Rematog - The Original's Comments

November 16, 2012

Solar Struggle: A Rise Of Poorly Made PV Modules?


With an investment that pays for itself over a very long time frame, the equipment needs to last.

20 years life is very short in the power industry. We normally expect systems to last 30-50 years.

The PV industry should be very concerned about manufacturers who cut corners and make panels that will have a high failure rate 5-10 years out. The cost is important, but investment will dry up if project financial failures because of rapid module degradation become the norm.

And yes, the engineers and project developers need to buy panels from high quality providers, because PV projects can only make financial sense if they can be amortized over a long (20+ years) time frame.

November 09, 2012

Renewable Energy Industry Weighs In On Obama Victory


You mention the “$900 million in fossil fuel research funds”. Note that this is subsidy for research, not production.

If coal plant’s received subsidy’s at the level wind does, i.e. 2.2 cents /kw-hr, then just 9 typical utility scale units (600 MW, 90% capacity factor) would get $900 million per year.

The existing coal fired plants get zero subsidy and pay large amounts of property and sales taxes to their communities and states. The research subsidy goes to clean coal, which today is directed primarily to reduced CO2 emissions.

If you’ve been in the power industry for a while, you’ve experienced regulatory whiplash before, so I understand the issues with the production tax credit vanishing overnight.. I would recommend the wind production tax credit be renewed for 10 years, the amount decreasing by 10% of the original amount each year, so that I reaches zero at the end of that time. Predictable.

I also agree with the increase in gasoline tax (heck, I campaigned for Ross Perot both times).

Gas tax, increase by 5-10 cents per year for, well, forever. Starting with one-time 15 cents as you suggest would work. Do this instead of subsidizing electric cars. Let people decide when the EV makes sense for them.

So, how about this for pollution controls:

SO2 & NOX. Set up national cap and trade. Issues emission permits based on average tonnage emitted 2005-2010, or is less history is available, based on air permit issued. Then reduce the tonnage the permit allows by a small percentage each year. It is important to make them tradable. Why?, As they ratcheted down in a predictable manner, plant owner’s can make a rational decision to add controls reduce operations or shut-down. A very good reason for making them tradable is it means owner’s have an incentive to add controls. As scrubbers are step functions, i.e. they remove 90% if you install, zero if you don’t, then the owner can be paid by the market to over-control.

November 09, 2012

Renewable Energy Industry Weighs In On Obama Victory


CO2 – On vehicles, the gas tax is the CO2 tax. On stationary sources, again, Cap and Trade. I know that to those for whom Environmentalism is a religion (Larry?) Cap and trade is a SIN as it is seen as a “right to pollute”. But a defined Cap and Trade program can achieve the goal of reduced emission for the least cost by using market forces. And it does it without the regulatory whiplash that is damaging to industries and the economy. The RE community has experience that same whiplash, so should understand whereof I speak.

With the amount of CO2 the permit allows being reduced a few percent each year, the plant owners could again make rational economic decisions on how much to run, if CO2 capture makes sense, and when to eventually shut down. Note that unless RE steps up to the plate, higher power prices would make continued operation and CO2 capture more attractive. But, by it’s nature, the Cap and Trade would reduce CO2 emissions by the desired amount each year.

But, in all of the above, a critical issue is making the rules consistent and known for the reasonable future, say 10 years out. Then, each year, make the change for the new 10th year out.

Beats regulatory whiplash, eh?

And, with cost of production increasing for fossil fuels, in a steady predictable manner, the RE industry would have the opportunity to take up the slack, without regulatory mandates.

November 09, 2012

Renewable Energy Industry Weighs In On Obama Victory

As surprising as it may be to hear, I agree with the Mr(s?) Bruderly that externalities are not included in the cost for fossil energy sources. But, they are not included in the cost of RE either. Certainly the emissions externality of fossil power is higher, but by how much, who gets to set it, and what is their agenda. We ALL have agenda’s.

Per my prior post, a system of cap and tax could be used instead of cap and trade. But I would highly suggest that two things be kept in mind. One, the taxes will, in the end, be paid by the consumer. Two, whiplash is Bad.

Taxes: Anyone that thinks the utilities and or power generators will pay the taxes and not increase the price they charge needs to quit taking the Soma. (Brave New World). Therefore higher externality taxes will result in higher power prices. Not good for an economic recovery.

Whiplash: Make change slow and predictable. The power industry is a long term business. I am sometimes amused by comments that imply 20 years is a long time. Power plants are designed for a 30 year life, and virtually all run for 50 years or more. We are just starting to see fossil plants built in the late 50’s early 60’s begin to be retired. Hydro plants built when my 86 year old father was toddler are still in service with no issues and no plans to retire.

If Cap and Tax were used, again, start with a small tax and increase it in a slow, predictable manner.

Oil prices, yes supply and demand control cost, but, this the cost is upset, and I believe increased by the financial futures market. You don’t need government “executive action and legislation” to stimulate not petroleum vehicles. Fuel prices rising thru supply and demand with a small and slowly increasing CO2 tax, will stimulate it quite well. I saw a CNG power pick-up on the way home yesterday, and the local bus company is looking into CNG buses

November 09, 2012

Renewable Energy Industry Weighs In On Obama Victory


I have agreed that the social cost of fossil power, i.e. externalities, is not fully included in the power cost. NOTHING WE DO INCLUDES ALL EXTERNALITIES. Yes, I shouted that. Education, roads, even defense could be included in externalities if you want.

Regrading NOX,SOX ROX (particulate) and CO2, I've again agreed that increasing controls and/or taxes are justified. My point is that they be applied gradually to so not to give the economy "a flat tire". Just as I've read numerous times about not having the Wind energy production credit stop suddenly, but be gradually and predictably phased out. Same logic.

You mention loan guarantees for clean coal projects. Again, R&D first of their kind plants. REA loan guarantees were/are a social program going back to the Roosevelt administration to aid the economic development of rural areas. The same program could be used to fund RE projects.

Black lung is most common in underground mining. Today, almost all underground mining is for metallurgic grade coal for steel production. It has nothing to do with electric power production. Solar power uses toxic rare earths, but that's ok, they are mined and smelted in China, so the health of the miner's doesn't matter.

Railroad, river and road transportation subsidies benefit all kinds of industries, including RE.

Is coal subsidized, yes. Is RE subsidized more that coal, yes. Do I believe both subsidies should be reduced, yes. My belief is subsidy should be directed towards R&D, not production activities, For both Fossil and RE.

Do I believe emissions should be regulated and reduced, yes.

Do I think we should shut down coal, i.e. half of the United State's power production tomorrow, No. Duh.

Will coal be phased out, Yes. Duh. The question is the time table and cost.

November 09, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Uncovers Strength and Simplicity of Renewable Energy Systems


Are you aware that you double post every post. If this is intentional, please stop, it is quite annoying.

If it is a technical issue, please see if you can fix it.

October 25, 2012

Solar and Wind Energy Provide 100% New US Electrical Capacity in September

Note that a MW of renewable capacity is not equal to a MW of coal, gas or nuclear capacity. In the above article, note that it states renewables are 14.9% of capacity, but only deliver 5.4% of net generation.

For coal, gas or nuclear base load plants, capacity factors of between 85% to 95% are expected and routinely achieved. (capacity factor is actual MW-hr generated in a year divided by (rated capacity x 8,760 hrs/year). For solar, capacity factors are in the range of 20-22%.

So, even if dirt cheap energy storage (much hand waving) were possible, we would need to build renewables of TRIPLE the current installed coal/gas/nuclear capacity to replace it. And I've not heard of any technology for dirt cheap energy storage. Say, 12,000 MH-hr of capacity per base load unit replaced (600 MW capacity for 20 hours). How many batteries is 12 Billion Watt-hours?

Note, in above, by gas plant I am referring to combined cycle units. Simple cycle gas turbines are peaking units and do have much lower capacity factors. In areas with high air conditioning loads, solar is a very good fit for mid-day peaking load to limit fuel (gas) burn in peaking units. But you still have to install the gas peakers, in case of clouds, night time load issues, etc.

But my point is the renewables are NOT a good fit for base load generation.

October 26, 2012

Solar and Wind Energy Provide 100% New US Electrical Capacity in September

Ok, Bob, what is the logic behind saying that if a power plant can provide cycling or peak load it can provide base load. By definition, base load is on all the time. Wind and Solar are not. They are also not dispatchable. The SYS-OP can't require a solar plant to run at night. You get wind and solar when it is available, which may or may not be when you need it.

$0.05$ per kw-hr is a very competative price. If solar and wind can compete at this price.. great. If that without the $0.022 per kw-hr tax credit that the solar/wind industry seems to feel is critical to it's survival?

What is this subsidy for coal Michael talks about. The only programs I know of (Clean Coal)are research-development for pollution controls. This gives nothing to the operating plants that provide 1/2 this countries power.

I don't foresee any new coal plant's being built. Natural gas combined cycle will be the cycling/base load plant of the near future. Wind and solar can reduce the amount of gas burned, but have to be backed up with gas powered cycling/peaking units.

I feel the renewables tax credit should be reduced in a predicable manner over the next five years, so that the renewables industry is weaned off of it, not just ended cold turkey. If the industry can't compete without it in five years.... then we can wait until it can compete.

September 10, 2012

Should Solar Marketers Focus on Preaching to the Choir or to the Skeptics?


I don't understand your post. Are you saying that solar only makes sense to someone who is concerned about conservation as a "Cause"?

If a project makes finanical sense based on the reduction in the person's electric bill, it shouldn't matter how much power they are using, or how they are using it.

It seems to me that you're just morally offended by someone who doesn't share your beliefs and I'd guess you come off as condescending to someone your talking to who isn't a "member of the choirs".

August 21, 2012

Five Key Takeaways from the U.S. Solar Market Trends Report

For residential rooftop, another issue that will need to be addressed is the cost of insurance. In the Gulf Coast, the Wind/Hail (read Hurricane) portion of the homeowners policy can be more (twice) the rest combined. In my state, Allstate will not even write wind/hail, instead I have to use a State run insurance carrier for that portion.

If I invest 20, 30 or 40 thousand dollars (with a second mortgage?), I'd HAVE to have it insured. If the cost of insurance is too much, than you can't justify intalling rooftop solar, standardized electronics or not....

August 14, 2012

Can Clean Energy Strike Back Against the Growing Smear Campaign?

I've yet to see any suggested solution for solar or wind power on to what to do on windless (or too windy) nights.....

Until there is storage, or a truly dispatchable renewable, renewables CAN NOT be the base load source for the electrical grid.

So, for today, renewables can only be used to displace a portion of conventional generation capacity, and must have conventional generation back-up.

And, by storage, I'm talking utility grid scale. For a storage unit to equal one conventional coal unit's capacity for two days, you would need 23 Billion watt-hours of storage. ( 600 MW x 48 hrs x 1000 kw/Mw x 1000 watt/kw x .8 capacity factor ) And what would that cost?

And that's the size of storage capacity the country would need many hundreds of if we tried to rely on solar for say 1/2 our electrical power needs. (which from the above, is a 500 fold increase from today, i.e. double the scale 9 times...)

Rematog - The Original

Rematog - The Original

Mechanical Engineer with a career worth of power industry experience.

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