Week in Review
I remember losing power for a couple of hot and humid days. The kind where you stick to everything because you’re just covered in sweat. Making it almost impossible to sleep. But I was able to borrow my father’s generator. So I would not have to suffer through that insufferable heat and humidity. While I was able to run my refrigerator, turn the lights on and even watch television I could not start my central air conditioner. Even when I shut everything else off. It was large enough to run the AC. But it was just not big enough to start it. I tried. But as I did that inrush of current (about 40 amps) just stalled the generator. Which could put out only 30 amps at 240 volts. So even though I had a 30 amp generator to start an air conditioner that was on a 20 amp circuit breaker it wasn’t big enough. Because of that momentary inrush of current. So I suffered through that insufferable heat and humidity until the electric utility restored power. And I never loved my electric utility more than when they did.
Now suppose I wanted to go to solar power. How large of a solar array would I need that would start my air conditioner? If one square inch of solar panel provided 70 milliwatts and you do a little math that comes to approximately a 950 square-foot solar array. Or an array approximately 20 FT X 50 FT. Which is a lot of solar panel. Costly to install. And if you want to use any electricity at night you’re going to need some kind of battery system. But you won’t be able to run your air conditioner. For one start would probably drain down that battery system. So it’s not feasible to disconnect from the electric grid. For you’re going to need something else when the sun doesn’t shine. And because there can be windless nights a windmill won’t be the answer. Because you’re going to need at least one source of electric power you can rely on to be there for you. Like your electric utility. Or, perhaps, your gas utility (see Relentless And Disruptive Innovation Will Shortly Affect US Electric Utilities by Peter Kelly-Detwiler posted 4/18/2013 on Forbes).
NRG’s CEO David Crane is one of the few utility CEO’s in the US who appears to fully appreciate – and publicly articulate – the potential for this coming dynamic. At recent Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics conference, he indicated that solar power and natural gas are coming on strong, and that some customers may soon decide they do not need the electric utility. “If you have gas into your house and say you want to be as green as possible, maybe you’re anti-fracking or something and you have solar panels on your roof, you don’t need to be connected to the grid at all.” He predicted that within a short timeframe, we may see technologies that allow for conversion of gas into electricity at the residential level.
If you want carefree and reliable electric power you connect to the electric grid. Have a natural gas backup generator sized to power the entire house (large enough to even start your central air conditioner). And a whole-house uninterruptible power supply (UPS). To provide all your power needs momentarily while you switch from your electric utility to your gas utility. Well, all but your central air conditioner (and other heavy electrical loads). Which would have to wait for the natural gas generator to start running. Because if you connected these to your UPS it might drain the battery down before that generator was up and running. No problem. For we can all go a minute or two without air conditioning.
So this combination would work. With solar panels and a natural gas generator you could disconnect from the electric grid. But is this something we should really do? Not everyone will be able to afford solar panels and natural gas generators. They will have to rely on the electric utility. Some may only be able to afford the solar panels. Staying connected to the grid for their nighttime power needs. But if our electric utilities cut their generation and take it offline permanently it could cause some serious problems. For what happens when a day of thunderstorms blocks the sun from our solar panels and everyone is still running their air conditioners? The solar panels can no longer provide the peak power demand that they took from the electric utility (causing the utilities to reduce their generation capacity). But if they reduced their generation capacity how are they going to be able to take back this peak power demand? They won’t be able to. And if they can’t that means rolling brownouts and blackouts. Not a problem for those with the resources to install a backup generator. But a big problem for everyone else.
We should study any plans to mothball any baseload electric generation. For renewable sources of energy may be green but they are not reliable. And electric power is not just about comfort in our homes. It’s also about national security. Imagine the Boston Marathon bombing happening during a time of rolling blackouts. Imagine all of the things we take for granted not being there. Like power in our homes to charge our smartphones. And to power the televisions we saw the two bombers identified on. We would have been both literally and figuratively in the dark. Making it a lot easier for the bombers to have made their escape. There’s a reason why we’re trying to harden our electric grid from cyber attacks. Because we are simply too dependent on electric power for both the comforts and necessities of life. Which is why we should be building more coal-fired power plants. Not fewer. Because coal is reliable and we have domestic sources of coal. Ditto for natural gas and nuclear. The mainstay of baseload power. Because there is nothing more reliable. Which comes in handy for national security.
Tags: air conditioner, baseload, blackouts, electric grid, electric power, electric utility, electricity, gas utility, generator, grid, national security, natural gas, natural gas generator, peak power demand, rolling blackouts, solar array, solar panel, solar power, UPS
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.
Tags: capacity factor, Coal, coal-fired power plants, government subsidies, government subsidized solar power, solar array, solar panels, solar power
Week in Review
The Boeing 747-8 is the latest derivative of the 747 family. It can seat up to 465 people. And has a gross takeoff weight of 975,000 pounds. It’s cruising speed is 570 mph. And has a range of 9,210 miles at maximum take-off weight. Which means it could fly between California and New York in about 4 and a half hours. The Boeing 747-8 is truly a remarkable aircraft. But how does it measure up to other aircraft? Well, here’s one with a similar wingspan (see Solar-Powered Plane To Make Cross-U.S. Flight by Jesse Emspak posted 3/4/2013 on Discovery News).
A plane that can fly on solar power, day or night, will make its way across the United States this summer — the first time the plane has attempted a cross-continental flight.
Wow. Can it be the environmentalist were right all along? That we can replace fossil fuels with solar power? Well, this appears to be the proof. A plane that can fly cross-continental. Day or night. Why, this can revolutionize air travel. And put a serious crimp in global warming. For as great as the 747-8 is it still burns a heck of a lot of jet fuel. Putting a lot of emissions into the air. Perhaps this is the future of aviation. Clean solar power. Perhaps with some minor adjustments required in our travel plans. But if it saves the planet perhaps those minor adjustments will be worth it.
The Solar Impulse — built as a project of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the brainchild of Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg — has the wingspan of a 747 but only weighs as much a Honda Prius. It flies thanks to four turboprop engines powered entirely by batteries and solar panels.
Borschberg told Discovery News that the although the plane could make the whole trip from California to New York in one go, the pilot cannot. The plane travels at 40 to 50 miles per hour, so a cross-country flight would take days. And since there’s only room for a single person in the cockpit, in part to save weight, and no autopilot, the trip will have to be broke up into five legs…
The solar panels are conventional silicon, with an efficiency of about 25 percent. While there are more efficient solar panels such as those used in the satellite industry, those designs are often too heavy, Borschberg said, as they tend to be encased in glass. And although the power is stored in batteries, the engines can run directly from the energy collected by the solar panels. In fact, the plane could be flown on an empty battery.
A 747-8 at maximum take-off weight weighs the same as about 321 Honda Prius hybrids. And it includes galleys. And toilets. So it can stay in the air and fly almost anywhere in the world nonstop. While the Solar Impulse currently can’t carry any passengers, has no galley and no toilets. Which may allow about three flights of 4-5 hours a day. Allowing it to arrive in New York after leaving California some 6 days earlier.
So solar power is not a viable alternative to fossil fuel if we want to fly anywhere. As remarkable as the Solar Impulse is, and it is truly remarkable, it is only an engineering marvel. For there is no way that solar power can provide sufficient thrust to carry great weights into the air. Solar power can work in weightless space for they only have to power electric loads. They don’t have to provide any thrust to move a heavy mass.
This is a large-scale example showing the limitations of electric-powered transportation. For transportation to be useful it must be able to move heavy weights. But the more useful the transport vehicle (the greater the weight it can move) the more battery charge is used for motive power. Drawing down the battery charge faster (which is drawn down even faster if lights, heat, radio and other electric accessories are used). Reducing range. And usefulness. Leaving the fossil fuel-powered vehicle the only viable vehicle in the foreseeable future.
Tags: batteries, battery charge, Boeing 747-8, fossil fuels, Global Warming, range, Solar Impulse, solar power
Week in Review
By 2012 India had about 1,045 MW of solar power capacity connected to their electric grid (see Year End Review of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy posted on the Press Information Bureau, Government of India website). Available when the sun shines. India had about 18,320 MW of wind power capacity attached to their electric grid. Available when the wind blows.
In July of 2012 India suffered the largest power outage in history. Approximately 32,000 MW of generating capacity went offline. Putting about half of India’s population of 1.22 billion into the dark. Which her solar and wind capacity was unable to prevent. So even though they’re expanding these generating systems guess what else they’re doing? Here’s a hint. You don’t need as much land to make this power. And a little of it can create a lot more electric power than solar or wind can (see Areva says India keen to start using EPR reactor by Geert De Clercq posted 1/17/2013 on Reuters India).
Negotiations about the sale of two French nuclear reactors to India are at an advanced stage and Indian authorities are keen to start using French nuclear technology, reactor builder Areva (AREVA.PA) said on Wednesday…
The World Nuclear Association expects India’s nuclear capacity will grow fourfold to 20,000 megawatts by 2020 from just under 5,000 MW today, making it the third-biggest market after China and Russia…
The third-generation European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), conceived following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, has a double containment wall and a “core catcher” to contain core meltdown. Its 1,600 megawatt capacity is the largest on the market…
The planned site for the EPR reactors in Jaitapur – on the subcontinent’s Arabian Sea coast, 400 km south of Bombay and 230 km north of Goa – could receive up to six nuclear reactors, though at the moment only two EPRs are under consideration.
If you do the math that one site in Jaitapur will be able to produce 9,600 MW. They’ve been building solar power for a decade or more and have only brought that capacity up to 1,045 MW. That one nuclear power site will produce 9.2 times the power produced by all the solar power they’ve built to date. And it doesn’t matter if it’s day or night. That nuclear power will always be there.
To produce that additional 15,000 MW of nuclear power will only require building two nuclear sites like at Jaitapur. To get this additional capacity they could double their wind power installations to add another 18,320 MW. Of course if they did that power would only be available when the wind blew. Which is why they are installing nuclear power. Because it’s easier, less costly and more reliable. And with good reliable power some 610 million people may avoid another power outage like that in 2012. Or they can build more solar and wind. And continue to set more records for power outages.
Tags: Areva, electric grid, electric power, EPR, European Pressurised Reactor, India, Jaitapur, nuclear power, nuclear reactors, power outage, solar power, wind power
Week in Review
Coal-fired power plants produce reliable and inexpensive electric power. But they pollute too much for those on the left. So they want to replace them with renewable energy sources. The leading two being solar power and wind power. Which require a lot more infrastructure to produce the same amount of electric power. Making these sources very, very expensive. So no one builds these unless they are highly subsidized by the taxpayers.
But they have other problems besides their high costs. The sun doesn’t always shine. And the wind doesn’t always blow. Which means you can’t replace all coal-fired power plants with these renewable sources. You also need something that can produce electric power when the sun doesn’t shine. And the wind doesn’t blow (see Britain to Encourage Both Nuclear and Wind Power by STANLEY REED posted 11/23/2012 on The New York Times).
The British government on Friday announced far-reaching changes in energy regulation designed to encourage development of renewable energy and nuclear power while ensuring the country could meet its electricity needs.
The changes will gradually quadruple the charges levied on consumers and businesses to help support electricity generation from low-carbon sources, to a total of about £9.8 billion, or $15.7 billion, in the 2020-21 fiscal year from £2.35 billion currently.
The government forecasts that the new price supports will add 7 percent, or about £95 a year, to the average household electricity bill. Currently, such charges add 2 percent to energy bills, or £20 a year…
Electricity generated from cleaner sources like nuclear and offshore wind is much more expensive than power generated by coal- or gas-fired plants. Companies will invest in clean energy only if given substantial incentives. The government hopes to attract £110 billion in energy investment through 2020…
Others said they were appalled by support for new nuclear installations. While nuclear plants are low carbon emitters, they bring risks of accidents as well as the unresolved problem of what to do with spent fuel.
Stephan Singer, head of energy policy in Brussels for the World Wildlife Fund, said his organization was “fundamentally opposed” to price supports for nuclear power…
Britain intends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 compared with 1990 levels. Until now, wind power has been the main beneficiary of government intervention. Now the government has come to believe that while building more nuclear plants would be costly and controversial, they will be necessary to reach emission targets.
This is the price of going green. Higher electric bills. And more nuclear power plants. For there are no renewable sources that we can build that can provide baseload power. Power that is there 24/7 regardless of time of day or weather conditions. Hydroelectric power could but pretty much all the good rivers have already been dammed. Which lives only one emissions-free energy source. Nuclear power. With all the baggage it comes with. Safety issues. Spent fuel issues. Terrorist issues. Things you don’t have to worry about with a coal-fired power plant. That’s why they provide the majority of our electric power. There just isn’t anything else that can do it as well.
But because a coal-fired power plant may put into the atmosphere dangerous emissions over their operating lifetime equal to a volcanic eruption or two the environmentalists won’t have them. No. They’d rather you have higher electric bills. And suffer more power outages. Of course, they may change their tune once their Internet access becomes spotty due to those power interruptions. But until then expect higher electric bills. To fund those new windmills and nuclear power plants. The costly renewable energy that will replace your beloved coal-fired power plants.
Tags: Britain, Coal, coal-fired power plants, electric bills, electric power, nuclear power, nuclear power plants, renewable energy, solar power, wind power
Week in Review
The crisis in the northeast following super storm Sandy has shown why we are ‘addicted’ to oil. For when everything else fails us it’s what we turn to most (see New York Harbor Reopens, Bringing Hope to the Fuel-Hungry by Martha C. White posted 11/2/2012 on CNBC).
On Friday, Cuomo signed an executive order allowing distributors and transporters to bring gasoline, diesel and kerosene into New York State without being required to meet typical registration requirements.
How do you make things work faster and more efficiently? Get rid of governmental regulations. That’s right, when you need things to operate at their best you remove government. You don’t add more government. Just think how much better the economy would be if it was this way all of the time. If it was we probably wouldn’t have a U-6 unemployment rate of 14.6%.
But other means of getting fuel into the area were still limited. And that’s not such good news for drivers who have spent hours lined up for gas or for thousands of homeowners who have been forced to use gas-powered generators to light homes darkened by Sandy.
Attack oil all you want but there is a reason why we’re addicted to it. It’s the fuel that brings food to our grocery stores. It’s the fuel that lets us drive to someplace that didn’t lose their electric power so we can find food and shelter. And it’s the fuel that lets us heat our homes and refrigerate our food when we lose our electric power. Oil is the go-to fuel when everything else fails us. It’s Old Reliable. And at times the difference between life and death.
The Oil Price Information Service reported that two big pipelines were scheduled to resume partial operations Thursday and Friday, although the oil they carry only moves at a rate of three to five miles an hour.
Even if the ports and pipelines were running at full capacity, though, getting that fuel into people’s cars presents other challenges.
One is the ongoing power outages. “We are all dependent on utilities for electricity and that includes service stations and bulk terminals,” Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at OPIS, said via email…
At the retail level, tankers won’t deliver fuel to a gas station that doesn’t have electricity to power its pumps. As of Thursday, the American Automobile Association estimated that only 35 to 40 percent of gas stations in New York City and New Jersey were operating. On Long Island, the estimate was 30 to 35 percent.
The winds and tidal surge were devastating. Downing power lines like falling dominoes. But once the power lines are back up electric power will flow again. Imagine if they had to rebuild the power generating infrastructure, too. If the areas affected by super storm Sandy were powered by clean energy of the future. Wind power and solar power. If these were swept away like falling dominoes, too, it would take months to install new solar arrays and windmills. In fact, it would take so long that they would probably attach the grid in those areas to a coal-fired power plant. Until they could rebuild the clean power of the future. While the detested coal-fired power plant (detested by the Left) shoulders the load comfortably. Allowing those ravaged by super storm Sandy to return to normalcy quicker. In fact, it would be far less costly just to leave these areas connected to a coal-fired power plant. And smarter. Because there will be other super storms coming that will just sweep the new solar arrays and windmills away like the previous ones.
If you’re interested in protecting human life during trying times you should embrace oil and coal. As one will allow people to live when everything else is failing them. And the other will allow the restoration of power as soon as the power lines are restored. Something that solar and wind won’t do.
Tags: addicted to oil, coal-fired power plant, electric power, food, fuel, oil, power lines, Sandy, solar, solar power, super storm, super storm Sandy, wind, wind power
Neither Snow nor Rain nor Heat nor Gloom of Night Stays the Production of Electric Power from Coal
What’s the best way to generate electric power? This is not a trick question. There is an answer. And there is only one correct answer. Coal. A coal-fired power plant is the best way to generate electric power. Coal-fired power plants can run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You never have to turn them off. They can produce an enormous amount of power for the given infrastructure. You can put these power plants anywhere. Where it’s snowy and cold. Where it’s bright and sunny. Where it’s cloudy and rainy. It doesn’t matter. Coal-fired power plants are like the US Postal Service. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays the production of electric power from coal.
Coal is a highly concentrated form of energy. Burning a little of it goes a long way. This is why one coal-fired power plant can add over 2,000 megawatts to the electric grid. And why about 600 coal-fired power plants can provide over half of our electric power needs. Coal is one of the most abundant fuel sources in the world, too. In fact, America has more coal than we can use. This high domestic supply makes coal cheap. Which is why coal-produced electric power is some of the cheapest electricity we have.
The only thing that will shut down a coal-fired power plant is running out of coal. Which doesn’t happen easily. Look around a power plant and you will see mountains of coal. And conveyor systems that move that coal to the firebox that burns it. You’ll probably see more coal arriving. By unit train. Trains with nothing but coal cars stretching a mile long. By river barge. Or Great Lakes freighter. Making round-trip after round-trip from the coal mines to the power plants. We’ve even built power plants near coal mines. And fed those plants with coal on conveyor systems from the mines to the power plants. Trains, barges and freighters use self-contained fuel to transport that coal. And electric power energizes those conveyor systems. Electric power that comes from the power plant. Making it difficult to interrupt that flow of coal to our power plants. Onsite stockpiles of coal can power the plant during brief interruptions in this coal flow. When the lakes freeze they can get their coal via train. And if there is a train wreck or a track washout they can reroute trains onto other tracks. Finally, coal-fired power plants are least dependent on other systems. Whereas a natural gas-fired power plant is dependent on the natural gas infrastructure (pipelines, pumps, valves, pressure regulators, etc.). If that system fails so do the natural gas-fired power plants.
Solar Panels produce low DC Currents and Voltages that we have to Convert to AC to Connect them to the Electric Grid
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays the production of electric power from coal. But they sure can interrupt solar power. Which won’t produce much power if there is snow or rain or night. Giving it one of the lowest capacity factors. Meaning that you get a small fraction of useful power from the installed capacity. Wind power is a little better. But sometimes the wind doesn’t blow. And sometimes it blows too strong. So wind power is not all that reliable either. Hydroelectric power is more reliable. But sometimes the rains don’t come. And if there isn’t enough water behind a hydroelectric dam they have to take some generators offline. For if they draw down the water level too much the water level behind the dam will be below the inlet to the turbines. Which would shut off all the generators.
Of course, hydroelectric dams often have reservoirs. These fill with water when the rains come. So they can release their water to raise the water level behind a dam when the rains don’t come. These reservoirs are, then, stored electric power. For a minimal cost these can store a lot of electric power. But it’s not an endless supply. If there is a prolonged draught (or less snow in the mountains to melt and run off) even the water level in the reservoirs can fall too low to raise the water level behind the dam high enough to reach the water inlets to the turbines.
Storing electric power is something they can do with solar power, too. Only it’s a lot more complex. And a lot more costly. Solar panels produce low DC currents and voltages. Like small batteries in our flashlights. So they have to have massive arrays of these solar panels connected together. Like multiple batteries in a large flashlight. They have to convert the DC power to AC power to connect it to the grid. With some complicated and costly electronics. And any excess power these solar arrays produce that they don’t feed into the grid they can store in a battery of batteries. And as we know from the news on our electric cars, current battery technology does not hold a lot of charge. Barely enough to drive a 75 mile round-trip. So you’d need a lot of batteries to hold enough useful power to release into the grid after the sun goes down.
Storms like Sandy would wipe out Solar Arrays and Wind Farms with their High Winds and Storm Surges
When a 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit Japan in 2011 the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant suffered no damage. Then the storm surge came. Flooding the electrical equipment with highly conductive and highly corrosive seawater. Shorting out and destroying that electrical equipment. Shutting down the reactor cooling pumps. Leading to a partial reactor core meltdown. Proving what great damage can result when you mix water and electric equipment. Especially when that water is seawater.
Hurricane Sandy hammered the Northeastern seaboard. High winds and a storm surge destroyed cities and neighborhoods, flooded subway tunnels and left tens of millions of people without power. And they may be without power for a week or more. Restoring that power will consist primarily of fixing the electric grid. To reconnect these homes and businesses to the power plants serving the electric grid. They don’t have to build new power plants. Now if these areas were powered by solar and wind power it would be a different story. First of all, they would have lost power a lot earlier as the driving rains and cloud cover would have blocked out most of the sun. The high winds would have taken the windmills offline. For they shut down automatically when the winds blow too hard to prevent any damage. Of course, the high winds and the storm surge would probably have damaged these as well as the power lines. While shorting out and destroying all of that electronic equipment (to convert the DC power to AC power) and the battery storage system
So instead of just installing new power lines they would have to install new windmills, solar arrays, electronic equipment and storage batteries. Requiring long manufacturing times. Then time to transport. And then time to install. At a far greater cost than just replacing downed wires. Leaving people without electric power for weeks. Perhaps months. Or longer. This is why using coal-fired power plants is the best way to generate electric power. They’re less costly. Less fragile. And less complicated. You just don’t need such a large generating infrastructure. Whereas solar arrays and wind farms would cover acres of land. And water (for the wind farms). And storms like Sandy could wipe these out with their high winds and storm surges.
Tags: batteries, Coal, coal mines, coal-fired power plant, electric grid, electric power, electronic equipment, electronics, generate electric power, high winds, Hurricane Sandy, hydroelectric dams, hydroelectric power, power lines, power plants, reservoir, Sandy, solar arrays, solar power, storage batteries, storm surge, wind farms, wind power, windmills
Week in Review
President Obama loaned a half billion dollars to Solyndra to create jobs of the future. Solyndra filed bankruptcy shortly thereafter. And they are not the only green investment to go belly up. But the president hasn’t given up on his green energy. Especially solar power. Despite China (see Rays of hope for solar firms by Wang Jun and Chen Jia posted 10/26/2012 on China Daily USA).
China’s solar-panel industry has been rocked by recent US duties on its exports to combat alleged dumping and the specter of similar action by European authorities.
At least one company sees the standoff as an opportunity, however…
In the industry’s trade tussle with the United States, Zhou believes, weaker companies will suffer most, and some may fail…
CSG PVTech, a subsidiary of Shenzhen-listed CSG Holding Co, makes panels and modules studded with photovoltaic, or PV, cells that draw on the sun’s rays to produce electricity. Zhou said his confidence in the company is backed by recognition its products have received abroad.
For example, German solar-industry publisher Photon, which tests PV cells and related equipment, since 2010 has ranked CSG-made modules containing monocrystalline-silicon cells among the top three in the world and polycrystalline-silicon modules among the top 10…
Although he oversees both European and US operations for CSG PVTech, it’s clear where Zhou’s focus resides…
“California is a bigger market than Germany,” he said, pointing out that the US state meets the two key requirements – lots of sunshine and a huge demand for electricity.
Jack Pryor, CEO of Access Solar Inc, a Palm Springs installer of panels in homes, said his company is currently outfitting over 110 new townhouses in California with CSG PV panels…
By working with installers like Access Solar, Zhou plans to turn CSG’s focus in the US from business-to-business to business-to-customer, in hopes of making the Chinese company a household name.
He admits, however, that like many Chinese enterprises, a limited understanding of marketing is a hurdle.
“We sell products, but we don’t understand how to sell service,” he said. “As a result, our value chain is too short.”
Zhou aims to sell both.
So not only can the Chinese make solar panels far cheaper than the Americans they make quality stuff. In fact they make one product that is in the top three in the world. And another that is in the top 10. Inexpensive and high quality? Hard to compete against that. But it even gets worse for those jobs of the future. American installers are partnering with China. And China is working on providing excellent service in addition to low prices and high quality.
So it looks like the president’s green initiative will help create those jobs of the future after all…in China. But they’re trying to stop that by slapping anti-dumping duties on them. Of course, that just raises the cost of saving the planet. Discouraging people from installing solar panels on their houses because of these higher costs. So the president’s green initiative is basically a lose-lose. No jobs of the future. And discouraging people from trying to save the planet. Oh, and the president’s war on coal is raising the cost of electric power. So the president’s policies are a triple loser.
Solar power. It was going to pull America out of the Great Recession by creating jobs of the future. Instead we get bankruptcies of government subsidized firms. And higher unemployment than there was four years ago. Is it me or is solar power not the panacea that the president said it was?
Tags: China, green initiative, green investment, jobs of the future, save the planet, solar panel, solar power, Solyndra
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.
Tags: capacity factor, Coal, coal-fired power plants, electric power, energy storage system, government subsidies, solar, solar panels, solar power, solar power plant, subsidize
Week in Review
Australia is working hard to save the planet. They’re building a new solar farm that will be the biggest in all of Australia. Allowing the environmentalists to feel good. But it will do little if anything (see Canberra to get Aust’s biggest solar farm posted 9/5/2012 on 9NEWS).
International solar power company Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) will construct and operate the 20 megawatt facility, the ACT Government announced on Wednesday…
ACT Environment Minister Simon Corbell said the solar farm would be able to power 4400 more Canberra homes with only a $13 annual increase to all householder power bills.
Canberra, Australia, is located at about 35° south latitude. Which puts it between the Tropic of Cancer and the Antarctic Circle. So the sun never gets directly overhead. The Tropic of Capricorn at about 23° south latitude (above Canberra) being the cutoff point for that. Which means Canberra gets about 6 hours or less of sunshine during the months of May, June and July. The month of December sees about 9.4 hours of sunshine each day. On average their mean daily sunshine is approximately 32.1% each year (about 7.7 hours of sunshine out of the 24-hour day). According to the same website linked to above their mean number of clear days averages to about 27.5% each year.
When you factored these together (as well as blowing dirt, bird droppings, etc.) you can understand why the capacity factor for solar power is only about 18% of the total possible output over a period of time. So that 20 megawatt rated solar power plant may only provide about 3.6 megawatts of useful electric power. Which would be the equivalent of power for maybe 300 homes (with a 100 amp service at 240 volts).
Their claim of powering 4400 homes is questionable. If you divide that 20 megawatts by 4400 homes and then divide that number by 120 volts you get 37.88 amps. Which is just over two fully loaded 20-amp circuits. Or just over three fully loaded 15-amp circuits. Take a look in your electric panel in your house and see what that will get you. If you have a typical panel you probably have 20 circuits. Divided up between 15-amp and 20-amp circuits. With maybe a 2-pole breaker (240V) for an electric stove or central air conditioning. So that 37.88 amps at 120 volts isn’t going to power a lot in anyone’s house.
This new power plant will add to the electric grid during those few daylight hours. But it will be all fossil fuel-powered plants powering these homes once the sun sets. Unless they add a lot of equipment to store excess power when the sun does shine to use when it doesn’t shine. But if a typical house uses more than 37.88 amps at 120 volts (or 18.94 amps at 240 volts) there probably will be no excess power to store. Meaning this new solar power plant will have little impact on the electric grid. It will just cost the electrical consumer more. While making little if any impact to the carbon footprint of their fossil fuel-powered plants.
Tags: Australia/New Zealand, Canberra, electric grid, electric power, power plant, solar farm, solar power, solar power plant, sunshine, useful electric power