Archive for the ‘Alternative Energy’ Category
Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
March 30, 2011
From the Editors
The President will make a major address on energy this morning at 11:20 am. That means it must be 1973, or, 1977, or 1994, or 2001 – oh, never mind.
For the umpteenth time in memory, the President of the United States will talk to the nation about energy, saying we have to have a “plan” and that we want to “practice conservation,” “reduce oil imports” and “develop new sources of energy.” Will nuclear play a part in this? Well, we’ve got a new strategy for that. Wait just a minute and you’ll see.
Meanwhile, here are some of the “talking points” the White House is putting out about today’s energy address, according to the White House briefing posted this morning.
· Expand safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production
· Secure access to diverse and reliable sources of energy
· Develop alternatives to oil, including biofuels and natural gas
· Expand biofuels
· Set historic new fuel economy standards
· Innovate our way to a clean energy future
· Cut energy bills through more efficient homes and buildings
· Stay on the cutting edge through clean energy research and development
Is there anything there that Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Clinton and the two George Bush’s haven’t said already?
Now here’s the kicker. Is nuclear going to play a part in any of this? Yes indeed, there are three references:
· “Build an international framework for nuclear energy.”
It’s anybody’s guess what that means, but it sounds like we’re going to be outsourcing our nuclear development to France and China.
· Generate 80 percent of the nation’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035 – including renewable energy sources like wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower; nuclear power; efficient natural gas; and clean coal.
Since we already get 50 percent of our electricity from nuclear, natural gas and hydro, this isn’t all that implausible. Look for natural gas to play the leading role in the expansion.
· Fund “Energy Innovation Hubs” that explore building efficiency, fuel from sunlight, and nuclear reactor modeling and simulation.
Got that? While the Chinese, Russians and Koreans are building real nuclear reactors, we’re going to build computer models of reactors. It’s going to be like Facebook. In twenty years we’ll have virtual reactors that enable us to live in a virtual world.
Read more about it at Whitehouse.gov
Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
March 9, 2011
“Earth Hour,” started three years ago by the World Wildlife Fund and scheduled this year for March 26 at 8:30 p.m., is billing itself as “the biggest grassroots environmental movement in history.”
“Hundreds of millions of people in thousands of cities and towns on every continent will speak out with one voice,” says the promotional YouTube video. For one hour they will turn off all lights in their city and hold candles, assembling in public squares for performances and entertainment (although shots in the video indicate they may not abandon their electric sound systems).
All to prove – what? Colin McInnes, writing in Spiked Online, tackles more than a few of the presumptions behind this mass movement. “In 1859, a small farm in Pennsylvania became the site of the first successful oil well in the United States,” he begins. “[I]t had been known since 1854 that oil could be fractionated into a range of liquids including paraffin for lamps. Prior to this, oil from whales lit many American homes. So, in a reversal of the usual environmental narrative, the oil industry saved the whale.
“Improvements in energy efficiency can also be seen in the transition from wood to coal, oil, methane and uranium,” McInnes continues. “Each fuel produces more energy per unit weight and significantly less carbon. For example, one kilogram of coal can power a light bulb for four days, one kilogram of methane for six days and one kilogram of the carbon-free uranium for a remarkable 140 years. . . Modern, compact, combined-cycle gas turbines and nuclear plants now produce copious quantities of energy, but use modest amounts of steel, concrete and land. Ironically, the WWF’s vision of our energy future is based almost entirely on diffuse renewable energy that would require astronomical quantities of material, land and capital to deploy.”
So it will be nice to see the lights to off for an hour on the Eiffel Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge and all those other famous landmarks. Still, McInnes points out the fundamental paradox of all such “back-to-the-simple-life” efforts – they are nothing more than a transition to less efficient employment of resources. Where will all that candle wax come from? Oil, of course.
Carter Horsley, the former real estate reporter for The New York Times, once lit his apartment for two months with candles after having Con Edison cut off his electricity in a dispute over his bill. He eventually decided to go back to light bulbs. “I found burning candles was more expensive than paying for my electric bill,” he said.
Read more at Spiked Online
Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
March 9, 2011
It seemed like such a simple, “green” idea. For $5.1 million, the Town of Falmouth on Cape Cod erected a single 1.65-megawatt windmill to help power the municipal wastewater treatment plant. The whirling blades would emit no carbon and save $440,000 a year in electrical expenses. How clean and green could you get?
Think again. Residents living within a quarter-mile of the 30-story structure say the noise and vibrations are driving them crazy. "Do you know what this is doing to us?” an emotional Neil Andersen told the Zoning Board of Appeals this week, according to the Cape Cod Times. “I’m gonna kill myself. My wife is gonna kill herself,” he said before stalking out of the meeting.
“The Blacksmith Shop Road residents live less than 1,500 feet from the turbine, and they have been complaining about headaches, hearing loss and other quality of life issues stemming from turbine noise for nearly a year,” the report continues.
But that’s just the beginning. Last month a controversy erupted over whether Building Commissioner Eladio Gore acted illegally when he allowed the windmill to be built without a special permit. The four-member Zoning Board of Appeals has split 2-2 on the issue. Then, in response to neighbors’ complaints, the Board of Selectmen voted to shut the $5.1 million windmill when wind speeds exceeded 23 miles per hour. A week later they were informed by wastewater superintendent Gerald Potamis that the shutdowns would cost the town $173,000 – 37 percent of the $440,000 the windmills’ projected savings.
Windmill supporters soon complained that the selectmen had violated Massachusetts’ Open Meeting Law by voting on the windmill without listing it on the agenda. Acting town manager Heather Harper said she had been advised by town attorney Frank Duffy that the selectmen should not discuss the matter. But Brent Putnam, chairman of the selectmen, said the neighbors’ complaints "could constitute an emergency,” reports the Times. A week later the selectmen voted again for the shutdown without opposition.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Plymouth, the 690-MW Pilgrim Nuclear Reactor continues to operate after 40 years with no complaints about noise or health. Only Pilgrim Watch, the local anti-nuclear group, worries about the storage of spent fuel on the site. Pilgrim’s license will expire in 2012. Its renewal application is currently under review at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Read more about it at the Cape Cod News
Friday, February 18th, 2011
February 18, 2011
You couldn’t find a state more opposed to environmentalism than Texas. Governor Richard Perry is currently taking on the EPA over carbon regulation and oil and gas interests constitute 16 percent of the state economy.â€¨
â€¨Yet Texas now gets 8 percent of its electricity from windmills and has 25 percent of the nation’s installed capacity – double its nearest rival, Iowa. Is this because Texans are closet environmentalists? Or is something else at work.â€¨
Christopher Head, a multi-degreed grad student at Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy tackles what he calls the “curious case of the Texas wind industry” in a well-researched posting on The Energy Collective. The answers he comes up with are intriguing.â€¨
First, he says, Texas has handled the transmission problem. Wind resources are generally remote from cities and transporting the electricity is always a problem. Texas set up the right incentives with Competitive Renewable Energy Zones, which set aside optimal areas for transmission line construction. Local opposition and multiple jurisdictions, of course, is always the big problem. The problem hasn’t been completely solved, however. T. Boone Pickens gave up on his West Texas wind farm because he couldn’t get transmission.
â€¨Second, he argues that Texas’s renewable portfolio standard has played a part. This is hard to see, since windmill construction has twice raced far ahead of the RPS requirements. As the Environmental Defense Fund’s Jim Marston tells him, “Wind is working so well that [Texas] doesn’t even have to continue to have mandates.”â€¨
Third, he says, grid operators have been brought on board. The main advantage here has been Texas’ longstanding reluctance to connect with grids outside the state. This was originally done to keep the rest of the country from exploiting Texas’s oil and gas resources but now it works well because the state doesn’t have to deal with other grid operators.
â€¨Finally, Head argues that Texas has “solved the intermittency problem.” It does this by signing agreements with major industrial consumers that they will shut down on short notice if the wind slackens. Head also says that “nodal pricing” has sliced and diced demand so that it can be managed on a micro level. But electrical engineers have always said a grid can tolerate intermittent sources of 20 percent and Texas is unlikely to go beyond that.â€¨
For all this analysis, Head seems to be overlooking two very obvious factors that have probably added to Texas’s wind boom:â€¨
â€¨1) The state has a lot of land, more open land than any other state in the union. The big problem with windmills is getting people to live near them. In Texas that isn’t such a problem.
â€¨2) The state has a free-enterprise environment that minimizes opposition. Most of the objections to wind farms, after all, do not come from the “business establishment” but from local environmental groups. It’s easy to build wind farms in Texas but it’s also easy to drill for oil, frak for natural gas, build oil refineries and do just about everything else. That’s why Texas has the nation’s most vibrant economy (outside Washington, D.C.) while other states are imploding
â€¨It might even be possible to build nuclear reactors in Texas if it weren’t for the bureaucratic logjam in Washington. Unfortunately, nuclear is the one energy source where everything must go through the nation’s capital.
Read more about it the Energy Collective
Thursday, February 17th, 2011
February 17, 2011
From the Editors
After three years of inflating a solar bubble and playing brinkmanship with its nuclear fleet, Spain has come down to earth and decided it needs its nuclear reactors after all.â€¨
Only a month away from closing its Cofrentes nuclear power station, the Spanish Nuclear Safety Council relented this week and granted the reactor a ten-year license extension.
â€¨“The regulator said the plant in Valencia had been shown to be running well and safely enough to continue operating for another decade, with modifications made or planned making the plant fully compliant with increasingly strict operating rules,” reports Reuters. â€¨
â€¨Less than a year ago, Spain was billing itself as the “solar capital of the world,” giving away ridiculous amounts of money in “feed-in tariffs” and encouraging the construction of huge new solar-panel assembly plants surrounded by spanking new factory villages. But the money soon ran out, industries were fleeing to France in search of cheaper nuclear power and the villages now stand abandoned. â€¨
The decision will not be final until approved by Spain’s Industry Minister. A vote is expected after the plant undergoes an independent audit of its radiation protection program.
â€¨Greenpeace activists did their usual publicity stunt, climbing the cooling tower on Tuesday and hanging a banner for news photographers. Their efforts had no immediate impact but who knows what they will cook up to try to influence the Industrial Ministry – an armed commando raid perhaps?â€¨
â€¨Spain has eight reactors that supply 20 percent of its electricity. Seven are now licensed through 2020 but the government has plans to close down the Garona reactor in 2013. Stay tuned for another round of brinkmanship.
Read more about it at Reuters
Thursday, February 17th, 2011
February 17, 2011
From the Editors
Biomass, as everyone knows, is the clean, green alternative to nuclear power because it represents “young carbon” that was only recently taken out of the atmosphere. Therefore it came as a bit of a shock last week when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency levied two of the largest air-pollution fines in California history on a pair of biomass plants in the San Joaquin Valley.
â€¨â€¨“Global Ampersand of Boston was fined more than $800,000 for excess ozone-related emissions and other violations from biomass plants in Madera and Merced counties,” reports the Fresno Bee. Although the EPA did not disclose any figures, officials said that fines of nearly $1 million are rare in California. â€¨
Bought and refurbished with the latest technology in 2008, the Chowchilla Biomass Plant in Madera County and the Merced Power Plant near El Nido generate electricity by burning wood wastes collected from farms and cities. The EPA said both plants had emitted excess amounts of carbon monoxide and ozone-forming nitrous oxides over the last three years. The Valley has one of the worst ozone problems in the country. "Today’s enforcement actions are a victory for human health," Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator, told the Bee.â€¨
For the last five years the Fresno Nuclear Energy Group has been working with Areva to try to build a nuclear reactor to clean the air and provide electricity in the San Joaquin Valley. The effort has been blocked by California’s state ban on nuclear construction, although Fresno Congressman Devin Nunes is trying to overturn this at the federal level.â€¨
â€¨Meanwhile, according to the Bee, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, a state agency, will use its portion of the $800,000 fine to “fund programs helping residents buy electric lawnmowers or cleaner-burning wood stoves.” The home stoves will presumably burn cleaner than the highly engineered central biomass plants. The electricity to run the lawnmowers will come from . . . . oh well, don’t ask.
Read more about it at the Fresno Bee
Friday, February 11th, 2011
February 11, 2011
Somebody in Europe is showing some sense. After watching Spain and France pile up huge deficits without generating any energy with their “feed-in tariffs,” Holland has dumped the whole renewables strategy and announced it will go nuclear.
“In a radical change of policy, the Netherlands is reducing its targets for renewable energy and slashing the subsidies for wind and solar power,” reports The Register, a British newspaper. “It’s also given the green light for the country’s first new nuclear power plants for almost 40 years.”
The Financial Times Deutschland edition reports the Dutch will slash wind and solar subsidies from $4 billion euros annually to $1.5 billion. The decision is not surprising after Electricitie de France found itself losing $1 billion euro a year on a similar program. The feed-in tariff was suspended in December and EDF’s finances have been damaged by the project.â€¨â€¨Holland’s only nuclear reactor, the Borssele plant, opened in 1973, was earmarked for closure by 2003. In 2006 the plant was allowed to operate until 2034, and the following year the government abandoned its opposition to new nuclear plants.
Holland thus becomes the first European country to abandon the goal of 20 percent renewables. The decision does not abandon the goal of reducing carbon emissions, however, since nuclear will more than make up the difference.
Read more about it at The Register
Friday, February 4th, 2011
February 4, 2011
In Florida, you can now refill your electric car battery while filling your stomach with buffalo wings.â€¨
â€¨The Sunshine Restaurant Corp., owner of the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants and sports bars, has teamed with Progress Energy of Florida to set up a series of recharging stations in the chain’s parking lots.
â€¨â€¨“While electric vehicles are great for environmental reasons, we believe there is a strong business case for providing charging stations for our customers,” Andrew L. Gross, president/CEO of Sunshine Restaurant Corp. tells Business Wire, a Berkshire Hathaway company. “As the number of electric vehicles grows over the coming years, we know customers will choose Buffalo Wild Wings over our competitors because of the ability to charge their vehicle for free while enjoying their favorite sporting event.”
â€¨Recharging the battery has always been a sore point for electric vehicles, since the complete process can take up to seven hours. Doing it overnight in the garage makes sense but since the best EVs still have a range of only about 100 miles, there have to be roadside facilities as well. The gas station model doesn’t work well because they would be few and far between, but wiring up common stopping pointes such as company parking lots and shopping center makes sense. As Amory Lovins notes, “Most vehicles are parked 90 percent of the time.” (Unfortunately, Lovins thought he was going to power the entire grid off those parked cars instead of just settling for an occasional recharging.)
â€¨Buffalo Wild Wings’ recharging stations could be a great marketing tool that brings in a lot of new customers. The only questions are: 1) will there be enough electric cars to make a difference? and 2) who’s going to pay for all that electricity if it really catches on? That’s what Sunshine and Progress probably have to work out.
Read more about it at Business Wire
Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
February 2, 2011
It isn’t often you find someone in the newspaper business who is an authority with regard to nuclear energy. How much more gratifying when it is someone has served on the board of several environmental organizations.
Writing in The Baltimore Chronicle, Ajax Eastman “pulls back the curtain on wind,” contrasting it unfavorably with nuclear power. “Proponents of wind almost never compare industrial wind to nuclear power, probably because in every aspect of electricity generation nuclear beats wind by a long shot,” she says.
Moreover, she goes right to the heart of the matter by concentrating on capacity factor. “The capacity factor of the 104 nuclear reactors operating in the United States is 90 percent,” write Eastman. “In other words, nuclear facilities crank out electricity around the clock, 365 days of the year, at pretty near their total capacity.
Compare that to the results of a study from a group of wind power advocates at the University of Delaware that modeled data from off shore meteorological stations from Maine to the Florida Keys. Their results show that a large offshore turbine array would attain a 90 percent capacity factor only 2.2 days a year. . . . Even 1,200 turbines would not supply electricity as dependably as a new reactor like the one proposed at Calvert Cliffs in Maryland.”
Eastman notes that cost arguments about nuclear are misleading because they do not factor in nuclear’s low fuel costs or a reactor’s long life expectancy. “After coal, nuclear is the least costly generator of electricity for the rate payer,” she writes. “After solar, wind is the most expensive.”
Eastman has served on the board of the Maryland Environmental Trust, as past President of the Maryland Conservation Council, Co-chairman of the Maryland Wildlands Committee, and on numerous other State boards and commissions. Since Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is pushing legislation mandating that Maryland utilities buy large blocs of electricity from proposed offshore wind farms, her comments are more than timely.
Read more about it the Baltimore Sun
Thursday, January 20th, 2011
January 20, 2011
American Thinker, the skeptical libertarian publication, has taken a long look at the compact fluorescent light bulbs that are about to be mandated across the country and found them wanting. CFLs, of course, are one of the lynchpins of the conservation-and-renewables strategy that will supposedly make nuclear energy unnecessary.â€¨ The piece is titled "Green Follies Escalate in the Face of Failure."
â€¨“California led the way, as it often does with damaging fads, especially those beloved by environmentalists and green energy schemers,” writes news editor Ed Lasky. “The Golden State has been wonderful for job creation — in Arizona and New Mexico, as businesses flee from high energy costs and move to states with sensible energy — and tax, and regulatory — policies.”
â€¨Lasky quotes a story in The Wall Street Journal noting that California has spent $548 million in recent years subsidizing consumer purchases of CFLs with little impact. “California utilities have used ratepayer funds to subsidize sales of more than 100 million of the bulbs since 2006. Most of them are made in China.” He also cites an Investor’s Business Daily report that says CFLs do not produce the same illumination as the incandescent variety. “Tests conducted by the London Telegraph found that using a single lamp to illuminate a room, an 11-watt CFL produced only 58% of the illumination of an equivalent 60-watt incandescent — even after a 10-minute warm-up that consumers have found necessary for CFLs to reach their full brightness.” When he installed CFLs in his own house, family members constantly complained that the lighting wasn’t sufficient. He also notes that CFLs do not last nearly as long as advertised.â€¨
â€¨Congressman Fred Upton, the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has promised a review of the new federal law banning the sale of old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. Otherwise, they will disappear from the shelves as of January 1, 2014.
Read more about it American Thinker