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Renewable Energy = 90% Of New US Electricity Generation Capacity In January (Exclusive)


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While many folks are busy denying renewable energy is a non starter, it just keeps on keeping on. Many find it unbelievable that 90% is real. Many will quibble or state their preferences. Many actively oppose it in fear.

 

But the fact of the matter is that the investment opportunities are there, for those looking for them.

 

Excerpt:

 

"Based on data from FERC and educated “other solar” (essentially rooftop solar) estimates from CleanTechnica, we’ve found that 90% of new electricity generation capacity added in the United States in January 2015 came from renewable energy sources. To be more precise, 90% came from solar and wind energy.

 

The largest source of new capacity came from wind energy (54.7%), rooftop solar was second (26.7%), natural gas was third (10.5%), and utility-scale solar PV brought the rest (8.1%)."

 

For all the charts and the reasons that agreed upon DC to AC standards are troublesome - everybody comes up with different figures, go here to the full article: http://cleantechnica.com/2015/03/10/renewable-energy-90-of-new-us-electricity-generation-capacity-in-january-exclusive/?utm_source=Cleantechnica+News&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=a43065f534-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_term=0_b9b83ee7eb-a43065f534-331970081

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If you don't allow any traditional form of energy production to be built, then all the new energy production is renewable.

 

The context is misleading.

Not one wants a nuclear plant to be built across the street from their home; or in the same state, for that matter. And lots of people aren't much interested in a coal plant upwind either. To be fair, after sleeping under a wind turbine on our sailboat, I wouldn't be all that excited about one of those next door; clean or not.

 

But no one has said a word about the solar panels on the roof of my RV. Or the rooftop full of them on the local school district's technology building (they must have 10kw... I tried to count them and got lost in the jumble).

 

It was only 50% of "new" energy sources last July. So apparently it's growing pretty fast.

 

WDR

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90% of NEW capacity is one thing.

 

However I doubt that there are enough solar panels or places to put wind turbines to replace ALL the nuclear, coal, and natural gas plants in the world with solar & wind generators.

 

Besides what do you do to power the world when there isn't enough sunshine combined with a lack of wind on some days/nights?

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90% of NEW capacity is one thing.

 

However I doubt that there are enough solar panels or places to put wind turbines to replace ALL the nuclear, coal, and natural gas plants in the world with solar & wind generators.

 

Besides what do you do to power the world when there isn't enough sunshine combined with a lack of wind on some days/nights?

 

A term that used to be fashionable in the alternative energy business was "appropriate technology". One meaning was that the selection of power generation technology would be "appropriate" to the particular use. I don't think any realistic person is going to argue that solar and wind system are going to replace all baseload power stations nor are PV panels going to be a big hit in New England. But, over time power, generation would involve a mix of technologies appropriate to the application.

 

DOE estimates that currently the US uses 98 "quads" (quadrillion BTUs) of energy each year of which 8 quads comes from renewables (the same amount as from nuclear). Half of the renewables usage comes from biomass which is primarily ethanol added to gasoline. When I was in DOE solar program in the 1970's renewables were barely noticeable on the chart. The growth over the past 40 years has been enormous and there clearly will be more.

 

This chart does a good job of graphically displaying the mix of US energy technologies that fuel the economy: Energy_Flow_2010_md.jpg?w=720&h=720&as=1

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If all of solar and wind production only represent 1 quad (according to the chart) then the increase in solar and wind, even though 90% of our new energy production, must mean that new US energy production is basically flat, with no significant increase whatsoever. This is not good and bodes poorly for our energy future in this country. It also shows how vulnerable we are as a nation - a hostage if you will to foreign oil interests. If solar ever gets a significant foothold, will it be of US manufacture or will we still be dependent upon foreign sources for panel manufacturing and development? I guess what I'm asking is what percentage of that 90% increase are from US manufactured panels and what percentage are sourced from abroad, say manufactured in Communist China or other nations who put their own interests ahead of those of the USA? If 90% of solar panels used here were manufactured here I would feel much better about it, from an energy security (ultimately a national security issue) standpoint.

 

Chip

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. It also shows how vulnerable we are as a nation - a hostage if you will to foreign oil interests. If solar ever gets a significant foothold, will it be of US manufacture or will we still be dependent upon foreign sources for panel manufacturing and development?

 

If we burned solar panels for energy this would be a real issue. We'd have to buy more of them to replace the ones we would be burning now. But that's the model for petroleum-based energy conversion. Solar panels last 20 years or more; I'll never have to replace the panels on my RV unless they break or someone invents a new technology that makes it worth while. Just how I'll be dependent on a foreign producer escapes me.

 

WDR

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I have had my Sharp solar 600 watt system for over 5 years now and have never been sad about the cost of the system. I wish I had room for more panels. I currently have three 200 watt panels. I have located some new Sharp 350 watt panels that I would like use as replacements someday. Now, as the battery storage increases life will get better.

 

Safe Travels!

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If all of solar and wind production only represent 1 quad (according to the chart) then the increase in solar and wind, even though 90% of our new energy production, must mean that new US energy production is basically flat, with no significant increase whatsoever. This is not good and bodes poorly for our energy future in this country.

 

With all due respect, what you haven't considered is that the US has made dramatic strides in the past several decades towards greater energy efficiency. Think about all the vehicles sold that now get substantially better fuel economy than those of the past. Some efficiency gains in industry have even been greater. When I worked in DOE in the early '80's US energy consumption was on the order of 75-80 quads. The economy is much larger than it was ~35 years ago yet the increase in energy consumption is rather modest.

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But no one has said a word about the solar panels on the roof of my RV. Or the rooftop full of them on the local school district's technology building (they must have 10kw... I tried to count them and got lost in the jumble).

Max density for my 40' fifth wheel is 11 panels at 100 watts each. That 1100 watts is a long way from 10Kw. And that is only for part of the day.

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I'll never have to replace the panels on my RV unless they break or someone invents a new technology that makes it worth while. Just how I'll be dependent on a foreign producer escapes me.

You bought foreign already. Solar panels come from China. Solyndra couldn't compete with a totally automated plant (very minimal people costs). That is the effects of EPA in China.

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If we burned solar panels for energy this would be a real issue. We'd have to buy more of them to replace the ones we would be burning now. But that's the model for petroleum-based energy conversion. Solar panels last 20 years or more; I'll never have to replace the panels on my RV unless they break or someone invents a new technology that makes it worth while. Just how I'll be dependent on a foreign producer escapes me.

 

WDR

You've already got yours, but 99.9% of our energy needs does not now come from solar. To replace even a tiny fraction of this power production with solar + the to keep up with growth in power needs that's sure to occur, seems impossible. I can't see us even getting to 1% solar without foreign makers. Think of it like home manufacturing. Sure, homes last a long time, but they keep making more people, so you still need home builders even though you may already live in one. And like solar panels, they eventually wear out too. Remember, after 20 years solar panels will only produce about 80% of their output when new, so solar farms will need to add 1% per year due to them simply wearing out, not counting population growth.

 

Chip

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How do you explain Germany's ongoing success then?

 

Germany Sets New Record, Generating 74 Percent Of Power Needs From Renewable Energy

 

Excerpt:

"On Sunday, Germany’s impressive streak of renewable energy milestones continued, with renewable energy generation surging to a record portion — nearly 75 percent — of the country’s overall electricity demand by midday. With wind and solar in particular filling such a huge portion of the country’s power demand, electricity prices actually dipped into the negative for much of the afternoon, according to Renewables International.

 

In the first quarter of 2014, renewable energy sources met a record 27 percent of the country’s electricity demand, thanks to additional installations and favorable weather. “Renewable generators produced 40.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, up from 35.7 billion kilowatt-hours in the same period last year,” Bloomberg reported. Much of the country’s renewable energy growth has occurred in the past decade and, as a point of comparison, Germany’s 27 percent is double the approximately 13 percent of U.S. electricity supply powered by renewables as of November 2013.

Observers say the records will keep coming as Germany continues its Energiewende, or energy transformation, which aims to power the country almost entirely on renewable sources by 2050."

 

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/05/13/3436923/germany-energy-records/

 

That is today, 35 years away from their full installation project completion date, and virtually 100% renewable energy someday until the installations are complete.. If you are interested I'd be happy to point you to both the lay people and engineering articles about the ongoing success stories everywhere. Lots of other countries are on the same track, and gradually working up to enough installed gigawatts to have it covered.

 

My take on it is that when the renewable source runs out roes supernova mankind here will have a lot more to worry about than their solar source ceasing.

 

I think many people don't want renewable sustainable energy to succeed and are afraid of even reading about it. But you can't put the genie back in the bottle. One of the genie back in the bottle's more famous uses was to describe nuclear weapons. After the first successful test, it was a fact and not a theory. We could not go back to a world without nuclear weapons.

 

Germany is leading the way and now that supplying all the energy had.proven doable, no amount of naysaying can change that fact.

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When you pick one specific month to measure the % new generating or one specific afternoon to measure the % use, it can lead to self serving distorted statistics. Overall German solar is 7% of their total power generating capacity. From 2000 to 2014 Germanys total renewables generating capacity grew from 6% to 30% overall, an admirable record but at a significant cost to the tax & rate payers. There is no question that solar & wind work, and their capacities and use have increased, the issue, as always is in the economics. The economics of solar & wind are best at the small to medium size plants. Wind is a better economic model, but on a large scale requires 1000's of acres of land or in Germanys case north sea surface water.

Even the leader, Germany has stopped funding support for any solar project over 10 MW capacity. Most of the substantial gains Germany made were back around 2011 when the gov substantially subsidized solar & wind construction, as well as offering lower priced power to end users if they chose a renewables supply source. Their budget could not afford to continue that level of subsidy and things have slowed significantly from those peak years...

 

"This brings the country's share of renewable electricity to about 31 percent, and in line with the official governmental goal of reaching 35 percent by the end of the decade. However, new installations of PV systems have declined steadily since the record year of 2011 and continued to do so throughout 2014. It's estimated that about half of the country's jobs have been lost in the solar sector in recent years. While proponents from the PV industry blame the lack of governmental commitment, others point out the financial burden associated with the fast paced roll-out of photovoltaics, rendering the transition to renewable energies unsustainable in their view."

 

The other lesson Germany learned in their rush to renewables, was that increased generating capacity was no good without increased storage capacity. Germany in fact exports a high percent of its renewables since much of it is on a "use it or lose it" type system. That's why its easy to manipulate a statistic taken from a high peak afternoon. But on most average days much of that renewable capacity is being given away to neighboring countries. Which doesn't make the Germans paying the higher taxes & rates very happy. Germany has the highest power rates in the world at approx. $0.34 /kw with at least $.07 of that directly from subsidizing renewables. Germany also has the highest percentage of their poor living without any power since they can't afford it.

 

for more details on this side of the story

http://www.wsj.com/articles/germanys-expensive-gamble-on-renewable-energy-1409106602

http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/press/germanys-green-energy-failure/

http://www.economics21.org/commentary/epa-germany-failed-energy-policy-vattenfall-12-01-2014

 

The other unintended side effect, when 30% of your capacity is from sun/wind, you have a big problem during times when the sun/wind disappear. When Germany permanently shut down several of its nuclear plants, intending to replace them with renewables, they actually forced coal fired power plants to increase up to 40% of their overall generating capacity. So while renewables were increasing, so was pollution from the increased reliance on coal plants to satisfy their base load during nights/winter.

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The other lesson Germany learned in their rush to renewables, was that increased generating capacity was no good without increased storage capacity. Germany in fact exports a high percent of its renewables since much of it is on a "use it or lose it" type system. That's why its easy to manipulate a statistic taken from a high peak afternoon. But on most average days much of that renewable capacity is being given away to neighboring countries. Which doesn't make the Germans paying the higher taxes & rates very happy.

 

 

 

This has been a critical "deficiency" of wind and solar right from the start. Back in the "Solar Stone Age" in the 1970's when I was in DOE there were programs looking at large-scale storage solutions such as compressed air (huge underground tank systems) or pumped hydro (pump water uphill so it can come back down), etc, but none were ever viewed as practical on a very large scale (although some pumped hydro does exist). Therefore, the assumption has always been that a certain level of baseload capacity needs to be maintained and that capacity will have to be derived from traditional sources.

 

As Jim2 has stated, you can cherry pick the day of the month and show how large a percentage of the electric load renewables are producing, but, just as easily, I could selectively pick any one of a number of cold, snowy days this winter when renewables probably contributed very little in many parts of the country (even wind turbines have to be feathered when the winds get too high).

 

This is not to diss renewables or any other form of energy production. IMHO I can still advocate for renewables and yet be realistic enough to understand that they are unlikely to compete for baseload capacity, at least in my lifetime. I can even still advocate for nuclear power, the one energy source that no one wants to discuss since Fukushima. Notwithstanding the damage done by the Fukushima meltdown, Chernobyl or TMI, IMHO there is nothing fundamentally wrong with nuclear energy as a power source that does not contribute to greenhouse gas emission.

 

IMO nuclear power generation in the US would have been on a far more solid engineering basis if the Atomic Energy Commission had not been charged with being both its developer and its sales agent. The AEC's efforts caused it to move from a "proof of principle" Shippingport demonstration in the 1950's into widespread replication in hundreds of plants far faster than normal market forces would have. As a result the data that would have been obtained from long-term use largely wasn't available to be factored into second and later generation plants. Sure, later ones were better than the earlier ones (at least some were) but a lot more would have been learned if we had had thirty or more years of data from which to learn about materials embrittlement and other key issues.

 

As for those who will then raise the nuclear waste issue and all the spent fuel rods being stored around the country, my answer is simply that this could all have been avoided if we weren't still living under the "Carter Doctrine" which stated that the US would never reprocess its spent fuel. Very few non-physicists understand that our so-called "spent fuel" still retains most of its original energy content; it simply is too contaminated by nuclear byproducts to be usable in a reactor. However, those byproducts can be removed and the rods re-constituted and used again, and again. Several decades ago I had the opportunity to visit the plant at which France reprocessed its fuel rods and stored the actually very small quantities of wastes that had been removed from them. It was a very impressive operation and the amount of waste that actually had to be stored was very small even for a country that, at that time, was producing ~80% of its electricity via nuclear power.

 

IMHO politicians have found it easier to drop nuclear power off the table rather than to explain that there is no reason why safe nuclear plants can't be designed and operated. As such we have eliminated a key non-carbon-based baseload technology.

 

Now that I have stated my (unpopular) position, everyone else is free to jump in to criticize! ;)

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In 1970 I was visiting my uncle who was a manager of the Aroostock nuclear reactor in Maine. We were discussing the options of solar and wind power, Remember this is 1970, he said to duplicate the power load of the US with wind would stop the air. And there wasn't enough free land space to come close with solar. But then there is the night and windless days. He believed that the US needed to develop every source of energy, fall-water, wave-action, solar, wind, fossil fuel, and nuclear.

 

The interesting this was his concern that we would run out of nuclear fuel by 2050. Who would of guessed than in 1970 we would not build a new reactor to this day.

 

Now today's technology says that the state of North Dakota could supply the whole US with electrical power on a good day. And 10% of Nevada real estate could supply enough the US during a good sunny day. Of course we are talking about the industrial centers of the US, North Dakota and Nevada? Developing renewable resources without a realistic power grid makes the efforts margin-able.

 

Beside being the ability to store power form when it is dark or windless, we need to be able to deliver it to the industrial and population centers. We need a power grid. One of the hardest places to move electricity if from California to Washington state with just Oregon in the way.

 

The issue with recycling nuclear fuel rods is serious. The reprocessing process has a byproduct, plutonium. This is bad stuff that needs to be really protected. That is why a National Repository of spend fuel rods is needed. A place to move all the spent rods from the power plants where they are protected by low cost guards to a place that can have a military protection. A place where reprocessing can happen. That would be Yucca Mountain is the project was allowed to progress. Now isn't that a renewable resource?

 

Without a National Repository, 29 states will not issue a new permit for a nuclear reactor. So you can say your are in favor of nuclear power and yet prohibit it from happening, you just stop the Yucca Mountain project.

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You bought foreign already. Solar panels come from China. Solyndra couldn't compete with a totally automated plant (very minimal people costs). That is the effects of EPA in China.

Jeez... you'd think a simple Google search on "solar panels made in the usa" would have been the first step before stating that "Solar panels come from China."

 

Apparently it's too much to ask.

 

WDR

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IMHO politicians have found it easier to drop nuclear power off the table rather than to explain that there is no reason why safe nuclear plants can't be designed and operated. As such we have eliminated a key non-carbon-based baseload technology.

 

Now that I have stated my (unpopular) position, everyone else is free to jump in to criticize! ;)

Ok. :)

 

Actually, I agree that relatively safe nuclear power plants are possible. But there are two mitigating factors:

 

1. They are insanely expensive; partly due to the difficulty of stopping corruption in the construction process (Google "WPPS problems") and partly because, after Chernobyl and Fukushima we're all scared crapless of them and don't want them anywhere close to where we live; and,

 

2. The expended rods are insanely dangerous and there is no consensus on where they can be stored safely and securely.

 

These two factors, all by themselves, are why we aren't building nuclear power plants.

 

But there is at least one other reason we really shouldn't want them.

 

Nuclear plants (and wind farms, too) continue to centralize power. This keeps all the power utilities - both for-profit and non-profit (PUDs) in a position to control who gets power and how much it costs them. This sort of power over "power" is corrupting, all by itself.

 

Only distributed solar power (e.g.: solar power on home and building rooftops; either grid-tied or off-grid) can break the monopoly these agencies and companies have. And believe me, they do not wield this power in the public's favor.

 

There are few places in the USA where you can live free of corporate or government charges. Boats used to be one way but that has, since the 1960s, become more difficult. Even anchoring is not easy (Sausalito, across the Golden Gate from San Francisco, actually platted the *bottom* of Richardson Bay in order to keep boats from anchoring there on anything other than a very temporary basis!) As RVers we know that "free" camping for longer than 14 days is virtually impossible (short of the "slabs"). Many cities and towns won't even let us park overnight on a public street.

 

In the small town where I live my shop/garage burned down. It had stood for over 50 years but when I tried to simply replace it I ended up spending $20,000 just to satisfy bureaucratic requirements (and none of them for "safety", either). I had to "plat" the lot, for instance. It was already surveyed and the survey legally registered and filed, but that's not a "plat" and that cost $9,000 all by itself. Plus I have to change the sidewalks and curbs (already in place) to accommodate the new "look" the city wants. And I have to connect to water and sewer AND make an apartment because a "stand-alone" garge is no longer allowed. All to just get me back to square one.

 

Solar is one of the only ways to fight back. To make them either pay us for power WE can generate or to stop paying them at all.

 

And they are fighting this idea tooth-and-nail because they do not want us to have control.

 

So, for that reason alone, even if it weren't cheaper in the long run and even if I didn't think it would benefit the country, I'll do it. I'm just tired of being pushed around by people who do it just because they *can* do it.

 

WDR

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Jeez... you'd think a simple Google search on "solar panels made in the usa" would have been the first step before stating that "Solar panels come from China."

 

Apparently it's too much to ask.

 

WDR

 

I spent a good bit of time looking at that issue a while back and finding a US made solar panel isn't too difficult, finding a US made panel made from US made components is a bit harder and requires a lot of digging as the sites that are busy pumping the "US made" aren't too interested in having an easily found "US made of imported bits" available for prospective buyers.

 

Even finding the source of the PV cells can be difficult, take http://1soltech.com/ for example, they are US made and the PV cells are US made too but I challenge you to find where that is mentioned in under 10 minutes of digging through the website.

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"Beside being the ability to store power form when it is dark or windless, we need to be able to deliver it to the industrial and population centers. We need a power grid. One of the hardest places to move electricity if from California to Washington state with just Oregon in the way."

 

 

Yes, that's another very valid point. When I was in the business of building power plants, we had several renewable projects canceled simply for the sole reason that there was no way to get the generated capacity from the remote areas where large scale solar/wind farms fit in, to the heavy residential or industrial loads where the increased power is needed. If the renewal developer had to pay for that line, it made the project uneconomical. The utility wasn't willing to pay for the line since there was no return on investment for them.

Germany also learned this lesson. Their large wind farms in the north sea are severely under utilized without a major new distribution system to the south where the major need is. Unfortunately all available routes go right through some heavily populated areas where no one wants the new lines.

 

PS: I'm not anti renewables, I'm just anti renewables at any cost by gov edict.

I built dozens of renewable plants of all types, for all types of clients. In locations where it made sense, no government subsidy was required.

My NM ranch has both solar & wind generators. I'm on the grid as a backup, but some of my neighbors are completely off grid using a combo of solar, wind, batteries & backup generator.

renewables have an important place in an overall energy mix. Where the sun shines most of the day & most of the year; or where the wind blows most of the time; build all the renewables you can.

But when you start planning on replacing 500MW coal/gas/nuclear base load plants across the country with renewables, you're leaving the world of common sense.

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The issue with recycling nuclear fuel rods is serious. The reprocessing process has a byproduct, plutonium. This is bad stuff that needs to be really protected. That is why a National Repository of spend fuel rods is needed. A place to move all the spent rods from the power plants where they are protected by low cost guards to a place that can have a military protection. A place where reprocessing can happen. That would be Yucca Mountain is the project was allowed to progress. Now isn't that a renewable resource?

 

Without a National Repository, 29 states will not issue a new permit for a nuclear reactor. So you can say your are in favor of nuclear power and yet prohibit it from happening, you just stop the Yucca Mountain project.

 

A simple and effective solution to the plutonium that is separate out by reprocessing is to "burn" it in a Mixed Oxide (MOX) reactor which is why I was in France looking at their facilities. It wasn't all that many years ago that the US thought this was a path that could be followed. It's also a great way to deal with the weapons-grade Pu coming out of disassembled weapons.

 

The fear Americans have of plutonium is largely based IMO on fear-mongering by the press and politicians. Yes, it's a radioactive heavy metal which is highly toxic, but so is pretty much everything in the Periodic Table north of uranium. And, yes, six kilos of it are enough to build a small nuclear weapon, but if we can't design appropriate safeguards for dangerous stuff then shame on us.

 

If fuel rods are reprocessed then we wouldn't need a huge facility for storing them since most of the material in a rod can be recycled and used as fuel. IMHO the idea of wasting all that valuable fuel and sticking it in a hugely expensive facility is nuts.

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The other unintended side effect, when 30% of your capacity is from sun/wind, you have a big problem during times when the sun/wind disappear. When Germany permanently shut down several of its nuclear plants, intending to replace them with renewables, they actually forced coal fired power plants to increase up to 40% of their overall generating capacity. So while renewables were increasing, so was pollution from the increased reliance on coal plants to satisfy their base load during nights/winter.

I'm not sure that was an "unintended" side effect. The latest plan (amended in 2014) in Germany is not to completely substitute coal-fired plants with renewables but, rather, to substantially reduce the reliance on them and require new coal plants to be much cleaner. There is an excellent chart in this link that illustrates how they plan to do that.

 

http://www.pennenergy.com/articles/pennenergy/2014/12/the-flexibility-of-german-coal-fired-power-plants-amid-increased-renewables.html

 

That link is remarkable because it's recent and has an excellent explanation of the issues facing the industry including coal plants.

 

Really, no one expects solar/wind generation to completely supplant all other forms of power generation. That is a "straw man" argument that's been around for years and has been used to help convince some voters that it's essentially useless to move to solar power and wind power. We are unlikely to completely eliminate coal and natural gas fired power generation facilities until someone figures out fusion.

 

What we can do is reduce them over time and require new ones to be more efficient and cleaner. Moreover, this works well in conjunction with the lower demand for electricity brought about by new technologies (LED HDTV sets, heat pumps, LED lighting, etc.).

 

Of course, that will likely increase the costs for power; especially for large consumers of power. And maybe even in the short term for home users as well (Germany has the 2nd highest power rate for home users of electricitt; equal to Japan).

 

Unless, of course, you have solar panels on YOUR rooftop. :)

 

WDR

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Here's a good article showing country of manufacture and market share for each major solar company. http://blog.energysage.com/where-solar-panels-are-manufactuered/

 

It would seem that China is responsible for over 40% of the worlds solar panel production, not an insignificant amount. As Stanley said, even companies like Canadian Solar manufacture panel components in China. They should advertise manufactured in China, assembled in Canada.

 

I understand what you are saying, WDR and completely agree with the sentiment. I just watched the third installment of the Atlas Shrugged movie last night from Netflix. It's amazing that the outlandish government intervention and economy destroying over regulation Ayn Rand warned us about in the 50s is coming to pass with startling accuracy over half a century later. I say we should use solar (and all alternative energy sources) to our best advantage and not become dependent on any one source of energy, because if we do that market will eventually be manipulated to gain advantage over us by a future enemy exploiting our Achilles heel. As far as the plutonium produced by recycling spent fuel rods, this is not a bad thing as we may soon be needing more weapons grade plutonium if the Iranians have their way. Certainly having plenty on hand is a great deterrent, reducing the chance that neither we or our allies will ever be attacked by any of the crazies out there wanting to do us harm.

 

Chip

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Trimmed down to what I wanted to comment on:

Ok. :)

 

Actually, I agree that relatively safe nuclear power plants are possible. But there are two mitigating factors:

 

1. They are insanely expensive; partly due to the difficulty of stopping corruption in the construction process (Google "WPPS problems") and partly because, after Chernobyl and Fukushima we're all scared crapless of them and don't want them anywhere close to where we live; and,

 

2. The expended rods are insanely dangerous and there is no consensus on where they can be stored safely and securely.

 

These two factors, all by themselves, are why we aren't building nuclear power plants.

 

But there is at least one other reason we really shouldn't want them.

 

Nuclear plants (and wind farms, too) continue to centralize power. This keeps all the power utilities - both for-profit and non-profit (PUDs) in a position to control who gets power and how much it costs them. This sort of power over "power" is corrupting, all by itself.

 

Only distributed solar power (e.g.: solar power on home and building rooftops; either grid-tied or off-grid) can break the monopoly these agencies and companies have. And believe me, they do not wield this power in the public's favor.

 

WDR

 

On #1 of course folks are scared of nuke plants, almost every one in existence today should have been shut down, cleaned up and replaced by a far safer and more modern plant. That hasn't happened for a host of reasons, many political, still needs to be done though.

 

I'm not overjoyed to have my neighbor being built in 1976! They are still hiring VAX programmers!

 

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

 

On #2 the rods are dangerous to store, difficult too as is much of our old nuke waste (see Hanford Project for a true horror story) but again political issues, not technical ones have blocked any attempt to do something less stupid than store the used rods or waste. So many viable but not perfect options have been proposed an discussed then blocked because while they are far better than what we are doing they aren't perfect.

 

 

On centralization, yes that is an issue and we would be well served to do a lot of decentralization, if for no other reason than to keep from providing big attractive targets to folks that would be happy to see us glowing in the dark or at least dying because they got to our electric grid and a few big plants and knocked them out. That is a serious issue, take Phoenix as an example without power we have just under 5 million folks that depend on electric for their next drink of water.

 

We could be doing a lot to get away from the mega-nuke plants we have now that are huge targets and centralized points of failure. They were and still are a dumb idea but the only one really possible under the rules at the time they were built. GE and Toshiba both have really nice designs for small nuke plants, the Toshiba ones are really interesting as they are designed to be buried making damaging them a difficult task. Put one of these in each small town or a couple or more in larger towns and you really cut back on the centralization.

 

A quick look at the Toshiba idea: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshiba_4S

 

 

It would be nice to see an even more decentralized system and rooftop or even back yard solar (where you have more panels than will fit on your roof area) it is a great idea but for now to be practical it requires a grid and forcing the power companies to purchase the power when your production exceeds your needs. What is really needed is storage so you can keep your power excess to your needs and draw on it later. The storage situation is looking brighter. That of course isn't a complete solution as there will likely always be times you have either excess power that you can't store or a shortfall where you need grid power. The lack of complete self sufficiency is going to require a grid and since it is likely that any excess or shortfall will be regional in nature (everybody in Oregon is under a cloud for example or Arizona is seeing 110 degree days for a month) we are still going to have to shift large amounts of power across the country.

 

I think I saw about five new posts since I started typing this one...

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