repeated the information to myself every day, since I couldn’t communicate regularly with Cao Yuqiang.

One day, out of the blue, Cao told me he had found a refill for a ball-point pen. I suspected he must have gone through a great deal of trouble to procure it, but I did not have the opportunity to ask him for any details at that time.

Now I had a pen, but there was still the question of what to write on. I finally realized that the only possibility was toilet paper, and to avoid being caught, I would have to write the message after midnight.

I had to keep strengthening my mind to overcome fear and anxiety as any negative thoughts could lead me to give up. Questions and doubts plagued my mind: “Would this work? How could we get the information out? Would I be able to withstand the torture if it was discovered? Had other prisoners found out about my plan? Were they waiting to catch me in the act?” I was certain that if my plan were discovered, I would be tortured mercilessly with electric batons.

This is part of that Chinese economic system the American Left so admires.  An economy that is based on cheap labor.  In some cases even slave labor.  And it’s no secret.  Which is odd for the American Left who are champions of the labor movement.  Who bankrupted countless businesses (GM, Chrysler, Hostess, etc.) by demanding ever higher pay and benefits packages.  Yet here they are.  Admiring an economic system that just exploits labor in the worst ways.  Even using torture.  And it bothers some.  Maybe not the American Left.  But the Chinese themsleves (see A Young Chinese Man’s New Year Wish for His Father by Gao Zitan posted 1/1/2013 on TheEpochTimes).

As 2013 begins with an atmosphere of joy welcoming in the new year, a young man from Hubei, China, is worried about his father who is a member of the Communist Party.

The term “San Tui” in Chinese refers to the three distinct renouncements. It means to quit the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its two affiliated organizations: the Communist Youth League, and the Young Pioneers, which people are made to join in their youth.

In recent years, “the three renouncements ensure safety” has become a well-known saying in China, and many consider it a rational choice for mainland Chinese to guarantee themselves immunity from all the crimes perpetrated by the Communist Party when the day of reckoning comes. So family members of those who refuse to consider the wisdom of this option are very worried for their loved ones…

“The three renouncements ensure safety” has been widely recognized by the Chinese public since 2004, when The Epoch Times published the truth about the CCP in “Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party” in 2004, and began registering those wishing to make the three withdrawals.

As of Dec. 30, 2012, more than 130 million people had registered with The Epoch Times to quit the CCP and its affiliated organizations.

The American Left may be enthralled with the Chinese communist way just as they were enthralled with the Soviet communist way but those living under those oppressive regimes weren’t.  And aren’t.  China is not the China it was under Mao.  But the hard-line communists are.  But even some of these committed their crimes against humanity for a higher purpose.  To prevent the anarchy that followed in parts of the former Soviet Union when the Soviet Union collapsed.  So some may commit their crimes for good.  While a lot no doubt just enjoy the privilege that comes with being in the party leadership.  And the very comfortable lifestyle.  Much like liberals in this country.  But not the average Chinese.  At least 130 million of them.

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The Government provides more Solar Power Subsidies to Encourage Bad Investments into Solar Power

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 14th, 2012

Week in Review

When it comes to electric power the smart money is on coal.  So of course our government chooses solar (see US gov’t sets aside 285,000 acres for solar, wind development posted 10/12/2012 on EDI).

The US government has finalized a plan to encourage new solar-energy projects on federal lands in several western states. The area covered by the new agreement is 285,000 acres, consisting of seventeen “solar energy zones.” considered to be the best locations for solar development…

The Obama administration has authorized the development of 10,000 megawatts of solar, wind and geothermal projects. These would provide enough energy to power more than 3.5 million homes, said Salazar. According to Salazar, solar and wind energy production has doubled since Obama took office.

You know what the federal government doesn’t have to encourage?  The building of coal-fired power plants.  In fact, the demand for the electric power a coal-fired power plant produces is so great that the government has to increase the cost of building and operating them to discourage people from building them.  Why?  To please President Obama’s liberal, environmental base.  Which includes a lot of wealthy donors.  The environmentalists don’t like coal or the cheap and reliable electric power it produces.  So they attack coal.  And encourage government to subsidize solar power.  Because solar power is not cheap or reliable like the electric power produced by coal-fired power plants.  Which is why no one will build a solar power plant without massive government subsidies.

Power plants have capacity factors.  Which we calculate by dividing actual power produced by the maximum possible power a power plant can produce over a period of time.  A typical capacity factor for a coal-fired plant is approximately 90%.  Because all you need is fuel.  Unlike a solar power plant.  Which has a capacity factor of approximately 20%.  The reason why it’s so much lower than a coal-fired power plant is that solar power plants turn off every evening at dusk and turn back on at dawn.  Something you don’t have to do with coal.  Because you can burn coal all day long.  Even at night.  Which is when we use electric power the most.  To light our homes.  To run our air conditioners after work.  To power our televisions we watch after dinner.

So 10,000 megawatts is not likely to power 3.5 million homes.  Especially at night.  Unless they build a very expensive energy storage system to store the electric power they make during the day to use at night.  As long as no one needs any electric power during the day.  As you can see solar power is not what the government thinks it is.  It’s a novelty at best.  That is very, very expensive despite sunlight being free.  Why is it so expensive?  Because that 285,000 acres needs to be covered with solar panels.  And for this power to be useful at night there’s that aforementioned energy storage system.  All of this to provide what a coal-fired power plant can produce with about 30% the installed capacity of the solar power plant.  Which makes the logical and rational choice coal.  Not solar.  Yet our government chooses solar over coal.  Which tells us what?  Our government is neither logical nor rational.

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Airbus proposing Measures to Reduce the Aviation Carbon Footprint that may make Flying more Dangerous

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 9th, 2012

Week in Review

Airplanes are very complex machines.  They fly at speeds 3-4 times the speeds they land and take off at.  Which requires leading edge slats and trailing edge flaps to curve the wing more at low speed to increase lift.  While flattening it out more at high speeds to reduce drag.  When landing pilots put the engines into reverse thrust to help slow the plane down.  So they even use fuel to slow down.

And speaking of fuel it’s expensive.  Airlines carry as little of it as possible in their airplanes to reduce weight which reduces costs.  Sometimes bad weather forces planes to go to an alternate airport.  Sometimes there are strong headwinds.  Sometimes they fly into Heathrow and have to circle for a half hour or so to land.  Because they only have two runways.  Compounding this problem planes are getting lighter and engines are getting more efficient.  Allowing airlines to carry even less fuel.  So it is not uncommon for a pilot to declare a fuel emergency because of unexpected additional flying time.

When flying in the air highways air traffic controllers keep airplanes separated by large distances.  To keep them from running into each other.  The more distance the better so they can take evasive actions to avoid bad weather cells.  Or allow a plane some leeway in case they have a system malfunction (like plugged pitot tubes feeding false air speed and altimeter readings into the autopilot) that takes the plane off course.  Or in case a plane flies into some clear air turbulence (CAT) and it drops out of the sky 1,000 feet or so.  Or rises 1,000 feet or so.  Two things that allow a plane to recover from unplanned events like these are empty skies around you and altitude.

Aviation has come a long way.  And Boeing and Airbus are making some incredible airplanes.  So they know a thing or two about flying an airplane.  And it shows in their planes.  Which makes it hard to take them seriously when they talk about ways to reduce their carbon footprint by making flying more risky (see Airbus To Present Measures To Reduce Industry’s Environmental Footprint by Jens Flottau posted 9/6/2012 on Aviation Week).

Airbus on Sept. 6 will unveil five measures it says will make the aviation industry environmentally sustainable by 2050 despite projected growth for global air transport…

Airbus also foresees a new method for takeoff, with renewably powered propelled acceleration allowing aircraft to climb steeper and reach cruise altitude faster. This in turn would allow airports to build shorter runways and minimize land use.

Once in cruise, aircraft should be able to self-organize and select the most efficient routes, says Airbus. On dense routes, aircraft could fly in formation, like birds, to take advantage of drag reduction opportunities.

In Airbus’ vision, aircraft will descend without using engine power or air brakes and would be able to decelerate quicker and to a lower final approach speed enabling them to use shorter runways…

Fuel is a key component of Airbus’ proposal, and the manufacturer says the use of biofuels hydrogen, electricity and solar energy will be required to reduce the industry’s environmental footprint.

You simply can’t build shorter runways.  Because planes aren’t perfect.  Sometimes things happen.  If we had shorter runways what would happen to a plane landing with damaged leading edge slats or trailing edge flaps?  And they have to land at a higher speed than normal because they can’t curve the wing to create more lift at lower speeds?  And what if a plane’s thrust reversers failed to deploy?  This is why we have long runways.  To give planes with problems a better chance to land safely.

Flying commercial jets in formation?  Not a good idea.  One of the most dangerous things to do in the Air Force is aerial refueling.  Where two large planes get real close to each other.  If they bump into each other they could cause some damage.  Even cause them to crash.  Flying in formation would be exhausting for a pilot.  Or they could entrust their formation flying to an autopilot.  But if they hit some CAT and get thrown around in that airspace they could get thrown into each other.  Even while flying on autopilot.  Planes also make their own turbulence.  Which is why there are larger distances between the big planes (i.e., the heavies) and the small ones.  So the small ones don’t get flipped over by some spiraling wingtip vortex turbulence off the heavy in front of it.

Solar energy?  Really?  How?  It’s not going to propel a jumbo jet.  And if they think they’re going to save on engine emissions by using solar panels on the wings to produce electricity for the cabin lights and electronics I don’t think that will work.  The emissions from the electrical load on those engines may be negligible compared to emissions they make producing thrust for flight.  And if they add more weight (solar panels) that will only take more fuel for flight.  Which will release more emissions.  Finally, a lot of planes fly at night.  When there is no sunshine.  What then?

Trying to reduce a plane’s carbon footprint will only make flying more dangerous.  It’s one thing to throw money away building solar panels and windmills on the ground.  For that’s just ripping the people off.  But applying this nonsense to aviation may end up killing people.  It’s hard to believe that Airbus is serious with these suggestions.  One wonders if they’re just proposing this to get those proposing that carbon trading scheme to back off as it will increase the cost of flying.  Which will reduce the number of people flying.  And reduce the number of planes Airbus can sell.  Perhaps by dangling this green future of aviation they may buy some time before the carbon trading scheme kills the aviation industry.

Fighting nonsense with nonsense.  It’s just as good an explanation as any.

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The Australians raise Electric Bills to pay for Solar Panels and to Punish Carbon Sinners

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 16th, 2012

Week in Review

The ‘dangerous rise’ in global temperatures roughly corresponds to our actions to lower global temperatures.  In particular our attack on coal.  First we put scrubbers on our coal-fired power plants.  Then we turned to shutting them down in favor of renewable energy.  Which may have been a mistake.  For those coal-fired power plant emissions actually cooled the planet.  Thanks to the soot, ash and sulfur they threw into the atmosphere.  Like a bunch of tiny volcanoes.  Which have been blamed for some cooling spells that have led to famines.  Because all of that soot, ash and sulfur in the atmosphere kept the sun from heating the planet.  And shortened growing seasons.  But this knowledge hasn’t changed anything.  Because the attack on coal is good for government coffers (see Renewables blowout as wind, solar hit harder than tax by Sid Maher and Michael Owen posted 6/16/2012 on The Australian).

SUBSIDIES for rooftop solar panels will cost consumers about $2.3 billion over the next year as the combination of a federal government solar subsidy program and state government feed-in tariffs add about $140 a year to household power bills.

The figures emerged as the South Australian government’s electricity regulator yesterday announced an 18 per cent rise in electricity prices for the state’s households, with the cost of the state’s solar feed-in tariff scheme outstripping that of the carbon tax. State and federal governments are facing calls for reform of the schemes as they are driving electricity prices higher, in addition to the increases associated with the carbon tax.

That’s billion with a ‘b’.  That’s a lot of money to spend.  And governments just love spending money.  So what if it raises our electricity prices?  As far as they are concerned burning coal is as bad as smoking a cigarette.  And this is just a sin tax for everyone.  For the sin of being human.  And taking control of our environment to create the modern world.  Which the environmentalists disapprove of.  We belong in caves.  Hunting and gathering like our ancestors.  Well, gathering, at least.  For the environmentalists would rather we coexist with our fellow animals.  Share our pristine environment.  And not eat them.  Of course, that wouldn’t stop them from trying to eat us.  But that would be okay.  For they could take control of their environment.  As long as they don’t burn coal.  Or are overly flatulent.  Because too much methane released into the atmosphere could raise global temperatures, too.

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President Obama’s Green Initiatives did not Create Jobs or Save the Planet

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 2nd, 2012

Week in Review

If the Energy Department was a private corporation it would be the ideal bailout target for a company like Bain Capital.  Inept management, poor investments and bad strategic policy.  It has everything.  So much so that it would be easier for the bailout team to ask them at Energy what actually worked.  It would keep the initial meeting much shorter (see Difference Engine: To and from the grid posted 6/1/2012 on The Economist).

Since then, interest rates have fallen, while the price of solar panels has tumbled even more so—thanks to Chinese overcapacity. Meanwhile, electricity rates (at least those in southern California) have risen noticeably. Your correspondent reckons photovoltaic solar systems now cost half as much as they did four years ago.

Two things could make or break America’s affair with solar power. One concerns the ushered in by the economic stimulus bill of 2009. Many of those temporary tax credits are now coming to an end. If nothing is done to extend them, the incentives will fall from a peak of over $44 billion in 2009 to $16 billion this year and $11 billion by 2014. That could bring the solar-installation business to a screeching halt and wipe out tens of thousands of green jobs. The industry’s future depends largely on the outcome of the November election….

The irony is that those who invest their own money to generate clean electricity from solar panels on their rooftops are likely to be the last to benefit from it environmentally. Nowadays, most people work outside the home during the day and consume the bulk of their residential electricity in the evening and during the night. In California, that is when the state—which meets only 70% of its electricity requirement from its own resources—relies heavily on cheap electricity imported from dirty coal-fired power stations elsewhere in the country. This situation will only be exacerbated if, as expected, plug-in battery vehicles, needing to be recharged overnight, account for an increasing share of the Californian fleet.

That aside, all your correspondent now has to worry about is whether the 31% anti-dumping tariff recently imposed on Chinese solar-panel makers really does deter them. Having seen such trade spats play out many times before, he suspects the tariffs will only spur Chinese firms to acquire the few remaining American solar-panel makers so that they can carry on manufacturing in low-cost Wuxi or Shanghai and do their final assembly in middle America (presumably with local subsidies to boot).

So solar panels have never been cheaper thanks to the Chinese.  Which is good.  These lower prices will encourage people to save the planet by installing solar panels onto their roofs.  Unless the government raises these low prices with a 31% anti-dumping tariff.  Hmm.  Looks like you have to choose between saving the planet.  And providing green jobs.  For as this anti-dumping tariff clearly shows you can’t have both.

And because jobs are more important than the environment the government is subsidizing the clean energy industry.  Let’s crunch some numbers.  They say we could lose “tens of thousands of green jobs.”  So let’s assume there were 80,000 jobs created in the first year.  And they declined by 10,000 every year to reflect with the growing number of bankruptcies in the green energy sector.  Dividing the incentive by the cost in the first year you get a cost of about $550,000 for each job created.  If do the same for the last year you also get a cost of about $550,000 for each job created.  That’s a lot of money to pay someone.  And I’m guessing that the Chinese aren’t paying their employees a half million each in wages and benefits.  Not when they’re making these solar panels so cheap that the U.S. has to slap an anti-dumping tariff on them.

Of course these numbers don’t include the $500 billion the government blew on Solyndra.  Or the other Solyndras out there.  Which when you factor all of these in these green jobs are costing the taxpayer probably in excess of a million dollars each.  For what?  To pay someone a $50,000 wage on an assembly line so he or she can take these earnings and stimulate the economy?  Talk about a negative return on investment.  And the president is attacking Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital past?  If Bain Capital took over the United States government to turn it around to get a sensible return on tax dollar investments guess who would be the first fired from his job?  The incompetent chief executive that spent a million dollars plus to get $50,000 worth of stimulus.

And the kicker is that none of this matters.  When solar power is available people are at work.  When people are home cranking up their air conditioners and plugging in their electric cars for the night the sun is down and coal-fired power plants are meeting this peak demand.  So we get nothing.  No jobs.  And we don’t even save the planet.  We just get higher taxes and more debt.  A pretty crappy deal if you ask me.  We have coal.  We should just use coal.  And not demonize it.  We’d arrive at the same outcome.  Only with fewer taxes and less debt.  And cheaper electricity.  Because we’d be bringing more coal-fired plants on line.  Now that is a smart turnaround plan.  The kind of turnaround that could end up in the win column at Bain Capital.

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The Wind Turbine Industry about to go the Way of Solar Panel Manufacturers like Solyndra

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 7th, 2012

Week in Review

Solyndra failed because of the Chinese.  Solyndra was working on a tubular technology to avoid using a silicon-based flat panel design.  At the time of product launch silicon was a costly commodity giving Solyndra a cost advantage.  And that cost advantage lasted until the Chinese brought so much silicon to market that the price for silicon imploded.  As did the price of flat-panel solar panels.  Which the Chinese also flooded the market with.  Good for people wanting to install solar panels.  Bad for people wanting to manufacture solar panels.  And now it’s happening with wind turbines (see Wind power market to lose puff this year by Liu Yiyu posted 4/5/2012 on China Daily USA).

China’s wind market bubble will deflate as the industry enters the worst year in its history, said the Spanish wind turbine maker Gamesa.

“The first half of 2012 is the worst time in the last four years, triggering a faster industry consolidation,” said Jorge Calvet, chairman of the company…

China’s wind industry has excessive capacity, going from 10 to 12 manufacturers in 2005 to more than 85 in 2011, according to Calvet.

Jobs of the future?  I think not.  Installing them, perhaps.  But this technology won’t do a thing for our manufacturing base.  What President Obama was going to revitalize with the technology of the future.  Green technology.  Smart technology.  Instead of those high-paying jobs of the past in the oil industry.  Which, incidentally, is something the Chinese can’t take away from us.  Only our president can.  By pursuing his jobs of the future.  Those manufacturing jobs the Chinese are taking away from us left and right.

Perhaps it would be better to pursue those jobs of the past.  There is a demand for fossil fuels.  We have fossil fuels buried within our American borders.  Which means only Americans can bring these fossil fuels to market.  And build and maintain the infrastructure that bring these fossil fuels to market.  All of those good, high-paying, benefit-laden jobs of the past.  In other words, the jobs people want.  The kind that don’t disappear when the Chinese ramp up protection.  The kind that will improve the employment picture.  Bring the cost of gasoline down.  And make America more energy independent.  All good things for the American people.  And things we should do for the American people.  Especially when it’s your job to look out for the American people.

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Solar Panels and Wind Mills are only Viable with Massive Government Subsidies

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 17th, 2012

Week in Review

Renewable energy advocates paint a rosy picture for solar power and wind power.  There are huge gains in installations despite the high-profile failures like government backed Solyndra.   And all they need to build on these successes is a dump-truck full of more government subsidies, tariffs and legislation forcing consumers to pay more for energy (see U.S. solar and wind industries expand by Wendy Koch posted 3/14/2012 on USA Today).

Newly installed solar panels produced 109% more electricity nationwide last year than in 2010, reaching a record 1,855 megawatts, as the price of these panels plummeted by more than 50%, according to a report today by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), an industry group, and GTM Research.

“The U.S. remains the innovative center of the solar industry worldwide,” says Rhone Resch, SEIA’s president. He says “run-of-the-mill” panels may increasingly be made overseas, but the U.S. still will make the most advanced solar components and post double-digit annual growth. He expects solar power, which now produces less than 1% of U.S. electricity, to generate 10% by 2020…

“It’s not all rosy. … There have been growing pains of late,” says Ron Pernick, managing director for Clean Edge, a research firm. He expects “considerable consolidation.”

A federal “production tax credit,” which lowers the wind industry’s cost of producing power, is slated to expire at the end of 2012. Also at issue:

•A Treasury Department program, which Resch says helped many solar start-ups, expired at the end of last year. On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate rejected an effort to restart the Section 1603 program, which allows companies to take upfront cash grants in lieu of tax credits.

•The Department of Commerce is likely Monday to decide whether to impose duties on solar panels made in China in response to an unfair-trade complaint filed by Oregon-based SolarWorld and six unnamed solar manufacturers. If it imposes duties, Resch expects a slight increase in panel prices.

•Low natural-gas prices are threatening the economic rationale for renewable energy. Pernick says the wind and solar industries will still grow, because more than two dozen states now require utilities to produce more of their power from renewables.

Yes, solar and wind are viable energy alternatives.  As long as we make consumers pay more in taxes to subsidize these industries.  We punish them for buying lower-priced solar panels.  And we force them to pay higher utility bills so utilities use more expensive renewable energy instead of less expensive natural gas.  If only we do these, and tank the U.S. economy in the process, we can make renewable energy viable.  Which it clearly isn’t.  Because we have to do these things.

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