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Big Solar And Renewable Energy In The Age Of Fracking

The world’s largest solar power plant is up and running in California. We’ll look at where solar stands now, and the future of renewable energy.

Solar Power Rising BY MICHAEL R. BLOOD and BRIAN SKOLOFF -- Some of the 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors, each about 7 feet high and 10 feet wide, reflect sunlight to boilers that sit on 459-foot towers. The sun's power is used to heat water in the boilers' tubes and make steam, which in turn drives turbines to create electricity Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 in Primm, Nev.  (AP)

Some of the 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors, each about 7 feet high and 10 feet wide, reflect sunlight to boilers that sit on 459-foot towers. The sun’s power is used to heat water in the boilers’ tubes and make steam, which in turn drives turbines to create electricity Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 in Primm, Nev. (AP)

A gigantic solar farm, biggest of its kind in the world, opened last week in the California desert. Three-hundred and fifty thousand huge mirrors reflecting sunlight on 40-story towers — to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit up there — making steam, turning turbines, generating clean electricity. And we not build another one like it. Solar and other renewable energies are up against an era of cheap, fracked natural gas. Environmentalists say cut back fossil fuel consumption, or climate change will croak us. The market’s saying here’s cheap gas. This hour On Point: solar and renewable energy in the age of fracking.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Julie Cart, environmental reporter at the Los Angeles Times. (@julie_cart)

Tonio Buonassisi, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Daniel Kammen, professor of energy, founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. Coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

From Tom’s Reading List

Wall Street Journal: The $2.2 Billion Bird-Scorching Solar Project — “A giant solar-power project officially opening this week in the California desert is the first of its kind, and may be among the last, in part because of growing evidence that the technology it uses is killing birds. U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is scheduled to speak Thursday at an opening ceremony for the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station, which received a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee.”

Slate: World’s Largest Solar Plant Opens in California. Is It the Future, or a Dead End? –”Sprawling across 3,500 acres of the Mojave Desert is a system of gleaming mirrors and soaring towers that looks like nothing else you’ve seen. It is, in fact, the largest solar thermal power plant in the world, and it officially began operating today. At full capacity, its 173,500 heliostats and trio of 459-foot-tall towers will pump out 392 megawatts of energy, or enough to power some 140,000 California homes.”

Los Angles Times: Firm seeks to harness Wyoming’s wind energy for California – “Wyoming residents enjoy the cheapest electricity prices in the nation, thanks to low-cost power from coal-fired plants near vast surface mines in the Powder River Basin. California, which has all but phased out coal power and has the nation’s most aggressive renewable energy laws, has close to the highest prices, according to U.S. Energy Department data. State law requires that one-third of the state’s power come from alternative energy by 2020.”

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  • Dustin M

    My reading list on Ivanpah would start with Chris Clarke @canislatrans
    He has done wonderful reporting on Ivanpah over the years. Here is his piece from yesterday.
    http://www.kcet.org/news/rewire/commentary/main-stream-media-slams-ivanpah-solars-wildlife-impact.html

  • tbphkm33

    Had this discussion just the other day, after seeing the same home solar panel advertisement several times during the Olympics. I am a fan of renewable energy when it comes to infrastructure, but not sure if the numbers actually make sense for individual homeowners.

    The ad in question ended with highlighting up to 100% financing – now, that can’t make sense at all. The homeowner is just swapping paying the solar finance company instead of the electrical company. Plus, there are the negative impacts associated with trying to sell the property. Having to find a buyer that wants solar and is willing to take over the finance plan. You have to remain in the house for a long time for a finance plan to make sense.

    I have not done the numbers when it comes to the individual homeowner buying the solar installation outright, but seemingly it is not a rosy as it might seem. First is the investment. In the long run, would that money be better invested in something else and continue to pay the electrical company? How long does it take to re-coupe the investment? Even here, the question is for resale. Is the solar installation going to add great value to the home? My hunch is that there is some value, but not enough to re-coupe the investment. Thus, without taking a loss, the homeowner has to plan on staying in the house until some point where there is not a major loss of the investment.

    Lastly, where is the technology? Solar has advanced, but seemingly it is still true that five years from now you can buy a more efficient system for less money, so does it really make sense to invest now?

    I am all for renewables, but a lot of this is consumers getting caught up in a fad.

  • Bluejay2fly

    The energy dilemma is going to require more than one source. It needs to be a combo of coal, gas, oil, solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, etc. As to what percentages of each is matter of preference being driven by various pragmatic factors.

    • John Cedar

      You keep using that word…
      “pragmatic”
      …I do not think it means what you think it means.

      • Bluejay2fly

        Another automatic correct mistake ,but glad to see a neocon like you does know the definition of that word :D

  • responseTwo

    If the oil companies owned the sun, we would see plenty of solar energy being used.

  • Coastghost

    Sigh, alas, alack: that flock-incinerating array of mirrors in Primm, Nevada, may indeed generate electricity from steam, but what is the ignition point for your run-of-the-mill bird feather? My first guess is, this temperature is lower than what’s necessary to convert water to steam. Nevertheless, to be efficient, does the mirror array generate temperatures high enough to incinerate plummeting bird skeletons, too? My suspicion here is, it probably does: or does the debris left from falling cremated birds entail a lot of nighttime mirror-cleaning? (Wonder what temperatures a full moon could help generate at the large mirror array.) Probably, we can safely assume that Archimedes would be favorably impressed.
    Applied technology giveth and applied technology taketh away: blessed be the name of applied technology.

    • Ray in VT

      I think that this facility is all just a plot to capture and cook birds into pies, as my friends Chip and Dale prophecized nearly 25 years ago.

      • hennorama

        Ray in VT — don’t forget Mrs. Tweedy and her chicken pot pie-making machine, from the animated movie ‘Chicken Run.’

        See:
        http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120630/

        • Ray in VT

          I still haven’t seen that one yet, but Aardman does some nice work.

  • AC

    once again, focus should be on delivery – not generation. there’s lots of ways to get alternative energy, hooking it up to an ailing grid however….private companies are waiting for the gov to foot that bill.
    google and china are so far the only possibly willing people to step up on that

    • John Cedar

      Electrical distribution is highly regulated. Any need for upgrades can be mandated by public service commissions and other authorities.
      Meanwhile, inconsistent alternative generation is subsidized but the grid still has to be there to service the solar customers during night time and the wind customers during calm days. But those customers pay no premium for that service. Who is supposed to pay for grid upgrades with that business model???

      • AC

        how many industries depend on us having access to power to use their goods? how many hospitals need power? how many traffic snarls would happen w/o power? I don’t really understand your question – it’s part of the power generator’s operating costs since they stand to profit (& they do!!)

  • Yar

    Straining at the bird and swallowing the flock, as if fossil fuel energy isn’t destroying habitat. Mountain top removal mining is far more damaging, and burning fossil fuel is leading to climate change faster than species can adapt. If you want to talk bird at least be honest and say all energy production has some impact on the environment, solar and wind simply have less negative impacts than using fossil fuels. All energy comes from the sun, or stars if you go nuclear.

  • Markus6

    A topic ripe for both overpromises and scare tactics; but also one where there should be lots of data.

    How many birds have been killed through mirrors or wind farms – a few or thousands? Are there other environmental drawbacks and how material are they. And how much power can we really generate from these things? Can it make a real dent given projections of growth and improvements in technology? And what will the total costs be (building them, maintaining them, all of it)?

    • Bluejay2fly

      Just a foot note domestic house cats kill thousands of birds every year. But getting back on topic this show will probably be a cursory discussion. Yesterday was a disaster as far as depth.

      • hennorama

        Bluejay2fly — your point is valid, but your estimate is WAY too low:

        “America’s cats, including housecats that adventure outdoors and feral cats, kill between 1.3 billion and 4.0 billion birds in a year, says Peter Marra of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C., who led the team that performed the analysis. Previous estimates of bird kills have varied, he says, but “500 million is a number that has been thrown around a lot.”

        AND

        “The results are remarkable, not only for the big number, but also for the proportion of deaths from feral cats,” says Gary M. Langham, chief scientist for the National Audubon Society. The study assigns 861 million to 3.3 billion bird deaths a year to these wild cats. “These numbers really elevate this threat to a new level.”

        See:
        https://www.sciencenews.org/article/cats-kill-more-one-billion-birds-each-year

  • Jasoturner

    Well, here’s the problem. This thing cost $2,200,000,000 and it generates enough electricity to power “…some 140,000 California homes.” During daylight hours, I presume.

    Well, a little division shows this to work out to about $16,000 per house. If we assume an average monthly electric bill of $200 (which may be high) we come up with a roughly 7 year break even point ignoring the night time issue. And, of course, we are ignoring the cost to run this plant and to distribute the electricity to the customer. So overall, if this thing has a 15 or 20 year payback I would be surprised.

    The space use is also significant. I work next to an independent power producer (IPP) with about 50MW of generation on about an acre of land. This solar plant has a production density of about 0.11 MW per acre in comparison – about 0.22% the energy density of my IPP.

    Now, it is true that this thing eliminates carbon emissions, and is a pretty cool technology. But the free market will never allow this technology to prosper. It must, instead, be a national effort focused on energy policy and energy independence.

    • Bluejay2fly

      Would have been more cost effective and more practical to have a USN nuclear sub generate power for the city.

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      There are easy and practical thermal storage – underground molten salt storage can keep producing power for several days.

      Also, the cost goes down over time – it burns no fuel, so it gets cleaner and cleaner over time, as well.

      • Jasoturner

        At this scale, not so easy or practical. In rough numbers it looks like molten salt batteries have an energy density of around 0.12 kWh per kg. If we wanted to store 8 hours of this 392 MW plant, we’d need:

        8 hrs x 392,000 kW /(0.12 kWh/kg) = 26,133,333 kg of molten salt, or roughly 26,000 tons. That’s a lot of stuff to manage.

        Agree the cost goes down over time, but there are also operating and maintenance costs – including capital replacement costs – that are not insignificant as the plant ages.

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          Not molten salt batteries – molten salt thermal storage.

          • Jasoturner

            Well, the electric to thermal conversion can be pretty efficient, but the conversion back to electric suffers big efficiency losses (I assume you’re heating water and reusing the steam turbine.) And you’d need massive piping infrastructure in a brutally harsh environment. Not so easy to carry off on a large scale. .

          • Jasoturner

            Thermal storage at this scale is neither easy or practical. And it is not an efficient way to bank electricity in any event since the generation cycle is pretty inefficient.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            It works fairly well, actually. Since it is a state change (being molten) the thermal capacity is quite high, and the ground insulates it rather well.

            Another method would be to use grid batteries nearby to cities (these are coming very soon at much lower costs) and pumped hydro is another storage method. Also, flywheels and underground compressed air is another storage method, too.

            Wind blows more at night, so wind and solar compliment each other, and Germany is finding that they do not need as much storage as they thought.

            Tidal power is *very* predictable, and wave energy is also quite constant. Biogas can be used to meet demand when none of the others can meet demand.

          • Jasoturner

            Well, you need to run arrays of piping through these caustic salts to heat water into steam and extract heat throughly, so there is massive infrastructure to maintain. Secondly if you are allowing a phase change from liquid to solid, which is what I presume you mean, there are also thermal stresses that are not insignificant engineering issues to address. Finally, steam turbines are not 100% efficient, so a significant percentage of the thermal energy that is stored will be lost when generating electricity again. This technology can work, but it is nowhere near as easy to implement as you seem to suggest.

            I am quite familiar with flywheels (we use them here) and potential energy storage. The issue again is the massive scale of this thing. It is mechanically very inefficient to compress air, so the cost effectiveness is very low. Compressed gas – whether air or anything else – is usually found around drilling sites where they are awash in energy and don’t really care about costs.

            I agree with you that, if we can find a robust and cost effective way of harvesting it, tidal power could be a big win. But that’s a brutal environment to work in.

  • Coastghost

    Eureka! Problem solved!
    All we have to do is send up a 24/7/365 bird-friendly drone patrol to lure otherwise unsuspecting birds away from any flight path that would lead them into the deadly zone of the mirror array. This flock of drones could be equipped with state-of-the-art bird calls for all local and migrating bird species, and perhaps some of the drones could be equipped with the latest in pheromone technology to lure other birds with the prospects of safe mating away from the bird-cremating mirror array.
    (Asbestos sheathing of birds seems utterly impractical.)

    • HonestDebate1

      I’m thinking the Duck Dynasty dudes could make the calls.

      • Coastghost

        Indeed! There IS life after A&E!

    • Jasoturner

      Why not just set up a Boston Chicken franchise next door and call it a day?

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    How many birds, animals and other wildlife been killed by water poisoned by fracking? How many families have been poisoned not just by water by they gas emissions from fracking wells? How many homes and farms have been made uninhabitable by poisened aquifers due to fracking?
    It would be extremely disturbing to find that a dry cleaner has tighter environmental regulations enforced on it than a fracking operation… is that not the case thanks to Dubya, Cheney and Halliburton?

    • Bluejay2fly

      The fact that we have not at least partially nationalized our power system is criminal. Safety regulations and sound environmental policies cost money and our leaders let these companies buy their way out. Deep Horizon is a case in point. NO oil well should be drilled unless its contents can quickly be contained in case of accident. British Petroleum stubbled around like Mr. Magoo trying to cap it after the “fake” blow out preventer failed which virtually killed an ocean. One large benefit of government is to monetize undertakings which are too costly for private industry (IE national defense). Proper policy in respect to environmental concerns conflicts massively with the profit motive of big oil. I would love to see the money we waste on other failed government expenditures (lets start with congressional salaries, pensions, etc) be redirected towards that end.

      • Ray in VT

        Issues with the grid that contributed to the 2003 blackout seemingly should have spurred us into action, but I’m not sure that we have done much of anything to address some of those problems.

        • Bluejay2fly

          Healthcare, energy, education, etc all these elements of our economy operate on the profit motive and are disasters. Our solution is to often partially subsidize/regulate them which is an even larger mistake.

          • Ray in VT

            I don’t know. I think that both privatization and nationalization can both have significant downsides, as can the sorts of public/private partnerships that our nation has sometimes undertaken. For sure, though, it seems that some other nations have figured out better ways to do things than we have. Maybe one just has to go with the least bad option. It may not be the most appealing row to hoe, but it may be what we are stuck with, given how screwy humans can be.

          • TFRX

            I think we’ve been on a privatization kick over the last (say) quarter century. Everything that was feasible to do this to has been done. Now it’s just become some folks’ solution for everything, no matter how useless.

          • Ray in VT

            Of the three options, given the areas that Bluejay2fly listed, I personally find privatization to be the least good option rather generally.

      • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

        Any company that has an oil spill or explodes a gas well or poisons anyone’s water – should be seized by the government and it’s assets liquidated to pay for the damage. And the people involved in that company should go to jail.

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      Why are fracking operations allowed to ignore ALL clean water and clean air regulations?

      • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

        Trade secret exemptions legislated by corporate- owned politicians. Check out ALEC (a corporate friendly legislation mill that provides pre written bills to corporate puppets in state and federal legislative bodies)

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          Right – and specifically why fracking is exempt from virtually any law is:

          Dick Cheney.

  • HonestDebate1

    Why on earth spend all that money for something that is so economically unviable?

    • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

      Fracking is ‘cheaper’ but poisoning water is inevitable because the drilling industry has not invented a well casing that will not fail and casing failiure rates are significant from day one! How important and costly is impact on water supplies? Just look at the impact of drought on california’s agriculture industry. Backend costs of fracking will dwarf the costs of alternatives.

      • Ray in VT

        I also saw this linked to today: Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale: Big Oil and Bad Air on the Texas Prairie http://stories.weather.com/fracking

      • Bluejay2fly

        If we could only out source fracking to China or Mexico….

      • hennorama

        MMTCW — there is also the phenomenon of increased earthquake activity to consider. This is possibly linked to the various techniques involved in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.

        From an article published yesterday (Feb. 18, 2014) time.com, regarding Oklahoma:

        “The area has been seismically active since time immemorial but the latest swarm of earthquakes is unheard of. According to earthquake monitors EQ Charts, between 1990 and 2008 there were between 0 and 11 earthquakes of magnitude 2.0 or greater in Oklahoma every year. In 2009 there were 49. In 2010 there were 180. In 2013 there were 291, and so far in 2014 there have been 59-plus and counting. More than a dozen notable earthquakes have shaken north-central Oklahoma in the past three days.

        “It’s incredibly unusual,” said Austin Holland, a research seismologist with the Oklahoma Geologic Survey. “We’ve had swarms that are similar in nature but I don’t think we’ve had one with quite the numbers we’ve had.”

        “State authorities are now trying to get the bottom of the unusual seismic activity. Holland is amassing resources and data to figure out what might be to blame, and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which oversees the oil and gas industry, has already proposed new testing and monitoring requirements for wells injected with drilling wastewater, which some have blamed for the increase in earthquakes. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking“, involving explosions being set off underground, has also been blamed by some for the swarm.

        “Spent drilling water injected back into the ground for storage at high pressure, some scientists believe, may be forcing fault lines under pressure to shift. Katie Keranen, a geophysics professor at Cornell, says “the evidence is strong” that the earthquakes are caused by fracking and wastewater disposal, both of which have become more frequent amid today’s boom in oil and gas drilling.

        See:
        http://nation.time.com/2014/02/18/oklahoma-wonders-why-the-earth-is-shaking/?iid=tsmodule

        See also:

        http://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/confirmed-fracking-practices-blame-ohio-earthquakes-f8C11073601

        http://www.kansas.com/2014/02/17/3294789/gov-sam-brownback-appoints-panel.html

        http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/03/does-fracking-cause-earthquakes-wastewater-dewatering

  • Ray in VT

    It doesn’t really relate to “big solar”, but what about ALEC pushing to tax people who set up solar and feed into the grid? Instead of people who are feeding into the grid getting credits, net metering, often at only a fraction of the cost that customers get charged, such people could face new fees and charges.

    • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

      The republican party has lost it’s soul! They nearly drove our country off the economic recovery road in a game of chicken standing agianst new taxes (on the wealthy) but they readily engage in legislative hypocrisy by embracing anything that favors their corporate masters including taxing their competitors, writing loopholes for them and deregulating them in ways that puts the public at risk.

  • geraldfnord

    We absolutely must frack as much as we can now—it’s not like that petroleum and gas would be down there later if we don’t do it now, and no-one can seriously claim that we might be able to do more cleanly and safely in twenty years!

    Beside that, gas and oil are completely useless as chemical feed-stocks for a wealth of industrial, medical, and consumer products, so we won’t need them for anything else beside energy later…so if we should run low on them later they will be completely replaceable with solar &c.

    (Those who think we can use solar to any extent at all unfairly bring up its viability in Germany and Denmark—sure, in those tropical paradises where people live at a very low technological level it’s viable, but not places like here. Beside that, solar power is inherently faggoty, and Jimmy Carter liked it…I challenge you to find two much more cogent arguments [on any subject!] on the Interwebs….)

    • Ray in VT

      Solar power favors bundles of sticks? That is the very last straw!

      • Bluejay2fly

        Sadly, many neocons are that dumb. Imagine a conversation about world history with Sara Palin before they nominated her as VP (I am assuming they attempted to get her up to speed).

        • Ray in VT

          I thought that this was a pretty funny piece from back in 2012: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/shouts/2012/09/a-conservative-history-of-the-united-states.html. It goes to show one that some people, when given a platform, will say some things that are of questionable validity. Some things are true gaffs, and those happen to people. I think that some things may be truly believed, and those are the ones that concern me.

          • Bluejay2fly

            Gretchen Carlson, an Ivy League college graduate, claimed she had to look up the word czar. I think many times it is an act.

          • Ray in VT

            One does wonder when something like that pops up.

          • hennorama

            Ray in VT — that compendium of whoppers is really quite funny, and simultaneously sad.

          • Ray in VT

            It’s good for a laugh.

        • HonestDebate1

          I love Sarah Palin!

          • jefe68

            Good for you.

      • hennorama

        Ray in VT — I thought [geraldfnord] was going on about cigarettes.

        (And of course, a bundle of straw is … oh, never mind.)

    • jefe68

      Fracking does affect people and the environment.

      The Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas is the site of one of the biggest energy booms in America, with oil and gas wells sprouting at an unprecedented rate. But local residents fear for their health – not from the water, but from the air they breathe. Our eight-month investigation reveals the dangers that come with releasing a toxic soup of chemicals into the air and just how little the government of Texas knows – or wants to know – about it.

      http://stories.weather.com/fracking

      http://www.nwf.org/What-We-Do/Energy-and-Climate/Drilling-and-Mining/Natural-Gas-Fracking.aspx

      • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

        Fracking has a huge affect on the environment. Watch Gasland (on Netflix) and learn about how bad fracking is.

        • jefe68

          Do you not think that my comment was all about what your telling me? Are you having comprehension issues? Or just jumping on people who have the word fracking in their posts.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            I think I meant to reply to GeraldFord’s post above yours.

          • jefe68

            Oh, OK.

  • rich4321

    So far the oil industries are making good profits from the earth resources, but how long will the earth resource last? The earth is not infinite, they continue to drain the earth, it’s simply unsustainable! We need a new source of energy!

    • Bluejay2fly

      Our whole consumption based economy is wasteful and unsustainable. As a child our household policy was urinate once and then flush the next time it was used. We also showered only a couple times a week or as needed if performing dirty work. People either have deluded notions about what is hygienic or they are so comfort driven missing that 20 minute shower every day is unthinkable.

  • Bluejay2fly

    I honestly think our lack of movement this issue is because policy makers are expecting science to step in and solve the problem for them. The ultimate cure for our current woes will be a power source that can be generated in the home therefore eliminating the distribution system which is enormously costly. Failing that if we could somehow generate power from cold fusion or something relatively abundant and inexpensive that will be a also revolutionary. Horse power was utilized for centuries and presented all kinds of terrible problems and all those insurmountable problems associated with feeding and caring for numerous horses went away instantly with the electric and combustion engine. Technology is advancing so quickly making massive investments in the field application could be a huge and costly mistake. Imagine if your company spent billions wiring every house with cable only to discover this new fangled fiber optic cable is infinitely superior.

    • WorthRobbins

      While not the siver bullet single answer, “community shared solar” has an important place in the movement toward distributed generation. Primary goal should remain rooftop behind the meter, so no distribution is needed. But for those whose site is incompatible, a share in a community shared system is the next best thing. Federal credits and state grants (at least in Massachusetts, Coloarado, California) have done enough, but local permitting and taxation is a major barrier. Need more help to force local government to put shared solar on the same footing as on-site.

      • Bluejay2fly

        Some solar cells they are working on are transparent and can be affixed to windows, how cool is that.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    How much dirty energy went into manufacturing and erecting the solar heat plant in the desert? And will this solar station be able to pay for its own O&M costs? Let’s see some numbers.

    Thanks much. Registered Professional Electrical Engineer [power and controls]

    • Roy-in-Boise

      The stone age didn’t end because we ran out of rocks.

  • X-Ray

    Who generates the energy at night, when it is cloudy or overcast, raining, etc?

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      Thermal storage in the form of underground molten salt can continue to produce electricity for several days.

      • X-Ray

        Is that included in this site? I see no mention of it. Do you have a reference?

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          Yes, there is thermal storage at Ivanpah.

          • X-Ray

            It can’t provide full power for more than a couple of hours.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            That is all that is needed, most of the time. Demand drops way off later at night.

            The wind blows more over night, and wind and solar compliment each other quite well. There are several other methods of storage, including pumped hydro and grid batteries and underground compressed air and flywheels. EV batteries once they become common enough can also be used to store electricity.

            Germany has been finding they do not need as much storage as they thought, when there are several sources of renewable energy.

  • Duras

    If government was not corrupted, renewables wouldn’t be debated. The industries of old technology have the money and are keeping new technology (technology that would replace them) from developing. We have the social resources to develop new technology, to be innovative, and breath cleaner air, but profit motives are standing in the way of innovation.

    Capitalism is productive, but there are times when profit gets in the way of innovation. The public needs to wake up. I don’t think republicans would stand in the way of new technology if the oil and coal companies weren’t lining their pockets–even the ones who worship wealth above all else.

    • James

      To be fair, energy companies can only keep technology due to the system of government protections known as patents.

      • Duras

        That’s not what I’m referring to. I’m talking about how industries are corrupting politicians so they won’t pass government initiatives to develop new technology, or even to subsidize companies to make space in the market for them.

        I have seen film of Mitt Romney and others say that climate change is real and that government needs to do something about it. A few years go by, and they flip-flop. That’s money talking.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard
  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Alex, I’ll take big scale government funded boondoggles for $1,000.

    The answer is: 0.
    Oh, I know this one, Alex. The question: how many more of these solar heat plants will be built without federal or state subsidies?

    You’ve won today’s JEOPARDY!

  • James

    One hundred and fifty years ago John D. Rockefeller brought order to the oil market and helped drive down the cost of oil, and brought Kerosene to the masses. We could use a John D. Rockefeller in solar, I don’t know where, maybe some computer wiz that can remake the grid.

    • X-Ray

      It only takes money. Who will pay for it? Investors will not invest if they can’t get a return on their investment. That’s why it requires a Federal government subsidy to make it happen.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=32606540 Brian Belgard

        I agree that no one will pay for it but the idea that a subsidy is the answer is also wrong. Instead of subsidizing you could move tax policy toward taxing carbon use (in a revenue neutral way to pass with conservatives) and that would drive up energy prices and incentivise the markets to find alternatives.

        Why use a stick when it’s more easily solved with a carrot?

  • sickofthechit

    The first guest asked; Why would utilities be willing to construct more expensive renewables? Because they have customers who are willing to pay the premium price to be getting renewable energy! charles a. bowsher

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Every US sailor at sea will know this announcement over the 1MC.

    “Now culminating missile radars. Stand clear.”

    {focusing power plant output}

  • Duras

    Please mention Germany and their renewable initiative.

    • James

      I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but I believe the US is about to (or has) pasted Germany in this regard.

      • Duras

        By what measure? Germany is 35 years away from being completely on renewables.

  • TFRX

    The market’s saying “here’s cheap gas”.

    As long as the ancillary costs of extractive fuels are borne by someone else.

  • Yar

    I am a part owner of a coal power plant. As a electric co-op member, our coal plant was built with federal loans, and Tom Vilsack is still our most influential banker.
    Don’t think the federal government is only invested in solar energy, the federal government is the largest holder of all energy production debt.

  • sickofthechit

    The first future of solar for this country was recognized by the Carter Administration when his Department of Energy started nationwide programs promoting passive solar design for buildings. Even here in Kentucky we were doing amazing things with passive solar. Regan put an end to it when he removed the solar panels from the Whitehouse. charles a. bowsher

    • Ray in VT

      I think that we could do quite a bit with better construction standards and some more sensible layout and design of buildings. We’ve had ready access to relatively cheap energy for quite a while, and I think that it made us somewhat lazy in the efficiency arena.

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    $.26/kwh for the solar/thermal just won’t cut it if you want prosperity and economic growth. And it hurts the poor and middle class the most.

    • hennorama

      WftC — please cite a source for the quoted figure.

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        EIA. It is from the government so it must be true– right?

        • hennorama

          WftC — Please allow me to rephrase. Can you direct me to the exact source of the figure, via a link or URL?

          • WorriedfortheCountry
          • hennorama

            WftC — thank you.

            Of course, this is not specific to Ivanpah.

            It is instead “Estimated levelized cost of new generation resources, 2018: U.S. average levelized costs (2011 $/megawatthour) for plants entering service in 2018.”

            (the figure given for Solar Thermal being $261.5/MWH)

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            It is a 2013 report and is consistent with Ivanpah. Ivanhah’s costs might be higher since this report is for plants coming online in 2018.

          • hennorama

            WftC — again, thank you for the source.

    • Ray in VT

      How much harm is inflicted upon those, and other, groups from acid rain, mercury pollution, water pollution, airborne particulate matter and the rest from fossil fuel generation?

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    When Tony builds his roof-mounted solar plant his local utility screams to state and federal regulators: “stranded investment!”

    Don’t forget to add the $ for bribing your own political representatives to see things your way. Because you know big power will be spending your money {you are a ratepayer} to do the same thing.

  • jefe68

    I think we should all hope that creating energy from fusion reaction is developed soon.

    Nuclear fusion breakthrough: US scientists make crucial step to limitless power

    http://rt.com/usa/fusion-energy-power-ignition-806/

    • Ray in VT

      That was pretty cool. Maybe we will get to that someday, as I have a flying DeLorean that requires 1.21 gigawatts.

    • WorriedfortheCountry

      30 years away. And remember, for perspective, 40 years ago it was 20 years away.

      • jefe68

        That’s true, but the answer is not fracking our nation into a huge environmental mess while this is developed.

        • WorriedfortheCountry

          Hey, I’m rooting for a fusion breakthrough too. I’m not too optimistic with these big government schemes (ITER or NIF) for a scalable, economic solution. Maybe one of the small startups like LPP will develop a breakthrough.

          • Duras

            The same was said about the dams during the 1930s.

          • Ray in VT

            How’s the private sector coming along with its fusion research?

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            I think they’re doing pretty well – maybe a half dozen private companies. Only one of them is funded by the government (US Navy).

          • Ray in VT

            They must be ticked that the Lawrence Livermore National
            Laboratory gets the props. What breakthroughs have they achieved? One would think that the much superior private sector would have made the recent discovery/breakthrough far faster than an inefficient big government project.

          • jefe68

            If you read the article on the link it has some of the information. They have created the first reaction that creates more energy than they used to create the reaction. Which is a good breakthrough.

    • sickofthechit

      How long will it take for the earth to burn to a crisp once they make a simple miscalculaton?

      • Ray in VT

        The was some concern, I think, during the Manhattan Project that detonating a nuclear device could ignite the planet’s atmosphere.

      • jefe68

        You do know what fusion is, right?
        It’s not the same as nuclear fission.
        Before you post misinformation or unfounded fears, maybe you should spend a little time looking up the differences between fission and fusion.

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      We already have a fusion reactor fueled up and running, at a relatively safe distance – called the Sun.

  • sickofthechit

    Tom, tom tom, the question isn’t whether solar can compete with natural gas, the question is whether natural gas can compete with solar when you add into the cost ledger the destruction of vast amounts of clean water fracking uses in it’s production cycle as well as the untold billions of gallons of clean water it will pollute when the “protective” concrete collar fails in 10, 20, 50, or 100 years hence. We are destroying our limited resource that sits in the middle of nowhere. WAKEUP! Charles A. Bowsher

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      Fossil fuels have a huge demand for water.

  • DeJay79

    the question of “can we afford the extra cost of clean energy?” is the wrong question all together!

    Can we afford not to switch to clean energy? is a much better question and the answer is no!

    We need to Break our dependance on Dirty Energy Mr. President!!!

  • TFRX

    It’s not “can clean renewable energy compete on price with cheap gas”, Tom.

    Can we get someone on Public Radio to ask the questions which economists do: “For how long will the environment and the taxpayers bear the costs of coal, fracking, and other dead-end energies?”

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    I just spent three glorious days walking the lush greens of southern California private clubs. We need more droughts in the golden state because the golfing has never been better.
    –Barack H. Obama {Visionary for All Times}

  • sickofthechit

    Energy efficiency is where we should start any energy equation. That is where the biggest bang for our buck lies. charles a. bowsher

  • John Doty

    I have always felt that utility scale PV systems were dinosaurs especially when competing against fossil fuel generation. The real benefit of PV is that it is small and modular and can be deployed at the point of use (i.e. roof tops, shopping malls office buildings etc) for Demand Side Management applications. When deployed in this manner, transmission is not an issue, the PV system provides load reduction, relief for overloaded distribution lines, load support etc. When paired with a dispatchable battery bank, it can reliably reduce the peak demand of buildings that have air conditioning as the main load.
    The Solar industry should stop competing directly with base load generation and focus on the applications where solar and PV truly make sense. The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind does not always blow so we do need base load power that is always on line.
    (I have worked in the solar industry for 30 years building, operating and repairing systems, designing and developing components for PV systems, training installers and inspectors and working with Utilities to deploy PV systems within their grid).

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    I’m directing the aluminum foil in my car windows towards my roof mounted water tank. EVERYBODY WINS!

    Now where’s my Barack Obama/Tom Corbett tax credit?

    • jefe68

      Troll.

  • Yar

    Ron Paul wants to return to the gold standard, what would happen if instead we based our currency on the kilowatt, like a forever stamp for energy. Renewables would become the most popular investment.

  • Art Toegemann

    The best technology available today is photovoltaics. Solar panels are better than solar thermal because SPs do not need the space required for ST; they can be installed at the user’s site, commercial and residential.
    It is criminal to neglect SP technology and suffer the other techs that waste and pollute.

  • Roy-in-Boise

    Bring on the Liquid Metal Batteries that the MIT group is working on. Storage is the key when it comes to sustainable energy.

  • sickofthechit

    There was a news story today that large icicles were falling off of skyscrapers and endangering pedestrians. As always Uncle Charles says wear your “protection”, this time in the form of a hard hat. You may look like a dork, but if you get hit on the hard hat by a falling icicle you’ll feel like a genius!

  • sickofthechit

    Whatever happened to “Bloom Energy” the inventor had some kind of device that even google had invested heavily in…

  • Fred S.C. Li

    What was the fate / findings of the So. California Edison pilot plant of similar design constructed LONG ago, 1980′s, near Barstow. Has the $ / Kw construction cost, better efficiency, along with increasing cost of competing energy forms make this scaled up plant viable?

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Mother Nature doesn’t like storing energy in the form of an electric field. Repeat until you’ve memorized this. Look up: Permittivity of free space (ε0).

    Every improvement in ε (eta), requires you to pay down. No free lunch again, ‘eh?

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Finally someone addresses externalities. Hoober Doober

  • TFRX

    Does it seem to anyone else that our host has come to this hour with a full complement of old-energy talking points?

  • nj_v2

    Despite Tom’s “We’re going to look at the whole, big picture.” it looks like we’re in for another narrowly framed, short-sighted program on energy.

    One problem is that “The Age of Fracking” is only going last a few decades. The most optimistic estimates of a “100-year supply” are based on assumptions of large, speculative gas reserves which may not even exist, and, if they do, may cost so much to access as to be unfeasible.

    (See: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/future_tense/2011/12/is_there_really_100_years_worth_of_natural_gas_beneath_the_united_states_.html

    Is there really 100 years’ worth of natural gas beneath the United States?)

    So, we’ll frack everything in sight, blow up stuff, pollute water, dump so much more carbon into the atmosphere, and run out of the resource (in economically viable terms) in a few decades.

    In the meantime, we’ll still have the same inefficient, wasteful, stupid 19th- and 20th-centruy infrastructure developed and made possible by cheap, plentiful fossil fuels. That party is over, yet we’re left with the infrastructure.

    Attempting to power this mess “renewable” resources is not going to work either without substantially changing the fundamental ways we use (and waste) energy.

    Renewables are so much less energy dense, and, often, expensive, and, often with their own environmental issues, that it’s foolish to think we can replace all our current fossil fuel use given our current systems of settlement, food production, etc.

    • harverdphd

      You should apply for producer since you’re unemployed anyway.

  • Philip Bennett

    TOM: Your continued use of the phrase “cheap natural gas” is an advertisement, not a description. There is nothing cheap about the acquisition and use of natural gas, especially if it comes from fracking. If you take the whole picture into account, its use harms our health, our environment, and simply passes on costs to our children and grandchildren. Please resist handy corporate descriptors.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Ratepayer: the chump at the table who ALWAYS picks up the tab.

    Free cigars and champers all ’round, Betty.

  • James

    As far as the externalizes are concerned, if the oil industries owns the property they are fracking, then the damage they are doing to the land is reflected in their property values. Someone sold them the hand at certain amount, someone will eventually by the land for a certain amount (probably a lot less). They should fully reimburse their neighbors for property damage (including water table damage) but assuming they do that, the externality question is a non issue

    • MrWakiki

      like all land speculation, from what I have seen is the frackers buy up the land before it is know what it will be used for… so in some communities not even the land owners profit…

      Then, and it is the beauty of big business, the property values are pushed up once the fracking starts… so the residents who are not on the ‘good land’ start paying higher property tax… in essence they lose by the economy improving in their ara

    • sickofthechit

      The energy companies don’t buy the land, they lease it. As it has happened time and time again here in Kentucky when a problem occurs the company declares bankruptcy, walks away and we are left holding the bag for cleanup, increased health care costs, and degraded environments. It’s all about greed. charles a. bowsher

      • hennorama

        sickofthechit — you beat me to pointing out the obvious fact that the extraction companies seldom if ever own the properties where they locate their operations.

        It’s surprising that anyone doesn’t know this, but such is the lack of basic information on this topic, and many others.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Driving on electricity will be the death knell for the ecology of the planet.

    {most of the ecological damage is done making electricity – then using electricity converts the rest of the energy quickly to heat (entropy)} — NOBODY WINS!

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      Electricity from renewable sources is the only way we can keep driving into the distant future. Even with 100% coal, an EV is cleaner than any ICE car on the road. And the US average now is <38% from coal.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Energy is best consumed in its rawest form closest to the demand. For most efficacious use of the resource.
    –Any Energy Expert

  • Duras

    Are grid today would look like Germany’s had Reagan never been elected. Carter modeled his energy plan after Germany’s launched theirs around 1970. Cheaper energy: wind powered, solar powered, water powered–and cleaner air to breath. Personally, policies that increase life expectancy influences my vote.

    • sickofthechit

      Carter – Least appreciated President ever. First one I ever got to vote for. Still saddens me to think how much better our world would have been had he won a second term. Charles A. Bowsher (Uncle Charles)

      • Duras

        Even Bush would have been better than Reagan. You should watch the 1980 republican primary debates–you see the old school conservative debate what we are now dealing with today.
        It’s real sad. We all speak about the decline of the United States, but only a quarter of us know it began with Reagan.

        • Ray in VT

          Despite some misgivings that I have about him, I think that George H.W. Bush is rather unfairly maligned. I think that he was more practical as compared to, for instance, his son. All in all I don’t think that he was too bad.

          • Duras

            I respect him on one level, but I think he is a puppet. He just went with the tide of politics. He reminds me of John McCain. I think John McCain is a liberal, but Bush and McCain like the offices.

  • William

    The 1 percent reaps the rewards while the taxpayers and consumers pay the costs.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2012/sep/20/local/la-me-bigsolar-20120921

    • Duras

      You know, one can write an article about that in every aspect of society. University tuition rewards the 1% and shifts the costs on working class people. Public schools costs paid for by lottery tickets, cigarette taxes, etc. Roads paid for by fees, toll booths. Police departments, fire departments paid for by sales taxes.

      Hopefully, you can join the liberals in putting the costs of civilization back onto the 1% instead of you and every other person.

      • William

        It is like watching the feds bail out Wall Street one more time. The consumers and taxpayers are handing billions of dollars to the 1 percent that got laws passed forcing consumers and taxpayers to use green energy. They have created another perfect scam.

        • Duras

          I’m not arguing with you. I just wish you would see why this is! You can’t see that democrats are nothing more than moderate republicans.

          They are both parties of the rich. The middle class has been loosing money since 1980, while the rich 1% has gained the same amount the middle class has lost with or without government initiatives!

  • ~ Devotee ~

    Please discuss solar updraft.

  • DeJay79

    What we have to fight against to get clean energy in this country:

    That said, Barton has used the threat of global warming to combat
    something he hates even more: wind energy. In a 2009 hearing, Barton
    implied that wind is a “finite resource” and that harnessing it would
    “slow the winds down” which would “cause the temperature to go up.”

    Read more: Eight More Deep Thoughts from Congressman Joe Barton – TIME http://content.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1997963,00.html#ixzz2tmbo3dNx

    • sickofthechit

      I will freely display my Physics ignorance and pose this question. I thought that the “Law of Conservation” says that if you remove energy from one side of an equation to apply it to another side that that energy or force is lost to the other side. So if the wind drives the windmill blade isn’t the winds force or inherent energy diminished somewhat? Enlighten me please. charles a. bowsher

      • DeJay79

        According to one estimate, of the potential wind energy in the jet
        stream, only 1 percent would be needed to meet the world’s current
        energy needs

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jet_stream

        suggesting that we might slow or stop surface wind to the point that we cause environmental damage it is equivalent to suggesting that by putting a water mill on the Mississippi you would stop the river.

        Jet streams are caused by a combination of a planet’s rotation on its axis and atmospheric heating (by solar radiation)

        surface winds are caused more directly my movement of Air from High pressure to low pressure regions. several things can cause pressure shifts but mostly surface heating also from solar radiation.

        All of that being said The true source of wind energy on earth is also from the sun. And that is in effect to our human existence a nearly unlimited source of energy.

      • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

        The sun’s energy is constantly “re-energizing” the wind.

        South Dakota alone could power 1/3rd of the entire lower 48 states with wind power.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Qin > (Qout + Qstored) :: planet gets hotter.

    And Qstored has no “value”. Since it’s not consumed.

    If Mother Nature only floated war bonds I’d buy them.

  • tncanoeguy

    Indeed, the price of fossil fuels have never included the external costs.

  • William
  • John Golde

    Do you think that fracking would have progressed as quickly as it has if alternate energy sources had not been developed? Do the carbon based fuel industries see the end of big subsidies coming down the road? It explains the drive to spend money now to dig wells and cap them since the present price of NG is at a low? (Current price increases do to lack of pipelines, not gas, as I understand it.)

    • sickofthechit

      What I read is that the push to drill as many wells as quickly as possible is because the leases are for five years at which time the rate paid to the landowner is subject to negotiation which will result in a much more expensive lease rate for the fracker. Plus, they avoid an anticipated wave of regulation when we get a better understanding of the destructive nature of fracking charles a. bowsher

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    UK underwater. Tory “conservatism”.
    China under death clouds. Commie “conservatism”

    EVERYBODY WINS!

  • James

    “It’s called picking winners we don’t do that”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    • WorriedfortheCountry

      Solyndra wasn’t a ‘winner’ but we picked it.

      • Duras

        Neither was Iraq.

        • sickofthechit

          Which one cost nearly a trillion dollars and which one cost several hundred million and so far as we know, no one died!

          • James

            I’m sure the military contractors felt like they won, also that seven hundred million dollars didn’t just disappear into thin air, it ended up in someones pocket.

        • WorriedfortheCountry

          What is this program called?
          Oh yeah, OnPoint.

          Try to keep it “onpoint”

          • Duras

            If you don’t think Iraq was an energy plan, then why did our troops guard oil refineries and rigs? Why do we still have ships guarding oil rigs in the Persian Gulf?

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Well, I’m still waiting for that Iraq oil that was going to pay for the war. I don’t believe there are any US companies in Iraq so it wasn’t a pay for play scheme.

          • Ray in VT

            http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/19/opinion/iraq-war-oil-juhasz/

            Western and American firms certainly appear to be in the mix now in ways that they were not previously.

          • Duras

            You think republicans would have done it for the people…? Get real. Let the oil companies guard their own oil rigs.
            That entire war was about commerce.

      • Ray in VT

        They had an innovative piece of technology, and they might have succeeded had the market not been flooded by cheap Chinese panels.

        • HonestDebate1

          Lame.

          • Ray in VT

            Yes, your comment is just that.

  • http://www.openeyesvideo.com/ Glenn C. Koenig

    What of the efficiency of PV panels? I understand that it’s still around 18%. Isn’t there anything coming down the pike that’s a whole lot better than that?

    • sickofthechit

      Passive solar. It’s already here. You design your home or addition so it takes advantage of the site in terms of the suns path at different times of the year. Very low maintenance.

      • http://www.openeyesvideo.com/ Glenn C. Koenig

        Well, in theory you are right. However, where I live, there is no space to design or add anything. This is typical of housing in my neighborhood, my municipality, and in fact within the greater Boston area.
        My house is 100 years old, a 2-family set up now as condos, and there is almost no land, just space for parking and a patio out back. Zoning laws prevent me from building anything, even increasing the height. Underneath is “ledge” (solid rock).
        I’m asking the question about PV because I already have a solar thermal system, am planning to beef up my insulation soon, and still have some roof area left on which to install PV. I want to get an electric car at some point and would like to be able to charge it. A passive solar house can’t do that. So, again, I’m asking, is there better technology for PV out there, but just at a greater cost? Or will there be soon? I’m trying to look toward the future, not just the present.

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      There is no “waste” with solar PV – they convert as much as they convert, and the rest goes toward whatever the sun’s energy always goes for. Higher efficiency just means that you need a physically smaller panel to get the electricity you need.

      I think that many panels are ~20% “efficient” and some are ~30%.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Driving down the costs of technology will ensure that no polar bear drowns. Maybe you can sell that to the animal kingdom.

  • William

    USA leading the world in reduction of CO2 emissions thanks to natural gas and fracking technology.

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2012/05/americas-falling-carbon-dioxide-emissions

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    CO2 concentration in the atmosphere still going up.

    Check out EIA’s latest stats {they’re always a couple of years behind}.

  • William
    • Duras

      I saw that article. It was one of two negative articles. There were much more positive articles to read.

      Merkel, a conservative, is fully devoted to renewable energy.

      Republicans should take a lesson from an honest conservative.

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        What ‘conservative’ would plan to shutter perfectly good nuclear plants well before their useful lifespan?

        We could ask what “sane” person would shutter those plants.

        • Duras

          I think Merkel, a conservative, speaks to how responsible conservatives can be. And it also speaks to what the republican conservative has become–no longer the honest conservative like Dwight Eisenhower–but the conservative who picks and chooses a few bad articles about renewable energy out of scores of positive articles, picks and chooses a few scientific articles about climate change instead of going with the consensus of the scientific community.

          This age of republicanism is not conservative; Republicans are Social Darwinist who will cheerlead for their political party, go against things they use to believe in and never thought through, in order to live out their primary politic of Social Darwinism.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            They plan to replace the nuclear output with coal generation. That is all you need to know.

            And don’t get me started on climate change propaganda and the distortion of science.

          • Duras

            Again, I cited an article that speaks to the opposite of what you said now and earlier.
            Do you at least have a citation for me to examine?

            Also, look at history: the science book always wins. Might want to think about that before you renew your membership to the Flat Earth Society.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            I agree, science always wins. True science, not ‘cargo cult’ science as Dr. Richard Feynman spoke about so eloquently.

            http://neurotheory.columbia.edu/~ken/cargo_cult.html

          • Duras
          • Duras

            I think you need to become a more disciplined thinker. Instead of trying to uses non-applicable to way-too-loosely related articles to make a point. Try actually reading the science.

            There is not a world wide conspiracy theory about climate change. I can see how acknowledging climate change can threaten republican ideology, but half the scientific community are economic conservatives. It isn’t that threatening.

            Now, when people call Ph.D. scientists cultish (which Feynman is not doing!), especially when people say that the world-wide scientific community (people who rigorously scrutinize everything that is said) are cultish, I began to question who the cult is….

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            I do read the science. That is why I can easily recognize the propaganda.

          • Ray in VT

            Interesting. Your positions, though, don’t really seem to reflect the vast majority of the science out there on the subject. Just the fringe of “skeptic” thought.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            That might be your conclusion but I disagree with your analysis of my position. Mostly I rail against the definitive statements by alarmist propagandists but not the science.

            I have stated many times that climate science is an immature and complex field. There is more that they don’t understand than they do..

          • Ray in VT

            I do take some measure of issue with how you characterize your position. There are certainly factors that are not well understood at present, but to seemingly doubt man’s role at this point seems unwise.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Climate science is much older than plate tectonics and DNA.

          • William

            No actually, the free market economic system wins.

          • Duras

            Read the economic history of the late 19th Century, and then talk to me.

            Also, is it a free market when one industry has so much money that it prevents other industries of new technologies from entering the market?

          • William

            It always wins in the end. Nobody is stopping green energy, but rather, people in green energy want little risk and yet guaranteed profits…they want to use regulations to force consumers to buy their product…that will eventually be their demise….

          • Ray in VT

            Funny, it hasn’t seemed to do so well in dictating some labor terms, working conditions or when and where it can dispose of various byproducts ever since people realized how hard the free market was screwing a lot of people over.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Do you really believe that the oil industry is hampering wind and solar? I’d say has more do to do with economics.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            The oil industry is hampering the science of climate change; just like the tobacco industry hampered the science of health.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            How so? Where is the evidence?

          • Ray in VT

            Just who’s backing Heartland, with it’s NIPCC, as well as many of the other “skeptical” organizations? A good many of them are tied up the wazoo to the fossil fuel industries.

          • notafeminista

            Tsk…don’t forget about the messenger.

          • Ray in VT

            Yes, let us look at some of the messengers. People who claim that smoking doesn’t cause cancer. People who claim that man can’t alter the environment because it is a creation of god. People who claim that Intelligent Design is a scientific theory. People whose positions on climate change have been widely rejected by the scientific community. With such messengers, one does not need to look very far to in order find significant questions as to the credibility of the messengers.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Some of the same people who worked with the tobacco industry also works to deny climate science:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merchants_of_Doubt

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Open your eyes, and your ears.

            Look up Bill Nierenberg, Fred Seitz, and Fred Singer. Climate deniers are using the same tactics as tobacco deniers.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Oh, that’s rich, coming from you.

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          Anybody with a brain can see that nuclear power is a disaster. WHERE/HOW will the nuclear waste be stored safely?

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Dry cask storage is fine for now.
            The current nuclear waste is fuel for next generation plants. 90% of the potential energy is unused.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            How much do those cost? Who pays for them? Please define “fine” in this context.

          • notafeminista

            As if the cost is what matters to you.

          • Ray in VT

            A little late in the morning to start with the snide comments, isn’t it. Oversleep your alarm today?

          • notafeminista

            Snide doesn’t mean wrong.

          • William

            I agree. Start to shut them down as we bring on cheap and reliable natural gas plants. Keep the coal plants online to prevent price spikes in the natural gas markets.

          • HonestDebate1

            Yucca mountain.

          • Ray in VT

            Yeah, and how do people out there feel about long term storage of a bunch of nuclear waste in their backyard?

          • HonestDebate1

            They’re begging for it.

          • Ray in VT

            Please provide evidence for that. I’m sure that you can back up such a claim.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Won’t work.

          • twenty_niner

            To what type of nuclear power are you referring, because there are several: fussion, uranium fission, plutonium fission, thorium fission?

            Regarding fission, what type of neutron moderator? Pressurized water, sodium, helium? What kind of design, because there are dozens that don’t get hot enough to melt down. Further, there are designs that consume their own waste. such as traveling wave.

            Maybe hold off on the “Anybody with a brain” preface seen so often on these left-leaning forums, when engineers and scientists with brains probably close to 10 times as powerful as yours have solved the problems with early reactor designs from the 50s, such as those at Fukushima and 3-Mile Island.

            But, unfortunately, because of rampant libtardation, none of these designs will ever be implemented, and in the end, every lump of coal squeezed out of a dinosaur’s ass will be mined and burned.

            Well I guess all of the CO2 in the air will make for some interesting plant life. I can’t wait to see how big the tree in the front yard gets.

      • William
      • William

        Merkel did tear into Obama over the spying Obama was doing on her.

        http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/17/merkel-compares-nsa-stasi-obama

        • Duras

          This is a revealing comment. It speaks to how you see politics as a team sport, and it supports my claims that you are cheerleading.

          If you asked me which policies I would prefer: Merkel’s or Obama’s, I would pick Merkel’s.

          Just like I prefer Eisenhower’s policies over Obama’s policies. I prefer Obama’s policies over Clinton’s policies. I prefer Obama’s policies over Bush’s policies.

          I’m not cheerleading for a team. I have thought-out principles; I have reflected; I have come to my own conclusions.

          • William

            So Obama’s big lie about “keeping your doctor, keeping you medical insurance”..that policy was a good idea?

    • Duras

      Do you really believe what you are saying, or are you cheerleading for the republican party for other political motives?

      I just don’t understand why anyone would not be for new technologies and cleaner air to breath. You think American energy is affordable….? Get real.

      • William

        Why are you afraid of anyone that does not agree with you?

        • Duras

          Your stupidity often stands out on these On Point conversations.

          I pick on you to see if you’ll break. While I’m basing my argument on the scientific community, wanting to breath clean air, wanting to have new technologies–I’m curious to figure out what you are basing your arguments on because I can’t see thing there besides cheerleading.

          • William

            You lost the argument when you insult people that you don’t agree with.

          • Ray in VT

            Well, it seems to me that one might be justified in making some such accusations in if particularly nonsensical or inaccurate points are constantly raised or repeated. It may not be very polite or dignified, but, for instance, if after more than 20 years of economic liberalization one was to blame the current economic weakness in India on socialism, then one might just be justified in questioning someone’s intellectual abilities.

          • William

            Maybe people fear that Liberals don’t tolerate any opposing opinions. They just won’t accept it and go “postal” . Shut down the debate. Which is a scary aspect of modern day Liberals and Liberalism.

          • Ray in VT

            Opinions not based in facts or reality don’t really have any place is a real debate. One of my favorite college professors told me that I could not base an argument upon a position that was not true. My counter was that people do just that in the real world all of the time.

            One of the disturbing aspects of modern American conservatives and libertarians is that whatever whacky position they can come up with is valid, even if it isn’t based in facts or reality. That’s probably why some supposedly closed-minded liberals get all hot under the collar. Maybe they just can’t deal with the sort of tactics employed by their opponents.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Hear, hear!

            Anyone who ignores reality automatically loses all credibility. You can have your own opinion, but you cannot have your own facts.

          • notafeminista

            Please. When leftists are presented with facts upsetting the narrative they simply scream any or all of the below in some combination.
            1)You’re stupid
            2)You’re crazy (deluded, irrational etc please feel free to use the adjective of your choosing)
            3)Stop watching Fox News.
            4)George Bush lied
            5)Iraq!!
            Goodness gracious.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            The truth is hard for you to take?

            Hint: Fox ain’t “news”.

          • notafeminista

            Are you classifying that as “fact” or “opinion”?

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Fox makes stuff up, when it suits them, and they lie. And when they are not making it up, they spin it to conform to Roger Ailes opinion.

            That is fact.

          • HonestDebate1

            No, that’s a delusion.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            You keep thinking that – but it does not change the fact that Fox is bunk.

          • HonestDebate1

            They’e no Rush Limbaugh but a damn sight more fair and balanced than NPR.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Ha!

        • Duras

          Also, on a personal level, I read a lot of philosophy, which is to say, I have read a lot of other people’s beliefs and ideas and thoughts. When you put yourself in that realm, you are saying, “I am willing to change my most precious beliefs, I am willing to change who I fundamentally think I am.”

          Now go watch Fox News and enjoy the reality you want to hear.

          • William

            You are a true “fellow traveler”…

          • notafeminista

            Philosophy can also be a warning for what we don’t want to become.

    • hennorama

      William — on a side note — forbes.com was hacked, and they just announced that “[Our] publishing platform was compromised and email addresses for registered members have been exposed.”

    • Ray in VT

      An Op-Ed by a real estate investor. Awesome. Not the sort of guy who I am going to rely upon for well-researched, unbiased energy reporting:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Rich

      • hennorama

        Ra in VT — forewarning:
        You will soon be criticized for “attacking the messenger.”

        • William
        • notafeminista

          Oh do come now…the messenger is important, no? After all, without worrying about who is the messenger we can’t eliminate climate scientists who for 10 minutes 50 years ago worked for an energy company.
          Whole thing just goes to pieces.

          • Ray in VT

            I messenger can be very important, as it affects their message. I’m disinclined to, for instance, lend credibility to the climate “skeptics” who think that creationism is science or that smoking doesn’t cause cancer.

          • notafeminista

            Much as I’m disinclined to lend credibility to a former vice-president with a carbon footprint bigger than Montana.

            This is an interesting read as well..

            http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304675504579389492229581738

          • Ray in VT

            Are you going to disregard the peer-reviewed scientific literature and the professional organizations that back the conclusions of said literature as well?

          • notafeminista

            Let us say I enjoy it with the large dosage of NaCl hennorama mentioned when reading PJ O’Rourke’s work.

          • hennorama

            notafeminista — thank you for your response.

            Unfortunately, it is undecipherable in its present form, [and I am loath to put words onto your fingertips]:

            “After without worrying …”

          • notafeminista

            All the better for me then.

      • William
        • Ray in VT

          Thank you for providing some actual reporting. I think that such problems are reasonably well covered and understood.

          Some firms fact issues with relocating here, such as those described here: http://www.cnbc.com/id/43459947. We also lost out to China because of their lower standards. I’m not looking to be closer to China than Germany.

          • William

            “Actual reporting” is a loose term these days. Is the NYTimes and WaPo always honest? …nope….how about FoxNews and CNN? Nope….it’s multiple sources from big and small players…Senator Edwards was caught cheating on his wife by the National Enquirer….which most people did not consider a “honest newspaper”..but they nailed story and Edwards…

            China is buying up small and midsize manufacturing companies here…especially auto supply companies…they will follow the Japanese and Koreans example…also…with our abundance of cheap natural gas and 24/7 reliable power…we will see more of their factories….

      • HonestDebate1

        Germany’s move away from nuclear and into stratospheric energy cost is well documented.

        • Ray in VT

          Should be easy to find something that is not an Op-Ed written by a billionaire libertarian real estate investor then, as William has since done. The costs of the “cheap” energy that we have long preferred is also well documented.

          • HonestDebate1

            Look it up. Their energy cost are sky high. It’s not working. It sounds good but it is not viable.

  • JoeSixPack56

    What we need are people with money to invest in themselves. The cheapest Kilowatt is the one you do not use. The most cost effective power avoidance is to put insulation in people’s attics. http://www.CitizensClimateLobby.org organization has the best plan to put money into people’s hands, with no government control.

  • Michael Wyrick

    How can we decouple the residential electric consumption from infrastructure costs? Grid tied PV systems make use the grid and in some ways more with the give and take.

  • Dustin M

    Solar power purchase agreements for solar power plants in California today are $0.08 to $0.10 per kWh. @DustinMulvaney

  • JoeSixPack56

    Omaha Public Power District has a goal of 10% renewable power by 2020. Last year they announced signing a contract with a private wind power company that will cause them to get 30% of their power from wind power by the end of next year. Three times their goal in half the time. Other power companies should contact OPPD!

  • William

    Solar power is not 24/7 so when it goes off line the consumer has to pay market or peak prices based on supply and demand. A wise power generator will just raise the price after the sun goes down.

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      We need multiple solutions, that overlap and compliment each other. Like solar and wind and tidal and wave and biomass.

      Solar happens to *exactly* match the *peak* demand for electricity.

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        Neil turns off his AC on hot cloudy days. And don’t open your freezer on those weeks either.

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          Solar still works fine on cloudy days. Do you even think before you type?

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Hey Neil, would my solar panels work under the 10″ of new snow that fell on my roof yesterday? How about the other 2 feet that was already on my roof for the entire month?

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            An inch or so, sure. You could clear them off, or wait until it melts off. Mount them steep enough, and the snow slides off rather easily.

          • Ray in VT
          • hennorama

            WftC — simple solution: soft snow removal tools.

            In addition, snow on the ground reflects sunlight and can increase rooftop PV efficiency in winter.

            See:
            http://www.roofrake.com/Productpages/snowpro2.asp

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            With an inch of snow, they would work. You can rake it off. or if you install them steep enough, the snow just slides off.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Are you worried about A/C in the winter?

            Deep snow can be raked off, or the panels can be mounted steep enough for it to slide right off. They are glass, not a rough shingle.

      • William

        I’m all in for “all of the above” but I don’t endorse any taxpayer and consumer paying more for energy so a few people can feel good about themselves. This push to green energy is turning into a huge profit source for corrupt Wall Street companies like Goldman Sachs. Punishing people with very high electric rates won’t build a sustainable economy.

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          Then you should be full against all fossil fuels and nuclear – these have by far the largest government subsidies.

      • HonestDebate1

        You are absolutely correct.

    • twenty_niner

      Safe nuclear (i.e. pebble bed, traveling wave) can be used for the base load, night load, and cloudy days.

    • twenty_niner

      “A wise power generator will just raise the price after the sun goes down”

      Utilities are regulated monopolies. Rates cannot be increased unilaterally.

      • William

        Remember Enron….do you think that utility companies won’t get around regulations…especially when there is money to be made….

        • Ray in VT

          Sounds like a case for strict and proper regulation.

          • hennorama

            Ray in VT — and regulators that will do their jobs without concern about going after companies whose CEOs are friends of the POTUS.

          • Ray in VT

            That would also be key.

          • William

            Remember, one man can change a law with his phone or a pen so if there is a lot of money to be made….

          • Ray in VT

            One man can take actions in the realm of executive authority, however I don’t think that said man can actually change the law, despite how often it is claimed that our current President does just that.

          • William

            Sure he can…a big campaign donor wants a regulation changed..wham it’s done..”for the good of the country, consumer etc..etc…etc…”

          • Ray in VT

            Altering regulations and how and when they are instituted is different from changing the law. The former has long been an aspect of executive power, whereas the current President seems to get charged a lot with the latter.

    • Ross M Donald

      Not necessarily allowed. That’s why we rate hearings.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Intentions don’t count for squat. Only real, measurable, publicly made available RESULTS count. It’s always been that way.

  • MarkVII88

    In Vermont right now there’s a big debate about Net Metering, incentives for household installation of PV rooftop panels. Power generated in excess of what the household uses are purchased by the utility at a rate much higher than that paid to large-scale commercial power generators (something like $0.20/kilowatt-hour vs. $0.12). In many cases, individual homeowners can “zero-out” their electric bill and even make a profit. The issue here is that there’s not a level playing field for all homeowners because only upper middle class and wealthier families are the only ones who have this financial flexibility to under take these type of projects on their homes. Additionally, detractors of Net Metering state that if homeowners can zero-out their electric bill then they’re not paying their fair share to maintain the physical grid infrastructure, essentially cost-shifting this fixed-cost burden onto lower income rate payers or renters who can’t install PV panels on their rented property. I see the value in more PV panels but with these subsidies and incentives, everyone else is bearing more of the cost.

    • Dustin M

      That is not entirely accurate. Our research suggests that distributed PV modules actually reduces the overall cost of service for utilities because there are multiple benefits to the grid that are not counted – capacity deferrals, long term fuel costs, price hedge, etc. Not sure about Vermont, but in California most PV is not on wealthy rooftops, but middle class ones. This data is all public info. @DustinMulvaney

      • crescentfang

        Who pays the capital costs for electric plants that must back up the solar panels on cloudy days and have to sit idle in sunny ones? The accounting here sounds suspect.

        • Dustin M

          All the analysis will be transparent and available on public record via the rate proceedings. Most costs for an existing plant are fuel costs.. saved on a sunny day. Sunny days are the most expensive days to buy electricity; costs avoided with DG PV.

    • sickofthechit

      Seems to me the solution is to do like our utilities do here in Kentucky. We pay a service fee for the hookup to the utility, then we pay for our energy usage or water usage by the kilowatt or the gallon so the utility is always getting something from each customer.

      As for zeroing out their bill, I would suggest they have to “bank” any credits for offset later on cloudy days and have a day of “reckoning” like they do with a budget payment assessment. The “exchange” rate should be equal unless of course the Utility is able to charge a premium when they “sell” the energy to another customer who wants to purchase “renewable energy”. charles a. bowsher

    • crescentfang

      This is essentially government corruption because those who put in the PV panels and the companies that sell them benefit from charging everyone else excessive prices for unreliable electric power. Even the Boston Globe points out that the most profitable business investment in the country today is lobbying Washington for special treatment.

  • twenty_niner

    The best fusion plant in the world rises in the east once a day, is 100% free, has a few billion years worth of fuel, and can give you a nice tan free of charge. Thermal solar is one of the best ways to tap energy from this plant. I’m sure birds will figure out how to fly around these things. Either that or solar-fired pigeon will become a new staple.

  • tbphkm33

    We do tend to forget that the greenest of green technology is conservation. Modern society is still extremely energy inefficient. We treat power as an infinite resource, when in fact it is finite. As a society, we can make staggering progress through employing smart technology, but also through low tech measures such as turning things off. Not leaving lights on 24/7. Turning TVs off. Insulating buildings and homes. Efforts each and every one of us can do today that will have positive impacts for the future.

  • HonestDebate1

    Can we use the fried birds to feed the homeless?

    • warryer

      Somebody would have to go collect the birds so, you are decreasing unemployment too! Killing two birds with one stone as they say.

      • Ross M Donald

        Buildings kill birds. So do house cats.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    Fracking is using up a LOT of water. It is poisoning a lot of wells. It is releasing a lot of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) that are very harmful to all life forms. Fracking leaks a lot of methane (a GHG far stronger than carbon dioxide) and this is pushing climate change to be worse than it already is. Fracking causes 100′s of earthquakes. Fracked wells are not producing as much as originally thought.

    We are in a fracking bubble, and we will have to break our addiction – we should do this sooner rather than later.

    • tbphkm33

      I’m all for fracking and all the rest – humans are an infestation on Earth; over population and killing the ecosystem. We fail to take action even when it is well documented that we are destroying what sustains us. So, why not go whole hog, the sooner humans are gone, the sooner the Earth can get back to doing what it does well, namely creating interesting life forms.

      • notafeminista

        The implication being…….humans aren’t life forms? Or aren’t created by the Earth? Or aren’t interesting? All 3?

    • harverdphd

      Sarcasm noted…well done!

  • William

    We don’t have a battery big enough ..yet…to store the power.. I would like to see the taxpayer funds given to those solar companies for big projects be given to homeowners for rooftop solar projects and replace old electrical equipment like HVAC and hot water heaters….

  • TheDailyBuzzherd

    “Natural Gas is good for you.” ( Sarcasm intended. )

    If the US treated renewable energy as a matter of national defense, since it is, we’d have had this thing nipped years ago.

    The A Bomb: A deliverable device within three years.

    The H Bomb: A device realized within ten years.

    Net: We can do this.

  • Michael Chiacos

    Rooftop solar in California is already a no brainer. I spent $7,600 for 2.88 kW of solar, which is enough to power my small home and electric car. The system will generate $55,000 dollars worth of electricity over the next 25 years. The EV+PV (electric car+photovoltaic) synergy is quite strong. 2 kW of solar is enough to power an electric car for 11,000 miles/year, and costs around $5,000-$6,000, or even less as part of a larger array. Most people spend that much on 3 years of gas – or they could use that money to put a solar power station on their house and get 25+ years of free Driving on Sunshine. You can lease an EV for $200/month with the CA $2500 rebate paying the down payment. The economics are there, its just about education now.

    • tbphkm33

      Hmm, place yourself in 2005 and replace “rooftop solar” with “no money down real estate.” The rooftop solar people sure sound a lot like the people who peddled no money down mortgages before the crash.

      I’m pro solar, wind and renewables, but homeowners should give careful consideration before buying into these rooftop solar schemes. Its a maturing market and a technology that is still being improved upon. Reality is that five years from now, you can purchase a more efficient system for less money – so, what’s the hurry?

      • ToyYoda

        There is no hurry but in 3.5 years he recoups his initial investment. Most people would take those returns. Progress on solar panels is quite slow. Five years from now, the panels may be more efficient but it may not be marginally more efficient to justify the wait.

      • Michael Chiacos

        I agree with ToyYoda below, in 5 years my system will be almost paid off and I will be powering my home and car for free. Why wait? Also, solar is improving, but slowly, there are no huge breakthroughs on the horizon. There is always an excuse to wait, why not just take the leap now.

      • Ross M Donald

        Don’t wait for a big breakthrough. Its already happened.

    • Zenplatypus

      I live in California and the economics make absolutely no sense for me. My monthly electric bill is about $21, so spending $8,000 on a solar system would be profoundly idiotic. I can think of many more productive uses for that capital. Moreover, I own my vehicles outright and spend decidedly less than $200 monthly on gas. In a nutshell, the scenario you’ve painted would amount to dramatically increased outlays for no other reason than the ability to boast of my superior environmental bona fides at cocktail hour. I’ll pass.

      • Ross M Donald

        You might gain your return by selling back to the grid, unless you’re just against it no matter what.

      • Michael Chiacos

        If your bill is $21 your solar will be a lot less than $8000! LOL Also, you’ve paid off your cars, but even a 5 year old car is depreciating $2000/year, which is about enough to lease a new EV. Since you get 100 mpg equivalent you can power your EV with the sun very affordably and you are saving money while doing the two biggest things you could do to cut your carbon footprint – your house and car energy use. Not to mention not having to buy tar sands or oil from people who hate us. Nor contribute to air pollution. Or send oil money to countries that hate us.

        • Zenplatypus

          Let’s make this simple: If I were to spend $5,000 on a solar panel system for my home — an unrealistically low figure given current prices, but all the more illustrative for our purposes — it would take me more than 15 years to recoup those funds, assuming my power consumption remained more or less the same. It’s a poor investment, period — even with tax credits. If it’s working for you, fine. I can even stand some muted evangelizing on the issue, as I support the concept. That said, I have no use for cliches and slogans, which are invariably naive on substance and solipsistic.

    • Jasoturner

      I am unclear on this math. Your annual savings work out to $55,000 / 25yr = $2,200yr. I don’t know what electricity costs in Cali, but let’s say $0.175. So $2,200 represents roughly 12,600 kWh per year. Dividing by 365 days, that’s 34.5 kWh per day. And with a 2.9 kW system working in full daylight and ideal temperature ranges at maximum capacity, that means 11.9 hours per day, every day, of bright, warm sunlit days (that sounds pretty good, actually.) That seems to me a little optimistic – not insanely so, but somewhat. Given that panel performance degrades over time too. Nonetheless, a five or six year simple payback, followed by a decade of free power, sounds like a pretty good deal. Good for you for investigating and making an environmentally friendly investment.

      • Michael Chiacos

        Right now I only use a little over $1000 worth of electricity/year to power the house and electric car, but electricity prices historically increase 6%/year, so that’s how the bills get much higher in 10 or 20 years when I’m getting free power from the sun. Also, the panels will likely last much longer than the 25 year warranty, so if you calculate it out over the actual life the financials get even better.

  • StilllHere

    There is no vested interest in conservation, at least not one with a big enough ad budget.

    Our transmission and distribution system should also be a focus. It hasn’t changed in decades and efficiencies would be easy to find. Again, probably not in anyone’s vested interest, except for everyone.

  • http://www.energysage.com/blog EnergySage

    Big solar projects are great, but there are so many empty rooftops that need to be utilized for solar energy before we go and use up large amounts precious green space. Rooftop solar PV is here now and is affordable for pretty much everyone. It can save you a TON of money. See how much you could be saving with a custom instant estimate – http://bit.ly/1gKEjv0

    • twenty_niner

      “precious green space”

      From the WSJ:

      “opening this week in the California desert

    • tbphkm33

      Homeowners who finance rooftop solar are only switching from paying the electrical company to paying the solar finance company. It locks them into a 10 to 15 year payment plan on solar panels that have a lifespan of 20 to 25 years. Plus, can make selling the house more difficult.

      Homeowners who purchase the system outright are slightly better off, but they are still lock into a system that only marginally raises the property value. They have to sit on the house for a number of years to recoup the investment and really have to consider what returns the money tied up on the roof could have earned elsewhere.

      I’m pro-solar, on an infrastructure basis. The economics for homeowners is a little more dicy. The solar industry will paint a rosy picture, but one should not take their word for it. Solar installation has become the new fad, people who before the crash sold mortgages are now out peddling solar schemes.

      Other factor is solar technology – reality is still that in five years you can purchase a much more efficient system for less money than you can today. Why buy into a maturing market?

      • jefe68

        There is a lot to consider for the home owner when it comes to solar. It’s expensive, the state of Massachusetts and the city of Boston do offer some tax free grants for solar panels. A neighbor down the road from me recently did their home.
        What struck me was if they ever need to do any work on the roof, that would add to the expense, big time. From what I’ve read on this you need a new 30+ year roof as well.

        • jefe68

          For the down arrow person. Get real.

          No reputable solar company should install solar panels on a roof that is in need of repair or if the shingles need to be replaced in a few years. It seems to me that it’s basic common sense to have a solid roof with new shingles.

      • Michael Chiacos

        This guy misses the point that in 5 years your solar system may be paid off and you will be powering your house and maybe electric car for free….. Also, the federal tax credit of 30% expires in 2016 – another reason to go solar before then.

  • marygrav

    Renewable and Solar Energy have fallen victim to Brer’ Rabbit Politics: If Obama is for it, the T-Party/GOP is against it. And don’t forget that Big Oil and the US Chamber of Commerce/AEI are bedfellows and will prevent the US from advancing any progress towards Renewable Energy.

    The US is falling behind in the science field and this does not seem to matter to the 1% because they see the rest of US as slave labor and fodder for the canon as we go around the world killing for the oil to keep US functioning in the manner we have been accustomed to since the 1950s. This is why we shall never have peace in the Middle East and are stuck permanently in Afghanistan trying to acquire the Tans-Asia gas fields.

    We have a world class army, but do we have the will to kill our way through. Hitler and the Nazis tried this, but look what happened to them.

    We must also protect our environment. Fracking will not only destroy the land, it will destroy our clean water supply. Water is more important that natural gas and water, neither will letting underground water go up in steam.

    Obama has to reduce his expectations to those of what is possible in a T-Party/GOP Congress who controls the purse strings. A Congress that does not understand that GDP depends 70% on domestic spending and not associating that the Deficit reflects this very spending–lower deficits~lower domestic spending.

    I still have faith and hope because WE as a people went through all these problems before with the First Great Depression. But we must make corrects because if the EU economy cannot rise because of the US economy, our ALLIES will go to Iran where there are 70 million souls waiting to spend. This may seem off topic, but in a Globalized world there is a connection.

    • harverdphd

      Renewable and solar energy are irrelevant and unaffordable now.

      Love,
      Br’er Rabbit

      • Ross M Donald

        Only one who has no solar and no information would say that.

  • Joanie

    Please consider discussing the recent coal ash spill into the Dan River in North Carolina on an upcoming show. The environmental fall out is as yet unknown but the coal ash has been detected as many as 70 miles downstream with dead animals already surfacing. As the water heads downstream, it will enter Kerr Lake and then Lake Gaston, the latter of which provides drinking water to Virginia Beach, VA. This has a much larger impact than just a small spill in an unknown river. In addition to these concerns, there are allegations of impropriety between Governor McCrory and Duke Energy as it relates to regulation of these coal ash storage ponds. Federal prosecutors are issuing subpoenas and compelling state employees to testify in grand juries. As the third largest coal ash spill in the US, please consider adding this to your show as an upcoming topic.

  • hennorama

    AmyB — of course, the vast majority of the funding to build the dams that provide the hydroelectric power for the Northwest, beginning with the Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams, was provided by the Federal government.

    And that hydoelectric power was one significant reason the U.S. won WWII, as the aluminum industry used it to provide raw materials for Boeing, which produced about one-third of all U.S. military aircraft during WWII, and the shipbuilding industry in Portland used it to build over 700 large military vessels.

  • harverdphd

    You were wrong once, why be wrong again?

  • harverdphd

    What could we have done with the money spent on the Afghan war?

    • jefe68

      A lot.

  • twntrs

    Spot on. He was all-consumingly concerned with not being seen as an “uppity N” even more than the initial affront of even daring to run for office and staked his entire presidency and wasted his entire mandate on “reaching across the aisle”.

    But across the aisle there was nothing but a snake pit driven by a creationist racist and racist creationist base owned by the fossil fuel and many other industries.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    We have underestimated the methane leakage by ~50%.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=R7dLFx3ewrE

    • HonestDebate1

      They sure are tasty.

      • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

        Grass fed beef is much better tasting, and much better for us, and much better for the cows and much better for the environment.

    • hennorama

      Neil Blanchard — if the natural gas infrastructure is leaking 50 percent more methane than EPA estimates, as Mr. Brandt indicated, and the EPA estimates for other methane sources are valid, then this implies and overall increase in methane emissions of about 10 percent.

      (Mr. Brandt said EPA estimates that NG infrastructure accounts “for about one-fifth” of total methane emissions.)

      One good thing about methane is that it only stays in the atmosphere about 12 years, so getting it under control can have a significant impact in a short amount of time (as you no doubt already know).

      • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

        Yes, methane decays – into carbon dioxide.

  • davecm

    Wealth redistribution
    If you can label one energy source as “fossil fuels” with a limited life span, you can name your price, Oil and gas will be around for as long as the earth exist. If you want wealth to move from one source to another you label one as a pollutant and the other as “clean” energy.
    Al Gore is an example. A champion of clean energy and carbon reduction in the world, climate change cause.
    Al, once had a stake in the Chicago carbon exchange. If Obama could have passed carbon restriction legislature, Al’s company would have made a butt load of money.
    http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/shorebank.php

    I would love to see solar and wind deliver as promised.
    I checked into solar panels for my house, I would never recover the cost at present technology.

  • Alchemical Reaction

    The U.S. should just “pick winners” and subsidize big infrastructure and manufacturing projects and renewable energy farms. If we don’t – we are picking a winner: namely CHINA! Because they ARE making these investments. Partisanship aside – this is the reality of a global economy.

  • crescentfang

    So, dump all the subsidies and mandates and see what happens. The solar magazines I have seen treat it as if it isn’t viable without government subsidies.

  • HonestDebate1

    In the 20′s and 30′s there were a gazillion dams built that still exist on smaller tributaries but no longer produce electricity. They would impound a tributary but when they impounded the river below it a few years later the water level went up causing the power stations for the tributary dams to be underwater. Now nearly a century later the technology no longer requires the 20-30 ft. drop and these dams could be brought back into service.

  • hennorama

    AmyB — you might also be interested in this article, titled “Reduced water supply forecast affects hydropower outlook in Pacific Northwest,” from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA):

    http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=14931#

  • Desert Dweller

    How is this any different than the Solar II project in Dagget, Ca. which was recently dismantled? The Solar II project was said to be unsuccessful because the mirrors degraded due to lack of cleaning. For the Ivanpah project they state the mirrors will be cleaned every two weeks from a groundwater supply. How is this feasible and sustainable given California’s current water situation?

  • AAInventors .

    You won’t have to worry about making another mistake because that is his last term remember!!! and beside his agenda was right on track but just the fact as an AA with solutions nobody likes it nor likes him.

  • AAInventors .

    Everybody its talking about California, but I live in South Texas, and when I go to Padre Island via Corpus Christi there is a ton of land and infrastructure that we could lend to consumers. If each household was given access to solar at a fraction of what its required to pay for it, it will save a lot of nonsense. For instance going to China is not the only solution, Nanosolar can provide the same product at a great price but I am surprised that name was not even mentioned or part of that deal. I live in San Antonio and produce my own water, yes you read right, produce my own water and in about few years I plan to be out of the grid.
    Gas is cheaper but dangerous when accident occur.
    Solar is too expensive because the Gvt won’t share.
    Oil and Fracking we know the story.
    Fusion is still in the making.

  • Arkuy The Great

    I have to laugh at the assertion of “$500 billion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry”. That definitely does not apply to oil and gas operations in the United States. Last year Exxon-Mobil reported $550 billion in total revenue and $49 billion in net profit. At the same time they reported a total tax bill of about $100 billion (federal, state, local and foreign taxes paid). The “subsidies” they receive are various tax deductions and credits of the sort that are available to other industries. Nevertheless, these companies are, by far, net donors to government revenue streams. The whole “subsidies” claim is nonsense and a manipulative, populist appeal to general ignorance on the subject.

    • Cutler Hamilton

      Agreed. However, the fact is they receive close to $53 billion in subsidies for various applications whether it’s production, preventing leaks in pipelines, protecting pipelines overseas (i.e. the Persian Gulf), protecting employees from retribution overseas and domestically, and footing the bill for exploration. This money is necessary from taxpayers in order for the price at the pump to be more acceptable for our big pick-up trucks and SUV’s. So their is a case where the auto and oil industry are working together to stay alive. This whole conversation was just about where renewables are already competing well against fossil fuels. Whether or not subsidies exist for solar, wind, or any other renewable energy source, promising competition from these sources already exists. The only obstacles are politicians and those representing the old guard of the oil industry. The environment can only take so much and we will suffer the consequences of those industries regardless of the solution. So you have to ask yourself, “Will it be worth the pains of converting to cleaner, smarter, renewables or continue using fossil fuels where the proof of damage to the environment is already apparent and only adding up to more and more damage to the planet, our way of life, and the lives of future generations?”

  • OnPointComments

    The Dark Side Of Solar Power
    http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/021914-690545-ivanpah-shines-a-light-on-the-dark-side-of-solar-power.htm

    Excerpt:
    One of the inconvenient truths that global warming fanatics and renewable energy purists try to ignore is that wind and solar energy are not so environmentally friendly. At least, not if you care about wildlife and land preservation.

    First, these energy sources are massive land hogs. Ivanpah requires more than 5 square miles of mirrors to produce enough electricity to light 140,000 homes. It would take roughly 3,600 Ivanpahs to supply all the country’s electricity needs, with mirrors covering New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island and a chunk of Massachusetts combined.

    Wind power is hardly much better. According to the Nature Conservancy, it takes 30 times the land for windmills to produce as much electricity as a nuclear power plant.

    And their turbines amount to bird Cuisinarts. To keep wind farms spinning, the Obama administration recently issued permits letting them kill protected bald and golden eagles for 30 years, provided they take some steps to mitigate the slaughter.

    To make matters worse, the electricity these sources produce is far more expensive, which translates into middle-class-punishing rate hikes.

    And even President Obama’s own Energy Department says wind and solar will always be bit players in the energy market, supplying just one-tenth of the nation’s energy needs by 2040 — up only slightly from today’s 7%.

    • methos1999

      Ok, so what’s your long term power solution? Pick your poison please.

      • Arkuy The Great

        That is the point; all power generation methods have significant environmental impacts, including so-called “renewables”. The only truly “green” power is no power. So if you want your lights to come on anytime you flip the switch you had better decide what impacts you find acceptable.

    • http://www.spiffysolar.com/ www.spiffysolar.com

      Your argument, is only a starting point, and not much of an argument against alternative energy. Total land use alone is misleading. Site selection is important and given much consideration. Besides, most would prefer a bit of extra land use to the pollution and ill-health effects, which are the alternative that we all have to live (or die) with.

      Ivanpah is hardly your typical solar installation and is but one technology (one that many in the industry argue is outdated and unnecessary). Don’t forget that commercial solar is often installed on rooftops, taking up absolutely no usable land. Additionally, many new solar installations are being placed on “brownfield” sites and old landfills—places ruined by previous indiscretion.

      Additionally, solar and wind locations can be design in such a way that they can still be used for agriculture and other uses. It’s awfully hard to work up numbers on land use when the land is being used in two or three ways.

      Lastly, the reason that the US grid saturation number are so low is not because of any lack in the technology. Rather it is a lack of political will. Many places in the world are already exceeding the paltry numbers we discuss here.

      P.S. When the land area and environmental destruction from mining are included, the numbers move a lot closer together.

    • http://www.spiffysolar.com/ www.spiffysolar.com

      If you were to cover Lake Mead with solar panels, their output would be 10x that of the Hoover Dam. Who is the land hog in that scenario?

      • Arkuy The Great

        The 10x figure is true only at high noon. From dusk to dawn it is more like 0x. And you can get a similar range of power from conventional fossil fuel or nuke generation on a footprint orders of magnitude smaller. So the answer to your question is “both”.

        • http://www.spiffysolar.com/ www.spiffysolar.com

          No, that is total production, not just one point in time. The source is a book called The Upcycle.

  • OnPointComments

    Program summary: if you make conventional energy production much more expensive, and heavily subsidize solar energy production, solar energy will become more competitive.

    • http://www.spiffysolar.com/ www.spiffysolar.com

      There are places around the globe where renewable energy is on par or cheaper than conventional energy production and this trend will only continue. It is more about local economics than a battle of technologies. Subsidies will speed solar adaption, but they are no longer a necessity. So, what you say is generally true, but the adjectives of “much more” and “heavily” are false.

  • HonestDebate1

    Is this what you voted for?

  • Arkuy The Great

    The “subsidy” argument against the fossil fuel industry is bunk. Those arguing against them are speaking about tax deductions and credits for depreciation and amortization, the likes of which are available to many different industries. Meanwhile, if you look at the actual financial performance of oil and gas companies (not the breathless, begging-the-question that goes on at various advocacy organizations) you see a picture of huge revenue producers, not consumers. See my example below for a particular illustration of this poster’s fallacious reasoning.

  • twenty_niner

    .

  • http://www.sterling-energy.com/ kristahiles

    Solar Energy is always going to be cheaper than any
    other energy, whether it is gas or oil or any other energy. Countries are using
    them at large scales, these are going to cost cheaper to governments.

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Guest Renee McLeod of Somerville, MA's Petsi pies shows off her wares. (Robin Lubbock / WBUR)

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Jul 25, 2014
Pallbearers carry a coffin out of a military transport plane during a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies, of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, from Ukraine at Eindhoven military air base, Eindhoven, Netherlands, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (AP)

Secretary of State Kerry to Israel. Obamacare back in the courts. Mourning as remains of Malaysia Flight 17 victims come home. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

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