News thread political tangent

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Skipjack
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Post by Skipjack »

Well just to put things into some relation:
For less than 90 Megawatts of power, you need 4800 acres of land and 35 wind turbines.
Now to bring this into relation, 90 Megawatts is about a 1/15 th of what a small nuclear powerplant produces.
4800 acres are a lot of land. Assuming average sized lots, that is enough for almost 20.000 houses. But the 90 Megawatts will not be able to supply much more than 30.000 homes with power. So from this perspective wind looses. Also, some environmentalists are not too favorable of wind either. You have to deforrest large areas in order to put windfarms there. The land can not really be used for much else. Some claim that windfarms harm birdlife, oh well...
Solar power also (still) needs a lot of room per megawatts, my computer is acting up right now, so I can not look up the data, but it is quite a bit.
Of course room is not everything, but do not underestimate the importance of land, also from an ecological pov.

Chuck Connors
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Re: News thread political tangent

Post by Chuck Connors »

The argument that biofuel production produces more harm to the enviroment is still unproven. Is there science confirming it? Sure. Is there science disproving it? Sure. As you’ve seen energy costs go up along with food…you have also seen Politicians looking for a scape goat. Corn production and ethanol for one.
IntLibber wrote: d) biofuel: actually causes MORE harm to the environment than drilling for oil, a LOT more. increases soil erosion, nitrate pollution in rivers, deforestation, increases food prices resulting in rising poverty rates globally.
If this is true, then farming for food must also be harmful to the enviroment, because the processes are the same. Soil erosion? Minimal with proper farm practices. Nitrate pollution? Farming for food does the same. Deforestation? Not in the US. Increases in food prices and rising poverty globally? Not proven....and globally there are too many factors to contemplate. Economists and Politicians will be arguing the reasons for years to come.

http://www.topcropmanager.com/content/view/1570/179/
http://beyondoil.nrdc.org/better_fuel/biofuels (the NRDC is a major proponent of Biofuels in the US)

I would rather have my tax dollars going to support the energy industry in this country than somewhere else….be it Biofuels, Solar, Nuclear or Wind. The only way for any of these to have a good chance is private investment and support from the government.

Lastly, I will reiterate that Technology still may be a major player. It is possible that cellulosic ethanol production would not need to rely on switchgrass or need any crop grown solely for the purpose of its production. It would only need the excess biomass.

To be energy independent, the US will need every approach...not just the popular ones.

Skipjack
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Post by Skipjack »

I would not go as far as some of these previous claims, but it is clear that you need to invest energy into farming for fuels (just like any farming).
In addition to the farming you have to convert the sugar from the cropps into ethanol somehow. If you do this via a classic fermentation process then you will inevitably produce CO2 (thats why you take a candle with you into a wine cellar, so you dont suffocate of the CO2).
Then again drilling for oil takes quite a bit of energy too and so does refinement. I have seen a few studies that made me aware of the problems with biofuels, though. So they are clearly not without problems. One study, I remember, was from Great Brittain, a country that is puttin A LOT of effort into the environment right now, especially reducing net CO2 emissions via electric cars or biofuels.

Maui
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Re: News thread political tangent

Post by Maui »

jmc wrote:
Maui wrote: The widely quoted value is 20% cap for wind power. Even the DOE uses that figure. I'd be willing to read arguments to the contrary, but I think "a few percent" is really low-balling it.

Also, if fuel cells or other markets for hydrogen develop, hydrogen production could be good way to utilize wind power during times of high generation and lessen the fluctuation of avaliable power on the grid.
What do you mean by 20% cap for windpower? If you mean the maximum power generation when they are all running a full throttle, I can believe you. If you mean wind energy supplying 20% of our electricity on average over the year I would be more skeptical. A typical wind turbine produces between a third and a quarter of its maximum rated power when averaged over the year.
I have to admit that when I've seen that 20% number bandied about I haven't noticed a crystal clear statement of whether it was talking about maximum or average. But the strong implication in the places I've seen it is that it is addressing the average. Example: http://www.energy.gov/news/6253.htm (I'm sure the answer is in report itself, I will look after work).

Maui
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Re: News thread political tangent

Post by Maui »

IntLibber wrote:ANY energy investment has to have a certain ROI given a certain prime rate. The higher the prime rate, the shorter the ROI period needs to be. Typically 2 years is an acceptable avg. Solar tends toward an ROI of about 10-12 years, which is very diseconomic.
I suspect you are using figures from silicon-based solar power here. I don't think you'd see the amount of VC being dumped on thin-film solar right now if these people didn't have reason to expect a significatly better ROI
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/1 ... e-capital/

EDIT: I noticed that article I linked to cited the cost/watt of thin-film to be even higher than silicon (>$6/watt). I don't know what's behind that figure, but the industry (particularily Nanosolar) is targeting $1/watt. My guess is that it is simply impossible to know the real cost at this point since production is only just beginning to ramp up to a large scale and that the cost estimate cited in that article reflects the cost pre-mass production or that doesn't take into account the manufacturing methods of to be used since they are as yet un-proven.

IntLibber
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Re: News thread political tangent

Post by IntLibber »

Maui wrote:
IntLibber wrote:ANY energy investment has to have a certain ROI given a certain prime rate. The higher the prime rate, the shorter the ROI period needs to be. Typically 2 years is an acceptable avg. Solar tends toward an ROI of about 10-12 years, which is very diseconomic.
I suspect you are using figures from silicon-based solar power here. I don't think you'd see the amount of VC being dumped on thin-film solar right now if these people didn't have reason to expect a significatly better ROI
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/1 ... e-capital/

EDIT: I noticed that article I linked to cited the cost/watt of thin-film to be even higher than silicon (>$6/watt). I don't know what's behind that figure, but the industry (particularily Nanosolar) is targeting $1/watt. My guess is that it is simply impossible to know the real cost at this point since production is only just beginning to ramp up to a large scale and that the cost estimate cited in that article reflects the cost pre-mass production or that doesn't take into account the manufacturing methods of to be used since they are as yet un-proven.
The problem with these sorts of stats is the same problem that windpower has. When you say "$1/watt" you are using figures that are based on the peak power output of the panel, but panels only put out this peak power at one point in the day, power output generally follows a 6-8 hour bell curve, ergo the mean power output is generally less than 70% of the peak DURING the wave, but averaged over 24 hours, its daily avg power output is about 23% of its peak. So if you have a 100 watt panel that costs 100 bucks to buy, its really a 23 watt avg output panel, which you are paying over $4/watt for. Now you have to figure in the costs of clearing some real estate, buying the real estate, paying the property taxes on, plus your whole power distribution system, transfer switching, etc etc.... very quickly solar power shoots back up to $10-20/watt when you actually factor in all the costs in your business case that the simpletons do not consider.

Aero
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Post by Aero »

Well, not really... solar is not economic if you are going to buy expensive property to put it on. That is the reason it's not done. Sure, if you have solved the distribution problem, put large central solar power plants in the desert where space is available cheap, but not in urban or suburban areas. In those areas go distributed - use the roof tops. Houses, shopping centers, office buildings, factory buildings, they almost all have a lot of unused space on the roof and are all very close to consumers. Even parking lots have been roofed with solar panels. There is a lot of low cost space available for solar.
Aero

Maui
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Re: News thread political tangent

Post by Maui »

I refuse to believe that any serious study such as this one which says solar panels now pay themselves back within 1-3 years (and that's not even considering thin-film) are not taking night into account. Give me a break.

When it it comes to Nanosolar's claim of $1 a watt I'll conceed that we know very little of what's behind the claim. But it is clear that plenty of people have been convinced it will turn a good profit. Hence, even companies like Intel, HP and IBM are jumping into the thin film business.

And its pretty ironic that you bring up the cost of real estate and power transmission, because it is a unique benifit of solar that it requires neither to be implemented. That doesn't mean putting them on your roof will supply all your power, but I certainly think it can take a significant dent out of the energy problem if thin-film does live up to its economic expectations.

I'm certainly hoping for breakthrough like Polywell. But realistically, I think the contribution of many new energy sources in smaller ways will be an effective way of dealing with the problem: new nuclear (fission), wind, thin-film solar, cellulosic ethanol, better hybrids plus turbo-diesel (why has it taken the US so long on this one?). None of these are an answer in and of themselves, but combined I think they can take us a long way.

MSimon
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Post by MSimon »

Skipjack wrote:Well just to put things into some relation:
For less than 90 Megawatts of power, you need 4800 acres of land and 35 wind turbines.
Now to bring this into relation, 90 Megawatts is about a 1/15 th of what a small nuclear powerplant produces.
4800 acres are a lot of land. Assuming average sized lots, that is enough for almost 20.000 houses. But the 90 Megawatts will not be able to supply much more than 30.000 homes with power. So from this perspective wind looses. Also, some environmentalists are not too favorable of wind either. You have to deforrest large areas in order to put windfarms there. The land can not really be used for much else. Some claim that windfarms harm birdlife, oh well...
Solar power also (still) needs a lot of room per megawatts, my computer is acting up right now, so I can not look up the data, but it is quite a bit.
Of course room is not everything, but do not underestimate the importance of land, also from an ecological pov.
Actual land use if that 4,800 acres is farm land is a couple of acres.

And if dead birds bother you we need to kill all the cats and tear down all tall buildings.

Hey I have an idea. Lets outlaw wind farms and cut down all the trees for fuel. I wonder why no one ever thought of that before?
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

Skipjack
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Post by Skipjack »

I dont care about the birds and I dont know about how problematic it is to use farmland arround a windfarm (I guess you can, but I never bothered to check that).
But, you do need to deforrest land for them if you run out of farmland to put them on (not every farmer will want to lease his land to windfarm companies). You can not put them into the middle of a forrest and given how much land you need for 100 MW you would need to cover a lot of land with windfarms in order to have a real environmental impact. Then of course not everyone likes them in their neighbourhood (there was a case of people in texas suing a windfarm company for disturbance of privacy because they hate the constant swoosh those things make).

Chuck Connors
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Post by Chuck Connors »

Skipjack,

I can only speak to what I’m knowledgeable about, but near where I live, there is a wind station that can generate just over 90MW, with about 60+ turbines (1.3MW up to 2.3MW peak output depending on turbine). Total land use may spread over a few thousand acres, but much of this is unusable, and the rest is dryland wheat farms….actual land use amounts to about 75 acres. Many land owners love this sort of thing…they lease land that might not otherwise be used. With dryland wheat, it is not difficult to farm under and around the turbines. This is pretty common. I would say that deforestation is not an issue with most wind projects (in the US).

I say 'many land owners', but certainly not all…as you are correct that there can be strong opposition to such projects, with most arguments stating that they are an eyesore or are too close to homes.

Skipjack
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Post by Skipjack »

Guess it is always very hard for us europeans (even those that have been to the US often like me) to realize how incredibly big the US is and how much open land there naturally is too.
Austria has a 3 times higher population density than the US and then most of our country is covered by high mountains with lots of forrest, the rest is tightly covered by either houses or farmland. I dont think one could build many MWs worth of windpower here. They put up some 20 or so windturbines nearby Vienna (I saw them once driving by, but never had time to look more closely). I think they are more experimental though than of any serious value to the Austrian energy budget.
A lot of our "clean" electricity comes water power from river and reservoir power stations (is that the correct english word?) anyway. This is pretty much the best you can do in a country like ours with lots of rivers and mountains. Unfortunately that is usually not enough and we have to buy power from nuclear plants. Solar power makes very little sense here, the sun just does not shine often and long enough here. In winter sundown in some areas can already be as early as 3.30 (the high mountains) and wiping tons of snow of your solar panels every morning does not really sound like a fun sport either ;) .

MSimon
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Post by MSimon »

Skipjack wrote:I dont care about the birds and I dont know about how problematic it is to use farmland arround a windfarm (I guess you can, but I never bothered to check that).
But, you do need to deforrest land for them if you run out of farmland to put them on (not every farmer will want to lease his land to windfarm companies). You can not put them into the middle of a forrest and given how much land you need for 100 MW you would need to cover a lot of land with windfarms in order to have a real environmental impact. Then of course not everyone likes them in their neighbourhood (there was a case of people in texas suing a windfarm company for disturbance of privacy because they hate the constant swoosh those things make).
The midwest is prime real estate for wind farms. It is also prime for farms. Dual use. Farmers would gladly suffer the whooshing for the extra $2,000 or so per wind machine per year their land would earn.
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

djolds1
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Post by djolds1 »

MSimon wrote:Hey I have an idea. Lets outlaw wind farms and cut down all the trees for fuel. I wonder why no one ever thought of that before?
First moves at banning solar:

http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/005596.html
http://features.csmonitor.com/environme ... %E2%80%99/

It becomes harder and harder to insist these types are not fellow travelers of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.

Duane
Vae Victis

MSimon
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Post by MSimon »

There are logistics problems with wind.

http://powerandcontrol.blogspot.com/200 ... oblem.html

Not enough manufacturing capacity. All the turbines that can be built between now and 2012 or so are contracted for.
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

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