Tag Archives: Solar

We’re Against Corporate Abuses Too

Corporate Welfare

I often rail against the regulations put in place that restrict the growth of commerce, business and the economy – minimum wage being one of my favorite ones to hate.  Further, I often rail against the religion that is Catastrophic Global Warming.  We believe in science, not withcraftery.

Combine those two policies and you can get the traditional republican thug.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  I’m not tied to selfish self interests of corporations nor am I a hater of anything alternative energy.

Consider this abuse of government influence:

ATLANTA (AP) — Sunlight is free, but if you use it to make electricity your power company wants you to pay.

Utilities in many states say solar-friendly rate plans, conceived to promote alternative energy sources, are too generous and allow solar customers to avoid paying for the grid even though they use it.

Some power companies are proposing an extra fee for solar customers. Others are trying to roll back or block programs that allow those customers to trade the solar power they generate during sunny days for power they need from the grid during other times.

As rooftop solar expands from a niche product to a mainstream way to save money on power bills, utilities are afraid they will lose so many customers — and revenue — that they won’t be able to afford to build and maintain the grid.

“We want to make sure that as we change the way our system works that all of that is good for all customers,” said Greg Roberts, vice president of pricing and planning at Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power. The utility is proposing additional fees for renewable energy users, including one that would add up to about $22 per month for typical home solar systems.

I don’t support the concept that oil companies should be punished.    However, neither do I support the idea that emerging technologies should be bullied by the incumbent.

The Science Behind Fracking

The science behind energy has always been progressing.  hat started out as campfires has turned into nuclear reactions and laser shots.  We’ve gone from wood to whole oil.  Whale oil to kerosene.  Kerosene to coal and gas.  Mix in some windmills and solar panels, we’ve come a long way.

Each new advancement seems to come to as the matrix of inputs, and outputs, change.  We have oil today because we were running out of whales yesterday a delicious fact of life to present to your favorite neighborhood environmentalist].  We’ve gone from totally dependent on fossil fuels to nuclear options.  And today we’re taking advantage of natural gas through fracking procedures.

We change and adapt for several reasons.  Sometimes it’s because we develop technology.  We gave up on whales because the technology of oil extraction produced more value through oil than did hunting whales.  We’re able to tap into reserves of oil previously unreachable through new technologies and due to a changing demand for oil; the price of oil now makes new drilling economically sound.  And sometimes we have impacts to the environment that cause us to change.  As we throw soot into the air from our coal plants we discover that those effects are undesirable.  So we try to clean the exhaust.  That cleaning adds costs and those costs drive new technology.

And all of that, if done correctly, is a good thing.  It’s when the dogma surrounding the “Ought” get’s in the way when things go off track.

We forget to track the value.

Is burning the coal and sending the pollution into the air worth the benefit?  Is mining the coal and hurting/killing the miners worth the benefit?  Is the risk of a meltdown in a reactor worth the energy.  is it worth the cleaner energy that coal provides?  The comparisons can go on and on.

folks aren’t being honest if they don’t acknowledge that there are downsides to today’s energy.  And others aren’t being honest if they don’t acknowledge the benefits we enjoy due to that energy.  If reducing coal emissions meant a slow down in medical research, would that be worth it?  if we reduced the deep sea drilling and added to the cost of crude oil, would the economic impacts of higher cost of energy be worth it?

No one should deny that drilling, deep sea or shallow land, doesn’t impact the environment.  However, there shouldn’t be any doubt to the benefits that drilling provides either.

All this brings me to fracking.  This form of energy extraction isn’t any different than the ones we’ve already discussed.  There are puts and there are takes.  The rub comes in the value.  And this is where I think today’s ‘Green Energy” folks are getting it wrong.

I get that wind and solar are easier on mother Earth.  But they don’t have the economic ability to make themselves viable.  The benefit ain’t worth the downside; dramatically more expensive power.  And those same “Green Energy” folk’s hatred of fracking follows the same blindness to the value proposition that they exhibit in solar and wind.

Fracking gives us access to substantially cheaper gas than we’ve had in the past.  AND we have massive amounts of it.  Are there downsides?  Sure.  But they may not be as bad as they say:

PITTSBURGH — In the debate over natural gas drilling, the companies are often the ones accused of twisting the facts. But scientists say opponents sometimes mislead the public, too.

Critics of fracking often raise alarms about groundwater pollution, air pollution, and cancer risks, and there are still many uncertainties. But some of the claims have little — or nothing— to back them.


…reports that breast cancer rates rose in a region with heavy gas drilling are false, researchers told The Associated Press.

Fears that natural radioactivity in drilling waste could contaminate drinking water aren’t being confirmed by monitoring, either.

And concerns about air pollution from the industry often don’t acknowledge that natural gas is a far cleaner burning fuel than coal.

Ironically, the same groups that accuse the right of ignoring the science of global warming*, are the same folks who might be ignoring science themselves.

“The debate is becoming very emotional. And basically not using science” on either side, said Avner Vengosh, a Duke University professor studying groundwater contamination who has been praised and criticized by both sides.

More on the science:

Opponents of fracking say breast cancer rates have spiked exactly where intensive drilling is taking place — and nowhere else in the state. The claim is used in a letter that was sent to New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo by environmental groups and by Josh Fox, the Oscar-nominated director of “Gasland,” a film that criticizes the industry. Fox, who lives in Brooklyn, has a new short film called “The Sky is Pink.”

But researchers haven’t seen a spike in breast cancer rates in the area, said Simon Craddock Lee, a professor of medical anthropology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

David Risser, an epidemiologist with the Texas Cancer Registry, said in an email that researchers checked state health data and found no evidence of an increase in the counties where the spike supposedly occurred.

And Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a major cancer advocacy group based in Dallas, said it sees no evidence of a spike, either.

“We don’t,” said Chandini Portteus, Komen’s vice president of research, adding that they sympathize with people’s fears and concerns, but “what we do know is a little bit, and what we don’t know is a lot” about breast cancer and the environment.

And back to the radioactive water:

Another instance where fears haven’t been confirmed by science is the concern that radioactivity in drilling fluids could threaten drinking water supplies.

Critics of fracking note the deep underground water that comes up along with gas has high levels of natural radioactivity. Since much of that water, called flowback, was once being discharged into municipal sewage treatment plants and then rivers in Pennsylvania, there was concern about public water supplies.

But in western Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority did extensive tests and didn’t find a problem in area rivers. State environmental officials said monitoring at public water supply intakes across the state showed non-detectable levels of radiation, and the two cases that showed anything were at background levels.

And finally the irony:

Critics of fracking also repeat claims of extreme air pollution threats, even as evidence mounts that the natural gas boom is in some ways contributing to cleaner air.

Marcellus air pollution “will cause a massive public health crisis,” claims a section of the Marcellus Shale Protest website.

Yet data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that the shale gas boom is helping to turn many large power plants away from coal, which emits far more pollution. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency passed new rules to force drillers to limit releases of methane from wells and pumping stations.

Some environmental groups now say that natural gas is having a positive effect on air quality.

Earlier this year, the group PennFuture said gas is a much cleaner burning fuel, and it called gas-fired power plants “orders of magnitude cleaner” than coal plants.

Does burning gas impact air quality and the environment around it?  Sure.  To a degree.  But is it worth it?  Is it worth burning gas in order to bring to our doorsteps life saving medications, educational advancements, new advancements in cancer research?  Also, sure.

We need to watch and make sure that we’re taking care to increase our value.  We don’t kill whales for whale oil just because there’s whale oil in the ocean.  And maybe one day, when we can more effectively split the atom, we’ll stop drilling for oil.  But until then, please, run through the value proposition.

*It’s important to point out that there is a difference in accepting man made warming and accepting catastrophic global climate change.  And much of the emotional back and forth in this debates comes from ignoring this fact.


An Inconvenient Truth: Delicious Irony

We’ve all heard the complain from the left; Oil is going to kill us – we need to shift to alternative forms of energy.

And so we begin to experiment with things like wind, solar and geothermal.  And we find out that these things, at least right now, aren’t economically viable as a replacement to fossil fuels; oil, natural gas and coal.  In certain applications these technologies have value, but they will never be able to provide the energy to say, lift an airliner off the ground.

Undeterred, the movement has advanced an agenda that has Obama shutting down the coal industry all while subsidizing bankrupt solar companies.

It doesn’t work.

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Surge In Solar Energy Technology

It appears that demand for rooftop solar panels is, ahem, heating up.  Even in Minnesota, hardly a, ahem, hotbed of solar innovation, the industry is seeing significant activity.

High demand for rooftop solar electric panels, especially for commercial buildings, has exhausted Xcel Energy’s Solar Rewards subsidy program for the year, shutting out other customers, solar industry officials said Monday.

“People are really excited about solar,” said Rebecca Lundberg, CEO of Powerfully Green.

Sounds great.  Right?

Maybe not.

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Where is Solar Energy?

Last week Mark Perry posted an interesting factoiod on solar energy on his blog Carpe Diem:

In the December 1974 issue of Popular Science Magazine, there was an article titled “Solar Cells: When Will You Plug Into Electricity from Sunshine?” that discussed the future of solar energy. The article predicted that by 1986 the cost per watt at peak power would be down to $0.30 ($0.60 in today’s dollars) based on projections from the National Science Foundation.

By 2007, solar prices were actually about $3.66 per watt (about six times higher than predicted), and were predicted in this 2008 article to fall to $2.14 per watt in 2010.

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Going Green: Solar Update III

Alright, last update on household appliances.  I measured my laptop and found that it uses less energy than a 60 W light bulb.  In short, the pay back time for a laptop is 5.67 years.

But, if I plug in the fish tank, the lamp and the laptop the pay back time comes in at 1.65 years.  Not bad, not bad at all.

Going Green: Solar Update II

So I left the Kill a Watt meter in place for 50..56 hours.  The tank consumed 1.33 kWH for a total of .0263 kWH per hour.  At that rate, the system would pay itself off in 7.65 years.  That’s a little bit of improvement on the tank.  I think it’s due to the fact that most of the last measurement was taken with the lights off.  Still, with that 60w bulb, the payback is coming in under 2.42.

Next measurement will be the computer.

Going Green: Solar Update

I am still playing with that Kill a Watt meter.  Currently I have it plugged into my fish tank.  Power for two lights and the water pump is at .33 kWH for a run of 14.21 hours.  At that rate the payback for the system is 8.75 years.

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Going Green

So, a friend of mine recently purchased a small solar panel for about a hundred bucks.  He then connected it to a deep cycle battery.  And he connected THAT to an inverter.  After only a little bit of sunshine he is able to power his radio, some lights and even some power tools.  All for under $300.

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We'll Never Run Out of Oil

Wanna really quick proof?

We still haven’t run out of trees or whales.

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